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The Beginnings of the Business and the Family

... time working in Surabaya, Seeng Tee had also begun to court a 16-year-old
Hokkien girl named Siem Tjiang Nio who lived with her parents near the centre
of the city. Her parents advised her not to marry a man four years her senior
with neither schooling nor stable family background. The couple was able to
marry quietly in the spring of 1912.

Seeng Tee and Tjiang Nio began their marriage living in squatter quarters on Jalan
Gang Gembong, a residence built under the protection of a bridge. The house, as
was the custom of the time, was constructed some two metres off the ground. The
two-story structure consisted of bamboo poles with walls of woven bamboo panels
with the family living on the floor above the ground with their livestock enclosed
below at ground level.

Soon after his marriage, Seeng Tee found a more regular job in the city of Lamongan,
45km west of Surabaya, blending and rolling cigarettes for a small cigarette manu-
facturer. It was here that he had his first introduction to the cigarette business in
East Java, it was at this job that the owner of the factory recognised and commented
on Seeng Tee’s apparent natural ability to blend Indonesian tobacco and it was here
also that Seeng Tee’s first entrepreneurial dreams began to materialise...

Within six months of their marriage, Seeng Tee and his wife had saved enough to
rent a small stall in the old city of Surabaya on Jalan Cantian Pojok from which they
sold basic food stuffs and tobacco products. In addition to the shop sales, Seeng Tee
peddled tobacco products from the back of his bicycle through the streets of Surabaya
to both retailers and wholesalers. As a result the construction of a new bridge, Jalan Cantian Pojok became a crowded detour for traffic most of the day and night with the
business prospering as the volume of customers grew.

Never idle herself, Tjiang Nio continued to contribute to the family finances by making
cakes and selling them in front of their home each evening. It was in this house that
the family began to grow as the first children, two sons, Swie Hwa and Swie Ling, were
born in 1914 and 1915 respectively.

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