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The Weird and the Wonderful Sri Lanka of 1969

Stumbling upon a diary printed and distributed by Richard & Co., which gave the address of P.O BOX 851, Colombo followed by a phone number of 25981, we at Roar were blown away by the information it contained. More than the party that wrote in the diary itself, the first few pages of facts and figures really intrigued us, especially when it came to currency exchange, postal fees and the good old annual holidays.


Here are some of the snippets that made us want to go back in time:

The Phone Number

With a number like 25981, how easy would it be to remember your entire contact book? No more looking at your phone and counting numbers to check if you have ten whole digits or how many ‘7’s you’ve typed at the beginning. You could also call the Police on 3333, Fire on 22222 or the Ambulance on 23157.

Postal Information

We’d all go back to the ’60s if sending a letter only cost 10 cents. And a postcard for 5 cents? Yes, please!


Send your loved ones abroad goodies every week since a 22lb parcel to the United Kingdom cost only Rs. 16.50, which is actually cheaper than spending Rs. 27.25 to post a package to America.

Exchange rates

Imagine all you could buy if the US$ is worth Rs. 5.9475 and the GBP is Rs. 14.3417. How in the world did we reach almost 16 times that value?



It seems Sri Lanka was living by a whole different calendar than the rest of the world when it came to public holidays. The usual two-day weekend was not a privilege that Sri Lankans recognised. According to a banker at the time, it was a huge issue when it came to dealing with other countries, as Sri Lanka would have a full-on work day on Saturday, while Americans would be throwing a BBQ. We did, however, make up for those Saturdays spent working, with a long list of other public holidays:


There were 16 public holidays in Ceylonese times, varying from National Heroes’ Day (1st Jan) and Independence Day (4th Feb) to Easter Sunday and Christmas. These are the norms we still see in the calendar.

However, there is an entire section dedicated to ‘Poya Holidays for 1969’. Each month the folks of Sri Lanka would have roughly 4 – 5 Poya holidays. We couldn’t comprehend how they decided which days to have a ‘Poya’, but for example, in the month of December, the 1st, 8th, 16th, 23rd and 30th were declared Poya holidays.

Have a look here:



The diary also contains useful and equally startling information on:

– The cost of a telegram, which varied between 20 cents to send Rs. 25.

– Measuring units – that hasn’t changed over time, luckily.

– Stamp duties – Rs. 5 to register a business? Come on!


The Income tax table shows that if you earned less than Rs. 4,500, you were free from tax payments.


The diary also has some pro tips on how to protect your ‘crop’ against ‘injurious organism and weeds’ and the recommended pesticides.


We’ve also included some adverts that appeared in the middle pages, because well, we can, and we should.



Feature Image Credit: Bruce Thomas

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