60 years ago in Burma
I’ve obtained a copy of the BURMA ECHO, published on 9. June 1962. About three months before Ne Win had staged his coup d’etat and – rather contrary to last year the whole thing went quite smoothly. Life in Rangoon went on like before. Horse races at Kyaikkasan Grounds were still popular – just to be banned not much later. You might remember Harry’s article a few weeks ago. Prices like the The Dwarf Plate and the Rangoon Maiden Plate were given to the lucky winners. You could even find the tips at a glance.
Hitchcock’s sensational movie PSYCHO had just hit the screens worldwide. In Rangoon the privilege of screening it went to the New Excelsior Cinema – does anybody know where that was? I don’t! There were 4 shows daily and even 5 on Sunday. I guess you could buy the tickets right at the box office and didn’t have to contact a black marketeer as was the rule later.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was just brewing up and many of us thought that the world might come to an end soon. I remember how frightened my parents were. WW II had ended just 17 years before and my family lived in Germany’s major naval base. Certainly not a place you’d like to be in a situation like that. Everybody was stocking up on canned food, noodles etc. Fortunately the (long defunct) Soviet Union backed down and WW III didn’t happen. Those days there were still many war time ruins in my hometown where children used to play. War cripples were a common sight while the German ‘economic miracle’ was in full swing. I guess in a neutral country like Burma people were not as much concerned as we were in Germany. In Rangoon people attended Monica’s School of Dancing in 488 Theinbyu Road, and transistors started to replace radio valves. In the Burma Echo I found an article about computers that were about to be developed. At the MTI they were working on a supercomputer that would do half a million sums a second – fifty times more than the ones in use at the beginning of the 1960’s. Today my laptop does about 3.5 billion if I’m not mistaken.
Skoda and Moskvitch cars were competing with British and American ones. Newspapers cost 25 pya. I actually remember that pya coins were still in use in the 1970’s. My friend Victor told me that his monthly salary in Smart & Mukandon’s* bookshop was 45 K per month. He gave 25 K to his parents and kept the rest for himself. Once a month he’d splurge out, grease his hair with Honey Bouquet hair oil and go to the movies. Those were the days …
* it was located in the upper block between Sule Pagoda Rd. and 32nd Street. The entire block has been razed to make way for the Sule Shangri La or better: Traders Hotel)