Ngee Heng Memories

A few days after I met with Zainal Yusof for tea with Amy Wong, I received this mail:

Hi Peggy,

I'm actually writing after my younger brother Zainal Yusof sent me an SMS earlier today that your blog contained some information about our late parents' Kirkby days. I'm Ismail and I live with my wife and three children in Rawang, Selangor that is about 40 km north of Subang Jaya where Zainal stays. Zainal did earlier mention to me about getting in touch with Amy through you just before Hari Raya and its a pleasant surprise to find out you have included his meeting with yourselves in your blog complete with fantastic pictures. Well, I suppose after that meeting, Zainal might contact you again later with more questions and he's probably at quite an advanced stage with information to include in our late mum's book so I only want to ask one simple question.

After our parents' marriage and while I was still a toddler for a while we stayed in a place called Nee Heng. Though our uncle Harris has spoken about it, I always wondered just where is Nee Heng?  I'm quite sure it’s just a small, obscure village but do you have any info on this place? Thanks for the chance to get in touch with distant memories! [25 August 2012]

Here’s my reply to Ismail:

Thanks for your message and your kind comments about my blog post on our meeting in Johor Baru recently.  It is my privilege to connect your brother with Amy Wong and it gave me much pleasure to see them exchange stories and relive memories! 

In response to your question about Ngee Heng, let me throw some light on the place that you experienced as a toddler.  Contrary to what you think, Ngee Heng is not “just a small and obscure village” but quite a large area in old Johor Baru.  Back in the day, Ngee Heng was an area that once spanned an entire stretch from the present Landmark Mall all the way to the Ngee Heng Primary School, located at Jalan Abdul Rahman Andak.  However, the length of road from Wisma Maria onward to the highway that borders the Caltex service station and Danga City Mall has since changed its name to Jalan Tun Abdul Razak.  Today, Jalan Ngee Heng is reduced to a short road that only spans from Landmark Mall to Wisma Maria. 

As your parents were in Education, my guess is that it is likely that your family used to live in the Government quarters located close to the present Caltex service station.  If you have old photos, we could probably figure it out from scrutinizing the buildings but I suppose you cannot recall much from your toddler-memories! 

I have clear memories of Ngee Heng because I used to live with our grandparents at No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng, a double-storey bungalow with an adjacent badminton court that once stood on the site directly opposite the present Wisma Maria.  When the Government acquired the land to build the highway, we had no alternative but to relocate.  After the house was demolished, an enterprising trader set up a warung on our former driveway and seems to have some permanence because he has even built a fence around his stall there!

Like you, some readers also wrote to me about life in Ngee Heng and I met former St Joseph School boys who used to live and hang out in the neighbourhood.  As they shared their memories with me, it rekindled more of my own.  You can read more about my Ngee Heng memories and life in Ah Kong (grandfather)’s house as well as these readers’ recollections for a nostalgic feel of life at Jalan Ngee Heng in a bygone era. 

You may not know it but the name “Ngee Heng” has deep significance to the Chinese in Johor Baru as it was the name of the Teochew clan that was headed by among other leaders, Major China Tan Hiok Nee.  These names have certainly earned their place in Johor’s history because roads in the city are named after them but this is another topic which I will discuss separately. 

I hope my input has been helpful and answers your question about Ngee Heng.  When Zainal visits Johor Baru again to meet with Amy, you may plan to come along for the proverbial walk down memory lane – yours being Jalan Ngee Heng!  I’m sure it will be interesting to explore the Johor Baru you used to know.


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