Event companies in the 60s took advantage of festive occasions and organised socials to attract the merry-makers. These dance parties would usually be held at prominent hotels like the Adelphi or Ambassador and at popular venues like the Victoria Memorial Hall which had a fairly large floor for dancing.
Go-getters attended these functions to sweat the night to the beat of the top bands in town. During a 65 weekend there was always a party going on somewhere on the island. Singers, bands and dancers were glad to perform at such venues for publicity and sometimes for the generous renumeration.
Organisers would only approach prominent companies that were able to sponsor them because the overheads could be high. In 60s Singapore when smokers had more freedom to puff their stuff cigarette distributors were ever so willing to pay big money to advertise their product at such functions.
The particular event above (image) was one such example and mainly sponsored by a cigarette company. Besides the promotion in the newspapers, long and huge banners would be hanging in the dance hall. Possibly free cigarettes would be distributed throughout the evening and cartons given out as floor prizes. In the Easter Ball discussed, Edinburgh Cigarette Company was the main sponsor. I searched the web but could not find the group's website although I found the advertisement (image left) in the Straits Times newspaper. I am wondering if the company is still in existence. Anyone?
Those years there were many brands on sale in the Singapore market. I remember Matterhorn, Lucky Strike, Consulate, Capstan and Players cigarettes very well. These companies did everything they could in the media to promote their product. One such company, famous Camels, raised eyebrows and sent smoke signals.
In the 50s and possibly the early 60s, one of the most infamous cigarette advertising slogans was associated with this brand of cigarette: “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” Apparently the advertisement began in 1946 and ran for some years in magazines and on the radio (image right).
And the pitch they used? “Family physicians, surgeons, diagnosticians, nose and throat specialists, doctors in every branch of medicine… a total of 113,597 doctors… were asked the question: ‘What cigarette do you smoke?’ And more of them named Camel as their smoke than any other cigarette!"
Cigarettes or otherwise the Grand Easter Ball featured a number of guest stars who were popular in the 60s. The advertisement is revealing since it also published the places one could buy the evening's tickets from.
Singapore had no SISTIC outlet then but equivalents like Winston's Arcade, Robinson's, etc. were around Collyer Quay in the business district while Katong Flower Shop was in the East Coast near the old Tay Buan Guan and Roxy Cinema. But most enthusiasts bought their last minute tickets at the door. Three bucks for a show and dance. Now it's $300/00.
The two bands, Les Kafilas and Bateks (image above left) were there to relieve The Silver Strings and were known as guest bands. Siva and James Choy or Cyclones (image right) had a large following and these supporters would have been there that evening.
If I am not mistaken Veronica Young (image left) had just joined the Strings. She is also known as Singapore's Millie Small, having won the competition held at the Great World Sky Cinema accompanied by the group. I was actively fronting the Strings during this season.
Images: from The Straits Times newspapers, websites on cigarettes and private collection.