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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Jun 26, 2012

Ways Done in the Past - Vanished Trade

What is this?
Did any youngsters today know what's this on a tricycle?  Is this a toyhouse with many windows?

Several of my friends with children who are schooling asked me to blog about vanishing trade in Singapore.

I discovered that a group of young students from Tanjong Katong Girls School had presented their project in 1999 on Vanishing Trades at ThinkQuest - "Projects by students for students".

About this site:

"Our website is about the vanishing trades in Singapore, how they become extinct as time passes by and the reasons why they are disappearing. We introduced 12 main vanishing trades in Singapore. We want people who visit our website have a greater knowledge of Singapore's history. For those who are not Singaporeans, we hope that through our webpage, they will get to know about the traditions and customs of Singaporeans better. For those who are Singaporeans, we hope that they will understand our own country's history deeper. We also help that our webpage can provide students information for their projects and other school stuffs".

About us:

"This webpage is done by us -- Chin Ping, Chin Thing and Kelly. Chin Ping and Kelly are Singaporeans while their coordinator, Chin Thing is a Malaysian. Our coach is Kelly's brother.

Chin Ping and Kelly are studying in Tanjong Katong Girls' School where students study with people of different races and religions. However, Chin Thing is studying in a Chinese school whereby everyone is Chinese, of course. We got to know one another while talking in chatrooms. We got along pretty well and the idea of getting together to do this project came up when we were told by our computer teacher incharge.

We separate the job equally and everyone did their part, doing her very best to finish this project. We hope that during your stay here, you can appreciate our hardships as we had spent a couple of months doing this project in spite of our heavy homework, other school projects and numerous tests and exams".


Our aim to do this website is not because of the attracting prizes and money but to let the younger generation of Singaporeans and even people from other countries to have a greater knowledge about the history of Singapore.

This is rather important as many youngsters nowadays are not familiar with the traditions and customs of their own races, including what people use to do in the past, why they do it etc.

Alternatively, we hope that by doing this website, people especially teachers and students can come into here to gather information for their projects and for resources during teaching lessons.

By doing this website, we hope that people will have a deeper understanding of the vanishing trades in Singapore, why they had become extinct and what are the subsitutions of these vanishing trades.

We try to make this webpage beneficial to people who come and visit here. We will update the information here every now and then and research for more vanishing trades so that we can add them into our website. We try to make this webpage educational and fun at the same time so that people will enjoy their stays here and enjoy themselves even when they are studying!

Due credit must be given to these resourceful students for their splendid efforts to share with everyone which I had conveniently included a link, cut and paste and just like a "copycat" without any original ideas. 

Here's a quotation from former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew: "Every success brings about imitations, emulations and overtakes. That's the rule of the game ..."

In a related forum on the Internet, a Netizen said "Japan is a copycat nation. As you might have know already, Japan copies almost everything. Tokyo Tower from Japan was copied from Eiffel Tower".

Here's a "24 Seven Post" world news report on "Shanghai capsule hotel copycat Japan idea" here .

In Chinese,  "偷师" (translated as "stolen teaching"), means just learning from eavesdropping or watching from a distance without awareness of the "teacher" and the "learner".

Teach and Learn - Learn is a direct reflection of Teach.  It sure is, in every sense!

"Teach and Learn, Learn and Teach" is a life process among human and other creatures.

Animals can learn by copying and following what their parents do. i.e chimpanzees watch their parents build nests and copy them in swinging on vines, and soon they know how to do it too. A visit to the zoo is a learning experience to observe how the animals learn from their parents.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" - Charles Caleb Colton

“I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read.” - Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

When Steve Jobs was alive, he said: "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product."

"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong.  "I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this." -- Steve Jobs"
Steve Jobs was no friend to Google's Android operating system as witnessed by numerous lawsuits filed against Android partners this past year. Android-based smartphones were seen as a mere annoyance when they first broke onto the scene in late 2008, but by early 2010, Steve Jobs was growing a bit tired of the inroads Google and its partners were making on its turf. . That's when the lawsuits started, with HTC getting the first jab from Apple.  [Source: Daily Tech published on October 20, 2011].

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs
This is an incidental blog topic about "copycats" and the fierce battle in the business world to sell ideas to the world...not to share them in the public domain.  In commercial terms, "ideas are converted into money, as a protectionist".  To learn for education through sharing and to sell ideas to make money for profit are totally different kettles of fishes to talk about.  In business, "No money no talk", realistically speaking!

No money talk here on this nostalgia blog though.

Lets reminisce the "Vanishing Trades of Singapore 当年的行业" for us to share.

Here's the answer to the first photo on this blog topic:  Display at National Day Parade 1980 at National Stadium depicting vanishing trades in Singapore - "Cinema on Wheel".

The archived photos and descriptions on "Cinema on Wheel" are curated from National Archives of Singapore and relevant sources with thanks and acknowledgement with credit of the respective contributors.


For only a few cents (five cents for a 50-ft film and 20 cents for 200-ft), one could peep through the slots on the specially constructed white box with a red roof and view one's favorite legendary or cartoon characters in action - Robin Hood, Tarzan, Frankenstein, Popeye the Sailor and Donald Duck.  It was cheap and good entertainment.

Here comes the "Cinema-On-Wheel" in Singapore in the 1960s
A choice of movie titles in the box

How did this "Cinema-On-Wheel" work?

It consisted of a project and a movie box, like a toyhouse with many windows.  The movie box was a simple structure with 16 square slot (windows) - four on each of the two sides and eight facting the screen, installed inside the box.  The projector was wired to a generator and a battery.  The red roof, apart from giving it a house appearance, also served as a storeroom for the wheels.

The "Cinema-On-Wheel" vanished from the streets of Singapore in the 1970s.

If we juxtapose these scenes 50 years ago with the same group of kids watching the "Cinema-On-Wheel", would they be as curious and excited?

At that time, the "Cinema-on-Wheel" was the latest invention, new toys of the day to those better stuff than this for fun?

If a similar original design and the movie titles, in working condition, and show these "peep shows" to the same group of kids who are now senior citizens, how would they feel?

I have experienced and watched these "peep shows" from a "Cinema-On-Wheel" at a few wayang stage shows near the Bukit Ho Swee kampong in the 1960s.  It now evokes me fond nostalgic childhood memories of one of these vanished trades, but toy and entertainment technology with new invention is always changing; new toys and innovative stuff  to bring kids smiles for every generation.

They now prefer "edutainment games" to play on iPad.

How to make traditional toys that can be timeless and hold just as much interest in every generation?

These old, outdated "thingy" to show the young generation to understand how granma and grandpa they were "youngonce"...what sorts of "thingy" their future grandchildren would have 50 years down the road?


Jun 24, 2012

Home of Visual Arts

Looking towards the future...Home of Visual Arts in 2015

In my previous "Capitol Theatre - Then and Now" blog, I discussed about the physical changes in the near future "akan datang" (Malay translation "coming soon") at the junction of  Stamford Road and North Bridge Road in Singapore.

On this blog, I move on to The City Hall (Chinese: 政府大厦; Malay: Dewan Bandaraya; Tamil:  நகர மண்டபம்) in Singapore located in front of the historical Padang.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

The City Hall, Singapore c 2006
Aerial view of Supreme Court and City Hall, Singapore  c  2006
City Hall was built from 1926 to 1929 and was known as Principal Building. The building was built by G.D. Coleman in the 1830s. During the World War II, when the Japanese occupied Singapore, they managed the civic issues from the Municipal Building but political affairs were already being conducted in the building. In 1943, leader of the Indian National Army, Subhas Chandra Bose, rallied for the Japanese support to let India to be independent from the British rule at the Municipal Building. British prisoners-of-war were rounded up in front of the building for a march to POW camps at Changi Prison and Selarang. On 12 September 1945, the Japanese General Itagaki surrendered to Lord Mountbatten in 1945 to end World War II in Singapore. In 1951, it was renamed to its present name as it was to mark Singapore as a city, after being granted city status.

During self-government, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew declared self-governance in Singapore in 1959, the playing of the new national anthem and the first time the people of Singapore saw the national flag as well as Singapore's independence from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965.

In 1959, Mr. Lee and his eight cabinet ministers were sworn into political office in the chamber of the City Hall before the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara, Inche Yusof bin Ishak, whose oath was taken at the City Hall.

Installation of the Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Yusof bin Ishak on 3 December, 1959.

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew read out the Malaysia Proclamation at the City Hall in 1963, and declared that Singapore was no longer under British rule. The people celebrated the first Malaysia Day at the Padang which is outside the City Hall. The first National Day Parade was held there in 1966 and subsequent years. The steps of the City Hall is use as a VIP seating area at National Day Parades held there. (Source: Wikipedia).

Group photo of  senior citizens on the City Hall steps on January 19, 1990 - "River Hong Bao 1990".

Closed-up photo of the senior citizen group at City Hall steps.

I found an archived photo of me and my 2-year-old son at the same spot on the Padang almost 30 years ago...surreal !

Same Place. Same People. Different Times. Different Memories...

A little rambling here as I blog to express personally on my trip in the time-machine.  You may wish to skip this part of the blog,  but most welcome to share my collective memories and experience here.

In "Discover Questions in words and wordsplay" at Yahoo:

What does "time stands still" mean to you?

Mickey D wrote:

NO, it is usually applied to an isolated area, or even setting, in which old cultures, habits, or activities, continued without modern influences. When you visit an Amish community, you might think it was as if time had stood still because they still do things as they did two centuries ago.

You might walk into a laboratory that used old equipment and procedures. It would be "as if time stood still" because they still pour reagents out by hand and notate results instead of use computers.

The English legal system very often appears as if time had stood still to an American where customary procedures have given way to more so-called "modern" ways of doing something.

So time stands still in that way, only figuratively, of course, but you get the meaning now I'm sure.

Do Amish use technology?

Find out more here while watching an informative YouTube video about the Amish culture.

The futurists and the historians are from their different schools of thoughts. Past vs Future.

Historian Niall Ferguson vs Futurist Peter Schwartz

Niall Ferguson said, "I think our difference is that I'm a pessimist and you're an optimist".

Peter Schwartz noted that since his parents were in slave-labor camps in World War II, and he was born in a displaced-person camp after the war, "It would be churlish not to be an optimist." Ferguson said, "That would make me skeptical about technology. The world leader in science and technology in 1940 was Nazi Germany."

Before getting too deeply into this kind of academic debate to change the world, lets just take a look at the changes and transformation in Singapore and what the same City Hall building will become in 2015 as the "Home of Visual Arts".

Singapore doesn't stand still in terms of the developments of our country which is always work in progress, non-stop and everything from blueprints to completed projects for delivery.

Time doesn't stop in Singapore. Everywhere and everyone are working for the future, for the next generation.  Our founding fathers have been grilling into us for decades not to work only for next year, or next five years.  As long as our kids are growing and for them to survive for a better future in Singapore, the mission of every Singaporean goes on...God willing!

(Psst:  I heard mumbling noises in the home: "Hey, its late, you need to go to sleep, and have a rest lah...).  Just kidding !

For some fun, I would like to play around with the nostalgia blog format in reverse.

In the past, the standard arrangement of the content and "memory-aids" of photos, videos and appropriate links for reference from yesterday to today to tomorrow, or "then and now" format.

The style has been changed to "terbalek" (Malay translation for backward or in reverse) ...tomorrow to today to yesterday : )

Singapore Municipal Office  c  1900

 The Municipal Building, Singapore, which was renamed City Hall in 1951.  Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore (NAS) with acknowledgement and thanks.


Jun 21, 2012

The Gate of Hope

The former "Gate of Hope" at Victoria St, Singapore (front)
Location of the "Gate of Hope" at the corner of CHIJMES, junction of Victoria St and Bras Basah Rd

The Gate of Hope

At this small gate of the former Convent Of The Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), many babies were abandoned in baskets to be picked by the Sisters of the Convent.  This was the origin of the Home for Abandoned Babies.

For over 100 years, the orphanage was home to children from poor or broken families as well as unwanted babies.  The orphanage too in many Chinese baby girls born in the year of the tiger - "tiger girls" - because of the strong superstitious belief then, that they would bring bad luck to their families.

In 1968, the Mother Superior noted that this practice was stopped as there was a marked changed in this superstitious belief.

The Home for Abandoned Babies ceased functioning in 1983 when the CHIJ was relocated.

The CHIJ was founded in 1854 in Singapore by the French Catholic missionary, Father Jean Marie Beurel.

The information poster engraved in stone placed and the above-mentioned plaque which was placed at the sideof both the front and back of the gate.

These photos were taken by me at "The Gate of Hope" on June 17, 2012.

The selected archived photos and descriptions on the public domain are curated from the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) with credit, acknowledgement of thanks and posted for the purpose of collective memories on this personal blog for sharing with nostalgia friends.

The "Gate of Hope" at Victoria St  c  1910

The "Gate of Hope" at Victoria St  c  1911

View of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), located at corner of Bras Basah Road and Victoria Street and thus affectionately called "Town Convent", featuring the Gate of Hope (small gate on left), Caldwell House and Chapel. Babies were often left at the Gate of Hope to be picked up by Sisters of the convent which was both an orphanage and a school for girls.

The "Gate of Hope" at Victoria St  c  1945

 The "Gate of Hope" was unveiled by Brigadier-General (NS) George Yong Boon Yeo, Minister for Information and the Arts and Minister for Health on September 25, 1996 (refer to photo of the plaque above)

The CHIJ Orphanage in 1920s

CHIJ students taking care of the abandoned children in 1961

Normal, healthy children being cared for by the Sisters of the Infant Jesus at Convent of Holy Infant Jesus in 1959.

The "Gate of Hope" administered by the French Catholic missionary nuns a century ago in Singapore at the ophanage to revive the lives of the abandoned children with love, regardless of their ethnic group or gender at birth.

There were orphanages of the various religious groups in the mosques, temples, churches, synagogues, gurdwaras and other non-religion voluntary organisations in multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore.

As mentioned by Mother Superior in 1968, "the orphanage in many Chinese baby girls born in the year of the tiger - "tiger girls" - because of the strong superstitious belief then, that they would bring bad luck to their families".

"In 1968, the Mother Superior noted that this practice was stopped as there was a marked changed in this superstitious belief".

Many abandoned children in the past era in Singapore had been thrown away as "nobody's child" even though they may be normal, healthy children at birth. Fortunately, the better educated Singaporeans did not abandon baby girls born in the "Year of the Tiger" due to ignorance and superstitions in the olden days.

Related Blog

"Yesterday...Today...Tomorrow" blog on Home for Abandoned Babies .


Jun 17, 2012

Ways Done in the Past - TV Broadcasting

 Thousands of people gathered at the opening of Television Singapura at Victoria Memorial Hall on 15 February, 1963.

 Inside the Victoria Theatre on 15 Feb, 1963

Minister for Finance Dr Goh Keng Swee (centre) was among the guests at the opening of Television Singapura held at the Victoria Memorial Hall.

Two boys looking at one of the television sets placed at the Victoria Theatre (photo below).  There were 17 other sets of television ouside the hall and along Queen Elizabeth Walk where thousands gathered to watch.

At the opening of Television Singapura at Victoria Theatre on 15 February, 1963 at 6.00 pm sharp, a picture of the national flag fluttering in the breeze for the first time on the television sets throughout Singapore.


The idea to start television broadcasting in Singapore was debated as early as 1956 by the Legislative Assembly. The decision to introduce television though did not come about until 1961 when it was decided that Television Singapura should run on two or more channels, broadcasting programmes in the four official languages. Television Singapura should also be incorporated into Radio Singapura which was then broadcasting its service under the Ministry of Culture.

Inauguration and expansion

Television Singapura was launched as a pilot monochrome service on 15 February 1963.  On that day, Singaporeans gathered at the Victoria Memorial Hall and witnessed (at 5: 30 pm sharp) the first pictures and sounds from Television Singapura bursting onto 17 television sets that were placed at the Hall before 500 VIPs.  Thousands others captured the first one hour and 45 minutes of the broadcast along Queen Elizabeth Walk and at 52 community centres. 2,400 families who owned sets also enjoyed the ground-breaking moments from the comfort of their homes. Among the guests at the Victoria Memorial Hall were the Minister of Culture, Mr S. Rajaratnam, and the Minister of Finance, Dr Goh Kweng Swee.

Television arrived in Singapore on 15 Feb 1963. Television Singapura was inaugurated as a pilot monochrome service at the Victoria Memorial Hall where 500 VIPs had gathered to witness the momentous occasion.

The first one hour and 45 minute broadcast was viewed by 2,400 families - who owned TV sets - in the comfort of their homes, as well as crowds at 52 community centres across the island. Then, one in every 12 homes owned a TV set.

The first programme televised in Singapore was a 15-minute documentary produced by Television Singapura called TV Looks At Singapore. This programme introduced to viewers the world of TV broadcasting and the role it would play in the lives of Singaporeans.

The programme immediately following was a cartoon featuring Heckle and Jeckle, two mischievous blackjacks, and Dicky Duck. News In English accompanied by a five-minute newsreel came next, then Hancock's Half Hour.

On 2 Apr 1963, regular broadcasts began with four hours of programming on one channel - Channel 5.

Colour TV test transmissions started in May 1974 with daily half-hour slots at 11.05am and 2.05pm until 31 July 1974. One television set distributor announced a selling price of S$1,600!

The first phase of the colour service began smoothly on 1 Aug 1974, and on 11 Nov 1974, the second phase was launched. The newsreel was televised in colour and programmes increased from two hours to four hours on weekdays and from four to six hours on weekends.

By 1987, 526,677 households or one in 1.2 households here had colour TV sets.

Source: On Television In Singapore - A book published by Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC)

Radio, television and the newspaper are the three most important mass media in Singapore.

As a compact urban society in a process of rapid social change, Singapore is   characterised by a well-developed communication system which has played a vital role in nation-building and social development.

The range of mass media found in Singapore is comparable to that in any large city of the world, but the situation here is complicated further by the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nature of the population. Generally speaking, the population of Singapore is highly exposed to various types of mass media which are available in four official languages.

Television was first introduced in Singapore in 1963, and the colour service began in 1974. There are two channels, 5 and 8, in Singapore which provide an average of 66 and 41 weekly transmission hours respectively. Both channels are operated by Radio Television Singapore (RTS).

Programmes in all four languages – English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil – are transmitted. To cater for its multilingual audience, TV Singapore makes frequent use of subtitles.

Television programmes are transmitted in all the four official languages and several Chinese dialects, mainly Cantonese and Hokkien. Radio, television and the newspaper are the three most important mass media in Singapore.

Television at the Community Centres

I did not have a television set until 1965, a gift from my elder brother.  It was a Rediffusion Toshiba black and white 17" television model.

When I was living at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, I used to watch television programmes in the evening at Ganges-Delta Community Centre in 1963.  The facilities available at the community centre were the basic recreation stuff for the residents. Local newspapers in the four languages, a table-tennis table, a carrom board, simple chess board and other card games for children.

Ganges-Delta Community Centre (rural-type building structure in the 1960s).
The rural-type community centres in the 1960s  were unsophisticated buildings with simple designs, unlike the modern community centres we see today.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the opening of first rural type community centre at Kampong Hock Choon in Sungei Kadut on 19 November, 1962,

One of the television sets provided at the 52 community centres for the residents to watch the inauguration of Television Singapore on 15 February, 1963. (Photos below).

Please watch the video on YouTube here

The late Wang Sa (real name was Heng Kim Ching) (1924 - 1998) and Ye Fong (real name was Xiao Tian Cai) (1932 - 1995) were well known comedians on local TV in the 1960s and 1970s with their mix of dialect and Mandarin jokes。 Chinese Variety Shows such as 「Sharp Night 声宝之夜」 were produced by Television Singapura。In their heyday,Wang Sa and Ye Fong were always good for a barrel of laughs with their cross-talk routine。They were the local version of Laurel and Hardy - the grand old men of Singapore comedy,affectionately known as Ah Pui and Ah San (The Fat and Skinny Ones)。

They met in the 1960s on 「Xin Sheng Ge Tai 新生歌台 」or live theatre and never looked back。They performed in theatres as well as on national TV programmes。The two also recorded some songs in dialect,which sold very well then。Their unique mix of Teochew, Hokkien,pasar Malay,mumbo-jumbo Cantonese and pidgin English,never failed to raise a laugh in the 1960s and 1970s。Many youngsters today may not understand their then catch phrase:「Tee ah,agak-agak chiu ho?」 (Brother, take it easy!)。

They worked together from the 1960s till 1972 and then split to try their luck at movie-making in Hongkong。Ye Fong and Wang Sa went to Hongkong in the 1980s and appeared in several Cantonese movies there。The two are Singapore's only Asian movie stars。The huge box-office success of their 1974 Hongkong debut「The Crazy Bumpkins 阿牛入城記」 spawned three sequels。Ye Fong was the most outstanding comedian in the 20th Asian Film Festival。 A black and white footage of comedy skit performed by Singapore's iconic comedians Wang Sa and Ye Fong in English and dialects (mainly Teochew) at the Singapore's 10th National Day Celebrations in 1975。 In 1979,in a bid to simplify the language environment and improve communication amongst the different dialect groups within the Chinese community,the Speak Mandarin Campaign was launched by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew。The present Chinese community of today is mostly bilingual in English and Mandarin。It is a treat for baby-boomers and for Singaporeans who understand Hokkien (福建人) ,Teochew (潮州人) and Cantonese (广东人) dialects。Singapore baby boomers are those born between 1947 and 1964 are more affluent,better educated than their predecessors。

How to learn news in Singapore before the advent of television?

The traditional Chinese translators and story-tellers in Singapore in the 1950s.  Most elder Singaporeans were migrated from China , non-literate and depended on news from home in China.  The story-teller stalls were located at various parts of Chinatown.

With compulsory education and increased number of schools in Singapore in the 1960s, the immigrants in the past could keep their children and the younger generations of Singaporeans through the mass media and communication through newspapers, radio, television and now the Internet.

The ways done in the past to link Singapore to transform "a little red dot" on the map to a Global City in  five decades.

Singapore on Discovery Channel

On this related post, my young nostalgia blogger friend, Jerome Lim, at: "Getting a piece of the Pye" to share an interesting blog on television and the history of television in Singapore.

Note:  The archived photos with "For online reference viewing only" watermark from National Archives of Singapore (NAS) with credit, acknowledgement and thanks to share on this blog.

The "YouTube" video clips by the respective contributors are acknowledged with appreciation and gratitude for sharing and benefit of  the "YouTube" viewers.  Thank you.