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Monday, October 16, 2006
Places I Remember (1) – MacRitchie Reservoir
I was indeed glad to read the announcement in the papers last week that the National Parks Board plans to upgrade the MacRitchie Reservoir next year. Apparently there has not been any major upgrading for 40 years. As such, the landscape has not changed much from what I could remember of the place from the sixties.
In my secondary school days, our school used to hold our annual cross country races there. The jogging track has largely remained unchanged except that they have put in more gravel and so it is less muddy and slippery on rainy days. I remember many of us slipped and fell when we came to the steep slopes and got ourselves covered with mud. The muddiest section was the stretch leading up to Lornie Road next to the golf course. The mud also had a distinct pungent odour. Every time, I smell something like it, my mind goes back to those school days. I also remember our cross country champion by the name of Mirza Namazie. He was a state runner and none of the boys could even get near to him at the finishing line.
When I was working at Philips Factory in Lorong One Toa Payoh in the late 70's and early 80's, my colleagues and I used to go jogging at MacRitchie every Wednesday after work. After the run, we would adjourn to a nearby hawker centre for dinner. Needless to say, we more than made up for the lost calories. Our favourite eating place was the Whitley Road hawker centre located under the Thomson Road-Pan Island Expressway flyover. The other favourite was the food stalls at the Lake View Estate which was demolished a couple of years ago.
For the past one year, I have been going to MacRitchie Reservoir quite regularly. Ever since my son’s kayaking training was shifted there from Kallang River last year, I have been going there about twice a week to do my brisk walking exercise and fetch him home in the evenings. Lately, my old friend and fellow office tenant, Chuck has also joined me.
The biggest drawback with the MacRitchie Reservoir is the traffic system. If you drive, it is very difficult to leave MacRitchie by its sole exit during the evening peak hour. The constant stream of vehicles speeding down Lornie Road towards the Thomson Road Flyover makes each attempt to leave an exercise in faith. On days when there are big events like cross country races, the problem becomes even worse. There was one occasion when a school bus broke down on the steep slope just before the exit causing everyone to turn around and leave by the entrance near the Thomson-Lornie Road junction.
This is the steep slope where the school bus broke down blocking all traffic from the exit to Lornie Road
I remember a time when the traffic in the area was much lighter and the environment much more peaceful. This was in the early sixties when I was studying in the nearby Braddell Rise School. In front of our school, where Braddell Road met Thomson Road there used to be a circle. There were some beautiful red seal palms planted in the circle. Of course there was no viaduct linking Upper Thomson Road to Lornie Road in those days.
The stretch of Lornie Road between Thomson Road and Caldecott Hill was narrow and winding with plenty of vegetation on both sides. It was at this spot that I caught one of my biggest spiders. Catching spiders was one of our favourite pastimes those days.
The portion of old Lornie Road where I caught my spider is still there but no longer in use.
In primary school, our teachers occasionally brought us for ‘excursions’. I mentioned one such excursion to the Botanical Gardens in a previous post. Today, I want to share with you a very interesting story related to another excursion to the nearby MacRitchie Reservoir.
I was probably in Primary 2 or 3 at that time. I remember lining up in twos and crossing the road to MacRitchie Reservoir where the entrance was. As we passed the car park, I notice a familiar Hillman. It was the same one that my parents hired to fetch us to school. In Hokkien we call it ‘pa-ong chia’. At that time, I was too young to take public transport on my own; and so my parents engaged one of the villagers by the name of Mr Ang (but we know him by his nickname Ang Niao Che, or ‘Red Mouse’ in Hokkien) to fetch my brother and I and some other BRS students to school.
Our driver was quite a cheeky young man. Every morning he drove us from our kampong at Lorong Kinchir towards Braddell Road along a dirt track which later became Lorong Chuan. As we approached Braddell Road, we often saw a pretty lass drawing water from the well on the right side of the road (where the CTE would be now), and our driver liked to tease her.
So that morning, as we passed the Hillman, I saw a couple smooching inside. Can you guess who they were? It was our driver and that pretty lass by the well. Apparently, the Red Mouse had progressed from teasing to kissing. Anyway, the story had a happy ending. Not long after, our Mr Ang married the girl in the Hillman and presumably, they produced lots of little red mice and lived happily ever after.
This photo of a very hazy MacRitchie Reservoir was taken this afternoon when the PSI or Pollutants Standards Index was an unhealthy 130. In the 70’s, a very popular rock group by the name of Deep Purple had a big hit titled Smoke On The Water. Thanks to our Indonesian neighbours, we have our own Haze On The Water.