Monthly Archives: April 2020

Blowing The Whistle On My Past ECA

KEEP CALM, and take it easy, OK?  It is only about my participation in a uniformed Extra Curricular Activity in my lower secondary school — not any secret society!

When we entered Form 1, it was compulsory for us to pick our ECAs.  So besides the Art Club, I decided to join the Red Cross Society. (I did not choose the Scouts group due to  its “curi ayam” reputation).

I loved the white uniform with black buttons and the Red Cross decals, the black beret and the rather antique whistle that was attached to the end of a pleated lanyard. Well, I never found occasion to use the whistle — it was always inside the left breast-pocket.

I also remember a lady officer from the RAAF Red Cross who drove to our school on Saturday  afternoons to give us first aid lessons.

Long In The Teeth, But Old Is Gold…

To the Atoks, am sure this photo brings back wonderful memories of the supremely talented brother-and-sister pair of Donny and Marie Osmond. “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock & Roll…”

In a career spanning more than 4 decades, they brought many happy hours to folks of all ages and all walks of life.  Their witty banter, seamless on-stage synergy, singing talent and dance moves were all so captivating.  And they started out when Donny was a mere 19-yr old, and Marie, two years younger.

An endearing feature was their signature smiles, that sported those very beautiful – and rather longish – dental sets. (Oh how I wish I have those teeth!).

Many years have passed since I last watched one of their shows, and was so glad to “re-discover” them on YouTube recently.

Before Zeroes And Ones, There Were Dots And Dashes

Ah hah, modern-day kids probably have not a  morsel of an idea what Morse Code — or telegraph — is.

I learned about this invention by Samuel Morse, from my primary school history textbooks.  I quickly fell in love with it, and could even memorize the codes for all the 26 alphabets + 10 digits.  Alas, now due to very Successful Ageing, I can remember only “SOS”.

Morse Code represented the very beginnings of digital electronics – though at that time no one had fully grasped the potential and implications.

The ill-fated Titanic had also been equipped with wireless telegraph.  After striking the iceberg, the distress signal of “CQD – Come Quick Danger” was sent out.  In Morse Code:- [−●−●] [−−●−] [−●●]. 

Later, the international community simplified the distress signal to “SOS”, which was much easier to remember, especially in panicky situations.

Thus, with much genuine remorse, it became:- [●●●] [−−−] [●●●]

The Forgotten Lions Of Singapore

Achtung! This is not a fishy tale of lions with fishy tails.  Rather, a sad story of what was once a iconic landmark of Singapore.

I remember, when I was much younger, seeing postcards with a beautiful photograph that showed a tall mosaic pillar with a stone lion, “in the middle of the road”.  Some folks told me it was a place in Johore; others said it was in Singapore.

In fact, there were two such ‘pillar-and-lion’ monuments, one at each end of the Merdeka Bridge — which was opened on 17 August 1956 with much fanfare by Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock to commemorate the 2 April 1955 elections.

The two lions were removed in 1966 due to the widening of the Nicoll Highway. After several re-locations later, the lions are now placed at the SAFTI Military Institute, out of public’s sight and mind.  

Hallo ! Dialling…

“…Nice to see you,

 …It’s been a long time

…You are just as shiny

…As you used to be…”         remember that oldie ?

The last time I used a rotary dial telephone was in 1984, when I was working in the Purchasing Office of Motorola, Penang.  Dialling local numbers was bearable, but it was an agonizingly painful circle game when it came to calling places like Japan (we had a number of suppliers there). 

It was 00-81-xx-xxx-xxxx…something like 13 digits.  Gosh, often, in the midst of dialling, I would forget where I was and had to re-start. If the line failed to connect, then “oh-oh” my head would spin.

Initially  I used my index finger to ‘crank’ that dial, but after countless times of going round and round, it was “Finger Hurting Bad” (no point licking). Not to worry.  A pencil would come in handy.

The Monkey That Got Me Going Nuts !

In my kiddo days, breakfast usually consisted of several slices of Roti Benggali, with some home-made kaya spread on, or else with Planta margarine and some sugar sprinkled on.  And all that washed down with a big cup of kopi-O.

Then one day, a relative came and gave us a bottle of peanut butter.  I remember clearly the monkey character in a khaki uniform and a hat, and the name “Apie” on the label. 

Wow, to a kampong boy, it was like unto “Kera Kena Kacang”  Indeed it was the delectable start to a lifelong addiction to peanut butter.  I believe it was relatively expensive in those days, as we bought the stuff only on special occasions,

As the years passed, somehow this Apie brand went “amissing’, while many other brands showed up in the market. 

Colourful Tall Storeys From Penang

For a long time, the architectural landscape of Penang Island had largely been preserved in its nostalgic British colonial heritage.

That all changed when the state government decided to build a modern 10-storey building in Downing Street, at the site of an old godown. The completion of Bangunan Tuanku Syed Putra in 1962 made it the tallest building in Penang, with colourful facades of yellow and red, and “wrapped” at the ends with greyish-blue walls.  It housed various offices of the state and federal governments.

For the man in the street, the most frequented office was the General Post Office – located (appropriately!) on the ground floor. 

Over the last 50 years or so, this once “tallest-and-colourful” iconic building has been dwarfed by countless nondescript high-rise structures all over the island, and is currently painted a sad yellowish white colour!

Kisah Usaha Kipas USHA

Millennials may not even have heard of the name “USHA”.  I did; but due to my acquaintance with the Malay Language, in my youth days I risibly thought someone had misspelt the word “USAHA” !

“Missing” one “A” notwithstanding,  USHA ceiling fans (along with GEC) were reliable, sturdy workhorses, and widely used both in homes and commercial premises (such as barber shops, coffeeshops, etc). I later learned that USHA was made by the Jay Engineering Company of India.

What made me remember these fans were their flattish bulbous motor hubs, which had several concentric red circles painted on them, and the USHA labels prominently displayed on the two end covers of the connecting rods.

In later years, USHA seemed to have been blown away, in the wake of massive market invasion by the Japanese, Taiwanese and lately, Chinese brands.

Green Green Glass Of Old

I remember my late Mum inherited a set of 6 translucent green cups and matching saucers from her grandfather. Checking with Mr Google, I believe they were from the Fire King Jane Ray Jadeite collection (made by USA company Anchor Hocking).  She used to keep them in an old wooden chest.

In those days, we knew nothing of the vintage value; but we used them only on occasions to serve hot drinks (usually Milo) to guests and visitors. (Back then no one had refrigerators, and so, no cold drinks).

These milky jade-coloured glassware were beautiful, and stood out distinctively from the many run-of-the-mill opaque porcelain types in common use.

Alas, due to re-location to Singapore, and multiple re-relocations on the Little Red Dot (crazy!), I have lost track of the whereabouts of these Green Green Cups Of Home.

Confection Of A Cracky Kind

I confess — that oblong tinny sheetmetal box shown here evokes fond memories of my kiddy days, when eating a piece of that square, crispy biscuit was a sort of luxury.  Especially, if some condensed milk had been applied on it.

The evergreen Cream Crackers from Jacob’s are now of 135 years vintage (as of 2020). Of course the packaging has been totally modernised (but sadly, the crackers have also undergone some slimming exercise).

In those days, a tin of these biscuits (known as ‘咸饼’ in Penang Hokkien) was a popular gift when one went visiting friends or relatives – in particular, those who were recuperating in hospitals. (We nicknamed them ‘The Sick Man’s Biscuit’, LOLX).

Oh yes, that tin was also ‘legendary’ in its role as a container for mums’ sewing and needlework kits in many homes.