Ah Chuk


As I was scanning today I came across a pack of old postcards I’d bought in 1976 when I ventured out into the world during a gap year between high school and university.   A year where I’d started off working in a Stock & Station Agency (a country thing) by day and babysitting a lot of nasty little children at night – okay maybe not all of them were nasty, and some that were probably grew up to be nice responsible adults though I would not have predicted that based on their juvenile behaviour.   As soon as I had enough money I flew away on Qantas to Guernsey to meet and get to know my grandmother and some penfriends I’d had from the age of 13.

After nearly 3 months I was returning to Australia via a 5-day stopover in Hong Kong. Luckily I already had a ticket and my accommodation was prepaid at the Park Hotel because I landed in Hong Kong with very few dollars.  Certainly not enough to *do* anything; and probably not enough to eat very well.   A quick reverse charge call to dad provided a solution;  Papa, of Jane’s Travelling Tiles fame contacted an acquaintance, Ah Chuk who he’d been in contact with since the 1950’s and his son, Alan, appeared like magic at my hotel.

This is where I’d generally insert a few dozen photos but sadly a lot of my photos from the 70/80’s were thrown out by my ex-husband so,  here are the postcards which prompted the post anyway.  The Park Hotel – I love how the woman has snazzy red suitcases to match her clothes:   The Park Hotel postcard the back of the postcard:  The Park Hotel postcard backand this cute one from Ah Chuk Tailor:

Ah Chuk postcard 1976

On the back:  Ah Chuk postcard back 1976.

Alan Ah Chuk showed me areas of Hong Kong tourists were not venturing into,  fed me a lot of strange stuff and generally watched out for me while my grandfather wired money to cover what I was costing to entertain.

The stipend included enough to get some clothes tailored by Ah Chuk’s business.   I remember being mortified as I stood in my underwear while 2 small Chinese men measured me, chatted in Chinese and laughed each time they wrapped the tape around me.    It was obvious to me that they found my sturdy thighs and buxom country-girl figure hilarious!  (everyone is laughing *at* you when you’re 19).

Within a couple of days they’d made 2 skirt & jacket suits for me. One was a lovely grey woolen contemporary style and the other was this silk brocade number: IMG_2168a

Like a bower bird, I was drawn to the bright, colourful and, sort of shiny, material.   I have no idea where I thought I was going to wear it and  I would’ve said that I never did wear it except I found a handkerchief and a receipt in the pocket when I got it out to photograph!!

It is beautifully made, even the buttons are covered in the same material and the label has not faded at all from the suits nearly 40 years-life mostly in a suitcase:     IMG_2187a

I wonder if I’ll have occasion to wear it again, though at this stage I don’t think the previous wear counts as I don’t remember it!…. It’s a lot of pattern to carry off even though age does bring about a certain boldness; ….  but I don’t think I’m quite old enough yet.



28 responses

    • When I look back I’m slightly surprised at how much confidence I had as a teenager. I’m not sure what the right occasion would be for this suit – it just seems more sort of formal than anything I go to.

  1. Did you stay in contact with Ah Chuk after that? I find that people whom you make acquaintances with during a rough patch to be the most interesting, the ones you wish to know more about.

    And yes, “everyone is laughing *at* you when you’re 19.” When I was 19 and went to Italy, I bought a linen-like pantsuit (does anyone say that anymore? pantsuit?) at this little boutique. The pants however were too long for me, and I almost put it back on the rack—except that the proprietor, a tiny old woman with a very sharp eye, told me she would hem up the pants for me if I bought them. Then she made me go behind a screen and take off my jeans, then try on the suit pants. I’d never had anyone besides my mother measure me like she did, and I was crimson red with embarrassment, especially since the proprietor kept muttering in Italian. Why? Were my legs too skinny? Too short? Did I smell? (I’d been walking around in the heat and I was sweating, even though I’d covered myself in antiperspirant.) She never said, but she told me to go get myself a cold drink at the cafe across the street and she’d bring my pants to me in an hour. Which she did. They were beautifully hand-hemmed.

    I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I threw out that lovely pantsuit when I took off for Minnesota. So I’m very glad you hung on to that pretty blue suit.

    • I did stay in touch with Alan for awhile – my ex & I went to Asia for our honeymoon and had a few days in HK. We got some clothes tailored from Ah Chuk and Alan also helped me purchase some Mikimoto pearls from a trusted source. I did not keep in touch after that as I started having babies and life got too hectic ……

      “Pantsuit” sounds old-fashioned but it seems to still be used. LOL – yes, it’s the muttering in a foreign language while doing something rather personal to you that brings out every insecurity you’ve ever had about your body. What great service you received and what a shame you threw it out – I’m sure it was lovely.

  2. Re: 1st postcard: the dining room is so sparkly and YELLOW! It burns…
    Re: 2nd postcard: that is a classic. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Keep and frame that puppy.
    Gorgeous suit. You should wear it. So if I understand the comments, you had it fit when you were 19 and it’s too BIG on you now?!? Well, first of all, congratulations on your figure! Second of all, you can have that lovely taken in and still wear it to special dinners.

    • It’s amazingly yellow – I don’t remember it being like that in real life. The bright blue bedspreads and matching curtains would be a bit much for me to wake up to. I thought the same about framing the postcard and as I have 2 I’d be able to do front and back in the same frame.

      Re my size – I was a fairly hefty teenager ! 🙂

    • It was such a carefree time. The blue of the material is a gorgeous shade but the gold bits make it more formal than something I’d normally wear. It’s so well made I think it will still be wearable in many years’ time.

  3. The plaid jacket that fellow is wearing in the first postcard, hurts my soul. But yes, people did wear those things. I was there. I witnessed it. And yet I lived.

    That silk brocade suit – simply split it up, and pair one part with a more demure piece. The jacket with a black skirt, say. It would be simply delicious.

  4. OMGosh so cool!!!!!

    Gorgeous cards…fascinating memories. I would’ve been drawn to that silk brocade, too. It’s EXQUISITE!!! I’m glad you did wear it once. Waiting until you’re “bold enough” may take a while.


  5. Your charming post brings me back to those good old days in HK. Surprisingly I lived at the Miramar Hotel around the year you were there. We could have passed each other on the street and exchanged a smile!

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