Every Paper Bag Tells A Story

Paper bags were used during the 60s, 70s and early 80s. They were then replaced by the current plastic bags. In the past, most products or companies advertisements were placed on the paper bags. Of course most of us will remember those bigger paper bags used for the mooncakes boxes.

Look at these 2 paper bags found in my mother’s house. They are probably 25 to 30 years back.

1. Chee Seng Sesame Oil;

Take note of the old telephone number and the number of digit then. Also the old address 937 Serangoon Road. This Chee Seng Sesame Oil probably has a very long product life cycle. They have been here since 1943 though started off as coconut oil instead of sesame oil. Here is their company history and their double pagoda logo reason.

2. Heng Kee Lemon Juice ;

This was my favourite lemon juice in concentrated form, to be mixed with water. My mother used to buy a bottle of this lemon juice when she was out shopping. Note the address printed on the paper bag – Capitol Shopping Centre, Stall No.52 and $1.30 per bottle. Stall No.52 – those who been there before in the 80s will remember how the place like. Maybe Peter and Chun See can shed some lights.

Let’s see when the paper bags were made and who made them;

So don’t you think every paper bag tells a story? In the past, I used to say to my mother why was she keeping all these paper bags like garung guni…now I’m the one keeping it haha. Now I understand when there are aplenty – it’s like rubbish, and when it’s gone – it’s like treasure!

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10 Responses to “Every Paper Bag Tells A Story”


  1. 1 profkingsfield2004 Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 11:33 am

    ah lao,
    i think your mother’s house can “open business” as a National Archives Museum. How about it?

  2. 2 laokokok Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Yep you are right. I always tell my mother maybe she has better collection in her house.

    BTW Peter, remember the Capitol hawker stalls?

  3. 3 John Harper Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    In the UK there are moves afoot in some towns to get rid of the plastic bag. Some like Hebden Bridge have got rid of plastic bags altogether and shops no longer provide them in that town. I am just wondering if I should recognise this trend and save a few printed plastic bags for posterity! Come to think of it my wife has already done that as she has kept printed plastic bags from holidays and we have some from various supermercados in Spain and some fabric shops in Malaysia Singapore and Indonesia. Maybe I just need to add some UK ones for places like Tesco, Sainsbury etc. Just recently M&S started to charge for bags in their food department to prove that they were environmentally aware.

    As this trend continues I think that we may see the return of the printed paper bag.

  4. 4 Lam Chun See Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    I seem to recall that when you buy rice, they will always pack in brown paper bag – without printing. Anyone can confirm?

  5. 5 profkingsfield2004 Friday, March 28, 2008 at 6:09 am

    Brown paper bag for rice – yes it’s true if u buy from the Chinese provision shop man. He uses a metal scoop to take the rice out of a huge gunny sack and then place it inside the brown paper bag, depending on how many katis you want. Then he weighs and folds the top of the package n ties with a “rope” I think. Before I went to primary school, i luv to help the “uncle” scoop rice in his shop. For some reason the brown gunny sacks were always placed on raised wooden planks (they were certainly taller than I than). I used to stand at Boat Quay to see those workers lift huge gunny sacks on their shoulders from the bumboat to the pier. Most of the present-day Boat Quay F&B shops used to be godowns for storing rice, although in some places they store charcoal. The row of Boat Quay shops nearest to UOB Bank bdly in Bonham Street used to be a rice godown.

    Captiol hawker center was actually a row of street hawkers behind the former SHARP TV Show room. After they pulled down that showroom in mid-70s, the hwakers shifted to a lane that now leads into Stamford Road, just behind the “stage” of the Capitol Cinema. I still can recall the Mama ice-ball man in his push-cart stakk.

  6. 6 profkingsfield2004 Friday, March 28, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I mentioned the “rope” OK now remember clearly, A strong string made from jute – colour was grey brown. Later when pink rafia was introduced, it replaced the jute string

  7. 7 daddyto3 Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Interesting! I almost forgot that our postal codes were only 4 digits. However, I thought our tel numbers were 6 digits, before moving to 7 digits in the 80s (I think). But the picture above showed a 5-digit tel number. Was that a typo/print error? I wonder…

    Once again, thanks for another great post, Mr LauKK!! Very nice :)

  8. 8 Victor Koo Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    LKK – I remember the broader and bigger paper bags used by mooncake brands such as Dai Chung Kok (大中国) and Dai Thong (大同) being recycled for carrying live hens. The hen’s head would stick out from one side of the bag and bob around.

    Peter – Was that the Sharp TV showroom you were referring to or the National one? I remember the huge metal structure near to Capitol Theatre that had these words – “Those who know buy National”. At night, the National red neon logo looked very prominent against the white vertical sweeping neon lights.

    LCS – Yes, thick light-brown paper bags were used to pack rice by the kati in provision shops. The same type of paper bag was also used to pack charcoal in 5-kati and 10-kati packs.

    Daddyto3 – Up to the 1960s (I think), our telephone numbers had only 5 digits and our postal districts (PD) had only up to 2 digits – South Bridge Road was PD 1, Victoria Street was 7, Jalan Besar was 8, Geylang was 14, etc.

  9. 9 laokokok Monday, March 31, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Yes Peter, I remember that used for the rice too.

    Thanks Daddyto3. Yes postal code for Tampines was 18.

    Victor you are right. Those hen’s head popping out of the paper bag…should have a photo on that!

  10. 10 profkingsfield2004 Monday, March 31, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Victor – u r right. I very forgetful these days!!!! I will soon inherit “Laokokok II” title.


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