Today travel to foreign countries is so easy and made even cheaper by the introduction of budget airlines. With the Internet we can even see foreign countries through pictures. Nearly 90 years ago, my grandfather also saw the world but he did it very differently, not like the way I envisaged. He did not join the merchant navy and jump-ship. I was very amazed at the way how he did it. He did something unique in the age of steamships, tongkangs and pig-tails.
I am still putting the pieces together on how he managed and balanced leisure against a career given that he was the sole breadwinner and supporting a family of 12. From bits of references here and there, I gathered he loved to collect stamps, envelopes, postcards, coins, newspaper clippings and smoking pipes. But he was never a sportsman.
As I unraveled more intimate details of my grandfather, I shall start with his collection of postcards of Singapore’s commercial center. This part of Singapore was where he began his career at the age of 17 in 1918. So presumably this part of Singapore must have interested him similar to what caught my interest as a child in the early 60s.
Do you recognize anything from the postcards?
Photo 1: Battery Road. Whiteway is now Maybank Building. The building on the left is now HSBC Building (circa 1933)
Photo 2: Raffles Place. The 3 storey building in the center of the photo was the British bank, the Mercantile Bank between D’Almeida Street and D’Souza Street. Robinson’s was on the right. The car park is now Raffles MRT Station (circa 1933).
Photo 3: Singapore River where Chinese business blended with colonial interests (circa 1925).
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