1940s HK Telephone Building

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 21:08
Date picture taken
1 Dec 1949


Submitted by
vanessa (not verified)
Tue, 03/02/2010 - 19:36

the top of this building, aka the penthouse, was living quarters for a school friend of mine in the 60-70s.  as kids the boys (plus nameless other juvies in crime) used to lob eggs, tomatoes and other rotting fruit across the road to target the corrugated tin roof of the shack (in plain view) which sold refreshments in kowloon park.  at ground floor level there was whiteaway's department store - one of two places mothers could (unfortunately) buy clark's school shoes for their children. one of the features of the store was an overhead pulley system for the assistant to send payment to the cashier sat on high presiding in a wooden pulpit affair....bizarre

There was a stationary store in Central, too, that ran their money the same way.  A wire ran overhead from the sales clerk, along which the package of money and sales receipt flew at a measured pace.  It was my first look at basic mechanical engineering.  It made a click and hum noise as the money went in, and then the facination as it came out again to the sales clerk. The ceiling was a maze of these wires, and I considered it a real treat to be allowed on those shopping trips.

Surely there is a movie with such a scene in it . ?


Hi there,

If it is a shop in Central nowadays that you are talking about, shouldn't it be the Central store of Eu Yan Sang instead?  Yes, it's the same Eu family.

Anyway, as far as I could recall, many local stores used these system in the 1960's or before.

Best Regards,


this system was used in most stationery shops and some emporiums in different ways - coin transactions were done over the counter, some only pegged notes on to the wire which made a 'ding ding' sound before disappearing back stage....  the one in whiteaways was spectacular however, like a victorian court scene dark and intimidating - only missing the robes and wig on the cashier.  pity we didn't use to take photos of daily ocurrences in those days

Annelise, you mentioned about the stationery shop in Central.

It has been a long time but I vaguely remember there was one that had the pulley system either in the former Man Yee Building or perhaps it was the Che San Stationery Shop on Pottinger St?

The pulley and basket system was great as one did not have to go to the cashier to pay the bill!

I remember the stationary shop being near Swindon Books just down Des Voeux Rd a bit - closer to Wing On.  We went there once a year to get our school supplies, and it was there that my Mum told me (circa 1967)  that in America you ALWAYS ask for an eraser - but never told me why a 13 year old girl like me should never ask for a rubber in San Fracnisco.  She told me this while I was mesmerized by the "cash railways" as David has cleverly found out their name is.

Do i correctly remember that Swindon has always been in that basement for lo these many decades ?

Wasn't the basement bookshop called the British Bookshop for a long time opposite the old Wing On department store? It was there in 1966 and is still there today, but I must admit not looking at its name these days. There was a big stationary store further down towards the present Sincere/Wing On stores of the type reminiscent of the one still at the lower end of Stanley Street. ie full to the brim of goods creating a cave inside and overflowing into the street. IDJ


i seem to recall swindon's being a kowloon monopoly with the main lock road store, branch in ocean terminal and stationery store in mirador mansions.  (they even had a permanent stock of adopted school books in the kgv school shop/tuck shop)  the basement bookshop that i remember on des voeux road was the hong kong book centre - good for those cliff's study notes that swindon's didn't stock - apparently dissuaded by the schools

very interesting to see that those businesses have now joined forces - in the 70s they were very different companies.  kelly and walsh was the 'new kid on the block' with a shop in princes building (or one of those with the recently inaugurated walkways in central).  i was published in the star newspaper (phone interview in 73 after a letter to the editor) when questioning the price-differences on imported books - the ymca was the least expensive place in town but had a lighter selection.  in those days i wrote to the papers almost every week, hoping to become a famous journalist!! i later worked in publishing - sales and marketing -  for 20 years (albeit not in asia)  and now know so much more about the 'book pound' and pricing issues so as to be far more prudent when making statements!  will source the clip and upload - it's hilarious!!

thanks for posting that annelisec  - i do, however, recall going to the inauguration of this 'new' bookshop in  very early 70s with my dad - crossed the star ferry and all.  perhaps a new strand to their bow of  existing endeavours?  was bought a paperback every friday for years but don't think dad and i went back to kelly and walsh together after that one go but then we were just kowloonies......

Obviously a latecomer to the discussion here.  I do remember seeing impromptu cash railway systems into the 1980s, in Hong Kong and in Macau.  However, the ones I saw were not as elaborate and well-built as shown in the pictures.  Instead, I remember very well a local down-to-earth fruit store in Central had nylon ropes up the top, an elastic band kind of thing tying a Red-A bucket to it, and staff would put cash in it and then pull on the string manually to the cashier.  The change would then come back not because there was a receipt detailing the transaction, but because the salesperson would shout out the amount of change needed. 

Does that count as a cash railway?  Cash ropeway perhaps?