Saturday, November 8, 2008

where has the waxed paper umbrella gone?

six girls sharing a paper umbrella (1970)

caught in one of the worst floods experienced in singapore (1966)

waiting in the rain for the march-past contingent to come by (1966)

even in 1969, school girls shied away from carrying the paper umbrellas.

(all photographs from the national archives of singapore)



i think today's young ladies would rather be dead than be caught carrying the light brown over-sized waxed paper umbrella. i have not seen one around for a very long time except those decorative ones in chiangmai, thailand.

in the 50s and 60s, most people, except for young ladies who preferred the more 'feminine' cloth umbrellas, used this large umbrella in the event of a downpour. somehow, men are too macho to use an umbrella when there is a drizzle. ladies use their umbrellas, regardless of rain or shine.

i remember there was at least one shop along middle road that made and sold this type of paper umbrellas. bamboo was mainly used for the frame, which included the ribs and the shaft. i do not know what kind of paper was used but it was treated with wax to keep out the rain and the sun.

the waxed paper umbrella was large enough to accommodate two persons, unlike the 'ladylike' cloth umbrella. when brand new, the folds could be stuck together because of the wax. one reason for its demise could be that it was not as durable as the cloth umbrellas of today.

most men shy away from carrying foldable umbrellas. i carry one in my haversack all the time. it comes in so handy when you are walking in the middle of sungei buloh wetland reserve and the sky decides to open up.

8 comments:

Victor said...

Nowadays, the waxed umbrella is used more for Chinese funeral rites - to shield the urn containing ashes when carrying it under the open sky. At the end of the ceremony, it is burned. I know because that was what happened when my dad and mum passed away in 1993 and 2003 respectively.

JollyGreenP said...

Back in 1957 my father always remarked how the price of umbrellas always cost twice as much when the weather changed from dry to wet!

yg said...

john, some shops still practise this: discount price on dry days but not on rainy days.

Icemoon said...

There are even umbrella dispensers nowadays, have you guys used it?

Haha, don't think the machine can tell dry day from rainy day.

yg said...

icemoon, these dispensers must be in the business district area, i have not seen any in the heartland.

Icemoon said...

I found the dispenser in NUS just now.

doris said...

cockroaches love hiding in used paper umbrellas. i remember when i first opened such umbrellas, the insects came showering down and from then onwards, i was very careful.

yg said...

doris, cockroaches like to hide in dark, damp places. the drains in my kampong were full of cockroaches. in the 70s, when the balestier teachers - huat cheong, mc, tye thong, chuan wee, james tan and myself - went pond fishing at tampines, we used cockroaches as bait. there was no shortage of cockroaches.