My grandma Yim Mun had a penchant for classical things. This was due to a privileged upbringing in her childhood home. As the daughter of a wealthy and respectable man, she had an eye for high quality and lasting items. She always went for good brands.
This was a vintage Singer treadle sewing machine which grandma bought in 1928. She paid RM130 for it, quite a princely sum back in those days.
Based on its serial number Y 3254573, I managed to trace its origin. It was manufactured in Clydebank, Scotland in the year 1925. That makes it almost 85 years old.
Grandma used it to do some light patchwork. Many years later, she gave it to her daughter who was a tailor. After many years of heavy usage, it could no longer function so smoothly.
My aunt simply abandoned it and bought a new electronic machine. It was left to gather dust and stand idle at a corner for many decades. However, being a possessive woman, she does not allow anyone else to touch her mom’s property.
It was not until 1973 after my grandma’s death that my dad decided to overhaul it and bring it back to life. He felt it was a waste to leave it idling around.
First, he traced the details of the machine into a piece of blank paper and marked them accordingly. Next, he took out part by part and sorted them into different categories. Since they were very rusty due to years of neglect, Dad soaked each part in kerosene for some time to remove the rust. Then he painstakingly polished them until they were shiny again. Every nuts and screws were given a touch up.
It was truly a labor of love. He wanted to give it to Mom who really needed the machine to sew some clothes for us.
Every night, after he had finished sharpening scissors, he would labor on this machine. It took him almost two months before he could restore it back into its original glory. Once it was finished, it was as good as new! Today, it could still function so well.
Mom was so thrilled to finally have a sewing machine and we could have some clothes to wear instead of old hand me downs. Especially for me, because as the youngest child, I always got fifth hand clothes!
Beside this sewing machine, grandma also bought a vintage Bush Radio which was manufactured in London around 1940s. This radio was bought in 1945 after my dad opened Nam Foong Coffee Shop at 188 Hugh Low Street. It was actually sold to her by a regular customer.
This customer was a hardcore gambler and he lost heavily at the Race Course. Desperate for some quick money, he took his family’s radio and made an offer to my grandma who could not resist this gem. She wanted to buy it so that the patrons of the coffee shop could have some entertainment. It was a good decision.
While enjoying the smooth and aromatic tau foo fah, the customers were serenaded by music and songs from all over the world. During its prime, we can actually tune in to stations from the USA, Europe, Africa and most parts of Asia. It was on from morning till night. It served us until mid 70s, a total of almost 30 years. Due to heavy usage, it eventually broke down.
I found out that it can still be repair but it has to be done in London where the manufacturer has a department to repair and restore its vintage radios. And they also have a website for buying and selling such vintage gems.
There were many other valuable items which my grandma bought throughout the years. Among them was a big grandfather clock, a vintage typewriter, a gramophone, a charcoal iron and some porcelain wares. My family had sold them off to antique collectors to raise fund to treat my youngest uncle in China. He eventually died from a tumor in his neck at a very young age. Today, only these two items were left to remember my grandma.