Monday, June 02, 2008

My new old street directories

Ever since I started Good Morning Yesterday, I and my guest bloggers have blogged frequently about old places of Singapore that no longer exist. Often we found it difficult to describe the locations of these places because we did not have an old street directory to refer to; and sometimes our memories play tricks on us. The oldest street directory I had was a 1998/99 copy which wasn’t very helpful because by 1998, many of the present expressways have been completed, replacing many old roads. Also many of the roundabouts and kampongs that we blogged about had been cleared.

But recently I was able to acquire two street directories from the last century. One was a 1993 copy given to me by my elderly neighbour. Another was purchased from a second-hand bookshop at Bras Basah Centre. This was a huge shop on the 3rd level. After a long search, I managed to find 2 copies. One was a Chinese edition dated 1985. Another was an English edition dated 1981. I bought the second at a hefty price of $16 (the original price was only $6). I think the shop owner sensed my excitement in finding this directory and jacked up the price to $18 initially. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, it was $16 well spent. Now I can check up all those places that I have been blogging about from memory.

Unfortunately, I am now faced with a dilemma. Should I go back and update those old posts? I think I shan’t because that would be too much work. Might as well spend the time writing new stories. Where the opportunity arises, I will simply refer back to the earlier posts. For example, in one of my stories about the stretch of Bukit Timah Road from Sixth Avenue to Beauty World, I mentioned that there were several factories and commercial buildings here. I was wondering what was this building called the Tricity House. Now I know. It’s the old name for the Tan Cheong Motors complex. You can now refer to the following map from my new 1981 street directory. Unfortunately, it does not show the Rothmans cigarette factory that I described or the Tien Wah Press printing company.

And I still can’t figure out what was the William Jacks???


Victor said...

You forgot about the 7th edition Mar 1963 directory which Peter helped us to acquire.

Anonymous said...

hi, I done a yahoo search and found something; a Malaysian company call William Jacks & Co Sdn Bhd... does anybody know is it the same as the one inside the map 'William Jacks'. I include the link that the company is one of the suppliers for the Pearlbank apartment at outram/chinatown??
please see url


Anonymous said...

William Jacks was an old British trading house first established in Singapore at the time of companies such as Guthrie, Inchape or Jardine Waugh - companies which had their offices along the stretch of Bukit Timah Road between Sixth Avenue and King Alber Park.

The Malaysian connection with the Singapore-based companies came about because many were also incorporated in Malaysia and subsequently with "Bumiputralization", many of these Malaysian-based companies were acquired by Bumi companies in the mid-1970s.

That was the era when Malaysia raided the stronghold of the British companies listed on the London Stock Exchange in a bid to "Malaysianise" all foreign companies that had a controlling share of the Malaysian economic sectors like rubber, palm oil and tin. If I am not wrong, it started with the raid on Sime Darby Planatation and Guthrie Ropel which generated so much anti-Malaysian feelings.

It's interesting that on the Malaysian side these names remian.

Anonymous said...

Apologies: should not be Guthrie Ropel but Guthrie Ltd. Then there was also a Harrisons & Crossfields Ltd which was forced to sell out to the big Malaysian boys. In the 1970s, the stock exchanges of Malaysia and Singapore were linked. Many Singaporeans made $$ because of this "Malaysianization" acquisitions.

Lam Chun See said...

I suspect both Tricity and William Jacks were British companies. Just look at all the other companies along this stretch of road. Guthrie at 5th and 6th Ave junction, Rothmans of Pall Mall, GEC and Sime Darby across the road.

Victor. I did not include the 1963 copy for obvious reasons. I don't own the original.

Anonymous said...

Wah Chun See, I saw the old street directory at that shop you mentioned at Bras Basah but when I saw the price tag, I walked out.

Didn't know there will be a buyer for it hehe. But it's a new old directory.

Norman said...

actually can bargain with the guy. the 2nd-hand bookshops at bras basah are all offering 25% discount now.

Anonymous said...

maybe can try your luck at the flea market at China Square? They have a few retro shops there too.

Anonymous said...

Mention of William Jacks reminds me that J G Farrell's book 'The Singapore Grip', although a novel does give a good history and portrait of a typical British run trading company at the time of the fall of Singapore during WW2. A bit of a solid read but a good mixture of fact and fiction.

Tom said...

Tom said
searching through the web, came across a artical, it says Eurepean merchants imported Japanese goods, and goes on saying , a William Jack& Co.handled ceramics, enamal ware and woolens Texils (Singapore)

Lam Chun See said...

I did a search on William Jacks UK and found that it is a distributor of luxury cars in UK. Interesting thing is that the chairman is probably a Malaysian by the name of Dato Tan Kay Hock. I think this must be the one.

Anonymous said...

A check on PICAS will show some photos regarding William Jacks;

Lam Chun See said...

Yes I also saw that yesterday. There was mention of a strike by the workers.

Anonymous said...

i wonder does anyone know the most current Streetdirectory is which year? I wish to buy the most updated one.

Annie said...

hi, this is very interesting to me. I'm British and it was my great grandfather who ran Tricity House. I have photos of the old building if they would interest you. I would also love to hear anything you know about the company, the building and what it's like now.

Anonymous said...

Do tell us more about Tricity. our memories could be fading but still enough to remember something like its name.

Yes chun see and I will be interested in the photos - do send to chun see. He's our postmaster-general or as they say any "unwanted mail" should be directed to him. If u have anything on Rothmans the next door neighbour of Tricity at 905 Virginia Park, that will be even more exciting.

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Annie. Thanks for the offer. I really would appreciate if you could share your photos of Tricity with us. I believe, the National Archives of Singapore would greatly appreciate it if you could donate the photos to them as did my friend Brian Mitchell and his wife Tessa.

Could you pls contact me at this address:

Unfortunately I don't know much about Tricity. The building complex is today occupied by a motor car distributor.

By the way, how did you come to know of this blog? Just curious.

Reperiosatis said...


Annie is my cousin and I have recently been in Singapore and visited the old Tricity House site.

Firstly thank you so much for the information on your blog it provided fantastic information to be able to find the old site of Tricity House.

I also managed to find a copy of the Singapore Strait Times from 22/03/1936 in the Singapore National Library which featured an article on the opening of the office.

I have also got a copy of a photo from 1936 of the office which I will pass to you when travelling back through Singapore.

I have posted some details on my blog about the visit.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Image of Tricity House, an office block for John Morey and Sons, electrical contractors, c.1936.