Blog To Express

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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

May 30, 2010

Childhood Days in Singapore

This photo Derek looking very happy as a boy in Singapore.
Photo Credit: Derek Tait

Derek Tait left his heart in Singapore since four decades ago when he returned to the United Kingdom with his father, a British Navy officer here in the 1960s.

The treasure chest of old Singapore photos which Derek brought home are alive today and he had shared these precious photos everywhere on the Internet. Just do a Google or other search engines on the Internet for "old Singapore photos" and we can be sure that many old photos of Derek are found. He doesn't care whether his photo credit are acknowledged or just found anonymously in the public domain without names untraced.

How many more saved by Derek, while the hundreds and thousands of memorable photos were lost one way or another, accidentally or otherwise, to save storage spaces, thrown during annual "spring cleaning" or fed to the silverfishes in the personal photo albums of private individuals.

The memories of Derek's "Singapore's 1960s" photos are inspired by many bloggers in Singapore and enriched their own personal memories of Singapore "nong nong ago" for reminiscence and posterity.

Derek's "To Singapore, With Love" as appeared in TODAY.

With his penchant for anamnesis precision to recollect the memories of his childhood days in Singapore, Derek is the fervent writer of "Memories of Singapore and Malaya", "Sampans, Banyams and Rambutans", "More Memories of Singapore and Malaya" and more published books soon.

At a time when Singapore was mostly kampongs and slums, toys were make-do improvisations for childhood days in Singapore. Nowadays, young children could explore for themselves Fun with Nature and Pasir Ris Kids Kampong about "longkang" fishing.

Following a previous blog about the "memories aid" for old photos, blogs and written articles, diaries to remember nostalgic memories, there are many art forms and multimedia channels expressed in painting, music, poems, dance, cartoon and caricacture. These are oral or written heritage and history which every individual experience and express; including those with visualisation to express.

The gifted talent of painting could preserve the memories if a camera as a common "memory aid" is not available. The human brain has the dexterity and artistic skills compared to the functions of a camera and artificial intelligence.

The Singaporean artists with paintings as "memory aid" are featured below:

Marcus Lim (林国安), an award-winning historian painter with his statement at The Art of Marcus Lim website.

[While the rest of the world advances with time, my work on Singapore heritage takes me otherwise. With every crumble and erosion of a pre-war building, landscape or item that once belonged to Singapore's illustrious past, we lose a big part of our identity.

My quest is not only to preserve these images in my paintings, but also to immortalize the essence of that part of history, its lessons and messages that we can impart to the future generations of Singaporeans].

"Unveiling the Golden River" painted by Marcus Lim

"Chinatown Backlane" painted by Marcus Lim

"New Year at Eng Hoon Street" painted by Marcus Lim

"Kwan Im Temple, Waterloo Street" painted by Marcus Lim

"Old McCallum" painted by Marcus Lim

"Sultan Alley Barber" painted by Marcus Lim

International well-known artist Ong Kim Seng 's "Heartlands: Home and Nation in the Art of Ong Kim Seng" and awarded the 1990 Cultural Medallion, presented by the Ministry of Information and the Arts, Singapore and presented the "PONNADAI" (Golden Shawl) by the Singapore Kairalee Kala Nilayam (Singapore Kairalee Arts Centre) in recognition of the artistic achievements given to Singapore.

"Backlane Barber" painted by Ong Kim Seng

"Kampung Radin Mas, Now and Then" painted by Ong Kim Seng

"Magazine Road, Now and Then" painted by Ong Kim Seng

"Changi Point Jetty" painted by Ong Kim Seng

"Singapore River" painted by Ong Kim Seng

Here's a quiz:
Who is the well-known Singaporean who described below his childhood days in Singapore?

"I didn't do any work. I was too keen on running around, catching fighting fish in the drains along Changi Road, Joo Chiat Road. They were all rubber estates and they had these open drains. At the open can catch good fighting fish and you keep them in bottles and you buy them in the earth and then you feed them with worms and you put a bit of green plants to oxygenate the water. There was great fun also flying kites and putting the thread on two poles, pounding the glues and the glass, fixing the line so you can cut the other fellow's line.

And then playing tops: you armour your top, you get a top and you put thumb-tacks, polish it up and then you hit the other fellow's and make a scar on his. It was a more do-it-yourself, amuse yourself childhood than what children now have, where toys are just given to them to be amused. But here, you've got to amuse yourself, which I think in retrospect was a better way."
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in the book "Lee Kuan Yew - The Man and His Ideas" by Han Fook Kwang, Warren Fernandez and Sumiko Tan.


May 28, 2010

Civics Tour on 10 September, 1958

"The Flying Saucer" at the Police Combined Operations Room at Pearls' Hill Road, Singapore. Credit Photo: National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

With an increasing number of bloggers of my contemporaries and those who were born younger in the 1960s, these blogs are being posted and contributed by every individual to share our collective memories of Singapore of early days.

A combined "Memory Aid" resources from photos, school magazines, newspapers archives, friends and the personal memories of the various bloggers with related posts linked for nostalgia.

Please visit National Museum of Singapore at "Exhibition Gallery" on "Singapore 1960" from 3 June, 2010 to 22 August, 2010. Admission is free.

As an "experimental" New Media blogstyle used on this blog previously on "Supermarket Shopping" , another topic here:

Civics Tour on 10 September, 1958 by Larry Lai as reproduced in the Outram Annual, 1958.


The thirty handpicked boys assembled expectantly in the school library, listening intently to our Principal’s last minute instructions on social etiquette. Every one of them wore a spick-and-span white school uniform and for the first time in many years, had scrubbed the behinds of their ears. When the instructions were over, we trooped down the stairs in as orderly a manner as we could, led by our portly teacher-in-charge, Mr M. Siraj, who is our Civics Master. He was also in his Sunday best and had waxed his moustache till it shone.

It was 8.30 a.m.on a Wednesday morning on 10-9-58 and we, thirty of the Form Five boys were guests of the Department of Information on a Civics tour to all the interesting places of Singapore, educationally speaking.

A chartered bus was waiting for us outside the gate and our guide for the day, Mr Bala, nearly toppled down the steps in his enthusiasm to meet us. He extended his hand to Mr Siraj and our Herculean teacher pumped so vigorously that we thought it would be disjointed. The rest of us poured into the bus, but there was no scramble for seats because there were lots to spare. Each of us was handed a programme for the day. The boys searched frantically for the items which said “Lunch – 1 p.m.” and drooled over it.

As the bus started we couldn’t help glancing at the poor unfortunates still in the class-rooms. They gave us a woeful look which eloquently said, “Some blighters have all the luck,” and then turned resignedly back to the black-boards for another session Algebra.

Our hearts bled for them, but determined to enjoy the day, we put away their misery and concentrated on our first destination. The first item on the programme was a visit to the Police Combined Operations Room.


We reached the place at 8.40 a.m. The building looks “squarish” and humble from the outside. It looks something like a dry-as-dust engine room and we expected a dull session looking at wires, wires and more wire or things like that. But we were destined to come away with different opinions. As we trooped in, we were nearly lost in the maze of passages until Inspector Nonis came to our rescue and led us into a room. This room has many names. It is usually known as the Message Room because all 999 calls are received there.

But it takes on a different name according to the use it is put to. After we had parked ourselves onto comfortable chairs round a table which accommodates some eleven telephones. Insp. Nonis talked to us on the layout of the whole building. The entire building is air-conditioned and is supposed to be bomb-proof. As we listened to each of its qualities, we felt a new respect for the place.

Insp. Nonis pointed to the telephones on the tables round which we sat and told us that they handle all the 999 calls in the Colony. He then proceeded to tell us of all the work that entails after such a call is received. No wonder they yell blue-murder when a false alarm is raised!

On the walls of the room hung a number of boards. Some show the Police Divisions, Radio Divisions and the patrol areas of the Colony. But most of our interest centred on the board of “Wanted Persons.” Boys with a guilty conscience and who wanted to know if secret misdemeanours had been detected, searched the board for their front views and profiles. Sighs could be hard when they found that they were not listed there.

Then Insp. Nonis hustled us into the adjoining room, which is called the Radio Control Room. A huge round table stood in the middle. We were struck by the unique shape of the table which reminded us of all the science fiction films we had seen. It has a space in the middle where an officer-in-charge sits. Then it slopes down and officers in charge of different radio divisions sit round him. The mata-matas show that they have a sense of humour by naming the table “The Flying Saucer.”

Next we made our way to the Police Combined Operations Room, but on the way, we popped into the Teleprinter’s room where we learned the uses of the teleprinter machine.

The Police Combined Operations Room is very spacious with a long table in the middle. This room is nearly always unoccupied as it is used only when there is a national crisis, such as war or big rioting which threatens the tranquility of our island home.

On the way out, we dropped in to say hello to the people down in the Engine Room. In it was a gargantuan electricity generator which would automatically switch on should supply from the outside source fail.

When we again confronted the building from the outside, we viewed it with a different frame of mind. It looks so small and homely, but within it holds so many fascinating things that we left the place in awe and proceeded embus to the Supreme Court.


We reached the Supreme Court at precisely 9.55 a.m. After a delay of nearly half an hour, which we spent reading and re-reading the notices on the boards, we were placed into the custody of a guide who brought us first of all to the Library where a formidable array of law books met our eyes. Our guide, apparently a man of few words, believed that seeing is believing. He let us look our fill and then hustled us out. He is then brought us up to the Court-room where a murder case was in progress. He made clear to us with the niceties of the English Language which, boiled down to its crudest form, simply meant to keep our big, fat traps shut while the session was on.

But the court proceedings proved to be dull for some boys, so they tested the resiliency of the benches for a short nap interspaced with some noisy snores. Mr Siraj took the hint and suggested that we continue to our next stop. We seconded and carried the motion unanimously because every stop brought us nearer to lunch.


Another group of students visited the Singapore Harbour Board in 1950s. Credit Photo: National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

We alighted from the bus and reached the Pier at about 11.50 a.m. where we were promised a ride in a motor launch. We had to skip as agilely as we could from one launch to another till we came to the C. A. Redcleef, a stately little thing which bore our weight amiably. It took us on a long cruise along the Outer Roads to Jardine Steps. The purpose of this sea-trip was to show us what a beautiful harbour we have, how it is naturally protected from storms and the vast number of ships that call at Singapore for various reasons. The sea was pretty rough on that day and it rocked the launch dangerously. A few boys around the gills and slumped limply on the sides of the launch, trying not to throw up what they had our breakfast. After a trying hour, we at least reached Jardine Steps at 12.55 p.m. Our bus which had followed us (on dry land, of course,) was already waiting for us. We boarded it gratefully and it was a big consolation to us that it was taking us for our...


The bus dropped us in front of the York Kee Restaurant and whisked off the people who wanted Muslim food, including Mr Siraj and our guide Mr Bala, to the Islamic Restaurant. The sea trip did not mar our appetites a single iota. We partook of the sumptuous meal with the greatest of relish. When we had finished, we loosened our belts, rubbed our tummies, thought nice thoughts about the Department of Information, and waited patiently for the bus to fetch us to our next destination.


At 2.15 p.m. we were seated comfortably in hall at the Police Training School, where A.S.P. Tan Keh Wan gave us a very interesting talk on how the school was run and what life would be like if we ever joined the Police Force. With the help of his pointer, which he brandished with the dexterity of a drum-major, he showed us a board on which were displayed the badges and insignias of Gazetted Officers and other ranks. He also outlined their duties.

We then made our way to the Police Museum and Epidiascope Room, where an exhibition of weapons and various other objects seized by the Police in previous raids were shown to us. Among the exhibits were weapons used by gangsters, photographs showing how they were concealed, and how counterfeit coins were made.

We then followed A.S.P. Tan’s pointer and founder ourselves in the barracks of the policemen under training.

There we listened sympathetically to him as he related the sleeping conditions of the recruits.

Next we went to a firing range where two officers demonstrated their marksmanship. To some of us, it was a new experience. Of course, we had heard the bark of the six-shooter on stereophonic sound of the cinema screen, but we learned that handling a real pistol is not as easy as we see it done on the screen.

A.S.P. Tan’s eloquent pointer was on its way again and this time it directed us to a shed where a group of policemen under training gave us a very interesting demonstration of the art of self-defence. To prove that the whole show was authentic and not put up to entertain, the demonstrators invited volunteers from our midst to step forward and test them. Everyone on us (including yours truly) took a jump in the backward direction. It took some coaxing and not-to-hurt promises from the demonstrators before Johnny Aw and Chew Ah Kong stepped forward hesitantly. These two boys had always held pride in their biceps and now they decided to have a go. Their screams and shrieks nearly brought every ambulance in the city rushing to their aid. But seriously, they were not a bit scathed – perhaps only in their personal pride!

At 3.30 p.m. we made our way back to the hall where we were treated to light refreshments and cakes. Thanks to A.S.P. Tan Keh Wan and the whole Police Training School, we left the place with much new-found knowledge.


Credit Photo: National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

The final item on the day’s programme was a visit to Radio Malaya. Partly because we went there with great expectations which were not met even halfway because of unforeseen circumstances, we were quite disappointed with the trip. One of our expectations was to meet the Radio personalities we had always heard on the air, but because they were either too busy or not at the studio at that time, we missed the opportunity of seeing them and we were more than slightly disappointed. However, they assigned a helpful guide to us who brought us to most of the places of interest such as the auditorium, the record library, the recording rooms and the control rooms. At least, we caught a glimpse of one radio celebrity – Mr Lee, the chubby Chinese story-teller, and we even managed to get him to pose prettily for us while he was in the midst of his story-telling.

Story telling by Mr Lee Dai Soh on Radio Malaya in the 1960s

We left Radio Malaya at about 5.15 p.m., our guide having worked overtime.

So ended a most interesting day. Thanks to the Department of Information and to the kind people concerned who helped to contribute to our enjoyment, we are now much, much broadened (educationally speaking, of course!)

(Secretary for the Civics Course)
Related Posts:

The following links with courtesy of Andy Young of Singapore 60s Andy's Pop Music Influence; Muzik, kugiran pop 60an (Malay); 新加坡60年代安迪的流行音乐的影响 (Mandarin); सिंगापुर निश्चिंत संगीत (Tamil) in four official languages of Singapore website exclusively at Larry Lai Interview (Part I) and Larry Lai Interview (Part II) . Larry Lai Interview (Part III) . Larry Lai Interview (Part IV) .


May 23, 2010

Pay Last Respect to Dr Goh Keng Swee

Above photos courtesy of Channel News Asia, Friday, 21 May, 2010.

I personally went to the Parliament House on Friday, 21 May, 2010 at 12:20 afternoon to pay my last respect to the late Dr Goh Keng Swee.

"Wise Old Owl" Uncle Dick Yip, had posted "Paying Homage and Respect to a Legend" about Dr Goh Keng Swee on his personal blog to share with us.

As myself a "man-in-the-street", I was unaccompanied. I joined the queue at 10:45 as the tenth person in the queue that morning. Under the hot sun, I stood at the assigned queue area beside the Singapore River to my left, and opposite was the row of historical buildings of Boat Quay. We then walked in the direction towards the main entrance of the Parliament House.

While waiting for almost three hours, two friendly elderly Singaporean ladies, seventy-two years-old primary school classmates, chatted with me in Mandarin and Cantonese to while away the time. One of them grew up in Upper Cross Street ("Keiling Kai" in Cantonese) and another at Coleman Street.

What else to talk about the changes in the Singapore River and Boat Quay?

The more chatty lady I addressed as "kacheh" (elder sister in Cantonese) appears to be more knowledgeable the names and places around Singapore, while her friend was more reserved and said that her son brought her around places.

"Kacheh" then recollected her childhood days at Singapore River. She remembered the crowded, noisy bumboats, the "coolies" carrying sacks of essential merchandise from various parts of neighbouring countries, Indonesia, China. The "coolies" who stayed along Boat Quay rented rooms there for a spartan way of living just to survive as immigrants to Singapore.

We were strangers and did not introduce ourselves to one another. They did not know my name, and I didn't know theirs. Perhaps it was a chance encounter in the queue, be it in the street or anywhere else, but never to meet one another again. We could acknowledge and nod one another with a smile as fellow Singaporeans. We do not need to know too many people to know, "kacheh" said. Its ok and fine with me, we are contemporaries of "Facelook", not the modern social networking on "Facebook".

I should not embarass her to talk about "Facebook" when she admitted that "kacheh" and her schoolmate only had the opportunity to attend Chinese school for two years during the Japanese Occupation and never had the chance to continue schooling.

"Kacheh" felt that its not a shame for them to be illiterate without formal schooling due to circumstances beyond their control. They may be ignorant without studies, but they learn and graduate from "The School of Hard Knocks"! (translated indirectly). Many elderly Singaporeans could find ways to survive, earn a decent living to send their children to school for education. Many successful children or grandchildren from illiterate parents are grateful for the sacrifices of the previous generation of Singaporeans.

It would be impolite for me to ask "kacheh" and her friend too many questions about their personal and private life; rude to interrogate as a inquisitive stranger they first met.

It doesn't matter. We are Singaporeans, born here since birth and like them, I know not of any other home. We were both there to pay our last respect to our founding father Dr Goh Keng Swee. Our private tributes were done only in our hearts and without any news media under any interview of limelight for publicity. Most are shy.

The brief conversation with "kacheh" during the waiting period in the queue has much to learn beyond text book history of life, events and places in Singapore in the early days.

My friend Lam Chun See introduced "Good Morning Yesterday" for his reason to start the blog at "Why I Started Good Morning Yesterday"
. He said: "Firstly, I notice that people of my age group or older like to talk about the past. Whenever, my friends or relatives get together, at Chinese New Year gatherings, or dinners or even funerals".

The lying-in-state at Parliament House is not an ordinary individual funeral ritual though. It wouldn't be appropriate to chitchat and speaking too loudly in the queue.

I joined the process in the queue in an orderly and silent manner through the security scanning devices (similar to the electronic machines used in the airport), manned by police and army officers.

In the hall, I penned my Condolence Book to Dr Goh Keng Swee: "Rest in Peace. God Bless" with a heartfelt, personal express of gratitude.

It was a simple, solemn and dignified ceremony through the main hall of the Parliament House, bow once, pay our respect to Dr Goh Keng Swee silently in our private and personal ways. I had a last look of respect at Dr Goh Keng Swee as if he was sleeping, had a handshake with Mrs Goh to express her and family their condolences, then I left Parliament House within less than twenty minutes.

As I took a slow walk in silence, towards the Singapore River beside the statue of Stamford Raffles landing site, my thoughts in contemplation was filled with emotion, sentiments, about the place I grew up as a childhood, of a place I have lived for over sixty years. It was surreal about life and death, impermanence and mortality.

Many of my immigrant forefathers have gone. So are their "coolie" relatives and depending on living as an entrepot trade in Singapore in the past. Many things have changed. My late father had spent over fifty years a lifetime here while my late mother was born in Singapore. Both are now gone.

In birth and death, all living beings (human, animals and even insects) on this earth are equal at the beginning and the ending stages of the life process. Wherever located they are in between of their lives who appear not to be so equal. "If we dream too long" ... but Dr Goh Keng Swee once said that he wasn't a dreamer. He's a visionary and master builder together with other founding fathers for the future of Singapore.

Suddenly, the Singapore River Boat cruised by with some smiling tourists and waving at me broke my train of thoughts. Don't think too much to be philosophical...sunrise, sunset. Its time to leave for home...tomorrow is another day.

Staring at the Singapore River and the sky above reflecting past memories, the conversation of "kacheh" reminds me of how that same place in another time with different people and past historical events...and the transformation of Singapore of everyone, ordinary and extraordinary people through sweat, tears and blood to build the nation to be one. Incidentally, blood is precious for donation to save lives, not to waste human blood to demonstrate and violently protest people against any colored shirts to wear.

Once upon a time, Singapore was just a fishing village from nothing.

And that may be true centuries ago due to an accident of history. Today is the tomorrow of yesterday; the present is the past of the future...

Singapore may be uncomplimentarily described as "a little red dot"; but unlike other many "little red dots" (of which are bigger dots than us but remained as little red dots for centuries) all over the world.

As night fell, lets enjoy our breathtaking view of Singapore now.

Related Posts:
"The late Dr Goh Keng Swee and I (Part 1)" by "Rambling Librarian".
"The late Dr Goh Keng Swee and I (Part 2)" by "Rambling Librarian".
The Passing of our Great Architect by "Second Shot".


May 20, 2010

"Rock and Roll Days"

I wasn't a fan of "rock and roll" music in my young days. Moreover, I was not influenced by the hippie culture and lifestyle with flowers on my hair. Long hair was banned in Singapore when I was a teenager around that time.

Lobo was best remembered for soft-rock perennials like "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" and "I'd Love You to Want Me," Lobo was the alias of singer/songwriter Roland Kent LaVoie, born July 31, 1943 in Tallahassee, FL.

The "Rock and Roll Days" was released in 1993 with the lyrics:
I've seen a lot of things change in many ways
Since I was a boy back in the rock and roll days
Back when a bust was a six-pack of cold beer.
Marciano, he was champ the band all played through one amp
And the biggest thing was getting rubber in second gear

I love the rock and roll days
And I love all the good old ways
We used to do things in our crowd
I love the rock and roll days
And I love all the good old ways
We used to do the same things that we do now.

The only bikes back there were Schwinns
The only pigs were the bad wolf's friend
And going to the outdoor movie was something neat
Messing around then was not big
That's the one thing I did not dig
I was lucky to get as far as the back seat.
My blogger friend Lam Chun See posted a comment about "Larry Lai, King of Singapore 60s Airwave" at "Singapore 60s Andy's Pop Music Influence" blog. Andy's blog is an awesome compilation of songs and music in the 1960s for these fans to enjoy.

Larry Lai is my former schoolmate a few years my senior at the Outram Secondary School old building at Outram Road. He is a popular celebrity at Rediffusion, radio, TV and various corporate events at top hotels.

According to Chun See:

"We didn't have Redifusion during Larry Lai's days. But I recall that he was host for the immensely popular Rado Show isn't it?

Anyway, I have a video tape of Larry Lai in action from the early 90's; but this time he was doing a training video for the NPB called OJT,

By the way, I think there is a song which I think is very appropriate for your blog; at least the lyrics are:

"I love all the good old ways we used to do the same things that we do now"

Listen to it here

This is an "evergreen" song to bring back our memories of the 1960s for our enjoyment.


May 12, 2010

Kim Chuan Road in the 1960s

Photo 1: "Tua Kim" (Elder Auntie) with her grandchildren photos taken in the late 1980s in front of the house at Kim Chuan Road.
(Photo taken standing from left to right): Ah Lian, Ah Siew, "Tua Kim", Ah Hua, Ah Bee, Ah Ho. All nicknames are shown.

The late "Tua Kim" in an old photo taken with my elder sister, May and Wei in July, 1985.

Photo 2: The playgroup kids for a photo taken beside the house. In the background was the "rambutan plantation" before the house was resettled and demolished in the 1990s.

Photo 3: Another kids playgroup at the stair steps.

Photo 4: "Tua Kim" at lunch with her friend.

Photo 5: My nephew Andy on kiddie tricycle with his sister, Judy.

Photo 6: Cousin buddies.

Photo 7: Badminton game with improvised wooden racket planks and shuttlecock.

Photo 8: Childhood games in the kampung. So fun!

Photo 9: A group of cousins watching the badminton game.

This blog is an incidental reminiscence of a happy childhood time at Kim Chuan Road about 50 years ago.

The album collection of the photos here were taken in the late 1980s.

When I found the photos recently, it somehow triggered me the TV ad with the slogan adapted from ‘In My Life’ by John Lennon & Paul McCartney:

"There are places I remember, all my life,
though some have changed
Some forever not for better,
some have gone and some remain…
All these places have their moments,
with lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead, some are living
in my life I’ve loved them all.”

"What the heart cherishes, there its home will be".

Please turn on the PC speaker.

Please watch this video of SC Global "In My Life" TV ad here .

The kampung house is gone. My favorite "Tua Kim" (elder auntie) had passed on several years ago.

Another blog I had associated was about "Memory Aid for The Elderly"

A friend had previously asked me about his memories of firework display: “How to remember something which happened about 60 years ago? Most of those people who brought me to watch the firework display are no longer around and I do not have any old photos to help me to recollect these events“. He has a point there".

As Aldous Huxley said: "Experience is not what happens to a man, it is what a man does with what happened to him."

The kids and teenagers who appeared in the photos have grown into adults now, most of whom have become parents themselves. Some of them have located elsewhere and migrated overseas. Others have homes in various parts of Singapore.

I remembered that the occasion was initiated by my cousin, Lucy Cheong. She wanted to invite everyone in the family before the Kim Chuan Road house was demolished in sometime 1990. Fond memories of a family gathering which happened twenty years ago at the old house.


Who knows, some of my cousins could be surprised that these photos ever existed ; )

Google 'satellite' map of Kim Chuan Road captured online (May, 2010).

Google 'hybrid' map of Kim Chuan Road captured online (May, 2010).

Map of Kim Chuan Road extracted from Singapore Street Directory of 7th Edition, Mar 1963.

Reflection by blogging is a form of "travel journal" about the past on their reminiscence. Literate folks may keep diaries but the not-so-literate ones have to store and depend only their memories. Bitter memories should be forgotten, but fond memories should not be thrown the baby out with the bath water. Just throw away the water, not the baby.

Notwithstanding this, most people may also attach different emotions and feelings to our experiences with selective memories. I realised that this happy moments of my childhood at Kim Chuan Road in the 1960s is slow in my thoughts.

Please come join me on a boyhood journey 50 years ago on this blog with the help of photos, street directory, Google maps as the memory-aid for the elders...and the best my memories could help me to remember not to forget. Of course, not to mention and thank the supportive "bloggers of my same feather" network to help to jolt my memories often now and then with email and comments. Some of the blog topics may be the places where we grew up in the similar places or neighborhood and times, but our individual experiences are never the same.

The link to related posts of other blogs of a similar topic help the collective memories and information for the benefit and convenience of readers on the blogs.

Here goes my trip to Kim Chuan Road in the 1960s:

Kim Chuan Road as I remembered it in my young days was considered a suburban, not an "ulu" (remote countryside or forested) place easy for people to find. It was not like a messy, cluttered kampung where I grew up in Bukit Ho Swee.

Tua Kim's house was located quite near their neighbors, lined with houses along the mud-track. The mud-track path from a short distance of Kim Chuan Road, as marked with 'X' in red on the street directory and Google maps.

In those days, Tua Kim's house at Kim Chuan Road leads to the junction of Paya Lebar Road, near a bus-stop. With the help of the 1963 map, the landmarks around the area were Bartley Primary and Secondary Schools, Times Centre at New Industrial Road, Lorong Tai Seng, Bright Cinema, Playfair Primary School and a row of shophouses on the main trunk road of Paya Lebar. The bus service at that time was operated by the defunct Tay Koh Yat Bus Company (forgotten the bus service number though).

The entire area was earmarked as an industrial sector, most parts of which are already developed in Paya Lebar as seen on the latest Google maps.

The first time I went to Tua Kim's house was stayed with my mother (the sister-in-law of her late elder brother) during my primary four school holidays for two weeks.

I was very "suakoo" (country bumpkin) and lots of anecdotes of my personal experience while staying at Tua Kim's house for almost every school holiday until I started secondary school. In primary five, I was able to travel on my own by bus from home to Tua Kim's house.

My first visit to Tua Kim's house, my mother and Tua Kim had a big fright when they were in the house and I was roaming around with curiosity.

Tua Kim's dog was a stranger to me when I first arrived the house. The dog's name was Bobby, a very good guard dog and watchful to outsiders. To Bobby, it followed me around the house wherever I went on that visit.

At the back of the house was a small wooden hen coop. Tua Kim told me that the hen she reared lays egg (the hen lays egg, not my Tua Kim ; )

I was told that if the egg is laid immediately, the egg shell would be warm and I could swallow the egg without boiling. The fresh egg consumed this way is nutritious and make us strong, I was told. The teacher didn't taught me this in primary school during Nature Study lesson. I learnt something new!

While on my own exploration around the hen coop, I discovered that there was an egg inside. I took the egg and found it warm. I then broke the shell and swallowed up the egg. It was really tasty and fresh.

The next moment out of no sight, I found Bobby chasing after me and I was screaming and crying, shouting out at the top of my voice. I was running around the house while Bobby was chasing after me.

Tua Kim and my mother then quickly dashed out of the house when they heard the commotion with Bobby barking to attack me. Fortunately, Tua Kim ordered Bobby to go back to the house and chained it up.

It was funny to laugh about it after the episode was over. No injury harm. Bobby was just doing his work to guard the eggs.

That was really an unforgettable childhood experience to remember until this day.

Bobby was a big, white furry dog which became to be friendly after my many visits to the house. Poor Bobby. He passed away over thirty years ago.

Photo 1 shows the asbestos and zinc house with wooden walls, which "Tua Kim" stayed under one roof with her three sons and a daughter, Lucy. My cousins were not yet married at that time. The main house with a small hall and two rooms; one stayed by Lucy and Tua Kim while another room with deck beds for the three male cousins.

Next comes the interesting living style in the kampung which youngsters now in Singapore have never heard about:

At another section of the house was the kitchen. Cooking was not done by chopped wood, charcoal or the modern day PUB piped gas or gas container.

It was by sawdust collected from the wood factories in the nearby. Well, that was new to me in my young days at Bukit Ho Swee. It would be wonderful if fellow bloggers could describe and share their enriching and interesting lifestyle blogs in the kampungs before private houses and HDB heartlands were developed in Singapore.

The house was lighted with portable kerosene lamps, two or three of them whenever necessary to save energy and money.

Outside the kitchen was the home-owned well, to fetch water for cooking, bathing and other residential use. The well was built when I witnessed it once on my at stay Tua Kim's house during a school holiday. Not constructed by contractor, but by my three strong male cousins and able-bodied neighbors.

The community wooden latrine was shared with the next door neighbor, a vegetable farmer. The toilet was built above the cemented "pond", to be used as fertiliser for watering the vegetables to waste. The "latrine experience" was unforgetable...'pong', 'pong' popping up from the water when the hard shit hit the user. (I beg your pardon, this is an exclamation by the blogger when he described himself as a young boy then ; ).

The breakfast every morning was Teochew home-cooked porridge with simple dishes, cooked by Tua Kim, a Teochew (while my mother was a Hokkien). She introduced to me for the first time in my life, the 'black olive', her favorite. Somehow, I like the 'black olive" with hot porridge after awhile. What an interesting cuisine experience during my kampung days.

Photo 2 is the background of the "rambutan plantation", owned by a neighbor. He was a friendly elderly man with while hair. We nicknamed him "Lau Hero" (Old Hero).

Although fenced, there was an entrance to a public access by a gate. There were about fifty rambutan trees in the plantation. Whenever the rambutans are ripe, we kids helped "Lau Hero" to help him and his family to harvest the fruits. We were allowed to pluck the rambutans for eating, but not to destroy the branches and the trees.

This was the most enjoyable visit during harvest time. My youngest cousin, Ah Leong, is an expert swinging from trees to trees like a Tarzan. With him and my childhood friends of my age, Ah Siong and Ah Puat, the rambutan feast at harvest time was most remembrance. I couldn't climb very well though. So I just help to eat the sweet and fresh rambutans when others pluck ; )

Those were the happy childhood days of my personal experience at Kim Chuan Road in the 1960s. The kids shown in the photos lived in another different generation and their children of the young relatives.

Whatever at every era, every kid at every different time with different space during schooldays to learn, to enjoy and explore school and community activities for them to reminisce in four decades or more. Its the kids grow naturally at one's own pace and own time.

Unfortunately, the thoughts dragged on a lengthy blog to record as and when those incidents had happened. Some may say that it was just like yesterday and my memories are vivid and fresh. Not for me to turn back the memory clockwork so fast though.

I enjoyed the childhood memories with fun! Thanks your patience for reading.

Related Posts:

Visit the blogs on Memories of Ipoh/Malaysia by Lam Chun See at "Good Morning Yesterday".


Key To Knowledge - Libraries for Life

To complement a recent "Good Morning Yesterday" blog on the topic: "Can you remember the procedure for borrowing books at the old National Library?", the above photo is the related poster displayed at the Central Lending Library at National Library Building at Victoria Street, Singapore.
Source: The Singapore Monitor, Wednesday, April 20, 1983

NOT everything gets more expensive with time.

The first members of what was later to become our National Library had to pay a monthly subscription of 25 cents. That was way back in 1823.

Today, 160 years later, membership is free.

CATHARINE FERNANDO traces the path of the National Library, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year but whose history in fact goes back 160 years.


The idea of a public library was mooted in 1823

If walls could speak, that familiar red brick building nestling amongst the trees between Fort Canning and Stamford Road would have many a tale to tell.

The National Library turns 25 this year, but its origins go all the way back to Sir Stamford Raffles' time.

It started life as little more than a school library, with outsiders having to pay a monthly subscription of 25 cents to become members.

Today membership of the National Library, described by its public relations department as "the best in South-east Asia," is free and open to all.

Growth of the little school library into our present National Library went through five phases, and the man responsible for its establishment was the man who founded Singapore in 1819.

The concept of a public library was mooted in 1823 when Sir Stamford Raffles himself called a meeting of the leading citizens to discuss the transfer of the Malacca Anglo Chinese School to Singapore and its merger with the Anglo-Chinese College here to form the Singapore Institution.

The library was established on April 1 of that year with Dr Morrison, a scholar and missionary who was then head of the Anglo-Chinese College, as its first librarian. Facilities were rudimentary, for it was not until 1834 that the Singapore Institution, forebear of the Raffles Institution, was finally opened.

Donations came from individuals as well as institutions, the most outstanding of which was the Committee of Public Instruction at Calcutta, which made valuable book contributions, and continued to do so for many years.

But the demand for a true public library grew, evidenced by letters to the Press calling for one. Finally, in 1844, plans for such a library were made, with the proposal that subscribers be proprietors as well.

The museum was added in 1849 and in 1862, the library moved to the Town Hall. The third phase in its history came in 1874 when the government stepped in and took over the library and museum, renaming it The Raffles Library and Museum.

A pro-tem committee was formed with J C Smith, headmaster of the Singapore Institution, as secretary and librarian and W H Read as Treasurer.

In 1876, the library moved back to the Singapore Institution, now called the Raffles Institution. In 1887, a new library and museum building was opened, and after World War I, in 1920, the first qualified librarian, Mr James Johnston, was appointed. Three years later, a Junior Library was started.

During World War II, the library continued functioning. After the fall of Singapore in 1942, the library was renamed Syonan Tsyokaun and a Japanese professor was put in charge and five of the original staff re-engaged.

Another important development came in 1955 when the library was separated from the museum. The last significant event in the development of the library came in 1957 when it became a free public national library by the passing of an ordinance.

Library materials for loan and reference are provided in the four official languages. The library's total registered readership was 441,455 at the end of 1981, while its collection has expanded from 80,000 books in 1955 to 1.43 million books and 66,879 items of non-book material.
Additional information on knowledge, excerpt from an introduction of the book "Thesis Projects" by Mikael Berndtsson, Jorgen Hansson, Bjorn Olsson and Bjorn Lundell:
"One of the strongest instincts we have is the desire to learn new things about the world we live in. In fact, through our entire life we never stop learning new things. This has been crucial for our survival, but it also stimulates our curiosity. Very young children learn by copying the behaviour of others.

Learning is later extended to acquiring knowledge through other modes of communication, e.g. through books, lectures and labs. One of the primary goals of academic training is to learn how to learn, i.e. to learn how to continuously absorb new knowledge. This is increasingly important in rapidly changing areas such as computer science and new things, building new knowledge about things that no one has understood before - that is what we think of as performing research. Undertaking a thesis project is one step towards an increased understanding of how to study, how to learn about complex phenomena, and towards learning how to build new knowledge about the world around us."

Related Post:
Public Libraries Singapore and National Library

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May 5, 2010

"Boh Beh Kang" - "River Without An End"

Photo of Blk 81 (known as the VIP Block in Queenstown).

Commonwealth Estate, fondly remembered as chap lak lao chu (sixteen storey tall flats) is the third estate developed between 1962 and 1964 under HDB. One prominent flat, Blk 81, has received numerous foreign dignitaries over the years because it offers panoramic views of the developments in Queenstown as well as Holland Road. Some of these prominent figures include Emperor Akihito of Japan and Prince Phillip.

The junction of Margaret Drive facing opposite Blk 81, Commonwealth Drive

The park at Margaret Drive with the overhead bridge across Blk 81, Commonwealth Drive in the background.

Previously, Queenstown was a large swampy valley with a channel running through in a southeastern direction. On either side of this agricultural area were hills - feng xing and feng ling. The former was a rubber plantation and the latter, a cemetery also known as "Boh Beh Kang. The village in the area, with mainly Hokkien and Teochew-speaking dwellers was also known by this name. Pre-1942, the area was inhabited by hundreds of people in attap-roofed huts, cultivating vegetables, growing fruits and rearing pigs and chickens. (Source: Wikipedia)

The first satellite town in Singapore, Queenstown was named to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. It was one of the earliest housing estates, built before Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio. The Town Centre and the Swimming and Sports Complex are some of the facilities and amenities developed. The Town Centre was completed in 1969 with three cinemas, a shopping complex, a fresh food market, a maternity and child care centre, a bowling alley and clubs and restaurants. In the 1970s, the success of Queenstown led to the development of the nearby Buona Vista Estate and Holland Village with Queenstown held as a model. Towards the 1980s, the estate became more populated by senior citizens as the gradual migration of the younger generation to more upscale places.

This blog on "Boh Beh Kang", my personal nostalgic memories to track back the map circled in No. 1 to No. 4 and updated the photos taken recently.

No. 1: Margaret Close HDB-2 room rented flat (now demolished) which my family and I were allocated immediately after the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961. After a few months later, we were moved to the HDB 1-room "emergency flat" at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee.

Margaret Close HDB-2 room flats under construction in 1961. Source: National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

Margaret Close HDB-2 room flats completed in 1961. Source: National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

Bukit Ho Swee fire victims moving to Margaret Close HDB 2-room transition flats with the help of military trucks. Source: National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

No. 2: The Queensway Secondary School opposite Margaret Close. The school was under construction in 1961.

No. 3: The Venus Theatre and Golden City Theatre. The Town Centre which was the Tah Chung Emporium and shopping complex within the Golden Crown Restaurant in their heyday and popularity. Blk 38 cooked food centre in the vicinity of the Commonweath Avenue Cooked Food Centre.

No. 4: The photos of the NTUC Fairprice supermarket, the entertainment complex of Queenstown and Queensway Theatre, and the Queenstown Bowl.

Whatever little that I knew of Margaret Close and the vicinity within Queenstown Town Centre mentioned in the blog, I must admit that my limited knowledge and parochial personal experience of Queenstown are confined a short period of time while I was staying there. Please discover more from veteran residents of Queenstown at "MyQueenstown Team" which covered a wider area of Queenstown with comprehensive, interesting and informative topics, then and now. Courtesy to their photo credits and contributions.

This trail documents the history and development of the estate since 1960s and will take you through more than fifty years of Queenstown's history through the personal stories of older residents and the buildings and places that still stand today.

"10-stories: Queenstown Through The Years" by Calvin Low.

Map Circled 1: Margaret Close

Map Circled 2: Queensway Secondary School

Map Circled 2: Queensway Secondary School

The vacant plot behind "Margaret Drive" signage located the former Queenstown Polyclinic.

THEN: Former Venus and Golden City Theatres (Map Circled No. 3). Queenstown shopping complex, housing the former popular Tah Chung Emporium, Gold Crown Restaurant and a night club at the top floor. Courtesy of Housing & Development Board.

PENDING: Vacant land of former Venus and Golden City Theatres.

THEN: Golden Crown Restaurant. Photo Credit: MyQueenstown Team.

GONE: Formerly located Golden Crown Restaurant. PENDING: Vacant land beside Blk 38, Commonwealth Avenue.

THEN: Commonwealth Avenue Cooked Food Centre

NOW: Commonwealth Avenue Cooked Food Centre

THEN & NOW: U-Char Kuay [女皇鎮生活公市]

Price list displayed above the shop, now inflated since my last visit. But the tasty and crispy stuff are freshly fried...delicious. The stall owners are friendly. In the past, the whole family affair business, especially in the evening.

THEN: The external building of Blk 38 Commonwealth Avenue

NOW: The external building of Blk 38 Commonwealth Avenue

NOW: Aerial view of Blk 38 Commonwealth Avenue vacant land. Photo Credit: MyQueenstown Team.

NOW: The external building of Blk 38 Commonwealth Avenue. On the rear facing the NTUC Fairprice.

PENDING: Queenstown Theatre, Queensway Theatre for future development.

THEN: Former NTUC Fairprice Supermarket (Map Circled No. 4).

THEN: Former NTUC Fairprice Supermarket (Map Circled No. 4).

PENDING: Queenstown Theatre, Queensway Theatre for future development.

PENDING: Queenstown Bowl for future development.

For forthcoming housing planning and urban renewal of the younger generations of Queenstown heartlanders to look forward to a transformation, vibrant and town centre in a few years soon. Obviously, Queenstown is not a wasteland. Its the "Akan Datang" for the future heartlanders, a "River Without An End".

Update on 7 May, 2010:

Please check out the URA Concept Plan 2011 for public information.

Related Posts:

The "Good Morning Yesterday" blog pioneer of Lam Chun See at: "Places I Remember (5) - Farrer Road" and "Gather Moments While You May" reminiscing Queenstown.