The title of this blog – from a Paul Anka song - got me thinking about my time in Singapore in the early 1960s and the entertainment we had then - because the very first record I ever bought, a 45rpm single, was Paul Anka’s hit song ‘Diana’.
I bought it soon after I arrived in Singapore at a night-time market which must have been on or near the Orchard Estate where I lived for a short while. I recall the busy market stalls lit by gas or kerosene lamps and it was one of my first experiences of buying at a market – I probably had to haggle over the price which I always hated doing! Shopping in Singapore for us brits was always an adventure, in the UK you hardly ever get the chance to haggle over price.
Music was of course important to us young teenagers and I recall hanging around the jukebox in the hotel we stayed at on arrival in Singapore (called The Ambassador and near the site of what used to be Singapore’s original airport at Kallang) playing Everley Brothers, Buddy Holly and Elvis records.
The cinema was popular of course. For us ‘Brit brats’ with fathers based at the RAF Changi airbase we had outdoor films, few of which I recall except for some Elvis Presley films. My most vivid memory is of seeing ‘Ben Hur’ at a very large cinema in Singapore City, the film had its exciting moments but none more so that in the chariot race scene when the audience were all up on their feet cheering wildly! Much better than seeing the film in the UK where everyone just stays in their seat!
We had no television then (when did it start in Singapore?) and the radio was difficult to listen to in the evening with all the static from electric storms. I enjoyed the cartoons in the Straights Times (I think) which included strips from the United States including Litl’ Abner and also Dick Tracey and Mad Magazine was much looked forward to, although this featured satires on US tv programmes none of which I had even seen!
We used to visit a record shop in Changi Village, not so much to buy records as to enjoy the air conditioning and to listen to the strange sounds they played – I think now it must have been modern jazz which at the time I was completely unfamiliar with. I don’t recall going to any music gigs other than seeing Cliff Richard and The Shadows play at a large indoor stadium somewhere in Singapore City – a big moment for both the brits and local Singaporean fans of the day.
We visited the Tiger Balm gardens of course and we had what seem now as rather strange treasure hunts where families would get in their cars to follow a series of clues and drive all over the island in search of some ‘treasure’. I can’t imagine now why that was enjoyable! And there were also hill climbs, not on foot, but timed car races up a hill, maybe it was Bukit Timah hill –I doubt in these environmentally aware days that this still goes on?
Scanned postcard photo of Tiger Balm Gardens (Haw Par Villa) in the sixties. Courtesy of Memories of Singapore
Perhaps the most popular outings of all for us kids from RAF Changi were the organised boat trips to beaches on Pulau Ubin, always an exciting time, away from the gaze of our parents!
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