In the introduction to my blog, I mentioned that Singapore is changing far too quickly. The reality of that statement hit home when I attended the Museum Roundtable Blog Committee Meeting held at Stamford House last week.
I parked my car at the public car park next to Armenian Street and took the opportunity to walk around the area. Although I do occasionally drive past this area, this was the first time in years that I actually strolled along this area. It struck me that many of the familiar icons and landmarks have disappeared from the area.
Most missed of course, is the National Library building. I heard that it has moved to a spanking new building in North Bridge Road. But somehow I am not too keen to go there. Maybe deep down, I have not forgiven our government for destroying something so dear to my generation; something that is so integral to our collective memory of our youth. It seemed like only yesterday that they were debating furiously whether or not to tear down the old building. I did not follow the debate closely because I believe that once our government has decided on something, it is near impossible to get them to change their minds. This reminds me about a documentary I saw recently on Channel News Asia. Entitled, Get Real, and hosted by Diana Ser, this episode explored our people’s readiness to discard old things. I did not catch the whole show, and thus not sure if they mentioned about discarding old buildings, but I suspect not – for obvious reasons.
This photo was lifted without permission from Victor’s Blog on Vanishing Scenes of Singapore
Gone also was the part of Waterloo Street that used to house the Indian rojak and mee rebus stalls. It is hard to find an adult Singaporean who cannot relate to how we used to be waylaid by the aggressive vendors when we made our way to the library from Bras Brasah Road. Long gone too were the second-hand book shops along Bras Basah Road where we bought our Minerva Guides. I wonder if they still publish this type of exam guides written in flowery English which none of us really understood.
Where have all the sarabat stalls gone? Gone to the SMU everyone.
I remember buying my first badminton racket from a sports shop there. It was a Dunlop Maxply, a branded product of the day, made of wood and cost me a whopping $30. You also needed to buy a press to clamp down on the face of the racket to prevent it from warping. When the racket strings broke, we would bring it to a sports shop located in Maju Avenue in Serangoon Gardens (facing the Paramount Theatre) for repair. I think the shop was called George-something. I remember seeing a tablet of the Ten Commandments in the shop –probably not the Old Testament Ten Commandments, but the Customer Service ten commandments. It was really fascinating to watch how they replaced the broken strings. After a while, we were able to do it ourselves using our geometry set dividers to hold the strings in place.
Gone too were the MPH Bookstore and the US Embassy with it adjacent USIS Library. I wonder how many Singaporeans reading this blog have heard of the USIS along Hill Street. I did not check what is standing there now. Maybe my new friends from NHB (National Heritage Board) can enlighten us. Good thing though, the Armenian Church was spared.
But to my pleasant surprise, the Wilmer Clinic is still there. This place really holds some special memories for me. When my siblings and I were still very young, my parents used to bring us there for consultation with a Dr William Heng. I remember especially a vendor selling toys at the entrance of the building. I dearly wanted a red fire engine but I guess my parents could not afford it. There was one occasion when I was terribly sick and had to be warded at the sick bay located above the clinic. I remember clearly 2 things about that evening when I woke up on the sick bed. Somebody had placed a wet towel on my forehead, so I must be having a high fever. I also saw my beloved red fire engine beside me.
My thanks to Shaun of NHB for helping me to take these pictures of Wilmer Place and Wilmer Clinic
By the way, I had some difficulty locating the Stamford House in spite of directions from Shaun of NHB. We met at a restaurant called the Moon River. That of course reminded me of Andy Williams’ signature song and his very popular TV show. He always began the show with Moon River and ended it with May Each Day. But I doubt any of the yuppies dining there that evening were familiar with these songs.
I will end by sharing with you the nice lyrics from his second song. Stanza 2 is specially dedicated to my friend Victor (whom I have yet to meet).
May each day in the week be a good day. May the Lord always watch over you. And may all of your hopes turn to wishes.And may all of your wishes come true.
May each day in the month be a good day. May you make friends with each one you meet. And may all of your daydreams be mem'ries. And may all of your mem'ries be sweet.
The weeks turn to months, and the months into years. There'll be sadness and joy, there'll be laughter and tears. But one thing I pray to heaven above. May each of your days be a day full of love.
May each day in the year be a good day. May each dawn find you happy and gay. And may all of your days be as lovely. As the one you shared with me today.
May each day of your life be a good day. And good night.
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