Sunday, September 02, 2007

Bukit Timah Heritage Trail 2 – Floral Mile/Newton Circus

Continuing from my previous post on the Bukit Timah Heritage Trail, my friend Peter Chan and I would like to tell you about a few more interesting places that used to be located along this part of Bukit Timah. Peter’s comments are in black.

Floral Mile Sketch

1) Floral Mile

Do you know where is Floral Mile?

I think many of the younger readers would probably answer; Thomson Road. Wrong - because I am talking about yesterday as in the 1960’s and 70’s, not 21st century Singapore. Thus I am actually referring to the original Floral Mile at Dunearn Road. The stretch of Dunearn Road from Kheam Hock Road to Chancery Lane was known as Floral Mile. Do you know why it was given this name? Same reason why you said Thomson Road - because along this stretch of road, next to the Bukit Timah Canal, there used to a number of nurseries.

But they are no longer there. I cannot remember when they moved out. But I think it must be in the eighties when the Bukit Timah Canal was widened as part of the flood alleviation project in the Bukit Timah area. Where have they been relocated to? I don’t know; but I suspect a couple of them have been relocated to the nearby Dalvey Estate and Evans Road area on the Bukit Timah side.

When I first moved to Bukit Timah Sixth Avenue in the mid-80’s, I often patronised a nursery called Evershine located near the junction with Jalan Haji Alias. Was this one of the relocated ones as well?

I also remember there was also a Seafood Restaurant opposite the Swiss Cottage School. I think I had a dinner there once with my colleagues at Philips. That must be in the late 70’s or early 80’s. In the photo below, Swiss Cottage School would be on the left and this restaurant on the right. I cannot remember if it was before or after the U-turn.

Floral Mile (3)

Peter Chan adds:

Two nurseries I remember were “Rose Garden” (must have been named after Rose Garden of Bangkok) at 91 Floral Mile, Dunearn Road, tel: 531621, and “Corona Florist” who are still in business at Clementi Road, near the SIM campus. When the government promoted “Tree-Planting Day”, my father and I came over to buy of fruit trees and flowering plants at S$1 a “pot”. The “pot” was actually the plant with black earth wrapped in a plastic bag and secured by raffia. Plants then were not placed in clay-pots like today. Some of the popular plants included rambutan, chiku and bougainvillea. Corona Florist also helped us when we were at SAFTI OCS. They donated plants and shrubs when I was in charge of the flower-garden at “Charlie Company”, so that name is always on my mind.

From far away one can notice this seafood restaurant because of a neon advertizing signboard mounted on the building facing Swiss Cottage School. It was the logo of a giant lobster which flashed intermittently and changing colours from blue to red.

Opposite the seafood restaurant and beside Swiss Cottage Secondary School was a government out-patient clinic up on a hill (now a jungle). It was opened in 1966 I believe and was popular among the Malay squatters who lived nearby in Whitley Road and Keng Chin Road. From the main Dunearn Road, there was a flight of concrete steps up to the hill to this clinic. There is a pair of concrete pillars on the side of Dunearn Road and at the foot of the hill to indicate where this foot-path was.

2) Newton Circus

When I was studying at Anglo Chinese School in the sixties, my elder brother Chun Seong and I used to walk practically every afternoon, after school from our school to Newton Circus to take the Tay Koh Yat Bus back to our home in Lorong Chuan. I think it was service number 9A. The bus stop was at Scotts Road. We used to take the bus together with a couple of our school mates. One was David Wu and the other was Ong Leong Chye. They stayed in Serangoon Gardens.

The most prominent landmark around Newton Circus in those days was not the hawker centre. I believe the world famous hawker centre was not built yet in the sixties. I say world famous because when I was in Tokyo in 1985, I met a lady who ran a stationery stall at the Tokyo International Centre where I was lodging. When she heard that my colleagues and I were from Singapore, she immediately said that she had been to Singapore before and mentioned eating at Newton Hawker Centre. The most prominent landmark around Newton Circus in those days was the Newton Circus Post Office (not sure of exact name) Next to it was a very famous Char Kueh Teow stall. Char Kueh Teow stall in those days used firewood for cooking.

In the photo below, you can see that the area is now an open field between Kampong Java Road and Bukit Timah Road as it exits from Newton Circus. There used to be a row of shops along this stretch of Bukit Timah Road. Mind you, in those days there was no flyover and so this area was probably bigger.

Newton Circus (1)

Newton Circus (2)

Peter Chan continues …

If I am right, Newton Hawker Center was built in the late 70s after the open-air Koek Road hawker center opposite Orchard Road Market was shut-down. Opposite the Newton Hawker Center were two primary schools; a Malay school (building still there opposite the overhead pedestrian bridge) facing Scotts Road and the Anthony Road Boys School. There was also the Singapore Girl Guide Association building there opposite Peck Hay Road – now a childcare center.

3) National Family Planning Board

You might have heard that our government used to be very fond of organizing campaigns. During the early years of our independence, we had the Stop at Two Campaign. The slogan was “Two is enough. The more you have, the less they get”.

The statutory board responsible for the population policies was the Family Planning and Population Board. It was located at this building next to Gilstead Road. Today it houses the Breast Cancer Foundation and Singapore National Stroke Association. Back then, we often passed by it on our way to Newton Circus. I also remember seeing lots of longkang guppies in the Bukit Timah Canal.

Family Planning Board Building (3)

Peter Chan continues …

#25 Gilstead Road has history. It is now a childcare center. It was built pre-ww2 and served as the German Navy HQ when the Japanese occupied Singapore and collaborated with the Germans.
(Source: Ibrahim Ahmad’s Personal Collections)

4) Chancery Lane

Sometimes, when we were too lazy to walk, we would take bus no. 8A from the bus stop next to Chancery Lane. Maybe the real reason was because we wanted to ‘rub shoulders’ with the girls from Anderson Secondary and Raffles Girls School. You see, bus 8A went along Stevens Road, Balmoral Road, Dunearn Road, Newton Road and Thomson Road. By the time 8A came to us, it was always very crowded. We would alight at Thomson Road opposite the present Novena MRT station and change to 9A. Another reason could be that we wanted to accompany my friends Simon Chu and Ng Kah Hwa who lived at the block of flats at the junction of Thomson Road and Moulmein Road.

As for Chancery Lane itself, except for the condos, it was very much the same as it is today. On those few occasions when we used this road, we would admire the beautiful bungalows there. One particular bungalow had beautiful Chinese-style pavilions and red-seal palms in its sprawling garden.

I remember one occasion when our school had a fun fair to raise money to build the Shaw Pool and sports complex. (which I never got to enjoy because I left shortly to join NJC), We went from house to house to sell fun fair tickets. My friend and I were assigned to Chancery Lane.

Peter Chan continues …

One bungalow house I can never forget has a police guard-post. It was a one-storey house located just after the bend. It belonged to the late foreign minister S. Rajaratnam. The other house was a “Dutch-styled” house behind the 7th Day Adventist Church. It was my dream-house as a child. I promised one day “when I make it there”, I will live in one but sad to say I am still living in my dreams.


Well this is about as much as Peter and I can coax out of our over half-century old brains. We are sorry some of the details are sketchy and maybe not entirely accurate even. As I have said before, we write from memory and not based on rigorous academic research. We hope our readers can help supply additional information such as:

a) When did the nurseries moved out of Floral Mile? Where are they located now?
b) When was Newton Hawker Centre opened?
c) When was the Newton Flyover completed?

Related posts:

1) Singapore-Kranji Railway
2) Singapore's First Fast Food Restaurant
3) Old Adam Road Hawker Centre
4) Masuk Dalam, Masuk Dalam
5) When we walked on Water


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the history. I'm from a younger generation but I have many fond memories growing up in the area 10-20+ years ago.

I believe the last of the nurseries moved out of the Evans Road area in the late 90's or early 2000s. I recall a few being in the area between Dalvey and Evans Roads at the time the present NUS campus was the School of Physical Education.

Also, at the time they left, the Dunearn schools mentioned in the previous post were actually 2 schools, Dunearn Tech up on the hill (which later was merged or renamed and moved elsewhere), and Dunearn Secondary (retained name and moved to Bukit Batok West).

I have a question which hopefully someone can shed light on: What was the original route of Shelford Road, when did it change, and was there a reason why? I only know that it started down near the Adam Road junction and went opposite to the current direction (based on house numbers). Has the current junction always been there?

Tuckshop Boy said...

I too lived and studied in this area for a good part of my life, although in the '80s and '90s. An old neighbour of ours use to own "Rose Garden" nursery. I don't remember exactly when they moved out of Dunearn Rd, but I believe its in the early to mid '80s.

The Chancery Lane area is great for quiet jogs especially through the winding roads through the current SJI and CJC. I love jogging through there.

Tuckshop Boy said...

And yes, I would sometimes see Rajaratnam going for leisurely walks when I went for my jogs back then.

Lam Chun See said...

Yes, I too remember Mr Rajaratnam's house with the guard house at the front gate.

Like the Novena Church, the 7th Day Adventist Church that Peter spoke about has been around for a very long time. I think it used to be called Elim Church. Very noticeable becos of the unique design and location. When you are trying to turn right from Thomson Rd to Chancery Lane, you cannot miss it.

Anonymous said...

Gilstead Family Planning Clinic was where I had my vasectomy op back in 1974.I was from acs59 and a retd sr civil servant currently. I remembered the nurse who attended to me at the reception trying her utmost to discourage me from going thru the vasec.Looking back, she had better foresight than the PAP leaders in 1974. But I was already "brainwashed" by the Govt campaign to stop at 2 and I didn't want my wife to be ligated.I also dislike using condoms (where got feeling man?).So now I have 2 sons both also ex-acsians and doing well in their careers. However my wife and I longed for a daughter, but it's too late!Damn LKY and the PAP!!!

Anonymous said...

I remember Dunearn Tech next to the Sing Academy at Hillcrest Road. Now maybe NCJ and Nanyang Girls took over old NCJ ground I think so!

There were 2 Shelford Road entrances; one from Bukit Timah after Wattern estate and the other from adams Road (now exit road from BT to Adams Road). There were many good black & white bungalows in Shelford Road area during the 1950s/60s I saw. Shelford Road existed since the 1920s. There was park at Watten Estate facing Bukit Timah Road and small white colored building selling things in the 1970s. Not w=sure whether there is still Shelford Apartments but in 1968 was a R&R center for US Servicemen from Vietnam. Plenty of Minahs were serviing the GIs then as far as we boys knew then.

Anonymous said...

Was it true that many opted for vasectomy because there was this "carrot" from the government about priority housing for HDB or HUDC flats way back in 1974? I remembered that it was very difficult to get public housing then because there was this ceiling or floor salary the married couple needed to meet before they could be placed on the waiting list.

When turn came, I was #5k+ in 1978 and the choices were not even for Pine Grove, Gillman Heights and Bedok Reservoir. Then the rules changed because the property market got hotter in 1979/80, there were singles in the queue. Finally to cut a long story short, I opted out. Shortly after, so many people dropped out then our number got chance to get Pine Grove. Lucky for me I never listen to the prevailing policy; otherwise kena regret!

Lam Chun See said...

Well as our 3rd PM said at the ND Rally, Sporeans luv 'incentives'. I believe quite a few couples older than me took the 'final solution' and regretted it later.

Anonymous said...

I was from Dunearn Techincal and it's a good morning exercise climbimg up the stairs after crosing the muddy field from the bus stop.

Lam Chun See said...

Wah lau Chuck. How come your memory comes back so slowly one? I blogged about Dunearn Tech in my previous post and now then you let us know you are from that school. Any tulang in their canteen or not?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Chun See, no tulang sold. I believe they still do not sell tulang in any schools in Spore. Maybe in junior colleages or polytechnics where the student is mature enough to appreciate the taste. And talking about tulang.....shall we make a trip to Adam's Road hawker centre soon?

Anonymous said...

I can now visualize this Newton Post Office. Bdlg was dark grey in colour (similar to granite color) and 2 storey. Location: The present right turn into Bukit Timah Road after the Newton roundabout and Kg Java Road. Post Office was facing in the direction of Scotts Road. The right turn is the actual site because the original Bukit Timah Road (4 lanes then) towards Cavanagh Road is occupied by the flyover. The government acquired land from both sides of Bukit Timah Road; from SHELL petrol station and ESSO petrol station, for the flyover.

Lower down was the kopi tiam Chun See mentioned - famous for black sauce char khway teow with lots of hum. Cars used to park illegally in front of the kopi tiam.

Lam Chun See said...

Chuck. OK you brudder. But considering the high chlolesterol and fats, maybe it's best to go to MacRitchie and walk 8,000 steps first. Haha.

Lam Chun See said...

Peter. I too remember the dark, grey building that was the Newton PO. But inside also, it was quite dim.

And don't you mean 'turn left' into Bt Timah, not 'right.

Anonymous said...

Chun See.... maybe we walk from MacRitchie to Adam Road for our tulang.

Anonymous said...

chun see
Yah I meant turn left. Getting lau!!!! Thank good ness I still can differentiate between "Ladies" & "Gents".

Anonymous said...

No Peter, there was no direct carrot like priority for public housing. Instead there were sticks or tax rebates for 3rd/4th/etc child, no priority for schooling (my potential 3rd child if son will be denied a place in ACS)etc.
As to the HUDC apts you mentioned, these were allocated to those who qualify and sign up for it on a first-come-first-served basis. I qualified whilst staying in an HDB unit and applied for HUDC back in 1976 or so by paying $100 reg fee.In 1985,they allocated me a unit in Lor Ah Soo, now known as Minton Rise Condo.This prop has been sold enbloc to UOL but a hearing b4 STB is scheduled on 10sep07 as there are 17 objectors with valid grouses. It's 50-50 whether the sale will go through.Cheers to all ACSIANS!

Anonymous said...

Now I remember the $100 was a low-barrier entry for HUDC housing, then the government tweaked the system by insisting on cash deposit (was it $5K or $10K i cant remember), singles in the queue cannot qualify, those with private property must sell off their private property first b4 joining the many rules dont know which one applied to me.

Nowdays so easy until people dont want public housing. Come to think what you say, HDB or DUDC not very "Up-market name" for place! If only I got foresight to buy one....30 years down the road can enbloc or sell at 3/4 million dollar.

Anonymous said...

chun see
Yes i heard the story about those crazy RGS girls who purposely walked to Stevens Road side to take bus to meet ACS boys. They say ACS boys at that time got style, got $$, got cars to show. RI boys no class.

Anonymous said...

the Newton Flyover seem to be there for a very long time and really can't remember clearly. think see it probably appearing between 1986-1989? i remember that before the flyover, there is no concrete or metal centre divider/barrier, just dash across the road ;) there are fewer cars in the 1980s

Anonymous said...

Newton Flyover was built around 1968 (circa). Could be the first flyover in Singapore.

Lam Chun See said...

I think the Toa Payoh Flyover at Thomson/Whitley Road junction was earlier than the Newton Flyover. I used to travel from Newton Circus to my kampong home at Lorong Chuan regularly from 1964 to 1968. I seem to recall seeing the TP flyover first. TP flyover could well be Spore's first flyover.

Duckoola said...

U bring back great memories but here :

If I am right, Newton Hawker Center was built in the late 70s after the open-air Koek Road hawker center opposite Orchard Road Market was shut-down. Opposite the Newton Hawker Center were two primary schools; a Malay school (building still there opposite the overhead pedestrian bridge) facing Scotts Road and the Anthony Road Boys School. There was also the Singapore Girl Guide Association building there opposite Peck Hay Road – now a childcare center.

It should be Anthony Road GIRLS' School...where I was from :)

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Duckoola. Thanks for sharing your knowledge about this place. Since the time I posted this article, I have acquired two old street directories dated 1963 aand 1981. The '63 directory shows the Anthony Road Girls School and Malay Craft School. The '81 directory shows only ARGS. Both do not show the Girls Guide Association Bldg. But I recall seeing it until relatively recently.

kw said...

I'm going through your blog in reverse so I'm not sure if you've covered the A&W fast food restaurant on Dunearn Road that's on the same side as Floral Mile? Back in the early 80s my eldest sister would take us there in her egg yellow Fiat 131 Mirafiori for a root beer float. I seem to also recall that you could takeaway their root beer in a large glass bottle. And if you returned the bottle you get a discount. Who knew that A&W started the trend of recycling 30 years ago... I think it was near the junction with Kheam Hock Road. Because of the traffic along Dunearn Road, it was hard to turn out from the restaurant's driveway so I (being the passenger) had to pop out of the car and hit the button for pedestrians to cross at the lights (this is before they had magnetic loops to detect cars) so that we could get a window of opportunity to pull out safely.

kw said...

We used to live on Shelford Road, which is on the Dunearn Road side of the canal. So if we were driving along Bukit Timah Road towards Jurong, we had to make a u-turn, over the canal, after Namly Avenue, to get home. But I recall there was another u-turn, possibly outside Watten Park, that was constructed out of wood. As far as I could recall it was long closed to traffic, with bollards blocking off access. But it stayed there for many years before it was demolished. Anyone remembers this?

kw said...

Another memory from the past. Before they widened Bt Timah canal, every time we had torrential rain the roads would flood. Luckily where we lived (Shelford Road) was on higher ground, so our house was safe. But it meant that we had a day (or two) off from school -- the only access to our estate was via the low-lying Dunearn Road. The floods happened so often that the government installed permanent gradated pillars along flood-prone stretches of the road that measured the depth of the waters.

drewhs said...

I lived at 1 Chancery Lane from 1978 to 1982, it was a huge black and white place on the corner of Dunearn and Chancery. It was a fantastic place to live with many happy memories, I would love to hear any stories anyone has about this place. Drew.

HC said...

Floods along the Floral Mile stretch were a regular occurrence before the Bukit Timah Canal was widened during the late 80s. Actually, it wasn't simply widened. A diversionary canal was dug between what is now an open field Singapore Chinese Girl's School and the Chinese International School.

They dugged up the field to construct a canal to divert waters to Kallang River near Toa Payoh. Then the canal was covered up and reverted back to the then Swiss Cottage Primary and Secondary schools as their playing fields.

Further down the road, before the Bukit Timah section of the Botanic Gardens was constructed, it was an open field. When the canal flooded, that field turned into a great pond. The term ponding wasn't invented then!

Anonymous said...

The name of the Restaurant directly opposite Swiss Cottage Secondary is called O&W and is located after the U-turn going towards Newton.

Siew Wah said...

Hi, I used to study in Monk's Hill Secondary School between 1976-1979. When I was there, Newton Circus Hawker Centre was already there.

The char kway teow across the hawker centre was damn good. I remembered the wife will use the blue and red coloured pencil (tied together with rubber bands and the tips are opposite each other) to write your orders on the white board. They then moved to Hill Street, then to Serangoon Gardens Hawker Centre (the one next to the Police Post), eventually retired.

We used to go to Swiss Cottage Secondary School for technical classes.

I pondered over this Good Morning Yesterday website because my classmates and I are looking for our classmate whose dad opened a gas supply shop just next few shops from the char kway teow. Her surname is Ang. If anyone knows of them, please reply me so that we can contact her. She's now in her early 50s.

Thanks for all the good memories.
Siew Wah

Unknown said...

My dad run the Seafood restaurant opposite Swiss Cotteage Sec Sch.
It call Floral Mile Seafood...