Thursday, January 29, 2009

Some things never change (1)

Recently I was at Taman Jurong Shopping Centre and stepped into a shop to buy a pair of sandals. I was quite surprised to see a number of items which I thought very few people would use nowadays.

The have Brylcreem, Tancho and Yardley haircream which I blogged about before here.

They even sell a type of powder called Hoi Tong Fun in Cantonese which my mum had used for decades.

In a separate section of the shop, there is even a small counter providing photo-printing services; and guess what they had in the glass counter … Films!

I am curious as to who their customers are. Maybe next time I am there, I will ask the shop keeper. My guess would be older folks.

Of late, there has been quite a bit of news about businesses that cater to the boomers market. (In fact, even the number of nostalgia blogs have increased.) Thus I was not surprised to see some very familiar furniture from my kampong days at a Hakka yong tau hu coffee shop that I patronized the other day.


This photo shows my younger brother James doing his homework at a marble table and seated on the same type of chair. I remember at the bottom of the chair, were these words, Made in Poland. Notice the big arm chair next to the wall. It’s call Suin Chee Teng. Made of very hard wood, and black in colour. Very hard to clean because the many cavities tended to collect dust.

They even serve their coffee in this type of traditional cup and saucer; but the plastic spoon was out of place. By the way, have you seen how some older folks drink their coffee. They will pour the coffee onto the saucer and drink from the latter. I think it is to cool the coffee more quickly. I personally don’t think it is very hygienic.

This shop, by the way, is located in Lavender Street near to the Singapore Casket Building.

PS – I borrowed a line from an old song for the title of this article. Do you know which song that is? Answer here.

20 comments:

pehsk 白成杰 putih said...

往事只能回味
白成杰

Victor said...

Reproductions of those old-fashioned coffee cups (and even the tiny porcelain spoons that were used to stir the coffee with) are available for sale at Thow Kwang which I blogged about here.

yg said...

i am still using brylcreem for my hair.

peter said...

Talking about this old stuff, I notice there has been an increased interest in Pernakan fashion. Not sure whetehr this is because people follow "The Little Pernakan" TV series.

The other day, I was at Bibik in Katong. Some 20something girls came in to look for sarong kebayas for their wedding outfits. As usual I "kwa char boh". My gosh the girls looked so ordinary (because they wore western clothings but got good looks) was suddenly transformed into a sexy maidens with all the nice curves in the right places. The different colour combination of the top and bottom pieces accentuated the feminine charm.

fighting fit said...

peter, you are right about the peranakan fashion comeback. I saw this head-turner in a colourful nyonya combo going to work. Yes, going to work. She was so fine, walking along the road, drivers at the traffic light stopped sms-ing, one cyclist's jaw dropped visibly, the construction crew across the road just stopped working. I was afraid one of them would drop a tool.

PChew said...

Yes, pouring coffee onto the saucer was to cool the drink. I did that before. Unhygienic? The cup and saucer were sterilised with boiling hot water just before coffee was poured into the cup. Of course it is not done now. But my wife still insisted that it is done like before and the coffee man obliged.

Lam Chun See said...

YG. You must be the object of much envy among your friends becos I suspect not many of them have enough of it up there - and I am not referring to the other type of grey matter - to apply Brylcreem on.

Philip. I think it is unhygienic becos they probably do not wash the bottom of the cup properly; and they might place it on dirty table tops, or pile it on dirty dishes. But those oldies who have been doing this all their lives have probably developed the stomach to withstand a bit of dirt.

Zen said...

Chun See photos bring back old memories. It is still a market for products catering to older folks like brylcreem, tancho, and hoi tong fun. For business men if money can still be squeezed from oldies, why not. As for antic furnitures, being served beverages in these old fashioned utensils, are quite appealing to the younger set who may even find them 'cute'. It is good business sense for entreprenuers like old chang kee and other like-minded people to attract young people to their joints by providing a 'new and refreshing' ambiance, at the same time enabling to up the price and reducing the volume of their beverages, but it is in actual fact putting old vine in new bottles - smart guys! I heard another tale from kampong folks that the practice of drinking coffee or tea out of a saucer originated from the muslims patronising chinese operated coffeeshops. It was the fear that the common cups used by non muslims might still have a lingering non-halal after-taste which was indeed a taboo for them.

fuzzoo said...

You can still get hoi tong fun from those temporary bazaars that sprout up here and there. And I believe Ah Kun Kaya Toast serves coffee/tea in those old type of cups and sauces. I was using film until maybe just 6 years ago. My sis has the old style kopitiam table and chairs in her home. And near my home there is a furniture shop run by an old couple selling some old-style cane furniture - like the classic chair with concentric circles and the baby chair that doubles up as a stool. So tempted to get them.

Patricea Chow-Capodieci said...

As I was growing up, I remember seeing my mom using Hoi Tong Fun on her face and she even tried to convince me that it was better than other facial pwders/foundation. She still uses the Hoi Tong Fun, but I have no idea where she buys hers from.

We use to have the same wooden chairs in my grandmother's home. I must have sat on them until I was about 10 years old or so, which would have been about 22 years ago.

Up until I was 15 years old, which would be 17 years ago, there was a coffeeshop near Sennett Estate that served tea/coffee in the traditional cup and saucer, and with the porcelain spoon. This was a time where many coffeeshops were serving tea/coffee in glass mugs. I also remember that tea or coffee served in the porcelain cups somehow tasted much more fragrant.

zen said...

During my kampong days I used to see the coffeeshop or stall operators frying their own coffee beans in a large cylindrical steel drum with a handle at one end. They would rotate the handle and spin the drum under a charcoal fire. I learnt that they added butter in the frying process adding fragrance to their coffee beans. Some years back I could still see a few HDB coffeeshops frying their own coffee beans but I think this practice has since stopped.

Victor said...

I just watched a 2007 DVD show starring John Travolta as a "pleasantly plump" woman with a similarly-built daughter. The title of the musical, depicting racial segregation in Baltimore in the 1960s was Hairspray.

The show reminded me of the very popular "Alberta VO5" hairspray which was popular in the 1960s in Singapore. It is still available today.

fighting fit said...

I remember using Brylcreem when we were little boys. But mom complained when she washed the pillow cases that the big metal laundry basin was oily! Because of my hair cream. She ordered us to switch to Vitalis.

Brian and Tess said...

Yes Brylcreem was all the rage when I was in Spore in the early 60s but these days there are so many more sophisticated things for hair - rather than that thick white cream.

I am in India at the moment (making my way towards you all in Spore) and was also surprised to see film for sale - I think its just old stock they cannot sell, I bet most of it is past its sell by date!

Victor said...

There are diehard photographers who swear by using film instead of flash cards. It is a small market but I believe photographic films will continue to be available for some time to come.

Dr Skin in Singapore said...

I think the chair is a Thonet No 14, the most successful industrial chair designed by Michael Thonet from Vienna in the late 19th century. He set up a factory in Poland, and that probably explains the 'Made in Poland'

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks Dr Skin for that input. My curiosity was arroused and I did a search on the internet for some photos of the Thonet No. 14. But I find that it looked quite different from the one I have blogged about here. Maybe this interesting topic should be explored further in a separate article.

tse horng said...

Hi. Nice post. Like to ask about the kopitiam table your family had. Do you remember if the middle leg of the table was curved? And the side of the table, was there any curving?
Thanks.

Anthony said...

Back in the Singapore of my childhood in the 50s,I do recall an aunt applying Hoi Tong Fun as part of her daily beauty regime.Last month while I was in Bangkok, I purchased an antique Chinese silver amulet necklace & was really surprised to be given a box of the Hoi Tong Fun to be used for polishing silver!If only Auntie knew its secret ingredient for her porcelain complexion.PS:I have lived in Sydney for the last 40 years & have just discovered your enjoyable blog.Thank you.

Peter said...

As the author explains, Pryce’s heroics were not just a single unconscious act, buta prolonged battle against overwhelming odds, lasting more than a day.
British Army Ration Packs