Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Good Morning" Towels

In the beginning, there were towels. And in the beginning, there were only Good Morning towels made in China, found in Sibu.

These quintessential,white, cotton, very hygienic towels were seen everywhere. They were usded by doctors, midwives, barbers, hairdressers and school teachers. They were "boiled" or sterilized in hot boiling water for good measure and dried in the sun. One could see them everywhere, on the clothes lines in the backyards,on bamboo poles sticking out from the overhanging shophouses, at the back of motor launches, on lines coming from the coffee shops, on the shoulders of the wharf labourers and tied around the heads of rickshaw drivers.

I continue to buy them, as a habit and use them for everything in the house,especially as face towels.

A friend even claimed that her good skin has been due to her routine wiping of her face every morning with a Good Morning Towel.

Once I had an accident and my face was pretty damaged and a Malay guy came up to tell me that as my wound on the face healed, I could slowly wipe away the redness by using a towel smeared with a good measure of Lux soap. Yes, a Good Morning towel. And that was in 1971 in Kuala Lumpur. I am still grateful to him. I never knew his name but he was very sympathetic and as a fellow patient in the hospital, he was ever so attentive and observant. He had a Good Morning towel wrapped around his arm.

Another friend used Good Morning towels to wipe her new born babies all the time. As these towels are white, any dirt could be seen I suppose. And the sterilizing of the towels would be really good for new born babies.

I remember the pedlars who used to sell buns and eggs at the Sibu wharf. They would cover their buns and eggs with one or two of these Good Morning Towels. They would jump from one motor launch to another. Jumping was easy for them because they were barefooted and light weighted.

In coffee shops in Sibu, all the waiters would have a Good Morning towel placed neatly on their shoulers to wipe away any water mark or stain on the marble tables. When I think of this, I could imagine a whole chorus of these white Pagoda - t-shirted and black trousered waiters dancing and serving coffee with their white Good Morning towels to a good coffee time tune on stage. It would be lovely if someone could choreograph such a dance to commemorate the kopi tiam period.

And finally I would like to share this special scenario with you as it once brought tears to my eyes : a painted basin of hot water with a Good Morning towel on the rim, all ready for the morning washing of the face prepared by an elderly wife for her equally elderly and dearly beloved husband. The husband did not need to brush his teeth because his dentures were in a painted enamal cup waiting for him. The loving couple caught the flash of the morning sun and then disappeared from the sun lit corridor, on the first floor of a shop house. These kinds of scenes are no longer common as first floor open corridors have disappeared from Sibu forever.

Ask any one in Sibu about these towels and they would have a story associated with it.

Go buy a Good Morning Towel. Rub it against your face, and a lot of memories would come back to you. Cheers.

6 memories:

Greg Wee said...

Oh, we have lots of those in Kuching too. I began to be aware of those when I was in primary school in the 80s. It's interesting how a simple piece of cloth can be so much a part of our history & culture.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Oh yes, I would always love a Good Morning towel. In fact one American woman specially ordered lots of them from e bay for birthday gifts once. And all her friends were impressed.

The reputation of these towels is now world wide.

Hope the history and culture goes on.......

FrancisN said...

These towels were certainly well made and I must have used up a lot of them during my time in Sibu.

With most of the world’s consumer goods made and exported from China these days, manufacturing standards are slipping in favour of profits.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Francis, where are you? I went to Brunei and bought twenty of them as there is a good Departmental Store called Hua Ho which retails a lot of good China made goods.

One day when I write a movie script, this towel will play an important role! And wash basins and hot water flasks too.

Hope you are fine.

Erique Fat Owl said...

Oh, how your story has touched me deeply. In Indonesia, where I grew up, one of the earliest memories I had as a kid was the image of fresh Good Morning towels hanging on my bathroom every day. That white, absorbent, comfy material...that '96' logo...nowadays, nobody I know in Indonesia uses those towels anymore, and I wonder why! I mean, this is literally a product that brings all races together. Everybody uses them - the Javanese, the Malays, the Chinese...

Please write a good movie script that features this towel! It's about time someone mentions this towel in movies. I write film screenplays for fun myself.

Thanks for sharing this story!

khalasan said...

I've thought about Good Morning towels just now. Googled it and found your page. Wanted to write about it but you've said enough.

We use it in the Philippines too. :)


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