Fourseas Hotel [1950- ] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Fourseas Hotel [1950- ]

Date Place completed: 
1950-06-06

Martin Booth's "Fourseas Hotel" aka Sei Hoi Jau Dim as mentioned in Chapter 3 of "Golden Boy".

Photos that show this place

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Photos courtesy of the Booth family. Here's the view of the hotel from the outside:

Fourseas Hotel

Several of the inside:

Fourseas Hotel
Fourseas Hotel

 

Fourseas Hotel

And a view of Chinese funeral passing along Waterloo Road in front of the hotel:

Chinese funeral passing Fourseas Hotel

In the book Booth mentions the steep hill opposite the hotel. I couldn't get any sense of that from the view today, but this photo shows exactly what he meant.

The steep hill in question in front of the Fourseas Hotel is known as Waterloo Hill. The low rise building at the top of the photo is now the out-patients clinic of Kowloon Hospital.

Waterloo Hill was developed sometime in the 60's.  As seen in the above picture (circa early 50's?), Waterloo Hill was a mound of dirt.  That mound of dirt was eventually into a huge residential development called Waterloo Hill with Man Wan Road (halfway up the hill) and Man Fuk Road (top of the hill) being the two main thoroughfares and lots of residential buildings, Star court was where I lived on Man Wan Road during my childhood.  Empire Building, where I lived for a couple of years in the early 60's before Waterloo Hill's existence,  was adjacent (not immediate but close) to Fourseas on the same side of Waterloo Road and remains a residential building today.  Across the street from Fourseas, along Waterloo Road sometime in the 60's, there stood a well known dim sum and seafood restaurant, Hing Seung Fung, and next door a Shanghainese restaurant "Dai Fu Gwai".   Further south across the street from Fourseas (right bottom of and out of picture) in the 60's you'd find the Alliance Francais, the public library, Dairy Farm and the yummy & famed Cherikoff's Bakery along Waterloo Road.  Waterloo Hill was built literally behind and over the aforementioned establishments.  I know I am not contributing much to the 50's time frame since I am describing the scenery of the 60's but that's what happened to this area not long after the author's time there.

Thanks for sharing your memories. Don't worry, we're interested to hear memories from any time, not just the 1950s.

I am not sure about the history of Waterloo Hill but I remember when we first moved into Star Court on Man Wan Raod in the mid 60's, only a few building had been erected on that street & there were no buildings to its right.   Instead to its right sat a very large vacant lot which was a cemetery(eventually three residential buildings were erected on this vacant land.)  I used to play on this vacant lot when a road was finally built through it for access (but prior to the time when buildings were erected) and would routinely come upon human skeletons, i.e. skulls, femur, back bone, etc., etc from the loose ground and empty graves.  Not sure if the entire Waterloo Hill area was a cemetery or just that large parcel next to Star Court on Man Wan Road.

Another piece of trivia about Waterloo Hill is that after its development, it was a magnet for TV & movie stars.  The most famous and notable was Bruce Lee (although he wasn't as famous as he later became, especially after the success of the movies, the Big Boss and the Fist of Fury.)  When he first returned to Hong Kong from the U.S. (he was already famous from the Green Hornet but was turned down for the leading role in Kung Fu which David Carradine got), he rented a flat in a building to the immediate left of Star Court (I believe it was called Tak Shun Yuen.)  I believe it was either 1969 or 1970.  His son, Brandon Lee, who was 2nd grade (my best recollection) at the time, attended the same school I did and we took the same school bus together.  By the way, Brandon Lee was akin to Martin Booth (based on his description in the book Golden boy) in that Brandon Lee's hair was golden blonde in his childhood days.   Bruce Lee would occasionally come down in the morning with his son and wait on the school bus.  Most of the time it was Linda Lee who accompanied her son (the sister Shannon was a baby and was confined to a stroller or in Linda Lee's arms whenever I saw her.)   I never talked to the parents or even Brandon Lee (he was 2 grades below me) until one day.  It was pouring rain one morning when I missed the school bus and was waiting for a taxi and there came Linda Lee (Bruce Lee's wife) and Brandon in their red convertible Mercedes sports sedan ( I believe it was a 450 SL).  It turned out that Brandon missed the bus too that morning.   Linda Lee saw me and recognized me in my school uniform, stopped the car, rolled down the window and asked if I needed a ride to school.  At the same time, a taxi pulled up behind her.  I was too shy to say yes (probably intimidated by their celebrity status) and said no thanks and hopped onto the taxi instead.  To this date I am thankful for her kindness and remember her as a very nice lady.  I can't remember how long the Lees lived in Warterloo Hill but my best estimate is no more than 1 year or two (if my memory serves me correctly, they moved away in either 1970 or 1971.  They moved from there to Kowloon Tong where he eventually died.  

Speaking of Bruce Lee residing in Tak Shung Yuen on Man Wan Road, there was another celebrity living in the same building by the name of "Lum Bun", a popular radio personality who used to blast the Communists on his radio shows.  I don't remember the year he died (it was around the mid 60's, well before the time Bruce Lee moved in.)  I remember I was watching TV one day in the living room of our flat when my siblings and I heard a loud explosion.  We rushed to the balcony, looked down and saw a burning car right outside the entrance of Tak Shun Yuen.  Minutes later quite a few fire engines came and put out the fire in a hurry.  I vividly remember that a Caucasian police inspector also showed up & started directing things and barkng out commands.  He was in the Khaki colored uniform - hat, short sleeve shirt, shiny belt over the shoulder and diagonally across the chest and waist, shorts and khaki colored long tub socks which I 've always thought was so cool looking - even looking back today.  I also saw the fire fighters pulled out a charred and blackened body out of the vehicle.  It turned out that somebody threw a Molotov cocktail into the car that Lum Bun was in as he pulled out from his building's parking lot. 

By the way, digging deeper into my memory bank, I think Bruce Lee and family resided in Tak Shun Yuen on Waterloo Hill closer to 1970 or 1971 time period and not 1969 or 1970 as previously stated.  I also seem to remember they weren't there for very long, probably no more than a year (since I don't remember Brandon Lee riding on the school bus for very long.)  I recall they didn't live in the Kowloon Tong mansion for very long (no more than 2 to 3 years) before the shocking news that Bruce Lee had died.  My memory is that while Linda Lee was friendly and seemed down to earth (she used to do her own grocery shopping on Soares Avenue) , Bruce Lee always appeared to be withdrawn and aloof.

 

The famous building where Bruce Lee and Lum Bun lived at one time was Ming Tak Yuen.  Tak Shun Yuen was the building across the street from ours -Star Court.  Tak Shun Yuen had its own celebrities, one of whom was the famous king fu star Chan Wai Mun (and his infamously noisy Corvette Stingray.) 

Excellent info on Bruce Lee.

The apartment that they rented was Ming Tak Yuen (English name "Sunlight Garden") at 2 Man Wan Rd. They lived on the 13th floor. They moved in AFTER Bruce had already made his first Golden Harvest film "The Big Boss" i.e. late mid/late 1971.

Brandon was 6 and started at La Salle the same year. Shannon was only 2 and attended a local nursery (don't know which one though).

They moved into 41 Cumberland Road on 29th July 1972 whilst he was in the process of finishing off "Way of the Dragon". He died on 20th July 1973, so lived in Kowloon Tong for less than a year.

Bruce's car was a red 350 SL and can be seen at the end of WOTD where it is being driven by the mafia boss.

Chan Wai Man - actor, fighter and known triad, was also linked with Bruce Lee's death at one point.

By the way, isn't the cemetery you mention the same one mentioned by Booth in gweilo? It was an Islamic Cemetery. There is a place created for it here: http://gwulo.com/node/2403

wow, Phik, you got the info down.  Good job on the dating.  Yes, I remember they lived on the 13th floor and from our 15th floor on Star Court facing Man Wan Road, we could actually see his flat at an angle (but the curtains were always down.)  Yeah, come to think of it, Bruce Lee was already hugely famous then so The Big Boss must have been made by then like you said since everybody was quite in awe of Bruce Lee back then.  He couldn't have been that famous and people treating him like God just from the Green Hornet alone. I remember people who were passing by (the neighbors and other parents were more accustomed to Bruce showing up from time to time) would go "wah, wai, wai wai, Lay Siu Lung ah.... you know, that sort of reaction"  on the rare occasions that he showed up with Brandon to wait on the bus.   

Unlike Booth's description of "older" people's fascination with his golden hair, for us kids, we used to tease Brandon Lee.  Looking back, I guess being new, he used to sit by himself in the very front of the bus (maybe so the bus driver, Yeen Sook, could protect him.)  My school bus friends and I would sit a few rows behind him, talked incessantly about him in Cantonese.  One time another fella rolled up some papers into a ball and threw it at Brandon like a baseball and hit him smack in the head.  He never even turned his head once cos' the boys "teasing" him were all older and bigger.  Good thing he didn't call on his daddy to seek revenge.

As for Chan Wai Mun, he didn't live across the street in Tak Shun Yuen for very long.  I was told that was the only Corvette in HK at the time (don't know if that was true but I remember hearing that back then.) He must have been nocturnal as during the day you'd never hear a peep but at night when everybody was ready for bed, he would bring his car out of the parking spot into the street curb and rev up the engine like a maniac for a long time before going where he was going. 

yes, phik, I bet we are talking about the same cemetery mentioned in Booth's book.  That was my thought when I got to that part in the book.

jetfly: great descriptions of waterloo road and hill, one of my hangouts in the 70s (although you missed a few of my favourites - fourseas bowl, windsor restaurant for best toasted club sandwiches, ruby restaurant - good cheapo hotdogs for 60 cents).  did you know the tossans who lived on 10 floor of star court or gordon auyeung (higher up) maybe a bit older than you - la sallians too, and the da costas in the adjacent building? dominic would probably have been your age. small world! 

The names don't ring a bell but it could be my memory failing me.  Windsor Restaurant?  I wonder if this is the one next to Dairy Lane Supermarket ( I previously referred to it as Dairy Farm in error), which served the best soft cone ice cream.  Surely, Fourseas Bowl was great during its hey day.  It was  state of the art back then when it opened.  The restaurant/cafe upstairs was quite good too.   As for Ruby Restaurant, the best they had to offer were my favorites, the Ruby soup and black pepper Steak.  The steak came out in a sizzling hot skillet in a shape of a cow and sits on a piece of molded wood plate.  The waiter then poured the hot pepper sauce down onto the steak creating quite a sizzling sound and sight.  As for club sandwiches, the rest of the world can't match the ones served in Hong Kong, even to this day.

amazing how so much nostalgia hk speak is so often about food!! shows we spent a lot of time eating, be it from the fishball man, noodle havens, the coffee shop or various kinds of restaurant...   coming down from princess margaret rd the first establishment was barclays bank, windsor was right next to it - a kind of fusion of malay, western cuisine à hk and coffee shop.  above, the good dates restaurant - big and noisy!  cherikoff was often destination instead of school canteen - curry puffs... yumm!  also the ruby when funds were low - always the bottom bit, never upstairs :(  dairy lane was always a nice cooler on sweaty humid days, even better when you could sign on the parents' monthly account.  fourseas bowl was our playground after school and sometimes when we were meant to be at school too!  they even allowed us to share coca colas, puff away on packs of benson and hedges - signed for at dairy lane -  and sit for as long as we liked in the booths.  the chu sisters (loletta miss hk 1977 and twin sisters) lived in the next-door building, we all attended summer classes at alliance française.  good memories, thanks for stirring them, in a good way of course!

Would Jetflyresq mind getting in touch with me?  I am also from La Salle class of 85, and I am collecting memories and articles from Lasallians of all vintages for the archievs and possibly a publication in future.  Would like to hear from you. Thanks.

markhuang1985@lscoba.com

China Mail 6 June 1950 The Fourseas Hotel was opened on this day.