Monthly Archives: November 2016

Thick & Thin

Her name is Stone, Whet Stone.   I just realized that abrasive gal at the corner of the kitchen sink has been with us for the past 32 years, having followed us in our migration from Penang to Singapore.

A faithful companion I would say, having not only stuck by us through Thick and Thin,but also gone from Thick to Thin over the past 3 decades.  Well she is more curvy now for sure.

I wonder how the modern folks sharpen their knives these days ?  I know of several contraptions that came and went, but as for me, I am still stone-age.

I might have to get a replacement soon before the old faithful breaks into two; perhaps should send her by Poslaju to Easter Island as her final resting place.

Hot Button Issues

Ok, granted, these are not the type of issues that will drive the citizenry to protest on the streets (though the photo here does show yellow as well as red ones)…lolx.

But I remember that decades ago, these were high fashion. My long-departed Granny and other senior female relatives were experts in making buttons out of cloth material to adorn their blouses. In fact Granny’s upper garments always had these types only, no others.  The knotted buttons required some dexterous handwork to fabricate.

I almost never see any woman wearing dresses with these now.   I think these buttons are no longer ‘hot’ and have completely gone out of vogue, or perhaps these days women’s fingers can only swipe and tap touchscreens.   Hope I don’t start a riot here.

Happy Feet

Believe me, I was never a penguin before…lolx.   But many of us  did have Happy Feet anyway.

At one time decades ago, kampong folks decided to give retired tyres a new lease of life, by fashioning them into sandals.  I suspect it could have been the owner of the sole tyre service shop who introduced that idea.   Every guy in our home had a pair.

Ergonomically, these footwear were a near-heresy by today’s standards — the inside surface contour was a total mismatch with that of the sole of our feet.  They were a novelty and looked pretty cool (though some people thought they were ugly). Walking around with these on made us feel great, though initially we tended to wobble a bit like those cute fellas in the movie.

Has anyone else tried these before?

Tonic Chap Singa

Everyone knows T-O-N-I-C Tonic Chap Gajah, but what about Tonic Chap Singa ?   No kidding !

For those who can recall, the bottle came with a blue cap (see photo ). It was reputed to have some medicinal properties and was good for removing “heatiness” from the body, but it was bitter and not popular.   Rarely did this drink feature on the must-have festive season beverage lists.  Happiness and Bitterness don’t go together, I suppose.

Not sure if F&N still markets this drink.

To sidetrack a bit, I had a Hokkien-speaking colleague from Muar who went to Penang to work.   He went to a coffeeshop and asked for “tau nee”, and was served this Tonic.  Apparently he did not know that in Penang, we call soyabean milk “tau chooi”.

Baking Was A Tin Of The Past

Prior to 1965 or so, no one in our neighbourhood had a proper oven of any kind.  But plebeian resourcefulness kicked readily.

An empty kerosene tin was all we needed.  One face was cut away to form a nice rectangular tank.  Fine sand (from the beach nearby) was used to fill about one-third of the tin to form an even heating bed.

For the topside heating , a piece of old sheet metal with plenty of glowing charcoal was placed over the kerosene tin.  And Voila, our Oven !

Admittedly, this contraption was quite susceptible to mood swings.  Often,  the cakes turned out looking like Mt Fujiyama, some others resembled the Table Mountain of South Africa, or worse, macam Lake Toba.  Bad recipes, perhaps.

No problem lah, we just opened our mouths big big — “Eat lah, mountain, table or lake !”

Silver Tales & Golden Fables

It happened in 1968 or so.  Succumbing to the sweet persuasion of a Rediffusion salesman, we subscribed to this novel “Cable Audio” entertainment service, for a grand sum of RM7 per month.

Installation came with a speaker box and a 2-channel selector/volume control switch. Channel A was called the Gold Network and B, the Silver Network.

Habis lah ! Thenceforth we were held hostage by the numerous (more like endless) highly addictive stories, talk shows and fabulous songs & music, in Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew and English. (Can’t remember if there were Malay or Tamil programs).

That notwithstanding,  all the silver tales and golden fables could not fend off the onslaught of competing technologies, and also failed to satiate ever-changing  entertainment cravings.   I believe the service has ceased; but memories linger.

From Baby To Lady

[She’s a lady….Oh whoa whoa whoa she was a baby].   Perhaps Tom Jones was thinking of this….LOLX

I was born with a mouth full of sweet teeth, and Dutch Baby was my favourite food & beverage companion, which I could eat or sip as well — spread on my roti, dissolved in my coffee or even jilat  off my jari !  Sedapnya !

Some time in the 1970s (memory a bit murky/milky now),  the name was changed to Dutch Lady;….it supposedly was done “for better product positioning”.  There were also claims that the word “Baby” could mislead uninformed people into feeding the condensed milk to babies.   (But in the old days, that was not uncommon among the poor, without any hoohah). 

Not sure if Dutch Lady still produces condensed milk — I have not seen a can for years now. 

Dreams Of The Red Chamber Pot

Chinese literary purists may get a cardiac arrest over this “ghastly” travesty of the great classical novel, 红楼梦. 

But indeed a sparkling new spittoon with plenty of red color and the word “double-happiness” was a significant item for the marital chamber of a newly-married Chinese couple.

An “ang pow” was placed inside the potty, and then its mouth was sealed with a piece of red paper.  Once the wedding ceremony was over, a young boy would be asked to smash through the red paper seal and retrieve the red packet.   I learned  that this was to help the couple to bring forth a son soon.    True ? Am not sure.

I don’t think this practice is in vogue these days, as young couples have other more exciting wedding dreams apart from a red potty.

Twice As Nice Or Double The Trouble ?

Remember the Mitsubishi Mirage with Super-Shift ?

Besides the regular gear stick, it had an additional stick to select “Power” or “Economy” mode, effectively providing 8 Forward & 2 Reverse speeds (gear ratios, to be precise).   The idea was to endow the driver with optimum gearing ratios for a wider range of driving mood swings, from “garang” to “jimat”.

However in practice, to savor the sweet renderings from every one of the 8 ratios would require two hands to manipulate the two sticks at the same time !  So almost every driver would just choose either one of the two modes (Power or Economy) and then just left it there.

The 70s-80s was a decade of bold innovations by automakers.  But only a few worked.   In this case, Mitsubishi realized their Mirage was a mirage.

The Dream Machine

I was a small kid with big dreams.  Some time in 1962, when dad brought home a colourful catalog from Boon Siew Honda, my attention was drawn NOT to the cubby stuff, but a big stately majestic  Benly Dream series.  These machines came in two models, with twin-cylinder engines of 250cc and 350cc respectively.

I liked the squarish headlight, the beefy squarish-section front forks & solid-looking rear suspension arms, the sparkling chrome fuel tank, etc., and not the least of all, the whitewall tyres.

(By contrast, modern m-bikes all seem to resemble creepy bugs from outer space that appear in nightmares)

So, I told my dad, “Buy this one”.  But Dollars & Sensibility sank in.  We could only afford the 50cc Kap Chai, thus that big fella just remained the stuff of my dreams,….for a long time.

Anyone owned this machine before ?