Have you read the TODAY article titled To Singapore With Love written by reporter Juliana June Rasul where she interviewed my friends, Tom O’Brien and John Harper? Tom and John were children of British military forces personnel stationed in Singapore in the 1950’s and 60’s. In the article, Tom, who lived in Hua Guan Avenue, off Dunearn Road, spoke about how he used to go to the old Beauty World at Bukit Timah 7th Mile to buy his comics.
As I too have some memories of the old Beauty World and wanted to blog about it, I emailed him for more details of his memories of Beauty World of the 1960’s and this is what he wrote:
I used to live at the top of Hua Guan Avenue at No. 70. At the bottom of the Avenue was an estate, I think called Hock Sen Gardens, where there were a lot of RAF Servicemen and their families. The RAF men were mainly based at Tengah. There were some shops there and a cafe, which I used to go to for a coke or soft drink. I was told that these shops are now selling antique furniture etc.
I used to go to Beauty World a lot, often walking through the Kilburn Estate, crossing over the railway line and onto Bukit Timah. In those days, 1967, we had quite a bit of spending power as the exchange rate was just over $14 to the £1 although this was drastically cut in Nov 1967 when the Pound was devalued. I remember that there was so much happening around Beauty World itself, with all manner of stalls and hawkers. It was like an Ali Baba’s Cave, you could buy anything.
I used to get my haircut at an Indian Barbers around the back of Beauty World (Shops in above sketch). I remember his magazines where all written in Tamil, so all I could do was look at the pictures while I waited my turn. Facing Beauty World from the main road on the right hand side is where I used to exchange the comic books, and there was also a place were I used to get my shirts and trousers made. I used to get some outrageous brightly coloured shirts made up, bearing in mind that it was the Hippies era and I was 14. We use to choose the material and then have it made up.
The stall with the comic books was nearby. It sold second hand books. These were small A5 size comic war books. I think that 'Commando' might have been one of the titles. He had a huge selection and we'd spend ages looking through them. Then if, say you bought 4, after you read them you'd take them back and exchange them 2 for 1. You usually ended up buying another couple as well.
On the corner was a cafe. I remember that it was partitioned by a wall of drink crates full of empty bottles. I think he might have sub-let part of his premises. Quite often we would call in there for a coke or 7-Up.
On my Mementoes page at Memories of Singapore, there is a receipt for a reel-to-reel tape recorder purchased at Beauty World. I remember badgering my mother for the $100 that it was going to cost. I'd never had a tape recorder before and so I asked if it could be my birthday present (15). I remember my Chinese friend Donald Foo telling me off, because if I had asked him to get it, he could have purchased it a lot cheaper. I guess I couldn't wait to get this tape recorder. It lasted me along time.
I also remember my mother taking the family to the cinema in Bukit Timah to see 'The Jungle Book'. I can't remember where the cinema was or what it looked like.
The area I wrote about above is now a public car park. On the right is Chun Tin Road. Just inside the fence is where there was a row of covered stalls and shops where I would have exchanged the magazines, and had my shirts made. Opposite the stalls (to the left) was the main building with various shop fronts facing the stalls, this is where I would have bought my tape recorder. At the bottom right corner was the cafe type stall. They sold bottled beer as well. This is where we used to call for a coke or other soft drink. As you walked down aisle between the shops, at the back near the steps turn left and further along on the right hand side, would have been the Barbers.
Above: A 60’s photo of Bukit Timah 7th Mile (Chit Ko Chio in Hokkien) from Memories of Singapore. Beauty World was to the left of this photo.
Below: 2 photos of the same area in October 2006.
........ to be continued.
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