She's worked for the same company for 69 years
Now 82, Madam Cheong started work at Bibi & Baba at the age of 14
When it comes to long-service awards, you'd be hard pressed to find a more deserving person than Madam Cheong Yin Leng.
For 69 years, she has worked as a seamstress for one company.
And while most people who have worked for that long would have retired by now, she has no plans to stop working any time soon.
Madam Cheong, 82, has worked at clothing manufacturer Bibi & Baba since its establishment in 1947.
She told The New Paper in Hokkien: "I'm happy to work as long as I'm still healthy."
When she started working for Bibi & Baba, which was called Majestic back then (see other report), she was just 14 years old.
She said she was living in a social welfare home when Madam Nina Hwang, the founder of the company, took her under her wing and gave her a job.
At 14, Madam Cheong was the youngest worker there, but she had no problems starting work at a young age.
"I enjoyed work and the staff treated me like family," she said.
She even lived with Madam Hwang until she got married.
"She was just like another member of our family," said Madam Helen Lyou, Madam Hwang's daughter and current executive director of Bibi & Baba.
Madam Cheong, a small-framed and soft-spoken woman, learnt how to sew in her early days with the company and she was very adept at hand-sewing smocks.
But now, she mostly does smaller jobs at Bibi & Baba, such as alterations and sewing on tags.
Most of her sewing is done on a machine, which she prefers, and without the need for glasses.
She works five and a half days a week, from around 9am to 5.30pm on weekdays, and to 1pm on Saturdays.
Madam Cheong lives with her husband, Mr Lim Tok Keng, 84, who used to work in accounts at Chung Khiaw Bank. The couple have no children.
Madam Cheong said with a laugh: "My husband tells me to work. He says, 'Don't sit at home and do nothing'."
But she has no complaints about working at her age. She finds that it is not any more difficult now than it was when she was younger.
Madam Cheong takes two buses to get to work every morning, but a company driver sends her home at the end of the day.
She said she feels bad about it as she thinks that the drivers are busy and have other things to do, but Madam Lyou has insisted on it.
Madam Lyou said: "In the morning, she can come in at her convenience, but we worry about her going home during the rush hour in the evenings."
Bibi & Baba has been such a huge part of Madam Cheong's life that she has grown to consider everyone at the company part of her family.
Madam Lyou, who took over Bibi & Baba from her father in the 70s, said: "Some of my staff have been around for 20, 30 years and they treat her like an icon of the company.
"They call her 'Auntie' or 'Big Sister'."
Even though Madam Cheong enjoys sewing on the job, she does not bring her job home with her.
Although she used to sew her own clothes, she does not do it any more, saying that she cannot be bothered.
"My neighbour will scold me if I sew at home," Madam Cheong added.
Instead, she spends her free time at home watching television and going for walks with her husband.
On weekends, her husband's nieces and nephews visit the couple for some family time.
Madam Cheong said with a shy smile: "I go to work, I go home. I cook and I clean. I'm happy with my life. I don't want anything more."
Some of my staff have been around for 20, 30 years and they treat her (Madam Cheong) like an icon of the company. They call her 'Auntie' or 'Big Sister'.
- Madam Helen Lyou, executive director of Bibi & Baba
They once made their own jeans
Keeping a business running for 69 years is no easy feat.
But Madam Helen Lyou, executive director of clothing manufacturer Bibi & Baba, has learnt to make things work for the company. Their secret? Keeping up-to-date with the changing fashion trends and latest technology.
Said Madam Lyou: "Now we have computers that work out patterns and machines that can take someone's measurements."
Bibi & Baba started in 1947 as a children's dress shop near Orchard Road, under the name Majestic.
When Madam Lyou took over in the 70s, she saw a market for jeans and other casual wear for young people in Singapore.
"We made our own jeans and exported to international brands such as Macy's and Marks & Spencer," she said.
Bibi & Baba had 12 to 13 retail outlets located all over Singapore in the 80s and 90s.
Now, Bibi & Baba mainly supplies uniforms for schools and hospitals in Singapore.
The company operates from a three-block warehouse in Henderson Road and has one retail outlet in Far East Shopping Centre.