Monday, April 30, 2012

Memories of Toa Payoh (5) - Toa Payoh Central

I think, but I am not very sure, there used to be 2 cinemas in Toa Payoh Central. (Hope readers can confirm). One was Kong Chian Theatre located at the junction of Toa Payoh Central and Lorong 4; next to the Library. The other was called Toa Payoh Theatre near the present HDB Hub. It was owned by the Eng Wah Group.

I don’t remember seeing any movies at Toa Payoh.  As for Kong Chian, I remember two movies. The first movie was The Ten Commandments. This was probably in the 1980s and I accompanied my mother to watch it. The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner was a very old movie, that I had watched before as a kid. My mother wanted to watch it again. She wanted to enjoy the cool special effects, such as the classic scenes of the parting of the Red Sea and inscription of the 10 commandments onto the two stone tablets by fire. It was a very long show.

The second show that I watched there was Gorillas in the Mist. This was in 1988. I went with my wife and a strange thing happened. Mid-way through the movie she wanted to go home. Do you know why? She was troubled by this scene where the poachers snatched a baby gorilla from its mother. The baby gorilla looked so cute and so pitiful. The scene made her think of our year-old daughter who was home with the maid. Of course we did not (go home), but after that scene she could not concentrate on the movie anymore.

Besides the movie theatres, I remember Toa Payoh Central mainly for the coffee houses which I had blogged about here. There was a hawker centre next to the bus interchange (see photo below; courtesy of National Archives of Singapore) but I did not like to go there. It was crowded, noisy and dirty. Subsequently, after the construction of the Toa Payoh MRT station, they built an air-conditioned food court near the station. I too did not like to eat there for the same reasons. Today that part of Toa Payoh Central has changed drastically.  What hasn’t changed is the noise the and the crowd.

Farewell lunch at Lucky Restaurant

The date was 2nd of March, 1984. It was my second last day at Philips and my colleagues treated me to a farewell lunch at a Chinese restaurant called Lucky Restaurant. It was situated just beside the Kong Chian Theatre in Toa Payoh Central. I believe the building is still there.

 I remember one of my cheeky female colleagues by the name of Mon Yeh, gave me an unusual farewell present. I cannot remember the name for this item. It is small napkin that you hang around a baby’s neck to prevent him for messing up his clothes when he is eating. No need to explain why she chose such a present. They tried to make me put it on, but it was too small.

Unlike many of my friends, I did not like to job-hop. Throughout my career, I have had only 2 big employers, Philips and NPB. The rest of my time, I was running my own business; initially with a partner, and subsequently, until today, on my own. Hence you can see that that farewell lunch at Toa Payoh Lucky Restaurant was a memorable milestone in my life.


Anonymous said...

" It is small napkin that you hang around a baby’s neck to prevent him for messing up his clothes when he is eating"

A bib

ben aka kepalahunter

KG said...

Yes, indeed there were 2 cinemas in Toa Payoh, Kong Chian and Toa Payoh.

The only buildings on the map that have not being modified much are the library and the church at the junction of Toa Payoh Central and Lor 4. Kong Chian underwent a major refurbishment while the Toa Payoh Theatre building was torn down and replaced with a new building (a property company?).

The roundabout is also gone now.

Any idea which year was this map drawn? I still remember the roundabout.

Lam Chun See said...

This map is from 1981 street directory.

Thanks Ben. I thought it sounded like bleep or blip.

Lam Chun See said...

As far as I could remember, this roundabout was the 2nd largest in Spore at that time; after the one at Queenstown.

Joseph Wong said...

Although I lived in Serangoon Gardens up until the mid 80s, I spent a lot of my teen years in Toa Payoh. Back in the 70s, it was the biggest thing near Gardens, in terms of food, recreation, entertainment and shopping. Back then, two buses passed through Gardens to go there: SBS 73 (still do today) and 156. SBS 136 came later after AMK was established (after 1978).

I've seen so many movies at Kong Chian and Toa Payoh theatres that I can't remember any. But I do remember that most of the movies screened there were second-run or third-run movies, after the first-run at town theatres like Lido, Capitol, Cathay, Odean, Orchard etc.

I think Kong Chian screened more Chinese movies than Toa Payoh although I can't be really sure.

Where I lived in Gardens, Paramount Theatre screened mostly third-run or re-runs of old movies.

Toa Payoh has changed quite a bit, and a lot of older buildings are either torn down, re-built or re-furbished. It used to be quite a laid-back place (even with two MRT stations) until HDB moved their HQ there.

MC said...

Does anyone remeber the bus terminus? The waiting area had this 4 or 5 huge, i mean huge round seats. In the middle of each was like a small garden of sorts (bunch of vegetation). Rather iconic I would say.

And to the side nearer to Lor 6 was of course the hawker center.

Lam Chun See said...

Ah …. Paramount Theatre. I have seen so many movies there right till the time we moved out of our kampong in 1974.

Just yesterday, I saw a documentary on SCV (I think it was History Channel) that mentioned the Gun Fight at OK Coral and immediately I thought of the many cowboy movies I saw at Paramount. Names like Richard Widmark, Glen Ford, Robert Taylor and John Wayne sprang to mind. One of the very first things I blogged about when I started Good Morning Yesterday in 2005 was about going to the and of course that included Paramount.

We used to make our own guns and challenged each other to “Go for your gun”.

sgporc said...

I also seem to remember a huge circular fountain in front of the library??? circles seem to be the design theme there... the third photo shows those white circular "pots" holding in the soil for the trees. Those double up as seats, with backrests no doubt...

Anonymous said...

No problem CS..

I know because I have one little person in the house still using it..

Cheers.. (I love your site)


Eileen. 静 said...

I remember eating at that hawker center near the bus interchange.. has super yummy wanton mee! I was born at the old thomson hospital at toa payoh rise.
i used to go lucky restaurant with my family for meals :)