Monday, December 31, 2007

To everything there is a season

Recently, I was interviewed by a Reuters reporter who asked if I thought the government should retain Singapore’s last remaining kampong in Buangkok. She was surprised when I said I was not in favour of keeping it just for the sake of nostalgia. If land-scarce Singapore had better use for the land, why keep it?. Anyway, she did not quote me in her article, choosing to quote my friend Victor instead, who apparently held a different view from me … best not to speculate on her reasons.

Old picture scanned from the book, Singapore, An Illustrated History, 1941 ~ 1984, Information Division, Ministry of Culture

It’s nice, and possibly even healthy to indulge occasionally in nostalgia. But at the end of the day, (I hate that cliché) we should remember that nostalgia is not the same as regret; neither is reminiscing equivalent to missing. As wise King Solomon wrote in the book Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (including tired clichés)

There’s time for ice balls, and there’s a time for Haagen Daas,
A time for open air theatres, and a time for air-conditioned cineplexes;
A time for public swimming pools, and a time for water theme parks;
A time for night soil buckets, and a time for modern toilets;
A time for rubber band shooters, and a time for Xboxes;
A time for slide rules, and a time for PDAs.

It’s called Progress, and progress is not something we should regret. Kampongs and ice balls belong to yesterday. They should only be resurrected in history books and nostalgia blogs like Good Morning Yesterday.

Have a Blessed 2008 dear reader.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Old Buildings Quiz (3)

Can you identify the building in this photo?
Hint – It used to be a cinema; can you see the Shaw Brothers logo? In the old days, all SB theatres have this logo prominently place at the top.

A few years ago, it was converted into an S11 food court; and now it is undergoing renovation. I heard that it had been bought over by one of the mega-churches. Like the 2 former cinemas in Queenstown that I blogged about earlier, it looks like this one will also be converted into a church. So perhaps we can again adapt the words of that song I mentioned in my previous post.
Where have all the cinemas gone? Gone to churches and food courts everyone.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Where have all the (public) swimming pools gone?

Jurong Swimming Pool 01Dec2007 (8)I wonder how many of my readers know that next to the Jurong Stadium that I blogged about recently, is a public swimming pool called Jurong Town Swimming Complex. This pool holds special memories for me. Before my wife and I got married, we used to come to this pool after work to swim. At that time, she was teaching the afternoon session at the nearby Jurong Secondary School.

Jurong Swimming Pool 01Dec2007 (5)

As you can see from the photos, this pool has closed down. In recent years, many of the older public swimming pools that my generation used to go to when we were young have suffered the same fate. Two examples that bloggers have reminisced about are the Yan Kit and the River Valley pools. Nowadays, the only public pools that survive in Singapore are found in the densely-populated HDB heartlands like Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh.

Jurong Swimming Pool 01Dec2007 (4)

Jurong Swimming Pool 01Dec2007 (6)

So where have all the public swimming pools gone? Answer – Gone to the 2C’s everyone; namely the Condos and Country Clubs. Over the past couple of decades, because of Singaporeans’ fondness of the 5C’s – Cash, Car, Credit Card, Condo and Country Clubs, many new swimming pools have popped up all over the island in the new condominiums and country clubs. In fact, many schools nowadays have their own pools. In my school days, this was quite unheard of. I remember, in 1968, when I was in Secondary 4 in ACS, we had to help sell fun fair tickets to raise money to build what must be one of the first schools’ swimming pools in Singapore.

When we were young, the only pools that we can go to were public pools like Yan Kit, River Valley and Farrer Park. My own favourite was the Farrer Park. Besides these three, there were probably a few more; but offhand I cannot recall the names. As for country clubs, the most famous one in the sixties was probably the Chinese Swimming Club in the Katong area. I have only been there once. It was unique for its salt water.

I guess, in a couple of years, after the bulldozers move in, few people will even know that once upon a time, there was a swimming pool in this quiet corner in the western part of Singapore. Who knows? The only place that Singaporeans of the future can learn about the Jurong Swimming Complex may well be Good Morning Yesterday.

I guess the younger readers may be a bit puzzled by my language; I mean the question and answer bit. Actually, I am adapting the words of a famous song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Toys were us (10) - Rubber Band Shooter (by Chuck Hio)

In an earlier post that Chun See wrote about making skipping ropes with rubber bands, I wrote about using the Rubber Band Shooter in a game using rubber bands in the comments section. Here's a recap:

1. Take 2 sticks and stick in on the ground about 8 - 10 inches apart. The rubber band of yesteryears can be stretch that long.

2. A rubber band is then stretch to both ends.

3. We put our own rubber bands on top of that stretch rubber band as out stakes.
4. At a distance of about 10 - 12 feet, we try to shoot the rubber bands down with our specially made shooter.

5. The rubber bands shot down is our winnings.
6. However, if our shooter some how got entangled with the stick or rubber band, then it is 'disqualified' and cannot claim any rubber band.

Here are 2 photos to show you what our Rubber Shooter looked like (top) and how we used it (bottom).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Taman Jurong Heritage Trail: Old Buildings Quiz (2) - updated

The photo below was taken at my OCS Passing Out Parade on the 30th of April, 1977. Surprisingly, the venue was not Safti (the present Pasir Laba Camp) but at one of the sports stadiums. Can you identify which stadium this was?

The other day, I went down to take some photos of this place. It was quite run down and looked deserted. I told the care taker that I wanted to take some photos before the government tears it down. He thought I was an ex-footballer. He told me not so soon, at least another few years.

(16 Dec 2007) - Chuck is right. It is the Jurong Stadium. Here is what it looks like today. Can you see the new mosque in the background? That place used to be an army camp called Taman Jurong Camp - not sure if it's 4 SIR. Two camps actually, separated by Corporation Drive.
I had a friend who used to be a recruit there in the early 70's. He told me that when they did their 5BX early in the morning, the flat dwellers nearby got angry with their shouts and singing (remember how they always made us sing nonsensical army songs when we did our 5BX exercise) and threw pebbles at them.

The area is now very quiet. The big car park in front is used by learner drivers to practice parking; not just passenger cars but lorries as well. I saw a group of men queuing in front of the stadium and thought there was a foot ball match. Actually they were buying lottery tickets (either 4D or Toto).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Toys were us (9) – Rubber band skipping rope

Reading Laokokok’s earlier post about Five Stones reminds me of yet another toy. Actually it was a comment by Pristan who said; “when I was young (long ago), I was an expert in 5-stones and that jumping over rubber-bands game - zero-point!”

The toy that I am referring to is the home-made skipping rope which we made from rubber bands. Unfortunately, I cannot remember exact how to make it. But fret not … I have a ‘kampong games consultant’, whose name by now regular readers should know … Chuck; the inventor of the deadly Scot327 fully non-automatic assault rifle.

Here’s how you make the rubber band skipping rope. I hope you can figure out from the pictures below. Frankly, I am not sure.

As far as I can remember, there were 3 methods of using the skipping rope. Method 1 is the normal single person skipping. Method 2 requires 3 players. Two persons will hold the 2 ends of the rope and swing whilst the ‘skipper’ will jump over the rope. Method 3 requires two persons. One person holds both ends of the rope in one hand and swings it in circular motions (like a lasso) close/parallel to the ground and the ‘skipper’ skips over it.

There you have it. A cheap and easy-to-make skipping rope to give you hours of fun and exercise.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Through the years

Have you seen the latest TV advertisement from Nikon? They adopted a technique that has been used ’through the years’; namely to simply play a nice song without saying anything about their product. The song of course is Kenny Rogers’ THROUGH THE YEARS.

It brings to mind a few other memorable tunes:

The first is Louis Armstrong’s WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD used by Fuji Film some years ago. I believe this ad won an award for the Viewer’s Choice at that time. Viewer’s Choice was a competition where viewers chose their favourite advertisement. (I think you will like this version)

Another one is The New Seekers’ I’d LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING used by Coca Cola. This advert used to come up during the Christmas season. It showed a group of young people from different countries holding lighted candles and singing the song. As the camera zooms out, you see the picture of a Christmas tree formed by the candles. In this case, they modified the song a little to include, among other things, Coke’s famous tag line, It’s the Real Thing. You can see this ad here.

But my favourite is still Paul Anka’s TIMES OF YOUR LIFE for Kodak. Not only are the lyrics so meaningful; Paul Anka’s soulful voice adds a certain melancholy to the mood. I remember seeing this ad at the old Cathay Cinema. The snippet showed Paul Anka singing the song in a recording studio with headphones and all. The year was probably around 1975. You can listen to it here.

Some years ago, Kodak did a brief re-make of this advertisement; but the song was sung by someone else. I felt that it was a complete flop. Viewers who knew the song would automatically compare this version with Paul Anka’s and the obvious result would be disappointment. I think what Kodak should have done and should do is to show the original advertisement scratches and all. The age of the images, the old seventies fashion and even the scratchy sounds would themselves provide the nostalgia and remind the viewer about the brand name, Kodak.

In fact, I actually made a suggestion to Kodak to do just that. On their website, they have a feedback/suggestions section where they will reward you if your ideas are adopted. My suggestion however, was not adopted. I suspect there were some copyright issues involved. Too bad. Young viewers of today will not able to see for themselves what I try to describe here in words.

A view of the beautiful landscape outside our camp in Chien-Pu, Heng Chun, Taiwan, in March 1977

Whenever I hear Times of Your Life, I am reminded of my time doing army training in Taiwan on what was called Exercise Starlight. It was the culmination of our nine months of Officer Cadet Training. One day, my friends and I were moving along a dried river bed near our camp in Heng Chun. It was summer time and the river was quite dry. By the way, we were not supposed to do that. It was cheating and if caught would have certainly earned us some punishment. Anyway, as we passed a village, I heard this song coming from one of the houses and it made me terribly homesick.

Here’s another 'Ad song' I stumbled on while surfing around on YouTube - Kodak’s 1960’s advertisement using the song; Turn Around.

Do you have a favourite song like the ones I mentioned above? Please do share with us.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Anyone remember The Music Box Dancer?

The Tabitha Wang article I mentioned in my previous post was actually about reminiscing about the music of the eighties. Reading the article reminds me of a couple of tunes by a Canadian pianist by the name of Frank Mills which was also from the early 80’s. At that time, Frank Mills’ Music Box Dancer was a big hit in the Singapore pop charts. I believe not till Richard Clayderman came along had piano tunes been so popular as pop hits.

For the younger ones who do not know Frank Mills and are curious to know what the song sounds like, here's the link that I found on YouTube.

Somebody actually made this interesting comment about this song:

”As an infant, my parents say this is the only song I'd fall asleep to. They held me up a stereo speaker while it played on the radio, and, like magic, I was out like a light.”

But, my favourite tune from that album by Frank Mills was not Music Box Dancer but a rather solemn tune called The Poet and I. I was trying hard to remember what the tune was like and searched for it on YouTube. Unfortunately, I could not find a piano version but only able to find this a guitar rendition by a Korean gentleman. You can listen to it here. Hope you like it.

There’s a third song from Frank Mills’ album which I also liked. It was called From a Sidewalk Café. To hear the tunes of these three songs that I recommended, or rather segments of them, you can go to this music store:

I think even the present generation will like Frank Mills’ music because this genre of music is quite timeless.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Two more reasons why seniors should blog

Last Saturday, I gave a talk to a group of about 40 seniors at the Silver Infocomm Day at RSVP at Bishan Central. This event was jointly organized by RSVP, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme and IDA as part of the Active Ageing Festival. Entitled, "Blogging today on", my talk lasted about 40 minutes.

The main aim was to encourage the seniors to take up blogging as a hobby. I shared with them my own experience and thrill in blogging about stuff of yesteryears. I also argued that blogging is good for their health because blogging involved much mental exercise which health experts claim can stave off age-related diseases like Alzeheimer’s disease.


Yesterday I found another two reasons why seniors should blog; but alas the talk was over already.

Reason No. 1: You will have less quarrels with your spouse

According to researchers from Loyola University, reminiscing about the good times can make people more cheerful. Pleasant memories, it seems, are a good antidote for the blues. I read this in an article by Tabitha Wang, the ‘Budget tai tai’ of TODAY. “Reminiscing can motivate you. It can give you a sense of being rooted, of meaning and purpose – instead of being blown around by the whims of everyday life”, she quoted Loyola psychologist Fred Bryant.

And here’s what I found in an article in Psychology Today:

According to studies by psychologist Tim Wildschut and colleagues at the University of Southampton in the U.K, “people who write about a nostalgic event are more cheerful after the exercise compared with people who write about an everyday experience. The studies also show that people who write about good memories report higher self-esteem and feel more positively about friendships and close relationships.”

Reason No. 2: Writing stuff about the good old days can even earn you some cash. I received $400 in the mail yesterday from taking part in the Singapore Heritagefest 2007 MyStory Portal Competition. Apparently my essay about the days of black and white television in Singapore has won first prize in the Memories category!

So guys … what are you waiting for? Go to and post your stories, or email them to me and I will put them up here at Good Morning Yesterday.