Jalan Batu HDB Estate
I like to go back in time for it evokes fond memories of yester-year. The time was more than fifty years ago in 1962 when I moved to Tanjong Rhu HDB estates. There were 6 blocks of 10 storey 3 room rental flats neatly arranged in a row. One side of the flat faced Mountbatten Road (see map). There were 12 units at each level. The ground floor had no void deck. Each block had only one lift at the centre with a staircase. Block 1 was reserved for police officers and Block 2 to 6 were let out to the public. A couple of years later HDB decided to sell the flats and gave priority to sitting tenants. The sale price was $6.200 per unit. I bought my unit 149-J Jalan Batu which was at level ten. In those days each floor level had an alphabet denoting each level. It started with letter 'A' for ground floor and 'B' for second floor and so on. Letter J instead of letter I was used for level ten.
Map of Jalan Batu HDB Estate
A 3-room flat had only 2 bedrooms. My one year old daughter had one room to herself. Then came a son, followed by a daughter and another son. I bought 2 double deck beds for 4 of them. Climbing to the upper deck to sleep was quite fun to the two older children.
Tanjong Rhu HDB estate had a 2 storey wet market cum food centre. A basket-ball court between Block 7 & 8. Jalan Batu was an access road between Kampong Arang Road and Kampong Kayu Road. The blocks with double digit numbers were all one room rental flat. There was no four or five room flat then.
Children playing at common corridors and staircases
The estate had no playground and children played at common corridors as well as at the side staircases. Kallang Park was nearby and during week-ends I drove them there to play the swings, merry-go-rounds, slides, sand pit, wading pool etc. Every Tuesday night there was pasar malam (night market) at Jalan Batu. There were a variety of goods and food stalls. Every stall was crowded with people haggling for a good bargain. I could feel the festive atmosphere among the crowd. Most of the residents liked pasar malam and looked forward to Tuesday night.
There was kampong spirit at Tanjong Rhu HDB estate. They were not only friendly but also helpful too. Our doors were seldom closed. Children moved freely to each others flat. They also helped to look after our children when needed.
I remembered all my neighbours. An Indian family lived beside the lift. The man’s young sister-in-law had a Chinese boy friend. Next to him was a Chinese couple with a daughter. The little girl's father was a bus conductor. My immediate neighbour had 2 children. Their father worked in the postal service. The other immediate neighbour was a police inspector. His brother was a teacher. I entrusted my 2 older children with the teacher for outings. The neighbour at the end of the block owned a fancy fish shop. His flat had many fish tanks with colourful fishes. My children like to admire the fishes and visited the neighbour a few times a day.
On Tuesday 4th November 2014 I paid a nostalgic visit to Tanjong Rhu HDB estate. I was looking for the ‘lo mee’ stall in the food centre to have my lunch. The hawker stall was not there anymore. All the stallholders were new to me. I remembered there was a coffee shop at Block 8. After lunch I walked there but could not find it. Many shops had changed trade. But the famous Tanjong Rhu ‘pau’ shop was still at Block 8.
The Jalan Batu link road between Kampng Arang Road and Kampong Kayu Road had been converted into a walkway. The basket ball court is now a mini amphitheatre with a circular pool in the center. There were many covered walk ways. Tanjong Rhu HDB estate had indeed changed since I moved out in 1975.
My former home at No 149J
I went up to my former flat unit No. 10-149 (then 149-J) at level 10. I found the door and windows closed. On further inspection I noticed more than 90 percent of the flats had their doors and windows closed too. Perhaps it was due to security. Thinking backwards, I remembered we used to sit at the common corridors chatting with neighbours and also with those at the opposite block. As hearing was difficult because of the distance we used sign language with our hands. We laughed trying to make the opposite neighbours understand our body language. Those were the days.