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Sunday, February 3, 2008

No 73 Joo Chiat Road (continue)

I grew up at No 73 Joo Chiat Road. The best time for me then was before WWII. I was below school going age and had a carefree life with no stress and worry, and everything was taken care of by the adults. I like to play marbles, hide and seek and spinning disused bicycle wheel (wheel frame without spokes) with a bamboo stick. I could keep the wheel going for a long distance without it falling to the ground. It took some skills to balance the wheel and to change directions, either to the left or to the right and also on non metal road where the ground was rough and undulating. I also liked to play spinning top (gasing in Malay) and challenged with friends to see whose top could spin longer. But I disliked playing striking match because it was dangerous. Each player tried to knock out his opponent's top with his own. While doing so, it could accidently hit somebody instead. Having played with friends the whole day, I usually returned home with my clothes dusty and dirty.

Left to right: My elder brother, I and my parents.

Before WWII, the people who lived in the house were my two grandmothers, my uncle and an aunt (from second grandmother), my parents, my elder brother and me. My four younger sibblings were not yet born. Grandfather lived nearby along the same road with third grandmother. He came to the house occasionally for visits. I remembered going to Happy World amusement park with my parents. The park was a popular entertainment place for adults and children in the eastern part of Singapore. It had a mixture of both the western and the easterm entertainments such as Chinese opera, bangsawan(peranakan opera), cinemas for Chinese and English movies, a caberet and a joget(dance) also called ronggeng. Ronggeng was like a caberet. The different was that it had an open dance stage with Malay dance girls. Dancing with the girls were paid for in the form of coupons. Malay dance music was provided and sometimes accompanied by singers. There were gaming, shops and photo studios in the amusement park. The photo above was taken at one of the studios. At the centre of the park was an indoor covered stadium for sports matches such as boxing, wrestling, and basket ball. In 1952 it was the venue for the world badminton championship, The Thomas Cup. I was a scout and our troop was asked to be on duty as ushers and I watched the matches free. I felt very proud when we won the Cup.

Towards the end of 1941 I registered for primary school in Choon Guan English School at Koon Seng Road. But, World War II had already started. On 8 December 1941 Japan invaded Malaya (now West Malaysia) and on the same day dropped the first bomb in Singapore. The people got panic and many evacuated from town and suburban areas to the rural areas where it were safer.
My grandfather had a rubber estate in Chai Chee, Changi and he moved all his families there.

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