Saturday, 30 July 2011

Reminiscing the once vibrant Electra House

For more than 15 years, Bujang Keri had been rendering his cobbler service on the sidewalks opposite the Electra House.

And he continues to do this till today despite his friends coaxing him to relocate for better business as the number of people visiting the city centre decreases day by day.

“Why should I move? I still believe people need to pass by this place to get to their destination. It’s the city centre,” he told The Star yesterday.

Recalling the days when he first started out as a cobbler, he said people from all parts of the city would congregate particularly at the Electra House before moving off elsewhere.

Serious problem: A jogger passing the fenced-up Malaysia-China Friendship Garden Park. — ANDRE OLIVEIRO / The Star

This prompted him to set up base on the sidewalks there.

“Since it was the first multi-storey shopping complex the city had at that time, it was a landmark for all. When you want to meet with friends at the city’s centre, all you have to say is ‘meet at Electra House’,” he said.

The 63-year-old who hails from Rampangi said it was ‘the’ place for all to come to and shop at as it graced the city’s skyline and the people were just fascinated by it.

“Electra House served as the place where the urban and the rural people from the ‘kampungs’ met and because it attracted the crowd, I began my cobbler services here,” he said.

Sharing his sentiments was retired police personnel David Jalil, 60, who used to ‘hang out’ at Electra House during his bachelor days.

“There were just so many things and events taking place at Electra House since the buses stopped in front. Even during the riot in 1969, the police had a booth at Electra House to recruit more policemen.

“Which was only logical since that’s where you got the crowd and the police training school was just across the river (Sungai Sarawak),” he said.

Back in those days, he said people who travelled to Singapore often likened the Electra House area to Rochar Centre.

Nevertheless, he said the building also witnessed many unwanted incidence like fights.

“Kuching did not have many nightclubs in those days and one was called the ‘Hongkong cave’. It just so happened to be on the top floors so there was bound to have a fight or two. So Electra House has its stories to tell,” he said.

When asked if it was a good idea to have the place transformed into a hotel, David agreed.

“In those days, buildings were built to last and so was Electra House. If it is turned into a hotel, it would be good because tourists love to come to the rustic city centre. It will be convenient for them to live here too,” he added.