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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Loan Sharks

"Parliament to get tough on loan sharks" was the prime news in today's Straits Times, Saturday November 21 2009. Looking back, my school literature book The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare had a money lending story. Shylock was a money lender. He was worst than today's loan shark. He demanded from Anthony, a pound of his flesh instead of the money borrowed.

In 1950s I came across different category of money lenders. To begin with, there was the Bibik (Nonya) money lenders who makan bunga. Makan bunga literally means eat flowers. It actually means gain interest. The Bibik were not from rich family. Most of them were widows or outcasts as depicted in the story of 'Little Nonya' tv show. They were poor and had to support their family. Lending money business gave them flexible time to look after the children as well as seeing clients. A Bibik money lender usually carried an umbrella in her hand while going on her rounds to look for prospective clients and also to collect money from her borrowers. She knew all her borrowers well and lending money was based on trust. My wife's aunt was a widow with a child. Her husband died when the child was still very young. So, she became a money lender to earn interests to feed the family. Mother and child survived on the interest earned until the child was of age to work. Next was the strong arm type of loan sharks. They set up illegal loan companies. I remember one in Joo Chiat area. He was from my kampong and so were all his runners. His borrowers were mostly trishaw riders and street hawkers. In those days borrowers were given the full loan amount. Unlike today, a borrower did not get the full sum as he had to pay upfront for the first installment of the loan. Loan payment then was weekly and there was no harrassment of payment. But when a borrower was 2 weeks in arrears, he was hauled up to the loan company's office and beaten up. He was released only after a stern warning to pay up.

Another type of loan shark was known as 'sapuloh dua'. It means that for every $10 borrowed, $2 interest was charged. Usually the borrowers were white collar workers. In those days we had our salary in cash which was put in an envelope and called 'pay packet'. On pay day, all office workers had to queue up at the cashier's counter to take their pay. But, outside the cashier's office was loan sharks looking eagerly for their clients. Those who wanted to avoid them would collect their pay on another day or when the loan sharks were not around. There was no strong arm method to get payment. But I do not know how the problem was solved between them.

Today's loan sharks used a different method to get their money back. They used unrelenting and ruthless ways of harassment in getting the debtors to pay up. Sometimes innocent people was victimised and private as well as public properties were vandalised.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NAAFI Services Shop Part II

NAAFI Shackle Club 1947
Photo from Peter Chan
The NAAFI Services shop was at Beach Road opposite Raffles Institution (RI) between 1947 and 1952. It's more than half a century ago and only those above 60 years old who had come across the building can remember especially the RI boys.
The building was originally a fleet canteen exclusively for the naval personnel. It was later extended and renovated at a cost of $40,000 to include all British armed forces personnel.

On 2 July 1947 the NAAFI Shackle Club was officially opened by Mrs L H Cox, wife of the G.O.C. Singapore District. She drank beer from an inscribed silver tankard to commemorate the opening of the club.

The Straits Times 2 July 1947

In 1950 the vacant land opposite Raffles Hotel was leased to the British Armed Forces under their organisation NAAFI. They erected a clubhouse and called it Britannia Club which was designed by Palmer and Turner. It was opened on 17 Dec 1952.

Book Ref: Singapore Then & Now by Ray Tyres

ST 10 July 1951

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NAFFI Services Shop Part I

NAAFI Service Shop at Beach Road opposite the Rafffles Institution

Many articles were written about the NAAFI Britannia Club built in 1949 and completed in late 1952 at Beach Road and Bras Basah Road junction. Bloggers such as Laokokok and Lum Chun See had written about the NCO club in their blogs. So far no one has talked about the one opposite the Raffles Institution. This picture was taken in 1952. Enlarge the picture and you'll see the words NAAFI Shop clearly at the arch entrance. The premises was disused then. Could it had moved over to the new building? Was it the first NAAFI Club before the one opposite Raffles Hotel? If so, it deserves a place in the history of NAAFI Club in Singapore.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Seoul Koriea

Migliore and Doosan Tower

On Tuesday 13 October 2009 The Straits Times Life section travel page published an article on Seoul's shopping belt. The places mentioned brought back fond memories of this sleepless city in Korea. In January 2001 we visited our son and his family in Seoul and stayed with him for more than a week. His 3 bedroom apartment was at Libery House at Hanandon which was near the shopping belt. The snowfall had stopped but snow could still be seen in many parts of the city. During our stay we visited Namdaemum, Dongdaemun, Migloire and Doosan Tower. The latter two shopping malls had a few basements with hundreds of locked up stalls in rows facing each other. The passage ways were narrow and we had to jostle with the crowd and push our way through to move on. We ended buying nothing on that day because of the crowd. However, we went back a few times to make purchases. Besides the shopping belt there were places of interests for tourists. We visited the palaces and toured the palace grounds with a guide. We also went to Insa-dong, the art centre. Art works such as painting, ceramics, antiques and souvenirs could be obtained from the shops and roadside stalls.
Itaewon, another shopping area was famous for imitation branded goods especially the luxury leather goods such as handbags, accessories and lugguage. We had a bad experience on the way back. We took a public bus there and expected the bus to return the same way. Instead, the bus ended half way at the bus terminus. We got out of the bus and walked to the main road. Fortunately, I recognised some of the landmarks and walked all the way back the our apartment. Looking back, it was quite an adventure walking and recognising the landmarks.
I learnt of Yongsan Electrical Market and ventured there alone by public bus. The large shopping mall had nothing but electrical products. There were a mix of Korean and Japanese made electrical goods consisted of cameras, tv sets, fans, refreigerators, radios, computers and many others. There were many side roads and all the roadside stalls were selling mainly computer parts with a mix of radios, fans and other smaller items.
As for Korean food we ate from hotel restuarants, home catering, food shops to roadside stalls. All the meals came with a variety of kim chee (Korean pickle). There was a Kim Chee Museum showing more than a thousand different kinds of kim chee. Still, I love our bak chor mee, nasi lemak, laksa, roti prata and other Singapore food.
We had another adventure on the way to Seoul International Airport. That morning it was snowing heavily. Due to the traffic congestion we arrived at the airport just in time. Unfortunately, we were at the wrong airport terminal. We had to take an airport bus to the other terminal. Time had been wasted waiting for the bus and by the time we arrived, the SIA flight had taken off. We waited for 12 hours at the airport for the next flight home as all flight in and out of the airport had stopped because of the heavy snowfall. What an experience! It was also my first time seeing snow falling like cotton from the sky.

Liberty House

Changdeohgung Palace

Palace ground

Hyatt Hotel children playground

Namdaemun (South Gate)

Namdaemun market place

Dongdaemun (East Gate)

Dongdaemun market place

Doosan Tower



At a hotel restuarant

Street stall

Yongsan Electrical Market

Slept at airport while waiting for the flight

Seoul Internation Airport carparks

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lantern Festival

I remember the lantern festival as a kid. We would gather around to light our lanterns before walking round the block. I had problem lighting my lantern and often burned them. Each time my grandma would buy me a replacement. During the festival lanterns of all shapes and colours were displayed for sale at most streets and corners. The common ones were in the shape of a ball and cockerels.

Now it is our turn to buy lanterns for the grandchildren to celebrate the mid autumn festival.
The festival is not complete without the moon cakes. Hotels and well known restuarants still made the traditional moon cakes. But at the cake shops there are so many colourful moon cakes of different shapes and sizes.

The Lantern Festival is not only for Chinese kids. It has become international as far as our neighbourhood is concerned as can be seen in the pictures below.

My grandson

Lantern Festival for all races

Kids with lanterns going round the blocks

A magic show rounded up the festival

Thursday, October 1, 2009

John Wayne

Recently I was on holidays in California. Along the highway to St Diego there were many overhead directional signboards. One of them showed the way to John Wayne Airport. I was told that the airport was originally known as Orange County Airport. It was renamed in 1979 as John Wayne Airport in remembrance of him. To commemorate the renaming of the airport, a nine-foot bronze statue of John Wayne aka the Duke was installed at the airport on November 4 1982.

Signboard showing the direction to John Wayne Airport

John Wayne Airport Diagram

John Wayne Bronze Statue

In US I saw many black and white classic movies in the tv including those acted by John Wayne. He was an actor who wore many hats. He acted as a Yangkee soldier, a sherrif, a fighter pilot, a marine corps, a bookie, French Foreign Legion and many others. Altogether he appeared in more than 150 movies.

I went shopping at Walmart and was lucky to find a classic collection of John Wayne dvd. In the pack was 4 dvd discs with a total of 25 classic movies. Included was a bonus of 80 minutes showing John Wayne movie trailers spanning his colourful career. The pack of 4 discs cost me US$5.00 only. I tried to get for friends but it was the only one left.

A Town Sherrif

A Bookie

French Foreign Legion

A Yangkee soldier

US Navy Officer

US Army General

A Fighter Pilot

Friday, September 25, 2009

Teaser 7

The handsome guy above was a famous actor and an icon in Hollywood. He acted many black and white movies before the war. He became famous only after the war. The above picture was taken from his 1933 movie. Most of you out there have seen his movies. Who is he?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Handkerchief (saputangan in Malay)

As a decorative accessory for a suit pocket
He still carries a handkerchief
Photo with his permission

Man carried a handkerchief in his pocket and a lady had one in her handbag. That was some time ago. Handkerchief is made of materials such as cotton, silk, linen or synthetic fabric. Man's handkerchief is 18 inches square and is either plain or with printed designs. A lady's handkerchief is smaller and is plain, lace or with embrodery. Handkerchief has brand and the most popular was Pyramid brand a product of Tootle.

A handkerchief was commonly used to wipe the face or blow the nose. When a person got a cold and sneezed continously his handkerchief would be soaking wet and was most unhygienic.
It was also used for the following purposes:
1 To wipe away sweats or drops of tears.
2 As a decorative accessory in a suit pocket.
3 To chope (reserve) seat in a cinema by tying it on the seat handle
4 Waving a handkerchief to bade farewell or good-bye
5 Waving a white handkerchief as an indication to surrender.
6 As a tourniquet for the wounded and others

I used a handkerchief until the second half of 1970. Initially I felt awkward to change to paper handkerchief or tissues. After some time I got used to it. Now I carry packet tissues in my pocket. An 80 year old friend still carries a handkerchief in his pocket as in the picture above.

Superstitious Chinese do not give handkerchief as a gift to a friend or relative. It means good-bye, farewell or parting forever.

There is a very popular Indonesian love song called 'Saputangan' or handkerchief. Elderly Peranakans love to sing it. Click here to listen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teaser 6

Do you recognise this Tootal product? Guess what is inside the box. Many surely knows the answer. So, there is no clue. I shall be blogging about this article after this.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Teaser 5

Above is a map of mid 1950. The road name has been erased so as
not to give away the location.

Where is the New City Theatre located?

1 The building is no longer a theatre now.
2 The area has been transformed beyond recognition now.
3 More than one blogger has posted about this place.

In 1963 development of the area district centre was started by the Housing & Development Board. It had a few apartment blocks, shops and a market cum hawker centre. However the building that housed New City Theatre was not affected. The movie house changed its name twice. The building is still standing today but has changed trade.
Laokokok has blocked on this particular place including the theatre. Click here if you want to know the answer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ukuleles Strike Chord In US


Recently in Los Angeles Times I came across the article on Ukuleles and I remember Unk Dicko, the ukuleles man back home. In June 2009 he participated in the Active Ageing Exhihibition playing his favourite ukuleles with two others here. This little musical instrument has made a come back in US for the last few years and is gaining popularity now. Demand for hand made ukuleles has exceeded supply and the waiting lists stretching out more than a year. Each costs between a few hundred dollars to US$3,000. The cheap ones mass produced from China costs about US$30 each.

A former Beatle George Harrison was well known in the uke circles before his death in 2001. The article stated that his bandmate Paul McCartney reignited the public's fascination by playing the instrument in the 2002 tribute Concert for George and in other performances.
Will ukuleles strike a chord in Singapore too? This is a good opportunity for Unk Dicko to take the lead to form an Ukuleles Circle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Teaser 4

Old Western Cowboy Town

Can you guess what movie scene is it?


1) The movie is a 1952 western production

2) The town Marshall was forced to face a gang of killers by himself

3) The co-star in the movie was Grace Kelly

Our senior citizens should have no problem with the answer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nostalgic TV Programmes

Many of us grew up with movies and tv series. When we see the shows repeated on the tv or cinema screen after a long time, our minds would flashed back to the good old days. In Singapore we seldom have 40 to 50 years movie or tv repeats, especially those in black and white. Here in US you are able to watch them daily.

I saw Little House on the Prairie. The characters in the story were Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura and baby Carie. I remember John Landon who acted as the father and Melissa Gilbert as Mary. I quickly made a search on my son's tv which has more than a hundred channels. Fortunately, it did not take me long to find out the channels that showed old movies or tv series such as The Beverly's HILLIBILLIES, Gunsmoke, MASH and many others.

Those who had seen black and white tv in the old days would remember The Beverly's HILLBILLY'. The family consisted of uncle Jed and his mother, young man Jethro and the girl called Jane. It was a great comedy show then.

The above picture is from Gunsmoke. The man on the left is the Marshall from Dodge City

MASH was another popular comedy in bygone days. I am sure most of you had seen the series could remember the above characters.