Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Did you see my interview with Wo Bao (My Paper)?

I don’t think many of you would have seen my interview with the Chinese newspaper Wo Bao (我报) last month. The article featured interviews with three Singaporeans born before independence. One was in his sixties, one in his fifties (me) and one in his forties.

The interview which was conducted over the phone was quite lengthy and spread over a few sessions. I narrated a lot about the stuff I write in this blog, such as the old places like my kampong, amusement parks like Wonderland, New/Great/Gay World, kampong life, movies and cinemas etc. Hence, I was quite surprised that the article that was finally published focussed only on my employment and career.

Anyway, here’s a rough translation.

Headline: Life in the Old Days

In the 70’s when there were no iPods, if you wanted to listen to music and radio on the move, you would need a transistor radio like this one (right photo).

Back in those days when high rise apartments were not a common sight, our parents and grandparents used to live in kampong houses like the one above (that’s a photo of my kampong house)

In conjunction with the launch of Singapore HeritageFest yesterday, Wo Bao spoke to 3 Singaporeans of different ages about life in those days.

Story No. 2 Working life in the 70’s

This university graduate found job immediately after graduation. Going on overseas assignments was prestigious.

Fifty-five year old proprietor of his own management consulting firm, Lam Chun See is author of the blog Good Morning Yesterday. He likes to reminisce about the old days and has attracted a following of young readers.

Possibly one of the oldest bloggers in Singapore, he shared with this reporter what it was like to grow up in that era.

Recalling the days of newly-independent Singapore, LCS said that Singapore was facing a crisis with the imminent withdrawal of the British forces from the Far East coupled with the large number of post-war baby boomers entering the labour market.

Initially, many were worried about their livelihood. But the government was quick to find a solution – inviting foreign MNCs to set up factories in Jurong. The economy grew strongly after that.

Due to rapid industrialisation, the unemployment problem was largely solved by the mid-seventies.

LCS was able to gain admission to the Engineering Faculty on the local university. "At that time, the number of university graduates were relatively small in number and so most were able to find jobs immediately after graduation. "

LCS used the word ‘fortunate’ repeatedly in describing his own career.

In those days, to be sent for overseas assignment was regarded prestigious and enviable; even if it was to neighbouring Malaysia. LCS started work in MNC, Philips as an engineer. Then he learned that the National Productivity Board was sending staff to Japan for training and so he decided to join NPB.

In the eighties, the economy continued to be quite rosy (I think she got me wrong there – that should be nineties). Many public-sector employees set their sights on the private sector. LCS felt the urge to venture out on his own.

“In those days, people do not change jobs so frequently. Many still liked to work in the public sector. But I felt that there were many opportunities on the outside, and so I was quite set on leaving.”

Having witnessed the rapid transformation of Singapore, LCS feels grateful. “Those days, Singapore was changing by the day. One day we have a new airport, another day we have a new expressway .. It makes me feel proud that our generation made a significant contribution.”


oceanskies79 said...

I saw the article. Because the day before that article went on print, Friends-of-yesterday were corespondng via emails about it, so I specially went to ask for a Wo-bao (I don't normally do so) the following day. Cheers for sharing.

Singapore has transformed, indeed.

Victor said...

I missed this edition of the Wo Bao. It's good that you did an excerpt on it here.

Anonymous said...

In 1965 after hearing the news of Singapore's separation (or rather kicked out) from Malaysia, we held a small talk in the office the next day discussing our glim future. Even my Malay officer, usually a joker, felt pessimistic and predicted: "Lam, we are finished! What can a small island with no natural resources do?" The people then, led by a equally determined and effective govt, proved otherwise. The continuous effort from early days of independence right up to now, without a break, by all Singaporeans, is reflected and shown in the latest 2007 NDP. One of the early architects of Singapore's progress, is the often forgotten (now ailing) Dr Goh Keng Swee. I can still remember one extract of his saying, which was hung in our office wall, stated as follows: "In business, watch the timing..." He was so good in turning things around that when the PRC wanted an economic adviser, he (retired) was the first choice. His first advice to the PRC was: "building up your tourism potentials is top priority. It is the fastest way to bring in the revenue without too much input of capital investment..." Just to look at the present travel industry in China today, reflects the insight of a great man, who is able to see over the horizon.

Lam Chun See said...

Sorry. Error in translation in last para.

LCS felt emotional or nostalgic (感慨) not grateful (感激). 55-year old eyes not so good. Chinese vocab even worse.

Lam Chun See said...

That 2nd photo shows me (in singlet) and my younger brother James (partly hidden) and my parents in front of our first tv set. The reporter asked a lot of questions about tv in the sixties. Even about the size of the tv screen. I told her largest was probably 24 inch and she was quite surprised.

That's why I sent her that photo which turned out to be rather irrelevant to the contents.

But never mind, now I have matl for another story about those days of B&W tv.

Unknown said...

Nice story there Chun See and glad that Wo Bao did the story on you. Its yet another feather on your nostalgic cap I guess. I hope one day to also be able to share stories from the past, although from my blog entries, it is going to be more of marketing, branding and business areas. Bits about my son occasionally and my family too.