In the ’50s and ’60s, there was hardly any palm oil plantation (maybe none at all) but we sure had many very neat and tidy forests, a la our rubber plantations. The rubber trees (Hevea Brasiliensis) were grown in neat rows and were favourite playgrounds for children then. Somehow conditions seemed so much safer then, and parents did not care that the children routinely ran into rubber estates to play.
The mature rubber trees bear flowers and hence seeds once or twice a year (I forgot. Does anyone remember?) and gave rise to the seasonal “fighting rubber seeds” game. The idea was to find a seed that could outlast any other seed when squeezed together. The two competing seeds were held in the palms of your hands and squeezed together using your thighs for leverage. The one that cracked and broke, lost. It’s somewhat like the British children’s game of conkers using the horse chestnuts to “battle”, except in conkers, the horse chestnuts are threaded and then swung at each other, while the rubber seeds are actually squashed together until one broke. How do I know about “conkers”? From Beano, Dandy, Topper….children’s comics of that period!
The rubber seeds were picked from the rubber estates (it seemed as if there was always a rubber estate near wherever you lived). I recall a rich variety of seeds; there were large ones, small ones; generally rectangular but there were also triangular ones. Generally, the smaller seeds were the tougher ones. We would break an unwanted seed to use its core to rub and polish the favoured seed until it had a wine red sheen. Then it was time to do battle. There were cheats, of course. A common method was to make a small hole at the top and to squeeze in additonal core material to compact the interior of the “fighter seed”. That way, it would not break so easily. A more insidious way was to pump glue into the fighter seed. The “super glue” (cyanoacrylate adhesive) was not available at that time, but even the ordinary glue was enough to give an unfair advantage. Great care had be taken to ensure that the hole was well disguised so that the opponent did not know.
Another simple game of the baby boomers. They were all seasonal games. A time for “Kotak”, a time for “Rubber Seeds”, a time for “Kites”, a time for “Marbles”. Do you remember?
Header photo of a “rubber estate” and photo of a tree being tapped for latex were taken by Wang Sun Chan at the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia, 17-Feb-2014.
The photo of the rubber seeds is taken from Wikipedia, reproduced here under the Creative Commons Licence.