I too wanted to open a bank account, grow my money and buy a television set for Mother. But Mother said I had to first study hard, top the class, find a good job and then I can make money. It all seemed too far into the future and too much of everything.

(Ghost Writer: Hmmm…stirrings of the instant coffee culture)

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*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2011 ***



  1. That was incredibly enterprising. I lack the entrepreneurial instinct. One time I thought I had found a business idea. A neighbor in Texas let it be known to the children around there that he would pay 5 cents for each living horned toad we brought him. Horned toads were ugly, fierce looking little lizards about three inches long that ate bugs, particularly ants, that harmed the gardens there. They were harmless to people, and kids would sometimes catch them to play with. I thought I would catch a bunch and my candy supply would be assured. But they were fast little lizards, and a kid had to be pretty quick to catch even one. Needless to say, my wealth did not grow and I soon grew discouraged with the business.
    I did have two actual jobs as a kid when I was twelve and thirteen because our family was in bad financial shape, and all my earnings went to support the family. One of those jobs was a truly terrible thing that I will describe on my blog someday at length. The other was just hard: a paper route. I had to carry the evening newspapers to subscribers around the town. I remember the route I walked as being horribly long and the newspapers as being horribly heavy. The Sunday papers were larger than the other days papers and I could only carry half of them at a time. I am sure my memory exaggerates the difficulty. The biggest hardship seemed to me that I had to do it Saturday afternoons when most other kids were enjoying a day off from school.

    1. Unfortunately, back in the 1960s Singapore there were no jobs for kids – whatever was available (even part time work) was grabbed by adults as unemployment was widespread. Newspaper delivery was handled by men under the ‘protection’ of petty gangsters.

      1. That is amazing that something like newspaper delivery was handled by gangsters. A real sign of hardship. Full time jobs of course are hard to find up here, for children and even for many adults who do get employment. My daughter Roseanna has lined up three part time jobs for the summer that mesh together well, but her ease in finding them is due to connections, knowing people who work in those places. A person with no contacts can be left out, whatever ability of diligence they may have. One local college here even advertises that they are best, not because of their superior education, but because they can provide their graduates with good contacts.

  2. A child willing to walk through pig and human wastelands? Yes, very determined.

    The story reminds me of my siblings and I selling empty soda cans to the recycle center in the grocery store. We didn’t have entrepreneurial intentions though. We just wanted enough dollars to buy the junk food our mother denied us.

    1. Hello Elle, I am amazed at how much in common our childhoods were – Asia and the West. Hope you and your siblings had a longer success than Mechanic Leigh 🙂

  3. I remembered selling Guiness Stout bottles to ‘karang gunny man’. I can’t remember how much they were sold for. I can only remember big bottles fetched more money than small bottles. It always amazed me to see the karang gunny man tying together 24 bottles of the same size with a single rope.

  4. Oh those memorable soft drinks in glass bottles and not plastic bottles. They are to be savored as you only get to either drink the remainder from what you serve the guests or once in a long while when mum allows it.
    Cheers to SinCheena Jones for his get rich fast attempt. Desperate circumstances requires desperate moves.

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