Sunday, October 28, 2007

Places I Remember (5) – Farrer Road

The photo below is of another roundabout in Singapore which had a fountain in it? Do you know where that was (assuming you have not read my earlier post)?


Yes, it was Holland Circus and it was located at the Junction of Holland Road, Farrer Road and Queensway. Today, this area looks very different. Holland Circus has been replaced by an underpass and flyover. And many new changes are taking place at Farrer Road. A great deal of construction work is going on to build the Circle Line and a new MRT station. And Farrer Court will probably be demolished soon.

Would you like to know what this area was like in the 1960’s and 70’s? I happen to be quite familiar with this area because I stayed in Farrer Road for 14 years up to 1986.

After our home at Lorong Chuan was acquired by the government under the Land Acquisition Act, we moved to an HDB apartment here in 1974. At that time, we heard that the HDB (Housing and Development Board) was introducing a new type of flat called a Five-room point block flat. (Non-Singaporean readers would be surprised to know that by a uniquely Singaporean method of numbering, there are actually only 3 bedrooms in our five-room flats) The first ones were being built at Bendemeer Road. The price was about $28,000. We applied but were unsuccessful. The second batch was being built at Farrer Road and we succeeded this time, but the price has gone up by a whopping 25% to $35,500. In case you think that was ‘peanuts’, I would like to put things in perspective. The compensation that we got from the government for our home in Lorong Kinchir - including the land, house, fruit trees .. everything - was only slightly more than $7,000. I seem to recall that there was some kind of balloting process. I am not sure if we got some priority because we were being evicted from our kampong.

Took this photo when I went for lunch with my siblings at Farrer Road last week. There’s a famous Westlake Restaurant which used to be very popular. We went to the nearby Chu Kee Cuisine instead.

I liked living in Farrer Road. But we were rather sad to have to leave our beloved dog Barney behind in the care of our cousins. They didn't move out until a few years later. Each time we went back to our kampong, he would be literally jump with joy to see us. But our cat Mimi was more fortunate as we were able to bring her along.
We lived in Block 5. Our unit was away from the main road. Very quiet and nice. Unlike the other HDB estates, there were a total of only eight blocks here, including the market and food centre. This area was quite exclusive, being in the prestigious District 10 area. All the other houses here were private homes. Not long after, they built the Farrer Court under the HUDC model.

Over the last twenty years, a lot of changes had taken place. Let’s see what I can recall.



Lorong Jodoh - I don’t think I even want to test you readers if you knew where was Lorong Jodoh. I bet none of you know the answer. Lorong Jodoh was a small Malay kampong just beside our flat at Block 5. I recall hearing some animal sounds (probably an orang utan) coming from the kampong in the mornings. It joined Farrer Road to Holland Road. I have jogged through this kampong a few times. I cannot recall when it was redeveloped.

Petrol stations - Next to Holland Circus, there used to be two petrol stations. One was Shell and the other BP. Next to the BP station was the BP recreation club. My brother-in-law worked for BP at that time and occasionally he brought us there to enjoy the facilities like table tennis, badminton and billiards.

American School – Along King’s Road, there used to be an American School. We often saw groups of American students waiting for taxis along Farrer Road opposite our flat. We told ourselves, these American kids must be quite loaded since they didn’t need to travel by buses. One interesting thing about the American School that I remember was the evenings when they had football matches – that’s American football, not soccer. The field was brightly lit up with floodlights and a lot of cheering and so on could be heard; like what you see in the movies.

Other changes at the stretch of Farrer Road near to the Adam Flyover, I have already blogged about earlier; like the post office and so on. So I would like to end by telling you a bit about Farrer Road in the fifties and sixties. I don’t know much actually, but I have visited my cousins who stayed in Farrer Road in those days. They lived in a kampong at what is probably the Queen’s Road area. I remember plucking the buah long long from a tree in front of their house. I also remember crossing the road to where the present Waterfall Gardens is to watch a Hokkien wayang show. Other than that I don’t recall much about those days.

Finally, before I go, I have another quiz question for you. You have probably heard that the apartments at Farrer Court were recently sold at the unbelievable price of $2.5 million. Do you know how much it cost when it was first sold?



Photo credit: Thanks to Tom O’Brien of Memories of Singapore for permissionn to use the photo of Holland Circus

28 comments:

peter said...

Chun See
We could have been neighbours except when I got married in the late 70s, I rented a unit at Block C Farrer Court (1504 on the 15th floor, old numbering system). This was a HUDC estate. I think that block was nearest to the hawker center (there was a good beef ball noddle stall I think).

Interestingly the flat we rented was owned by a woman who worked in the IT industry. Afte we moved out in 1980, we read in the newspapers that she was murdered in the same flat by her mad Filipina maid with a chopper. I can still remember our landlady's name but for the sake of protecting her only daughter, I think it's better I leave the details out.

I am not sure about the conditions today for newly-weds. We set-up our "home" at a monthly rental of $500 but sublet rooms; including a storeroom, because we were on a tight budget. Some of our tenants included an Indonesian student who studied at the nearby American School in King's Road (that fella was one of the Riady family of the LIPPO Group people), a Thai student who studied at ACJC and even a tour guide from Taiwan. My wife cooked and we were able to manage our household budget and the arrival of a baby.

Every morning I used to stand in my balcony looking towards Bukit Timah Road or Holland Road to see where was the traffic congestion. Then I made the decision to either take the Bukit Timah Road route to work or the other one.

Then we moved out because that year, I earned a big sales commission for selling one of the biggest IT project in Singapore at that time. So I look back to the days when I started with humble beginnings at Farrer Court. I also still got photos of m,y old flat.

peter said...

Lorong Jodoh - I remember because in 1974 we did our "Internal Security Exercise" with a base camp on an empty piece of land in Lorong Jodoh. We faned out to Coronation Road and Queen Astrid Park and set-up road blocks near the SHELL petrol station. Can u remember a bunch of SAF soldiers at that place then Chun See?

peter said...

The BP clubhouse was behind the BP Station. It was a 2-storey white colored bungalow.

zen said...

Chun See is correct for saying that we were evicted from the kampong, why this drastic measure? My father spent most of his life serving the the community without much recognition, except maybe having a group photo taken with the then PM. The eviction was because my father was the only one bold enough to ask for compensation which came to a few cents more per sq ft of his land. However he still had his priority of flat selection which ended up with his family staying in Farrer Road, and I being his eldest married son was not given this priority just because my father got slightly more than the other villagers. No point in challenging the authority at that time because they were rather high-handed, follow-the-law type. I ended up staying with a relative at Mei Ling Street. To add salt into my injury, I had to wait in a long queue for a flat, allocated with waiting no. of 90,000 plus. The reason for this agonising long wait was that it untimingly coincided with the govt announcement that citizens can use CPF to buy their flats, causing a maddening rush by the public to purchase flats. In short, I became a victim of circumstances under a vengeful and uncompromising authority.

Victor said...

Until recent years, I think I still heard of people being paid a nominal sum of S$1 as compensation for the acquisition of their land. Just imagine, that money can't even buy a bowl of noodles nowadays.

Lam Chun See said...

Peter I don't remember seeing that SAF exercise you mentioned. Maybe we had not moved in yet.

So from your FC flat, were you able to see the Holland Circus?

Lam Chun See said...

Sorry, I forgot to mention our beloved pets. I just amended.

I also forgot to mention something about that Holland Circus. During my OCS trg we had a lesson on studying aerial photos. They had this equipment called a stereoscope which enabled us to see the phots in "three-dimensional" view. Very interesting. The particular photo that my group was assigned to study was of the Holland Circus vicinity. It was quite fascinating to view it from the air in 3-D some more!

zen said...

Just imagine this irony. My father tolled for his land with blood, sweat and tears (especially during the war years). This land was subsequently sold cheaply for subsidised public housing in the general good of the country, and his son was made to queue up for the same public housing allocation, right from the BACK. Meanwhile my uncle who was just a tenant to my father's land, he and his married son enjoyed priority in housing allocation and were given two units in HDB Chai Chee estate. What was the logic? It sounds that I still have a sour taste in my mouth after all these years, but believe me the early years of the ruling party were pretty tight fisted.

peter said...

When I stood on my balcony, on my left was towards BT Road - i saw the Westlake Restaurant block. On my right was Holland Road direction and I saw an empty piece of land which is now a condo on the side of FC

Lam Chun See said...

Zen. I think the word you are looking for is 'high-handed'. Anyway, at that time, I thot we were giving up our land for the govt to build low-cost high-rise appartments. Instead, it was used to build factories and the CTE.

Our friend Mr PSK says he gets really mad every time he travels past the part of Tampines that used to be his kampong. Years and years after evicting him, the land is still left un-utilised.

peter said...

We should not just look at the government for "buying land on the cheap". I heard of the big time private developers (who are still big today) who formed mysterious small companies to buy up kampung homes in my "hometown".

Many of the illiterate kampung folks did not know they were actually selling to one big property developer. They were paid below market value. They could not turn to the government for help in their dispute with these private developers because legal contracts were signed. Many of my kampung friends were affected but could do little to back-out of the sale because the kampung houses were sold to different companies. Only when the new estate came up, they knew that they had sold to the smaller companies who were part of this big property developer.

Today we get another different kind of challenge: En Bloc sale. One thinks that one's home is secue because it is freehod, Strata Land Grant or 999 years lease. Next moment 80% of the fols living there decide to sell and now you have to flow with the tide. I just heard Bagnall Court (around Bedok Corner) pulled out of this en bloc penonenon because the retirees and x-teachers were up in arms against the sale.

peter said...

If I am not wrong, $80-100K for the point block 5-room flats for Phase 1 HUDC applicants.

Lam Chun See said...

I heard from my neighbour that the condo directly in front of my house, Royal Ville has been enbloc-ed. When we moved here in 1986, we put up with the noise and dust while it was been constructed. Now, exactly 20 years later, it looks like history is going to repeat itself.

zen said...

Chun See is correct the last word of my comment should be high-handed, So I thought the word tight-fisted could be a word plucked out from the sky or could it be retrieved from the depth of my memory, anyway no harm checking the dictionary, and to my surprise I found there is such a word tight-fisted but it strangely means stingy, therefore still wrong choice of word used.

Tom said...

Tom said ...
I think I went through a similar situation about three years ago, like you went though, when the
Edinburgh city council handed some of there flats to a houseing association, they wanted to demolish our flat I said to them I
wanted market value and they backed of and all my neighbours
who owened there flat there had to stick there guns to, the association said they were to refurbish the flats so each private owner got £14,000 grant,
once the the work done they came back to us asking us for another
£1,600 I refuse to give them that
money,they said the would take me
to court and all the rest of my neighbours, but a year has past , we have not heard a peep from them
no dout we will. by the way some of the work is not finished.

zen said...

Leaving our kampong home was a sad affair, traumatic for Chun See (an avid animal lover) having to care-off his beloved dog Barney to our cousins, uprooting feeling for my parents, less so for my brother David and I, because David could play his mahjong anywhere, and as for myself, I needed to look for a marital home anyway. For my sister Pat, the uprooting didn't affect her too much, as she was about to get married. The most saddening part was to see our unique kampong home crumbling down from disuse whenever we went back visiting our village. Bad things seemed to come in unison, our taukua-maker tenant passed away during this transition period. We still felt sad for his large family despite the deceased giving endless trouble to my father, agonising him all these years.

Tom said...

Tom said...
Zen I know how you feel,I to feel very sad, when familys have
to leave there homes, that they have lived in for years It breaks up the the community spirt, and the trust that neighbours have built up over the years. Zen the place where I born, was demolished
and rebuilt, When I use to go back
I felt like a stranger there, I feel very sad to because every bodys gone, and liveing some were else, and may be we will all meet up again in sprit.

zen said...

Tom - We use to say coming together is joyous, but departure is certainly painful. On the other hand, looking positively, without departure there won't be new beginnings. Our siblings all departed to form new families of their own. David has begun his new life in Australia, still looking for new friends to join him in his mahjong games. Chun See has now got time to see his birds, taking photos and blogging in his 6th avenue home, meanwhile my youngest brother is jetting around this region looking for new business opportunities. My sister Pat and his retired husband are leading blissful life, travelling all over the place, as far as Alaska, and would soon become grandparents. As for myself, I am for once contended with my leisurely retired life, away from the maddening port that works throughout the year, 24 hrs a day without a break. So far so good, except that we miss our parents who have left us through natural courses.

peter said...

Zen
The world is changing and the past passed cannnot be brought back again.

When we break up due to urban renewal the spirit of being together can only occur if we make a concerted effort to do it. Quarrels that set people or families apart are worse than urban renewal, my friend.

Likewise our parents cannot be brought back. What we should treasure most are the times we spent with them (growing up under parental control) and in our parents last journey when they become terminally ill or handicap. I once asked this question: Would we and did we keep our parents happy to the very end?

There is a popular song called "The Way We Were" (I prefer the Gladys Knight version rather than Barbara Streisand version), the lyrics are beautifully written to reflect on our past and what we should treasure most; the beautiful moments rather than the sad moments.

zen said...

Peter - Yes it is important for people to take care of their parents and make them happy to the very end, and this heavy responsible cannot just fall onto the shoulders of one person, all the siblings have to jointly put in great effort for this heavy undetaking. Unfortunately there are times when the siblings are moving in different directions. Happiness and unhappiness, for whatever reasons, are two sides of the coin, which no one can avoid, and this should be considered as part of life itself. I am sure most of us would like to reminisce those happy times and to forget the unhappy ones, though all these had already slipped into the past.

Lam Chun See said...

Answer to quiz question: Type A - $89k, Type B - $69k, year - 1978.

Unknown said...

Hi, I'm Edmund

I recently moved into Farrer Gardens but I am very interested in what Farrer Gardens and Holland area looks like in the past.

I am doing up a small slide show programme for the Farrer Garden residents for the estate's National Day celebration and it would be very appreciative if any of you in this post can share them with me. Some of the residents are old timers here but we also have newcomers including myself.

The area has undergone many changes, some good, some not so good, but it has a richness in history that would otherwise be left unappreciated if we do not educate them.

As such I do sincerely hope that you see my request for old photos of the areas favorablly and email them to me at edmundfkc@gmail.com. Alternatively, I can meet you and take a photo of these precious memories and reproduce them for my event.

With regards

Edmund Foo

Anonymous said...

I stayed in Block 5 followed by Farrer Court for over 20 years. Studied in Farrer Pri Sch too. It was a wonderful place. The primary school's gone (taken over by Nanyang). There used to be a crocodile farm, an abandoned primary school and even vegetable farm (holland road). There was a cemetery which was developed into a luxury development.

Lam Chun See said...

"There used to be a crocodile farm".

Really? I didn't know about that. Where was it? I know there was a cemetery at the junction of Coronation Rd West and Victoria Park.

Bebe said...

There is a croc farm is on Lor Jodoh near to Holland Road. I lived in a kampung house beside the croc farm when I was studying in Nanyang Primary. Japanese tourists flocked in buses to buy croc leather bags, belts etc. Thks for blogging a piece of my past!

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks Bebe fir sharing that bit of info. You learnt something new everyday.

Chris said...

I used to live in Block 3 Farrer Road in the early 70s when I was a wee lad. Yes, the American School used to have football or basketball matches at night some times and the floodlights will be very bright.

Also, behind our block was a canal and during heavy rains, the canal would overflow and Queens Road would be flooded.

Anonymous said...

When I was younger, I stayed at Farrer Road, block 1. I was born in the mid-seventies. Our flat faced the American School but we stayed at the lower levels and could not see the school itself just the glow of the floodlights on game nights.
The side of my flat faced the Empress Road Market. The front of the market used to be an open air gravelly carpark. [It’s now a multi-storey carpark] The structure of the market is the same as I remembered it. It has only undergone some renovations. Back then I remember the chickens were slaughtered at the market. The poultry section was in the first row and the smell, noise; feathers hit you when you entered.
I did not attend Farrer Road Primary School. The school building is still there, it seems to be used as a student hostel now. I attended the PAP kindergarten under Block 2.
In between Block 2 and 3 was a playground I frequented. I think it had a stone rabbit and turtle structure, a sew-saw and merry go round.
Before Farrer Road, my fathers’ Kampong was at the junction of Adam Road and PIE. The house was at the foot of the hill. He describes the exact location as: If you travel down Lornie road towards Adam Road and enter the PIE towards Changi Airport. As you came down the ramp and align parallel with the PIE, there it is to the left, inside the forested area. My aunt remarked a few months back, when we drove pass. [The area is boarded up and cleared now for the new road] “Wah in fifty years our old home will soon become a road.”
I dread the day this unique Farrer Road enclave will be re-developed. It holds a lot of memories.