Thursday, October 30, 2008

Balestier-Thomson Road Heritage Trail (3) – What happened to Towner Road?



In my previous post, I showed a 1963 map of a section of Balestier Road. You will notice that opposite Ruby Theatre was a road called Towner Road. In those days, Towner Road led straight to Serangoon Road.

But things are quite different today.

1) Towner Road has been replaced by Whampoa Drive. Only a short stretch of Towner Road remains on the Serangoon side of the CTE (Central Express Way)


2) Much of Jalan Kebun Limau has been replaced by the CTE (Central Express Way)

At first, I thought the change of Towner Road to Whampoa Drive was brought about by the construction of the CTE. But when I consulted my 1981 street directory, I found that by then, Whampoa Drive had already replaced Towner Road in the Ruby Theatre Vicinity, and the CTE had not even been constructed yet.

So whatever happened to the missing part of Towner Road? I think only the local boys like YG can throw some light on the matter. Otherwise, I will have to enlist super-sleuth, Icemoon to undertake another assignment for us.

This is a photo of Whampoa Drive which was formerly called Towner Road viewed from Balestier Road.


Here is another shot taken from Balestier Road. I recall that there used to be a row of shops on the left side of the road.



Here is another photo of Whampoa Drive in the direction of Balestier Road.


These old shops look like they have been around since the days of Ruby Theatre.

37 comments:

Icemoon said...

The only thing 'nostalgic' about Whampoa for me is the food center and the shop selling traditional bread which yg commented in the previous topic. I think the shop can be seen in one of the photos.

timesofmylife said...

When we look at our old street directory and compare to our road now, we will be amazed by what LTA done to our road. Like what you have shown - how the Towner Road had changed over time!

Lam Chun See said...

Yes. I think that traditional bread shop is still around. I thot I saw it the other day when I was taking the photos. The hawker centre is quite good. New and clean with lots of stalls. I bought some mee-chien-kueh from one of the stalls. Quite good. 60 cts per piece.

Zen said...

Towner road, I have only a sketchy idea of the place, more familiar with balestier road, as I used to take a sloppy short cut behind the wet market/food centre to visit my parents who were intermittently hopitalised in TTSH. Sometimes I would drink a cup tea at a nearby coffeeshop with a large roast duck displayed in front of it. Whenever medical supplies run short for my infirm parents (after discharge), I would source them from shops specialised in selling medicare products in the balestier road area which is also well known for many shops selling light fittings, bathroom and toilet accessories at quite a reasonable price.

yg said...

i can confirm that the bakery - sing hon loong bakery - is still around. after our morning walk today, my group went to whampoa food centre for makan and i walked over to check.

part is rayman school building is still around. it is used by the handicaps welfare association.

chun see, you are right. towner road was cut off even before the expressway was built. after some sit flats were demolished and in their place, they built hdb flats, the road was shortened. this, according to one friend who used to live at lorong limau and another who lived at sturrock road.

along jalan kebun limau was a long line of single storey houses.

at the whampoa food centre, there is this popular mee pok stall which gives you a 30 cts discount if you take the food to your own table (self-service). so, you pay $2.20 for a bowl of mee pok instead of $2.50.

Lam Chun See said...

YG. I am quite curious about what is this Rayman School that was already there in the 60's. Maybe you should blog about it.

I find that the food prices at this food centre is quite reasonable compared to the newer towns; especially the town centres like Clementi, AMK etc.

Lam Chun See said...

At one time, I used to fetch my parents to visit an old friend of theirs who lived at St Michael's estate near or at Jalan Bahagia. I remember always having to travel one big round, going in from Towner/Whampoa Drive and then exiting at Kim Keat Road. That was before CTE was built.

I have always wondered how Balestier Rd came to become a 'lights centre' with so many shops selling lights. Certainly more convenient than going to Jalan Besar. A few years ago, when I renovated my house, my contractor recommended me to go to the Sim Siang Choon shop at Balestier to buy quite a lot of bathroom and kitchen fittings.

yg said...

chun see, i am afraid i do not know much about rayman school to blog about it. it was one of the nine schools that were located along or off towner road. they were balestier boys, balestier girls, balestier mixed, griffiths, may north, may south, rayman, towner and whompoe english school. of the nine, the sole survivor is griffiths primary, which is now at tampines.

PChew said...

I am quite familiar with the area as in 1960/70. Part of Towner Road was cut off for the construction of of HDB Whampoa Estate in late 60s and early 70s. Balloting for the HDB flats in Whampoa Estate was in 1972.

PChew said...

The corner shop at Balestier Road/Whampoa Drive was a coffee shop before. It has changed trade since then. The building has been there before Ruby Theatre.

Whampoa Drive when it was still Towner Road slopes down towards the market. Whampoa Drive is now a level road.

Lam Chun See said...

Thank Philip for those inputs about this area. I recall the MP for Whampoa at that time was Dr Augustine Tan.

ThESounDOne said...

HI All,

If i remember correctly, lining both side of whampoa drive in the 80's were row of 3 storey shop houses....i think they were of SIT design...the staircase leading up to the upper floors were very narrow.....

psylesque said...

Hi Chun See/all

Referring to the 2nd picture, there used to be an entire block of 3-storey flats (probably built in the 1960s) on the left, where the empty field now stands. The ground floor consisted of various shops including a coffee shop right at the end, with residential units above featuring spiral staircases at the back.

The entire building was torn down a few years ago, not entirely sure about the reason, and residents were given the option of moving into upgraded flats in nearby Whampoa.

Strangely enough, there is an almost identical building across the road from this grass patch, comprising the same mix of shops & apartments, which hasn't been torn down for some reason.

ThESounDOne said...

Hi psylesque,

u mentioned abt the coffeeshop right at the end......one recollection i have is they used to roasted their own coffee beans.... i used to walk past it on my way to balestier rd to take bus to school......i did not find the aroma appealing then but now.....actually kind of miss it.....

psylesque said...

hi thesoundone,

are you referring to the shop (in the middle of a whole row of other shops) selling ground coffee which sits on balestier road (slightly opposite the pegu road bus stop)?

ThESounDOne said...

Hi psylesque,

hhhm... looking at the 1st photo on the blog, there was a row of 3 storey shop standing on wat is the the patch of grass in the photo. The end of the block facing the market.....there was a coffee shop..... that's the coffee shop i referring to....unless my memories fail me...but definitely very often there would be someone roasting coffee beans over there....

ThESounDOne said...

hi psylesque,

sorry.....should be the 4th photo ..... the one going towards the downslope direction....

Victor said...

I remember Towner Road for one thing - I attended technical workshops in mechanical/woodwork during my secondary school days about 30 years ago at the Towner Primary School in McNair Road. The primary school was located near the Towner Road/McNair Road junction.

I think the school is still there today but I don't know if it has been rebuilt. That section of Towner Road is also still in existence.

justjim-justjim said...

Thanks for the memories guys, Balestier, Towner, Kim Keat, Lorong Limau were my playground in the 50s and 60s. I still go back there to recall the good memories. I went to McNair School, and walked to school daily with hundreds or other children as there were many schools in that area, Whampoa, Griffiths, McNair, Balestier Boys, Balestier Girls, Balestier Mixed, and Rayman School was next to the market on Towner Road. I used play on the swings at the nearby market playground. Ask old Lee he will remember Towner Road well, as he was pushed into the longkang while campaigning for the election. Those were tough times, and old Lee was tough.

nutz2tat said...

my family moved into a flat at whampoa drive in 1973 and i was enrolled in rayman school in '74. (oops, did that give my age away?!) anyway, i have no idea when towner road where whampoa market and hawker centre now still stand was changed to whampoa drive, but as far as i remember, it's been whampoa drive from the time i started living there. on both sides of whampoa drive, there were 3-storey 'flats' (i'm not sure if that's the correct term) on the side of the road where rayman school was. (now it's a patch/strip of bare land.) across the road, there were shophouses with residential 'apartments' upstairs. there was an ever-busy coffeeshop at the corner just before the turning to the little carpark attached to the whampoa market. i used to patronise that coffeeshop for the fishball noodles. on that same row, shops sold fabrics, shoes, things that simple folks would buy at that time. rather convenient. once you turn out of whampoa drive, there's the ruby theatre as is on map 2. the traditional bread shop is still there. used to buy tao sa bao or white bread and kaya from them. not anymore although i still 'run around' whampoa drive pretty much nowadays. my parents still live there.

so much for nostalgia. hope this clarifies things... i have a couple of primary school classmates who still live in the same flats since they were 6. amazing huh?

Anonymous said...

My name is Lim Meng Foo. I am looking for my classmates from Rayman School. Some of us have already found each other and there are still quite a few of us not found yet. If you are, you can contact find me in facebook (Jason Lim). Look for Rayman School. You will be able to old class photos there.

Simon said...

hi everyone, i am delighted to come across this blog. I have grown up in the Jalan Bahagia area in the 70s. Whampoa market was the usual go to place for marketing and breakfast. I have been trying hard to find pictures of the area but it seems difficult, perhaps cameras were not so popular in those days. I especially miss the market and hawker centre that was infront of my block. It was demolished many years ago during my secondary school days, with rumours of building a new HDB blocks. Nothing besides afew new blocks were built and the land has stood vacant since. Further closer to jalan toa payoh, there was also a hawker centre that looked very make shift. It was our lunch point , when coming back from school as there was a bus stop along the PIE which is still there today.

Besides Rayman, many of the children in the neighbourhood also attended May South (blue uniform) and May North (Green uniform) which was merged into May Primary School (yellow and green uniform). If i am not wrong, the building is currently vacated. Before the CTE was built, we used to walk from our place at block 33, jalan bahagia to school. Along the way, there would be hawkers peddling stickers and fishballs, which were our favourites.

Going to Hoover, Ruby and President was a treat for us. I watched "Back to the future I" at Hoover as one of my first independent outing with the neighbourhood kids. There was also an Emporium there where we do shopping. I believe it was still there into the 80s and then torn down when Shaw complex was built.

Do share any photos that you may have of the area. Or does anyone know if NHB or URA might have such archive that we can accesss?

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Simon. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of the history of this area. I am afraid I do not have any old photos of Balestier Rd, the reason being I never lived or studied in this area. My only experience of coming to this area was to going to the cinemas

And thanks for refreshing my memory of the emporium next to President Theatre. This theatre did not last many years right? I remember there was a covered car park.

Lam Chun See said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that NHB has a publication called Balestier Rd Heritage Trail. I have borrowed this name for my my series of blog articles here.

Beau Lotus said...

I was from Balestier Girls' School...before it was demolished and merged with Griffiths in 1983 to form Moulmein Primary.

I still remember the kids from Balestier Boys, Balestier Mixed, May North/South and Towner who took the same school bus. I wonder what has happened to them since.

One year we had a lot of floods, the water came up to the waist even. I can still remember wading in the water from the school bus (blocked somewhere near the school) and walking to my uncle's place in Whampoa to seek refuge.

OneTheJuggler said...

Was looking at that old street directory map. It seems like one could go from Towner Road onto Jln Kebun Lima at the time. I don't think this can be done now.

MC said...

This might be a couple years late but I thought I would like to share an experience.

I was from Balestier Boys School along NcNair Road during the 70s. My grandmum's terrace house was at Kim Keat Lane, now there a condo sitting there.
Sometimes I used to walk to school from there, if I happen to stay at my grandmum's. On one occasion along the way, i chanced upon a huge flattened
and very wide mud path. It stretched from 1 end to the other as far as the eye can see. I was wondering what this was. Turned out to the PIE. Amazing
experience.

I remember the Balestier Mix and Balestier Girls schools. All along NcNair road. Also the old single story houses which are are still there now
opposite the school. There was a huge drain separating the row of houses and NcNair Road. We always play near the drains after school while waiting
for the school bus. The school bus would then loop around the area and pick up kids from all the nearby schools e.g. Griffin and May.

Back to Whampoa Dr, yes as mentioned by others, there were 2 row of shophouses lining the street on both sides. I thought I remember a printing
press at 1 end of the row facing the market. And if I am not wrong, a shop baking bread, blackened but later sliced off to remove the black crusts.

Everytime when it was time to go home, my family and I would walk out to Kim Keat Road and to Balestier Road to take Bus no. 145 back to Toa Payoh.
KK Road was dark with the occasion street light and everytime we walk past this place that smells of grease and oil. Maybe some chemical plant or
heavy vehicle repair. It is now gone and in its place is the Kim Kear Lodge apartments.

While waiting for the bus to come along Balestier Road (some where near the current busstop opp KK Road), I would glance up in the direction of where
the bus would be coming from and would see the Ruby Theatre.

MC said...

My bad, its the CTE not PIE.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks MC for sharing your memories. I think the bread shop that you mentioned is still there.

D said...

There used to be a row of shops on the right of the blue taxi in pic #2, the one with printing press/bakery described by MC. And among the other shops was a clinic run by Dr Lee SY, who so happens to be the brother of a certain Lee KY/uncle of a certain PM Lee.

Jennifer Siew said...

I was from Balestier Girls' School during 1960+. I was staying at Kallang Road. I used to walk to the school just to save the 5cts. busfare in ordered to buy the ice-ball and cut into 2 sharing with my younger sister walking all the way home.
I also remembered Balestier Boys. Mixed & Girls were used to share the same school field.
As somebody mentioned there were once a big flood and all lessons were stopped. We stand on the table waiting for our parents to fetch us home.
Very sweet memories for those days1

Lam Chun See said...

Jennifer. Thanks for sharing this precious nuggest of memory about a part of Spore that is no longer around with us. I really encourage you to 'deposit' your memory with our friends at the Spore Memory Project. (link on right side of this blog).

Do share other memories that you have.

Anonymous said...

Hi
I studied in Griffiths Pri in the 1960s. I can still remember the shops opposite the school- charcoal shop, a barber ( father of zi Lin, a popular singer back then), and further down the post office.
From the courtyard where we had assembly, we could see the adjoining hospital building. As a young boy, I always wondered who were those people watching from the windows. After recess, we would sit along the drains to brush our teeth. Next to the drain. Was Te store room where we kept PE equipment. I can still remember the musty smell, the wonderful bean bags, gunny sacks, hoopla hoops, etc. Along the fence which I enjoyed walking, I could see the McNair workshop. But most of the time, I was busy looking for spiders among the morning glory. I was once told by my classmate Tuck Cheong, that near to the African Tulip tree, there was a well which was used by the Japanese to dump bodies. I never found the well, but the thought never failed to give me goose pimples whenever I was within the vicinity. The melancholy air was accentuated with scent of the white frangippanis.

Before GPS was demolished, I went back with a camera to snap some photos. Back then, it was already taken by one of the MINDS schools. So you can truly appreciate the staff's puzzlement when I went to the office, asked for permission to take photos of my alma mater. :)) :))

TKT

Anonymous said...

Hi all, I was enrolled into Towner School in 1979, wearing the white shirt and chocolate shorts. I remember at the junction of McNair Road/ Towner road, there was this old mama shop which was selling orange drink 1o cents per glass. I love to go there to buy tikum and catch lokang fish next to the big drain. Opposite the school were those 4 storey flat which had since been demolished.

Next to Towner school is Whampoa English School which was combined with Towner school in 1984 and became Towner Primary school.

I used to take a school bus thou my home was in Boon Keng Road which is less than 2.4km away. However I would always find excuse not to take the school bus home so that I could walk home with all my friends and we would passed by the McNair Vocational Institute and admired those students in the workshop.

At that time, having a camera was beyond my means, else I would have taken tons of pictures which Towner/MaNair used to be my playground.

I really missed those carefree days and wish the clock can be turn back.

Frankie
cdman_frankie@yahoo.com.sg

Beaulotus said...

I started P1 in 1979 too! But at Balestier Girls. And in 1983 they started to clear out all the different schools in the area, merge them and settle them somewhere else.

I miss those days too and count myself lucky to have studied in single-story spaced out schools. Look at the gigantic buildings they call schools today...

Lynn said...

I lived at McNair Road for a couple of years back in about '74. It was No.3 which was an old black & white colonial bungalow on the corner of McNair & Balestier. Fond memories of walking to the mama shop on the corner to get an iceball for 5cts. From memory, the walk was only very short yet it seems much longer on Street View. Was that shop on Towner Rd? I remember it being as just a small side street.

Lynn said...

Forgot to mention, there were 3 or 4 bungalows there and a really big field that divided us and the row of terrace (shop)houses. Our house had a huge garden with 2 tall coconut trees. We use to throw the baby coconuts over the fence onto Balestier Rd like grenades to watch the cars drive over & smash them! We were also told that the Japanese lined up the British soldiers at the end of our garden and shot them. There were some freaky stories about strange going-ons in all of those bungalows! :)