Thursday, 3 April 2014

Some familiar brands: 60s & 70s

Sunlight Soap's faithful companion, the
wooden wash board.
SUNLIGHT Soap immediately comes to mind. Remember the long bar of soap (with the sunny colour of course) with the word "sunlight" embossed along its length? I remember they were at least a foot in length (or at least those which we bought) and I supposed mum would have to hack them into smaller pieces for use. But for washing clothes, you use the full length, scrubbing the soap on the piece of laundry on the washing board. The smell was pleasant, not overly strong -- uniquely Sunlight Soap.

My brother and mum used small blocks for soap carving. It all started as part of my brother's school art project. But mum liked it so much that it became her hobby. And soon, there were a few animals carved from soap displayed on the book shelves in our living room. There were one big rabbit and a baby, one big elephant and a baby.

I could never carve anything, but my mum and brother were skillful. Their only tool was an ordinary penknife. First they hewed a rough shape. They then used water to "smooth" out angular bits -- the elephant's tummy for example, especially needed to be rotund and smooth! Also, detailed engraving was easier when the block was a little wet.

Sunlight soap was used only for laundry and for washing hands. For bathing, it was Lux soap. Occasionally, a touch of luxury, Camay. As a child, I liked the soap wrappings which I thought were so beautiful. Lux wrapping had just the brand name written on it but came in several colours. Camay wrappers had a metallic finish. They also came in several colours but had a portrait of a lady on them, rather like a cameo brooch. Mum would store a few bars in a drawer of a cupboard which was in our living room. The drawer smelled heavenly of course.

Mum would regularly ask me to check the drawer to see whether we needed new stocks. If so, I was to remind her to jot it down in the list which she would present to the "mobile provision shop" man when he next came around. The mobile provision shop was a small little van. The delivery man had a pencil stuck behind his right ear which he would take down to note our requirements -- for example, moth balls (small round ones in a transparent packet with blue print), insecticides, Dettol (which mum sometimes poured a few drops into the pail for mopping floors), brooms, mops, pails, Sunlight soaps...

For milk powder, I was most familiar with Bear brand. It has a yellow tin, with a black and white ink drawing of a mother bear feeding its baby with a milk bottle. Mum made a hot, thick and sweet version for me whenever I got sick. Sometimes she also made a jar of it (more diluted) and kept it in the fridge so that we could have chilled milk whenever we were thirsty. I liked the chilled version better.

Quaker Oats. This tin of oats, graced by the gentleman in black hat and coat, was a standard in our childhood kitchen. Sick? Mum would boil the oats in water till it became thick. This took a rather long time as there were no instant oats in those days. Then, she would whisk in an egg. Add a few spoonfuls of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Take that first, and then your medicine (which inadvertently was clear pink syrup if you had a cough, or a horrible opaque yellow mixture if you happened to have diarrhea). Actually, mum's standard fare for invalids was white rice porridge with salted eggs. But we didn't always have salted eggs. That's when the distinguished Quaker swung into action. (Talking about salted eggs, I remember mum went all the way from Serangoon Gardens to the row of shophouses near Yio Chu Kang to get them when I was sick. I went along with her and she had to carry me on her back when I became too ill and tired to walk.)

Brylcreem. They came in a stout glass bottle with a metal screw-on cap. The cream was white in colour. You dip a corner of your comb into it and bring it out again with a morsel of the cream. More used by guys of course. But I also used it when I saw my brother combing his hair with it. I didn't like its oiliness and its smell, but I needed it to part my hair with the straightest of lines. (I spent hours parting my hair, by the way!)

Remember this label? Clue: Green is the predominant
colour of this product.
Clairol Herbal Essence Shampoo. This brand came later, sometime in the 70s. Was a rather popular brand among my friends and myself. But be careful of imitation. If you look at the label of the original version, the girl among the flowers had her left hand raised. The imitations had the right hand raised. So the story went. But we could never remember which hand.

Gee, Your Hair Smell Terrific. Blue plastic bottles with each alphabet of the brand in a different wacky colour. Certainly remember the commercials. The girls in them had such nice bouncy hair, we just had to try the brand.

Short and Sassy. My hair had always been rather short, but I never managed to get it "sassy" as well. Didn't stop me from using the brand faithfully for a while. It had red packaging and the label had a girl on it with really nice swingy hair.

I know I have missed out Yardley (it has been around!) but somehow my mum and I were not fans. Mum had a tube of Max Factor lipstick though. It had been with her for the longest time. It has a glam, gold casing -- a beautiful shade of pink. I always took it out from her dressing table to admire it. I dropped it one day and it broke into two. I tried to melt one end a bit by burning a matchstick near it so that I could "glue" the other piece back (like joining a wax candle). It began to lose its wonderful scent and smelt of burned plastic instead. No choice, had to tell mum about it. Mum wasn't too overly upset. She continued to use the burnt lipstick, stoically.

Before I end, do your remember Brut? In the 70s, Brut was the operative word, or rather the cologne (for guys). Some girls like the scent so much that they even used it too. As for me, I would give it a clear berth. I thought it especially smelt bad with perspiration. Sorry if I had offended some former users of Brut :)

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