Saturday, May 07, 2011

The past and simpler world

"How many people long for that past, 'simpler, and better world', I wonder, without ever recognizing the truth that perhaps it was they who were simpler and better, and not the world around them?"

~ Drizzt Do-Urden

How true that simple statement is. People, me included, often thought of the good old times, reminiscing how good the older and simpler times are compared to the more unpleasant present. How well it'll be if all the flats are cheaper and bigger, how well it'll be if the cost of food is cheaper compared to my salary and how carefree students are in school compared to the present. While no doubt that there are truth in such statements, perhaps it is also clouded by the nostalgic sentiments of the past, so that you only see the past with bias recollection of the more pleasant times, while blatantly ignoring the more unpleasant times.

Perhaps Drizzt Do-Urden is right, the world changes no doubt, but it is the person who changed even more. If I am somehow, magically transported to my distant past, would I have found the world a better and simpler place to live in? Maybe not, because I no longer look at the past with the eyes of someone browsing through a new book for the very first time, soaking in the smell of the new-ness of the book and absorbing all the sights of a tourist arriving in a beautiful town for the very first time. Memories are to be re-lived in the mind, not to be visited physically, otherwise the magic of the sweet nostalgia would be broken by harsh reality.

Let's relive some memories mentally then. People of my generation would have experienced these little pockets of memories as lively as my own recollection:

1. In primary school, we are have to chew on some tablets that gives a red colouration to our teeth so that the plaque are highlighted in order for us to brush it off.

2. After recess in primary school, the whole class can be seen squatting besides the drain in the school compound, gurgling water from a cup and brushing their teeth.

3. Buses are paid in coins, with a conductor stamping the ticket. Then the paying system becomes transit link card where you have to press your own fare. Finally it becomes ez link card where the fare are automatically calculated for you.

4. In primary school, I witness the explosion of plastic usage in everyday life. Tuppleware parties are held. The wood and metal tables and chairs are slowly replaced by plastic ones. Metal containers used to hold food are replaced by plastic containers. Metal water bottles are changed to plastic ones.

5. There's no such thing as calling someone you're meeting at 1pm that you're late, using a handphone. Handphone only became popular towards my army days and perhaps into my university period. Before that, if you make an appointment, you bloody hell make sure you're there on time. If not, there's no way to contact the person en route since neither of us carries handphone...

6. ...unless that person carries a pager. In which case, you have to call his pager, leave a voice message, and hope that he received the page and CALL his voice mail to retrieve the message. Really, it's just easy to be punctual.

7. I remembered dialling up to connect to was a frustrating exercise when a call comes in, then all your internet connection gets cut off. Not that there's anything much to do on the internet anyway.

8. Before google, alta vista was my favorite search engine. Lycos, yahoo are a close second. But once google appears, everything else is changed. Search engine can never be the same again.

9. I saw the advent of coloured television. When I was little, I remembered watching television in black and white. Then it became coloured, now it became 3D.

10. I saw the building of the MRT lines. I remembered fondly in primary school that a worker was waving at us (or rather, because we're waving at him) from the half constructed mrt lines. I remembered my first ride on the east-west line and how scared I was by the roar of the train when it's underground.

11. When I was in secondary school, punggol/sengkang was a swamp. I have great memories of canoeing and camping there. I remembered serangoon shopping centre was a hangout for ah-bengs and gangsters too.

12. In the past, buses are not air-conditioned. There are little windows that you have to shut it when it's raining. On the top of the buses, there's also a air vent that you have to close it physically when it's raining. Have you seen the sight of rain splattering inside a bus? A journey inside such a bus is warm but sleep inducing. I can even say that I can sweat comfortably and be lulled into a nice nap.

Is there more of such memories that you can think of? What was it like for life in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s that you remembered fondly? Do share it in the comment box below. I would love to have a oral history of how life was like in the past, compared to now :)


Patrick T. said...

I used to bemoan the fact that proportion of things seemed to have changed a lot. Until one day, my wife pointed out that I probably grown up between then and now. When I was 6, 1 siew mai will stuff my face. Now, I probably need a few. :)

Ok here's for nostalgia - Panini stickers.

And Trump cards instead of CCGs.

la papillion said...

Hi Pat,

OMG..I totally forgot about the panini stickers. I HAVE THE DINO STICKER BOOK! Ghostbusters one also have, Ultraman one also have :) I think I still have it, hidden in some forgotten archives.

Trump cards I don't have though :)

Cheng said...

I remember the days at the playground when my neighbours and I would run to the provision shop to buy ice lolly, the one whereby you can break it into half. 10cents and super shiok during the hot afternoon. :D We would play badminton, block catching and was scolded by our neighbours for being too noisy.

Those were the days... :)

Createwealth8888 said...

When you start thinking of the past, you are not young anymore.LOL

Createwealth8888 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Singapore Man of Leisure said...

I used to collect the colourful bus tickets - sometimes lucky can get "beautiful" numbers :)

Then there were the days playing "football" with the cheap 60 cents plastic ball from provision shops in the void decks.

Oh! About the brushing thing - we have a dental clinic in my primary school. Whenever a schoolmate walks in with the yellow dental record, we all hope it's not calling us! I still have fear of dentists! Those huge green dental machines looked like torture instruments to a child......

Anonymous said...

We had to drink milk supplied by the school to strengthen our teeth and bones. I like the banana flavored ones (green box) the most. :)

Can't remember much else.

Anonymous said...

thks for sharing, really miss those times. yes life was so much simpler; not much fuss. life is better now, but attitudes have changed a lot.

Kyith said...

The drow remember all those

Anonymous said...

Hi LP,
100% agreed living a simpler life "will make you happier". But how? My dream of a simple life is to live in a farming village with all the simple folks; where we are happy to live on what the good earth produces and may be a little animal/fowl husbandry. No need to go after accumulating $$$ and still will leave this world with nothing but some regrets and "problems" for kins and realtives.
But alas! my dream is simple but to achieve it may not be so simple.
First of all, I need some or maybe quite a lot of $moolah to begin with. You see farming village have different classes also. Some are rich, some are poor.

Hey! Ho.... Life will never be simple again when man "discovers" and keep on innovating the use of $$$. But you can be simple and "happy", no matter where you live what you do.

"Money , money , money; must be funny in a rich man's world.
To me is funny because like most possesions, when you have them, you forget the feeling of when you do not have them. That's why the very rich will never feel like us common folks. No matter what you say or think.
Like the "PAPAYAS" NO?

la papillion said...

Hi Cheng,

Haha, you naughty boy :) I think in the past, we play games that we invent or made up of simple materials. These days, it's fairly common to see kids playing with electronic games :)

Hi bro8888,

I guess we get older, there's a lot more behind us, and a little less ahead of us. It's naturally to think back and remind ourselves how much we've experienced :)

la papillion said...


Haha, yes, they are colourful and pretty. I think I've a few of them as a reminder. They are from the company TIBS, if I'm not wrong.

OH YES, I remember the green chairs and the yellow dental card. Ironically, I'm usually the one who would bring the dental cards to pple, haha!

Hi anonymous 1,

Haha, I never had the chance to drink it, but I always looked at others drinking it in envy :) The times must be good presently for you to forget the past entirely ;)

Hi anonymous 2,

No problems...a touch of the past will remind us how much we've experienced. It also tells us that in order to have more happy memories, we should invest in experiences in the future. When is the last time you've tried something for the first time? ;)

la papillion said...

Hi Drizzt,

Haha, then you're the same generation as me ;)

Hi Temperament,

Maybe it's really true that once you give off as much of your wealth as possible, you're feel so much lighter and so much richer ;)

Good luck in forming the life of your dreams!

Chong Jun said...


The first thing that comes to my mind after reading was already written by master Cheng. haha!

I'll usually just flock around the playground around early evening at 5pm to either play catching or some game call blinding mice if I didn't get it wrongly. haha!

I think the running and shouting at playgrounds get less popular as more of them get demolished. The two playgrounds around my house area were long gone.

It's really true that kids nowadays are stuck to the computer or PSP instead of running around or riding bikes. No wonder primary school kids also have iPhone nowadays. haha!

la papillion said...

Hi CJ,

You all very playful, haha! As different generation go, we have our different cartoons, different games that we played and different tunes that define our childhood. I wonder what our next generation of kids will play? haha

Anonymous said...

OMG, this posts bring back so many memories. Me born in 1980.
- The iceman ringing the bell from his scooter,
- The yakult cap can be exchanged for gifts,
- school kids squating at the long-go to brush teeth,
- the icecreams that time were much simpler but so much nicer.. ie 20 cents sour plum icecream,50 cents chocolate pushpop
- the many buttons pencil box or the nice water bottles with their bags

memories, real good memories

la papillion said...

Hi anonymous,

Haha, yes, I remember the iceman ringing the bell from scooter. Actually you can still find them scooting around :)

I remember the yakult caps...I won a casio watch from it!

Anonymous said...

and also the :-
- Mr Wollie and Mr Yakkie
- Lala
- Mr Bookwork
- Young Generation
- Xin Qi Wu Zong Bao
- and the weekhly chinese small papers (cant rem what they are called)