Sunday, July 27, 2008

From my inbox

I had a couple of pleasant surprises in the email this past week.

(1) Royal Singapore Flying Club

Bob Nobbs sent me this 1952 photo of the Royal Singapore Flying Club. Can you recognize the building? If you are have been reading this blog for more than a year, you probably would. It was the subject of one of my Old Buildings Quizes. Bob wrote;

“I spent three years in Singapore during the 1960s (Tengah) and I am still in love with the place. I still hope to come back one day although I know it’s changed beyond all recognition.”

Bob. We certainly hope to see you in Singapore. I guarantee you will not recognize Chua Chu Kang Road. John Harper was here last year, and Brian Mitchell will be visiting next year.

Thanks again for the photo. And thanks also to my friend and regular guest blogger, Peter Chan for this even older photo of the same place. It was taken in 1936.

Below is a photo of the Merdeka Bridge/Nicoll Highway courtesy of Memories of Singapore.

For the purpose of comparison, I post here some 2006 photos of this building which at one time was the headquarters of the Singapore Netball Association.

(2) Troika Restaurant

In some of the earlier articles about food and dining, the name Troika Restaurant was mentioned by you the readers in the comments section. For example my article about Coffee Houses and possibly, Peter’s article about Dining in the Old Days, and perhaps also on Victor’s blog.

I was indeed pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Arwyn Rees who wrote from England.

Dear Mr Lam Chun See,

The wonders of the Internet have brought us together in a most unusual way. I was looking through a scrap-book which I had kept from nearly 40 years ago when I had the great fortune of living in your wonderful City. The scrap-book contained an advertisement card for the Troika Restaurant, a place I visited many times for the wonderful food. My interest made me put the name into the computer to see if it still existed, and looking through the pages a reference was made to your blog site that apparently mentions the place. I consequently started reading your Blog with nostalgic interest. I enclose a copy of the advert for the Troika that may be of some interest to you. Thanks for a enjoyable hour of reading.

Best Regards.

Arwyn Rees (England)

Arwyn. On behalf of all readers at Good Morning Yesterday, thank you for that picture of the Troika Restaurant. We certainly hope you visit again.

And as usual, Peter’s memory proves to be uncanny. As you can see from the picture above, Troika was located at the Liat Towers in Orchard Road. In case you want to make a reservation, their telephone number is 371833.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Asking stupid questions

Recently I received an email advertisement to join a training workshop on How to Ask Stupid Questions. I dare not comment on such training programmes because I don’t know anything about them. But I do know that some friends at the National Library Board adopt this motto/practice and they seem to be doing fine.

But I know one gentleman who doesn’t need to attend such a workshop. He is the famous Philip Yeo, former chairman of EDB and present Chairman of Spring Singapore.

It was reported in the papers today that, he once asked a potential scholar: “Have you been to a bar? A red light district?" To both questions, the answer from the young man was: “No.”

“This guy spends all his time at the library!” commented Mr Yeo. I am guessing that he would be blunt enough to make that comment in the face of the hapless young man; and no doubt, to the laugher of his fellow interviewers.

This report really disturbs me. I fear that other CEO’s of government departments will emulate the famous ‘civil service mandarin’ in asking interviewees such ‘out of the box’ questions. I hate to picture our decent young men being ‘sexually harassed’ by interviewers like Mr Yeo. Therefore I would like to offer a bit of advice to all the young people reading this blog. If you ever encounter this type of stupid questions from an interviewer, please remain calm and stand up to the bully.

In reply to the first question, say; “With all due respect sir, I don’t think that’s any of your business. (Even in Singapore, you do have some human rights you know) But if you really must know; no, I have never been to a bar or a red light district.”

To his funny comment; ask; “Sir, you mean you like to frequent such places?” Then shake your head is disbelief.

Young men. Stand up to your beliefs and convictions; especially if they are based on your Christian faith. Never let any top civil servant tell you that you need to sin to succeed in the secular world. Never let any senior army officer tell you that if you don’t drink, you cannot be an officer. And never let any so call ‘business honcho’ tell you that if you don’t ‘yan chew’ (smoke and drink), i.e. ‘entertain’, you cannot do business in China.

It’s really sad to see this state of affairs in Singapore. There was a time when people in high places would tell young people; “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.”

Nowadays, it seems ‘godfathers’ find it more appropriate to say, “Let him that does not like to sin be the first to be stoned.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Old Beauties Quiz (4)

OK. Here are another 3 photos. Actually I am not too keen to put up these photos because their ‘beauty’ is somewhat marred by poor maintenance by the owners. But, as they say in Hokkien, bo he hey ya ho. (If you cannot get fish, you have to settle for prawns).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Old Beauties Quiz (3)

Rather busy lately and no time to do any serious blogging. So I will keep you occupied with another old beauties quiz. These beauties are a bit different from the previous ones. They are local beauties.

The first one was spotted some time ago at a multi-storey car park in Jurong West St 93. The second photo was taken last week at the multi-storey car park in Shunfu market/food centre.

PS – Perhaps I should ask Peter, the old cars, old buildings, old streets and in fact, old everything. expert to give chance a bit and let the others have a go first

Here are a couple more photos. Sorry the Alpha photo is out of focus. Apparently my handphone camera only good for close range shots. - 22 July 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fine city not the most suitable name for Singapore

Over the decades, our beloved Singapore has earned for itself the rather unflattering name of Fine City. Well, I think that name has lost its novelty and I find that it is not even appropriate anymore because nowadays, we don’t find many warning signs with the threat of fines printed on it.

Anyhow, Fine City is still better than Sin City or Vice Capital don’t you think? But I think a more appropriate name should be Sign City.

Going for my brisk walking exercise in MacRitchie Reservoir the other day, and eager to try out my new Sony Cybershot phone, I realised that there are lots of man-made objects in the form of signs even in a nature park. Below are some examples.

This rather old one does not have a 'price tag'. It was mounted at the water's edge quite far in, near the start of the cross-country track.

PS – with the full mobile phone number portability thing recently, I switched from Singtel to Starhub. The offer was too good to resist. I got a 3.2 megapixels camera phone ‘free’. I do not have to pay a cent for the next 6 months. Plus being an existing subscriber of their cable vision and broadband services, I get $100 rebate and 15% on my mobile phone bill, plus free phone upgrade after 1 year – whatever that means.

But I am getting into trouble with Singtel. They just billed me $250 for “Eqpt Plan Termination” for terminating my account with them before the contract expires. But I went down to the Hello shop at AMK Hub to check before I switched, and the girl there asked for my NRIC no. did a quick check on her pc and declared that my contract has expired! I called up Singtel to protest; and they are still ‘investigating’.

I am no marketing expert, but I find our phone companies’ marketing antics rather silly and unproductive. Instead of ‘sayanging’ (‘sayang’ is Malay for tender loving care) their existing customers to prevent them from being poached, they go all out to woo new customers from their competitors, making their existing customers feel, what should I say, taken for granted.

With all of them employing such progressive tactics, what do we get in the long run ……. a game of musical chairs of course.

PS: Please remember to vote for me for the OMY awards here

Monday, July 14, 2008

2008 National Inter-schools Canoeing Championships

Last Friday, 11 July 2008, I was at the MacRitchie Reservoir to watch the 2008 National Inter-schools Canoeing Championships. I wrote a report for the folks at Redsports. You can read it here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

From my inbox: 11 July 2008

Robin Chiang writes all the way from California. Coincidentally, many of the things Peter and I have blogged about featured in his younger days as well.

Dear Mr Lam,

I read your "Good Morning Yesterday" blog and would like to thank you for sharing your experiences. There are quite a few common points. I grew up in Singapore in the 70's (I was born in Taiwan) and did my NS in 84-86. I lived in Nanyang University where my father was a lecturer. In 82 we moved to Clementi, just 2-3 blocks from the Ulu Pandan Railway Bridge.

In NS I was in SAFTI, and then SMM (School of Military Medicine), and then posted to 30 SCE as an LCP medic. By then 30 SCE was based in Khatib Camp. I was in Charlie Coy for 7-months, then HQ coy. As a platoon medic in 85 I witnessed the last Bailey Bridge built by the SAF. I am quite familiar with many of the SAF points of interest.

After NS, I came to California for my univ and have not returned (except for short visits). 2 decades later I recall fondly my days in Singapore and am reading up on her history and finding out how ignorant I am. I hope the Min of Ed places a greater emphasis on teaching history to the country's youth. (emphasis LCS's)

Related posts:

1) The Ulu Pandan Rail Bridge
2) 30 SCE
4) Bailey Bridge
5) Nanyang University

PS: Please remember to vote for me for the OMY awards here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Foyers Gathering 2008

Last Friday, the Friends of Yesterday (or Foyers as we call ourselves) had a gathering at the home of Shaun, the “Superman”. Besides the usual makan, we were treated to a display of Shaun’s amazing collection of super toys. I must admit that I don’t quite know how to appreciate such sophisticated toys.

Siva had brought along a DVD of the movie Saint Jack which was filmed entirely in Singapore in the 1979. In it were several scenes showing Singapore in the 70’s. However, with all that chatting and eating, it was a bit difficult for us to concentrate on the movie and pick out the places. Anyway, if you want to know more, you can wait for Victor to blog about it because we gave him the assignment to view the movie again. He gladly accepted the assignment. I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact this movie has several ‘adult’ scenes.

Anyway, I recognized the lead actor Ben Gazarra, and I told my younger friends that he used to act in an old TV drama series called The Fugitive. But somehow, at the back of my mind, I sensed that that wasn’t correct. And so the next day, I did a search on the internet and found that the old TV series that Ben Gazarra acted in was not The Fugitive. Do you know which TV series that was? I give you a hint. It was about a lawyer who found that he had terminal cancer and had only two years to live. And so he decided to “drink life to the lees”. Click here for the answer. You will probably see why I made the connection.

On the way home, I had three young men in my car when we drove into Bishan. I asked whether they could possibly picture in their minds what Bishan was like in the 60’s when it was nothing but hills and cemeteries. They all said, no way. In fact, Ivan said he simply could not imagine what life in a kampong was like.

That remark sort of stayed with me, and made me think that perhaps, I should blog more, about the kampong days, even though, much of what I can recall about my kampong days, I have already blogged about in the past two-and-a-half year. Yes Good Morning Yesterday has been around that long. For a start, perhaps, I will try to do some homework and try to figure out where roughly were the cemeteries of Pek San Teng located compared to today’s Bishan New Town. But with my limited skill with Photoshop, I guess, I might have to rely of the old-fashioned army style of using real plastic overlays!

Meantime, I hope some of the older bloggers like YG, who grew up in a small kampong near Tan Tock Seng Hospital, will share more stories of kampong life.

Would you believe that this is what Potong Pasir used to look like (Picture scanned from the book, Singapore, An Illustrated History, 1941 ~ 1984, Information Division, Ministry of Culture)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Where have all the ‘kopi how’s gone?

My previous post about dating in the old days reminds of a place that I liked to go to. It was a coffee house called The Trishaw. It was located at ground floor of the Hotel Royal Ramada in Newton Road. I doubt it is still there. It had a rather unique ambience. The tables were configured like a trishaw with an artificial canopy. Can’t remember anything about the food though; me being never very particular in that department.

At the time when guys of my generation were leaving school in the late sixties and seventies, coffee houses became very popular for young working adults. Even the ‘bengs’ liked to frequent such places, calling them ‘kopi how’. But of course there were different classes of coffee houses; those in the hotels being more classy than those in the HDB heartlands.

The first coffee house I ever went to was called Silver Spoon (hope I got it right). It was located at the Supreme House in Penang Road. I believe it was also at one of the shops in this shopping centre that I bought my first pair of jeans. I think that too became a rage among youngsters at around the same time, especially the university and poly students. Levis, Lees and Amco were the popular brands. Anyway, a kampong boy like me knew nothing about fashion; just followed my younger brother James who was the trend-setter in our family when it came to such things. You could say he belonged to the “new jeanaration”.

I am afraid, I can’t recall the names of many other coffee houses of that era. But when I started working in Philips in Toa Payoh, my colleagues and I liked to go to a coffee house at Toa Payoh Central for cheap set lunches. I think it cost only a few bucks, complete with soup, coffee and desert. Cheap and fast. It was located near to the bus interchange.

At that time, (late 70’s to early 80’s) Toa Payoh Central was very different from what it is today, as you can see from the map of below. (Wah - the $16 that I paid for that 1981 street directory is really worth it man). Do you notice the huge Toa Payoh Circus? I told you before that it was one of the largest in Singapore; maybe second only to the Queens Circus in Queenstown. Another coffee house in Toa Payoh that we occasionally patronized was located just next to the Kong Chian Theatre next to the library.

When I started working in NPB in the mid-eighties, my work frequently brought me to Jurong. There my regular clients and I often went to the coffee house at Taman Jurong. Taman Jurong was very different from what it is today. I will blog about that place another day. Next to the coffee house which was along Corporation Road was a famous cake shop called B&W. That cake shop is now located at Taman Jurong Point. We still frequent the shop. Everyone in my family like their ‘tau sar piah’.

I can only recall two more. One was at Serangoon Road, near the junction with Boon Keng Road – saw a big cockroach there once. Now I remember why that place stayed in my mind after all these years. I was with my friend Simon, and he got terribly upset by the sight of the cockroach.

The last one was at Changi Village. It was just along the main road where there is now a long row of eateries. Sometimes after our in-camp training at Pulau Tekong, my army friends and I would go that for some ‘real’ food.

I am sure regular readers of my generation can remember many more names of coffee houses of our era which I have forgotten about.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

An unforgettable blind date

Victor’s post about the cinemas of old reminds me of an unforgettable blind date that I had a quarter century ago.

I think the year must have been around 1984. At 32, I was still single and my sister Pat was not happy. Her reputation of being a highly successful one-woman SDU was being tarnished by her uncooperative brother. SDU, in case you do not know, stood for Social Development Unit. It was formed by the government to match-make university graduates. It was the product of the Great Marriage Debate triggered by then prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew during one of his National Day Rally speeches.

My sister was really scary. She still is actually. She doesn’t ask for your permission before she arranges blind dates. She simply gives you the phone number and tells you everything has been arranged; just make the call. Even if you object also she doesn’t care. It was a real torture for me.

Anyway, I spoke to this girl on the phone. For some reason she did not want me to go to her house to fetch her - too far, I may not be familiar with that area etc. As she lived in the northern part of Singapore, we agreed to meet at the Imperial Theatre car park in Upper Thomson Road. I gave her a description of my car. I believe at that time I was driving a Subaru 1600GL which I bought for only $13,000 from an Australian colleague of my brother’s at Citibank. The car had only clocked a mileage of less that 30,000 km.

Map of Upper Thomson in vicinity of Imperial Theatre (From my 1981 Street Directory). Notice the Thomson Village, Kampong San Teng Road, and the Little Sisters of the Poor, which is still there but now has a different name.

At the appointed time, I arrived early and once I got there, I realized that I had inadvertently chosen the perfect place. There was no way she could miss me.

You see, the Imperial Theatre was a small theatre that we used to go to when we stayed at the kampong in Lorong Kinchir off Lorong Chuan. (Read story here). But since we moved out in 1974, we seldom went back there. And so I did not know that in the eighties, Imperial had become an Indian movie theatre.

When my date arrived, one show had just ended and another was about to begin. There I was in the car park, standing next to my car, the only Chinese in a sea of Indians.