Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow

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This was not a posed photograph. In fact, this was a common scene during the Second World War – when expatriates stopped at the Ipoh Railway Station, on their way to Singapore. When Penang was invaded by the Japanese in 1941, all European Service Families had to be evacuated.

It may not be clear, due to the low resolution of the photograph, but did you notice the Huntley & Palmer biscuit tin?

  1. Ngai C O says:

    Hi,

    Could be their cream crackers. Very nice with butter or spread but also with cheese.

    I think Jacobs had its own version.

    Some of my siblings are still stuck with the local Malaysian brand.

    I still remember vividly a village factory in a wooden shop house in Pasir Pinji churning out similar biscuits. I had the chance to taste it straight from the conveyor belt whilst it was warm. It tasted quite nice and crackly.

    Not something that one would normally find in the larder these days with so many choices available.

    However, they do come in many flavours these days like cheese and chive, sour cream for example.

    One other brand that I still see and has survived is the Ryvita water biscuits.

  2. Ipoh Remembered says:

    did you notice the Huntley & Palmer biscuit tin?

    Yes. That combination of tin shape and label was introduced shortly before the war, in 1936 or 1937. You will not see it in older photographs.

    Could be their cream crackers

    The tin in the photograph contained “Marie biscuits.” These were circular and sweet, often dipped quickly in tea before they were eaten.

  3. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    Having said that, I referred to the Database subsequently, which showed a different shape tin.

    The tin shown in the database is not the one shown in the photograph above. The latter is a simple rectangular tin with a drawing of the biscuit factory on the top.

    • IKA says:

      Yes Ipoh Remembered, you are probably correct as although this type of tin and label was used for more than one type of biscuit including those suitable for breakfast and dinner, Marie was the most favoured biscuit to have for tea, with a cup of Earl Grey.

      For Ngai C O I am sure Felicia wanted you to learn more about H&P biscuit history in Malaysia. At the moment we do not have the Marie tin in our collection. Maybe one day!

      • Ngai C O says:

        Hi IKA,

        I knew very little or took it for granted about Huntly and Palmer history in Malaysia. I am sure it existed in Ipoh but I would not say the brand was widely available. Maybe the Cold Storage and some stores catering for the expats.

        I did know about their cream crackers and biscuit assortment or it could be another brand.

        I like many of the local population were more familiar with local produce and offerings. It included local versions of the Marie biscuit.

        • IKA says:

          Hi Ngai C O, I would not expect you to know much about H&P as their heyday in Malaya was before Merdeka and their greatest popularity here was before the war. Apart from the expats, we understand that the Towkays (particularly the Tin Miners who loved to emulate the British) loved these biscuits. Indeed it is recorded that Malaya was among the highest importers of these tins of biscuits alongside British India before WW2.

          They must have loved their tea and biscuits – and I still do!.

  4. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    I knew very little or took it for granted about Huntly and Palmer history in Malaysia. I am sure it existed in Ipoh but I would not say the brand was widely available. Maybe the Cold Storage and some stores catering for the expats.

    Huntley and Palmer made their appearance in Malaya as early as the 1850s.

    And yes, their biscuits were available in Ipoh, starting as early as the 1910s.

    At that time, the Cold Storage company sold only frozen and chilled products, mainly meat, fish, and fruit.* For imported biscuits and the like, one would go to Pritchard’s, Teik Chin, Jwi Fong Loong, or a few other places. And when Whiteaway’s opened, they sold imported biscuits, too.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, there definitely were Chinese provision shops that sold Huntley and Palmer biscuits, as well as other imports, but you’re right that most small Chinese sundry shops did not stock such things, although “imitation” products were not exactly rare, either.

    [*] The Cold Storage Supermarket that some readers remember opened only in 1960 (simultaneously with the Milk Bar). Before that it was a different kind of shop.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      I know Whiteways when passing through Station Road (if I am not mistaken) as a kid. I also do know some shops opposite it particularly catered for the expats and of course the well off. They would be the ones to find imported stuff like H&P, alcohol, sauces etc. Many shops opposite the New Town Market also carried similar stocks.

      However, they gradually closed down when the expats started to leave from the 70s onwards. This was the direct result of government policy.

      The company which I worked for eventually separated from its parent in London and majority ownership reverted to Malaysia.

      As for Cold Storage, I only started going there in the late 60s; so did not know when it opened until just just told me.

  5. Ngai C O says:

    Hi IKA,

    I do not doubt the brand’s popularity both in the UK and the colonies before the war and amongst the richer local folk.

    Their tins with the decorations were a powerful advertising tool at one time. Besides, the tins were usually saved to store other things. I suppose it was a near monopoly before the competitors caught up with it.

    At one time, I liked to dunk rich tea biscuits into tea like you still like your biscuits and tea. I stopped the habit when I reverted to coffee. I have hardly touched biscuits for a number of years now although I do buy Digestives on the odd ocassions.

  6. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    I know Whiteways when passing through Station Road (if I am not mistaken)

    Yes, that’s where it was, next to the Chung Thye Phin Building (part of which was originally the Medical Hall, eventually the Georgetown Dispensary, and now I don’t know what).

    As for Cold Storage, I only started going there in the late 60s; so did not know when it opened until just just told me.

    That building at the corner of Togo and Clare was built by the Cold Storage Company in about 1930, just when the “new” market was being built opposite.

    For the next 30 years Cold Storage occupied the building as, essentially, a butcher’s shop — and then in 1960 the company converted it into a supermarket.

    That supermarket was the first shop in Ipoh where customers walked the aisles filling their own grocery carts. In traditional shops, as you know, the shop-keeper or his assistants would help you find what you needed.

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