Thursday, June 18, 2009

Where was the Baharuddin Vocational Institute?

My recent article about the mysterious shooting incident in Queenstown and the subsequent discussions of the exact spot of the shooting reminded me that the nearby MDIS campus used to be called the Baharuddin Vocational Institute. I expect that many of the younger readers have not even heard of this name. Interestingly, a check with my many old street directories showed that this campus has been occupied by a number of different educational institutions. For example:

1981: Baharuddin Vocational Institute
1993: Temasek Polytechnic (Stirling Road Campus)
1998: ITE Bukit Merah (Campus 2)
2001: Queenstown Vocational Training Centre
2007: MDIS University Campus

Are you amazed and confused by the different names? I certainly am. But I am too lazy to go and research this subject. All I know is that the ITE, which stands for Institute for Technical Education (and not It’s The End), was formerly called VITB, or Vocational and Industrial Training Board; which itself was formerly called STI, or Singapore Technical Institute. I think the first name in my list, BVI was probably a part of the VITB. As for the 4th name – QVTC, this is the first time I come across it.

I think I‘d better leave it to our retired teacher, YG to blog about this bit of history and not confuse readers with my speculations.

As you know, our government is very fond of re-branding and changing names of places and institutions. That gives rise to a lot of confusion among the younger generation. For example, the other day, I was driving my youngest daughter to Hougang. I noticed that she pronounced the name How-Gung (as in ‘how are you?’ and gung-ho). I corrected her saying that she should use the hanyu-pin (Mandarin) pronunciation and explained that the place was originally called Ow Kang which was a Hokkien pronunciation.

Another example is Safti. Like me, my son is now going through OCS training in Safti; but the confusion is that his Safti and mine are two different places. Mine is just down the road and had its name stolen and now has to bear a less glamorous name called Pasir Laba Camp.

Anyway, I shouldn’t be criticizing the government because I myself am guilty of causing this type of confusion by giving my children both dialect and pinyin names. Hence at home we call them by their pinyin names whilst in school they are called by the dialect names (though mispronounced) and in church it’s a mixture; to the extent that a girl asked my daughter recently, “How come your brother’s name is so different from yours?

Anyway, as always, I have digressed. Let’s take a look at this 1981 map of the Queensway/Tanglin Halt area. Practically every major landmark there has changed.

The Queenstown Circus is no more. In its place, are a traffic lights junction and an underpass.

Most of the schools around it have been either vacated or rebuilt. The mosque has been rebuilt I believe. I am not sure about the Queenstown Community Centre. (Strange – I thought they have all been renamed, or rather re-branded, community clubs)

The Queenstown Police Station was vacated some years ago. It was replaced for a time by another uniformed organisation. Do you know its name? That too moved out, and now it is occupied by a student’s hostel.

Across the road, there used to be a Police Reserve Unit. Now the signboard says, Police Special Operations Command.

But this church and Hindhu temple along Commowealth Drive haven’t changed much.

Likewise this row of flats at Tanglin Halt Road. But how long will they last, I wonder?


Icemoon said...

She may be right in using How-Gung. Just like no English speaker reads Simei and Bishan the hanyu pinyin way.

Simei = See-May
Bishan = Pi-Shan

But Tampines is not Tamp-pines because the original is Tampinis IIRC.

Victor said...

Icemoon, Tampines was previously spelled Tampenis. No joke and I am not being cheeky again.

stanley said...

The educational institution in the 70s was known as Baharuddin Vocational Institute. It had a large school hall with enough space for 4 badminton courts and a high ceiling. I used to play badminton there every Wednesday from 8pm to 10pm. for few years.It was an ideal place for badminton as it had high ceiling and parquet flooring.

Anonymous said...

Tanglin Primary School gone...sad :(

peter said...

No no no. TAMPINES was pronounced as TEN PENIS. We used to giggle when our elders said it this way and we got scolding.

sgporc said...

The queenstown police station was used by the civil defence for quite a while. More specifically, I think it was the base for the hazmat (hazardous materials) team as pretty specialized vehicles and stores were all visible under the carpark sheds just by the main road.

As for the Special Operations Command, I've always known it to be there (more than 20 yrs). That's where the riot police and the "Ang Chia" are based, though you will sometimes see Ang Chias at the former Force Transport Base along "Bukit Timah" road too... A unique feature of the SOC base that I've always noticed over the high, blocked out fence is that there is are relatively tall buildings that seems to be housing common civilians (ie. I used to see all sorts of clothes, colourful bedsheets etc hanging out to dry) within the base itself. I'm guessing it's staff family housing. But why there? Another place where I've seen such flats in "protected" bases is at Queenstown Remand Prison. So I conclude that it might have something to do with the Gurkhas? Can anyone confirm?

sgporc said...

According to wikipedia, the police reserve unit was the predecessor of the police task force, which is under the SOC. All these units were tasked with riot control, so basically they are one and the same and have always been at queenstown... just a change of names...

Lam Chun See said...

Actually, nowadays, I too refer to Bishan as Bee-Shan when speaking in English. I guess, before long, even the Chinese will say "bay-jing" instead of "pei-ching" when speaking in English.

In the same way, I think even the Japanese may have to say "Soo-nami" istead of tsu-nami.

peter said...

When I was in the Special Constabulary doing part-time NS, we were trained for riot control at this Queenstown base. At that time the base was called Police Reserve Unit (PRU). We use the wicker shield, wooden baton, white helmet and gas-mark. Damn shiong practising under the hot sun bare-bodied from 10am - 12 noon.

The tall buildings inside are for married police personnel attached to the PRU. PRU don't have Gurkhas.

For Gurkha police unit, they can be found at Mt Vernon. There are many "HDB-styled" blocks for married personnel and families.

Chun See, the other school I am familiar which is still around is the former Newtown Secondary School.

Icemoon said...

Eh, did Peter volunteer for the part-time NS just like Chun See volunteered for ROVERS (Reservist On Voluntary Extended Reserve Service)?

I thought you either go army or police. I think yg went police and beat the rats.

peter said...


NO lah who in the world volunteers for NS?

We got drafted into part-time NS when we turned 18 yrs of age. It so happened we were still in school.

Till this day, the government never gave the reasons or talk about it. The "best part" is our kind of NS not counted towards the 2.5 years.
I wonder how many of your generation know what happened to this?

I still got a photo of our graduating class, all dressed in the blue colored uniform with red lanyard. Come to think of it, that was in 1971 when the present blue color police uniform was changed from the grey/khaki uniform.

This type of NS is different from those who were officially drafted into NS in 1967, and had to do army full-time or the police/VC part-time I think for 12 years.

household name said...

Hey, that is the church I attend. I don't think there are any plans to move it or anything. (In fact, I don't remember Catholic churches having to move; usually it's just renovation). We recently re-built the church hall building but the church itself still looks like how it looked many years ago, I think. If you go in, you will see that the flooring is also quite old-fashioned compared to many of the renovated churches which have shiny marble floors.

I think the community centre may have been renovated recently.

Lam Chun See said...

The design of the church is very nice eh? It's always been like this for as long as I can remember.

I think the CC is relatively new. Didn't show up in the 1981 st directory but it is there in the 1993 street directory. And here's something interesting that I discovered. It was called the Alexandra CC. Do you know where was the Queenstown CC then?

peter said...

Chun See
The confusion over your children's name....well I can shed some light.

It was in 1980 or 1981 when the government decided to "ban" the use of dialect names. This included the family or surname and the other Chinese names that follow the surname.

When my son was born, I was caught in this dilemma. So a CHAN had to be styled as a CHEN (although the Chinese character would be the same).....likewise all the second and third names could not be in Cantonese. The government refused to register any newborn if their parents refused to follow government orders.

I felt this was a big insult but the Singapore Registry of Births refused to budge. So a child could not get his/her birth certificate. This was the typical high-handed way the government dealt with the people when it decided to promote Mandarin as the official language for all Chinese people. I refused to budge until there were similar protests from parents. The government gave way BUT only a concession for the family name/surname. The rest had to be in Hanyu Pinyin. So we got now a CHAN in Cantonese and the rest in Hanyu Pinyin. In pre-1980/81, you could recognize one's dialectical background but now no more.

What happened was some Hanyu Pinyin names after translation from Cantonese had to have a - (dashed) to link the 2 words. How ridiculous can that be because I never knew the Chinese language got dash sign. By the 1990s, the government reversed the policy of dropping the dash.

Imagine the big problem with the Birth certificate which had the dash. You had to get a lawyer to arrange the Deed Poll to change take away the dash sign and it costs me S$150/-. Again ridiculous for some government policy.

As I understand now you don't need Hanyu Pinyin at all. Is this a case of politics meddling in culture and ethos?

peter said...

Sorry I meant in my case it was an "apostrophe" sign, not a dash although I have come across cases with a dash. Is that possible in Chinese characters or only unique to Singapore?

Thank goodness when my next generation arrives, I won't have to put up with this silly hassle.

Icemoon said...

No wonder lah, I wonder how come I share same surname with MM, but his given name in dialect while mine is hanyu pinyin. We same dialect group somemore ..

But Peter, I think some babies slipped through the cracks. I could find dialect-pinyin, pinyin-pinyin and dialect-dialect names in my yearbooks and class lists. Most people have dialect-pinyin names.

The apostrophe is very rare. I can remember one, a chio bu - Rui'En

Usually you find them in romanization like Wade-Giles, for example K'ang-Hsi Emperor, Ch'ien-Lung Emperor. Ooh, there is the dash too.

Icemoon said...

I agree with Peter the dialect-pinyin is pretty ridiculous.

How you know Brother Chan here is Brother Chen or Brother Zeng? I know the Chan brothers are actually Zengs. One day you buy the wrong surname keychain for your friend very paiseh.

Victor said...

My elder son who was born in 1991 has his anglicised name in 100% dialect while my 12-year-old son's surname is in dialect but the 2-word name is in pinyin. However, the 2-word is anglicised as one word, i.e. with no dash, apostrophe or space in between the 2 words. To illustrate using Icemoon's example of Rui'En, it would have been "Ruien".

Icemoon, how come you gave a link that comes with no photo of the chio bu? You really got my curiosity (only curiosity hor) all aroused. See this link instead.

peter said...

Lucky Ru'en is a beauty otherwise ang-mos might pronounce her names as "RUIN" even more paiseh. She same age with you Icemoon but she from RJC. I last heard from my son who was in her class, she very hot" - temper wise and beauty wise.

BTW Ru'en shares the same "en" I think with my son. Cantonese version of YAN? Now even with Chinese names must first think whether refer to dialect or Hanyu Pinyin.

Icemoon you mean MM's Chinese name after translation is called Icenmoon?

Icemoon said...

No, I mean why MM got the full package (dialect-dialect) while I got the half package (dialect-pinyin) even when we are from same dialect group.

Luckily our dialect in Singapore is most similar (linguistically) to mandarin, so we suffer least 'damage'. I also cannot tell whether (Dr) Lee Wei Ling is dialect or pinyin name.

Yea, Rui'en is a good example 'cos she was born in 1981.

household name said...

Back to the Queenstown/Alexandra CC.

I quizzed my husband, a Queenstowner, about it. He says that it indeed used to be Alexandra CC. He says the old/original(?) Queenstown CC was where the park and ride multi-storey car park is now, opposite Blk 153.

BTW he also recently told me that the Hong Kong actress/singer Chu Mi Mi was a Singaporean and used to live at Stirling Road!

And in case anyone is interested, the Mei Chin market/food centre that was under renovation is now open.

Lam Chun See said...

Household Name. According to my 1981 street directory, there was indeed a CC at the Mei Chin Road vicinity. But I am referring to 1993. At that time the Queenstown CC was located at Margaret Drive opposite the Queestown Remand Prison. The building is still there and it faces the entrance to the multi-storey car park beside the NTUC Fairprice supermarket. I still park my car there whenever I go to the Queenstown Library across the road.

Lam Chun See said...

By the way, the hawker centre at Commonwealth Drive which I blogged about here is temporarily closed for renovation. So next time I am in that area and want to have lunch, I shall check out the Mei Chin food centre you mentioned and try to see if I can recall that old CC your husband talked about.

Actually, I do have some memories of that area too to blog about.

household name said...

Oh, yes, now I remember that Margaret Drive CC! It is now some kind of optometric place. Strange place to have it (and I've never seen anyone go there) but that's what it is.

yg said...

chun see, now that i am back, i remember that i have been given an assignment : to find out the history of baharuddin vocational institute. will check with my friends who were former technical teachers.

TheEspian said...

I grew up knowing this part of Singapore as "the neighbourhood around my primary school", since I was from NTPS.

Yes, it has changed a lot, this coming from a young 24-year-old. Even NTPS has changed locations, and a MSCP sits where an empty field used to be.

The old NTSS school compound has been reused over and over again by different institutions like St Margaret's, Queensway Sec and River Valley High while their respective campuses were being upgraded.

Unknown said...

I'm really planning to take up vocational course. I still don't know what to take though but I'm pretty sure I'll check for these schools in our area.

vocational career

ICT said...

Thank you for nice information