She caught our eye while going through our photo archives. Who is this well-dressed poster girl of the then Electricity Department? EMA managed to track her down.
She is 69-year-old Ms Katijah Ibrahim. Now retired, she was initially reluctant about being interviewed. But when we showed her this photo, she broke into a delighted laugh.
“Yes, yes, that’s me. So long ago already lah, I cannot remember. I was very young then. I think I was about 18 years old.”
The Hiring Section, under the aegis of the then Electricity Department, had opened a Showroom at 21 Orchard Road in 1928. Somewhat of a misnomer, the Hiring Section rented out small electrical appliances such as cookers, fans and water heaters to customers.
Katijah, who is single, revealed that she wasn’t even a staff of the Hiring Section. “I was actually working next door with the Water Section.”
However, it didn’t surprise us that she was asked to be a model for the Orchard Road Showroom. Fashionably dressed in traditional kebaya, Katijah recalls spending mornings putting on her baju (blouse) and about “2¼ yards of sarong” for work. “Last time no zip! You have to wrap the sarong tightly around to have a nice shape. I can’t even remember how I managed to walk in that!
“Back then, we worked from 9am to 4.30pm. Got time to dress up!” she added with a chuckle.
A colleague who was working in the Hiring Section, Mdm Wan Lai Chun, now 77, recalls how Katijah would turn up for work in her classy kebaya. “She was a very neat lady. That time, dressing for work is not like now. No long pants, no jeans, no slippers.”
Both shared that the Showroom was on the second floor of the three-storey City Hall. Two staff would man the showroom, while payments were made on the ground floor. Most customers were European families temporarily residing in Singapore. Water heaters and electric cookers were particularly popular. Another colleague, Ng Lai Peng, recalls that in the 1960s, one could rent an electric cooker for about $3-$5 a month.
Eventually, Singapore’s growing prosperity and the emergence of appliance stores meant the Showroom’s days were over for good. It closed in 1974.
Katijah would find herself working in various departments before retiring in 2008. “They offered to extend my employment, but I was 62 and wanted to retire and relax a bit,” she said.
At least this walk down memory lane has triggered a host of pleasant memories for her.
Happy SG50, Katijah.