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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Mar 15, 2014

The End of An Era - Bucket System in Singapore

"Kampong Toilet"

Jerome Lim, the "Wondering Wanderer' of "The Long and Winding Road" blog for "people, places, events, words and images that have left an impression on me along the long and winding road ...".  He is my young blogger friend who blogs with passion and love of Singapore memories prolifically with great photos and the creator of the ever-popular Facebook group, "On a little street in Singapore" .  There are now about 6,000 Facebook members in this group and increasing in this interesting topics by Singaporeans and everywhere.

In the archived NAS photo of an old "kampong toilet", Jerome asked: "Anyone with memories of using such outhouses to share?"

Kamal Abu Serah posted a photo with the caption "Same person, same place, different timings" and another one by Philip Chew.

Jerome Lim posted a similar photo: "Tong Tahi" (night-soil carrier in Malay).

All humans smell with their noses politely and good smell in the air with a smile, while bad smell dislike with disgust and growl.  No wonders many people, especially the ladies, use perfume these days. However, all creatures sniff with nostrils to test their food without perfume ...

In my previous blogs, "Memories of Smell - Sewerage here and a related blog topic "Ways Done in the Past - Public Toilets" here .

[ On 24 January 1987, Singapore said goodbye to a primitive way of life and entered a modern era.  "Modern sanitation has arrived at every home in Singapore, sounding a death knell to the century  - old night soil bucket system," said news report on that day.

From that day, the 78 night soil workers who served families in rural areas would no longer go on their daily rounds to empty and clean the buckets of human waste.  The system - introduced in Singapore in the 1890s - had been phased out by ENV in a bid to provide modern sanitation for the whole of Singapore.  Night soil workers had either been deployed as cleaners or retrenched.  Altogether, 15,369 buckets were phased out from 1982 till 1987.  It was the result of a $1.6 million effort by ENV to develop an island-wide sewerage system that was accelerated in the 1970s.

To mark the official end of the night soil bucket system, ENV held a closing-down ceremony at its last night soil disposal station at Lorong Halus in Tampines.  Former Chief Engineer of PUB's Drainage Department Donald recalls that day of the ceremony "We wanted to keep the last bucket.  ENV officers cleaned it and kept it, as a reminder of the younger generation of a previous way of life."]

Thanks to Westly Ong for sharing the old photo of the truck for carrying the 'nightsoil buckets', one door for each bucket.  I think this is a smaller truck with fewer doors. The standard size of the truck have 32-doors, with 16 doors on each side.  Photo credit: Westly Ong to share on my blog. Much appreciated.

History of Used Water Management in Sngapore

The history of the Public Utilities Board (PUB) in Singapore over the decades.

Contribution by Mr Goy Soong Ngee to share with us on this blog. Thank you, Mr Goy.  

My Story  

Toilet was a small attap and wooden structure a short walking distance at the back of the house.

Going to the toilet in the night to do the "big business" was a problem as it was dark at night and the walk to the toilet rather eerie and quiet. If one had to go to the toilet to find relief, a small kerosene lamp or lighted candle would help. Using a torch light would not be practical and useful as it would not give a bright enough shine to cover a big area. Also the torchlight might just slipped off from your hand while you were doing the cleaning up and adjusting your pants or blouse back into position. So for those who feared going in the dark and quiet in the night to get to the toilet, they would do their big business at home using a spittoon.

This would be a better option as the next morning the contents in the spittoon could be brought to the toilet to be emptied. It is interesting to note that if you were half way through your business, and the nigh-soil carrier arrived to replace the bucket with an empty one, you would have to be fast enough to get out of the toilet before he replaced the bucket. Otherwise you would have to shout aloud to him to wait till your job was done.

Occasionally one would be faced with an awful sight of flies buzzing around the human waste, and a few days later, the thousands of crawling maggots. This would happen if the night-soil carrier, for whatever reason, did not turn up for work for a few days.

To go to the toilet, some kampong folks would smoke a cigarette or wipe some ointment to their nose to reduce the dirty smell of the human waste. There were those who would pinch their nose and hold their breath, and if they could not managed do so, would breath through their mouth while cupping it with their hands. For me, it was just finishing the business quickly and getting out of the cubicle as soon as possible.

However, I am not sure if there were those who had the habit of bringing papers or magazines to read while squatting down to empty their waste product.



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