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Sep 12, 2013

Bread for Thought - Bakemanship

Courtesy of the National Library Board and Singapore Press Holdings

This 42-year-old newsclip from The Sunday Times dated 15 August 1971 with the archived photo from NewspaperSG re-posted on the blog here:

SINGAPORE, Sat. -  Master baker Wong Hong Guan was today still recovering from the shower of congratulations he has received for the past week.

All the praise and back-slapping were, of course, for his excellent bakemanship.

Mr Wong, 58, who has been baking for 35 years without any fuss, suddenly came into the limelight after the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said in his National Day eve speech that one of the best bakeries in Singapore was at Changi.

Hai Suan Bakery, where Mr Wong works is the only bakery in Changi village.

(There is another one - Sin Sin Bakery - in Upper Changi Road, whose officials were not available for comment today).

"I only hope that the Prime Minister was referring to our bakery," said Mr Wong.

But the bakery owner, Mr Peter Foo, has no doubt at all.

He said:  "We supply almost all the bread for Changi area, including the Services families and the Government bungalow where Mr Lee usually lives when he is here."

 Big problem

But despite all the praise from his customers, Mr Foo has a big problem - how to sell his bread.

For by October, almost all the Services families in the area and in Tengah and Seletar - he supplies bread there too - would have gone.

To make up for this loss, he is hoping that the big hotels and the coffee houses would place orders with his bakery.

In addition to the family business bakery, Mr Foo also runs the base's angling club and the golf (typo error published as 'gold') club.

 "Besides the business turnover I am also worried about the fate of the 40-odd workers I employ at these establishments," he said.
I read this dated news four decades ago between the lines with amusement.

At no time was the Prime Minister's message mentioned the name of  his favourite bakery in Changi.

However, the Straits Times resourceful investigative journalist, R. Chandran, traced the bakery of Hai Suan Bakery in Changi, Singapore to interview the owner, Mr Peter Foo and Master baker, Mr Wong Heng Guan to file the newspaper report the following week.

In his message on National Day eve on 8 August 1971, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was not speaking about "bread talk" and did not elaborate or recommend the bakery of his preference or his good taste for bread.  Not an intentional 'foodie advertisement', but it does help Mr Foo in some ways in the business' publicity though..

According to The Straits Times on 9 August 1971 by Cheong Yip Seng,

The Prime Minister sounded a note of cautious optimism in his sixth National Day broadcast tonight.

Though all salient economic indicators have been showing growth there must be no complacency, according to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

The Prime Minister called for a spurt in the remaining months of the year - an extra effort to cushion the firm impact on Singapore's economy that completion of the accelerated run-down of the British bases would have in the next few months.
An excerpt of the speeches by the Prime Minister as described about the bread and bakery:

[... Recently, I visited the constituencies which are feeling the effects of the British forces - Sembawang, Nee Soon, Jalan Kayu and Changi.

Base employees will have their redundancy figures from 1968, over 30 per cent of them are likely to leave Singapore.   For those who have their roots in Singapore, we will help find other jobs.

Then there are the shopkeepers and others catering to the Service families.  They have to make adjustments.  One of the best bakeries in Singapore is in Changi.

Who will eat all the bread and cakes they bake in Changi after 1971?  Some have savings, and are enterprising enough to start new ventures.  Some are like the bakery owner who has several other bakeries elsewhere.  We will help them adjust their business].

There were not many bakeries in Singapore three decades ago.

However, bakery business have flourished everywhere in Singapore today, to cater to the taste and preference of every individual customers.

Next time when we put breads on the table at home and shared our breakfast with the children, please have a chat and "bread talk" to tell them about "one of the best of the bakeries in Changi" in former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's 6th National Day 1971 message 42 years ago.

The younger generations of Singaporeans will learn the national education lessons of the tumultuous periods of early Singapore's path to independence of our nation, the experiences of our founding fathers to build and develop modern Singapore over the decades.



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