Lim Pok Chwee

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Photos of the former Fraser & Neave factory at River Valley Road in Singapore.

“Lim pok chwee” mentioned on this blog is not a person’s name.  In Hokkien, “lim pok chwee” (as it sounds like) means “to drink aerated water or soft drink” as commonly known.

As a disclaimer, a person with the name “Lim Pok Chwee” is coincidental and not intended to make fun of any person with the same name and of no offence whatsoever.

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These are a few of the “pok chwee” (aerated water) manufactured by the Fraser & Neave in Singapore. (Photo credit: http://alicesg.blogspot.com)

During my schooldays at Delta Primary School from 1956 to 1961, I had to walk pass Brahmaputra Road, the former F & N factory located at River Valley Road.  It was near the Bukit Ho Swee kampong where I once lived.

I remember my kampong friends and I once visited the F & N factory in 1959 or 1960 when there was an “open house” for celebration and it was very crowded.  “Pok chwee” was free-flow and children were distributed with advertising gifts and toys.

This is the fond nostalgic memory I have of the F & N.

Pioneers in the thirst-quenching – Fraser & Neave 

Not all the renowned business acumen and foresight of Mr Fraser nor Mr Neave, back in the 80s, could have endowed them with a vision of the gigantic expansion of their thriving aerated waters industry.  Now 72 years later, the long sleek lines of the new Singapore factory are a sparkling testimony to the pioneers’ enterprise.  Behind the  impressive facade lie 16 1/2 acres, divided into the actual production units of the various drinks and allowing a generous space for the canteen, sports field and pavilion.

Side by side with the development of the aerated waters industry, so various subsidy enterprises have sprung up, such as case-makers. label-printers, glass manufacturers, straw packers and so on.  It would be safe to say that the aerated waters industry is a basic one in Malaya, being reasonable as  it is for the development of so many other smaller companies dependent on its strength and growth.

The Fraser & Neave factory is a Colony show place.  Visitors are always welcome; “watching the wheels go round” appeals to everyone and it is obvious to any visitor that the technical perfection of the various processes is carried out under the most hygienic conditions.  Visitors can observe that each stage in the manufacture of the drinks is under the constant expert supervision of a European.

VARIETY OF DRINKS

In 1883 Fraser & Neave first became famous for their quality aerated waters with their popular refreshing bubbles.

Here is the current list of thirst-quenchers:

Soda Water, Ice Cream Soda, Sarsapatila, Lime Juice Soda, Lemonade, Tonic, Cherryade, Ginger Beer, Pineapple, Special Dry Ginger Ale, Orange Crush, Grapefruit Soda.

Later cordials were made from the pure juice of oranges, lemons and limes.  It is the freshness of these drinks that really matters.  And their economy – 20 glasses can be made from one bottle when water is added!

SOMETHING NEW

The most recent drink to join F & N’s quality refreshers is Red Lion. This is a pasteurised drink made from pure fruit juice – orange or pineapple.  Red Lion (or “Ang Sai” as the Chinese call it) is a drink planned for Malayans.  Throughout the country wherever the familiar F & N symbol appears.

Red Lion is being sold as fast as it can be delivered from the factories.  An attractive bottle filled with a delicious drink which was created specially to satisfy the palate of the potential market, was bound to “catch on”.  Juicy oranges or succulent ripe pineapples are carefully chosen for Red Lion – orange come from California and pineapples from Malaya.

The pure orange juice is shipped to Singapore and stored in a controlled cold room.  In another huge store-room there are rows and rows of pure sugar in bags.  It is mixed with purified water and this make the syrup with which the pure fruit juice is combined.

From the storage tank there are many of these, in an impressive row) the mixture goes into the bottling hall.  Here visitors are always most intrigued by the bottle sterilizing machines the bottles go in one end and come out the other, 40 minutes later.  This cleaning process ensures that every spot of impurity is removed.

The gleaming clean bottles move along a steam tunnel and are filled with the hot orange syrup and capped.  Then the filled bottles pass through a cooling machine which creates a vacuum in the bottles.  A final check takes place when the bottles move in front of a powerful light.

From the point they go into the familiar F & N cases which are conveyed to the vast loading store.  From here they are loaded on to the F & N trucks which Malayans know so well … and the drinks go on their thirst-quenching way!

Source: The Singapore Free Press, 29 October 1955.  (Courtesy of NewspaperSG).  The archived photos shared on this blog with acknowledgement and thanks to the National Archives of Singapore.

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Another popular brand of “pok chwee” in Singapore.

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“Green Spot” and “Red Lion” ‘pok-chwee’ are the most common orange-flavored soft drink in Singapore in the 1960s.  “Green Spot” manufactured by Amoy Canning Corp and “Red Lion” by F & N.  The size of the bottle for both brands are similar.

During the Chinese New Year in the kampong, the favorite ‘pok chwee’ are the most popular.  These aerated drinks were offered to guests at wedding reception and funeral wake and other occasions and functions.

The goldsmith shops also hand out these “pok chwee” to the customers the moment to enter the shop.  Its ‘done deal’ once the customers accept the drinks and choose their jewelleries in the shop.

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At the kampong, there was a portable drink stall cart with a variety of “pok chwee” to buy, including F & N (as shown on the the right of the photo).   However, we kids have little pocket-money to “lim pok chwee” at the stall.  When we were thirsty on a hot day, our favorite at the drink stall was to buy a “ice-ball” at 10 cents.  Usually the “ice-ball” cut into equal half  to share with a friend and each paid 5 cents to slurp (very ‘shiok’) to quench our thirst.

Last week, my Facebook friend, Geraldine Soh posted a picture of the Green Spot “pok chwee” (aerated water).  She is the creator of the “Singapore Memorabilia” group on Facebook.  We are both heritage friends and fans.

In response, I wrote: “Hi Geri, you remember the pix of Green Spot you shared recently? This one show how most ppl drink with a straw from the bottle, not from the glass 🙂

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When former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew toured one of the kampongs in Singapore during the 1960s, this villager offered him to “lim pok chwee” to drink directly from the bottle with a straw.  Ways done in the past ….. but no longer practice this way now.

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