I think, but I am not very sure, there used to be 2 cinemas in Toa Payoh Central. (Hope readers can confirm). One was Kong Chian Theatre located at the junction of Toa Payoh Central and Lorong 4; next to the Library. The other was called Toa Payoh Theatre near the present HDB Hub. It was owned by the Eng Wah Group.
I don’t remember seeing any movies at Toa Payoh. As for Kong Chian, I remember two movies. The first movie was The Ten Commandments. This was probably in the 1980s and I accompanied my mother to watch it. The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner was a very old movie, that I had watched before as a kid. My mother wanted to watch it again. She wanted to enjoy the cool special effects, such as the classic scenes of the parting of the Red Sea and inscription of the 10 commandments onto the two stone tablets by fire. It was a very long show.
The second show that I watched there was Gorillas in the Mist. This was in 1988. I went with my wife and a strange thing happened. Mid-way through the movie she wanted to go home. Do you know why? She was troubled by this scene where the poachers snatched a baby gorilla from its mother. The baby gorilla looked so cute and so pitiful. The scene made her think of our year-old daughter who was home with the maid. Of course we did not (go home), but after that scene she could not concentrate on the movie anymore.
Besides the movie theatres, I remember Toa Payoh Central mainly for the coffee houses which I had blogged about here. There was a hawker centre next to the bus interchange (see photo below; courtesy of National Archives of Singapore) but I did not like to go there. It was crowded, noisy and dirty. Subsequently, after the construction of the Toa Payoh MRT station, they built an air-conditioned food court near the station. I too did not like to eat there for the same reasons. Today that part of Toa Payoh Central has changed drastically. What hasn’t changed is the noise the and the crowd.
Farewell lunch at Lucky Restaurant
The date was 2nd of March, 1984. It was my second last day at Philips and my colleagues treated me to a farewell lunch at a Chinese restaurant called Lucky Restaurant. It was situated just beside the Kong Chian Theatre in Toa Payoh Central. I believe the building is still there.
I remember one of my cheeky female colleagues by the name of Mon Yeh, gave me an unusual farewell present. I cannot remember the name for this item. It is small napkin that you hang around a baby’s neck to prevent him for messing up his clothes when he is eating. No need to explain why she chose such a present. They tried to make me put it on, but it was too small.
Unlike many of my friends, I did not like to job-hop. Throughout my career, I have had only 2 big employers, Philips and NPB. The rest of my time, I was running my own business; initially with a partner, and subsequently, until today, on my own. Hence you can see that that farewell lunch at Toa Payoh Lucky Restaurant was a memorable milestone in my life.