Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
In the olden days, there were seven essential items every household would have to attend to every morning, namely firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea.
During those days, families would brew a pot of tea and place it on the table to quench the thirst whenever they needed. People used to drink tea, which was not only cheaper also healthier.
Firewood was used instead of cooking gas during those days. As for the vinegar, it was commonly used as seasoning other than the vinegar pork leg. Health experts claim a little vinegar a day would help improve our health.
Even as the world changes, these seven essential items continue to be daily necessities for many modern families.
In old times, grocery stores allowed payment credits and in the end the store owners would become creditors to to most families. As a result, stories of Malay residents rising up to protect Chinese grocery stores during the 1969 May 13 incident have been told.
Apart from heartfelt gratitude, these residents were also concerned that the robbed grocery stores would no longer be able to provide them credits and the daily necessities.
Today, many retailers repackage the goods into smaller, eye-catching packages for sale, unlike during the olden days when grocery stores would wrap up their sold merchandise with used newspapers.
In the past, housewives spent only a few cents to purchase sugar, anchovies or flour from the grocery stores. They would buy in 1 or 2 gantangs of rice during each visit to the shop, unlike today when people buy in large packets.
Small quantity transactions were actually beneficial to both the customers and store owners. Customers did not have to spend too much money each time as their monthly incomes were low.
It was a virtue that was practised in the olden days where people would not spend a lot of money at a time. By contrast, modern people tend to spend their future money on branded goods by means of credit cards.
Credit terms extended to customers must be cleared either in the beginning of the month or end of the month depending on their cash flow.
Some would clear their debts just before the Chinese New Year since they did not want to carry their debts forward to a new year. This practice is particularly appropriate to Malay farmers who would be allowed to carry forward to another year when the harvests were bountiful.
The shop owners would never fear that their customers would run away from them. In fact, they could impose higher interests for overdue payments.
That was the way Chinese grocery stores operated. A smart business strategy indeed.
Those who have visited an old grocery store would definitely miss the pull-down buckets.
When the customers made the payment, the owner would pull down a bucket hung from the ceiling and dump the money inside or take out the change from it.
When this was done, the boss would then loosen his hand and the bucket would be pulled up again.
Hanging the money bucket high up would also serve to turn away potential thieves who would invariably alert the boss if they attempted to pull down the money bucket.
The only one left
Modern people can purchase on credit in large stores today, and few would need the credits provided by old grocery stores.
The 60-year-old Ban Huat mini market along Jalan Seang Teik, Penang, still retains a money bucket.
65-year-old shop owner, Lin Yong Sheng started helping out at his his father's store in 1962.
"There used to be nine grocery shops in the vicinity of Jalan Seang Teik market. Only one is left today," said Lim.
Strategically located next to the market, the shop's businesses have been promising with daily supplies of necessities such as rice, oil, salt and sauce to housewives.
Today's grocery stores no longer provide credit terms or trade their stuffs at a few pennies. A bowl of noodle was just about 20 cents in the past but is now RM3.