Saturday, January 30, 2010

My First Bookshop

Growing up in Malacca, we only had 2 bookshops, which were located next to each other very near the Clock Tower (where all the red buildings are). The building facade of one of them still has the bookshop's name, Lim Brothers. This shop, and its competitor, Tai Kwang/Tai Kuang (can't quite remember now) are no longer in business. The shop wasn't painted in red when I was a young girl. One day, some smart ass from the government suddenly decided to paint this entire row of shops here a ghastly red to match the Stadthuys (Dutch for Town Hall) nearby.

Googling Lim Brothers, I found out from this site that the shop closed its doors in 2001, 66 years after it first opened. The website's owner is the grandson of Lim Jit Chiang, who started the bookshop. There are some beautiful photos posted on the site, as well as fascinating history about the bookshop through the years.

We didn't have Times nor MPH or any of the big-named bookstores, just this tiny one and its neighbour (which didn't stock as many nice books) but this is where many Malaccans inculcated their love of reading. I remember spending afternoons here (after school and before activities like swimming or band) reading my fill of Enid Blyton. Couldn't afford the hefty price tag of Famous Five and Mallory Towers then, I think the books were about RM5 each, back in the late 1970s, which was a fortune for me :) We only got books for birthdays and after examination results.

So I would crouch here along the shop's aisles and read as much as I could of the books I love. I don't remember ever being chased out. I wasn't always free-riding, I do remember buying an Archie comic once.

Today in Malacca, you have the big-named, faceless, bookshops in the big malls, and bookshops which we grew up with like Lim Brothers are no more. It's the same with all other things, the modern replaces the old, and I don't really recognise my hometown very much anymore.

It's sad.


monlim said...

It's so nice that you can find an old photo of your past haunt. I don't remember what my old neighbourhood looks like anymore, all the places I grew up in.

Now we're all so cosmopolitan, it must be nostalgic to have these memories of growing up in a small town, where everyone visits the same shops!

mun said...

It is good of the grandson to immortalize his grandfather's bookstore on the Internet.

Lilian said...

Yes, definitely lots of nostalgia. I also found a couple of other blogs by former Malaccans talking about reading books (for free :)) in the very same bookshop. And no, I don't know these people haha, Malacca isn't that small!

But you're right, we all know the same shops. As a child, there was just one shopping centre, a 4-storey building called Emporium! Can you imagine that? There wasn't even an escalator in there!

The first KFC only came to Malacca when I was 12/13 and McD years later!

Those were the days, life was sooo simple then. I really have to sigh...

Lilian said...

Mun, yes, the grandson is obviously very proud of his family's legacy. Hope he knows the impact his grandpa's little bookshop had on so many of us.

Eni said...

Yes, those Famous Five and Secret Seven books may have been quite expensive for my pocket money as well. My memories of Enid Blyton and her books led me to publish a book on her, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (
Stephen Isabirye

Tsu Lin + + said...

I actually stumbled on that photoblog years back and was absolutely mesmerised by his tales.

PS : They are hainanese, like me. Hehe..

Lilian said...

Yes, the photos AND the stories behind them are mesmerising.