In the mid-20th century, tuberculosis and infant mortality were rampant in Singapore. People sought comfort in the magic of supplements, ointments and foreign remedies. One of such remedies was the liquid vitamin — Scott’s Emulsion.
Despite its foul taste, Scott’s Emulsion managed to worm its way into the hearts of Singaporeans, entering the subconscious of many households.
Advertisements were mainly targeted at mothers as they would feed Scott's Emulsion to their children to boost their immunity.
My mother still fondly remembers the jingle of the commercial from the 1980s.
Like the child on the commercial, she sang the mandarin tune, “司各脱鳘鱼肝油陪伴我一起成长” (Scott’s Cod Liver Oil follows me as I grow).
Maybe this is what inspired her to raise me with Scott's Emulsion.
I remember up until I was 12 years old, drinking a tablespoon of Scott’s Emulsion was my twice daily ritual.
With a slew of toys, bottles and even a mascot, Scott’s has become a brand synonymous with children’s health. But ask anyone who grew up with Scott’s Emulsion, and they will most likely tell you:
“My mother made me drink it.”
“I don’t really know if there are any benefits, but I drank it anyway.”
These are some of the things my friends have told me about their experiences with Scott’s Emulsion.
Despite not knowing the real benefits of Scott’s Emulsion, its existence is actively present in the memories of many. And as I wander around supermarkets, I still see young mothers pick it off the shelves, raising a new generation of children growing up with it.
Walking down the streets of Bugis, I chanced upon a small flea market with some booths of local artists selling their crafts. I was shocked to see stickers of the iconic Scott’s Emulsion man with a fish on his back.
In that moment, I was hit with an immense wave of nostalgia.
Although a mundane, and some might even say insignificant, part of many Singaporean households, the collective memory of Scott’s Emulsion remains. Even 150 years after his arrival, it seems that the man with a fish on his back has yet to retire.