Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Where have all the (public) swimming pools gone?

Jurong Swimming Pool 01Dec2007 (8)I wonder how many of my readers know that next to the Jurong Stadium that I blogged about recently, is a public swimming pool called Jurong Town Swimming Complex. This pool holds special memories for me. Before my wife and I got married, we used to come to this pool after work to swim. At that time, she was teaching the afternoon session at the nearby Jurong Secondary School.

Jurong Swimming Pool 01Dec2007 (5)

As you can see from the photos, this pool has closed down. In recent years, many of the older public swimming pools that my generation used to go to when we were young have suffered the same fate. Two examples that bloggers have reminisced about are the Yan Kit and the River Valley pools. Nowadays, the only public pools that survive in Singapore are found in the densely-populated HDB heartlands like Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh.

Jurong Swimming Pool 01Dec2007 (4)

Jurong Swimming Pool 01Dec2007 (6)

So where have all the public swimming pools gone? Answer – Gone to the 2C’s everyone; namely the Condos and Country Clubs. Over the past couple of decades, because of Singaporeans’ fondness of the 5C’s – Cash, Car, Credit Card, Condo and Country Clubs, many new swimming pools have popped up all over the island in the new condominiums and country clubs. In fact, many schools nowadays have their own pools. In my school days, this was quite unheard of. I remember, in 1968, when I was in Secondary 4 in ACS, we had to help sell fun fair tickets to raise money to build what must be one of the first schools’ swimming pools in Singapore.

When we were young, the only pools that we can go to were public pools like Yan Kit, River Valley and Farrer Park. My own favourite was the Farrer Park. Besides these three, there were probably a few more; but offhand I cannot recall the names. As for country clubs, the most famous one in the sixties was probably the Chinese Swimming Club in the Katong area. I have only been there once. It was unique for its salt water.

I guess, in a couple of years, after the bulldozers move in, few people will even know that once upon a time, there was a swimming pool in this quiet corner in the western part of Singapore. Who knows? The only place that Singaporeans of the future can learn about the Jurong Swimming Complex may well be Good Morning Yesterday.

I guess the younger readers may be a bit puzzled by my language; I mean the question and answer bit. Actually, I am adapting the words of a famous song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?


Victor said...

One of the swimming pools that you can't recall is Mount Emily Swimming Pool. This one is completely gone. I think it is replaced by a park. It is the swimming pool that I frequented as a kid because it was nearest to where we stayed. We had to climb up Mount Emily Road to reach it. Even this road is no longer on the map.

Anonymous said...

Singapore Swimming Club was an "exclusive" club for British expatriates and servicemen families, something similar to Tanglin Club. Very few Chinese could join until the policy was reversed in the 1970s.

Victor said...

Sorry, I think Mount Emily Road is still around.

Lam Chun See said...

Oh yes, Mount Emily. I've been there a couple of times.

Zen said...

I first learnt to swim around the age of ten from my uncle who was then staying with us in the kampong. He was a life member of the Chinese Swimming Club. The first swimming lesson he gave me was to dump me into the deepest part of the fresh water pool, and in the process of frantic struggling, he would come to my rescue. This was the way he taught me how to float, the most basic of all swimming skills. Across Amber Road was the salt water pool with water pumped in from the sea next to it. During the fifties Chinese Swimming Club was considered an elite sswimming club, a centre for grooming of many local swimming talents. I felt like a hopeless swimming novice among others in the pool, always keeping near to the edge of the pool (afraid being drowned), but I would not hesitate to blame my poor swimming skill to my handicapped left hand, should the need for excuse arise.

Unknown said...

Another old pool in the Jurong area
was in Boon Lay Place near the still-existing Boon Lay Shopping Centre, market and food centre.
This old (now closed) pool had the distinction of having a restaurant on the premises that overlooked the pool. There was also a cinema (also closed down) next to the pool.
See on:
If you use this website, you can still see the locations of the Jurong Stadium pool and the Boon Lay Place pool:

Lam Chun See said...

Oh yes, I have eaten lunch in that restaurant before. It overlooks the pool; very nice. And the cinema was called Savoy. Just next to the Community Centre. The lobby of the former cinema is now a brand new Kopitiam food court. Just had lunch there 2 weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Rather surprised to read about the loss of public swimming pools - a process that has happened to a degree in the UK but there remain a substantial number of public pools, some very large and well equipped - in fact every local authority would maintain at least one.

And of course I spent more hours around the Changi Officers pool that any other single place in my time in the early 60s (well maybe more time in bed and at school - but only just!) so for me Singapore and swimming pools go together.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually, it was misleading for me to give the impression that many of the public pools have gone missing. There are still many newer public pools in the HDB estates. It's only the old ones outside of these estates that have disappeared.

Anonymous said...

Chun See
Never regret about old public swimming pools. Today thanks to progress, we got swimming pools in condo, we can swim in the hotel pool by being a member and there are so many social and golf clubs with swimming pools.

Even these new places got more fasion on parade than public swimming pools!!!!

Lam Chun See said...

Just reminiscing. No regrets actually. Today these public swimming pools have evolved into water theme parks like the ones at Jurong West St 93 and Jurong East and they offer much more than just swimming.

dilutedmagnetics said...

I used to take swimming lessons here. There's a little western food cafe outside the swimming pool that my dad used to take us. And yes, I'm JSS alumni too. LOL. SCARY!

Lam Chun See said...

There used to be a Thai Restaurant there. Many executives and businessmen from the nearby factories liked to lunch there. The food was very nice. I remember the Tom Yam soup has chilli padi floating on it. Awesome!

Anonymous said...

Chun See
U should start "Where are all the public toilets (must be outside a building)gone?"

I remember one (made from red bricks) at Chulia Street in front of the present OCBC Bank Bdlg and opposite to the UOB Plaza carpark entrance from Circular Road.

John said...

Re: Mount Emily Swimming Pool.
With pleasure, I can clarify to you fellow bloggers that Mount Emily Swimming Pool was located in Upper Wilkie Road, which is off Wilkie Road. (One of the most peaceful locations in the heart of the City). My family and I used to use it often in the 70's & 80's as it was directly in front of our house! We used it for leisure, however, as it was an olympic size swimming pool, it was regularly used for swimming training in the evenings. I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone tells me one day that some professional and competitive swimmers developed their skills there! The 'icing on the cake' was, after swimming, there was a friendly and smily Magnolia ice cream man waiting outside and you could get an ice cream for 10 to 20 cents! Great memories! John, West Wickham, United Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

Reminded me that 15 years ago, swimming was made compulsory Sec 3 classes of Jurong Secondary School...the whole cohort trudged to the swimming pool with our 'Sotong'. Also held some of the sports day at the stadium next to the pool. On a side note, those from JSS would remember doing the 2.4km run at the park just across the main school gate. Very nostalgic memories!

For me, another one pool I remember vividly as a kid was the Pandan Swimming Complex. What I miss about the pool was that...it wasn't crowded...mainly just Pandan and Teban residents. Too bad they closed it down.

Anonymous said...

I almost forgot about the Magnolia
Ice Cream man. He used to sell the orderto cut ice cream as well with the tin wafer. He rides along the whole route of Sophia, Mount Emily and Wilkie Road. If I remember correctly he will be in front of my house at 5 pm. Sometimes, he will give us extra wafers. I used to climb up the ice cream box to chose my favourite ice cream, the green lime flavour ones.

My favourite pool during the early eighties was Mount Emily Swimming Pool. The pool has a special admission session for a strict 2 hour period not like Farrer Park or River Valley.

I was staying at Wilkie Road so Mount Emily Park and Swimming Pool was like my personal playground. I do not think my four daughters can say this.

At the pool, my friend father was the life guard and we almost manage to get free entrance to the pool. Uncle Chia was the one who taught me swimming overcoming my asthma during my early childhood. We will always go to the lanes behind Rex theatre to buy goreng pisang and curry puffs where the life guards on the hill will reimburse us together with free admission.

Incidentally, Uncle Chia used to body build at Evergreen Bodybuilding Club where I stayed.

I only met up my Selegian friend, Shih Yen 2 years ago when I was driving pass Wilkie Road and Niven Road. He stayed at the Wilkie Terrace mansion. From him, I learned that his father is bedridden until now and he has married a Thai wife like myself. He has recently got a twins. Congratulations, three down and one more to go to beat me!

Edward said...

I frequented Mt Emily Swimming Pool when I was a teenager. I’d catch a bus down from Upper Thomson Road, stopped near the end of McPherson Road, then walked up the hill to the pool. I think the Rochor Canal ran past the intersection of this bus stop and there used to be a cemetery opposite, but this has since been “re-located” elsewhere. At the pool, I remember a group of regular swimmers there led by Mr Tan, a young man who taught art. His classroom was situated somewhere near McPherson Road. Mr Tan was a good butterfly swimmer. A group of Malay kids used to sell cakes and curry puffs just outside the exit gate. I’d be very hungry after a couple of hours swimming and usually bought at least 2 curry puffs to quell my hunger. On the way back I walked down the hill, past a Malay “kampong” before reaching McPherson Road. This was not really a “kampong” – just a row of Malay houses alongside a bitumen road. I cannot remember the name of the road. Then I walked towards Rex Cinema, and caught my Tay Koh Yat bus home from there. Many of you may remember our war heroine Elizabeth Choy who passed away in 2006, aged 95. Elizabeth Choy lived near one end of McPherson Road, where I walked past before climbing the hill to Mt Emily swimming pool.

Lam Chun See said...

Edward. I think you are referring to McKenzie Rd, not MacPherson Rd. Looks like on the way to from Upp Thomson to Mt Emily you would have to pass Kg Java Rd and the Farrer Park swimming pool right? How come you didn't go to Farrer Park which was nearer? As for the cemetery, I think it was the one next to New Cemetery Rd which I blogged about here.

Edward said...

Chun See, you’re right, it’s McKenzie Road. I have a friend who lived in McKenzie Road in the early 50s not far from Elizabeth Choy. Looking at your map, the bus stop where I alighted must be on the intersection of Kg Java Road and Thomson Road. I have been to Farrer Park swimming pool several times, but it was usually too crowded and they used copious amount of chlorine there. After a swim my eyes were quite red and painful. I found Mt Emily less crowded and the water also had less chlorine. Your map brought back memories of Serangoon Road – especially the smell of curry! There were many Indian homes along this stretch where you could see curry powder being made on the ground floor.

Unknown said...

Some fantastic comments here from many years ago. I am putting together an SG50 book project on all of Singapore's public swimming pools. It would be very very lovely to hear from some of you. Please see book details on http://www.kucintabooks.com/swimming-pools-open-call.html, or else write to kucinta.pools@gmail.com. Many thanks, Jocelyn