Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Some things never change (6) – Chinese puppet shows

Last week my brother Chun Chew (Zen) and I met up with two old friends from Braddell Rise School to reminisce about the old days in BRS. I brought along my precious report book to show off my fantastic grades – 2nd in class in Primary two Ok! But to my disappointment, they were more interested to pore over the teachers’ and principals’ signatures to try and decipher their identities. As always, I never fail to marvel at Aii Chan’s (Kim) fantastic memory for people. She also had a very good recollection of the tuckshop and even drew a sketch for us showing the location of every single stall. Me … I could only remember the drinks stall run by the lady every BRS boy loved – Fong Jie.

We had our meeting in the hawker centre at Sembawang Hills Estate. We chose this place because Aii Chan and Sock Gek used to pass by it everyday on their way to school at Upper Thomson Secondary School from their kampong at Hai Lam Sua (near the present Lakeview Estate). Do you know where was this school located?

When we arrived at this hawker centre, I noticed that there was a mini-wayang stage in the car park where they were rehearsing a puppet show. As far as I can tell, this puppet show was exactly the same as those that were staged in our kampong during the Chinese Seventh Month. Although most of the time they would stage the traditional Hokkien Wayang shows, occasionally I saw them perform puppet shows like this one.

Some things never change.

19 comments:

Zen said...

I always think my memory is rather good for remembering past events until I met my waterloo - the two ladies from brs.
As for the afternoon puppets show playing to an empty audience, if I am not wrong, it is meant for entertaining the so-called ghosts released from hell during the
7th month (lunar calendar).

yg said...

i think this puppet show is put up for some invisible audience. hardly anyone (visible ones) stay to watch the whole performance.

Zen said...

When I was at brs pr.six, chun see and his 'girls' hadn't even been enrolled into the school (that showed how old I was). However, I can recollect that Fong Jie was already there selling drinks in one of the stalls. What jog my memory is solely due our principal (F.Choo), who was a incorrigible disciplinarian, forcing even the tuckshop operators to wear uniforms - a white overall capped with a white beret (something like what a boy brigade guide is wearing today). The poor food sellers looked more like working in a hospital rather than in a canteen, indeed a very comical sight.

Annette Fox said...

Upper Thomson Secondary School? Why, my brother Thomas went there from 1967 to 1971. He tried cycling there and back a few times, but as the sweat had an unwelcome effect on his uniform, my mother discouraged him from continuing.
I was under the impression that UTSS was one that never existed, because I've never met anyone else who had even heard of it, let alone attend there.

Zen said...

BRS was located in an area which the hokkien called mee sua keng then. Mee Sua is a kind of rice noodle when cooked becomes rather sticky. It is considered a stable food for the chinese even up to this day and is particularly fond of by the hokkien, especially during festive season. Taking a cue from the noodle name, there could be a factory producing mee sua in the vicinity of brs.

bingo play said...

It is true that some things never change because they are very important to us and also interesting traditional. I like to watch puppet show very much and that is why the above information has attracted me to read.

Lam Chun See said...

Annette. I don't know where is UTSS today. But the old buildings are still there. We drove past it that day.

Mee Sua Keng. Ah yes. I have forgotten about that name. Another one to add to YG's list of Hokkien Places.

Zen said...

In Singapore educational lessons are mainly conducted in English or Mandarin, and without saying survival of dialects will soon go the way of the dinosaur, including wayangs, puppet shows and so forth. I would not be surprised if one day e.g. a young boy of hokkien descent asking his father: "father what is actually hokkien?"

Andy Young* said...

Would have loved to watch this one. Seen a few during the good old days. Sometimes from behind the stage.

B.Ang said...

Wow!
Can't remember the last time I saw a puppet show like this...
They don't do it very much anymore with all the "concert-like" getais now..

jadelee said...

@Annette,
I was from the pioneer batch of UTSS(1965-1968),and some of us not only do NOT want to remember this school but actually resented it. To fill a brand new school that did not have a history of credibility, students were just 'plucked'from the nearby pr. schools. Hence, some of us who did well consistently in pr. school(in the top 10%) were simply posted to UTSS conveniently, the reason given was that 'the mission schools we chose were NOT accepting any one from govt-aided schools'. Whatever that meant I was not sure.
We coped with inexperienced teachers, partially completed labs, equipment, etc,. Some of us coped well against the odds but the morale was generally low.
The school discontinued back in the 80s and today the building still stands... with the school name still on the wall, fading......

seo firm said...

It is considered a stable food for the chinese even up to this day and is particularly fond of by the hokkien, especially during festive season. In all these there are so many things which is really great.

Edward said...

Can someone tell me where UTSS is? I only know two schools nearby – Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School (Jalan Kuras) and Sembawang Hills Estate School that Freddy Neo mentioned.

Chun See, the mini-wayang puppet show was probably sponsored by the taxi company in Jalan Leban. They used to have wayang shows during the 7th month festival, with the stage located not far from the taxi stand. This was during the 60’s and 70’s.

Lam Chun See said...

Edward. Ahmad Ibrahim and Sembawang Hills Estate School were within Sembawang Hills Estate, just south of the junction with Yio Chu Kang Rd. I think AI's premises are now occupied by James Cook University (JCU) which were previous housed at the Spring Building in Bt Merah Central.

Upper Thomson SS is further to the north; about 1 km from the junction with Mandai Rd; just beside Upp Thomson Rd to the left. I think I have been in the school premises before. During my time in Mandai Camp, I was officer in charge of Badminton. I brought our boys there for a tournament against another battalion that day. The design was quite typical of many schools of that era.

Lam Chun See said...

Speaking of Mandai Camp, I remember going with my buddies occasionally to a famous restaurant selling Ampang Yong Tau Hu not far from this UTSS. I am reminded of this place becos last Sat, a few of us Foyers (Peter, Wee Kiat, Unk Dicko, Victor, Noel and myself) got together for lunch at an Ampang YTH restaurant near Siglap Shopping Centre. It was recommended by WK and true enough, the food was very good indeed. I liked the thick bee hoon with dark gravy.

Edward said...

Thanks Chun See. I don’t remember any school along Upper Thomson Road before the Mandai Road junction, coming from the direction of Sembawang Hills Estate. Unless the school is 1 km after the junction. I used to travel up to this junction, where Nee Soon market was situated – it starts from a small lane on the right, off Upper Thomson Road (just after the Mandai Road junction). Fresh foods (meat, poultry, including live ones, vegetables) and cooked foods were available in the morning . You can buy all sorts of breakfast-style meals like chwi kuey, chye tau kueh, peanut cake (triangular or rectangular shaped) etc. At night there were many hawker stalls along the main road, just past the junction. I am sure you’ve noticed this on your way back to Mandai Camp. I have seen many soldiers having their meals here before heading back to camp.

Anonymous said...

Edward,
I am not sure when UTSS ceased operations as a sec. school but I do know it was converted to Seletar Institute in 1988. If I remember correctly, the school was situated about 1-2 bus-stops away from the end of the Old Thomson Road,( where there was this sharp bend that joined the 2 roads). Coming from the direction of Sembawang Hills, it should have been on the left of the road. Strange enough, today you can still see the words UTSS on the wall of the building that faces the main road although it was occupied by Seletar Institute for a good 9 years.

online life coach said...

This show is art and culture of the Chinese people. I like watching a puppet show to a large extent, so that the above information that attracted me to read. hanks foe the post...

RememberSG said...

hi i visited UTSS last weekend...

took some pics but did not venture into the compound even though the gate was opened..
'cos there was a CCTV so i did not want to risk trespassing ;)

did a little research.. here it goes: http://remembersingapore.wordpress.com/upper-thomson-secondary-school/