Friday, April 03, 2009

Commonwealth Drive

I am surprised that my earlier post about Margaret Drive in Queenstown attracted many comments. It appears that many former residents who grew up in this old HDB estate still harbour fond memories of it. So I am motivated to write another post about Queenstown.
If you are not familiar with Queenstown and you were given an address in Commonwealth Drive, then I should warn you to be careful. You’d better check your street directory before you set out. The reason, as you can see from this 2007 map, is that Commonwealth Drive is truncated into 2 sections by the East-West MRT Line and Commonwealth Avenue. So if you went to the wrong section, you would have to make a big detour, and if you are not familiar with this area, you will definitely get lost.

At Tanglin Halt, there is an old hawker centre (Blocks 1, 2 and 3) that I used to frequent. When I went there recently for lunch, I noticed that the place looked run-down and deserted. Many of the stalls were empty. I guess they must be about to redevelop this place; and so I took some photos with my handphone camera (which explains the poor quality).

When my kids were young (this would be in the early 90’s), we liked to come here for dinner. We frequented one zhi char stall near the children’s playground. In fact, the owner knew us so well that once we went off without paying but the she wasn’t worried at all. Usually, whilst we waited for the food to arrive, my children would play with the facilities in the playground and were reluctant to come back. I guess that is one of the drawbacks of staying in a small private estate. Unlike the private condominiums and HDB heartlands, there are no children’s playgrounds in the vicinity of my home.

Let me end with a quiz about the old Queenstown. See this photo of the PUB gas tank (from the National Archives collection)? Can you tell me where exactly it used to be located?

39 comments:

Icemoon said...

I believe I've seen the same gas tank in an old railway photo of Tanglin Halt. The gas tank should be very near the hawker center.

Victor said...

There is another old hawker centre in Tanglin Halt, i.e. at Blk 48.

Anonymous said...

With respect, notwithstanding that I did not read English at university, please allow me to make two suggestions:
1. You said "to come here for dinner" Perhaps, "to go there for dinner" would be more appropriate, because from your home or wherever you are, you go there. But from the hawker centre, you come home.
2. Like most Singaporeans (and Hong Kong Chinese), you said "hand phone" Perhaps, mobile phone or cell phone is technically correct because "had phone" appears to be a literal translation from Chinese. Thank you.

peter said...

I used to have fears as a kid about passing this place - maybe in the early 1960s. There was a stench in the air from the coking gas released to prevent built-up of pressure. I had this phobia that the gas tank might explore.

Some colleagues brought me to this Commonwealth Drive area where National Healthcare Group has its HQ. Seems a great place for "Wa Tan Haw Fun".

Lam Chun See said...

Victor. The wet market and hawker centre at Blk 48 were renovated a few years ago.

Lam Chun See said...

Two interesting points raised by Anonymous. But I don't agree.

1) Come here vs go there. I am writing as if I was showing my readers around the place - hence the photos. Thus it is more appropriate to say, 'come here'.

2) You are right. Sporeans tend to use 'handphone'. You see it in adverts, sales brochures and name cards. Since I am Sporean, writing mainly for Sporeans in this article, wouldn't it be more appropriate to us hp?

Lam Chun See said...

Actually, the term 'hawker centre' is also technically incorrect because a hawker is somebody who carries his goods from place to place.

Ngiam Shih Tung said...

> With respect, notwithstanding that I did not read
> English at university, please allow me to make two
>suggestions:

Disegard these trolls.

PChew said...

I was quite familiar with the area at one time. I have not revisited the place for more than 20 years. The gas tank was beside Blk 79 nearby the railway line.

Icemoon said...

Can I ask a question?

Why are blocks numbered 1, 2 and 3 when their neighbors are 40 and up?

Icemoon said...

Hawker center (小贩中心) must be the place they were resettled from the 70s? Nowadays the correct term is food center (熟食中心). To say hawker center sounds low class to tourists.

But Singapore owes her culinary heritage to those itinerant hawkers, who first pioneered food like laksa.

PChew said...

At Tanglin Halt wet market, there were shops surrounding the 3 sides of the market. I remember the Lim Clinic/Dispensary and the other was the Ling Clinic. It so happened I knew them personally before they set up shops there. Parking near the market was a problem. From Blk 50 to 80, there was no void deck. All ground floors are shops. In the 60s there was an ice cream factory called Tivoli in Blk 77 or 78. The female clerk in charge of the factory lived in the same block

Lam Chun See said...

The gas tank looks familiar but even with PChew's explanation, I cannot quite place it. Maybe Icemoon can help us out with a "2nd Shot" project.

Miss Loi said...

Ooh the wanton mee stall at Blk 48 is my regular late night supper point!

stanley said...

Actually there are 2 parts of Queenstown. The one that Chun See blogged about is called "tanglin Halt 10 storey" where you can see that most of the HDB blocks are 10 storey high. With the opening of Sheng Siong supermarket just opposite Commonwealth MRT Station recently this part of Queenstown is very crowded especially at night. The Sheng Siong supermarket not only caters to the needs of residents of Tanglin Halt, it also attracts shoppers from as far as Jurong. The hawker center is now under renovation and it will be ready at the end of this year.
The other part of Queenstown is called "Queenstown 16 storey" presumably because of the 3 blocks of 16 storey HDB buildings located on top of the hill. If you are taking a taxi intending to go to Queenstown, the taxi driver will invariably ask " Queenstown 10 storey or Queenstown 16 storey.

peter said...

Dialectical nicknames given to different parts of Queenstown


Commonwealth Drive
/Tanglin Halt Chap Lak Lau
Holland Village Go Chia Keng

Duchess Estate Chap Si Lau

peter said...

Chap Lak Lau refers to Tanglin halt on the side of Queensway
Chap Lau was Tanglin Halt nearer Holland Village

Sorry for mistake as I referred to my old Geography Pre-U notes

ThESounDOne said...

The big gas tank was located at junction of kallang, lavender area right ?

Icemoon said...

I read that Queenstown was initially called 14 storey .. lol

peter said...

In Cantonese, it was called "Lay Wong Chun", something to do with royalty and queen.....

Keith said...

I stayed in Lengkok Bahru (Redhill area) when young in the 70s. But visited my aunty and cousins at Strathmore Ave (very near Dai Zhong shopping centre and the two cinemas) very frequently. And played a lot at the old now-demolished Queenstown Community Centre; and watch colour TV (quite a novelty then) there. Lui Wong (queen) Zhen (town) in cantonese does bring back many excellent memories.

Anonymous said...

the old tanglin halt hawker center has this desert stall that sells cheng teng etc at 80 cents.

too bad it is closed for rennovations now.

15+ said...

Does any one have old pictures/maps of the potong pasir/TOA PAYOH/KRANJI/LIM CHU Kang/changi areas(esp.upp.changi road before changi airport came about)please email them to me @(toger@live.com.sg).I am only 15+ but i am interested in the history of singapore.Chun see/peter please help

Anonymous said...

Sorry out of town now.

Chun See

Philip Tay said...

Hi I lived in Queenstown 1950s to 70s. When you tell the taxidriver to come to my place it is call ..chap see lau..(14 storey or Forfar House)I lived in the 7 storey next to this building. I believe this estate is first in Spore. My school is Queenstown-the first technical school. Use to pass a tall tree at the junction of Dawson and Strathmore nobody dared to cut down this tree. I dont know if it is still there//a flame of the forest..i believe.
I started a blog to record my memories at my work place. Pl check it out at http://memoriesofcaldecotthill.blogspot.com
Glad to find this blog.

sg said...

I stayed in Queenstown till primary 6. So, I can recall a little. How about the Hokkien name for "Mo Bei Kang"? No tail canal? My late grandfather used to say this when people asked where we stay.

Anonymous said...

I would have thought Boh Beh Kang was the more popular name

philip tay said...

Another thing i remember is during the 60s there were pirate taxis. After Qeenstown Sec Techn School i studied at the Polytechnic, and daily I hopped into a pirate taxi that took me from the present MRT station to Prince Edward Road. The taxi fee was about $40 cents..very convenient. In 1967 when I joined RTS pirate taxis were still around. The route I took daily to work was from New Town School opp Margaret Drive to Andrew Road Caldcott Hill...

Lam Chun See said...

Can pls tell us exact where is this Boh Beh Kang.

Tom said...

Tom said...
Hi Philip,I see you had mentioned the pirate taxis, I use call them pick up taxis,When I went into Singapore City from Selarang Barracks I would get on one , and by the time you got into town, the taxi driver would stop and pick up other people on the way, that is why we called them pick up.yes they were convenient, and better than the bus, and the fare was cheap to.oh the good old days.

sg said...

Can anyone remember Pasar Malam in Queenstown? Think it was every Thur.

quirK said...

I can't believe I never even noticed that the gas tank has long disappeared, with the skyline replaced by the swanky new blocks of Biopolis.

And yes, cap lau and chap lak lau... the days when taxi drivers understood dialect directions best.

philip tay said...

I can see that there is a diverse views on Queenstown. This is because the place is big. Depending on the age-group i think most will talk about Tanglin Halt Side and mid part of Commonwealth Drive. I grew up at Ballater Close next to Forfar HOuse (chap see lau or 14 storey) When I moved ther Tanglin Halt side was not built-up yet. There was a market (do not know if still there) and next to it a community centre between strathmore avenue and dawson road. I used to watch open-movie at the community centre. Jek Yuen Thong was the MP there used to distribute rice to the poor. Yes I remember the masar malam which stretches from opposite aluminium factory(i think it is still there next to Mercedes Centre) and the start of Commonwealth Avenue, just outside the present Mei Ling street(or road) where the Queens Condo is now. The HDB flats at Meiling were not built until sometime later. I had vivid member of this Mei Ling place because the soil there is red. Another thing I used to walk down to the hawker centre where the Chinese Emporium used to be..the two stalls which i frequented are still there..one is the fish-ball noodle stall and the other a yew char kuay stall..
"memories keep us young and our heart warm "

Icemoon said...

Red soil at Meiling?? That could be the soil which gave Redhill her name.

Anybody remember the shooting of Lim Ban Lim at Magaret Drive in 1972?

Lam Chun See said...

I will be blogging about that shooting incident soon. Most intriguing. Pls do save your comments on this issue to later for later. Thanks.

philip Tay said...

About the pasar malam i made a mistake it should be stirling road instead of meiling road, next to the telephone exchange and directly opposite LEA Hin factory. The pasar malam started from here very thursday i believe down to almost Gold Theatre. About no tail canal I believed that there was river down from singapore river up to where Golden Theatre was. Sampans used to come up to that point and no where else to go.
For those interested read the book 10-stories Queenstown thro the years. This book will give you a good perspective of Queenstown starting from the Strathmore/Dawson Road area and Forfar house(now occupied by Forfar Heights.

Icemoon said...

I have completed the assignment given by Chun See here.

Ender said...

Is the renovation of Commonwealth Drive Food Centre completed? Hope the same old food stalls are around. Esp the No.1 western food

kk said...

I studied at Queenstown Secondary Technical School (QSTS) in the 70s and there was a block at the junction of Alexander Rd and Tanglin Rd with a Standard Chartered Bank branch. Collected my bursary cheque or cashier's order there :)