Another condo project coming up no doubt.
A shot of a peaceful looking Bukit Timah Road taken on a late Sunday afternoon. In the not too distant past, this road would have been crowded with lots of punters leaving the Turf Club at this hour. The row of trees in the middle are probably the glam trees that Dr Tan Wee Kiat wrote about here.
Photo dated 13/12/1060, from the National Archives’ database Picas with the caption: “125 employees of the General Electric Co (M) Ltd, here went on strike at noon today. The strikers belong to the Singapore Business Houses Employee Union. They are picketing the GEC office in Bukit Timah Road”
Today there are only 4 prominent commercial complexes left; Sixth Avenue Centre, Tan Chong Motors and the adjacent Apple Computer Centre, King Albert Park and Sime Centre on the opposite side at Dunearn Road. But did you know that up to the eighties, this place was home to a number of factories and commercial buildings. Here are a few that Peter and I can recall from memory.
1) Rothmans cigarette factory
I think this was located before Wilby Road at what is now the Tessarina condominium. The compound of this factory was very big and squarish in shape. A big, rather bare garden separated the building from the main road. A huge signboard bearing the name, Rothmans of Pall Mall could be clearly seen by passers-by.
2) Tien Wah Press
This was a printing company. I had occasion to visit it once in the eighties when I was working in NPB. I recall that the factory was very old and I saw a banyan tree growing out from crevices in the front of the building. Today Tien Wah has its own building at Pandan Crescent.
3) General Electric Company
This is not to be confused with the American company GE which incidentally was one of the biggest investors in Singapore’s early days of industrialization. In the mid-seventies when many of my contemporaries were graduating from the university with an engineering degree, GE was one of the most sought after employers. But back to GEC. Peter recalls:
“There's one building called "General Electric House" (2 storey with a showroom) that was after Tien Wah Press factory, I think nearer to Maplewoods condo. It was a UK company that made electrical lightings and appliances. What I remember was in the early 1960s, there were many industrial strikes in Singapore. General Electric Company was not spared and besides workers picketing outside the gates of the company, many workers camped on the Bukit Timah Road. They cooked for other workers who took part in industrial action. There were many placards, usually cartoons blaming government and management for the unfair dismissal of workers or employing Caucasians instead of locals for management positions.”
4) Borneo Motors and DIY Superstore
These two were relatively new buildings. In 1990, I purchased my first new car, a Toyota Corrolla, from the Borneo Motors outlet here. There was also a DIY Superstore near to it. I think the location of these 2 places would probably be at the present Maplewoods condo or Blackmore Drive area.
In the old street directories that I consulted at the National Library, I saw two other buildings which I am not familiar with. They are Tricity House and William Jack. I hope my readers can throw some light on these two names.
5) King Albert Park
King Albert Park of course is well-known for being the headquarters of the McDonald’s fast food chain and Cold Storage supermarket. Many school children like to hang out here. My youngest daughter and her friends refer to this place as KAP. Previously, this place was a bus depot. Peter has blogged about this earlier.
“Green Bus had its depot at 6½ miles Bukit Timah Road, where the present McDonald’s HQ stands, opposite Bukit Timah Plaza. There were 2 sections. One section was where they kept the buses (nearer to the railway track) and the other section (closer to King Albert Park) was the workshop. When it was time to change buses, Green Bus entered through Clementi Road and stopped at the workshop area, we got down and switched buses, and exit into Bukit Timah Road.”
6) Lam Choon Rubber Factory
The traffic light junction next to King Albert Park used to be a roundabout called Bukit Timah Circus. The place where Bukit Timah Plaza stands today was previously the Lam Choon Rubber Factory and the whole surrounding area was a rubber plantation. Peter recalls:
“The factory was painted red in colour, made from zinc metal sheets and had small windows. The factory emitted a strong stench when rubber was smoked. I saw yellow coloured rubber sheets hung out to dry in the sun. On the right is an aerial photo of the Lam Choon Rubber Factory. Sorry it's quite blur; but let me orientate you. The road to the right of building, coming southwards is Jalan Anak Bukit. Yeo Hiap Seng to the right of this road. At the bottom center (buses) is Clementi Road. To its left was the old Chinese cemetery grounds, now the entrance to PIE. Bottom right is King Albert Park area behind the Green Bus Depot.
Next door was the Bukit Timah Community Centre which is now the Econ Home Nursing Services. Jalan Anak Bukit was already in existence in the early 1960s but the connection to the PIE took place in 1972. Through PIE, I drove along Jalan Toa Payoh - exiting near St. Andrew's School in Woodsville - to the eastern parts of Singapore for dates; never really knowing why so many of my dates lived in that part. Lam Choon Rubber Factory was demolished by the time I ROD. I think Straits Steamship Ltd bought over the rubber factory site. Bukit Timah Plaza opened sometime in 1978 or 1979.
In 1974 there was a bank run at the Chung Kiaw Bank, a subsidiary of the United Overseas Bank. Large crowds, mainly housewives heading to the Jalan Jurong Kechil Market were queuing very early in the morning. I am not sure who started the rumour but my mother was one of those who lined up to withdraw money. The old Chung Kiaw Bank branch is now the UOB branch next to Beauty World Plaza.
I also remember Gimson Boys School which is now the SIM Campus. Every time we passed this way from Pasir Panjang Road to Bukit Timah Road, my mother would threaten that if I misbehaved, she would put me in that place. I remember there were many black-coloured wooden buildings.”
7) The Early Bukit Timah Plaza
Bukit Timah Plaza has been around for such a long time, I think I will include it in this post. I cannot remember the Fitzpatrick departmental store which Peter says was one the earliest tenants. I only remember the Yaohan Departmental Store which was their anchor tenant for a number of years. There also used to be a CPF branch and a POSB branch. I believe it also was one of the early shopping centres with the glass cubicle type of elevators.
8) Yeo Hiap Seng Sauce Factory
This used to be located at the junction of Jalan Anak Bukit and Dunearn Road. In the old days it was call Yeo Hiap Seng Sauce Factory. Later it was renamed Yeo Hiap Seng Foods (or something like that). I seem to recall seeing big billboards advertising the Pepsi cola drinks.
When I was working in NPB, I was involved in producing a training programme called Total Quality Process. We produced a series of videos to support this training programme and one of the series was filmed in this factory. The role of quality manager by the way, was played by the lovely Jacintha Abisheganaden. In the video, there were scenes of the packet drinks production process as well as the goods loading and unloading area.
Of course besides the commercial complexes, this area of Singapore has many landed housing estates. I will just mention two for the benefit of my British friend Tom O’brien. Tom, in his post about Beauty World mentioned a place called Hua Guan Avenue:
“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.” (Kilburn Estate of course no long exists today)
In an email, Tom also mentioned that he often visited his girl friend who lived within walking distance at Eden Park. Now, do you know were that Eden Park?
Actually, Eden Park like many of the landed housing estates in this area has not changed much, other than the customary upgrading. It is located just next to the estate where I am staying, separated by a canal. This estate is made up of a number of roads that bear the names of temperate trees; such as Maple, Fir, Redwood, Elm and Cypress. I think in Tom’s days, most of the houses here were single-storey bungalows. But if you were to go there now, as I often do, for my evening walks, you will see that most of them have been ‘upgraded’ to double-storey houses.
Not long ago, on one of my walks, I bumped into my Applied Maths teacher from NJC, Mr Lim Nai Tian. Older Hwa Chong JC students would probably know him because he was their first principal.
Unlike the rest of nearby Bukit Timah Road, this railway station appears to be untouched by time.