Sunday, August 26

50 years ago...

For a eight days starting yesterday, Aug 25 until post Merdeka Day on 1st of September 2007, the New Straits Times (NST), oldest newspaper of this land having been founded in 1845 ("as The Straits Times" before being renamed as the New ST in 1965 following the formation of Malaysia) is bundling a special surprise for its readers of the printed edition - the historical pre-Independence issues, published exactly five decades ago, as Malaysia will be celebrating its 50th Independence Day come this Friday, 31 AUG 2007.

What a nice marketing trick! -- At the time, NST claimed to have the "largest nett sales in Malaya" and I suspect that they'll manage to do just that this week, after trailing behind other English-based national newspapers like The Star (daily competitor that is especially popular in Penang and Kuala Lumpur; as well as in Singapore, Australia, the UK and the US for its online version) and The Sun (free printed format both online and offline on weekdays only). -- NST's online version, the nst online, (which somehow seems to be offline for quite a number hours since early morning until now as of 8am) is also trailing behind the Star's website in terms of viewership being ranked 102th versus The Star's 16th by Alexa.

Thanks to NST, we can momentously peek on how our nation was exactly 50 years ago, on the few days leading to the historic proclaimation of Merdeka by Malaysia's first prime minister, YTM Allahyarham Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj. Or how that newspaper reflected our nation at the time... So, what was different back then?

50 years ago, The Sunday Times that costs 20 Singaporean cents (and 15-cent for other days compared to RM 1.20 everyday today) looked like a newspaper for a foreign country or we were like in a different nation after all. The headlines and major news stories featured mostly about Singapore and other countries instead of Malaysia! (There were more news about Singapore than Malaya on its front page simply because it was indeed published in Singapore, not in Malaya). Even the caricatures were mostly foreign-imported. And seemingly too that most of the reporters, journalists and/or author of the news articles weren't even from the Malaya peninsula - they mostly bear English names due to the British colonization and administration which Federation of Malaya (Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, prior to Malaysia's formation some six years later in 1963) gained its independence from that year.

The big names in the advertisement space at the time that still flourish to this date include Grundig (my brother used to work in one of its factories, and one of our first mini radio while I was small is a Grundig), Ovaltine, Rolex, Milo, Dulux, Van Houten, Mercedez-Bence, Carnation (evaporated milk), Philips, Cathay (making a comeback following rebranding of the acquired Megapavilion cinemas), Cuticura (talcum powder), Brylcreem, Lux Campell's, Parker (ballpoint pens), Kodak and Garuda Indonesian Airways (now Garuda Indonesia). Looking at the ads, one can conclude that the marketers were betting heavily on selling prestige - Fortis, Titus, Titoni, Polarouter and Rolex (FIVE watch brands in one day issue!), Parker, Dulux and the ever-popular Mercedez; radios as the popular mass communications means; health and body care; nutritions and entertainment (cineplexes and dances).

There were quite a number of liquor ads too - beer and gin -- which has since been banned in Malaysia's newspapers due to the declaration of Islam as official religion of the state. And horoscope has been a mandatory ingredient for periodicals as ever...

Worth to note too that the phone numbers back then were only five-digit (just like for today's commercial SMS numbers) instead of the the common seven and eight digit in Malaysia nowadays, not including another 2-3 digit for the area codes prefix.

Keep on reading and immerse yourself in the spirit of Merdeka as we march with a countdown towards Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

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