Sunday, September 26, 2010

Then and Now – Leaving for overseas NS training

This morning, I fetched my son to the airport as he was leaving with his battalion for overseas NS training. On the way home it struck me how much things have changed since my time.

1) When I went to ROC for Exercise Starlite during my OCS days, we used the Paya Lebar Airport. Today, we used the spanking Terminal 3 at Changi.

2) Back then we arrived at night from Safti via military three-tonners. On arrival at the airport, we used a special entrance into the airport to the left just before one would normally turn right onto the departure area. Today, we arrived in my Toyota Wish in broad daylight.

3) Back then, like today, we boarded the plane in civvies – including that hated OCS tie. But unlike my son who carried a normal-looking travelling bag, we had to carry a huge Ali Baba bag inside which was crammed all our personal gear like webbing, helmet, mess tins and a whole lot of other stuff which I cannot recall now. But I remember we did not have to bring uniforms because in ROC we issued the uniform of the local army. In my son’s case, all their military stuff had been packed and sent before-hand, and they looked pretty much like normal civilians; safe for the short hair perhaps.
3) Back then, we arrived in Kaoshiong in the wee hours of the morning when it was still dark. We were half-asleep and I don’t remember anything about disembarking from the plane or the trip to the camp in Heng Choon. For my son, I guess he would arrive down under in broad daylight.
4) There is one other big difference between father and son. For me, that trip on the SIA 707 was my first time in travelling in an aeroplane. I remember my section mate Simon Ong was excitedly taking photos with the SIA air stewardesses. As for the young men leaving for their overseas NS training this morning, it must have been their umpteenth time travelling by plane. Nowadays, most Singaporean kids go to distant places for their holidays. In school many would have gone overseas for sport events and educational trips. Furthermore, within their two-year NS period, they would have gone overseas at least two or three times.
Yes. Indeed the times, they have changed.

This picture was taken in the Safti Drill Hall just before departure for Paya Lebar. See the row of 3-tonners behind me?

Me and my section mates resting in our bunk in Heng Choon in between exercises. The dog biscuits with jam (from our compo rations) tasted surprisingly good in those times.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Our first tape recorder

Derek Tait’s recent post about the song/movie, Born Free, reminds me of our first tape recorder.

My recollections are a bit hazy, but I think it was my eldest brother Chun Chew (Zen) who bought it second-hand from a colleague. At that time, he was working at the Singapore Harbour Board – predecessor of the Port of Singapore Authority, PSA. The year was probably around 1967 or 68.

The tape recorder was a reel-to-reel type. You have to mount the full reel on the left sprocket, thread the tape over the RP head (record-playback head), and then ‘connect’ it to the empty reel on the right side. I think it came with two covers which functioned as the speakers. You can also record sounds onto a blank tape, but you need to connect a microphone to do that. I believe the brand was Sony. It looked the one in this Creative Commons photo by member Erik Hartberg.

Tandberg Reel to Reel

The friend who sold my brother this tape recorded gave us a pre-recorded tape with several Matt Monro hits. We listened to them over and over again. Today, 4 decades later, I can still remember several of the song titles (and even some of the lines) like Somewhere, From Russia with Love, Softly as I Leave you, Portrait of My Love, Yesterday, Unchained Melody, Exodus; and this one which is my favourite.

Related post by Andy Young

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Report on the YOG

The above article appeared in the 4 September 2010 edition of the Luxemburger Wort, one of the major dailies of Luxemberg. It was written by a lovely young lady by the name of Lynn Welter. Do you know who she is?

Below is an abridged translation of the article which was originally written in German.

The first Youth Olympic Games took place in Singapore from 14. - 26. August
A new generation is conquering Olympia
20,000 volunteers: a report by Y&S-contributor Lynn Welter

Anyone who travelled to Singapore in the middle of August could hardly miss the fact that the first Youth Olympic Games (YOG) took place there. The mascots of the YOG, Merly and Lyo, already greeted visitors when they entered the country. On the way from the airport to the center of the city state several signs and flags referred to the event and car drivers were even requested to yield their right of way to the YOG buses, so they would not be stuck in too much traffic while transporting the 14-18 year old athletes.

In all the hype of such a mega event you would not only meet talented athletes, coaches and members of the several national Olympic committees, but also many people in violet and beige coloured clothes. This outfit was the distinctive feature of all the volunteers who assisted in the smooth organization of the games. 20,000 volunteers worked for two weeks in Singapore, lending a hand in the build-up, translations, announcements or the distribution of medals as well as in taking care of the athletes.

To become one of these volunteers, you had to register on the webpage of the games and to advise the areas of work you wanted to work in. Although most of the volunteers came from Singapore, many volunteers from foreign countries worked as translators. They had to pay for their trip to Singapore out of their own pockets, but were offered free accommodation and breakfast in the Olympic village. Furthermore the 20,000 volunteers did not receive any payments, but free transportation, a small allowance and an invitation to a party at the “Universal Studios Singapore”.

The YOG enabled me to gather experiences related to my studies and to visit my relatives in Singapore. So I quickly made the decision to participate in this event. I was assigned the work of a “Youth Interpreter“, meaning a translator for French and German. Most of the time I had to start work at 07:30 a.m. in Bishan, the place of the athletics competitions. Since many French athletes participated in this type of sport, all announcements in the stadium had to be made in French. As a result, I was responsible to call the athletes to each competition and to make sure that they were on time for their competitions in the arena.

Not only the athletes, but also the volunteers attached utmost importance to the three Olympic values of friendship, top performances and respect. These Youth Olympic Games enabled all participants to meet people from all over the world, to discover different cultures and to make new friends. The YOG were a unique experience for me. And on my last day in Singapore I realized that the contact to my colleagues would not end after the games: since I had never participated in a night safari – despite several earlier visits to Singapore – my friends organized such an activity as a farewell. An eventful ending of two unforgettable weeks!

Lynn Welter is the daughter of my BRS friend, Aii Chan; aka Kim Welter. This is her certificate of appreciation. The whole family was here during the YOG. That was also when we took the opportunity to meet up at Sembawang Hills Estate and reminisce about our beloved Braddell Rise School.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Foyers lunch gathering last Saturday

Last Saturday, a few of us ‘Foyers’ (Friends of got together for lunch at a well-known Ampang Yong Tau Hu restaurant in Siglap which was recommended by Wee Kiat. The food was great. I liked the thick bee hoon with dark gravy.

Anyway, I took the opportunity to hand out my new book, Ideas@work. Below is a group photo taken by Noel of the six of us - Wee Kiat, Victor, Noel, Peter, Dick Yip and myself. Do you know that of the six people in this photo, 4 are published authors? And all 6 are avid bloggers. In time, I am sure, we will be able to persuade Peter and Unk Dicko to write a book as well. In fact, Unk Dicko narrated to us a gripping account of his first-hand encounter with the Hotel New World disaster – stuff that will make for a great read.

In spite of my objections, they held out a copy of my book for the camera. In that case, I might as well exploit this photo to do a commercial and remind readers that my book is available at Select Books in Tanglin Shopping Centre (19 Tanglin Road #03-15) and Clementi Book Store in Clementi Central (Block 450 #01-297, Commonwealth Avenue West). You can also place your orders directly from me here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

This day in history

Sorry, quite busy these days and no time to blog. So I do a quickie and announce that at on this day, 58 years ago this guy was born in a village that is today right smack on the Central Expressway. Here is a photo of him in a setting you will never ever see in Singapore again.

Well technically, I was born in Kardang Kerbau; but ……

Also like to announce that my fellow blogger, Icemoon and I and jointly making a presentation at the When Nations Remember Summit at the Carlton Hotel on 12 October 2010. This event is organized by the National Library Board. Our presentation is at 10 am in the morning and in afternoon we will be running a ‘Close-up Group Session’ where participants can go into details of what we do in our blogs.

Do sign up and participate in this afternoon workshop session where you can help us to share with participants what you are doing to help preserve the memories of Singapore. And do invite your friends to join us as well. Once again, the event is:

Date: 11-12 October 2010
Venue: Carlton Hotel, Singapore

Further details can be found at the and When Nations Remember websites.