I imagine someone must have tipped my parents off about Joo Hen’s. It’s not the sort of place you would find by accident. From outside it was a small, unpretentious shop with Chinese owners. Inside it was well stocked, and clearly had everything that we needed. I don’t remember if they sold local products, but there was everything that we were familiar with. Persil, Corn Flakes, Spam … you name it. I was fascinated to see familiar boxes like the Corn Flakes box, with Chinese writing.
Outside was the delivery van. It was lettered with Joo Hen’s name in both European and Chinese writing, and was covered with pictures of some of the products they sold. If I’m not mistaken, 555 Filter King cigarettes was one of the products. Vans decorated with advertising images were a feature of Singapore at that time. Back in England, delivery vans would carry the grocer’s name, but there would be no illustrations. Sadly I don’t have a picture of Joo Hen’s van, but I’ve found a few that were similarly decorated.
After a while, we started to have our groceries delivered in the van. My mother would telephone in the morning, and the delivery would be made that afternoon. We still went out to Sembawang Hills once a month to settle our account. I always liked that place. It was friendlier and quieter than the big supermarkets.