Management By Dotted Line…

Searching for a pin in my wife’s needlework box today, I came across a vintage tool, which had somehow mysteriously stayed out of sight for a good 3 decades or so.

Circa 1980, my then GF decided to take up sewing lessons from her neighbouring Aunty.  So she acquired a good-size needlework box, with a full complement of scissors, measuring tape, a small box of pins and needles, a triangular piece of marking chalk, etc, and of course, this Tracing Wheel.

A paper pattern would be drawn, and then a piece of carbon paper placed in between this pattern and the underlying cloth.  The tracing wheel was then used to roll along the lines drawn on the pattern — producing a matching string of dots onto the cloth. Stitching was then done along these dots, after removing the papers.

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Sun Tan Notions

Haha, it is not a typo on my part, but a recollection of that memorable cartoon character which appeared decades ago in the Asia Magazine.  Oh by the way, the latter came as a free supplement with the Sunday Times (or was it only once a fortnight?).

Sun Tan was almost always found resting under a coconut palm, concocting his favourite cynical ideas and satirical comments about things around him, and in some instances about himself. A sort of “ownself talk ownself answer” situation, with a fair dose of dry humour thrown in.

Am not sure about his nationality – I thought his headgear looked Burmese.  But that is a trivial secondary.  What I miss is Sun Tan’s notions as he rubbed it in on the twists and turns of life, while he “lepak” under his favourite shade.

*lepak = Malay term for “loitering” or lazing around

 

An Aye For An Eye

So, what’s the big deal about this pair of scissors?  To cut to the chase for this case, this “Eye” Brand pair of scissors was made by Carl Schlieper of Solingen, Germany – a company established in the 18th century.  Sadly, the company went bankrupt in 1993.

My late grandmother had a pair, and I remember she vigorously endorsed it as “the finest in the world” – able to maintain its keen edge cut after cut..after cut. 

After her passing in 1984, her belongings were divided and given to her children (my father, my uncle and my aunties).  Am not sure where the pair of scissors is now.  Perhaps it was thrown away, as the Chinese (at least in those days) have superstitions about giving away items like knives, scissors, etc.

I think it is a collectors’ item now.

Batteries Not Needed, Just Slide Along

Despite the gigantic strides made in electronics and software, the Slide Rule remains a masterpiece of engineering, a timeless showcase of the power of the human mind.

The photo shows the Staedtler-Mars model which I bought in 1976, when I enrolled into the Engineering Faculty, University of Malaya. Wow, it was a new tool that I never knew before, with awesome mathematical computation capabilities like  logarithms, geometric functions, squares, square roots, etc (I have forgotten most of them).

My biggest headache seemed to be finding the right set of figures for square roots (which was essential in tackling AC electricity questions), and under the tense atmosphere of a time-constrained examinations hall, it was a real odyssey of epic intensity.

So much so that at one point, my slide rule fell to the floor and cracked. (see the top left corner).

Before It Became Public Enemy #1

During my days as a young boy, very few homes – especially those in the kampongs – had telephones.   But Jabatan Talikom did erect some public telephone booths for the rakyat to use.

The picture here shows the “pondok talipon” which I clearly remember – a nice concrete enclosed cubicle, with glass panels and wooden louvres (which were painted in dark green).   The one nearest to my house was about a kilometre away.

Reliability was pretty decent, though occasionally the phone box did swallow up many coins without giving any service.  It was costly to call in the day time – something like RM2.40 for 3 minutes for a trunk call from Penang to KL.  However, folks cherished the availability and convenience.

These days however, public phone booths have become a favourite target of vandalism – I can never understand the wrath unleashed on them.

The Original “MPV”

In the old days – 1950s/60s/70s —  the Jeep-like Land Rover was a multi-purpose vehicle much favoured by the government agencies. 

Notably, it was almost always associated with the mata-mata (policemen), though the Department of Information, Fire Brigade, Health Department, and the Army also deployed substantial numbers of these “MPVs”.

The vehicle, with its 4WD, and high chassis was capable of taking on off-road terrain, flood-deluged mud tracks and shallow rivers.  It could even be equipped with a winch to haul itself out of miry bogs. Well, passenger comfort was not outstanding in anyway.  But it could carry a wide variety of payloads.

Over the years, many improvements and upgraded variants have been made. Competition also came from the likes of the Mitsubishi Pajero and Toyota Landcruiser, but none has attained the legendary status of the Land Rover.

No Stopping ‘Em, Come Fire Or High Water

It has been that way for the last 110 years.  This UNESCO Heritage-class icon – the Beach Road Bomba, Penang (at the junnction with Chulia Street) was erected in 1908.  We salute the brave men who have risked limb-and-life in the service of the people.

My late mum had a friend whose husband was a fireman at this station. The family lived in the housing block just behind the main building.  We visited them several times during my kiddy days. 

It was interesting to see the guys practise on the rolling out of flexible hoses and connecting to pipes, and also how they slipped down “quick-acces” poles into the Vehicles Bay in times of emergency calls. 

Besides handling fires, these guys had a good number of calls for catching snakes, rescuing people who fell into wells, and other disasters, etc.