Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Malayan Guttas Vintage Photographs

Malayan Guttas Ltd  was a pioneer factory at Hillview, Bukit Timah. 
Many of you may never have heard of this company,  unless perhaps, you once lived nearby around Hillview or you might have known of it perusing through this blog of mine where I had previously written a few articles about it. (links below)

However, you will definitely recall its most famous product - the Wrigley Spearmint Chewing Gum.
The Wrigley Company of Chicago USA set up the factory in 1947 soon after the end of World War Two.

Following the end of war, the British Government offered extremely good incentives for foreign companies to invest in the colonies to revive the war-torn countries' economies. One major incentive was that their manufactured goods would be entirely tax-free if it was manufactured, distributed and sold in any British Commonwealth nation.

As a result, Malayan Guttas became the biggest manufacturer and distributor of chewing gum in all the British Commonwealth out from its factory in Singapore.
The other major incentive for Malayan Guttas was that its principal ingredient for making chewing gum could only be found in the Malay Peninsula, i.e. the then Malaya, Borneo and Indonesia. This was the resin Gutta Percha.

Gutta Percha resin is the inedible bit that gum chewers spat out and made a mess of the sidewalks!
Gutta Percha came from the endemic Sapodilla tree, of which the Chiku fruit tree was one species.
However, extracting the gutta percha resin was primitive even in those days. It had an unsustainable and destructive process in its extraction. They had to chop the entire tree down to bits and boil the wood to extract the resin. 
By the 1960s, due to the scarcity of the Sapodilla trees, they switched to the resin of the Jelutong tree. So Malayan Guttas became the biggest source of Jelutong resin and the centre for worldwide distribution.

Ironically, chewing gum was banned in Singapore in 1992 but by a strange twist of fate, the entire region of Hillview where the factory sat was then re-designated into a 'residential development zone'. The Wrigley Company sold the land to a private developer for a fortune in the late 1990s. The land was developed into the now Hillington Condominium complex.

The newly built Malayan Guttas factory in 1948.

Recently, I was very fortunate to receive a package of old photos from Switzerland.
It came from the daughter of Mr B├╝nzli who was the General Manager in the late 50s to the early 60s.
In those days, the GM was numero uno. He oversaw the entire operations and personally lead many expeditions to Borneo to source for Jelutong resin.

The cache of vintage pictures, of which I will release periodically in future articles, were of the factory operations and of the staff.  Many of the staff were from the old Princess Elizabeth Estate and if you do recognise anyone of them in the photos, please comment below.

The cache of vintage photos I received.

The machinery used in the resin extraction

The boilers used for resin extraction

Crates of resin extract stored at the back

Staff Group Photo c.1962

Staff function at the factory grounds.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Dairy Farm @Bukit Timah in 1963

Going through the archives, I found an amazing old black & White photo that many people might have dismissed because it was improperly labelled. It had been labelled as 'Indian milk cows. Malaya 1963'.

However, when I took a closer look at it, I could straight away identify it as the old Cold Storage Dairy Farm at Upper Bukit Timah, where today the Dairy Farm Nature Park is located.

Here is the original photo I found.

Dairy Farm @ Upper Bukit Timah in 1963.

The clues to this picture lie at the top right hand corner.  
The main building is the cow milking shed that is today the Wallace Education Centre. 
If you follow the line left of this building, you will come to the uphill slope that leads to the Dairy Farm General Manager's house at the top which still exist today and which has been converted into a visitor centre. The last General Manager was Mr Phillip Fielding and the house is often referred to as "Fielding's House".

The long building in the picture in front of today's "Wallace building" was the cow shed where the cows were washed and inspected before being sent to the milk shed. Only the concrete foundation remnants of this building are left today, in the field in front of the Wallace Education Centre building.

Running right across the photo in the valley between the cows and the buildings is the location of the water pipeline that carries the raw water that Singapore buys from Johor state.

Today, this entire area in this photo is covered by secondary forest with the Wallace Trail running through part of it.

Update: 7 Dec 2020
Following my above posting of the old Dairy Farm, I search my own collection and came out with this rarely seen picture of Dairy Farm, also taken around the 1960s.

This photo shows the pasture behind the building that is now the Wallace Education Centre (right of photo). Today we see a forest there with no access into the area. The open field at the foreground of the photo is where NParks had recently built a new teaching/training shed.

You can read more about the Dairy Farm in my blog here at the following links:-
Places around Princess Elizabeth Est - Dairy Farm (Jan 2012)
The mysterious house at Dairy Farm (June 2014)