Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hong Kong's last remaining umbrella repairman is to be found in Sham Shui Po

In Sham Shui Po lies one of the most unique shops in Hong Kong
Truly local street art in Sham Shui Po! :)
On the first day of this month, it was reported that the workplace of the man dubbed as the "King of Umbrellas", Ho Hung Hee, would be preserved and moved to the Hong Kong Museum of History.  Although some people wondered if this piece of news was an April Fool's joke, it really does seem to be the case that the tiny portable stall on Peel Street where Mr. Ho had set up shop soon after he arrived in the Big Lychee in 1947 and worked for almost 70 years until he passed away last year is going to become a part of the museological instutition's permanent collections.   
Many people assume that the umbrella repair trade died in Hong Kong upon Mr. Ho's demise.  But while there no longer appears to be a specialist umbrella repairman on Hong Kong Island, 60-something-year-old Yau Yiu Wai continues to fix broken umbrellas as well as sell new ones over in Sham Shui Po.  
The fifth generation inheritor of a family business which began in 1842, Mr. Yau's skills appear to still be quite in demand -- to judge from the number of people I saw milling about his shop when I was in the area last week.  At the same time, he appears to have ample time to create knickknacks out of plastic bottles, tin cans and such -- and in fact, it was the art the Sunrise Company proprietor had fashioned and put on display by his store and even on the road in front of it that had initially attracted my attention!

Clearly adept at working with his hands, Mr. Yau has stated with confidence that he can fix any umbrella.  There have been some people who have baulked at the price for repairing their umbrellas; this especially since it can cost more to repair a damaged umbrella than to buy a new cheap one.  But the environmentally conscious will surely be happy to know that there remains an alternative to adding more umbrellas to the ton of discarded items that are helping Hong Kong's landfills fill up way faster than should be the case.  In addition, wouldn't it be pretty cool to avail oneself of an old school trade that isn't commonly found in much of the world any more?    

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