Singaporeans in the 1960s were used to seeing neon advertisements, and for me they added enormously to the colour of urban Singapore, especially after dark. My favourite was an animated neon sign at Newton circus, which showed somebody drinking something. I can’t remember what the product was, but the animation consisted of three stages in which the character started with a full glass, then showed it at his lips and half empty, then finally with his head bent right back and the last drops going into his mouth.
As well as neon, there were giant objects displayed on buildings, or by the road. I remember a giant bottle of Soy Sauce at Bukit Timah Circus, and an enormous jar of Brylcream somewhere. These were some of the things that made Singapore different and interesting.
Does anyone remember the National Showroom Neon Tower at North Bridge Road next to the Capitol Theatre? According to the remarks at the National Archives Picas website, the National Showroom was opened by the former Minister for Culture, the late Mr S Rajaratnam in 1963. It was highly controversial, because it was, to say the least, insensitive to its surroundings, and not at all in keeping with the classing buildings that surrounded it. It was several stories high, and towered above buildings like the Municipal Building and St. Andrews Cathedral. At night it was fully illuminated, and could be seen for miles.
Opinion was divided. The conservative view was that it was a blot on the landscape, and destroyed the historic character of the area. The converse view was that it symbolised the modern Singapore, and that the old architecture of the colonial era should no longer be dominant.
Who was right? It’s a matter of opinion. Personally I liked it at the time, but I would probably think differently today.
What happened to it? It’s not there today, and if it was, it would itself be dwarfed by other buildings.
Below are 3 photos from the National Archives Picas collection showing the dismantling of this iconic National Neon tower in July 1974.