Friday, April 27, 2012
Memories of Toa Payoh (4) - A sea of blue
I worked for five-and-a-half years in Philips Audio Factory from 1978 to 1984. Initially there were only 2 Philips factories in Lorong 1 Toa Payoh - Video and Audio. These 2 factories were separated by a short road called Toa Payoh West. At that time, it was a no-through road. A pedestrian bridge joined our two factories.
At one stage my office was facing Toa Payoh West; and every evening at 5.45 pm, when the end-of-day siren went off, I was treated to an amazing sight. As the female production operators from both factories poured out into Toa Payoh West, the whole area became a sea of blue; blue being the colour of the Philips uniform. Coupled with the waiting buses and cars, the area was quite chaotic. I doubt Philips employees today can ever see such a sight again because for a number of years now, Philips has ceased its manufacturing operations in Singapore.
But what is even more amazing was the speed with which the crowded dissipated. By 6 pm, the whole area was all quiet and disserted.
Subsequently a third factory was added just behind ours. It had a very long name which I cannot recall. I think it was called VOSC – Video Overseas Supply Centre. We simply referred to it as Video 2. I remember that from the windows at the rear section of this factory, one can actually see the mortuary of the nearby Toa Payoh Hospital. I believe today there are a total of 4 buildings in the huge Philips complex at Toa Payoh.
Taking a shortcut to work
When I started work at Philips, I used to take the SBS No. 153 (I think) from my home in Farrer Road. This bus took a very long roundabout route. It went through the following roads, Dunearn, Whitley, Thomson, Braddell, Toa Payoh Lorong 6 and then Lorong 1. I would get off at the bus stop near Toa Payoh Rise.
When I first used the bus stop in Lorong 1 near Toa Payoh Rise, I noticed something quite unusual. I noticed that the pedestrian crossing lights made a loud beeping sound. Later I discovered that there was a school for the blind nearby, and the loud beeping sound was for the benefit of the blind pedestrians. I saw them cross the road occasionally and was very impressed by the confident manner that they navigated along the public roads.
One day, I noticed some Philips employees disembark at a bus stop along Thomson Road, near to the Polo Club. I found out later that they took a shortcut by walking through the Thomson Secondary School. Occasionally I too took this so-called shortcut. I remember walking through their tuck shop. But this wasn’t a very attractive alternative. The distance we had to walk was quite far and by the time we reached our office, we would be all sweaty and sticky. And we didn’t save much time.
Today, the Thomson Secondary School is no longer there, but in its place I saw a sign saying SJI International.