Matchmaking was common practice back in the old days. Eighty-nine-year-old Kum Pheng’s mother was working in Singapore as an amah and later, she asked him to come to Singapore from Hong Kong to work. He was the youngest in the family of four. “I didn’t want to come here originally,” he said. Obeying his mother, he came to the Republic at the age of 23. Life was okay for him – he worked in a cane factory. He was liked by his boss, and also those of the female persuasion.
“I didn’t want to get married so early,” he revealed. However, his mother had other plans for him. She had agreed with another woman to marry him off to the woman’s 20-year-old daughter, who had come from Canton to Singapore in 1947, the same year interestingly that Kum Pheng came to Singapore. “I am old-fashioned in the sense and I couldn’t disobey my mother. I felt it was my responsibility to marry her.” Even after the passing of his future mother-in-law, he felt he had to go through with the marriage. “I had no choice but to accept it.”
Before the marriage, his wife would live with his mother while he would stay in the factory where he worked. If there were an occasion, he would then go to his mother’s place. Earning S$60 per month at the time, he once asked his wife to find a better husband who earned more but she liked him and said she would follow him no matter what. After his marriage, his boss increased his pay to S$160 a month and five years later, he got promoted to supervisor.
Even after years of marriage, he never once thought of the “D” word. “Got children already so cannot divorce,” said Kum Pheng, who made his marriage work. He had eight children with his wife. Today, two have passed on but his family has burgeoned to seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.