When was the last time we used matches or seen a matchbox around the house or anywhere today?
Before the coming of the gas lighter, everyone depended on these wooden sticks with a phosphorous head to make fire. Up until the enforcement of the smoking ban in airplanes, entertainment and public places, matchboxes were the most commonly available items that assume prime space on tabletops.
A matchbox was a great and convenient form of advertising – airlines and hotels put their logos on it; restaurants and clubs print their names, addresses or maps so you would be reminded to patronize again. Like any advertisement, the designs of these matchboxes can be quite remarkable and look like miniature artworks.
Today, these matchboxes are collectible items as the production and sometimes the establishments have ceased to exist. There is a name for everything and the hobby of collecting matchboxes is known as phillumeny. The largest collection in the Guinness Book of World Records is held by Japan’s Teiichi Yoshizawa who owned 700,000 different matchbox labels.
I am not a phillumenist or lover of light, but I do have a carton full of matchboxes. Unlike my brothers and their friends when they were kids, I did not collect them to keep insects and other weird things that pop out when you try to see what’s inside.
My matchboxes were special souvenirs to take home from places I’d been with friends when I first started work. These boxes bring back memories of the times, places and who I was with. It’s like looking at a photograph, actually more like replaying a video that I can visualize the scene from the past complete with lights, music, voices, laughter, and of course smoke everywhere.
There is a particular matchbox in my collection that stirs strong emotions whenever I look at it. It has the words 喜喜 representing double happiness prominently printed in yellow against a red background. Probably designed to make it easy to find, these humble matches were the most widely used brand in Singapore and I believe every household had them in the kitchen at one time.
This ordinary matchbox was used by my late parents and was the one thing that was always found at home all the time. As far as I can recall the Double Happiness matches never run out and if they do, we could always borrow some from our neighbours as they would from us when the need arose.
Life was as simple as that. We give and take.There was Double Happiness in every home.