18 October 2009

Framroz's Aerated Waters

My interest in Framroz's Aerated Waters was aroused when I came across 3 different old photos recently with the name "Framroz" on them. The first photo is an entry from someone called Krishna Kumar which was displayed at the "Then & Now" photo exhibition at Orchard Central in August this year:

Krishna said, "Could this really be Jalan Besar Stadium? You could be forgiven for not recognising it, as in its place today stands a modern stadium with state-of-the-art facilities that easily eclipses this nondescript image of a bygone era, with its ill-attired athletes reverberating the nonchalance of a period long forgotten."

Well, I certainly didn't forget this place as my secondary school was just next door. In the early 1970s, Jalan Besar Stadium was usually the venue where the Victoria School football team played most of their matches against other schools.

But I digressed. Notice the building with the big word "FRAMROZ" at the right of the photo? It was located at the plot of land bounded by Jalan Besar Road, Allenby Road and Tyrwhitt Road, i.e. the photo was taken in a north-westerly direction. Incidentally, Framroz in Jalan Besar was mentioned in ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) newsletter of Aug 2000 to be already equipped with "some kind refrigeration plant with cooling tower or evaporative condensers" in the early 1950s.

The second photo was taken by Michael Frost circa 1948:

I didn't realise that it was a scene from Orchard Road - more precisely, Emerald Hill or Peranakan Place - until Icemoon blogged about it here. You can't miss the "Framroz's Aerated Waters" sign in the above photo.

The third photo was taken from this blog by Singeo. The original photographer was a Czech by the name of Dr Baum who took this photo of what is believed to be Framroz's shop at No. 87 Cecil Street in 1929:

Framroz Aerated Water Factory was started in Singapore by a Parsi named Mr. Phirozshaw Manekji Framroz in 1903. I don't know how long the company lasted but in Mar 1973, Framroz (Pte) Ltd was awarded SISIR's Quality Award for Soft Drinks. Several congratulatory advertisements appeared in the Straits Times of 10 Mar 1973. Hence, Framroz must have lasted well into the 1970s.

In its heydays, Framroz must have produced millions of bottles of aerated water annually. Yet would you believe that I couldn't even find a single photo of a Framroz bottle to show you? All I managed to find are photos of 2 ashtrays and a drinking glass which bear the Framroz logo:

From the above objects, you could tell that the Framroz logo was a crown. Hence I believe that the Cantonese used to call this drink 皇帽汽水 or "Crown Aerated Water". (I couldn't find any information to support this belief. Can someone please help to confirm this?)

Have you noticed that almost nobody uses the term "aerated water" nowadays? Instead, people prefer to use the term "soft drink". And the reason, according to this link is as follows:

"As flavored carbonated beverages gained popularity, manufacturers struggled to find an appropriate name for the drinks. Some suggested 'marble water', 'syrup water', and 'aerated water'. The most appealing name, however, was 'soft drink', adapted in the hopes that soft drinks would ultimately supplant the 'hard liquor' market. Although the idea never stuck, the term soft drink did."

Of course, as Chun See pointed out, the Cantonese called soft drinks "hor lan shoi" (荷兰水) which means "Holland Water". I surmised that the term actually originated from a Hokkien who while entertaining a visiting guest, called out to someone in the house to "hor lan chui" which means "serve the guest water". Chun See had dismissed my story as plain nonsense. What do you think?

I end this post with an anonymous comment reproduced from Icemoon's blog:

"The signboard "Framroz's" sure brought back memories.

During Christmas each year, for a number of years I recall, a family friend, would present us with two cases of Framroz aerated drinks. It was a delight to receive this gift, for such drinks were then considered a luxury.

However, the drinks were only reserved for guests. We, children (then) could only hope that there were balance left in the bottles after the guests' glasses were filled.

I recall that we served drinks to our guests in glasses, one glass per guest, and not filled to the brim, unlike the days of plentiful today. Nowadays, we say "Help yourself to whatever you want ... don't be shy." Imagine the amount of wastage! We have indeed come a long way..."

Further Reading:

1. Infopedia link on Parsi Association in Singapore

2. Parsi Zoroastrian Association of Singapore

3. Heritage Tour: Singapore's Parsi Community

4. "The famous brand then was Framroz, and hence there was no Pepsi for Chinese New Year"

5. Drugs for sale in Cecil Street

Update on 19 Oct 2009

Thanks to Andy Young for the following comment:

"There was a large Framroz advertisement on the outer wall of a shophouse along the Geylang Road and Lorong 24 junction across from the Geylang Road Post Office. It could have been one of the factories. Always see lots of crates and bottles on the five-foot ways. It was in the 60s."

Andy was referring to Eastern Aerated Water Co. Ltd. (东方汽水有限公司) i.e. the building in the following photos:

Eastern Aerated Water on 23 Sep 2006

Eastern Aerated Water on 22 Aug 2009

Thanks also to Chun See who sent me a scanned image of the Framroz bottle as well as of a Eastern Cola bottle. He had obtained the image from a book published by the National Heritage Board some years ago. And you know what? According to the image, Eastern Cola was bottled by Eastern Aerated Water - the company whose building appears in the last 2 photos!

We also know what the taglines for the 2 drinks were:

Framroz - "Famous since 1904 but don't know till when"

Eastern Cola - "The taste tells but don't know who"


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

There was a large Framroz advertisement on the outer wall of a shophouse along the Geylang Road and Lorong 24 junction across from the Geylang Road Post Office. It have been one of the factories. Always see lots of crates and bottles on the five-foot ways. It was in the 60s.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Sorry: It could have been one...

peter said...

During Chinese New Year, the provision shop where you made your household purchase, usually gave away 1 - 2 crates of F&N rather than Framroze.

I also find that when you serve drinks during New Year, you are not suppose to serve it with ice in a glass but offer the bottle + an empty glass OR glass filled to the brim with the drink. Still can remember we also offer the postman and rubbishman orange drinks + red packet.

Victor said...

Thanks Andy. I have updated the post with photos of the building that you have described. It would be great if someone can provide one with the Framroz sign.

Victor said...

Peter, your provision shop seemed quite generous. I don't remember receiving free crates of drinks from my provision shop. But then again, my memory has not proven to be very reliable, especially lately. If I could not remember things that happened barely 2 years ago, how could I remember things that were decades ago?

Lam Chun See said...

The name Framroz is something I always associate with Chinese New Year which I blogged about here. But I cannot recall when Victor and I had that debate about hor lan sui.

Anonymous said...


On the topic of aerated waters, I recall the Soda Fountain shop at maybe the junction of Queen Street and Middle Road (cannot remember clearly the exact place but maybe opposite St. Anthony's Convent). In the late 1960's, my grandma would bring me and my siblings, to St. Joseph's Church on Sundays. When mass ended, we would proceed to the Queen Street wet market. After doing her routine marketing, we would sit down for a meal of kway teow soup at a stall in the market. After which, we would then go to this Soda Fountain Shop for a drink. We could choose the type of flavors we desired from the long row of bottles, lined up on the shelves. The vendor would pour a portion of the syrup into a small glass followed by soda water from the fountain. My grandma would pay 10 cents for her drink and 5 cents for us kids (smaller glasses). It was indeed a thirst quencher. This was our normal Sunday routine - mass, marketing, meal of kway teow soup and soda fountain drinks.

Also, I recall the drinks, bottled by Phoenix Aerated Water, which was established by Mr. Mistri, who used to work in Framroz. Mr. Mistri was also a very prominent Parsi.

Vic, thanks for incorporating my comments (from Icemoon's blog)into your excellent article.


Victor said...

Chun See, I can't find that entry where we debated on the origin of the term "hor lan shoi". (Maybe it was on Chris' blog which we can't access anymore.)

This time your memory lose to me - I remember distinctly that Frannxis laughed at my answer.

Hmm... this shows one thing - that the one who got "dismissed" always remember the experience more... Haha. Ok, ok, you've have more than redeemed yourself by sending me the image of the Framroz bottle.

Thanks again.

Victor said...

Anony-mouse, why so shy? :-)

Thanks for your comments.

I remember the shop selling soda fountain drinks distinctly because it was on the way from my home in Cheng Yan Place to Short Street where my primary school was. I would have to pass by this shop if I took the Middle Road way to the school. (I would not pass this shop if I took the Albert Street way.)

This little shop was located at the junction of Middle Road and Bencoolen Street (where Fortune Centre now stands). It had a counter tiled with white 4-inch-square bathroom tiles. Sticking out of this counter were about 3 chrome taps, much like the beer dispensers of today. Aerated water came out of those taps and was mixed with the syrup you ordered.

During my primary school days (from 1963-1968), if I remember correctly, the drinks were sold for 20 cents each but the cup was very small - maybe just 200 c.c.

Anonymous said...

Oops! Sorry, should be in the late 1950's.


peter said...

There used to be a Pheonix Bdlg in Anson Road; could now be 89 Anson Road today. It was also once the CPF Bdlg in the 1960s. I was told that my late great grand-mother used to make a living "washing" used bottls which were recycled. She walked form her Tg Pagar Roa flat to this place (Btw this building is now GE Tower). It must have been before 1925. My great grand-mother was paid 2 cents for every 5 bottles washed. The money she saved went towards supporting the family.

peter said...

Phoenix bdlg was the factory cum HQ of the Phoenix rated Water Co.

Lam Chun See said...

Victor. As usual you are so sharp. I didn't notice the details of the Eastern Cola bottle. Too fixated on the object of my childhood desires - the Framroz.

Anonymous said...


Vic, since you were living nearby Middle Road, during the good old days, I would think you are the best person to advise me.

My mum told me that there were actually 2 soda fountain shops along Middle Road. I can only recall one shop. I guess she has a better memory than me!

One soda fountain shop was in Middle Road, situated directly opposite a coffee shop. This coffee shop was next to the old Queen Street Post Office. Its owner was a Chinese man and this was the shop that my grandma brought us to, for drinks, on Sundays.

The other soda fountain shop was situated further down along Middle Road, nearer to Waterloo Street. Its owner was a Goanese family with surname De Sa. They also lived upstairs in the shop. Other than the soda drinks, they also sold some homemade snacks.

Thanks & Cheers,

Victor said...

Peter, I didn't know that Phoenix Aerated Water's "office cum factory" was located in Anson Road. Thanks for the info.

In the 1960s, big aerated factories like F&N were already using machines to wash their bottles for re-use. I know because I went on a primary school excursion to its factory in River Valley Road.

Victor said...

Chun See, that's another good "s" thing that I am good at. Sharp, that is. :p

Victor said...

Is that Anony-mouse again? I don't remember the other soda fountains in the vicinity of Middle Road except the one at the corner of Bencoolen Street and Middle Road. Maybe by the 1960s, there was only one left?

I blogged about the Queen Street market here.

Thimbuktu said...

Peter mentioned about the free gifts of soft drinks by provision shops which are delivered to their customers during Chinese New Year.

I came across the following article in The Straits Times of January 2, 1973 and thought it would be interesting to share it here.


No more free soft drinks from you shop.

Don’t expect that Chinese New Year gift of soft drinks from your local “kedai” anymore. Shop-keepers can’t afford it.

All the shops in Toa Payoh and St. Michael’s Estate – 98 of them – have decided to stop this “annual bonus” this year.

The decision was taken after three meetings last month. Yesterday they informed their customers of the decision through an advertisement in the papers.

Shopkeepers in other parts of Singapore are likely to follow suit. Some shops in Tanglin Halt, Alexandra, Jurong, Bukit Timah and Redhill areas are also going to continue with this tradition.

On average, a shopkeeper spends about $1,000 on soft drinks each year. Each family is usually presented with a “goodwill” case of two dozen bottles.

One shopkeeper said: “Distribution of the drinkds involves lots of work and the period approaching the Chinese New Year is usually the busiest in shops”.

High flats

“Labour is not easy to come by these days. Most of the workers employed do not stay long. The shortage is most acute during festive seasons.

“Besides, most of the flats these days are so high that it is tedious having to distribute the drinks and collect the empty bottles later.”

Another shopkeeper said: “Business has been bad these years. Costs are always rising and profits are marginal.

“Moreover, emporiums and other businesses do not give annual gifts like this. We are the only ones to do so in past years. From what I’ve heard, some shops have stopped this practice for about two to three years.”

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Vic. Learnt from your blog. Never knew there was an Eastern Cola too.

Victor said...

Thimbuktu - Thank you for sharing that interesting article on why provision shops stopped giving out soft drinks as gift yearly. Wow, do you keep decades of old newspapers like Uncle Dick too?

Andy - You're welcome. I have learnt quite a few things about Singapore's 60s music scene from your blog too.

Thimbuktu said...

Its my pleasure, Victor. I am glad to share my childhood experiences at your blogsite and those of other "bloggers of the same feather" to refresh my memories of bygone days. Thanks to all for the remarkable contributions of snippets in bite-sized portions by fellow bloggers. These blogs have become precious resources for the young to learn about our heritage and history.

Beside soft drinks from the provision shops, the swill collectors also offer eggs and chickens during the Chinese New Year as a traditional goodwill and gesture of appreciation by the farmers to individual householders, who have contributed leftover food (swill) throughout the year.

Unlike Uncle Dick, I do not have extra room space at home to store the precious old newspapers. My archived records are tediously copied from old newspaper microfilms whenever I have time to visit the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. These handwritten records are used for reference purposes; or to blog about them later. I read "stale news" to track back the old days and to understand how things have changed over the years. Today's news is tomorrow's history ;)


Massimo said...

I've just bought this cap
and you can find other bottle caps from Singapore in my site at the page
If you want to use any photos you are free to do it.
Can you tell me something about the caps with the pearl and the one with the sea-horse?

Victor said...

Massimo, thank you for your comments.

I have emailed my heritage blogger friends regarding your questions. Hope someone may know the answers and post them here.

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...
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