This little flat tin was part of a rite of passage for all Singapore men.
Who among them can forget the endless hours spent 'kiwi-ing' their parade boots? the paraphernalia that's associated with it - shoe brush, cotton wool, lint-free cloth and the upturned tin cap to contain water?
National Service would forever be remembered with polishing boots.
From an earlier start even school children (i.e. during my time!) already knew the word kiwi. It was not the black shoe cream but rather the whitener that was applied to our canvas school shoes each weekend. At times, we kids were so lazy that we forget all about washing our canvas school shoes till the last minute and then desperately applying the white globs before going to school. Blanco, we called it.
The Kiwi Polish Company that manufactured these shoe products was located along Hillview Avenue, just beside Princess Elizabeth Estate. In fact, it was one of the original factories that was set up in the fledging Colonial Industrial Estate back in 1953. (The Colonial Industrial Estate developed into the Hillview Industrial Estate in time.)
Kiwi Polish Co (Pty) Ltd began operations in 1954 with 50 employees manufacturing shoe polish under their brand KIWI. In later years, its product range expanded to include floor polishes, floor waxes and industrial cleaners, and of course, the canvas shoe blanco whitener.
In 1967, it was given a huge boost when the Singapore Armed Forces contracted it to provide boot polish for every soldier in the SAF. I recalled during my NS days, we NSmen were entitled to 2 tins of black polish each month.
|Vintage photos of Kiwi Polish Company production line.|
The factory closed after the Hillview area was re-zoned for residential development in 1993.
Today, the Chantilly Rise Condominium complex sits on the former factory site.