Balcony and “after-school queue”:
Unique childhood memories of 80s-residents 

Pang Men Him / Ming Wah Resident

Pang Pang has a close-knit family. They often have breakfast together at dai pai dongs on Sundays.

Pang Pang was born in a seaside wood hut in Lei Yue Mun in the 80s. Her father recalled that when typhoons hit the coast, towering waves taller than their house would crash against the shore; the roof would leak every time it rained. When their application to move into Ming Wah Dai Ha was approved, the family felt like they had won the lottery like many of the other residents, as they would finally have a comfortable home.

 

Pang Pang was 3 when her family moved into Ming Wah Dai Ha and experienced a childhood unique to residents of Ming Wah Dai Ha. Outsiders may not understand her fondness for the place, but those who have lived here will surely understand her affection.

 

Having classmates as neighbours

Pang Pang went to St. Basil's Primary School (later renamed St. Mark's Primary School) which was a mere 5 to 10 minutes’ walk away from Ming Wah Dai Ha. Since a lot of students lived in Ming Wah, an after-school queue would form every day: those who lived in Block A would be at the front, those who lived in Block M would be at the back; a teacher would then lead the pack back home along A Kung Ngam Road. Since Pang Pang lived in Block K, she was far away from the teacher’s sight and could chat freely and make friends with classmates who lived in other blocks. At the time, a cartoon called Bumpety Boo was popular among kids; classmates and neighbours started calling her Pang Pang, a nickname shared by the cartoon’s protagonist.

 

She recalled that on the first day of school one year, while they were forming a queue to go home after school, a new student suddenly burst into tears. A few students comforted her, “Don’t cry, why are you crying?” An older girl held the crying girl’s hand and escorted her home. “It felt like we looked out for each other.” To them, classmates were also their neighbours.

 

Moving into Ming Wah Dai Ha from a wood hut

Back then, though Shau Kei Wan was already somewhat well developed with more and more housing projects being planned, there were still quite a few squatter areas near the hillsides. Fires were rampant and would often destroy multiple homes. Pang Pang has witnessed first-hand the repercussions of such disasters even after moving to Ming Wah Dai Ha: the great fire of Tsin Shui Ma Tau Village (where Yiu Tung Estate is now situated) in 1987. “The whole hill was on fire.” She recalled. Pang Pang saw that one of her classmates was wearing slippers at school the next day; he had lost his home overnight. “I never played with fire since, it was traumatic.”

 

Pang Pang and her family felt fortunate to be living in Ming Wah Dai Ha. When staying home, Pang Pang loved hanging out on the balcony. “It almost makes me feel we are kind of well-off, it offers huge storage spaces, it’s well ventilated and we can grow flowers on it.” The balconies served an additional purpose: it allowed neighbours to talk without a phone. A classmate of hers who lived in the next block once shouted her full name at night, they waved at each other at the window and shared a good laugh. “When I see my dad downstairs from the balcony, I would call out to him, and he would wave at me.”

 

Rings of tram bells, gongs of lion dances

When Pang Pang was 15, her family applied to be moved to Block G since they wanted to take an elevator instead of climbing stairs. Since then, their home faced the tram terminal, and the rings of tram bells became a constant sound in the background. “They woke me up all the time, trams began to run at 5 to 6 in the morning and didn't stop until 1 to 2 after midnight. It bothered me a lot when I was a kid.” Tam Kung Festival is on the same day as the Buddha’s birthday; when she was in high school, the only thing about the festival that she cared about was the rest day that came with it, but she would often be woken up by the lion dances on the street at around 8 to 9. She watched the Kung Fu demonstrations from her bed and thought nothing of it at the time. “It’s only after I grew up that I felt fortunate to have witnessed these culturally significant events.” She reminisced. She also missed bus 85 operated by China Motor Bus Company. “Every time after climbing the slope at Chai Wan Road and turning into A Kung Ngam Road, the bus driver had to stand and turn the wheel as hard as possible.” The bus stopped at Block G and reliably delivered her home for years.

 

In 2021, St. Mark's Primary School was closed permanently. Former students organised an alumni reunion before the imminent closure. Pang Pang reunited with classmates who have gone separate ways after graduation. Suddenly it was like they were queuing up to go home again; they chatted endlessly. “I wouldn’t have befriended so many classmates if I weren’t living in Ming Wah.” It’s safe to say she wouldn’t have developed such a chatty personality either. She reconnected with the girl who shouted her name from the next block and shared a good laugh again about what happened all those years ago.

PROFILE

Name: Pang Men Him (Pang Pang)

Connection to Ming Wah Dai Ha: Ming Wah Dai Ha resident born in the 1980s. Moved into the estate in 1984/85 and has been living there since