The Woes & Wu’s Of The 555

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.

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Kopi Cup Kaw-Kaw

In the good old times before coffeeshops became coffeehouses, we could get real good kopi, kaw-kaw or otherwise, without having to demolish our bank accounts. 

Best of all, while paying only 10 sen or so, our daily perk-up came in dignified porcelain cups, each graced elegantly with a matching saucer.  And those cups were also very kaw (meaning thick).  I was told that the thick cups was to minimize heat loss from the drink. 

These days, at the so-called upmarket coffee outlets, one has to pay a fistful of dollars to get some coffee-looking/smelling liquid with some out-of-this-world unpronounceable names that is served in crass paper cups, or worse, in uncouth health-destroying polyfoam ones.  Sadly, there is no lack of eager victims.  What to do? 

Tutors Turned Stingers

That was “How It All Began”, when in 1967, RMAF received its first combat aircraft – putting real ‘tentera’ into TUDM.

The 20 machines were Canadair CL-41G Tutors – basic jet trainers that could double up as light ground attack fighter-bombers. TUDM called them ‘Tebuan’ (meaning ‘Wasp’).  These remained in service until 1985.  They probably stung the CPM out of existence.

I remember seeing some of them flying over my old kampong house in Butterworth – sometimes low enough to make out the two airmen seated side-by-side in the cockpit. 

However, it was only in 2013 when I finally got to see a specimen really up close.  That was during a visit to the Muzium TUDM in Sungai Besi.  Oh, by the way, there is another exhibit at the Muzium Tentera Darat at Port Dickson.

Squeeze Me Baby With All Your Might

Rummaging through my kitchen cabinet one day, I found this piece of magnificent ancient glassware. I guess it must have been with us for the last 4 decades or so – I might as well call it an artefact instead.

I am not sure what its correct name is – shall I call it Manual Juicer?

That same day I got hold of a couple of oranges, slit them in halves and then revived my hand muscles to get the juice flowing.  Man, it was hard work – I really had to squeeze the fruit halves with all my might, while simultaneously rotating them around.

I remember it was a rather easy job 40 years ago.  But this time round, my hand joints felt sore, and I had to rub in some analgesic balm afterwards for relief.  

On A Nutshell, We Had Fun

Back in those days of the 50s and 60s,  we kids had a lot of time to be just kids.  Though we had very few factory-made toys, that did not stop us from having a good time.  We laid our hands and feet on whatever that were available  and made them entertain us.

Coconuts were plentiful in my kampong as my house was in the midst of a coconut plantation.  

So, one of the favourite pastimes was to put a coarse string through two-halves of tempurung and then we stepped on the inverted coconut shells and walked with them.  The string had to be pulled up and gripped between the big toes and the 2nd toes, like how one wore a Japanese slipper.  Klok-klok-klok….

Well, in a nutshell, we had great fun on a nutshell !

Can’t Get It Right? Try This..

Hmm, I have not seen nor used that L-shaped thing for a long, long time.  When I was in my LCE year in 1970, we used that quite a bit in our Industrial Arts class.   What is that ?

For folks who still are not able to get it right,  it is called a Try Square.  We used it to mark out lines on a piece of wood or board, so that the line would be at Right Angles to a particular edge of the wooden piece.

After that a hand saw was used to cut along the marked line.  Skill, determination and practice were needed to get it right.

These days, with fewer and fewer people keen on D-I-Y work, preferring swiping touchscreens with their finger tips to flexing their under-used muscles, these ‘vintage’ tools are getting rarer by the day.

All Routes Led To Puduraya

Of course this is an exaggeration (not all roads led to Rome, even in its heyday).  But this was the base terminal from which many express buses from all over the country operated.

During the 4 years of my studies at UM (1975-79), I called at this “mother-of-all-bus-terminals” at least 2 dozen times, as I travelled between Kuala Lumpur, and home in Penang.

Back then, it was already a hive of hyper-activity.  The upper floor which housed numerous ticketing booths and eating spots was always swarming with travellers of all shapes, sizes and colours, as well as hordes of bus touts crying aloud the names of almost every major town in Peninsula Malaysia.

The lower floor roared with high decibels of engine noise and fumed with diesel smoke from the arriving and departing buses. 

Those were the days – I have not been back there since 1980.