Saturday, May 28, 2011

Prime Minister’s Visit

In the Straits Times today, there is a section devoted to our former prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew – High 5 for LKY: Five essays on former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s places in history.

One of the essays was about community centres. It reminded me of his visit to our kampong, Lorong Kinchir in 1962. As I was only ten years old then, I cannot recall much other than the usual fanfare. But I do know that my father was involved in the welcome party. My father, as one of the few residents who could speak English, probably played a big role in liaising with the authorities. Furthermore, he, together with our village chief, a Mr Low Thiam Aik represented our kampong in the Serangoon Gardens CCC (citizens’ consultative committee).

I was very happy to be reconnected with one of Mr Low’s grandchildren, Eng Leong, who had read this blog. Just two days ago, I met up with him and we spent almost an hour at a Yishun coffee shop trying to recall the people and places of our kampong. He shared some of his family photos and gave me a spare copy of this classic which I had been searching high and low for. It was taken at our kampong’s community centre during the prime minister's visit.

Besides my father who is seated on the extreme right, my Seventh Uncle who is seated on the extreme left and Mr Low who is on PM Lee’s left, I could not identify any other faces even though many of them looked familiar. You would notice that besides PM Lee, there is one other person not wearing a ribbon on his chest. He is seated second from the right. Hence, he is likely to be a visitor with PM Lee’s entourage and not from our village.

Question. Who is this gentleman?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Some things never change (9) – Parking bicycles

I used to live in a kampong called Lorong Kinchir, off Lorong Chuan. Before Lorong Chuan was constructed, we – my brother Chun Seong and I – had to cycle out to the main road at Braddell Road, and take a bus to our school at Braddell Rise School. Seong would do the cycling and I would sit at the back with our school bags. We would chain our bicycle to a lamp post or a roadside railing next to a drain; just like many foreign workers do at Taman Jurong.

Even the chain lock in this photo looked similar to the ones we had more than 40 years ago.

Related post: Kampong kids learning to cycle.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Old gadgets quiz #2

My friend Tom Brown sent me three photos of this old beauty. Do you know what it is?

Answer here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Some things never change (8) – HDB Laundry

Judging from the photos that I have received from my foreign friends, visitors to sunny Singapore seem to be fascinated by the rows and rows of laundry hanging from our HDB flats. Below are three such photos from the mid-1960s.

Photo No.1 is from Geoffrey Pain. Photos No. 2 and 3 are from Mike Robbins. The rest are mine – taken recently.

I guess, with our numerous high-rise apartments and ample sunshine, this is the most practical way to dry our clothes. I wonder how people living in similar high-rise apartments in temperate countries dry their laundry. Drying machines?

By the way, can you identify the buildings in the old photos? I have no idea.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A word of advice to the politicians

Nearly a week has passed since the general elections and still I get daily emails and articles about it.

I have always tried to keep Good Morning Yesterday free of political and social issues. Nevertheless, I cannot resist giving a small bit of advice or rather, reminder to the politicians. To quote my favourite platoon sergeant major in OCS, Encik Rahman from more than thirty years ago,:

“Don’t every time say say but never do!”

Monday, May 09, 2011

Answer to Old Gadgets Quiz #1

The gadget featured in Old Gadgets Quiz #1 is the Casio ST1 digital stopwatch cum calculator. The button on the right is the start/stop button and the vertical sliding switch is the mode selector. In calculator mode, you can open the plaster door to access the buttons.

I bought this device primarily for its digital stopwatch function. The year was around 1980 or 81 and I was working as an industrial engineer in Philips Singapore. As IEs, my colleagues and I had to do a lot of time studies in the factory shopfloor. Prior to the arrival of the ST1, we used analogue stopwatches which were really very difficult to use, especially when you were timing short cycle time operations.

In time studies, we often used a technique called Flyback Timing. You first observed an operation and divided it into a series of work elements. Then you would stand next to the production operator and time each of these elements as she worked; using a special stopwatch whereby the hand would actually ‘flyback’ to zero every time you pressed the button, and commence timing the next element immediately. You then had to record the reading and start observing the next element. It required a lot of skill, especially if the work elements are very short – say a few seconds in duration. It is made worse when you had to do what is called Rating; i.e. assessed the working speed of the operation and assign a numerical Rating to it. Strictly speaking you are supposed rate every single element, but often we took the short cut and did one common rating for the entire cycle, especially when we could see that the operator’s working pace was quite steady/consistent.

Those who have not worked in factory before will probably find my explanation difficult to follow. Anyway, let’s just say that it was extremely demanding, and you had to be very alert because if you missed a reading you cannot ask the operator to stop for you. Furthermore, our results were used in very sensitive applications like setting production targets and cost prices. Hence we IEs were not very popular with the girls on the shopfloor. Some of them called us ‘sat yan wong’ (杀人王) which is Cantonese for ‘notorious killers’; because our standards were too tight and the girls had a tough time meeting the targets.

However, with the digital stopwatch, things became much simpler. When the stopwatch is set to LAP-2 mode, every time you pressed the stop/start button, the reading is frozen and you could ‘take your own sweet time’ so to speak to record the reading. Meantime, the clock is reset to zero and starts timing the next cycle/element. Furthermore, it is much easier to remember a numerical reading when it is displayed in digital mode than in analogue mode.

One day my colleague Roger Lee came to office with this Casio ST-1 which he found at a shop in People’s Park Complex paying about $70+ for it. The rest of us in the IE dept were very excited and rushed down after work to buy one for ourselves. The shopkeeper did not know how desperately we wanted this device and was quite happy to sell it to us for about $60+. Apparently there was very low demand for such a specialized device and he was quite happy to make the sale.

A modern stopwatch with dual displays.

PS – I found someone trying to sell the ST-1 on eBay for about £11. That’s even lower than the original price that we paid. No way will I part with my ST-1 at that price.