Monday, October 29, 2012

ANCHOR BEER – the smooth beer for men (by Peter Chan)

I thought about this topic not because you might have been impressed that I am a hardcore beer drinker: truth is I am not even one.  Rather this beer reminds me of my frequent commuting by car as a young lad.  Frequent commuting sharpened my sense for road directions as well as a good memory for places.  Since my father was the driver, I sat next to him looking at the way he managed the steering wheel, gears and pedals but I would say most times this got to a point of being very boring.  So my eyes would turn to things outside the car window.

Every week, we visit my grandparents who lived in the pre-war Tiong Bahru S.I.T. Estate.  Tiong Bahru is quite a long distance from where we lived in Upper Bukit Timah Road.  From my memory, I recall taking three different routes from my grandfather’s abode to our home.  Two of the routes went through the Alexandra – Queenstown, Alexandra - Ayer Rajah Road areas and the third was through a “rich man’s area” - Botanical Garden and Holland Road.

Plate 01: Sketch-map of travel journeys from Tiong Bharu Estate to Upper Bukit Timah Road.

 When Jalan Bukit Merah was opened in the mid-1960s, a fourth route was added.  My father was never known to be a flexible person; there would never be a fifth, a sixth or any other alternative routes when there was one.  It always had to be the same for yesterday, today and tomorrow (even when I got my driving licence and became the “driver”).

This reinforced my memory of prominent landmarks, one of which was the Archipelago Beer Company, whose famous brand was ANCHOR beer.  In the light of the recent corporate take-over of TIGER BEER, we must not forget ANCHOR.  According to my father, ANCHOR had its factory in Alexandra Road before WWII.  What attracted me to the landmark was the good-wagons belonging to the Malayan Railway (now KTM Bhd) at the bonded customs warehouses.  Today the warehouse is now occupied by IKEA Furniture.  The factory was on the opposite side of Alexandra Road, now the Anchor Point and The Anchorage condominium.  Beer was produced at the factory and moved across Alexandra Road to the bonded customs warehouse using the concrete overhead bridge.

Photo 01: Canned ANCHOR Beer.  Nice when chilled.

Photo 02: ANCHOR Beer’s factory at Alexandra Road (c 1952).  Factory on the right, warehouses on the left and the overhead concrete bridge across Alexandra Road.

I would see workers loading crates of beer into the good-wagons and a locomotive would bring the fully loaded good-wagons to Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.  The railway siding crossed Jalan Bukit Merah and vehicular traffic stopped because the safety wooden level crossing was in place.  Today if you visit the empty plot of land between IKEA Furniture, you can find remnants of this railway siding. 

Now here’s a bit of mystery for me.  Maybe someone can crack this mystery and we all can know the answer. 

Recently when I visited the National Archives in England, I found something “unusual” about an aerial photo of the Alexandra Road area (Photo 03).  It not only showed the ANCHOR Beer factory with its unique guardhouse (now a restaurant in Anchor Point) but Nissen huts and  the railway siding as well.

Photo 03: Aerial Photo showing the future Rumah TInggi area [bottom] and the ANCHOR Beer factory and the guardhouse [left-middle] c 1947

Though I am showing one portion of the Alexandra Road area nearer to Queensway, I can tell you this railway siding is longer than the one that terminated at the ANCHOR Beer warehouse.  It ran into Leng Kee Road (which never existed during WWII), across Tanglin Road into Belvedere Close, and finally ending at Prince Charles Crescent and Prince Philip Avenue (which never existed by name but only for the grid layout of roads). 

When the British Army pulled out of the Alexandra Road area in 1949, they turned over military properties to the Singapore Improvement Trust (S.I.T.).  The rest is history as S.I.T. built post-war estates at Prince Charles Crescent, Strathmore Avenue and Dawson Road in the mid-1950s.

Can I hear some answers soon?


Lam Chun See said...

In the late 1980s, I worked at NPB in Bt Merah Central and used to drive along Queensway daily. I remember the smell from this Anchor Beer Factory.

James Tann said...

If you have the time, there is a thick file at the NHB numbered SIT 311/50. It is microfilmed into the reel no. HDB1090. Ask for this microfilm reel and look for the file titled 'Proposed development on S.I.T. lands at Alexandra Road between Tanglin Road & the "Tiger" brewery'. You may find your answer there.

Anonymous said...

Your article reminded me of the railway siding running across Jalan Bukit Merah beside the SAFRA building (not sure what's the name of the building now). During my secondary school days in the 80's, I took bus to school and the bus would bump a little when it crosses the railway track.

Cho Sing Kum said...

Hi Mr Lam,

I wonder where I can get the "bigger" Photo o3 that show the wider area.

I used to live in the place at the bottom right of the photo and now I know fully why the place is called Brickworks Estate. I see in the photo there was a brickworks factory chipping away at the hill that is not called Rumah Tinggi.

There were 27 blocks of 2-storey SIT terrace houses (similar to those near Queenstown Stadium) and this is how Block 28, Jalan Rumah Tinggi came to be numbered.

These blocks were demolished in early-1970s and rebuild with Blocks 1 to 6 in mid-1970s. Block 4 and 5 were demolished in the early-1990s and in their place now are Blocks 12, 13 and 14.

I am now living in Jalan Rumah Tinggi. Yes, I have "gone back home". Hence, my interest in the Photo 03.

Unknown said...

The last photo the aerial photo is very interesting.

Clearly the ABC 2-storeys blocks have not been built yet. Living there in block 8 in the 60s and early 70 I remembered playing along the railway track seen on the photo, placing steel nails on railway tracks to be run over by train carriages turning them into "sabres" was fun, also remembered father turning part of the land along the railway tracks into "mini farm" those were the days.

In this ABC estate was a "big field" we call it in Hokkien as "dua chao por" where many things happen especially those taoist gods birthdays. Oh Rumah Tinggi thats where I attended my kindergarten and later the Alexandra Hill Primary School. I am sure I do have some black and white photos of the kampong estate somewhere.

Malcolm said...

I think this photo is before ABC used the railway and before all the other factories filled the area and the sidings are being used to offload construction materials. This curved line on the right is coming from the Malayan Railway at the bottom and going to Prince Charles Sq at the top right.The new factories being built ar Kodak (Malaya) Ltd., Dietheim Aluminium factory and Lee Hin Hardware factory. At the bottom the siding would go into the ABC warehouse area. One siding ran along the north side of Alexandra road towards the Singapore Steam Laundry. the others went up to where the new schools were built. It is quite likely that the original purpose of the line was for construction traffic and only later was it used by the various factories which also included F&N and Thye Hong Biscuit factory.