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?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Eating places near Bedok Rest House in 1952 (Updated)

Here are more photos, courtesy of Joe Elliott, of eating places, eating stalls and an itinerant food vendor. Joe recalls in a recent email:

“At the side of Bedok Rest House were stalls on the pavement and behind them on the beach were tables and chairs which you can just see on the photos. The stallholders were cooking various foods which I had at one of tables in 1952.  It was several pieces of meat (not sure what kind) on a thin wooden skewer and a small dish of sauce.  The meat when dipped into the sauce was out of this world - it just melted in your mouth and I've never tasted anything like it since. I knew at the time what they were called but in 60 years I've forgotten. "The memory forgets what they were called but will never forget the taste".

PS – I think Joe must be referring to satay.

Related posts:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

FOYers lunch at my home

My friends, John and Ann Harper, are in town. Since they loved plant and flowers, I invited them to my home to see our collection carnivorous plants. I took the opportunity to organize a lunch gathering for the ‘senior’ FOYers (Friends of Unfortunately some regulars like Peter Chan, Philip Chew, Dick Yip, YG Ong, Jerome, Shaik Kadir, Soh Kiak, Victor Yue, Char Lee and TC Lai could not make it. Still we had a grand time. Here are some photos.

Hurray! Here comes James (Thimbuktu) Seah with the famous Indian rojak with Andy (left).

The 3 James' (from left Tann, Seah and Kwok) at the same table; and Wee Kiat.

Victor with John and Ann Harper

 Andy and Hong Eng

Seow Ser (right) admiring our pitcher plants with my son

Friends of tomorrow?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From my Inbox – Phil Hall remembers Bukit Gombak

The photos of Bukit Gombak; especially this one, that I posted here brought back memories for Phil Hall who emailed me saying:

I was in the RAF at Bukit Gombak circa early sixties, before the large dishes in the photos were installed. Probably before many readers on this blog were born!

There was just a large rotating back to back radar to give bearing and distance and a nodding rotatable radar to give height. There was a radio building each side of the site. As per the photos the site was protected by double fencing the insides of which had to be cleared continuously.

Entrance was only by one gate with a guardroom. The operations room was the first building, with several admin rooms in a wing attached. Various other buildings were along a circuitous road leading to the top.

Two outstanding memories of the site were the strange secured door dug into the hill on the right hand of the road leading up from the dual carriageway: there was some suggestion of this being an arms dump. Not reassuring for us working on the top.

More importantly were the snakes on the hill!

Often we had to walk across the hill with just the moonlight. On one occasion I was with a colleague who was wearing flip flops and I happened to glance down and see his foot descending on a large cobra. All I could do was instinctively hit him out of the way, for which he berated me until he saw what I was pointing at.  At first light after a cooler night many snakes would be lying on the black tarmac of the road which had retained its heat overnight.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Official Launch of the C3A Portal

Earlier this month, I attended the official launch of the Council for Third Age web portal and their new logo. It was held at the National Library Building at Victoria Street. After the official speeches by the guest-of-honour, Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Heng Chee How, and the Chairman of C3A, Mr Gerald Ee, and the explanation-cum-demonstration of the features of the new portal by Mr Paul Hidalgo, Senior Manager (Communications), myself and another guest from the National Library spoke briefly.

While Ms Valerie Siew, Assistant Direct, Public Library Services, spoke about the collaboration between the National Library and the C3A, I basically shared my views of the new portal and my experience in nostalgia/heritage blogging. I found this new portal very senior-friendly and encouraged the seniors present to share their memories there – which ultimately will also be deposited at the Singapore Memory Project, I suppose. I liked the very bright and cheerful appearance of the C3A site. The feature I liked most was the ability to increase the size of fonts with just 1 click. In fact, all the menus and buttons can be open with a single click. Check it out for yourselves here.

I met some old friends and made new ones at this event. Here are some photos.

This is the new logo of the Council for Third Age.

The two VIPs launching the new portal officially.

Me giving my presentation.

Me with Paul Hidalgo.

Met my good friend Dick Yip and we decided that the C3A Portal needed a ‘relaunch’ by 2 very thick-skinned FOYers (Friends of

I chatted with the minister after the launch, and the first question he asked me was whether or not I knew James Seah. I told him that James was a fellow Foyer and Memory Ambassador of SMP. Those who have read my book, Good Morning Yesterday, would also know that he contributed three stories. Too bad he was not able to attend the event.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SingPost's Posting Moments Photo Contest

To celebrate World Post Day on 9 October, SingPost has launched a photo contest on Facebook. The Posting Moment’s Photo Contest calls for Singaporeans to share their cherished postal moments on Facebook. You stand a chance to win an iPhone 5 amongst other attractive prizes.
It could be a pen pal letter that you’ve kept for 40 years, a stamp collection belonging to your grandfather, or the postcard you just received yesterday. Just take a photo and submit to the Facebook page with an accompanying caption (of not more than 200 characters).

This is the photo that I have submitted. It is a page from my half-century old stamp album. The stamps you see here are from a time when Singapore was part of Malaya.
I used to collect stamps as a kid. Whenever I received a letter, or greeting card from a friend, I would carefully remove the stamp and paste it to my album. What a thrill it was to receive a letter with a stamp that I did not already have.

I would also exchange stamps with my cousins, classmates, and an Indian boy from Bartley School who came around to our kampong to sell snacks in the afternoon. We became friends. But sadly we have lost touch over the years. How nice it would be if he could read this post. And then we can become friends again. But this time, we would not be exchanging stamps, but memories.

PS – Please vote for me here. Remember to “like” first. Cheers.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bedok Rest House and Bedok Corner in 1952

Recently I received this email from Joe Elliott of Manchester, England.
“I’ve just found your website – it’s great. I was in Singapore in 1952 with Royal Signals at the Transmitter Station at 9.5 miles stone Changi Road. I went to the Bedok MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) at Padang Terbaker* and made many friends there and have many photographs. I could send you some if you're interested.”

To say I am interested would be the understatement of the year don’t you think? And so, here are some photos of the Bedok Rest House and the nearby famous Bedok Corner with more to come. Enjoy!

But first, this is a scan from the 1963 street directory to give you a better idea of the places in these photos.

1) Bedok Corner in 1952 and Oct 2012 (photo courtesy of Peter Chan)

2) Bedok Rest House in 1952 – viewed from entrance and from the beach.

3) Bedok Road near Bedok Police Station in 1952 and Oct 2012 (photo courtesy of Peter Chan)

Finally, here’s Joe and his buddies at the Bedok Rest House.

* According to Peter Chan, Padang Terbakar was a Malay kampong near Hole #1 of Laguna National Golf Club or entrance from Xilin Avenue into Laguna Green beside the Sungei Ketapang bend.

Related post by Peter Chan: Balek Kampong to Bedok Corner