Continuing from my previous post on the Bukit Timah Heritage Trail, my friend Peter Chan and I would like to tell you about a few more interesting places that used to be located along this part of Bukit Timah. Peter’s comments are in black.
1) Floral Mile
Do you know where is Floral Mile?
I think many of the younger readers would probably answer; Thomson Road. Wrong - because I am talking about yesterday as in the 1960’s and 70’s, not 21st century Singapore. Thus I am actually referring to the original Floral Mile at Dunearn Road. The stretch of Dunearn Road from Kheam Hock Road to Chancery Lane was known as Floral Mile. Do you know why it was given this name? Same reason why you said Thomson Road - because along this stretch of road, next to the Bukit Timah Canal, there used to a number of nurseries.
But they are no longer there. I cannot remember when they moved out. But I think it must be in the eighties when the Bukit Timah Canal was widened as part of the flood alleviation project in the Bukit Timah area. Where have they been relocated to? I don’t know; but I suspect a couple of them have been relocated to the nearby Dalvey Estate and Evans Road area on the Bukit Timah side.
When I first moved to Bukit Timah Sixth Avenue in the mid-80’s, I often patronised a nursery called Evershine located near the junction with Jalan Haji Alias. Was this one of the relocated ones as well?
I also remember there was also a Seafood Restaurant opposite the Swiss Cottage School. I think I had a dinner there once with my colleagues at Philips. That must be in the late 70’s or early 80’s. In the photo below, Swiss Cottage School would be on the left and this restaurant on the right. I cannot remember if it was before or after the U-turn.
Peter Chan adds:
Two nurseries I remember were “Rose Garden” (must have been named after Rose Garden of Bangkok) at 91 Floral Mile, Dunearn Road, tel: 531621, and “Corona Florist” who are still in business at Clementi Road, near the SIM campus. When the government promoted “Tree-Planting Day”, my father and I came over to buy of fruit trees and flowering plants at S$1 a “pot”. The “pot” was actually the plant with black earth wrapped in a plastic bag and secured by raffia. Plants then were not placed in clay-pots like today. Some of the popular plants included rambutan, chiku and bougainvillea. Corona Florist also helped us when we were at SAFTI OCS. They donated plants and shrubs when I was in charge of the flower-garden at “Charlie Company”, so that name is always on my mind.
From far away one can notice this seafood restaurant because of a neon advertizing signboard mounted on the building facing Swiss Cottage School. It was the logo of a giant lobster which flashed intermittently and changing colours from blue to red.
Opposite the seafood restaurant and beside Swiss Cottage Secondary School was a government out-patient clinic up on a hill (now a jungle). It was opened in 1966 I believe and was popular among the Malay squatters who lived nearby in Whitley Road and Keng Chin Road. From the main Dunearn Road, there was a flight of concrete steps up to the hill to this clinic. There is a pair of concrete pillars on the side of Dunearn Road and at the foot of the hill to indicate where this foot-path was.
2) Newton Circus
When I was studying at Anglo Chinese School in the sixties, my elder brother Chun Seong and I used to walk practically every afternoon, after school from our school to Newton Circus to take the Tay Koh Yat Bus back to our home in Lorong Chuan. I think it was service number 9A. The bus stop was at Scotts Road. We used to take the bus together with a couple of our school mates. One was David Wu and the other was Ong Leong Chye. They stayed in Serangoon Gardens.
The most prominent landmark around Newton Circus in those days was not the hawker centre. I believe the world famous hawker centre was not built yet in the sixties. I say world famous because when I was in Tokyo in 1985, I met a lady who ran a stationery stall at the Tokyo International Centre where I was lodging. When she heard that my colleagues and I were from Singapore, she immediately said that she had been to Singapore before and mentioned eating at Newton Hawker Centre. The most prominent landmark around Newton Circus in those days was the Newton Circus Post Office (not sure of exact name) Next to it was a very famous Char Kueh Teow stall. Char Kueh Teow stall in those days used firewood for cooking.
In the photo below, you can see that the area is now an open field between Kampong Java Road and Bukit Timah Road as it exits from Newton Circus. There used to be a row of shops along this stretch of Bukit Timah Road. Mind you, in those days there was no flyover and so this area was probably bigger.
Peter Chan continues …
If I am right, Newton Hawker Center was built in the late 70s after the open-air Koek Road hawker center opposite Orchard Road Market was shut-down. Opposite the Newton Hawker Center were two primary schools; a Malay school (building still there opposite the overhead pedestrian bridge) facing Scotts Road and the Anthony Road Boys School. There was also the Singapore Girl Guide Association building there opposite Peck Hay Road – now a childcare center.
3) National Family Planning Board
You might have heard that our government used to be very fond of organizing campaigns. During the early years of our independence, we had the Stop at Two Campaign. The slogan was “Two is enough. The more you have, the less they get”.
The statutory board responsible for the population policies was the Family Planning and Population Board. It was located at this building next to Gilstead Road. Today it houses the Breast Cancer Foundation and Singapore National Stroke Association. Back then, we often passed by it on our way to Newton Circus. I also remember seeing lots of longkang guppies in the Bukit Timah Canal.
Peter Chan continues …
#25 Gilstead Road has history. It is now a childcare center. It was built pre-ww2 and served as the German Navy HQ when the Japanese occupied Singapore and collaborated with the Germans.
(Source: Ibrahim Ahmad’s Personal Collections)
4) Chancery Lane
Sometimes, when we were too lazy to walk, we would take bus no. 8A from the bus stop next to Chancery Lane. Maybe the real reason was because we wanted to ‘rub shoulders’ with the girls from Anderson Secondary and Raffles Girls School. You see, bus 8A went along Stevens Road, Balmoral Road, Dunearn Road, Newton Road and Thomson Road. By the time 8A came to us, it was always very crowded. We would alight at Thomson Road opposite the present Novena MRT station and change to 9A. Another reason could be that we wanted to accompany my friends Simon Chu and Ng Kah Hwa who lived at the block of flats at the junction of Thomson Road and Moulmein Road.
As for Chancery Lane itself, except for the condos, it was very much the same as it is today. On those few occasions when we used this road, we would admire the beautiful bungalows there. One particular bungalow had beautiful Chinese-style pavilions and red-seal palms in its sprawling garden.
I remember one occasion when our school had a fun fair to raise money to build the Shaw Pool and sports complex. (which I never got to enjoy because I left shortly to join NJC), We went from house to house to sell fun fair tickets. My friend and I were assigned to Chancery Lane.
Peter Chan continues …
One bungalow house I can never forget has a police guard-post. It was a one-storey house located just after the bend. It belonged to the late foreign minister S. Rajaratnam. The other house was a “Dutch-styled” house behind the 7th Day Adventist Church. It was my dream-house as a child. I promised one day “when I make it there”, I will live in one but sad to say I am still living in my dreams.
Well this is about as much as Peter and I can coax out of our over half-century old brains. We are sorry some of the details are sketchy and maybe not entirely accurate even. As I have said before, we write from memory and not based on rigorous academic research. We hope our readers can help supply additional information such as:
a) When did the nurseries moved out of Floral Mile? Where are they located now?
b) When was Newton Hawker Centre opened?
c) When was the Newton Flyover completed?
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