May wan
When May Wan was little, her family’s financial situation was considered well-to-do, with her daddy being a building contractor. At those times, if neighbours’ children were hungry, May Wan’s family could provide bread-crust sweet soups to them. In 1967 when May Wan was 11, she did not do well at school, so she decided to go and work at the metal shop of her classmate’s daddy. But she was under-aged, so the metal shop had a “cat hole” and she would hide in it if inspectors from the Labour Department came by. These “hide-and-seek” days lasted for two years, and at age 13 May Wan joined the large garment factory, Lai Sun, taking a junior position. In order to earn more money, she changed to the button department where garments go through final stages. When they had deadlines to fill orders, they had to burn midnight oil for several nights in a row. The department therefore had mostly men and she was the only girl. May Wan’s happiest times were of course that she was sought after by many male colleagues. They h much fun; before going to work, they would go to the cinema or the bowling alley. But with many men and one girl, wasn’t there any danger, especially when they were working all might? “No danger of course! Every one of them was a gentleman! We would sleep in the barrels for clothes, and use the dresses as blankets!” May Wan recalled that, in those days relationship between the sexes was simple and very innocent.

Witnessing the Rise and Fall
When May Wan was 15 years-old she was already an experienced worker at the factory and knew the basic operation of the sewing machine. The company started to have a factory set up in Singapore, and May Wan originally had a chance to go abroad, but the company finally sent another girl competing for the post, one who was lacking in experience but was better educated. This made May Wan realized that she needed education, and so she entered night school. However, chances did not come again, and May Wan was married at age 21 to start another phase of her life. In the 1970’s, May Wan moved homes several times with her husband, finally settling in Sheung Shui. From the late 1970’s to the early 1980’s, May Wan could still find outsourced work from Sham Shui Po, which she took back home, to work on with her sewing machine. Day time she would take care of her kids, and at night she would make garments. By 1985 even such opportunities for working stopped. In the early 1990’s, May Wan was lucky to catch the last train o the restructuring Hong Kong industries. She entered the Motorola factory; abandoning sewing machines she started working in high-tech. The 35 years-old May Wan had to start anew; she needed to memorise by rote the English terms for the different steps. When May Wan recalled those days, she could not help smiling, “Perhaps due to its being an American company, the benefits were quite good. There were competitions among the production lines, and good performances were rewarded by cash prizes. The factory would even melt the surplus gold threads to make gold coins as prizes. If we had to work on holidays, we were paid double or triple. The company has its own BBQ site and tennis courts.” With the overtime salary at the factory, May Wan and her husband were able to send their son to study in America. “One might say, those who worked in the company had no end of praises for it!”, May Wan said smilingly. And yet, Motorola in the 2000’s had also moved its factories out of Hong Kong. The industrial era of Hong Kong came history officially, with May Wan as part of that history. Looking back on those days, one could only give out a sigh.