'Kiddy rides' kept him alive
Putting out rides for children gave man fighting terminal stage throat cancer a lifeline
To you, these may be just "kiddy rides". Put money in and they go.
For Mr Lee Kim Leng, they were a lifeline. He put the effort in and they kept him going - through very difficult times.
He was diagnosed with terminal stage throat cancer in August 1996.
He had to take three months off work to go for treatment, which included surgery to remove his lymph nodes, replacing his voice box, and chemotherapy. All this while, his business was his motivation.
"My business is my way of supporting my family, that's why it's so important to me," said Mr Lee, 78, the founder of Woo Hock Trading Company.
Mr Lee recovered by December that yearand is now in remission. He has to go back for check-ups only once a year.
He now enlists the help of his daughter, Madam Lee Sok Gek, to communicate with the clients while he works on the repairs and reconditioning.
He said: "I'm very happy to be able to be back at work, doing what I love.
"Kiddy rides are my bread and butter, and it gives me a sense of satisfaction."
That love affair started in 1979, when he saw someone working on a kiddy ride and realised it could help him make money to support his family.
He was then a weighing machine mechanic and he would repair the rides at night after finishing work in the day.
He bought his first set of five kiddy rides for $3,000 and would sublet the rides to various shops. The profit made from the rides was split among Mr Lee and the shop owner as per their contract.
That year, Mr Lee started Woo Hock Trading Company, along with four partners, and he quit his job to focus on the growing business.
He originally reconditioned the machines in a space inside a provision shop in Toa Payoh, but as the business grew, he realised that he needed a bigger space.
Mr Lee moved from place to place before finally settling down in their workshop at 17, Lichfield Road, at Serangoon Gardens.
Over the years, the four partners left the company as business was always fluctuating, but Mr Lee stuck to his guns and carried on.
ALL KINDS OF RIDES
TNP went to Mr Lee's workshop last Friday and we were greeted by an array of kiddy rides.
From superheroes to animals, he had it all. It would be of no surprise to find out that we had sat on one or two of those rides ourselves when we were younger.
When asked which his favourite ride is, Mr Lee pointed to a yellow duck.
"That was the first one he repaired and it is also the company's logo," said his 47-year-old daughter, Madam Lee.
They do not keep track of the number of rides they repair a month, but they do still have them outside for people to play.
Madam Lee said: "I don't know how many rides we repaired per month, but as of now, we have around 100 or more rides which are still in use."
Mr Lee does not have any plans to pass the business down to anyone and he is doing it mainly for his interest.
"Seeing children smile and spending time with their families while taking the rides makes this all worth it," he said.
Seeing children smile and spending time with their families while taking the rides makes this all worth it.
- Mr Lee Kim Leng, founder of Woo Hock Trading Company