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.

It’s Only Words…

…and words were all you had, to take your thoughts away.  Oh yes, of course one had plenty of ‘Controls’ at one’s fingertips to tap on.

In the early 80s, Wordstar, and a later competitor, WordPerfect, brought about a quantum leap in word-processing that helped bury the typewriter, as well as turned every literate person into a typist.

However, with the advent of Microsoft Windows, the companion MS-Word, with its ability to embed pictures, and armed with formidable tools such as formatting, colors, word-count, thesaurus, search, etc, quickly dethroned and deposed the early pioneers.

Both WS and WP responded to the challenges, but they were too late, to the extent that today, it’s only WORD, and WORD is all we have, though there is no love lost (at least for me) for this rather buggy piece of software.

The Foot, The Fad and The Ugly

The practice of feet-binding in ancient China must surely rank as one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind. 

As I put words for this post, it grieves, horrifies and stupefies me – how could people crush and mutilate the feet of young girls, and grossly contort them by tightly binding up whatever were left, and then called them “beautiful” ?

My late grandma was one of the victims.  As a young boy, I listened to the story of her ordeal, and it made cry an hour. At that time, she had already given up the bindings, and what I saw shocked me for life.

Despite her bound feet, as a young girl, she worked as a cowherd, and then later, after marriage, raised 4 kids and ran a sundry shop.