I was pleasantly surprised to see this old iron when I visited my mother-in-law in Ipoh recently. I wonder how many of you have seen one of these. Before electricity came to our kampong, my mother used to iron our clothes with this type of iron.
Do you know how it functions? It’s quite simple really. Just unhook the catch, open the lid and put in red-hot charcoal. Then close the lid, fasten the catch and wait for the iron to heat up.
How about the water-sprayer? Have you seen this one before? If you visit the Chinatown Heritage Centre you will be able to see one like this.
But do you know that there is one even simpler than this. It looks like the pepper container that you often see in the hawker centres.
But wait - there is yet another even less high-tech than this one - do you know what it look like? Give up? Just look at your own fingers lor.
Speaking of shirts, my brothers and I; our favourite brand was Lifting. We used to buy from a ground floor shop at People's Park Complex.
Those days, our school shirts were made of cotton and were uncomfortable and crumbled easily. In the sixties, synthetic materials (like tetoron, rayon ???) started to make their appearance. Some of the richer kids in our school started to wear such shirts. If my memory serves me right, initially there were some rules against this. I remember, in Sec 4 (1968) I too started to wear such shirts and they definitely more comfortable.
But back to the topic of irons. Talking about ironing clothes will certainly remind the guys about their good old NS (national service) days. Oh how we hated Sunday nights when we had to return to camp early to iron our uniforms and polish our boots for drill or muster parade the next day. I still remember our first few days as recruits when our section commander taught us how to do the thousand-and-one tiresome chores such as ironing our uniforms ‘until it can stand’, polishing our boots ‘until can see your face’, pasting mahjong paper on our wooden lockers, and then spraying water on it to make it stretch on drying etc etc. Just thinking about those days when we learned all those survival tricks; how to go to ‘Safticana’ to purchase ‘Quick starch’ and WD40 (for cleaning rifles - we were not supposed to use this – but everyone does it anyway), brasso for polishing our bayonet buckles etc etc, is enough to give one nightmares. It seems as if our meagre $90 allowance was not even enough to purchase all these extras. But I am proud to say, I actually had enough left over to give $40 to my mother each month.
Talking about all those torturous days, I am reminded of our crazy (that is the mildest adjective I can think of) CO or commanding officer, at Officer Cadet School. During the dreaded CO parade, he actually inspected the metal studs at the bottom of our drill boots for rust. Those who were unlucky enough to be picked practically had no chance of escaping punishment. Sometimes, he even asked cadets how many buttons they had on their shirts!!! Can you believe that? And this guy was so ‘wuliao’ that on Sunday nights, he actually went to Beauty World at Bukit Timah 7th mile, where many officer cadets waited for their buses or taxis to return to Safti, and tried to catch those who did not put on their ties!!!
I said it before, and I say it again. I am so glad such dinosaurs are no longer around to bully our children these days. On the other hand, I could be wrong. They may have simply evolved into an even more fearsome species – I am thinking here of course of those commando instructors who tortured one trainee to death a few years ago.
I was quite sceptical when someone told me recently that army boys nowadays do not need to iron their uniforms or polish their boots. For the purpose of writing this article, I checked with one NS boy in my church the other day and he told me this was not true. They still had to iron their No. 3’s and polish their drill boots although not to the extent that we did in those pre-historic days. Yes; some things never change do they?
Those were the days my friend,
We thought they’d never end …..