Kowloon City Stories / Contribution

Memories of the under-stairs shop

I live in West Kowloon and I used to work in Kowloon City and To Kwa Wan before. For me, the most impressive shops were Choi Kee (closed down) and On Lok Water & Electric (closed down). Choi Kee was a department store, and On Lok Water & Electric sold Plumbing and Electrical services, but I have never been their customers before.

My home is in the old community, there are under-stairs shops, a small space for displaying goods, inventory and trading functions. Most of the under-stairs shops near my place are watch repairs, shops selling audio tapes, CDs, beverage, magazines and Shanghai style barbershop (closed down). The barbershop I visited in my childhood was not very big. There were two old-style barber chairs, a small sink, and a clean classic Chinese “Wish You Good Luck” towel hung in one corner. The shop did not have the strong smell of barber supplies like a general new-style barber shop. Maybe because the shop was wide open, the smell was not strong. The barbers in the shop were around 50 years old, wearing white robes. The prices were listed clearly. Occasionally, I would see someone shaving their beards, all of their faces were foamy, and the barber shaved slowly. In the past, there were not many barbershops, so I had to wait. There were folding chairs beside the stairs. There was no air-conditioning or toilet. In summer, it was really uncomfortable. I didn’t want to have a haircut, but my mother’s haircut skills were not good, my classmates would laugh at me after she cut my hair. Therefore, if my family allowed me, I visited the barber instead. To be honest, the skills of the barbers were average, but at least I could still raise my head and go to school after getting a haircut by them. When I was a child, my mother didn’t like us to have our hair washed in the barbershop to save money, so my brother and I were just allowed to have a haircut and then go home to wash our hair. The shop was not far from home though. After I grew up, I didn’t patronize this shop, and the shop changed owners many times, later becoming a jade and after that a cloth shop.

As for the tapes, I would listen to them when I was a child, but they were mainly textbooks and English children’s songs bought by my mother. The most impressive was “Maggie go to beach” (Editor’s note: “Maggie and the Ferocious Beast-Let’s Go to the Beach!”). But now the Internet is so convenient, and it is free, and I can find them in libraries, so I don’t buy tapes anymore.

My dad always visited the watch repair shops. He still uses those old-style watches and has to change the battery every few years. I saw the master use some tools to wind the watch, and he quickly handled it. It was about $20-30 each time. Sometimes the watch strap needs to be changed and the price depends on the quality of the watch strap.

Key cutting shops, usually has unlocking and repairing door lock services available.

Maybe these shopkeepers are too busy. I haven’t talked to them before, mainly my mother communicated with them.

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