National was a very popular brand of electrical products in Singapore from the late 1950s till 2003 when the brand name was changed to Panasonic. Did you know that the tagline for National used to be "Those Who Know Buy National"? (Now it's "Panasonic Ideas For Life".)
The following information about the history of the National brand name was obtained from the company's website:
The company that started the National brand name in 1927 is Matsushita Electric, Japan. The brand became a very popular household name in Japan as well as in overseas markets. The new brand name Panasonic was first introduced in 1961 in the US where the National brand name had been registered by others and therefore, could not be used. The company started using the new brand name in Europe in 1979 and in other regions in the late 80s for products other than home appliances for which the National brand name continued to be used. The brand name for all home appliance products in Southeast Asia (including Singapore), the Middle East and China were changed to Panasonic by the end of March 2004. The National brand will, however, continue to be used in Japan where the brand was originally born.I remember my family bought our first electric rice cooker in the 1960s. It was a National, of course, and it looked like this:
The rice cooker was the first National product to be introduced in Singapore in 1958. The inner pot was made of aluminium and was not teflon-coated. (Teflon probably had not been invented then.) There was also no inner lid but there was a 4-inch concave (or convex, if you look from inside) piece of glass in the centre of the lid. If you had nothing better to do, you could look through the glass and watch the rice bubbling beneath. (I don't know why we kids liked to do that then. Isn't it just about as exciting as watching paint dry?)
The lid had a plastic black-and-white handle. This handle cracked up quite often (maybe due to the heat) and had to be replaced. Luckily, you could find many neighbourhood shops selling spare handles and it was easy to replace the handle yourself.
There was also a prominent landmark along North Bridge Road, just behind Capitol Theatre where a car park now stands. I could see it from the balcony of my 4-storey SIT flat in Cheng Yan Place every night. From where I was looking, it was located just behind the Empress Hotel at the Middle Road and Victoria Street junction.
Circa 1950s - The steel structure was not erected yet
Circa 1960s - The prominent structure behind Capitol Theatre was up
An aerial view of the structure from Empress Place
A closer view of the structure in 1965- the tagline "Those Who Know Buy National" is visible. (Photo courtesy of Peter Chan.)
It was almost a 10-storey tall steel structure which was lighted up with red and white neon lights at night. (Hmm... was that by sheer coincidence? Those are also the colours of our national flag.) At night, the National red neon logo looked very prominent against the white vertical sweeping neon lights. It was indeed a powerful and attractive advertising structure.
The National signboard at night. What's not obvious from this photo are the vertical sweeping neon lights of the signboard which I remember very distinctly. (Photo courtesy of Peter Chan.)
Now I bet readers below 30 years' old didn't know that the steel structure once existed.
I can't remember this but according to my friend Peter Chan, at the bottom of the steel structure was a National showroom. Peter said that steel structure and showroom was torn down in the mid-1970s.
A National advertisement in the newspaper at that time using the same tagline. (Hagemeyer was the local agent for National products.) The 2 products in the picture - a transistor radio and an open-reel tape recorder - are now considered as collectible items, if not antiques.
Peter said that the showroom also exhibited black-and-white TVs. (TV was introduced in Singapore in 1963.) Every weekend, the showroom would be crowded - people turned up to watch free TV because not many could afford to buy one. The typical TV at that time looked like this one:
Our nation certainly has come a long way since then. Now our nationals not only watch Nationals but dozens of other TV brands as well. We even have a true national brand for electrical products now - Akira. The tagline of Akira to Singaporeans could well have been "Those who know buy national". But instead, its tagline is "Akira makes life better".
Happy 43rd National Day, Singapore!