Those were the days
Although this 2003 souvenir stamp sheet was issued in Hong Kong, the illustrated street scenes are similar to what I remember growing up in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s. The only trade I did not see was bird cage-making.
Tailoring: In Grandma's sprawling Chinatown house where I spent my young childhood with 30 other related families, two uncles were tailors who could made stylish clothes for both men and women, from a pair of pants to a cheongsam (qipao).
When I was 11-12 years old, my family moved to Sam Leong Road. One of the neighbours, a handsome-looking woman in her 40s, worked as a hair-comber. I spent many long afternoons at the five-foot way (street-level walkway in front of the shophouses) watching her comb a customer's hair and add a thick bun at the back.
When the hair-comber had finished, the customer, usually an elderly woman, would look years younger, and radiant enough to attend a daughter's wedding.
Olives or karnah in Hokkien, soaked in a yellowish, sweet-and-saltish sauce, were one of my favourite candy-snacks in Chinatown.
The letter-writer was especially busy when Chinese New Year drew near. Housewives would ask him to compose and write letters to relatives back in China. The red strips on the wall, each with a four-word beatitude (blessing) on good fortune, prosperity and peace on earth, were intended to create good vibes when pasted on door and window frames in the home..
Dough figurines were intricate and beautifully made, usually of heroes in ancient lore. Here, the hawker is holding a figure of the Monkey God with his pole that was once used to stir the Milky Way.