Thursday, November 15, 2007

Memories of New World Amusement Park

As a follow-up to James’ article about the Great World Amusement Park, I will now blog about the New World Amusement Park that I used to go to as a kid. In Cantonese, it was known as San Sai Kai (新世界).

I vaguely remember that we had a grand-uncle (my father’s uncle) who worked as a gate-keeper at New World. So occasionally when he was on duty, he’d let us in without buying an entrance ticket. He lived in an old and dimly-lit apartment at the rear of New World. He was often on duty at the rear entrance which meant that we could not have free entry because the main entrance was at Kitchener Road.

But before I proceed, maybe I should give you some background history about this place.

New World Postcard



Background (from Singapore Infopedia)


“In 1923, Ong Boon Tat and Ong Peng Hock set up New World Park, the first of the three amusement parks that coloured Singapore's night life from the 1920s to the 1960s. New World was located at Jalan Besar, bounded by Serangoon Road, Kitchener Road and Whampoa River. The park was sold to Shaw Brothers which acquired a 50-percent interest.

During the Japanese Occupation, New World was renamed Shin Segal and turned into a gambling farm opened only to civilians but not Japanese soldiers.

New World closed in 1987 when Shaw Organisation sold the freehold site to City Developments. Work to build a condominium and an eight-storey mall on the site was planned to start in late 2004.”

For more information, please go to Singapore Infopedia. By the way, according to this website, Rose Chan and King Kong performed at New World.



What I can recall

Like Great World, New World had the usual attractions like cinemas, ghost train, merry-go-rounds, shooting galleries, bumper cars, restaurants and food and clothing stalls. I will just share with you about a few of the things that held the strongest memory for me.

1) Ghost Train

The ghost train at NW is similar to what James had described earlier. The train would be moving in the dark, and then come to a sudden stop and a ghoulish demon would light up in front of you, accompanied by evil laughter; and then the train would make a sharp turn and move on. I recall that the ‘demons’ were really quite amateurishly made. I could clearly see the coconut and husk used for its head. I also remember seeing the lighted Exit sign in the dark. It wasn’t scary at all but still the girls screamed.

2) Cinemas

I can think of two cinemas; Grand and State. Grand (大光) screened mainly Chinese movies whilst State had more English movies. Actually State was located outside the amusement park near the entrance, I think.

At Grand, I remember watching the very famous tear-jerker Love Without End (不了情) with my siblings. This movie was more well-known for its theme song than the story. The theme song was sung by Carrie Koo Mei whose brother is the prolific song writer Joseph Koo who composed many famous Hong Kong TV drama tunes. My sister was a great fan of hers. (不了情) was a unique song: very difficult to sing. Over the years, many singers have recorded their versions of it, but none come close to the original. You can listen to it here.


At State, I think I saw the first Clint Eastwood cowboy movie For A Few Dollars More. Early in his career, Clint Eastwood starred in several of such ‘spaghetti westerns’.

3) Punching Bags

The other thing I remember fondly is the punching bags (actually this is probably the wrong term). You had this small bag that hangs at about face level. You gave your hardest punch to let it hit against a screen which had a vertical scale with a needle to record the force of your punch. If your punch was hard enough, a bell would go off. I remember having a go at it with my cousin Meng from JB and my brother David. Meng was an accomplished badminton player and very strong. My brother David was into Tae Kwon Do. (Actually he was into many martial arts; Karate, Tai Chi, Pai Mei, whichever was the fancy of the day. Eh what do they say? A Jack of all trades but ……) Anyway, these two guys got a big kick from the ringing of the bell. As for me; can I just say that I cannot remember the result?

As I think back, those games and attractions that we so thoroughly enjoyed in the old days were really no match of what our kids have these days at places like Genting Highlands and Disneyland. I guess kids of any era simply know how to have fun with whatever life serves up to them, and it doesn’t take much for them to have a good time. Remember those ice balls that we so relished? They are nothing but ice and sugar; but still every adult of my generation seem to recall them with fondness.

OK. Now that you have read about two of the three ‘worlds’ of the old Singapore, I hope someone can contribute an article about the Happy World Amusement Park at Gayland … oops; I mean Geylang Road.

28 comments:

Victor said...

I remember New World well because it was very near to my secondary school. When I left the school in 1974, I think New World was still operating or at least the shooting gallery was, with all its electro-mechanical shooting machines. I would often take a short cut through New World to go to my classmate's 4-storey walk-up flat in Race Course Road. Now the flats have all been demolished as well. Sigh.

zen said...

In a Joseph koo-Wong Chim Pak-Fa- Yau concert, Wong revealed that the song Love without End was actually written by a prominent song composer named Wong Fook Ling (deceased), and not Joseph. He further elaborated that the song was difficult to sing due to its note-range. As for our grand uncle-the gate-keeper (after retirement), he had a colourful past. He worked as a sailor for many years, visited many places and my mother secretly told ne that he had another wife in Japan, but my grand aunt didn't seem to bother too much delving into her husband's past. At the end of the day, she knew that he would still come home and remained a sailor at heart.

Anonymous said...

I also think State was outside. If I remember correctly, the other cinema was Pacific.

At one time opposite Grand there was a Ge Tai (a song & dance revue). You paid a price, sat a table, given a soft drink and watched singers singing on stage.

Happy World was later renamed Gay World, 繁華世界. Of course gay here means prosperous, bustling etc. No one made any complaint about the new name. If now people will have a lot of objection. Looks like people get more progressive they also give more problems.

I think Happy World was much better than Gay World.

fr said...

the above anonymous is me

Anonymous said...

I think there was a Globe, and a Sky theatre. Sky was the bigger one with "Cinemascope" Giant screen. Remember how movies came in "technicolour" ?? ha hah.

Tom said...

Tom said...
I remember the Happy world, and the New world , I use to know a lad
from the same company I was in, he was a wrestler, he would do a bit of wrestling in one of the worlds , I dont know if it was the
new or the happy,I never got to visit the Happy world, or the New world, they were out of bounds to us. oh the lad wrestled under a name called the Red scorpion,
does any one remember that name.

yg said...

the adults, especially the men, had their fun too at new world. there was this dance hall called bunga tanjong and the men would pay a small sum of money to have their chance to ronggeng or joget (dance) with the girls or women in figure-hugging kebayas.
the hall was this open concept type where passers-by could watch the goings-on from outside.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha those were the days, I used to live at No 17 Jalan Besar. I can remember my family went to watch the movie Madam White Snake in Grand(?) Theatre inside New World.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually, I don't recall seeing wrestling in New World. I know they have it in Gay World. Maybe when I was old enough wrestling was no longer available at New World.

Lam Chun See said...

Globe and Sky were at Great World (see previous post by James Seah) not New World.

zen said...

It seems the 'worlds' of yester-years were not so conservative after all compared with today. There were boxing and wrestling matches, dance-halls (operated in the open), cabarets for richer patrons, teasing exotic dances, joget and all. Foreign sailors were seen enjoying themselves (often drunken) during happy hours. In the wild early fifties, public order was very slack, with the government administering during the day, and mobsters running the show at night, even enforcing their own version of 'curfew' in their respective turfs. The shocking part was that the gangsters were well informed, knew when the police was going to conduct raids, and where the targetted places were. Perhaps the gang-land worked hand in glove with the government of the day.

James Seah said...

It is heartening to note that contributions of little things which every visitor can remember of their visits to Great World and New World are pouring in to form a bigger picture of the combined memories of places and experiences at GMY.

Out of the 3 "Worlds", one more "World" is missing. I hope someone who is familiar with "Happy World" could share the memories of this once colorful amusement park at GMY for us to reminisce.

zen said...

When I was a kid I heard of one intimidating wrestler by the name of King Kong famous for throwing his opponent off stage. He frequently performed in these entertainment parks, but I never had the chance of attending these matches. I understand that he consumed his daily diet of twenty over eggs at one go.

John Larkin said...

Hi Chun See,
I always enjoy reading your blog. I have a photograph of my father taken at New World Amusement Park on November, 2nd 1941. It is linked to from this web page:
http://pow.larkin.net.au/001_photographs_fs.html
He was on leave in Singapore while stationed with the 2/19th battalion AIF in Malaya.
Best wishes
John
http://www.larkin.net.au/

wrestling history said...

Regarding Tom's comment of the wrestler " Red Scorpion" . There was a wrestler of this name in 1962 who wrestled at the Badminton Hall. Other wrestlers were Baron von Heczey, Sheik Ali, KIng Kong, Prince Kumali and others. Did you know his real name?
Would like to know more about Singapore wrestling history and possibly do a book about it. If anyone has any photos, memrobelia etc , please contact me:lib_ayoub@hotmail.com

Lam Chun See said...

Wrestling History. Thanks for sharing that bit of history.

Tom said...

Tom said ...
Wrestling History ,I never thought
some one would come up and verify that the Red Scorpion wrestled in
Singapore, you ask if I knew his
real name,I have forgotten but I
will contact one of my mates,I think he will know, Wrestling History were you station in Singapore? can you give me your name.

Anonymous said...

Hi I am Rahman Bin Marop here;

I love to read your blog on old buildings that still exist and each building reminds me of my good old days. The building that that is still located at the junction of Serangoon and Bukit Timah Road was once known as The Colonial Restaurant Bar and Cafe. The dome shape that is on top of the building was the view tower for the British high ranking officer who will look for the running horses on race day as the opposite building was once a race course.I could still remember that there were a numbers of cabaret dominating the building when my father took me for a walk during the early 70s.At the back lane of the former Rex Cinema was the hawker centre selling many ethnic food with atmosphere that we cannot find today.Although I'm 45 now, I still missed the good old days and those feelings still lingers on my mind.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks Rahman for that bit of history. Glad you liked my articles about old buildings. If you have any similar 'quiz' you want to share with GMY readers, pls feel free to email to me and I will upload it for you. I actually have many more buildings I want to photograph. But it is very time-consuming to go to the place just to take a photo. So I only do it when I happen to be in the area for something else.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again Mr. Lam for your reply and having to acknowledge my mail to you. Do you still remember the band group 'The Stylers' and the Singapore wrestler named 'Kung Fu Lee'? Well their Singapore made talent as the ealry years there were many talented duos or trios ya!Perhaps u still remember Wonderland Amusement Park huh? It was previously located close to National Stadium during the heydays of soccer talent like Quah Khim Song, Dollah Kassim and the late Seng Kwee.Well I hope that that the authorities should preserve old buildings and monuments as it will reminds our generation to learnt what was before ya.My former Kampong days was at Mandai Road which is close to Upper Seletar Reservoir. The Nee Soon Village that I used to do my shopping was at the junction of Mandai Road and Sembawang Road where the old Post Office which had been vacated still standsused to be my playground. Well Mr. Lam, I still missed the gol old days just like you. Take care and bye.

Lam Chun See said...

I remember Stylers but not Kung Fu Lee. If you interested to read about the old Spore bands and music, go to modcentric hosted by a fellow Friend of Yesterday.sg

For Msia cup, my friend Chuck blogged about it here.

Anonymous said...

based on above thread, it looks like most of the history was show/entertainment wrestling..

What about amateur wrestling then?
Or any wrestlers about now?

There's a Singapore Wrestling Federation being formed at the moment fyi

-Bernard

u can call Albert at http://www.fightworksasia.com.sg/
for more info

Ah Fu said...

Hi, been reading through your blog. Very interesting, brings back some very good memories of my childhood days, though i was too young to appreciate some of the things('only' 27 years old now).

Anyway, I lived my first 12 years of my life very near this New World(at a rental flat which i believe was the tallest building for miles around - at 18 stories) but by the time i was able retain any concrete childhood memories, it had already gone into ruins and disrepair. So all we kids could do there was to play amongst these ruins, which was still pretty fun and exciting because of it's vast area to explore.

I am not sure whether the place was operational in the early 80's. If it was, i bet my parents would have brought me there lol

Victor said...

Ah Fu - Were you staying in a flat in Syed Alwi Road for the first 12 years of your life?

Ah Fu said...

Hah, no. That's a bit off from where I stayed. I lived right next to the Petain Netball Centre. There's an side/back entrance to the amusement park along a drain/canal.

Part of the park was occupied by a church group in the early 90's I believe.

libnan ayoub said...

Does anyone have any photos, newspaper clippings of the wrestling that appeared at the Worlds and happy World Stadium? My email is lib_ayoub@hotmail.com

Thanks

laura said...

Thank you giving such a wonderful memories of the new world amusement park.I really enjoy to read this article about the memories of the amusement park.Keep up dating..Thank u.................



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Richard said...

Awww..so many memories..thank you so much for bringing them back!!! Also thanks to Laura for sharing amusementhub.co.uk, really like it.