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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Dec 18, 2012

From Squatters into Citizens

Mr Loh Kah Seng described the historical impact of Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961 .

Date: Sunday Dec 16, 2012
Time: 02:00 PM - 03:00 PM
Venue: Programme Zone in Woodlands Regional Library

From Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire From Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire.

Speaker: Mr Loh Kah Seng, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University

This talk will provide a vivid account of the 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and highlight the historical impact of the fire in Singapore’s journey towards modern housing. More specifically, the talk will illustrate how the fire resulted in a national emergency which led to the re-housing of kampong residents who became the first generation of HDB residents.

About the speaker:

Loh Kah Seng is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University. He works on little-studied subjects in the social and political history of Singapore and Southeast Asia, and his present research investigates the historical dimensions of natural disasters in Southeast Asian cities. Mr Loh is the author of three books, The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaya: Tangled Strands of Modernity (2012); The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History (2010); and Making and Unmaking the Asylum: Leprosy and Modernity in Singapore and Malaysia (2009). He is presently working on his fourth book Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore.

The final talk in the series of National Heritage Board public talk by Loh Kah Seng entitled "Kampong Fires in Singapore on Sunday, 17 March 2012 at 2.00 pm to 3.00 pm at Serangoon Public Library.

FOYer Lai Chee Kien attended the NHB Public Talk by Loh Kah Seng

Thimbuktu with Alvin Tan, Director, Heritage Institution, National Heritage Board
Group photo (left to right): Alvin Tan, Tan Teng Teng, Loh Kah Seng and Thimbuktu

The first time I met Kah Seng 5 years ago at my home to interview me about Bukit Ho Swee kampong for his book.  At that time, I was 59 years old.

For over 4 decades, the memories of Bukit Ho Swee had never cross my mind or mentioned to anybody, even my children about it.  It was history about Singapore which many people have forgotten about it.

To be prepared for Kah Seng's interview, I spent many nights to think about how I grew up in Bukit Ho Swee and the defining moments in my life when I was 13 years old in the Bukit Ho Swee fire.

As one event in my life leads to another, I started my first blog 5 years ago.  Blogging is now a hobby to travel through personal memories in a "time machine" and an ageing fun activity to share with everyone.

Thanks to Kah Seng for triggering my memories of Bukit Ho Swee, my birth place in Singapore.

In 2008, Kah Seng, Victor Yue and I created the "I grew up in Bukit Ho Swee" group on Facebook here, a social network on the Internet for like-minded friends to share our collective memories of Bukit Ho Swee residents, young and old.

About the "I grew up in Bukit Ho Swee" group:

Bukit Ho Swee comprises an area of about 38.4 hectares bounded by Delta Canal to the north, Tiong Bahru Road to the south, Kim Seng/Outram Road to the east and Lower Delta Road to the west.

If you grew up in Bukit Ho Swee, attended school in the area, or visit the place frequently over the years, keep your fond memories of Bukit Ho Swee and relive them here. Every individual contribution and recollection of personal memories of Bukit Ho Swee is invaluable and help us in reconstructing the collective heritage treasure of the place.

The selected posts shared at the Facebook group with the related topics:

Group photo (left to right):  Thimbuktu, Kah Seng, Roy Chan, Tay Ah Chuan

Kah Seng introduced Mr Roy Chan and Mr Tay Ah Chuan to me after his talk at Woodlands Regional Library.  They were both former residents of Bukit Ho Swee kampong and were also interviewed by Kah Seng for his book. It was like our old days as we reminisce about Bukit Ho Swee in the past.

The Straits Times - September 21, 2012
By: Jermyn Chow

Scared, yet inspired by inferno to become fireman

Mr Yunnos Shariff was waiting to be accepted into the Singapore Fire Brigade in 1961 when one of the island's biggest fires broke out.

The Bukit Ho Swee fire dampened the then 19-year-old's will to become a firefighter.

Fresh out of school, Mr Yunnos was with friends in the area when they saw the fire. He was terrified by the raging inferno which killed four people and left thousands homeless. "The flames looked like they were jumping so quickly from one place to another... people were helpless and screaming and I had second thoughts about being a fireman," recalled the 69-year- old.

But Mr Yunnos, whose father and two older brothers were firefighters, joined the brigade and went on to serve for 41 years.

"To witness people, many who were strangers, helping one another and even the firemen to put out the fire convinced me that it was the right thing to do," he said.

His story will be one of a few first-hand accounts to be told of the inferno in an exhibition from the end of this year.

The showcase, which is curated by the National Heritage Board (NHB), aims to teach people values such as fighting spirit and resilience through Singapore's major historical events or crises.

The Bukit Ho Swee display, which will feature multimedia presentations and a slew of public talks, is the second in the board's Resilience Through Heritage series.

The first, on the Hotel New World collapse in 1986, was launched in June this year and is making its rounds islandwide.

The month-long display will be put up in five venues, including the libraries in Geylang East and Bedok.

NHB's heritage institutions director Alvin Tan said that of the 30,500 visitors to the first exhibition who were polled, 97 per cent said it helped them to understand the importance of national resilience.

Also in the pipeline is a display on how Singapore bounced back from the Sars outbreak in 2003, added Mr Tan.

Source: The Straits Times



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