My Dad was the eldest son of a first generation Chinese immigrant and his first wife. My grandfather had two wives. In the old days (pre-1961 Women’s Charter in Singapore), taking a second wife or a concubine was not illegal – first wives didn’t like it of course but generally accepted it with reluctance.

He worked all his life for his father who started a ship chandler business during the post-World War II period. He’d start his day at 4am before sending off an ‘army’ of laborers. He often climbed into holds with the laborers to supervise their work. Every afternoon, he would type out invoices on a typewriter which is still at Maple, if I am not mistaken.

In the early 50’s, my dad and my grandfather were heavily into horse ownership. My dad would represent his father when their horses ran in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang. My mother was a telephone switchboard operator supervisor in Penang who would put through calls for my Dad to speak to his horse trainer/s about the prospects of their horses at a particular meet.

Dad only knew Mom by her voice. As a telephone operator, she could listen into the private conversations between horse owner and trainers, but she was an honest woman, so she never did or shared any of the details of their conversations. When a famed Malaysian horse trainer invited Mom to a dinner where my Dad was in attendance, my Dad immediately recognized her voice. Mom always said Dad was a pretty competitive guy as he courted my Mom in the months that followed. Dad eventually won out over a famed Malaysian horse trainer. Only slight problem was that Dad was married to another woman when he met Mom, which was still pre-1961.

Getting my mom down to Singapore created a big family ruckus. Letters were written – there was no WhatsApp in those days! Suffice to say, there’s enough anecdotes to fill maybe a season of soap operas like the mini-series ‘Dallas’! A particular story my Dad and Mom liked to tell us is that when he faced multiple objections to Mom’s entry as a second wife, he called a family meeting. He slammed his typewriter down hard on the dining table (currently outside the bench depicted in Hotlotz Lot #328) and told mygrandfather in no uncertain terms that he would go to Penang to live with Mom if my grandfather did not support his taking Mom as a second wife. Needless to say, my grandfather, who had no problem with Dad taking a second wife, agreed to allow my Dad to take a second wife and like they say, the rest is history! I believe that typewriter under a grey plastic cover is still at Maple in the back of the house.

Mom was a housewife after she moved down to Singapore in the early 50’s and Dad closed the family business in the late 70’s. She told me she had the chance to work for the British Governor of Singapore when she first moved to Singapore but grandad told her no daughter-in-law of his needed to work for a living. Despite having all the opportunities to be a ‘Tai-Tai’, Mom never did take up that lifestyle. She was very humble, down-to-earth and pragmatic. As she was fluent in English, she always got to sit at the main table with grandad as his personal translator to the English officers and engineers from Straits Steamship and Blue Funnel lines at the parties at places like Cathay Restaurant at the soon to be closed Cathay Cinema building. Needless to say, that infuriated all those who opposed her entry into the family in the first place! From the 1950’s onwards, Dad and mom had varied interests at different times of their lives. They liked the ponies but developed a passion for cultivating orchids, rearing piranhas and fighting fish, bowling at Jackie’s Bowl at Orchard Theater, antiques, jewelry, blackwood & rosewood furniture, and in their later years, a passion for travel. Mom once told me that she never imagined a little convent girl from Penang would have had the opportunity to visit so many varied places around the world.

Dad and Mom were avid collectors from the late 60’s through the 70’s. Their collecting days were mostly over by the mid-to-late 80’s when their passion for travel internationally took hold. In their collecting days, they had no particular interest in any period’s antiquities. They just bought whatever tickled their fancy irrespective if the piece was damaged or not. Over the years, they acquired the more traditional Dehua pieces to strange items which I could not fathom why they purchased it in the first place?

When we were kids, if we got out of school at noon or 1 pm, we’d be whisked off to tuition classes. After our tuition classes, we had to sit quietly in places like Moongate, Wing On Cheong, Hong Sung, Lee Onn or Tin Sing while Dad and Mom spent entire afternoons negotiating their purchases with the respective shop owners, proprietors or sales persons. As a reward for our good behaviour, we’d get to go 10-pin bowling with Dad and Mom and I got to enjoy my favourite Beef Stroganoff at the Jackie’s Bowl Coffee House.

Mom and Dad started to sell pieces from their collection post-2003, after I returned from the USA. I had nothing to do with their decision to do so before Mom passed away in 2007. From 2007 onwards, Dad wanted us to sell off their collection, but we never did. We told Dad that since it made him happy to see Mom and his life’s collection while he was alive, we were in no hurry to sell.

Dad passed away in 2021. That is why we are here today.