Saturday, October 28, 2006

My Friend Adrian Chua Remembers His Childhood Days

I was born in the fifties and stayed at Old Kallang Airport Road. In those days all rental flats was under the SIT program and we were staying at block 25 in Jalan Tiga. During the early sixties, my parents had a stall in Genting Lane at MacPherson called Teck Hock Pte Ltd. In those days, it was known as Teck Hock Kopi Long. It was a big factory where all the coffee beans were unloaded and stored in a big warehouse. Some of the beans were sold locally but the majority were exported to the neighboring countries.

I used to accompany my mother to the market to place orders for cakes such as the nine layers Kueh, Han Chien Pien, You Char Kueh etc. In those days, we paid 10 cents for three pieces and sold it for 5 cents per piece and made a profit of 5 cents for every 3 pieces sold in the “Kopi Long”. I also patronised the cheap open air cinema called Peking Theatre located opposite the present MacPherson market. To watch a movie, we only paid 5 cents but you have to endure the mosquitoes and there were no refunds if the show was cancelled due to heavy rain or power failure. Adjacent to it, there is an open field where circus shows like “Tai Tien Kiew” and “Great Circus Of India” were held.

McPherson Road
The stretch of MacPherson Road I am talking about as it is today.

I often walked from my home to Geylang Lorong 21 and took the Tay Koh Yat (blue) bus. The terminal was located opposite the Geyland Post Office. We used to pass by a Chinese temple before the post office and had free Chinese tea there. There was also a “Sinalco” drinks factory until it was demolished in the early seventies.

Adrian Sketch

I do hope to walk down this memory lane once again and re-collect all the things that I had done during my younger days; such as catching spiders, scooping longkang fishes, running bare-footed selling “Ma Piew Poh” and chasing after kites.

We only pass through this earthly life once; so be contented in what ever situation you are in. The Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament: “Godliness with contentment is much gain”.

46 comments:

Victor said...

Thanks to your friend Adrian Chua for sharing that story. Whoa, Chun See, your blog got so many contributors - makes me so jealous.

chun chew said...

Adrian - Welcome to Chun See blog. I am please to have another story-telling friend joining the group. Need to go out urgently, story-telling later on.

Lam Chun See said...

As I mentioned before in an earlier post post, I too have been to the open-air Peking Theatre mentioned by Adrian. I saw a Walt Disney animated movie called Sleeping Beauty there. I always remember the multi-colour fluorescent tubes mounted on the edges of the screen, and the many lizards that crawl all over the screen during the movies.

peter said...

I remember Old Kallang Airport well - once in 1959 (Dakota Crescent) and the other time in the late 60s (Jalan Satu and Jalan Tiga). There was a large neon advertizing signboard on one of the walls of the Dakota Crescent flats facing Mountbatten Road - a Knife brand advertisement?

I used to visit my friends at Block 41 and in front where the hawker center now stands were rows of 4 storey flats.

I understand that the people who rented at Jalan Satu and Jalan Tiga were from the Bukit Ho Swee Fire Resettlement cases.

I have a good memory of the internal layout of the flat - 2 bedrooms, 1 living cum shared kitchen, 1 toielt and 1 bathroom. There was also a balcony.

There were blocks of 10 storey flats facing 1 SIR. Before the bridge was built, there was no way to get from Mountbatten Road to Tanjung Katong Road. There was also a bus terminus in front of the former Mobile petrol station.

chun chew said...

chun see - You were lucky to see a show at the open-air Peking Threatre. I had not been there. The only time I visited McPherson area was with my wife when was conceiving my first daughter and she really craved for chilly crabs. There was this stall at the McPherson circus serving excellent crabs. No wonder my daughter has a large head and a good brain also.

Lam Chun See said...

I think the circus that Chun Chew referred to was known as Woodsville Circus. It is now a car park and there are still lots of good makan nearby. In fact last Sat, Adrian gave me a treat to the famous River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodles stall in MacPherson .... strange, I am the one who should blanjar him for writing the article for me. After that, we drove around the areas that he mentioned.

Now that I got him all nostalgic, I am going to squeeze a couple more articles out of him about this part of Spore whose history I am not too familiar with. Look out for something about Gay World (快乐世界) at a time when 'gay' simply means happy.

And I can look forward to more makan treats. Hee hee.

Lam Chun See said...

By the way, younger readers may not know that SIT stood for Sinapore Improvement Trust, the predecessor of HDB (Housing and Development Board). Here's the Link.

chun chew said...

SIT flats are really solid even upto these days. The late chief Lim Yew Hock would be proud of the few achievements during his charge. SIT flats have some charateristics of British buildings. The reinforced conceted foundation (few times more than the specified amount) I think could easily withstand a bomb blast. One of my former offices, a tiny 2 storey building which need a unit aircon, and would you believe it took 2 workmen to chisel a hole in the wall for a week to get the job done. On one occasion I asked our structural engineer how long would our hardstanding (British built before WWII)going to last. His answer at least another 29 years !

Lam Chun See said...

Victor, in biz jargon we say leverage on other's strengths. Add some variety to the stories other than everything is about the Lam family. My readers will get bored.

Anyway, I try to do my part to support PM's exhortation to pass down the stories.

chun chew said...

In fact everyone has past stories or experiences to share, irrespective which era they were borned into. In fact there will a wide range of contribution if many people join in. There again there must be spontaneity in response. In blogging, as in other activities, certain level of enthusiasm is neccesary, otherwise it will lose momentum, and come to a standstill.

peter said...

I agree with Chub Chew comments about the strength of the SIT flats. However those that were strong were built by the British and not Lim Yew Hock Govt or by the British Colonial Govt at Short Street, Princess Elizabeth Estate, Dorset Road.

I lived with my grandparents at Eng Hoon Street (others street names are Eng Watt Street, Tiong Poh Road, Chay Yan Street,etc) which was the first SIT flats built in 1933. When the HDB sold those 99-year leasehold SIT flats, we bought it in 1966 for a sum of S$20K.

My father and uncles lived in that flat during WW2 and when the Japanese bombed SGH (then called Outram General Hospital), some bombs landed on the roof of the 3-storey building but failed to explode. There is still a WW2 air-raid shelter at Block 81 or 85.

As I understand, the SIT flats at Tiong Bahru are under preservation status.

Adrian Chua said...

The neon advertisment knife brand signboard that Peter mentioned was located at the Guillarmard circus.If you walked further down towards Old Kallang Airport, you will come across the school for the deaf and kallang primary school.I used to stay at #39-F,block 25 in Jalan Tiga.Those days we used to watch Chinese Wayang and many Tikan Tikan stalls during the festive seasons not forgetting the aroma of roasted coffee beans below my flat. Woh! I just wish that I can meet up with some of my old neighbours......

peter said...

My friend's house was at 22D Jalan Tiga. Now what can I recall? Yes the neighborhood was very noisy because of the popularity of Rediffusion box. At that time everybody was listening or singing to the Beatles" Can't Buy me Love" - English and Hokkien versions. Yes there was the old Chung Clinic at the old wet market which was subsequently over by the son (and is still in business today). Many gangsters lived in that place because it was closed to Geylang. Fatty Weng Restaurant was then opearting at the corner coffee-shop facing the Singapore Badminton Hall. Tried his hor-fun and liked it.

Kallang Park was a "park" and had a big fountain and those huge pillars. If there were no trade fairs, the gate was closed by huge collapsible metal gates. There was also a Lion statute somewhere inside Kallang Park (now at SAFTI MI). When TV was first introduced in Singapore, I went to the TV trade fair at Kallang and saw brands like Telefunken, Sharp, Roxy, Blue Spot, Mormende. There was also the SHELL traffic game but unfortunately I did not get the chance to participate.

In the ealry 70s, there was "Wonderland" where we sat in those Ovaltine cups joy-rides.

So much for the good old days!

chun chew said...

This is what I mean that everyone can contribute freely and generously to blogging. When we talk about British built buildings, Peter would at once enlighten us with detailed, accurate description including brief history of such solid structures, very interesting & very educational. Others could certainly could do so on various topics which they are familiar with.

IML said...

Do you have any recollection or photos on areas around little india i.e. racecourse road during the 60s and 70s?

chuck said...

Staying in Hill View area in the 60s, Old Kallang Airport road is quite a distance away. I remembered the area well for the Badminton Hall and the People's Association. As youth member of the community centre we went to PA for a badminton tourament. And not forgetting the National Stadium where I went for the first time in 1977. Singapore played Penang in the then Malaysia Cup. If not mistaken Singapore won that game. I remembered the celerbrations when Singapore scored the goals with fried rice thrown up in the air and landed on our heads.Sadly, the National Stadium is slated for developments soon.

Lam Chun See said...

I didn't know that fried rice can cause premature balding ... Hahaaa.

Lam Chun See said...

I want to blog about New World Amusement Park later. I had relatives who lived in Dorset Road area. We used to visit them as kids and stayed in their 'Dutch' houses. Anyone recall these type of house?

chun chew said...

Hi Chuck, you stirred my memory on this epic soccer match when the stadium nearly bursted its seams and it could be around a 70,000 crowd, with many locked out. Some desperate fans tried to scale the walls, but stopped by the police handling dogs. I recollected the Bakar brothers playing one-two with devastating effect destroying the Singapore defence with ease. Gelek king Dollah Kasim pulled back one, and overall if I am not mistakenthe Singapore won the match by 3-2. There were mayhems and the crowd went crazy

Ho said...

Hi Chun See,

I am born in the late 70s but really enjoyed these tales of the days of yore ... it reminded me a lot of wat my parents told me of abt their own lives ... it also brought back some gd memories as some of the stuff mentioned were still ard in the 70s and early 80s ... this is a great blog

btw, i was reading wat made u start the blog and discovered a funny coincidence ... correct me if i am wrong but i believe that you went to Yangon to teach the course which i had planned (i.e. i had engaged the agency who sent you there) ... i came to this conclusion when i saw the venue of the lesson and found it very familiar

Victor said...

I remember a few neon signs in the 1960s before the government banned them. A very prominent one was along North Bridge Road, just behind the Capitol Theatre. It was a huge steel structure maybe about 8 storeys tall that advertised the National brand. At night, there were running vertical white neon lights that swept across the whole facade repeatedly.

On top of Cathay Building was another one - I think it advertised Teteron fabric. I could see it very clearly from my block in Cheng Yan Place.

Then there were some interesting animated ones. I remember one which showed someone lifting a glass to drink some beverage. Can't recall where I saw it though or what beverage it was.

The ban on neon signs was lifted some years ago but I don't see any neon signs which are comparable to what I saw as a kid. So sad.

peter said...

There was a neon signboard on top of the present Hotel Rendevouz - cant recall the name

chuck said...

Hi Chun Chew, glad that you remembered that great match. The Bakar Brothers - Isa and Ali Bakar were actually cousins of my neighbour. I remembered them paying a visit to our estate with the other players and I was suprised to see them there.
And talking about the neon signboards, can anyone enlighten me why it was banned?

sweet memory said...

Well done, all of you have brought back my sweet memory in those happy and simple-life days

Victor said...

Chuck, I am not sure but I think the government banned neon signs because they "may cause confusion with traffic lights".

zen said...

Talking about the fifties, in reality gangsters took part in the 'running' of Singapore, police enforcement seemed to be non-existence. Newspaper reported that there was one death a day arising from such crimes. Here was my real encounter: I came out of Nam Kok open-air cinema near Braddell Road (now Bishan) after watching a show. There was a small crowd waiting in a poorly-lit bus-stop for the bus to come. Then I saw a guy secretly approached a attap house, and he came out with two or three accomplices. They sneaked behind a man among us. One bear-hugged him from behind, while the other rained blows on him, luckily no weapons were used. Mayhem ensued, as a kid I was horrified by this incident. The injured man subsequently broke loose and fled. What kind of society was that? Could you imagine he man assaulted was a Police Force volunteer! This happened during the Mr Lim Yew Hock adminstration (before 1959). After 1959, the present government has successfully put an end to secret societies.

chuck said...

Thanks Victor... if that is the reason, I wonder why the Hongkong government did not consider doing the same....

peter said...

In 1973/74 the Government banned neon signboards for 2 reasons:

1. Oil Crisis and such things were consuming too much fuel. YOu will remember that there were many musicla fountains in public places and the nightly lights were turned down.

2. The owners left the neon signboards in a dilapidated state and the Government didn't want to go the way like Hong Kong. So anything overhanging or sticking out from buildings on to 5-foot pavements were banned.

Adrian Chua said...

The Kallang Park "Wonderland" amusement centre was fun and crowded.There you have the roller coaster with the lion head on the first cabin. It was reported in the press that a man was thrown off and killed instantly when he took off his safety belt and stood up.We also have the annual horticulture shows where you can view many different variety of plants. At the entrance of the park there was a roundabout fountain and further down stood the 2 lion statues that was first erected in Nicoll Highway along the Mederka Bridge. Gang clash was common at that time somewhere near the canal where King shoes used to manufacture their industrial safety shoes and not forgetting the "Roti Long". Looking back, I really must thank the present government for a wonderful job done in keeping law and order in this small nation so that we can live peacefully.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks for the many comments on this post. Gave me many ideas for future posts; e.g. gangsters, circuses (trafic type and lions type), amusement parks. Trouble is no time. Maybe it's time to hand out some blogging assignments. Victor .. are you reading this?

Adrian Chua said...

I think the government banned neon lighting because it is distracting especially to those who drive. I can recall a near missed accident during the early seventies when I was still in NS. My officer asked me to fetch a group of band boys to perform in our camp for the OC night. I was so engrossed with the neon lighting that I drove passed even though the traffic light was red.Anyway,after visting many countries such as America, Hong Kong....I think neon lights are essential to add and beautified this small island called Singapore but we have to pay a slightly high price for the electricity charges.

Adrian Chua said...

The neon lighting in the early seventies that I was referring used to be at the side wall of the present Specialist Shopping Centre.Many people will gathered to makan at the car park which later shifted to the present Newton carpark.

Victor said...

What were you saying Chun See? Sorry, I wasn't paying attention. :p

zen said...

Business has gone big. Chun See wants to outsource some manufacturing to a branded company known as Victor Enterprise Unlimited.

Adrian Chua said...

In the early sixty,those staying at Kallang Airport will remember the wet market. There was this(Teochew)"Chap Kian" store where they sell variety of black Kana, preserved vegetables, black source crabs...A bowl of the famous "Tuck Kee" Laska cost only 5 cents.You have to squat down sitting on those hand made stools from used wood which was very uncomfortable but I enjoyed it. The bean curd seller will push his trolly punctually at 10.30 am in the morning and I will buy a packet before going to school. The doctor at "Chung Clinic" was very friendly.Infact we called him to certify the death of my mum who passed away at home in order to get the death certificate.
There was this cabaret lady in my block who used to take taxi without paying the fare so much so that my ground floor Indian neirhbour had to tell the taxi drive where she lives in order to get the fares from her mother.You see the many interesting and funny things happening in those good old days!

Adrian Chua said...

During my younger days we formed a group called the "Road Runner" and we used to waked up at 4.00 am just to run from Old Kallang Airport to the National Stadium passed Mederka Bridge and proceed to Clifford Pier. After a short rest we would run back and headed for the coffee shop to tapao Yew Char Kueh and Kopi-O in milk tin can tie with raffie string. There were also the Hor Fun packed in Opal leaves but all these goodies had faded now. How sad......

zen said...

Chuck - When capt Siak Poh Leong took penalty kick, did your heart stopped for a few seconds ?

Adrian Chua said...

Those days during the Malaysian Cup,everyone was crazy about football.I used to watch all matches played at the National Stadium. I remembered the famous Rajagoopal's banana kick, Quah Kim Siong dribbling,crazy horse - Hasli Ibrahim, Mohd Noor, Samad, Roy Krishan, Zanial.... The most memorable goal as Ashak Khamis 35 meter goal that caught the goal keeper sleeping. Can't remember which match.Hope one day the Malaysian Cup will be reinstated when our new stadium is ready....

Lam Chun See said...

Talk of Msia cup is sure to get us 'laodies' all fired up. But pls hold your horses - crazy or otherwise - and save it for my future post on this topic. Thank you.

zen said...

Chun See - The stable is open so the horses escape.

Adrian - I saw the match and the goal. Arshad was famous in shielding the ball, Dollah his gelek, the list goes on. It is quite impossible for the revival of the Malaysia Cup, because soccer has now turned professional. Perhaps under a different Malaysia Cup format, for the under 21, can be started.

chuck said...

Zen, I cannot recall Capt Siak (I think it is Seak) taking the penalty kick.. but I remembered there were some unhappy fans who put up the banner ' SACK Poh Leong' as they felt he did not do a good job.

zen said...

Chuck - you are right. Fans were fed up with capt Seak for his infamous penalty kicks, always missed. What to do he was the capt. One debacle - in one of the SEAP games final he miskick losing, I think, the third placing. Not surprising, the crowd expected the outcome.

peter said...

Adrian Chua:
I think the neon signboard you refer to the Orchard Hawker Center (opposite Centerpoint) was not on the wall of the Specialist Center but on a row of old 2 storey shophouses nearest to the Killiney Road traffic lights. It was the SETRON TV advertisement. Behind the hawker center car park was a cananl (which is still there today) and after the canal was a Caltex petrol station.

You mentioned about KING Footwear -was it nearer to the Firestone factory opposite the Kallang MRT Station?

zen said...

The more I read about neon-lights, the more I believe that Govt is bias towards these displayed lights. May be they do not want Singapore to be associated to the " World of Suzie Wong".

Adrian Chua said...

Hi,Peter,
If you are travelling from the city towards Sommerset,Killiney Road should be on your left hand side. The neon light is on the right side where Specialist Shopping centre is.
The original factory where King Shoes used to produce their famous industrial safety shoes was along the canal behind Broadrick Secondary School in Dakota Cresent.

Adrian Chua said...

During our younger days, we used to go to "Wonderland Amusement" in Kallang Park with our close kakis. Those day, the entrance fees was a mere 10 cents.We have to pay a dollar for a group of 10. My friends thought of a plan. We only bought one ticket and the last person will be holding it. When the guard asked for the entrance ticket, my friend will point to the one behind. This carried on till the nine of us had gone in and we begun to run and disappeared. Since I was the one holding the ticket, the guard expected me to pass him 10 tickets.I told him that I came here alone and do not know anyone in front of me.What a dirty trick we can think of when we were young!