Split Lanes

3  Transport

Until mid 1935 the middle class, or at least the lower ranks of the middle class, rarely owned a car. And if they did, it would have a 6 volt battery during those pre-war years (1930-1942), which, if it was low, meant the engine had to be started up using a crank. In order to save money, people would do maintenance and repairs themselves. An adjustable spanner and a couple of screwdrivers were generally sufficient to take care of minor maintenance and repairs.


Tuning of the engine was done by ear! Cars still came with 6 volt batteries even until long after World War II actually. People easily spent hours on the maintenance of their car. Especially if the car got a lot of use. Every 1500 km the engine oil needed changing, rotating parts needed greasing and the spark plugs’ contact points had to be adjusted. In addition, the cooling water level needed to be checked regularly and the battery had to be topped up with distilled water when necessary.
Old cars
Old cars

Those who did own a car were in fact the driver and the mechanic at the same time. Particularly drivers/owners of a van or truck would have their work cut out for them. From 1938 onwards, when the number of cars had somewhat increased, some truly ‘technical miracles’ were performed. If need be the engine was kept together and running with bits of wire. If the cylinder head was completely worn out, it wasn’t the end of the world; it meant a visit to a used car dump to get a suitable and fitting part. It didn’t really matter if the thread didn’t match, people would tap a new thread themselves if required. That way, using second hand parts of various makes, people generally managed to keep the engine going. Unlike in Europe, people didn’t need to worry about something called ‘labour costs’. On the corner of just about every street, businesses could be found where they would fix things in no time while this would cost next to nothing.

Two East Indian families having a short break
Two Dutch East Indian families having a short break

Cost of Petrol

Petrol cost no more than ten cents per litre - which of course was a lot back then - and filling up the tank went like this: at the petrol pump, a bar or handle had to be moved up and down in order to fill a five litre glass reservoir with petrol, the content of which was then siphoned into your fuel tank via a hose. This procedure had to be repeated for the next five litres. Obviously even in the major cities in the Indies there was hardly any motorised traffic back in the thirties and the word ‘traffic jam’ didn’t exist yet.

The rujak manis saleswoman

 Selling rujak manis Rujak manis is generally made from cut up pieces of half ripe mango, pineapple, bangkoan, jambu aer, pawpaw, jeruk Bali and ketimun (cucumber). This is covered with a sweet, spicy gula jawa sauce made from the sugar palm.

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