Saturday, December 28, 2013

Old Buildings Quiz #19

Here are 2 buildings built in the 1960s.


No. 1 used to house the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board located at the junction of Dunearn Road and Gilstead Road. When I was studying in ACS in the 1960s, I often walked past this place to get to Newton Circus from where I would take a Tay Koh Yat bus to my home at Lorong Chuan.

No. 2 was a cluster of buildings which housed the SAF Married Quarters at Upper Jurong Road. Located near the junction with Benoi Road, it is today a dormitory for foreign workers – judging from the laundry hanging out to dry when I took that photo a couple of weeks ago. But back in the early 1970s, it was the only sign of civilization in that part of Singapore. For us NS boys serving in SAFTI at that time, the sight of this place and the bright lights of Safti, would cause our spirits to sink right to the floor of the Green Bus no. 175 as it turned the corner of Upper Jurong Road and brought us back every Sunday night to begin another week of drudgery.

My friend and regular guest blogger, Peter Chan, recalls doing guard duty here – which for some strange reason, I never did.

“The SAF Married Quarters guard duty was less exciting except that when it came to food we had this coffee-shop at one of the unoccupied four blocks.  There was one Hokkien Mee food vendor and so you had little choice except to eat many bowls of Hokkien Mee soup. 

Doing prowler duties at Married Quarters was boring. I still can remember one Sunday during SSL I was assigned to Married Quarters duty.  The only sound I could hear by day was our radio set.  By nightfall, there was no sound except crickets.   In our time, the blocks were totally unoccupied so the silence was to be expected.  There was nothing much to do except to read the newspapers over and over again.  The arrival of the lunch ration land Rover from SAFTI only temporarily brought cheers to us.  The one sickening part of doing guard duty at this place was the long walk along old Upper Jurong Road because Married Quarters was outside the SAFTI compound.  We took a good 15 minutes to march in single-file back to SAFTI main gate because of the narrow 2-lane road and on a busy Monday morning at 0700 hours was certainly a bad start to a new week.”

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Ying Fo Fui Kun building at Telok Ayer Street

It was reported in today’s Straits Times that tunneling works for the construction of the Downtown Line had caused cracks to appear in the walls of the Ying Fo Fui Kun building at Telok Ayer Street; a building which was gazetted for preservation as a national monument under the Preservation of Monuments Act in 1998.

Did you know that this building used to be a Chinese school? As it happens, I have a neighbour, Mr Yong, who is a retired teacher; and he graduated from this school in 1954. The name of the school was Ying Xin School (应新学校).

Mr Yong's (at age 13) graduation certificate
I was unable to find out much information about this school until, by a stroke of luck, I stumbled upon an article in an old book that I happened to possess. The book was The Straits Time Bilingual Collection, Vol 1, which I bought in 1982. In it was an article written by Tan Ban Huat entitled, Mandarin becomes the lingua franca of the Chinese here (华语学校,源远流长). The article traced the teaching of Mandarin in Singapore up to the time of the Japanese Occupation; and ended with these words:

“The Japanese Occupation of Singapore saw the temporary setback of Chinese education. However, during the post-war period, Chinese schools mushroomed and by the 1950s, Mandarin had become the lingua franca of the Chinese-educated. By the same token those who could not converse in it were considered uneducated!”

Although the article made no mention of Ying Xin School, it was accompanied by this gem at the end.
Yin Sin - one of the earliest schools to teach Mandarin