Recently I visited the Chinatown Heritage Centre with my eldest brother and my friend Peh who is about my age. We saw many familiar objects such as this one below. Do you know what it is?
In Cantonese we called it ‘woon kwai’ (碗柜). It is used for storing cups, bowls and other eating utensils. Can you see the bowls? The see-through ‘window’ is in fact made of wire mesh. The purpose was to keep out insects. This is because this cabinet was also used to store food leftovers. I am talking about the 1950’s when we did not have electricity supply to our kampong yet and thus we had no refrigerators.
Do you notice that the legs of this cabinet are resting on 2 bowls? Do you know why this is so? (Hint: We usually fill the bowls with water)
The purpose, as you have probably guessed, was to create a ‘moat’ so that ants cannot crawl up the cabinet to reach our food. Of course, this led to mosquito breeding. What we usually do, when we remember that is, was to scoop up the mosquito larvae to feed our fighting fish. (See my previous post).
Anyway, mosquitoes were rampant and we would use this type of insecticide sprayer to spray Shelltox to kill them. I am curious as to whether my young readers have seen this before. Do you know how it functions? I remember studying about it in our physics lesson once. In Cantonese we called it ‘mun yau (蚊油) pump’.
When electricity finally came to our village, one of the first electrical appliances that we bought was a refrigerator. I think the brand was Kelvinator. Have you heard of this brand before? It was very popular before the invasion of the Japanese brands. As usual, it was our more technically advanced cousins, the Ngs, who recommended us this brand. Remember the Minolta camera that I blogged about earlier? Well, that was also recommended by them.
Maybe I should explain one more thing for the benefit of my young readers. Do you see the pot and kettle in this photo. Do you know what we do when these items are broken or worn out? Nowadays, we would throw them away of course. But back in the kampong days, we would get a tinker to repair (please don’t say you do not know what is a tinker). As kids we liked to watch the guy use a solder iron to repair the holes and cracks in the pots and kettle. This is another one of those extinct trades that the present generation probably have not seen before. Speak of solder, and they will probably think of printed circuit boards. Am I right?
I hope you have gained a better understanding of life in the 1950’s after reading this post. More next time.
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