Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Singapore, 1961 – Singapore Swimming Club (by Tim Light)

Shortly after arriving in Singapore, we joined the Singapore Swimming Club. My father had enrolled the family as members. The SSC was a most impressive place, to my young eyes. The building was built in the 1930s, I think, but it looked very modern to me. The style was Art Deco. A distinctive feature was the diving board, shaped like a pair of whale bones.


Driving to the club was enjoyable, as we had to cross the island from Woodlands. I seem to remember that we passed the Britannia Club (which I never visited), joined the Nicholl Highway and crossed the Merdeka Bridge. My father pointed out the old Singapore Airport building and runway at Kallang.
In 1961, the SSC was right next to the sea. The water in the pool was salt water, so I assume that it was sea water, hopefully filtered to remove fish, snakes and seaweed! Strange thought that we didn’t think twice about paddling and swimming in the sea, but we would have been horrified to think that any sea creatures could find their way into the pool.

Before we joined the SSC I couldn’t swim. I had taken swimming lessons back in England, but I was only capable of a special form of the breaststroke that involved hopping along with one foot touching the bottom. Within a couple of weeks at the SSC I was able to swim. No particular stroke, but I was able to flap around and stay afloat without a lot of effort. One of our friends said that the salt water improves your buoyancy.

My parents did a bit of swimming, but whereas my brother and I would stay in the water all afternoon, they would spend most of the time reading and chatting with friends.

The SSC was right below the Paya Lebar runway approach, and it was a great thrill to see the aeroplanes roaring overhead, not very high and extremely loud. In those days a Boeing 707 looked enormous when viewed from just below, and the jet engines were much louder than today’s planes.

My last memory of the SSC was the 1961 Children’s Christmas Party. This was an afternoon event, which for the most part is just a blur of images. There were lots of children in their party outfits, and I believe Santa Clause made an appearance. I remember being a bit uneasy because some of the games involved holding on to girls, and I found it all a bit embarrassing.
From the Google satellite view, it would appear that the SSC still exists on its original site, but the art deco buildings have been replaced. And of course, it’s nowhere near the sea.

At the end of 1961 we left the SSC and joined the Royal Island Club. My dad was interested in playing golf, and the RIC offered both golf and swimming. That’s something for another blog.

 Singapore Swimming Club c 1909

 Singapore Swimming Club 1930s




Singapore Swimming Club 1950s

14 comments:

korina said...

Hi Chun See. It's Paul Warner.
Interesting article about the Singapore Swimming Club.
My family and I were club members in the early 1970s to the mid-1980s.
One of my memories of the club was the construction of the ECP, behind the club, which began at that time.
Also my father paid $200 to become a member. Today you will have to add a few more zeros.

Tim said...

I don't know what my father paid. When he surrendered his membership at the SICC he didn't get anything for it. last I heard, memberships were changing hands at around $150,000.

peter said...

same today except RSAF c130s flying over the club

Lam Chun See said...

At first I thot Tim made a mistake and shd be referring to the nearby Kallang Airport and not Paya Lebar. To my Spore mind, PL seems to far away from SSC.

peter said...

The flight path to PL once passed over the sea, over the swimming club, Old Kallang Airport Estate and if i am not wrong over Lorong 41 or 44 Geylang, Aljuneid Estate (near a river).

Brian and Tess said...

Thanks Tim, I don't think my family were members during our time in Spore, 1960-61, but we did make a handful of visits (possibly as guests) and thanks - you have cleared up my confusion over the swimming club and the Britannia Club which I may never have visited. We had the Officers Club pool in Changi which was so much closer and where I spent a good proportion of my time in Spore.

Kallang was not operational as far as I am aware in 1960s - Payar Lebar was very much the main and I think only civilian airport and aircraft on a southerly approach might well have passed near the club.

korina said...

Hi Chun See. It's Paul Warner. The aircraft were definitely landing at Paya Lebar, I remember the aircraft too and the Kallang airport had long gone by then.
In fact, my brother and his family currently live in Tanjong Rhu, a stone's throw from SCC, and very often jet fighters fly over his flat and land at Paya Lebar.

ong kok keong said...

i stayed in dakota crescent from the 1960s to 1979. those days there were 5 blocks of 3 storeys rental flats. as paya lebar airport was then our international airport, the flight path do pass these 5 blocks. as a kid, i remembered seeing the belly of the low flying commercial aeroplanes. our telephone conversations at home were frequently interrupted by these planes landing at the Paya Lebar International Airport.

Icemoon said...

Speaking of Paya Lebar Airport's flight path, why couldn't planes approach from the north east side over Tampines Road instead?

peter said...

They do approach from Johore direction; depends on the wind direction. During the era of Paya Lebar, we kept an eye on the wind-sock. It will tell in which direction the plane will be landing. Now days I dont see wind-sock @Changi Airport, so I hang my socks on a stick.

Anonymous said...

Hi to all,
My family were members from around 1965 to 1972...very fond memories. I recall the aircraft and particularly the Royal Air Camboge Russian jets. I was only a kid and remember watching the Monkees in the TV room. Peter Hedger taught judo and Mr.(or was it Capt.?) Jackman was Manager.The sea came right to the back boundary and Tanjong Rhu was a dusty track served by the most ancient of STC buses. I was one of the very few matt salehs at SJI. Sadly those days are gone forever.
Steve Carey - Australia

Garry Davey said...

As a young boy I was a `member` for about 5 years, between about 1962 and 1967, as was my sister and my folks. I have lots of memories as we were free most afternoons - school started very early and was over by early afternoon, meaning the rest of the day at the Club. We swam, dived, played badmington and table tennis, enjoyed open-air cinema nights (Friday nights from recollection, punctuated by the roar of planes overhead). And Sundays was curry lunch with masses of food and sambals, something I shall never forget. I would love to visit again one day but clearly it has changed very much from the many postcard views I have. It will laways hold a special place in my life. Garry Davey, England

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks Steve Carey and Gary Davey for sharing your memories. Last time I visited was in Mar last year and they were doing some renovation to the swimming pools. In fact I have a photo of the dried out pool.

Anonymous said...

I came to the club as visitor, at that time 17 years old and calling Singapore on a German freighter as Deckboy. My Captain was a member (or he knew somebody who was) and he took us with him. We always enjoyed being off the ship and having fun at the club.

Capt. Ingo M. Reich from Germany