Walking down memory lane
By:Priscilla Tawie

Much has changed over the years. As modernity creeps in, old technologies are replaced, and newer ways take on the roles of the old. Looking back, there is a significant difference between today and 20 years ago.

The modern era demands progress and change. In the midst of innovation, the old are often cast aside — forgotten because there are newer ways — or disappearing as it loses its treasure.

Many traditional ways have been replaced as the years and decades passed.

Out with the old and in with the new. In the blink of an eye, time usually takes away the things we take for granted.

Nonetheless, memories often return, bringing back nostalgic feelings from the past.

People always said that childhood is the most blessed stage of life. Especially since we were raised with the accessibility of traditional means. Many of them are either no longer available or have become scarce.

I will never forget the ice cream man who rode around neighbourhoods and schools on his motorcycle while playing the song ‘Paddle Pop.’
I used to volunteer to pull my mother’s white hair when I was in early primary school. In exchange, I’d get ice cream from the ‘Paddle Pop’ man.

He usually showed up around 3pm or 4pm. And when he does, I would call my mother and ask her to bring me some money.

Then I’d stand at our front gate and wave at the ice cream man to come to a stop for me.

The smell of the motorcycle, the ice, and the ice cream that came out of the mobile freezer are still fresh in my mind.

Buying ice cream this way felt different than buying it in a shop. At school, I would also buy ice cream this way.

Outside our school compound, there were usually two types of ice cream waiting for students. One was the ‘Paddle Pop’ uncle, and another sold creamy ice cream in blocks.

The latter would slice the ice cream block in half and scoop some out to put in a cone or sandwich between two slices of bread.

Ice cream men are becoming increasingly scarce nowadays. Some people said that they still occasionally hear the tune of ‘Paddle Pop’ ringing out in their neighbourhood, but others, like myself, will never be able to stumble upon one.

Getting ice cream delivered to your door is now easier and more convenient. Simply log into any delivery service application and place an order.

These are simply my memories. I also asked some of my friends for theirs.

Jessica Lee recalls using a Video Home System (VHS) to record television shows.

“That was something I love doing whenever my parents want to take me out. I get to save my favourite cartoon for later viewing.”

VHS has been around since the 1970s. Jessica’s first encounter with the videotape occurred when she was a child between 1994 and 1999.

Shows on television can be recorded using a VHS player. The 34-year-old said she often recorded cartoons that aired on TV3.

“I’d record Doraemon to watch later. The picture quality is the same as on TV3,” she said.

VHS gradually became obsolete after the introduction of Video Compact Disc (VCD) and Digital Video Disc (DVD) in the late 1990s. Jessica’s VHS player was replaced by a VCD player on the shelf at home.

“When VCD movies became available, we no longer record using VHS. Besides that, VHS tapes were more expensive than DVDs.”

She also said that VCDs and, later, DVDs are thinner and easier to store than VHS tapes. Jessica misses her childhood days despite how convenient it is now.

“Simple things in life were satisfying back then. Even just recording on VHS and replaying it was enjoyable.”

Angel Lim also shared a fun childhood memory: the smell of the ‘roti van’ — a bread-selling van that made its way through neighbourhoods.

Another type of van uncle was one who often drove around selling vegetables and meat. These two vans had a distinct odour coming from them.

“I love the smell of freshly baked buns right outside your door,” said Angel.

When the property agent was in her early secondary school years, the ‘roti van’ would drive around her neighbourhood in the evenings.

“My aunt had just moved to a rented house at Green Road in Kuching at the time. Every evening around 7pm, a honking sound would come from the van, inviting people to come out. My cousins and I would gather at the gate, waiting for the van to pull over,” said the 34-year-old, adding that they would buy buns and bread for breakfast the next day.

There was a large selection of bread. Bread loaves, buttermilk buns, plain buns, sugar doughnuts, butter buns, kaya buns, and peanut butter buns were all available. Angel’s personal favourite was the cream buns with chocolate rice topping.

The vegetable van uncle, on the other hand, is still driving around the Green Road area to this day.

“It’s still run by the same uncle, with the same meat smell and manual weighing scale!”

Angel said that her mother still buys from this uncle because it is more convenient.

Although the smell of each van reminded Angel of her younger years, she hopes not to go back there because she is happier in her present situation.

“I am capable of earning and spending my own money. I’ve also had a taste of freedom to go wherever I want. I had a difficult childhood. But it was fulfilling and exciting, in contrast to the life of today’s children, who are cooped up at home with computers and tablets.”

Technology has certainly paved the way for easy access to anything on the internet.

Songs are just one of the many things we can browse. Play, pause, repeat, and rewind. Everything is now at our fingertips and can be done easily.

Baby boomer Alice Wee recalled the times when she used a tape recorder to record songs that were broadcast on the radio during the 1970s and into the 1990s.

She was always expecting bands like Credence Clearwater Revival (CCR), Cliff Richard, ABBA, Boney M, and many others to be played.
“Radio songs request programmes played on the radio were our only source of entertainment back then. We’d record them and listen to them later. We sometimes became angry and irritated when radio announcers talked over the songs we were recording. This prevented us from getting a clean recording,” she said, adding that once the announcers started talking, she had to stop recording.

Alice said that she would wait by the radio for the announcer to announce the song titles.

“The thrill comes when I have to record quickly. With luck and a considerate DJ, one recording can be successful. Though the quality wasn’t as good as the original, I was happy with the outcome.”

When asked if she would relive her younger days, Alice replied, “Why not?” because she misses the excitement of waiting for a song and rushing to record it.

She does not need to do so right now because there is a wide variety of music applications to choose from.

“It’s a relief that I can now listen to music on Spotify. However, it is full of advertisements because we must pay a premium to be ad-free. Meaning, it is now more convenient, but at a cost.”

Though the 21st century is convenient, Alice misses growing up in an environment with only basic needs.

“We improvised, created, played in the rain and sun, and ate fruits plucked straight from the trees.”

While Alice recalls eating fresh fruits plucked from trees, Angeline Kho remembers eating delicious chicken skewers (satay) from a man who cycled around the neighbourhood selling them.

Now in her fifties, she fondly recalled the times in the 1970s when she was still residing in the Kuching Municipal Council (KMC) flats.

“My memory is hazy, but there used to be satay uncles who would sell satay while slowly cycling and calling out ‘Satay! Satay!’,” she said.

She said that the satay uncle who frequented her neighbourhood sold chicken skewers with peanut sauce.

Though she couldn’t remember the price of the satay because she was young, she did remember how delicious it was.

“We didn’t know much about anything when we were kids. Only what was around us.”

Angeline cherishes her childhood but does not wish to go back in time.

“Every day is a new experience. I look forward to each new day and creating new memories.”

She also said that she does not miss being a child because she is now content with her status as an ‘elderly person.’

“It’s nice to get ‘special treatment’ from young people,” she said jokingly.

Whether it’s the 1970s or the 2000s, everyone’s childhood is unique because it’s filled with memories that only a child can make and understand.


New Sarawak Tribune e-Paper

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