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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Mar 12, 2012

Cathay Building Singapore Revisited

The Cathay Building in 1950.

Cathay Building, Singapore re-visited on 7 March, 2012.

While the main structure of the Cathay Building has been demolished to make way for the development of The Cathay, the front façade has been preserved and gazetted as a national monument.

Cathay Building, Singapore in 1963 the "Blue Hawaii" movie screening at Cathay Cinema.

With the courtesy of kpeppw who uploaded Blue Hawaii to YouTube on May 9, 2009 for our enjoyment and remembrance of one and only Elvis Presley in the world, ever. With Love from all Elvis Presley fans!

Same Place. Different Times. Different Experiences.

At a recent "kopitalk session" with my retired buddies and former classmates, I dragged them from their mahjong games, golf games, social dancing classes, childcare chores for grandchildren, talking nonsense with nothing to think about or sleep for hours for a whole favorite hobby too, I invited them an afternoon of quality free time to spend with me to learn about the newly launched Singapore Memory portal website.

When I mentioned them that I had made a memory trip alone to the Orchard Road areas, like a tourist with unguided tour, at my own time, own pace to go wherever I like at my own freedom to loiter around some long forgotten, familiar places in Singapore.

Its a hassle to be rushed by a tour guide and even going to the loo is timed. I don't like to follow a itinerary on a guided tour, to be rushed and herded like a flock of inquisitive sheeps for sightseeing, eat, drink or when to visit the restroom...

With apologies to my friends and fellow travellers, I have no intention to offend anyone with your ways to travel...whether cycling, sailing, hiking, a great way to fly or whatever modes of transportation. I just blog to express to think aloud and speak for myself only. With due respect, my friends on blogosphere.

I like to walk around by myself, to learn interesting things to observe, to explore, to look at the sky with nostalgic memories while still awake. Walking is good for the health, doctor says!

I prefer to travel on a "free and easy" trip in Singapore and walk down memory lane of the past or to create new ones for my personal memories. I am a "Lone Ranger Traveller" by nature and enjoy and study the beauty of Mother Nature, creatures of big and small, places, buildings, monuments, museums and of course people. Yes, people is the greatest creation of Mother Nature. Every individual an unique one. No two people are the same. Me too!

To cut a long story short...长话小说! I volunteered to blog about my revisit to Cathay Building (国泰大厦) at 2 Handy Road, Singapore.

It was opened in 1939 by Dato Loke Wan Tho as the headquarters for the British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation. Cathay Building was most known for its air-conditioned theatre, then a technological marvel and the first to be built in Singapore. Cathay Building is also the first and tallest skyscraper not only in Singapore but also in South-East Asia. Height of 79.5 metres.

Here goes the photo journey from photos I have taken and to curate the archived photos with credit to the National Archives of Singapore. With acknowledgement and thanks to NAS.

Opened on 3 October 1939 as Cathay Building, with a 1,300-seat Cathay Cinema, and the tower block as Cathay Hotel, it was the island's first air-conditioned cinema and public building, and where one could sit in an arm chair to watch a film, which was rare in those days.

"It's Always Fair Weather" screened at Cathay Cinema in 1950..."man-made fair weather" with air-conditioning for the audience to watch the movie in comfort.

Cathay Building

Going to Cathay Cinema to travel in fashionable style...on a rickshaw in 1945!

The National Heritage Board plaques designed as an opened book, one page on each side and the sculpture placed outside the Cathay Building. The inscriptions on the plague indicated as "Japanese Propaganda Department Headquarters".

For more information, please check it out from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia here .

The Cathay Building was temporarily suspended, not demolished after the Japanese surrender in 1945. It was almost a ghost-town during that sad period of doom in Singapore.

With the confidence, "never say die" spirit of the peoples in a rugged society to persevere and strive to work together for stability, peace, harmony and prosperous as a vibrant nation for everyone.

Cathay Building in 1946.

Cathay Cinema back in business and normal life of daily routine returned to Singapore after the Japanese Occupation.

View of Raffles Museum with Cathay Building in the background in 1950.

Notice Boards displayed at Cathay Building premises in 1953 to caution the pedestrians.

Cathay Building decorated for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Cathay Building in the background. Looking down from Pavilion Theatre and Cold Storage Singapore in 1957.

I remember my first visit to Pavilion Theatre in 1956 when my sister's friend Mary Sim, helped me in English Language tuitions for free at her house thrice a week from 7.00 pm to 9.30 pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Mary gave me and my elder sister to a movie treat as a reward for my top marks in the class examinations. The movie, "Mother India". It was also the first time to watch the midnight movie in Mary's car, a great childhood experience at Bukit Ho Swee.

I could only remember the movie title, but with the help of Google, my memories recalled from the Internet, how wonderful!

Mother India (Hindi: मदर इण्डिया, Urdu: مدر انڈیا) is a 1957 Hindi film epic, written and directed by Mehboob Khan and starring Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar and Raaj Kumar. The film, a melodrama, is a remake of Mehboob Khan's earlier film, Aurat (1940). It is the story of a poverty-stricken village woman named Radha who, amid many other trials and tribulations, struggles to raise her sons and survive against an evil money-lender. Despite her hardship, she sets a goddess-like moral example of what it means to be an Indian woman, yet kills her own criminal son at the end for the greater moral good. She represents India as a nation in the aftermath of independence.

Cathay Building in 1960.

Three space fantasy characters from the long-awaited money spinning film, Star Wars, had this young girl bolting off with lightning speed and coming close to tears at the Cathay Cinema ticket booth in 1978. Straits Times photographer snapped this candid shot seconds before she fled chewing her fingernails and screaming. The three out of this world characters who scared the wits out of this young girl were (from right), Darth Vader, The Dark Lord of Sith, C-3PO, a robot and Chewbacca, the 100-year old wookie. (Description from source: National Archives of Singapore).

Cathay Building at night in 1960.

Cathay Building at night in 1972. Did you notice the Tiger Beer advertisement billboard on the wall? - "Time to relax. Time for a Tiger". Cool...

The Cathay Cinema advertisement in the 1950s.

Cathay Organisation's slogan as advertised in the 1950s.


Cathay Restaurant - An Era Past

The Cathay Restaurant was not a Chinese restaurant when it first opened in 1940. In fact, it served European fare.

The whimsical revival of the most popular Chinese restaurant in Singapore of an era past with promises of an inimitable gastronomic delight of the present.

The fame and reputation of Cathay Restaurant reached new heights in 1951 when it was renovated and re-opened to serve Chinese food. It was at that time Singapore's finest Chinese restaurant, specializing in Cantonese and Shanghainese cuisine.

The ambience of the restaurant was a combination of Eastern and Western influences. There was a bar which served up exotic cocktails, a dance floor and a resident band which would entertain every night with popular Chinese songstresses such as Ruby Wah in attendance.

As the first few top restaurants in Singapore in the 1950s, Cathay Restaurant was the most popular restaurant to serve businessmen, visitors and "Very Important Customers" (VIC) who attended company annual functions, events and conferences. Grand birthday parties, wedding receptions and trade product publicity launches.

A speech by former Minister Mentor (then Prime Minister)Lee Kuan Yew at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce Dinner at Cathay Restaurant on 30 July, 1963.

Some light moments with the invited VIP guests during the Chinese Chamber of Commerce Dinner at Cathay Restaurant on 30 July, 1963.

Former Minister Mentor(then Prime Minister) Lee Kuan Yew at the Chinese Teachers Union Dinner at Cathay Restaurant on 18 November, 1963.

The former Minister for Culture S. Rajaratnam at a luncheon talk hosted by the Singapore National Union of Journalists at the Cathay Restaurant on 20 February, 1964.

Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station under construction in 1985.

The Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station was completed and opened the North East Line on 20 June 2003.

View from the Top - Changing skyline of Singapore

Singapore in 1945

Singapore in 1946

Singapore in 1968

Singapore in 1974

Singapore in 1975

The revamped and renovated Cathay Building was officially opened on 23 March, 2006.

Cathay Building, Singapore in March, 2012

Fellow nostalgia friends and movie fans are cordially invited to visit Singapore Memory portal website to revisit Cathay Cinema "virtually" at the comfort of your own home or anywhere, anytime with iPad, computer notebook or any online Internet devices to share your Singapore Memories for yourself and for everyone.



Blogger lim said...

I think it was with great reluctance by the owner of Cathay building to have received the news that its building would be gazetted as a heritage building. The value of its property would plummet as a result, and the scope of redevelopment would be severely limited. Herein lies the dilemma faced by developer. How the developer takes advantage of the heritage character of the building will determine its success. I don't think the present Cathay building is a success story.

March 13, 2012 at 10:32 AM  

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