19 September 2010

Who Were The Soap Stars?

Who were the soap stars in the last post? Both Andy and Frannxis thought that the Chinese star was Li Li Hua (李麗華) while Chun See was not sure.

Above photo (right) was reproduced from this website.

I think that both Andy and Frannxis are right, although the woman in the left photo seems to have smaller eyes than the one on the right. Hmm... maybe they grew bigger as she matured? The eyes, I mean.

Nobody made any guesses for the Hollywood actress though. I believe that for the cinema-goers in Singapore at that time, Chinese films were more popular than English films and hence we are more familiar with Chinese actresses. I know it is not a fair comparison as Li Li Hua was born in 1924 while the Hollywood actress was born some 32 years earlier in 1892. But still, not many people in Singapore then were educated enough in the English language to appreciate Hollywood films.

I think the Hollywood actress is Ruth Chatterton.

Above photo (right) was reproduced from this website.

10 September 2010

When Skincare Was A Piece Of Cake

Skin care in the old days was a piece of cake, or rather, a cake of soap. More specifically, Lux soap. Things were simple then. No need for such things as cleansers, toners, moisturisers, anti-wrinkle and whitening creams, etc.
Photo taken from Wikipedia
Lux soap was endorsed by popular Hollywood and Bollywood actresses of the era. Below is a Lux soap advertisement in a local Chinese newspaper dated 25 May 1932:

Do you know who is the actress in the above photo? Here's a clue: the Chinese characters in the advertisement say 路斯傑特登 or Lu Si Jie Te Deng. (The answer will be reviewed in a week's time.)

Not only did Hollywood and Bollywood actresses grace advertisements for Lux, even Chinese actresses did the same:

The above illustration is taken from the book "Vintage Singapore - Souvenirs From The Recent Past". It is a paper poster advertisement from the 1940s, commonly hung on the walls of coffeeshops then. (I don't know who is the actress in the above photo. Do you?)

Just like snake oil which could cure multiple ailments, most people in those days washed their hair with just soap and not shampoo. The whole family would share the same piece of soap. So if you found hair stuck onto the soap, you would know that the one who used it before you had washed his/her hair.

The humble piece of soap had so many uses that you could even use it to wash your underwear!

Photo taken from Wikipedia
And it is cheap - only 10 cents. However, for washing of clothes, most households used another type of soap which was even cheaper in order to save money. One such popular brand then was Labour soap. But still, I believe that people in those days didn't have so much dirty laundry to wash especially in public.

I heard that some poor families even used Labour soap for their baths to save money! It would certainly be cleaner than if they had used just water.

You can see a neon sign advertising Labour soap in the photo below.

Photo courtesy of NAS showing New Bridge Road, Singapore. Circa 1962. (You could see Majestic Theatre in the background.)
The neon sign was animated which was no mean feat considering that moving images did not arrive in Singapore until the next year via black-and-white TV. And our lives changed forever after that.

The jerky 3-step animation showed the man's arm swinging downwards to hit the soap object with the mallet. As a kid when I first saw the neon sign, I could not help but wondered if the Labour soap was made that way, i.e. by hitting it with a mallet. Of course, now I know that the sign was misleading, like most advertisements.

For those of you who don't know how a bar of Labour soap looked like, let me try to describe it to you. It was about a foot long, i.e. about 30 cm, if you are more used to metric measurements. Its cross section was a 2-inch or 5-cm square. The opaque soap was yellow in colour and was wrapped in waxy paper of a colour which I don't quite recall but I think was blue. The long bar of soap would be cut up into smaller, more manageable pieces like these:

However, you won't get so many pieces from just a single bar but maybe three or four.

To end this post, here is a song titled "A Little Bit of Soap", a hit song by the Jarmels which reached Number 12 on the US charts in 1961: