This post is truly revealing of my age, but I am feeling nostalgic today and going with the flow. The charming red brick building in the picture, used to be my favourite hang-out as a child. It was the only library then and it was a treat to go there every Saturday. I watched in a trance as the librarian stamped the return dates on the books on a flap of paper inside them. I so badly wanted to use the stamping device and knew right then that I was going to be a librarian (I found out too late that you need a librarianship degree in order to be one, but I still hold on to a dream to own a little bookshop).
I have always adored books. Finding a book I like and hadn’t read yet was like discovering a lost treasure. I drowned myself in seventies classics like ‘Ramona the Pest’ and everything by Enid Blyton, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Judy Blume, I could get my hands on. I loved books about British Boarding Schools like Malory Towers and St. Clares. How I yearned to be shipped off to one. The girls seemed to have countless secret midnight parties, always with ginger beer, that seemed like so much fun. I had no idea what ginger beer tasted like and it all seemed extremely exotic.
Our pocket-money was usually about 30 cents a day. Just 20 cents could buy a bowl of fish ball soup with yellow noodles or Mee Goreng (delicious spicy Malay Style Noodles darkened with sweet soy sauce) in the school tuckshop (canteen). When I was in primary 1 at age 6, I did not even have a purse to put my money in. My mum tied it in a corner of my handkerchief. Sometimes it was a bit hard to get the knot out. We were ecstatic when my dad got us little beaded purses.
With the rest of the pocket-money we could buy a lot of junk. Drinks dyed apple green, cost just 5 cents a glass (they had a sweet limey chemical taste). We also bought something called satay which was actually a snack of cuttlefish that was sweetened with sugar. We could get 3 sticks for just 5 cents. (You can buy a version of it today for a dollar or two at the Value Store in Hougang Mall)
We had just 20 minutes for recess (tea break), where we spent just 5 minutes gobbling down our meals and the remaining 15 minutes, running in the fields, getting dirty and playing police and thief (I guess American kids would call it cops and robbers).
As a child of the seventies, I wore my fair share of bell bottoms and my absolute favorite show from age 4, was the Donny and Marie Osmond Show. I remember it was shown every Saturday at 7.45pm (that was how much I loved it). Everyone little girl in kindergarten wanted to marry Donny or be Marie. I recall taking a red pen at age 7 and drawing on his wife’s face in the newspapers when he got married. (It now it seems so super silly and my dad found it hilarious). I kinda get why that little 3-year-old who became a you tube sensation, was infatuated with Justin Beiber. We only got a colour TV in 1974 and I hazily remember that the first show that appeared in magical colour, was ‘Land of the Lost’.
Also it was inconceivable to think of anyone replacing the beautiful Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.
Holidays were spent with my dad driving us down to our wonderful neighbouring country Malaysia. My father had a groovy Orange Ford Escort and once he drove us all the way to Penang stopping along the way in Kuala Lumpur. We stayed at $6 dollar a night sleazy motels but it was so much fun. We bought durians which were wrapped in newspapers and could bring them back to the room to feast. Our car had no air-conditioning and we wound down the windows and stuck out heads out as the wind blew into our faces.
ABBA was on full blast and full rotation. Today I wonder how our parents didn’t go crazy with the same songs played a millions times. In between we let out Dad listen to Greek singing sensation, Nana Mouskouri whom we started to like too. “We had joy, we had fun, we had season in the sun” We sang at the top of our little lungs and I remember I felt truly and completely joyous. We would get a little concerned when the cassette tape got stuck in the car player, but we knew there was little to worry about. Our Mum expertly wound the massively knotted tangled film back into the cassette with her finger and always prevented any childhood meltdowns. (Take pictures of your ipods today kids, tomorrow it will be glorious relic of the past like the cassette tape.)
It was so relaxing to pass by rows and rows of rubber trees. There were tin cans attached to the trees and sometimes we could see rubber tappers collecting the liquid rubber. I was horrified when my mum told me chewing gum was made from it since I often swallowed by chewing gum (it was not banned then) and we love chiclets.
I often felt like the luckiest kid in the world because, apart from school where many teachers were abusive (that’s a whole other kettle of fish), I was quite aware that I was having a magical childhood. I had totally won the lottery when it came to my parents.