THE STORY BEHIND MY CHANGE OF NAME
- In the Pre-WW2 years in Hong Kong, my father Johnny Pang was a ship chandler who regularly conducted his shipment transactions through a chartered shipbroker firm A.E. Gerondal & Co. and so friendship developed between Johnny Pang and the principal Alexandre Gerondal.
2. WW2 December 18, 1941
On this day 10,000 troops of the Japanese Empire crossed the Hong Kong Harbor and landed on the island amidst fierce fighting with the British, Canadian and Gurkha defenders, to gain control of the island’s water reservoir and power stations.
On the very same day, under shelter, my mother gave birth to me.
3. WW2 Hong Kong under Japanese occupation.
All foreign subjects of the enemies of Japan including British civilians were interned. Alexandre Gerondal and his wife May Gerondal were kept at Stanley Internment Camp on Hong Kong Island. Food was scarce during these three years and eight months’ occupation. In the camp, those internees who still had friends outside to send them food packages were lucky enough to ward off fatal malnutrition.
The business of a ship chandler was considered essential during the war years and came under the scrutiny of controlling Japanese officers. Johnny Pang thus walked a very tight rope on one side serving the occupier while on the other side surreptitiously sending food parcels to the internee Alexandre Gerondal without being openly classified as an enemy sympathizer to face torture and execution.
4. Post WW2
Just after the Japanese occupation ended, Johnny Pang fatally contracted tuberculosis. Alexandre Gerondal, then freshly out of internment camp and forever grateful, was by his hospital bedside with promises to look after his family.
5. Perth, Western Australia.
Alexandre and May Gerondal migrated to Perth where shortly after May died of cancer. Then Alexandre Gerondal carried out his plan of giving the late Johnny Pang’s son and daughter the best of education in Western Australia. The best gift he long promised to carried out with the permission of Johnny Pang’s widow.
To gain permanent residency in post war Australia, overseas students must either marry an Australian or be adopted by an Australian.
And so, as the late Johnny Pang’s son Paul was still under 18 years of age suitable for adoption, his name changed to Paul Gerondal overnight.