Does a Vacuum Flask Need to See a Doctor?

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The founder of “Flask Hospital”, Wong Kim-ngok, a Shunde Chinese, set up a shop called Wong Kim (literally means gold) on Shanghai Street after the Second World War selling military caps and towels among other items. After the Japanese military invasion in December 1941, in light of the drop of purchase order of military caps, the shop transformed its business to wholesale and repair of vacuum flasks, thus renaming the shop as “Flask Hospital”.

Outside the “Flask Hospital” at the shop front there was a large vacuum flask around four feet tall which used to draw customers. An advertising slogan “keeps water hot” was painted in red on the flask. It was at a time when Hong Kong often experienced water rationing, so Wong filled the large flask with water for staff to bathe. During hot weather, he also filled the flask with five-flowered tea, so that neighbours passing by could enjoy a free cup of herbal tea to cool down.

At the outset, vacuum flasks mostly imported from Europe and shipped in via Shanghai were beyond average budget. Each flask costed around $30 at a time when the average monthly salary was only $100, thus the purchasers were usually foreigners. People tended to just use earthenware teapots in rattan holders at that time. As Hong Kong became more prosperous, “Flask Hospital” saw its boosting business particularly during the 60s and 70s. After that, it gradually waned as more people turned to having kettles at home. “Flask Hospital” ended its business in 2011.