10 treasures from back in the day


  • Focus
  • Saturday, 05 Dec 2015

1. Old bus tickets from a bus service company in Penang that operated after the World War.

EVERYONE would have experienced conversations with their parents or grandparents which began with – “When I was young”, “Those days”, or “In my time”.

What normally followed would be how things were different back then and how fortunate the younger generation was.

This week, Metro Online looks at a few items that were used ‘way back then’, some of which are not used today.

We reached out to vintage and antique collectors, Ismail Mohd Nor and Jamil Hashim, to search through shelves and hidden corners of their stores to find some interesting items for this feature.

1 Old bus tickets

Bus tickets are not uncommon but the look of the tickets have evolved over the years.

Today we can buy bus tickets at a counter or even online.

Jamil has managed to salvage some old bus tickets from a company in Penang that operated after the war. In the past, you simply needed to board a bus, and the conductor will come up to you to ask where you intend to go before tearing out a ticket and picking up the fare.

Tickets are in different colours and prices, depending on the destination.

2. Back in the days, juxebox were found in bars and diners where a few cents can buy you a song to dance with your date. The older version of a juxebox played songs on long players while the newer versions play them on CDs.

2. Jukebox

In our time, we can stream music, download it onto our music devices and listen to it wherever we go.

In bars or restaurants, we can plug in CDs or play music through a laptop music player.

Back then, jukeboxes were used.

Sure, you could argue that they can still be seen in fancy themed restaurants or bars.

To use one, you simple need to insert a coin - 20 sen or 50 sen - depending on the device then select a song you want to hear by punching in the number to each song.

The old jukebox from the 1950s would play music using a long player (LP) or record while the newer ones use CDs.

Both jukebox in Jamil’s shop are still functioning where one from the 1950s was found and bought from a shop in Ipoh. Its age is shown not just from the way it looks but also from the music source - LP or CD.

3. Before computers were invented, writing used to be done if not by hand then by typing on a typewriter. Collectors have preserved these typewriters which include those with Jawi alphabets and even an older but not so practical typewriter that users have to twist its top to a specific alphabet to spell out a word.

3 Typewriters

In the 1990s, I remember walking into my mother’s office where her colleagues would be typing away on a typewriter.

It was and still is an interesting tool to write.

However, with the invention of desktop computers, laptops and now tablets, typewriters have been cast aside.

Today it sits in collectors’ shops waiting to be bought as mementos from the past.

For writers, I am sure it would have been a fun tool to use for writing. Sure there’s no backspace or undo buttons and a lot of paper is gone to waste with every mistake but, hey, it was an invention to help us write. It’s interesting!

Typewriters are not uncommon to find these days but have you seen a manual typewriter where you have to twist its top to an alphabet you want?

Found in Jamil’s shop was a mini typewriter which required the user to twist its top to point at an alphabet before pushing down the writer onto a paper to stamp your alphabet. It’s like a pick and chop method but not very practical.

4. Back in the day, most things were done manually like installing a bottle cap for a bottled drink or sauces. Vintage collector Jamil Hashim showing how a bottle cap was installed.

4 Bottle cap installer

Machines have helped us with many tasks from proof-reading, packing items and even to place caps on bottles. Back in the day, bottle caps were manually installed using this tool.

5. Before there was hand held camera, there was this camera from the 1900s that functioned with a manual zoom, by moving one portion of it to the front and back, and it would be mounted on a wooden tripod, an take from the modern day video camera tripod.

5 1900s camera

Before we had hand-held cameras, there was a large boxy wooden camera with a tripod that people used to carry around. Where today, we turn the lens to focus on an image, before they had bellows, that looked like accordions, for focus.

The focal length can be adjusted by pulling the wooden plank holding the bellows forward or back.

From the outside, I can’t help but wonder if Instagram took a liking to the way the camera looks, once folded, as it resembles the famous icon.

For those who use video cameras and tripods, you will be amazed at how tripod have evolved. The functions and way of use is similar but of course today, we no longer use wood.

6. To stamp their mark on a letter or a piece of documents, shops would create their very own letterhead stamps that are not particularly light.

6 Letterhead stamp

Back in the days, companies would mark their documents or letters with their logo or company name by using letterhead blocks.

This could be made from copper or brass.

Intricately carved at the bottom with chosen designs, all that needs to be done is to place some ink before stamping on a paper.

7 Phone and lock

7. Having to wind each number on this phone is fun and so many children in past would play on it. To ensure that children do not misuse the phone, a lock and key was created for it.

Even in the 1990s to early 2000, my grandmother was still using the old telephone where you had to hook your finger on a hole above a number and wind it. Dialing takes forever but the whole process is quite fun, especially if you are a child.

To prevent children from misusing the phone, there were locks and keys invented for this particular phone.

Collector Ismail Mohd Nor remembers when he used to keep the spare key to the lock, pretending that he didn’t know where it went, so that he could use the phone and place the lock back, before his parents came home.

8. Cigarettes would be sold from a tin container as pictured where the smaller containers are placed on bicycles and the seller would move around town to sell packets of cigarettes.

8 Cigarette container

Today cigarettes are purchased in convenience shops and eateries but in the earlier days there were cigarette sellers who would go around a kampung on bicycles or trishaws.

Placed on the back of his bicycle or trishaw, would be a large tin container filled with packets of cigarettes.

9. The manual cash register is divided into sections-hundreds, tens, ones and cents where little levers are placed in each section.To open the cash box, you have to pull down these levers to the digits to indicate the total amount owed then wind the handle at the side of the cash register.

9 Old cash registers

You may have noticed that some cafes have resorted to using tablets as a monitor for their cash register.

There are also electronic cash registers and manual ones.

Manual cash registers such as the ones found in Ismail’s home is divided into sections - hundreds, tens, ones and sen where little levers are placed in each section.

To use, you have to pull down these levers to the digits to indicate the total amount owed.

To open the cash box, you had to wind the handle at the side of the cash register to release the box.

Apart from this, there was a different form of cash register used in villages.

It was a simple pulley system where the owner of a shop would use an old tin can with a handle at its bottom to pull the can to pick and return change from customers. Attached to the can by rope is a weight to balance the can that is hung from the ceiling of a shop.

10. Grind stones were used in the past to make paste for a meal and if you ask people, they would say that nothing taste better than when it is made and grinned on these stones.

10 Grind stone

Before blenders, people used grind stones to pound and blend spices.

There are many types of grind stones, some smaller ones used to pound, some where the user is required to roll the spices to make it finer, and then there are the bigger ones where spices are placed into the grind stone and stirred.

Some would say that nothing beats the taste of food grinded this way compared to using electric food blenders.

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