Windmills Of My Time

Haha, paper pinwheels!  I remember learning to make these toys at home from a very young age.  By the time I went to primary school,  I was the “master craftsman” in this art.

It was great fun for us kids, racing in the kampong or on the school field, faces gleaming with pure innocuous joy as we saw the wheels spinning on a stick in our hands.

Sometimes, as we travelled in our kereta sekolahs, and school buses, those seated at the windows would try to hold one out and set the wheels spinning very fast.  Of course that attracted an earful of disapproving reprimands from the bus uncles and aunties — well, it could be dangerous.

Nowadays, I seldom see kids making or playing with these windmills of our time. 

Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap

It is not in the middle of the road*, but some where along Penang Road, opposite what was once the Cathay Cinema (now Mydin Wholesale Emporium). 

Decades ago, Penang Bazaar was the favorite haunt of ladies looking for shopping therapy.  Apparently there were great buys at this place which the Penang folks called “Mola” (Jualan Murah).  (That was true only if one knew how to and dared to drive a hard bargain.)

Well, my late mum was a consummate swordswoman in the art of price-slashing; with just one precise stroke, she could cut down any price-gouger to half size, in double-quick time.  One chop, and then walked away, leaving the poor seller pleading for a merciful coup de grace that would at least leave him with a sale…albeit not on his terms.

Oh yes, yet another trophy for the day – for Mum.

 *note : pun on the 1971 hit song, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, by the band Middle Of The Road

Start Pinking and Stop Fraying

It was a strange-looking pair of scissors that my late mum and other senior female relatives used frequently to impart a zig-zag boundary around the pieces of cloth they used to make their dresses.

I later found out that it was called “Pinking Shears”.  Apparently it was invented by one Samuel Briskman in 1931 (there are other claims), to help minimise fraying of textile along cut edges.  Doubtful initially, I was later convinced that this gadget could let the dressmakers Stop Worrying & Start Living (happily, I think) as they turned fabric into garments.

But I suspect in these days and times, many youngsters would be confounded by an encounter with this vintage but ingenious tool.

By the way, in Penang we called it 马齿剪刀 (horse-teeth scissors)

Steel Unfinished Symphony

In 1981, a unique automobile from a hitherto unknown company in Northern Ireland made its stunning debut.

The DeLorean Motor Company – started by a renegade General Motors engineer – launched its first car, the DMC-12.  It had gull-wing doors that opened upwards, and a rear-mounted engine. The machine drew a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘wahs’ from auto-fans and techies worldwide.

But the greatest sensation was the use of unpainted, wire-brushed stainless steel panels for the body. 

About 9,000 cars were made before the company went bankrupt in 1982 and production halted in 1983. An estimated 6,500 units are believed to be in existence today.

There is an ongoing effort to revive the DeLorean company and complete the unfinished dream of John DeLorean, the founder.

They Ran Like Clockwork

Of course they did!  These vintage time-keepers were powered by torsion coil springs, which then drove a complex system of gears collectively known as “clockwork mechanism”.

Actually, the accuracy was controlled by the length of the pendulum.  As kids, we sometimes amused ourselves by shortening the pendulum, causing the clock to run many times faster, and chime every 10 minutes or so.  It was kinda fun for us.

The photo shows one of the two wall clocks that we had back in the kampong house.  This one had a face dial with Roman numerals.  Once a week, we used the Key to wind up the two springs inside.  One spring powered the timer function, while the other drove the chimes. 

This particular one chimed on the hour, once for 1 o’clock, twice for 2 o’clock, …. and 12 times for 12 o’clock.

Raking Up The Past

Alas, old folks like us relish on raking up memories of the past, be they sweet, sour or bitter. So here I go with one.

In the kampong, our wooden-attap house was surrounded by trees, and daily dead leaves would glide down gracefully by the hundreds onto the earth around us.

Each morning, my late Grandma would arm herself with her trusty Bamboo Rake and use it to gather the fallen leaves into a couple of neat heaps for disposal.

The Bamboo Rake was also a favorite tool used by road-sweepers to keep the roads clean of rubbish. Nowadays the arduous task has been largely taken over by specialized machines. And so, the tool is not commonly seen anymore.

The Grain Reaper

I wonder how many people know what a sickle is. In our kampong house of the 50s and 60s, we had one of these menacing-looking grain reapers, which I understand were used by padi farmers to do their harvesting. But we were not into farming then.

I recall however, that in the coconut plantation where we lived, coconut harvesters tied these sickles to the ends of long bamboo poles and then used these extended-reach cutters to bring down clusters of coconuts.

The tool, with its curved shape, was also good for clearing lalang around the house, and hacking away unwanted branches on trees.

There were also macabre stories of other uses too….but these are too grim for discussion here.