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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cattle Sheds

In my growing up years I came across three cattle sheds. All cattle shed then was just a shed without pen and the animals were on the loose. The ground had cow dung everywhere and was smelly. Walking pass the cattle shed need some skill to avoid stepping onto the animals’ wastes. On a rainy day the ground was wet and soggy.

A cattle shed

I came across the first cattle shed at Changi between Chai Chee Village and my grandpa’s rubber estate where we live during the Japanese invasion of Singapore. My parents continued to live there after the war. Each time I visited them I had to negotiate my way through the cattle shed as the pathway was full of cow dung. Very often I stepped onto the dung. Walking near the cattle could be quite frightening for a small kid as the animals were roaming freely and dislike anyone walking close to them.

                           This cow dislikes the lady looking at her

My second encounter with a cattle shed was during school days at Lorong J Telok Kurau where my school was located. Fortunately the cattle shed was sited further in the lorong and I need not passed by it on the way to school.

My last encounter was a cattle shed at Potong Pasir when I was working as a Health Inspector. I visited the cattle shed on official business, that was to serve summons to the vendors for selling adulterated fresh cow milk. The cattle shed was dirty and smelly. There was no place to sit.
I tried to get out of the place as soon as possible but it took some time to find the milk vendor to hand him the summons.

Adulteration of fresh milk
Some of the milk vendors were cattle owners themselves. After getting the fresh milk they went to a public standpipe to add water to the milk and pour them into bottles for sale. We knew their modusoperandi and laid an ambush down the road very early in the morning.

All milk vendors rode bicycles. Their bottled milk were kept in pockets of a canvas saddle bag hung on the bicycle cross bar. As each vendor approached us, we showed up, stopped him and identify ourselves. I bought a bottle of fresh milk from him and informed him that a sample of the milk would be send to the lab to check for adulteration.  I divided the milk content in the bottle in 3 equal parts into 3 smaller bottles. The cap of each bottle was sealed with sealing wax and a department chop over it. I took down his personal particulars in case I needed to summons him. One part of the milk was given to the vendor. One part was sent to the  lab to check for adulteration. I kept one part in the office. When the lab result showed the milk was adulterated, the vendor could contest by sending his part of the milk to a private lab for checking. The offenders usually pleaded guilty.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tiger Balm Garden

Haw Par Villa (虎豹別墅 Hǔ Bào Biéshù) is Singapore's theme park at Pasir Panjang Road. It has more than a thousand statues showing scenes of Chinese mythology and Confucius teachings.
Haw Par Villa's original name was Tiger Balm Gardens, built in 1937 by 2 Chinese brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par
In 1988 the park was handed over to Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. It was renamed Haw Par Villa Dragon World and a fee was charged for each entry. The park's present name is Haw Par Villa and admission is free.
Shirley Ee Jia Xin

Hello everyone, my name is Shirley and I'm with the Singapore Tourism Board. Here's a preview of the Haw Par Villa tour for Reliving HPV, conducted by Jeya from Journeys! Because you are Belinda Tan's kakis, extending my invitation for you to come for a special preview at 9.30 am, 16th March? 
(above invitation is quoted from Facebook)

I signed up for the 16th March tour but I went to Haw Par Villa on  9 March 2014 which was a week earlier. I waited and waited for more than half an hour and nobody showed up. Then I realised my mistake. Anyway, my visit was not wasted. I took photos and reminisce the past as I past each gallery.

Fast rewind: In 1951 I took a friend from Malacca to Haw Par Villa, a place full of Chinese myth. I was so proud to show him our places of interest. Furthermore, he was able relate with the mythical Chinese story depicted by the various statues lining up on the side of the footway. Each group of statues had a story to unfold. For Madam White Snake, it is about filial peity. It's 'unity' for  Xuan Zang and his three disciples – Monkey God, Pigsy and Sand Monk.
As we were walking up the slope towards the arch, suddenly I heard voices from our group "take picture here" pointing to the arch. The group picture at the arch is now very precious to me as it holds fond memory of 6 decades.

                                         Haw Par Villa Gateway 1951

We took more pictures along the way. I remember the statues with the mythical story of "Journey To The West". The spider demons transformed  themselves into beautiful women, was tempting the monk Xuan Zang . At that time the female statues were naked.  Now they are all dressed up. Another scene showed the mermaids sunbathing in the pond. Fishes with eyes wide open were feasting on their naked body. The mermaids are now above ground sunbathing in peace without the fish staring at them.

                                  Fish with large eyes looking at the mermaids

My last fond memory of the villa was the statues of naked women together having a bath. They are still there but no longer naked.

                              Nude women with different poses

Above 3 photos were taken in 1951. Photos below were taken during my visit 
on 9 Mar 2014.

Compare the difference between the 3 black and white photos with the 3 coloured ones.
Look at the English words written on the arch. In 1951 the words were 'Tiger Balm  Garden'. Now it is Haw Par Villa. As for the Chinese characters, there were five characters before but now it has only four characters Hu Bao Bieshu. The mermaids in the pool had moved and are now above ground without the fish staring at them. The women bathing together were naked then. Now there are covered.

                                     Mermaids sunbathing

                                   Yellow Culture made them dressed up

Normally I am not free on a Sunday and therefore unlikely to go there next week. I shall miss the opportunity to meet Belinda and her kakis. See you some other time Belinda!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jingle On The Way

Above is Robinsons Departmental Store advertisement. Santa Claus is coming to town (Robinsons Store). He will meet and greet children of all ages. It is the seasons for toys. At Orchard there is light up at night for the festive seasons. Many adults especially the senior citizens in organised groups went to town to feast their eyes on the light up and street decorations.

Fast backwards about 45 years ago, there was no light up at Orchard Road. The largest departmental stores Robinsons and John Little were at Raffles Place and the small ones like Metro was at High Street. The attraction for children then was at Raffles Place. Children went there to see Santa Claus riding a reindeer sledge loaded with gifts. (see photos below). Those who visited the two departmental stores were mostly 'ang moh' and the upper class Singaporeans. The toys were made in Europe or US. and were expensive. Furthermore, there were not many Christians then. Today, Christians as well as non Christians celebrate Christmas.

In 1968 I took my two eldest children to Raffles Place to see Santa Claus riding a reindeer sledge. My kids like to touch and run around the exhibits. They also went into the sledge and sat besides Santa Claus. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos. They are good for the Singapore Memory Project.

                                         Background building is John Little

Christmas is just around the corner and every year my family celebrates the festive seasons. It is also a family gathering for us. We have a Santa Claus giving out lots of present to the kids and adults at every Christmas. We shall sing Christmas carols to be followed by a sumptuous dinner. Below are some of the photos video clips taken last Christmas.

singing Christmas carols
                                                                       presents for all

our maids having fun 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Singapore Airshow


The above article about Singapore Airshow to showcase aviation’s best reminds me of Singapore’s first Airshow at Paya Lebar Airport which was a humble beginning. I browsed through Singapore Airshow websites as well as Paya Lebar Airport websites  for more informations on Singapore’s first Airshow at Paya Lebar Airport but there was nothing.

I remembered visiting an Airshow at Paya Lebar Airport with my colleagues in the early 1960s. We worked on grave yard shift and went to the airshow after lunch on a week day. It was a bright and sunny day. There was no crowd although admission was free. Air travel was costly then. Therefore people had no interest in the airshow. Furthermore, it was a working day.

The planes exhibited were mostly commercial planes from airlines of different countries. Fokker Friendship a turboprop airliner built by Dutch aircraft manufacturer was one of the main attraction. I was told that Singapore Airline had purchased some for its fleet. British made plane Commet was at the show. Australia Qantas Airways was there too.

We took some black and white pictures as Kodak coloured films was expensive. Processing the film and printing coloured photos in Australia only added to the cost.
 Pose beside a British fighter plane

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Taman Jurong 20 years later

Taman Jurong in 1970s

In 1974 I was working in Jurong and my office was at Block 107 Corporation Road. It was a two storey shophouse. There were altogether 10 such blocks  plus 4 blocks of high rise residential flats. The blocks of flats No 63 to No 66 were in a diamond shape formation.  At the center of the 4 blocks was a supermart. The area was bounded by Corporation Road/Yung Kuang Road/Corporation Drive/Yung Sheng Road.

                                                               Taman Jurong in 1970s

I remembered the UOB Bank at Blk 106 where I got my first credit card. It was a classic credit card. A few years later UOB Bank upgraded my classic card to a gold card for no apparent reason and it was free. Another memorial incident was with the Citi Bank at Blk 108. I invested in foreign exchange and was assigned a personal consultant who explained to me the high interest rate and the risk involved. I was new to foreign exchange investment but was tempted by the high interest rate. In less than a year that country revalued its currency  twice. The bank consultant never call to warn me. By the time I withdrew from the investment, I suffered a great loss. It was a costly lesson.
The supermart at the diamond block is NTUC FairPrice. It is one of the oldest, or perhaps the oldest NTUC FairPrice  supermart in Singapore. It was originally known as Pioneer Industrial Employees Union (PIEU) supermart. The Head of the union was Phay Yew Kok.  He was wanted for cheating but he absconded and disappeared completely.

Recently I took a walk down memory lane in Taman Jurong. I retired 20 years ago and I took a bus to the place where I had fond memory. Bus No 98 from Jurong East Bus Interchange stopped at Corporation Drive in front of Block 116/117. I looked across the road and could not find familiar landmarks. In fact, I was disorientated. There was block No 101 but where were the remaining blocks. Then I realized that the present Block No 101 was a new building. I remembered the old Blk 101 together with other blocks of 2 storey shophouses and the diamond shaped blocks of high rise flats were on the opposite side across Yung Sheng Road

                                              Diamond shape building Block 63 & 64
                                             Diamong shape building Block 65 & 66

                                                Multi-storey carparks

                                                Multi-storey carparks

                                                  High rise flats under construction

In fact, the present Blk 101 has occupied the site of former Shaw Taman Jurong Theatre. Behind the theatre was the 15 stalls hawker centre. There was also a Toto booth by itself. It was operated by an Indian hawker. The food centre has been replaced by a 2 storey market and food centre. Facing Yung An Road was Jurong Town Community Centre. The community centre building has also been upgraded to a larger building and is now known a Taman Jurong Cummunity Club.

Next I was looking  for block 107 where my office was located. I remembered the building was opposite Taman Jurong Stadium. I walked to Corporation Road and found the stadium. Opposite the stadium across Corporation Road were new blocks of building under construction. They  blocked the view of my former office block of shophouses. I looked up and saw the high rise diamond shaped flats. I was confidence then that I was at the right place. I went towards the tall buildings but could not find a single 2 storey shophouses. They had been demolished and replaced by new high rise flats and multi storey carparks.    
The high rise diamond shaped flats and the NTUC FairPrice Supermart were still there

During my visit,  I managed to cover only 2 areas. I hope to go back to Jurong to make new discoveries another time.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Nullar Road

Old photographs evoke fond memories especially to the older folks such as I. Recently I viewed some photos of my children at Nallur Road. My memory switched to 1960s like a time machine. At that time my wife's parents were living there in a bungalow with a large compound. The main building was built on stilts. It had a living room and 2 large bedrooms, one on each side of the centre passageway. A staircase at the side of the building led to the living room. Another staircase was at the back of the building led to the kitchen and wash area. It was the standard design of a single storey house in flood prone area.

My in-laws' house became a day care home for my kids. Every morning I deposited my children with them and in the evening after dinner I took them home. It became a routine. I started with 2 children, then 3 and finally 4. When my third child arrived I employed a maid as a helper. She was from the nearby fishing village.

My children liked the wide open ground where they played, jumped, cycled and run about. I bought them a bicycle each and a dog to keep them company. I also installed a swing that could sit four persons.

The teenager maid helped to look after my kids

                                                 My wife played with the kids

                                                 Cycling in the wide open compound

My growing up years was with my grandma. My dad seldom visited me and I did not experience a father's love. It was a good lesson. I put it to good use. After office time I played with my kids to be close to them and to establish family bonding. The beach at the end of Nullar Road was about 100 metres away. It was a narrow strip and completely covered with water on high tide. On week-ends when the tide was low I took them there to play- build sand castle, dig sea shells, and walked along the beach to pick up shells and pebbles.

Nullar Road beach was not popular with outsiders because of its narrow beach and the sea water was dirty and polluted. Nearby was a  large sewer pipe that discharged dirty water and rubbish into the sea.

                                         My children digging sands at the beach  

                                 Sewer pipe discharging dirty water into the sea

Nullar Road then was a narrow strip of dead end road suitable for 2 motor cars to pass in opposite directions. There was few houses as most of them were bungalows with large compound. Cars were cheap without COE but not every house had a car. Therefore, the road was quite safe for kids to play and cycle with adult supervision.

                                         My children cycling on the road

I remember the Good Shepherd Convent Kindergarten at Nullar Road. It had a chain-lined fence. the building was facing the sea but entry to the premises was from a gate at Nullar Road. On the opposite side across the road was Tan Lark Sye's holiday house. Facing the sea was a concrete wall fence with a gate and a staircase that led to the beach.

On 16.08.2013 I went to memory lane at Nullar Road to see the changes. Nullar Road has been widen to a four lane carriageway. Almost all the old houses have disappeared. They are replaced by apartment blocks and terraced houses. The Good Shepherd Convent Kindergarten is still at the same site but has lost its sea view due to land reclamation. The beach is now Marine Parade Road and building blocks have taken the place of the sea. New buildings occupy Tan Lark Sye's holiday house. Part of the wall fence is still there. The old staircase that once led to the beach is also intact. The stretch of wall fence that acted as a sea wall reminded me that the beach and the sea were once there.

                                Kindergarten building at background on the left

                                         Old wall fence with a gate and staircase
                                         The grassy ground has replaced the beach

                                          Nallur Road facing the sea then

                               Nallur Road facing Marine Parade Road now.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Eat To Live

Belinda Tan on behalf of The National Museum of Singapore had kindly invited me to the launch of the DVD, Eat To Live: Wartime Recipes with screening of two episodes Food as Power & Control and Living off the Land. Launching of the DVD was held at the Natioal Museum Gallery Theatre this morning (Fri 7th June 2013). I watch the screening. Some of the scenes and recounts by those who went through the era evoked my memories of the war years. While my mind is still sound I would like to share my experience of those years to others.

When the war reached our shores, I was only six years old. My grandpa moved all his family members to live in his rubber estate at Chai Chee, Changi. The countryside then was considered a safer place than the built up area in Joo Chiat. His rubber factory smoke house and the labourers' quarters were converted into dwelling. We lived in the double storey smoke house while the rest of the family lived in the labourers' quarters a few metres away down the slope.

Grandpa also brought along a lot of provisions such as bags rice, flour, sugar, salt and other basic needs. After a few months our provision stocks got less. Fortunately, we did not expect the war to end soon. My mother had already started a small plot of vegetable garden on our land. She planted tapioca, sweet potatoes and assorted vegetables. She had two pig pens for pigs and a chicken coop for poultry.

As time went by we had to supplement our rice with tapioca, sweet potatoes or yam. We need not have to buy the tuber but just pull them out from the ground in the farm. My mother also substituted tapioca leaves, sweet potato leaves and sayu paki ( a wild plant grew by the road side) for vegetables and when cooked with sambal chilly they were excellent. In the market there were dried uncooked sweet potato sticks and yam stick like French fries for sale. Because of rice rationing they became good supplement.

For protein, we had meat from pig and poultry. The pigs kept by my mum were for sale. We bought pork from the market. Before the war eating chicken was a treat. It was eaten only on festivals and celebrations. During Japanese time we could have chicken meal anytime. My mum was very good at cooking sapor chicken rice.

My elder brother was working in a Japanese camp nearby. He left every morning to work but came back with a packet of white cooked rice and a tin of freshly brewed hot black coffee. It appeared that the villagers worked for the Japanese because of the rice and coffee. They were rare commodities. We were a family kopi O. So everybody was waiting for my brother to return home with a tin of coffee. Funny, rice was scarce and nobody made a fuss when he came home with a packet of cooked white rice.

After the invasion and the Japanese administration was stable my grandpa and all his famiy members moved back to live in Joo Chiat. My parents and my sibblings stayed backed except me. My grandma wanted me to be with her. At Joo Chiat there were many hawkers. Job was hard to come by and becoming a hawker was the easiest way to make a living. There were many cigarette make shift stalls. Two empty crates were used as a stand. Cigarettes were displayed on shelves for sale. I remembered the two famous brand - kwa and minami. Kwa was a better brand and cost more.

One door away from my house was an unnamed lane. Every morning both sides of the lane were lined with hawkers selling fish, pork, vegetables etc although two wet markets, Joo Chiat Market and Changi Market were nearby. The fish was very fresh as they came from the fishing stakes nearby Marine Parade as well as from the fishermen in their sampans. I saw at first hand live fish with their gills moving and gasping for air. I also saw live sea horse, crabs and other sea creatures. I did not know where the butchers got their supply of pork. But for vegetables they came from vegetable farms at Ubi. Singapore was fortunate for its small size and also as an island. Therefore, there was no shortage of seafood. For cooking, coconut oil was used. We had coconut trees and my mum made her coconut oil. I had seen her made and it was not difficult.

I remembered there were rationing of bread and noodles at Changi Market. My grandma handed me a ration card and told me to buy the bread. At another occasion I was told to buy the noodles. Each time a different item was on sale for ration card holders. I queue up for the bread although there was a long line. When it was my turn to buy one, I was happy that they still had stock. My happiness was short lived. Our NS boys complained of Safti bread in the 1970s. The rationed bread was worse. It was hard as a rock. When thrown to the ground it did not bounce. I had no idea what kind of flour was used. I had tasted bread made of green beans. It was not bad. Perhaps they were from different bakeries. As for the noodles, it looked like today's yellow round noodles but was coated with palm oil. That spoilt the taste.

The rice we got from ration were broken rice mixed with tiny sands, stones and insects. Before cooking we had to remove all the non rice items. It was not possible to buy whole grain rice, sugar and imported food from the provision shop except by black market. The items were sold at outrages prices.  In Joo Chiat my uncle was working for the Japanese. He too brought back cooked rice and black coffee home after work.

I must admit that our family did not suffer much during the Japanese Occupation. We were able to get by. But, many others had sad stories to tell. The three and a half years of Japanese rule was like a dream. It is now Singapore's history.