These little booklets evoke a lot of nostalgia for the older folks amongst us. Have you ever wondered how the notation “555” came into existence?
These gained notoriety as “buku hutang” – a sort of credit booklet which villagers used to chalk up their debts as they bought household items and food on credit from the kedai runcit (sundry shops). The idea was to pay up lump sum at the end of each month when they debtors got their gaji (wages).
Unfortunately, this practice often became an insidious debt-trap, as it encouraged a “buy-now-worry-about-paying-later” mindset. Thus, for quite a number of folks, it became a Book of Woes.
Legend has it that the Chinese “victims” often looked inside these booklets and would cry aloud “wu wu wu” and, well that sounded like “555” in Mandarin. The rest is history.
Cats’ Eyes. Back in the old days, in addition to white painted strips on roads to demarcate traffic lanes, there were also embedded into the road surfaces a type of reflective device called Cats’ Eyes.
Each had a metal casing, in which sat a depressible body that had two “eye” reflectors facing front and back. These would shine brightly against the headlights of oncoming vehicles at night. In places where a driver was not familiar with the road or highway on a dark night, these little strings of bright lights were a real blessing to moving ahead safely.
If a vehicle ran over any one of these, there would be a muffled “thum-thum” sound, corresponding to the instances when the front and rear wheels, respectively hit the Cats’ Eyes. No meowing sound, of course.
You Only Teeth Twice, So Get Your Gums Ready….regardless whether you are James Bond or Jane Bond.
At some point in time during our young innocent days, all of us had this rude awakening that some blood-letting was part of life, and we quickly learned we had to let go some things for the better. That is, milk teeth would have to give way to permanent teeth.
Some of these baby teeth fell off without much coaxing, but others required a string and a gentle tug. The first occasion was traumatic, but it got easier the second time around,…and even fun (sounds familiar?)
Per Chinese kampong folklore, the shed lower teeth needed to be thrown onto roof tops, in order that the new teeth might grow up; vice versa, the shed upper milk teeth had to be discarded onto the earth….
The ‘lumba kuda’ or Horse Racing calendars were and still are a true legacy of Malaysia. They must have been around for donkey years – or should I say, horsey years – even before I was born. When I was young I always wondered why there were horses on Saturdays and Sundays, and they seemed to run from Penang, to Ipoh to KL even to Singapore. Horse racing and related gambling activities must have been closely intertwined with the lives of the people.
Besides showing the race days and the location of these races, these old time calendars also incorporated a wealth of other information, such as School Holidays, festive occasions, the Chinese as well as Muslim calendars. Older ones in the past also incorporated information from the classical Chinese Almanac. Often we used them as Work Planners !
Sundry shops still give these out to regular customers at the end of the year, though these calendars have also shrunk in size over the years.
Does anyone remember gunny sacks? For that matter, what is a sack apart from an ignominious ejection from one’s job?
Ages ago, folks used big brownish fabric bags – made from jute – to pack and stuff food items like onions, dried chillies, potatoes and all kinds of grains. These were called “gunny sacks”. The fabric had a rough fibrous texture, was durable and highly re-useable. A trade even evolved from the buying and selling of used gunny sacks.
Truly versatile, organic and environment-friendly, retired gunny sacks could be made into rugs or even scrub pads for washing dishes. Oh yes, we also had fun in schools using gunny sacks in friendly games called “sack racing”.
Nowadays, with supermarkets replacing traditional mom-and-pop sundry shops, food packaging is largely done in smaller convenient take-away packs, and environment-hostile plastic material has largely replaced jute. Haiz !