Smart Koung Koung

Koung Koung  gave me great lessons. My dad had acquired in the early 60’s the property of the Chan Kwan Tong at la Paix Street almost facing the residence of Ah Mee Koo and uncle Wong On Wing. Grandpa took charge to build garages for the vehicles of the cigarette department and to refurbish the house for renting out.

There I landed to be the apprentice under the wing of Grandpa to help him in his tasks. I guess that I might be around 14 years old. Grandpa always had a measuring meter with him, a beautiful leather case one which would roll out 30 or 40 meters. It was always stored in the last bottom drawer of this desk. First, we went on measuring the proposed site to erect the garages. Then he drew out a sketch of the proposed garage which will be able to hold three vans in a row. Together with a foreman, if I am not mistaken his name was Gaston, they worked out the materials required for the building. The concrete blocks, iron bars, sand and cement were ordered and delivered on site. The works started. I joined grandpa almost every afternoon on site, after the departure of the workers to work out the stock on materials used during the day. He told me that he had to be present for the departure time of the workers to make sure that they have accomplished their daily task and to make sure that they do not take away materials from the site. He held a close account of the materials as well as the number of workers that attended work daily. It was great observing the methodical way he noted every item. Every night after dinner he would work out at his desk the expenditure incurred and account for it in his book written in Chinese.

After the building of the garage, he undertook the repair of the house which required the replacement of some rotten wood planks and some pillars.

The greatest learning came when we proceeded to the painting of the house. He first negotiated the daily pay rate with the painter Antoine. Antoine was then instructed to remove the old paint using a paint stripper that would burn off the old paint. Together with the driver I went to take delivery of the tins of putty which was required to even out the wooden planks.

In those days, ready to use paint was not common. From uncle Yee Chin Koon’s hardware store; he bought tins of paint paste that had to be mixed oil and a thinner to make up the paint. Dyes were then added to the white paint to obtain the color required. Grandpa told me to stay and watch over Antoine for the day to make sure that he was working the whole day. I was  also asked to take note of the break time he took for lunch and pauses. Then in the afternoon after Antoine’s departure Grandpa asked me to measure the surface area he had painted during the day. He worked out the amount of paint paste used as well as the quantity of oil used. We did that for two consecutive days. Thereafter he told me that now we know how much paint is required for the area painted and how much area is painted by day there will be no need for you to watch over Antoine any more.

A smart Koung Koung I had isn’t it?

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Olivier on 09.07.08 at 8:20 pm

Indeed, my great grandfather was smart! That was a good performance metric and your job was to ensure that the metrics were measure in the best conditions.

Great story, thanks for sharing!
Was my great grandfather someone who would indulge in introspection often?

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