Saturday, January 26, 2008

Metropole Cinema, Kum Wah, Kim Hua 金華

Thanks to the memory jots from Algae and Moon, I decided to run down my little memory lane about Kum Wah (in Cantonese) or Kim Hua (in Hokkien). And in English, Metropole Cinema (you can see a picture of it in LaoKokok's blog).
I vaguely remember wandering around that area when they were building this almost circular building. I was curious, but not as curious as with the fish tanks in the nearby open-air fish-shop. It was still beyond my means to buy fishes from the fish shop, I was still in the primary school then. But I could spend hours watching them. And I would gaze at the building with the pole scaffording.

It was a new cinema in Chinatown! I suppose the first could be Majestic (Dai Hua in Hokkien), and then, Oriental (Tong Hong in Hokkien) at the corner of Kreta Ayer St with New Bridge Rd. If my memories did not fail me, a worker during the building of the Metropole Cinema fell and died. It was hearsay as I was still too young and poor to have access to the newspapers. And soon, there was rumour of ghosts. (^^)

But that did not deter the cinema goers from going to watch great Cantonese movies like "Yi Lai Shang Cheong" (The Buddha Hand - a famous gongfu force then) and Mu Lam Sap Sam Keen (The thirteen swordsmen?).

As we grew older and moved to another part of Chinatown, and getting more immersed in the English speaking world, our world was cinemas like Globe (Great World), Orchard (now the Orchard Cinemaplex), Odean and Cathay.

And without realising it, one day I walked by and saw Metropole Cinema being replaced by Fairfield Methodist Church. At one point in my life, my house was very close to the original Fairfield Methodist Church and Girls' School. Until this day, the uniform of Fairfield Girls' School, now Fairfield School (for boys and girls), has been and is still, I think, unique in colour. I couldn't help thinking if this is Methodist churches' colour. (^^)
When our kids came of age, our natural consideration was to get them to attend the kindergarten in Fairfield Church. Ah, and so, we got the opportunity to sit in what was once a cinema. But this time, it was more of a theatre, and well, a chapel, where we got to see our children performed in their graduation night.

And so, in various ways, for people like us who lived in this part of Chinatown, that building - be it Metropole Cinema or Fairfield Methodist Church - it has a part in our lives. And for some, it's still to come. (^^)


frannxis said...

Yes, I remember Kum Wah. At that time I felt it was higher-class than Oriental or Tai Wah. There were circle seats where you had to enter from the first floor.

But we rarely went there. The movies shown there were shown simultaneously at Hollywood which was nearer for my family.

Moon said...

Thanks for the good old memories again, chinatownboy. I marvel at your excellent memories, if I can remember as well as you do, perhaps I can also jot down a few lines too.. but then, since I have short memories, I can do so here too.. ;-)

Now I know where the rumour of ghosts came from.. I did not hear about the accident that happened when building the cinema, but I heard from friends that there were ghosts in the toilets there and so everytime I watched a movie, I will not use the toilet there unless it was crowded with people.

Ah..Fairfield. Yes indeed, the Fairfield uniform is unique, I secretly think it is ugly too. ;-P I wore it for 10 years so I had enough of it. During those days we cannot afford yangzhi kiang, so my mum sew all our school uniforms (and Chinese new year clothes too).. so one can imagine the odd orange blouse and blue skirt which was totally not uniform with the rest of the school.. the orange wasnt orange, it was like green. Even the neck tie was hand-sewn.. ;-)

Today my sons go to Fairfield.. its a good school. Easy for me to get them in since I was an old gal from the school. But I find it strange that all girls still wear tie, but boys dont get to wear tie. Only the Prefects wear tie.

At my age, what I really missed today, is my childhood friends, the neighbours who we played together almost everyday after school, and certain on most weekends.. hide and seek, hopscotch.. catch grasshoppers, etc.. after moving out from Duxton Hill to Chinatown, we lost contact all together. Its a pity.

chinatownboy said...

Haha, maybe, we should form an ex-residents of DuxtonHill-CraigRd group. There is already a bukithoswee group. (^^)

Yes, the wonderful days of spider catching, making toy guns out of wood from the condensed milk boxes and getting the unripe buah cherry fruit as our bullets.

algae said...

The only show I watch at Kim Wah was a Fung Bo Bo show. Incidentally you can still catch Rulai Shen Zhang on youtube albeit in short instalments. Type 'The Buddhism Palm Strike'. A classic together with Look Chee Kum Moh - 6 fingered zither demon.

For a short while, I stayed during my school holidays with an aunt at Neil Road. The ground floor was a packaging printer. When it start to rain, the ground floor people will shout to the top floor people who will then roll out the retractable zinc roof over the airwell lest their stuff get all wet. The whole row of buildings were deemed unsafe and demolished. The new Police building now stands on that land

My aunt sells noodles at Fairfield Girls' since she was 6 yrs old (talk about child labour) up till now. She started by following her mother to help out at the stall. When the stall owner retire, she took over the stall. Her 3 children (2 girls and 1 boy) went to that school, so were my numerous cousins (all the girls).

chinatownboy said...

Hi Algae,
Thanks for the tip. Wah, we still could relive our childhood days in youtube!

So, we were actually living quite close to each other! At one time (1968 I think), I was living in the corner house along the slope road of Cantonment Rd, just behind the Traffic Police Station.

Wah, should get your aunt record her experiences with the Oral Archives! She must have seen many generations of Fairfield Girls grown up, all fed with her noodles!