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Monday, September 17, 2012

Moon Cakes

This year's Mooncake Festival reminded me of an article in the Straits Times Wednesday 20 September 2010 heading "Bribery? It's a piece of mooncake". Packaging inside the mooncake boxes could be found gold bars, expensive watches and jewelleries. It was also an excuse to build business relationship to gain favours between business associates. The bottom line is corruption.

In Singaopore the traditional mooncake came in a box of 4 mooncakes. Then the mooncakes started to have different colours and flavours such as green (pandan), purple (yam), orange and white. Still, the contents inside were green been paste with one/two egg yolks or no egg yolk at all.

In 2012 the world economy is not doing very well and the mooncake packaging has gone back to basic. It would be interesting to see the return of inovative packaging like in 2010.

                     Lady handbags

  Jewellery box mooncakes

     Double mooncake box

 Drawer box mooncakes

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gypsy Dance 1960s

Gypsy Dance at Bethesda Kindergarten

I was searching for some old photos and came across the above picture. My daughter was in K2 Bethesda Kindergarten at Frankel Estate. It was her class graduation day and parents were invited. Before the presentation of Graduation Certificate, her class performed a gypsy dance as in the above picture. This photo was taken in the mid 1960. My daughter is 3rd from the left. I hope to bring fond memories to the girls who are now very close to 50 years old or older. I believe they are mothers and one or two might even be grandmothers.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jalan Besar Heritage Trail

On Saturday 4th August 2012 Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts launched the Jalan Besar Heritage Trail at City Square Mall. I met fellow blogger Lam Chun See as he was coming out of the stage enclosure. He was there as an invited guest. Anyway both of us had fond memories of the area. The quotation below is from him.

Chun See wanted to turn back the clock  and was trying to locate the former New World Amusement Park side gate so as to have another free entry. I remember the side gate entrance and tried to get my bearing. There was an open canal running along the side of the amusement park. A wooden bridge across the canal led to the side gate. The other end of the bridge led to the carpark. We looked around and found the open canal had been covered up with concrete. Part of it is now a walkway starting from Jalan Besar. The other half is a driveway and is named Kitchener Link. I could roughly guess the position of the side gate entrance and pointed it out to Chun See.

                                                 View from Jalan Besar
                                    open canal concreted over to form a walkway

                          The side gate entrance was at the end of Kitchener Link

I walked along French Road and then to Jalan Besar to see the buildings that have replaced the three abattoirs before proceeding to City Square Mall for the opening ceremony of the Jalan Besar Heritage Trail. Then my memories flashed back to the abattoir days and the job I was doing.

                                         Picture Story of Pig Abattoir
                                                    Photo from PICAS
                       Pigs brought by butchers were kept in the abattoir pig pens

                                                    Photo from PICAS
                                      Meat Inspector examing pig carcasses

                                                     Photo from PICAS
                           carcasses found fit for human consumption were branded

                                          Picture Story of Cattle Abattoir

                                                    Photo from PICAS 
                                       cattle brought to the abattoir for slaughter

                                                             Photo from PICAS
                                      skinning the cattle carcass before inspection

                                                       Photo from PICAS
                        I was inspecting the cattle carcass with the help of a labourer

                                                      Photo from PICAS
                               I was removing the localised infected part of the meat

                                                        Photo from PICAS
                                        cutting open the cattle liver for inspection

The three photos from the National Archives of Singapore surprised me. I did not expect to see pictures of myself doing meat inspection. I was not aware when the photos were taken in 1964.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Blood Donation

The Straits Times 18 July 2012 published an article "Bloodbank gets boost on SPH Red Apple Day" The above article reminded me of an appeal by The Free Press dated 5 July 1955 with the opening sentence "Your blood may save a life".

I was then working in the City Council and the appeal for blood donation went to all the departments. The response was good for many of the staff signed up. One week later a mobile blood collection unit arrived at City Council. It was formed in 1949 to enable donors to give blood near their homes or at their workplaces. A year later the Singapore Blood Transfusion Service (SBTS) began giving out certificates, badges and  medals to recognise its regular donors.

The SBTS took 100cc of blood from each donor as stated in the Free Press. But in my case, because I had blood group "B" which was very rare and most useful to save life,  more than twice the amount  (220 cc) of blood was taken from me. I donated blood to save lives and also to find out my blood group. As a blood donor I was given a certificate which showed my name, blood group and the amount of blood donated.

Later when there was an appeal, I went directly to SBTS  to donate blood and was given a can of beer or stout to drink at each visit. I understand SBTS had stopped giving free beer/stout to donors sometime ago.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kung Fu Koyoke


Two koyoke men who worked in pairs.

Heat up to soften the koyoke

Apply the koyoke on the affected part of the body                           

In the 1950s I like to watch kung fu men selling Chinese medicine and black plaster. They were always in pair. One man would advertise and boast about his medicine while other beat the gong at intervals. Koyoke was a black plaster made from herbs. It relieved all sorts of muscle pains including sprained ankle. A fresh koyoke could be used straight away. If kept a few days, it needed to be heated up to soften and then applied to the affected part of the body.

I liked to watch the kung fu men promoting their merchandise. It was usually held at busy places such street corners, vacant lands and wayang sites. They set up stall by beating the gong repeatedly to attract people. When a crowd was form the medicine one of them performed some kung fu steps and introduced his merchandise. He added humour in the talk to make the crowd laugh. I had to watch the show behind the crowd. As a kid my view to the front was blocked and I had to keep on moving to have a glimpse of the the front. On a few occasions I was early and managed to squad in the front row.

Time has changed and the traditional way of selling Chinese koyoke becomes a thing of the past. Setting up a stall needs to be licensed and the noise from beating a gong is considered a source of annoyance or nuisance.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Toys that we played

In the past children in Singapore made their own toys to play. It can be played individually or with friends. Not long ago I came across a plastic toy held by a little girl in a shopping area. She reminded me of similar toy made of tins. As one pushed the wheels forward, the toy in the shape of a bird or butterly flapped its wings up and down. Picture above shows the girl pushing a plastic bird toy.

Another toy is walking on empty tin containers like stilt walking. It can be empty milk tins or cigarette tins. Method: Used a nail to knock a hole in the center of the tin. Put a string through the hole and tied a knot bigger than the hole to prevent it from slipping through the hole. Hold the other end with your hand. Do the same with the other empty tin. Then stand of the empty tins, one with each foot. Pull both string tight so that the tins  hold onto your feet as you walk forward as shown in the picture. Usually the kids challenged one another to see who could walk the farthest with the empty tins.

I am sure many of you can relate to the above.

                        The man is teaching the boy on how to walk on the empty cans

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kampong Eunos

The Straits Times on 25.05.2012 published an article about inter-faith bonding and kampong spirit. It reminded me of the kampong spirit at Kampong Eunos and later at Marine Terrace. Kampong spirit is natural and spontaneous. Children played  together in the open grounds or HDB void decks, housewives met to chat at wet market stalls and the men played majhong at week ends.
The above photo was taken outside my house. It shows children playingt together. The boy in singlet is my brother. At the background on the left of the photo is a group of kampong folks chatting. They met at the front of a provision shop which is hidden by the fence.

There were mobile hawkers coming to the kampong selling market produce and pork in the morning. The two ladies were neighbours, staying one door away from each other.

Unfortunately part of the kampong had been acquired by the government for the MRT line and Sim's Ave extension. Other parts of the kampong gave way to new developments such as private housing. It is difficult to have the same kampong spirit when resited to a new environment.

Magic show held at void deck

When I moved to Marine Parade in the mid 1970s, I could stilll feel the kampong spirit there but differnt from Kampong Eunos. Since we were the first occupiers of the block of flats, it was easy to know one another after a period of time. The adults met often in the lifts on their way to work. The housewives met at the wet markets. I saw children playing at the void decks and the car park. Occasionally the residents organised pot-luck. On one occasion there was a magic show held at void deck.

What happens now? Over the years I noticed the kampong spirit declining. Original residents had moved out and new ones moved in. There was no more pock-luck and organised activities had ceased. The children in the photos have grown up, got married and moved out. The void deck is now very quiet. There is no more kampong spirit among the neighbours. But the original residents which are a handful now still maintained a very good relationship.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Son Chris

On 27 Mar 2012 The Straits Times published an article regarding primary one school registration. Its caption "Registration changes will mean more slots for Singaporeans". Having priority over permanent resident kids is clearance of first obstacle. Singaporean kids have still to compete among themselves in other phases of primary one school registration excercise. Sibblings already in the school are automatically given a place. Next phase is children living within the school zone, that is within 1 km of the school. Final phase are for children who had no affiliation with the school and will be balloted for the remaining vacancies.

The school primary one registration exercise flashed my mind back to 1969 when my eldest son Chris had to register for a place in primary one at St Stephen's School. He came under the last phase excercise and there was no balloting then. It was a 'first come first serve' exercise and the long overnight queue was like buying a condo during the building boom. At that time there were very few primary schools in the east. We opted for St Stephen's School and had to queue up overnight to get a place for him. My son was lucky to get a place. I am not sure about those who were lining up behind us as there was very few vacancy left. Three years later I went to the same school to register for my second on the appointed date. He was automatically given a place for having a brother in the same school. I think the primary one registration exercise should be reviewed and changed to a system that is fair to all.

                                                    St Stephen's School Sports Day

St Stephen's School sports day was featured in The New Nation newspapers on Thursday May 13 1971. The boy in the center is my son Chris. He took part in the 8 x 25m relay. Each boy had a bag on his head while running. It's a matter of balancing. That was 41 years ago and his children are now older than he was in the above picture.

On Monday April 14 1980 The Straits Times published an article about student police corps in St. Patrick's School.  Again he was mentioned in the article together with a group photo.
In that year the student corps actually helped the police to detain a suspect who allegedly robbed a student of his watch in the school compound. They investigated the case by interviewing the victim and managed to established the identity of the suspect including a photograph of him. The student corps went to Joo Chiat Police Station and provided the police with what they had found. Later the suspect was arrest.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shorthand typist

Many senior citizens are quite familiar with the shorthand book shown above. I found it hidden somewhere in my bookselves. I remember shorthand courses were very popular in the 1960/1970s, especially with young girls who aspired to be a stenographer (steno). The pay was better than an ordinary typist. Furthermore a steno could be the Company's secretary or personal assistant to a Manager, Director or CEO. She had to serve hot drinks to her boss every morning although it was not part of the job description. A steno had to take dictations by using shorthand, that is using symbols or abbreviations for words and phrases. In that way it was faster than writing word by word. There were 2 forms of shorthand. One was known as Pitman shorthand and the other Gregg shorhand. Both were equally popular. It was widely used before the invention of voice recording machine.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


A giant has fallen and is breathing its last breath. Will it be able to get up again? I attached much sentimental past with Kodak cameras and Kodachrome movie film. During school days I had a Kodak Brownie camera. It was cheap and easy to use. Later I upgraded to a Brownie box camera. Each negative was square in shape and the hard copy was exactly the same size as the negative.

Square negatives and photos

I do not know the reason for keeping the negatives except putting them aside after the photos were printed. Now they have become more precious as the negatives and the photos reminded me of the past, especially my growing up years.

In the 1950s and 1960s there was only Kodak and Ilford films in the market. Japanes brand like Fuji and others were not introduced in Singapore yet.

Besides Kodak cameras I also owned a Minolta movie camera. There was no Japanese 8 mm film for movie camera on sale except Kodak 8 mm movie film which could be processed only in Australia. I forgot the cost for each reel of movie film but the cost of processing was S$10. It took at least about a week for it to be sent to Australia for proessing and back. I took movies mostly of my kids. We visited many places of interest in Singapore such Haw Par Villa, the old National Theatre and Van Kleef Aquarium, Raffles Place, Changi beach and others. I have posted a few film clips on the Facebook.

Each small reel of movie film was glued together to make it into a spool for about half an hour show. I had a Japanese projector but the film was often jammed and burnt due to very intense heat from the projector's light. I had to cut the film, removed the burnt part and joined the two ends together. Much films were wasted in this way. It was very tedious as everything was done manually. Thinking about it, the time spent  was really worth. Now I can look back when I was once young. I can still see in the movie films (converted to DVD) the places that had disappeared or had new landscapes. National Theatre and Van Kleef Aquarium had been demolished. Raffles Place has new landscaping. The Changi beach that we used to go for swimming and picnics is different now. The kelongs or fishing stakes that were close to the beach and the sampans for hire had disappeared too.

8 mm Kodachrome movie film

small reels of 8 mm movie films

spools of 8 mm Kodachrome movie films

Sunday, January 1, 2012


New Year Visitors

Chinese New Year is fast approaching. It reminded me of the time when I was still working in Jurong. Every new year my colleagues came visiting and we had an enjoyable time together. A group picture was taken each year for remembrance. They were Chinese, Malay and Indians. It was real racial harmony.
Chines New Year 1978 & 1979
Many Chinese are looking forward to this coming Chinese New Year because it will be the 'Year of the Dragon'. An auspicious year for most Chinese who wishes to have a 'dragon' son or grandson. Dragon is the fifth sign of lunar cycle. There are five types of dragon and each has an element such as metal, water, wood, fire and earth. My son was born under the sign of 'wood dragon'. He has chosen to live in US. During one dragon year I painted a dragon on the wall to remind me of him. An elder relative who came visiting then told me that my dragon had four claws which was no good and advised me to erase it. I did not bother to find out the reason then. After the festive period was over I erased the dragon painting with a few coats of white paint. Each lunar animal sign has a cycle is twelve years. When the dragon year was approaching, I painted a five claws dragon on another wall. I still do not understand why a four claws dragon is bad. Perhaps, someone can enlighten me.