Blog To Express

A blogosphere learning experience to express with blog

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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Feb 25, 2014

Hokien Street in Singapore - Then and Now

Hokien Street in Singapore  c.1900
Courtesy of National Heritage Board & Central Singapore

Early Chinese immigrants tended to congregate in ethnic enclaves, of which Hokien and Upper Hokien Streets were two such areas.  These streets were home to Hokkien immigrants from the Anxi district of Fujien province, where tea cultivation was a major activity.  Bringing their trade with them, many Anxi Hokkien immigrants became tea merchants in Singapore.

Besides the tea trade, another industry that flourished on Hokien and Upper Hokien Streets was carriage making.  In the very early days of the settlement, c.1819-1880, horse carriages were a common sight.  Used mostly by the British community, horse carriages could be seen making their rounds every evening along the Esplanade and the Padang, two areas where most of the British built the bungalows.  But for the local residents of Hokien and Upper Hokien Streets, building horse carriages was simply a way to earn a living.

In the pre-war years, Upper Hokien Street acquired a less savoury reputation.  Exclusive brothels operating here were patronised by a wealthy and ostentatious clientele.  These, however, were shut down by the 1950s.  Hokien and Upper Hokkien Streets later became famous for their hawker food.

These life-sized bronze sculptures of the various portable hawkers and tradesmen in Hokien Street as a tribute to the pioneer generations in Singapore.

Hokien Street in Singapore - Then

The archived photos of Hokien Street in the 1950s are curated with the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore (NAS). With thanks and acknowledgement to NAS posted to share on this blog for non-commercial purposes.

The old shophouses and streets at Hokien Street in these photos revived my fond nostalgic childhood memories when my mother first brought me to visit her relatives when I was 6 or 7 years old.  An old town crowded with pedestrians, trishaws, bicycles but few cars.  I remembered a market shop at the corner of Hokien Street and was curious about an old gas-lighted street lamp in the past (similar to the photo below).

During that time, Hokien Street was a central business district and the tallest building was the 18-storey Asia Insurance Building.  There were no tall buildings with business offices, foreign or local banks.  The main activities around Boat Quay, the godowns mainly the entrepot trade along the Singapore River.  There were "coolies" and other workers to perform menial jobs working under the scorching hot sun or when it rained.

People were dressed simply and comfortably to suit the tropical weather.  Most ladies wore samfoo in the street  and men in plain shirts or singlets and shorts.  Before the days of permed hair, cosmetics to make up with brightly colored lipsticks and painted nails, painted faces.  The young ladies were not modern fashion-conscious and a very different lifestyle then and now.

Many men and ladies were wearing clogs and did not wear imported leather footwear with fashionable design in the public.  Over the decades, the evolution of fashion and social transformation among the town folks in Hokien Street could be seen visibly.

If I could "transport" myself via extra-sensory perception (ESP) or a time-machine back to Hokien Street five decades ago,  it was a very different world on a little street in Singapore.  It was like the olden days of a different era when people and vehicles moved slowly like time stood still.  But as the world changed, the global city of Singapore advanced and moved on with the times in so many ways.  A new generation with improved education for opportunities for jobs; aspirations with hopes and blessings for a better place for future generations.

Hokien Street in Singapore - Now

Courtesy of National Heritage Board

Established in 1854, Chui Eng Free School was one of the oldest Chinese schools in Singapore.  Chui Eng Free School was an early Chinese learning institution which was set up by private individuals but open to provide free education for all.

From the inscription plaques found inside the school, historians established that Chi Eng was built by Tan Kim Seng and other wealthy and prominent Hokkien leaders who were immigrants from Malacca.

A plaque in Chui Eng Free School expressed the wish of its founders, "Someday when many are educated and everyone knows the Way of Confucious, to transform this barren land into a place of the learned."

The century-old heritage conservation project building in Hokien Street

Another entrance into Hokien Street from South Bridge Road, traffic moving towards Neil Road and the  Pinnacles@Duxton as shown in the background of the photo.

The landscaped backlane of the old buildings in Hokien Street

Tan Hock Seng Biscuit Shop was near Hokien Street where my mother once stayed during the Japanese Occupation.  Her favorite biscuits were the "beh teh saw" and "phong piah".  The Hokkien colloquial for "phong piah" means somebody gets a scolding -  "" (eat "phong piah") not a good name to use, but good and tasty to eat!

The YouTube video with courtesy of Sen. Thanks for sharing on this blog.


Feb 15, 2014

Tanglin Halt - Then and Now

Tanglin Halt -  Then

The street name and the shop name in these photos told us that we arrived in Tanglin Halt after our earlier walk down memories at Commonwealth Avenue, Queenstown in Singapore.  The blog was posted here .

My heritage friends Lina Koh, Hercules Lim and Victor Khong have grown up in Tanglin Halt.

I wasn't born in Tanglin Halt, but worked there many years ago.

With the courtesy of archived photos of Tanglin Halt curated from the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) on these selected photos to share on this blog with acknowledgement and thanks to NAS.

PUB Gas Tank at Tanglin Halt  c 1990
Many Singaporeans may have known about the Kallang Gas Works  in the early days (Source: Courtesy of SingaporeInfopedia) but few knew about the PUB Gas Tank at Tanglin Halt , courtesy of my blogger friend Icemoon with thanks.

Another landmark at Tanglin Halt is the "Church of the Blessed Sacrament" at Commonwealth Avenue.

During the early years of Singapore's independence, EDB and JTC helped to jumpstart Singapore's industrialisation drive through rapid land development and construction of low-cost factories. Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate provided many residents in Queenstown to work near where they lived.

First block of Economic Development Board (EDB) flatted factory at Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate in 1965.

Balloting of Housing Development Board (HDB) flats at Commonwealth Drive on 26 Jan 1965.

Tanglin Halt Housing Estate in 1967

"Memories of Smell" in Tanglin Halt

Sheng Hua Enterprise Ltd at Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate, manufacturer of Van Houten chocolates in 1966.  Residents who lived near the factory enjoyed the "memories of smell - the fragrant aroma of chocolate" with "free smelling" until relocated to bigger factories in Jurong.

Pioneers of TV factories at Tanglin Halt

The family in HDB flat at Tanglin Halt watching the first black and white TV set in 1964.

Setron TV factory at Tanglin Halt in 1966.

Roxy TV factory at Tanglin Halt in 1966

Other factories located at Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate

Daiwa factory in 1966
Great Malaysia Textile Manufacturing Co Ltd in 1967
Phonographic Industries Ltd in 1967
Lim Seng Huat Industries Ltd in 1969
Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) flats in Tanglin Halt c 1960s
Former Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate, with courtesy of "My Queestown" blog here .

The following photos were posted to me by Lina with detailed descriptions of the places in Tanglin Halt.

I would also like to express the appreciation to Chun See, Lina and Hercules who had made a recce to share their collective memories for their input to make the blog more meaningful and memorable.

Queenstown Lutheran Church (709 Commonwealth Drive)

Above first picture of on the left as you can see a sharp point shape (cross shape) is the Queenstown Lutheran Church (1967) where I as a child of 3 year old went pre-kindergarten child care before goes to Tanglin Halt.

Kindergarten where we went there recently two weeks ago. Further to the right side of the top 3 HDB blocks where Victor Khong's mother lives at Block 82 at the centre of the top 3 HDB blocks of which one of the blocks is Block 81 (VIP Block) at the corner end of the right hand side of the photo. Foreground of the photo is my former Primary School - New Town Primary School (1965) in 1970s which seats beside the other school is Permaisura Primary School (1965). I have written down the name of the buildings on the photo.  Small shape (cross shape) of the church on the 3rd picture on the foreground (below) is the JTC HDB Blk 115B where I occasionally go for the lunch break at the canteen and the previous office where I worked at the building next to the Blk 115B is "GMTI building" hidden from view on the left.  Last picture is the church - Queenstown Lutheran Church. Photo Courtesy:  Lina Catcat, Mimiworld On the Memory Lane.

Veteran heritage blogger Lam Chan See had posted a previous blog about his memories of Queenstown to share with us.  

Tanglin Halt - Now


The old SIT shophouses which were newly painted with bright colorful schemes and the latest designed kid equipments at the playground for fun and safety.

Lina with her auntie (center) and friend at Tanglin Halt
Lina's auntie is the tenant of the hardware shop for decades.
Thimbuktu in front of the former HDB Queensway Area Office

Sparkletots Queenstown Child Care Centre was built in 1993.  It occupies the ground floor of the former HDB Queensway Area Office and the car park fronting the office.

The above archived photos of the former HDB Queensway Area Office in the 1970s, with courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

Can you spot the differences of the juxtaposed photos of the same place, different times, different memories?

Firstly, did you know the models of cars parked in front of the building?

Secondly,  inside the HDB area office.  1) the ceiling fans;  2) the wiring fence at the casher counter for security purposes;  3)  the uniform of the policeman (known as the days of the "mata cheng teh kor"); 4) the cashiers using NCR machines for cash collection;  5) payments using "computerised punched cards" to be sent to the HDB Computer Center at Bukit Merah HQ for batch processing of records;  6) revenue stamp pasted on the collection booklet payment of $20 and above.  7) Lessees of HDB flats ownership under the CPF Scheme were required to receive the Central Provident Fund Board as a form of "cheque" together with the pre-printed "punched card" to the payment counter.  HDB was not fully computerised in those days and manually recorded "memo cards" were used to verify and updated payments.  The "memo cards" became obsolete subsequently when "real-time online" computerised data  linked to every HDB offices.

The photos of HDB Queensway Area Office at "Memories of HDB" posted to my previous blog.

Queensway Branch Office located beside the former HDB office

Tanglin Halt Food Centre

Favorite durian ice-kachang.  Shiok!
After enjoying our bowls of delicious durian ice-kachang at the Tanglin Halt Food Centre, my heritage friends bid farewell to Queenstown and then we each went our own ways, wondering when we would meet for another heritage trail in Queenstown.  We bid "bon voyage" to Victor Khong as he returned to Illinois, USA the next week.  We would not visit too often until there are new memories and stories at the same place for us to share on the blog.

This photo of the back of the building which was once upon a time the HDB Queensway Area Office, it brought back fond nostalgic memories of a place where it was my second home for almost a decade.

The chiku tree in the foreground must have been planted by one of my HDB colleagues and the tree was still there.  There were many other local fruit trees in this compound.  I had thrown some papaya seeds in the past there, the trees grew and bear fruits, and we shared the papayas together many times for new trees to be planted and grow as the old trees rest in peace after harvest times.

These photos taken from the overhead bridge which I passed daily from home to work, work to home four decades ago will remember forever in my "memory storage" to reminisce.  The locations of these buildings ...  Queenstown Community Centre where there was once a traffic circus in front, Masjid Mujahidin at the corner of Stirling Road, the former Police Reserve Unit (PRU) now known as the Special Operations Command (Queensway Base).  The Queensway Flyer was not yet built when I left Tanglin Halt to work at the HDB Bukit Merah HQ.

The HDB flats in Tanglin Halt have been repainted with new coats of paint on the external walls and the place has the neighbourhood heartland in Tanglin Halt  a brighter, fresh look ... "remaking of Queenstown" for the benefits of the future generations.