One particular photo caught my attention. It showed several household items that we used to have in our kampong house back in the 1950’s. I would like to blog about three of these items.
The first object is labeled (1) in the photo. Do you know what it is? It a chopsticks holder. It’s made of china. I wouldn't have remembered this without seeing this photo.
The second item is a calendar. The metal frame usually has a picture of a famous actress or singer. When the year is over, you can use it as a serving tray for drinks. I doubt that you find such calendars anymore. But you can still find the horse racing calendar like the one here which I found hanging in my colleague’s cubicle. Many old-timers of my generation still liked to use this type of calendar. They like the big fonts as well as the dates of Singapore public holidays – apart from the important racing dates of course. When I was in primary school, I often waited eagerly for the end of the month to come around. Do you know why? I liked to use the paper to wrap my exercise books; with the clear side facing outwards of course.
The third item in the photo is the pressure lamp. This type of pressure lamp was very common in the 50’s and 60’s. Many households had this type of pressure lamps and many pasar malam (night street market) stalls as well. In Hokkien, we called it ‘pong teng’. I am not too familiar with the operation of this lamp because I was too young then, but I liked to watch my father or my eldest brother light it up. Maybe one of you readers can do us the honour of explaining how this is done.
Besides the pressure lamp, we also had the smaller kerozene lamp, the type with a wick (also called paraffin lamp). I think we did not have electricity in our kampong in Lorong Kinchir until around 1960. I know this because I recall one evening, when my father came back late from work; and while he was having his dinner in the dim light of this oil lamp, I had to recite my ‘times table’ to him. I was probably in Primary one or two at that time. So the year should be1959 or 1960.
Electricity only came to our village after the PAP government came to power. My eldest brother, Chun Chew, remembers Lee Kuan Yew visiting our village and promising us ‘upgrading’ in the form of electricity. The member of parliament for our constituency at that time was a Mr Tan Kia Gan. He was later replaced by a Mr Roderigo. My father served under him for several years in the CCC – Citizens’ Consultative Committee.
Footnote: I found a website that gives a good explanation of the operation of a pressure lamp (here).