Monday, March 21, 2011

Kampong household items

Last week, Wee Kiat and I visited a former Foyer (Friend of Yesterday.sg), Cha Aun at his home in Skudai. He brought us to see his father’s small Gaharu tree plantation. My wife and son who are very much into life science topics came along. We had a swell time; and as a bonus, I spotted some household items that I used to see in my kampong.

1) Dustpan

This is a dustpan made from ‘recycled’ materials. The base is made from a sawn-off kerosene tin or oil tin. Just nail a piece of wood to it and voila, you have a dustpan.



2) Jamban (Toilet)

This is what a typical kampong toilet looks like. Notice that the roof is simply made of a couple of zinc sheets nailed to two beams. I deliberately avoided the toilet bowl because it looked too modern and would spoil my photo. Leaning against the toilet is a home-made ladder. No need to describe how to construct one, I think.


3) Well

One reason that got me quite excited about this visit was the prospect of finally being able to take a photo of a well to use in my next book Good Morning Yesterday. Unfortunately, Cha Aun’s well turned out to be a ‘small’ disappointment. Firstly it is so small and shallow compared to the one we had in our kampong house. Secondly it did not have a pulley. Still that did not stop my wife from showing off how to scoop a pail of water from the well. (By the way, how can you tell from this photo that this is not a well from the 1950s?)

So I am still without a photo of a well like the one in my kampong house. I heard that Ivy Singh Lim’s Bollywood Veggies in Lim Chu Kang has a well with pulley. Is any reader able to confirm?

3) Punki (basket)

This one is not ‘authentic’ because it was made of plastic. A genuine kampong punki should be made of rattan.

We also saw a number of fruit trees, like dragon fruit, rambutan, papaya, pineapple and star fruit; but the one that got us most excited was this one.


Quiz Time

As always, I end my post with a quiz. You see this photo of the three of us - from left, Wee Kiat, Cha Aun and myself? Do you know what the building behind us is used for? No it is not Cha Aun’s ‘good class bungalow’ :)

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

house for harvesting birdnest.

Philip said...

The cemented wall toilet in the photo would be a luxury in my kampong at Chai Chee in 1949/50s. Ours was a timber structure with no bucket or wall at the back. This was to allow pigs to clean up after our deposits. The whole jamban shook when the pigs fought for them.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually ours also made of wood. Also there were a few steps leading up to the raised platform above the night-soil bucket.

Not sure why this one is not raised. Should have taken a closer look.

jadelee said...

I am curious to know why there is a ladder leaning on the jamban.....aren't there any peeping toms in the kampong?

Keith said...

Yes, it is a bird house. Very big industry in Malaysia now.

peter said...

Was that a "Jamban"? "jambans" are usually raised above the ground. Looks like a bathing place. If this was true, that explains for the ladder lenaing against the structrure. Maybe many pretty "Ah Nia"?

jadelee said...

Chun See, you sure that was a jamban? As far as I know, kampong jambans of the old days have a storage/large hole dug behind the little 'hut' to collect the 'deposits', especially so if the kampong folks are too poor to subscribe to the bucket system. The'deposits' are then periodically collected and buried deep in the fields, fertilising it and producing rich, succulent organic vegetables,etc......and we all lived to tell the tales!

Lam Chun See said...

Yes, it definitely was a 'jamban'. The toilet bowl is the squatting type, just like in the old HDB flats - not sure nowadays what it's like for the new HDB flats.

That's why when I took the photo, I deliberately took from a position where you cannot see it becos it was too modern-looking.

Looks like my readers are more attracted by the jamban and anything else in my article. LOL.

Lam Chun See said...

Yes; it's a Bird's Nest house. There are loudspeakers producing chirping of birds to attract the swiftlets. Apparently this is quite popular in Malaysia and I have another friend who was considering investing in one in Kluang.

FL said...

Talking about jamban, I remember during my NS field camps in the early 70s, we built our own jamban. We had to dig a deep hole and barricade it with makeshift shelter !

Edward said...

Jade
That’s very true. During the 60’s, if you travel along Braddel Road you could smell the manure used by the farmers on their front yard vegetable patch. It was all done openly, so there were no secrets about it. When we ate our local vegetables we don’t think about the fertiliser used. Just made sure they were thoroughly washed and well cooked. I don’t know which is worse – the pigs from Philip’s kampong in Chai Chee or the manure fed chye sim from Braddel Road!

The only time I used a kampong toilet was during my fishing trips. The toilets were mainly made of zinc – on the sides as well as the top. They were raised above the ground, so the honey pot was situated below the hole that was cut off the wooden floor. I remember trying not to look down and hoping that the stuff I dropped would not cause a big splash. The aroma was a real knock out as well. You had to BYO (bring your own) toilet roll. Most of us forget to bring our toilet roll, so the old newspapers were a life saver! Anyway I think I am getting too detailed about this.

Thimbuktu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thimbuktu said...

When my children were young, the photo of the "jamban" in your blog could not be found in Singapore.

The first time the "jamban" I could show them was at Pulau Ubin...and they were surprised that I had used this type of "human fertiliser" dropped into a pool and recycled for watering the vegetable farms. They couldn't believe it and they exclaimed "yuks"...hahaha

Icemoon said...

I think Singapore then was really backward. Even today I can find the squatting toilet type in the Jamban hut in rural Thailand. So where can we find a real Jamban in Malaysia?

jadelee said...

When my son went on trekking trips up some hills in Johore and Vietnam during his JC days, he had to learn to dig a hole in the ground for daily toileting purposes and covering up after use. I think you guys had probably done that too, in your army days. This is about as close as you can get for this generation where 'jamban' experience is concerned.

yg said...

it is swiftlet house.

jade said...

The well featured is indeed a rather small one, compared to our well at the Hai Lam Sua kampong, which had a little hut made entirely of Zinc sheets beside it. Made of zinc to withstand corrosion as we folks used the well to bathe sometimes. We learned the technique of dipping and scooping water from the well using a small pail attached to a rope and no pulley assistance at all. The water was often very chilly but clear and refreshing and the well is usually very full after a heavy downpour. Thankfully, we had tap water for drinking and cooking but to save on the bill, we used well water for baths whenever the water level is good. Part of kampong life in the early 60s........

Lam Chun See said...

If I remember correctly, many houses which had wells would build their bathrooms next to it. One of the walls would be sitting on top of a tank such that part of this tank is outside and part of it is inside the bathroom. Hence, the person will draw water from the well and top up the tank from outside the bathroom.

I used to bathe our dogs next to our well.

Lam Chun See said...

Another thing I remember about our well is that there was a lot of green moss growing on the inside wall.

Zen said...

Nothing in nature cannot be recyled, yes including excreta. Only modern living makes things difficult and complicated.

jade said...

Well-water is supposed to be 'hard', but I don't recall having any problems and we didn't have the luxury of using shower foams or gel...just old fashioned soap( the kind that comes as a bar. No liguid shampoo either! That came in powder form packed in little packets guite like the 3-in-1 coffee sachets. Some thinks that was the cause of their premature baldness..lol.

Edward said...

I remember in the early 60’s being driven along somewhere in Serangoon Road, probably off Woodsville Road. Every evening there was a Malay man who washed himself beside a public tap near the main road, in full view of all passing motorists and passersby. He obviously had no access to running tap water in his home. His usual ritual was to soap his body thoroughly, from head to foot, and then wash it down with water from a pail. This man wore a sarong and I don’t recall any kampong nearby. Does this mean that not every home had access to clean running tap water during this period? Water is such a precious commodity that many of us take for granted.

jade said...

Edward,
I am not sure about the other kampongs of this period( 1960s), but in my kampong, there was only ONE pipeline going into the kampong compound and one normal precious tap from which all the households(4 in total), take turns at filling up our water storage pails or urns( those ceramic ones used for storing kiam-chye that had dragons and phoenixes motifs decoration at the sides?. The total water bill is shared by all and it is the same way for electricity, one power line linking the homes. Lots of co-operation and consideration for one another is vital here.
We were considered better off already because my neighbours in the next kampong had to walk 200 metres or so to the nearest public tap located by the side of the road(I think the Malay man you saw was using one such tap). And yes, it was tough having to collect and cart away water daily. The good thing is:- it is free!
Naturally, kampong folks are accustomed to saving water...No running water while washing dishes, scooping water from a pail to bathe is the norm and no washing of cars( can't afford any).

Edward said...

Jade, up to the 50’s I supposed many homes in kampongs had no access to utilities like electricity, gas and water. Hurricane lamps were commonly used for lighting and cooking was done over a wood-fired stove. I believe charcoal was in use too. Water comes from wells or public taps that were shared by several homes, such as yours. And yes, I can still remember the smell of the bar of dark-orange soap. We cut them into smaller blocks and used them for washing our clothes. What a contrast to life today!

FL said...

I refer to Mr Edward who mentioned that charcoal was used in the olden days for lighting. I'm wondering if he was referring to a kind of lamp where small pieces of "white rocks" were placed inside a small tin and then into a bigger tin filled with H20. It has an attached long tube where the fire is lighted at the end to provide lighting. We used this "lamp" in the kampongs (including some street hawkers, too)in the early sixties. This sort of lamp is no longer in existence. I wonder anyone can provide photos. Thanks.

Edward said...

FL, I don’t recall the kind of lamp you mentioned. I assumed it is a kerosene lamp. I searched the internet but all they have are expensive antique lamps, not the sort that kampong folks can afford! GMY has a picture of the old iron that used charcoals. I also read a story of kampong life in Changi where every family have their own well and toilet. The toilet was built with wooden planks over a small hole dug in the ground where a bucket was placed. Although water and sanitary facilities were not shared, the kampong spirit of neighbours helping each other (e.g. in building a house) was very much alive in those days.

Lam Chun See said...

Hey, I noticed that nobody answered my question, "How can you tell from this photo that this is not a well from the 1950s?"

Answer - the pail is a plastic pail. In the old days, the pails were all made iron.

Edward said...

Chun See, the pail does look like it’s made of iron. Its dark colour (black?) gives it a metallic look. However the pair of runners that the man is wearing is probably the clue to the answer of your question. In the 50’s runners like these weren’t available locally.

Lam Chun See said...

Edward is right. Unless you zoom in, you can't tell that it is a plastic pail.

I hope I can find a photo of a metal pail one day and show you guys how the handle is 'hooked' onto the 2 holes in the pail itself.

Icemoon said...

Usually plastic pails are sold here in bright colors: blue, red and so on.

Maybe in Malaysia they sell black ones to simulate a metal pail, to complement the kampong setting.

23princessroad said...

It's interesting how you said you "...deliberately avoided the toilet bowl because it looked too modern and would spoil..." the photo. Through our selective use of the camera, we capture (or avoid) images so that the final photos can conform to our expectations of our 'ideals' (and not with what is 'real'). For example, your photo does not show the modern toilet bowl on purpose, because you feel that a kampung toilet should not have a modern toilet bowl. Our realities are constantly manipulated by us to fit our notions of the ideal past - really fascinating!

Lam Chun See said...

Aiyah .. 23princessroad. You over-analyse and misunderstood me.

This blog is all about the yesteryears. I am not trying to describe to my readers what a kampong in 21st century Malaysia is like. I am describing a kampong of Singpaore in the 1950s. So I try to get pictures to illustrate. At that time, we did not have ceramic/tile toilet bowls; just a hole in the cement floor. Hence, if my photo had shown the toilet bowl, it would be misleading. So I just take the structure and the roof. Even then, it was not accurate. As one reader pointed out, our walls in those days were usually constructed of wooden planks; arranged horizontally, one overlapping the next.

Not fascinating at all.

jade said...

I think I can speak for many who had lived in the kampongs of 50s/60s that the typical kampong standard of living was far from 'ideal'. Having to put up with dirt, bad smell, heat, and other inconveniences on a daily basis, year after year, is very difficult and definitely not ideal. At best, it made kampong people a little more enduring, tolerant and resilient in the face of hardship, I think.

Lam Chun See said...

Jade. You forgot to mention the mosquitoes, the pig dung and broken glass that we oftn stepped on when we ran around bare-footed.

jade said...

Ya hor! I also forgot about the ants, lizards, cochroaches, centipedes, rats and snakes( favourite hiding place-bathroom attached to well). However, we did enjoy the pleasant sights of chameleons, squirrels, grasshoppers, dragonflies and some very well-behaved macaque monkeys....They did not raid our premises for food or attack anyone. I believe there was a source of food for them in the forested areas nearby. Even the monkeys of yesteryears were not pampered by humans and were capable of hunting for a living.

FL said...

Besides what jade has mentioned, as kids we would look for fighting spiders in the bushes then. I also remember we also set bird traps then. It's an offence now under the AVA rules, I think.

mahjong said...

Good Photography and Such a beautiful mosaic of pictures and such a lovely idea as a reminder of photographs you have taken.

EEE Gardeners said...

All sound so distant yet, familiar!
I was staying at Sembawang till 1976 and never knew pig dung smells so badly until I came across it again years affter shifted to city!

Just curious: did u guys use any toilet papers in those days?

jade said...

@ EEE Gardeners......

You obviously have the impression kampong people are a very dirty and deprived lot.....

Let me help debunk some of your perceptions, as I had lived in a kampong for 16 years and have a very clear memory of my environment then.

Kampong folks may be poor, but not necessarily stupid or ignorant to the point that basic hygene like cleaning up after defecating is deemed unnecessary. Of course, toilet papers were used, albeit not the 3-plyed ones we have nowadays, but one that is plain white and rather rough on the texture.

While the level of cleanliness depended on the individual household and parental guidance, kampong kids did learn very guickly when they attended primary schools that the washing of hair, hands, nails, feet, other parts of the body freguently is important for health. (My P.2 teacher carried out weekly checks on the cleanliness of our nails before starting lessons).

My late mother was very metriculous about cleanliness and made sure my siblings and I wore properly ironed uniforms and cleaned white shoes to school.

As for your take on the smell of pig dung......hmmm, we did have a lot of breeze in the kampongs as trees were in abundance and that might have negated the offensive smell of whatever dung kampong folks had to put up with.

Lam Chun See said...

No we do not use toilet paper. Mainly newspapers.

As for the stench of the pig dung; actually I think you get used to it after a while. For many people who spent all their lives in the rural areas, when they move to a big city suddenly, they too have a tough time adjusting. Maybe not so much the smells but the noise and the polluted air.

Edward said...

Hey EEE Gardeners,
What do you think kampong folks use to wipe their bottoms with, after they’re finished with their business? Banana leaves? Or maybe you think they love a rub-a-dub with pineapple skin huh? Goodness me, the toilet paper was invented over 2,000 years ago ... Surely we’re that backward. Some may use old newspapers and these can be somewhat rough but they do have the added advantage in that they don’t “break”, like the soft ply toilet rolls you get these days. As for me, I’ve learnt the gentle art of using toilet rolls after years of trial and error experiences!

jade said...

I now have a lot of respect for old newspapers.
In addition to being used for wiping backsides, wrapping vegetables, groceries, meat and fish, a friend of mine just told me that they used old newspapers as 'placemats' on their dining table for the convenience of not having to wipe the table after dining, as you can just throw the newspapers away.

jj said...

I remembered my grandmother said the poor at the kampongs had to hunt for discarded pink wrapper of oranges or other fruits to dry and use as toilet paper...