09 June 2008

The Mama Shop (2)

Just in case you missed the answer to the question in my last post, the mama shop in the photo is located in Kampong Kapor Road, along the stretch between Desker Road and Rowell Road. Better quickly go take a look as no one knows when it might slip into oblivion forever. Due to a reason which I would rather not elaborate here, you are advised to visit this area during the daytime. For those who would not be caught dead in this area, day or night, here is the photo again:

Mama shop in Kampong Kapor Road

The mama shop is a grocer, stationer, pharmacy, toy shop and snack shop, all rolled into one. As a kid in the 1960s, I couldn't resist patronising the mama shop opposite my flat daily, sometimes even several times a day!

Yesterday's mama shop (photo courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)

So what merchandise did the mama shop sell which got kids like me all captivated? I remember quite a few things - some are no longer available while some are still sold today albeit the packaging and the manufacturers may be different.

Here are a few things that we used to buy and are no longer available now:

1. A game of tikam tikam for 5 cents a try;

2. "Five Rams" batteries. Can't remember how much these cost per piece but they were definitely cheaper than EverReady ones. The former were yellow in colour with a picture of 5 rams (what else?) printed on the battery while the EverReady ones were silver in colour, I think, and had a black cat jumping through the loop of a blue figure "9";

3. Ready-made paper kites which were sold at 5 cents each;

4. Powdered drink satchets which cost 5 cents each. Sold in plastic packs of about 2x4-inch size, they came in orange, lime and melon flavours. Each pack was accompanied by a thin plastic straw. The sugar powder in the satchet was intended to be dissolved in a cup of water and consumed as a drink. However, most of the kids preferred to suck the powder straight out of the packet. As the powder melted in our mouths, it produced a very cooling and shiok (pleasant) feeling. We relished it so much that we usually finished the whole satchet this way; and

5. Chewing gum or rather, what was more appropriately known at that time as "bubble gum". I usually bought those packed in a tiny box containing 2 half-inch sugar-coated balls of various colours. Although Wrigley's chewing gum was available then, I preferred the balls to the long one (pardon the language). As the name suggested, I blew bubbles with them and made loud "tock-tock" sounds while chewing them. To me, it was fun but the noise irritated anyone who happened to be nearby. As almost every Singaporean knows, bubble gum disappeared here not so much because of the passage of time but more due to the passage of a law banning it in 1982. Hmm... I can't seem to remember how I disposed of the bubble gum after I have chewed them. Maybe it ended up in the hair of my neighbour's kid. Haha.

Wrigley's Spearmint chewing gum

Sigh, 5 cents could certainly go a long, long way in the 1960s - there are just so many ways to spend it! In comparison, with 5 cents today, you can't even visit toilets that charge a minimum of 10 cents, regardless of whether your "business" is a big or small one.

If you are around my age, could you remember some other things sold by the mama shop which are no longer available today?


Anonymous said...

U forgot comics (BEANO), toy figurines (cowboy, red indians, german solders, etc), newspapers (Nayang Siang Pow, Tamil Merasu and The Malay Mail), FANFARE magazine and of course condoms (DUREX) neatly hidden behind the row of cigarettes (why that was done beats me)

Anonymous said...

Some also sold girlie magazines with topless pictures and sex story books.

Victor said...

Peter - Oh yes, I remember Beano and defunct newspapers like The Singapore Herald and The Singapore Monitor.

And I have an anecdote to tell about the unmentionable item. It will come in Part 3 of the The Mama Shop.

Victor said...

Fr - Huh? Which Mama shop did you patronise as a kid? How come I never saw such items on sale? *Envy*

Philip Chew said...

I had seen Mama shops in most parts of Singapore in all shape and size. The most memorable one was at the corner of Lorong Stangee/East Coast Road junction. The Mama shop was on the five foot way beside an Indian dress making shop (now an eating house). My in-laws lived nearby and my father-in-law would take my 2 year old daughter to the Mama shop to play almost daily. The owner allowed her to play with the toys there. She is now about 46 years old.

Mama shop was referred to as side board hawker by the Min of the Environment. In 1970s they must have a licence to operate. Because they caused obstruction to the five foot way, the Ministry later cleared them without renewing their licence. Some arranged with the house/shop owner to knock a hole in the wall and moved in. Mama shop was renamed as hole in the wall hawker.

Victor said...

Thanks Philip for that very interesting story. I pass by Lorong Stangee almost every week but don't know that a mama shop used to be located there.

Hmm... wonder why the Min of the Environment referred to the mama shop as a "side board hawker"? Thought it should have been more appropriately called a "sidewalk hawker"?