Saturday, 31 October 2009
The monkeys all look pretty well behaved in this photo but as soon as they knew anyone had food, they'd pounce. As well as bananas, we used to give them peanuts which were sold in paper cones by people inside the gardens.
It's a shame that they're not still in the Singapore gardens nowadays. I'm sure everybody who is about my age, and who visited the gardens at the time,will have very fond memories of them.
Friday, 30 October 2009
The next scene is us filming as we drive towards the customs point at the causeway. My mum is filming out of the window as my dad drives. Then there are shots of Johore together with all the old shops and cars.Next, there's film of us about to go into the Navy Base entrance.
The final scenes are taken at Jalan Wijaya. There's me at home and then getting an ice cream as a man wearing a turbin drives by on a scooter. The final scene shows me wearing a hat which I remember was left over at our house from a party my parents had with all their Naval friends the night before.
Seems such a long time ago now!
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
The photo was taken at our home in Jalan Wijaya.
Azizah lived somewhere near to us but I can't remember where. Alan told me that we once went to her house when it was one of her children's birthdays but I can't remember. I wish I could!
I remember that Azizah taught us some Malayan. 'Terimah Kashi' which meant 'thank you' and 'sama-sama' which meant 'you're welcome'. She probably taught us some other phrases but I've long forgotten them.
My mum would give stuff to Azizah including toys for the kids. She once asked her if she wanted some table cloths which she was very happy with. The next time we saw her, her husband was wearing them!
Fadzilah and Fadzil used to come to our birthday parties, I don't think they spoke much English. I would love to know what happened to them all and I hope they remember us as fondly as we do them.
It was all fascinating to me and, being smaller, I was on the same eye level as the fruit sellers who were sat next to their produce which was sometimes spread out on wicker mats. This was the first place that I ever saw and tasted a rambutan. I'd never seen anything like them and as we walked by, stall holders would offer me them. I couldn't refuse! I got to love rambutans in the three years that we lived in Singapore and Malaya. I can still remember the taste now, though I haven't had one since we returned home in 1968. I think that they sell them in Sainsbury's in the UK so perhaps I'll buy some one day!
From the top picture, it's amazing just how busy the street markets were.
Everyone was happy to barter and the seller and the buyer always seemed happy with the final price.
I can still recall the smell of those stalls - the fruit, the smell of wicker work and just the smell of Singapore in general which I'm sure is a smell long forgotten by many Singaporeans!
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Monday, 26 October 2009
Every so often, Alan would take the family's bakelite Kodak 127 camera and wander around the estate taking pictures. They were all quite interesting because they would be pictures of things that were happening at the time rather than just family photos, I remember he took the photo of the Satay man which I featured on a previous post and also some newly hatched ducklings. There were quite a few chickens and ducks about and we used to watch for their eggs to hatch.
I think that some of the photos that Alan took might have been lost over the years but here's an interesting one of a grass cutter near our home. I don't remember anyone having a lawn mower at the time and if they did, they certainly weren't electric. For $2, the grass cutters would cut your grass. They had huge scythes which they used to swing over their heads. It all looked pretty dangerous.
The area of land shown in the picture was between us and the row of shops, including the cold store, where we got our shopping. I remember one day, when we were returning from the shops and I found a branch which I took home and stuck in the back garden. Amazingly, it grew and continued to grow over the next three years. I had great fun in that tree, I'll post some photos later!
Here's a clip I've found of the original show. The haunting theme tune should bring back instant memories. It reminds me of being right back at Jalan Wijaya in the garden attacking my brother!
It's funny, there wasn't a kid in Australia, Japan or Singapore who hadn't seen Samurai. Yet, when we got back to England, nobody had heard of it. Samurai starred Koichi Ose, who was a top movie star in Japan at the time. He played the lead character, Shintaro in the programme. His arch enemies were the Koga Ninjas.
Samurai was a huge show and when Koichi Ose visited Australia in the 1960s, he got a bigger welcome than the Beatles. He was greeted by screaming fans in home made kimonos throwing Ninja stars made of cardboard. Apparently, he had no idea just how popular he was outside Japan.
The show ran throughout the 1960s having first been shown in Japan in 1962. It was dubbed into English which could be quite funny some times. For instance, Shintaro would be giving a long speech and his mouth would be moving quite a lot and the dubbed voice would just say something like, 'Yes, I know'.
Incidentally, Koichi Ose is still alive and living in Japan. He retired in 1969 and started up a property company and in 1980, he and his wife opened a chain of noodle restaurants. I hope he has as fond memories as I have of Samurai.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Here's a photo of me and my brother at Sandycroft, Penang in about 1966. There was a lovely dog there that used to follow us everywhere and I think he must have belonged to someone who worked in the cafe. If my memory serves me right, his name was Pepper and I think he was a Labrador (or something similar!).
Back at home in Jalan Wijaya, there were many wild dogs roaming around. I quite liked seeing them and sometimes we'd play with them, although we were told to keep away from them in case they had rabies. Many servicemen and their children had dogs but when they came to return home, the dog had to either be found a new home or, unfortunately, be put down. I remember a few people who had dogs near to our home and I think someone even had a couple of poodles, which weren't the sort of dog you would expect to find in the Far East. Most of the wild dogs on the estate were just a mixture of everything and most were quite friendly though they'd bark like most dogs! I remember one day when Alan came in and said that he had seen the police driving around and shooting stray dogs. It was very upsetting but they did this often though I never witnessed it.
There's one time that I really remember coming into contact with a stray dog and this follows on from my last post. I think I was at Debbie Sharpe's birthday party near to our home. I was about 5 at the time. I was jumping around the garden, pretending to be a kangaroo, when I cracked my head on one of the steel windows that was open. Now, it's funny when you're in pain, you remember anything that happened to you at the time,even years later. I remember that Englebert Humperdinck's 'Please Release Me' was playing on the radio!
Anyway, I decided to walk home with my hand on my head and blood pouring down my arm. As I made my way up the street, Bette, Debbie's mother, had seen what had happened and called me back. I was determined to get home and was probably tearful. As I came around the corner into Jalan Wijaya, a huge friendly, wild dog came up to me, wagging its tail, and stood on my shoulders and licked my face. After all the warnings about wild dogs, I think I then ran home as quick as I could.
I had a sore head for a while but all was soon back to normal. As I said earlier, I've still got the scar and my hair never did grow there again!
Whenever I hear 'Please Release Me', I'm taken back to that day in Johore Bahru, my sore head and that scary dog!
Saturday, 24 October 2009
They were always very friendly and polite. Quite often they would point at me and say something like, 'nice fair hair!', the locals seemed fascinated by kids with light coloured hair at the time.
One of the free gifts was a Tiger Tail, which we would get dad to attach to the car aerial, At home, we all had these attached to our bikes. I bet there aren't many still around today. We also got free drinking glasses, cups and badges (I've still got mine) all with the Tiger's face on. Even if there wasn't a promotion on, the garage workers would still give you free sweets and lollies. They were just happy to have your custom.
There probably isn't any non self service garages in Singapore anymore. I've come across them in Australia and some parts of Cornwall but it seems a thing of the past now. Thinking about it, there seems to be a lot less Esso garages too!
Friday, 23 October 2009
When I went back to Singapore and Malaya in 1990, I'd forgotten just how hot and sticky it was there.
Here's a photo of me in about 1966 cooling down in the back garden of our house at Jalan Wijaya. The water from the hose was great to keep the heat at bay. I remember that it always had a few holes in it so this made it even better! I remember when we first arrived at Jalan Wijaya and the heat was proving a bit too much. When the heavy rains of the monsoon season started, we all ran out just to cool down. Our amah, Azizah, laughed and must have thought we were crazy. I remember that even though we were getting wet, and it was a break from the heat, the rain was still warm!
We had fans in the front room and the bedrooms to keep us cool and the windows had to stay open at night. This had its disadvantages though as mosquitoes would come in and also there was the fear of thieves who would sometimes get a long bamboo pole with a fishing hook on the end to hook what they could.
We must have been too hot to sleep on most nights yet in one of my old photos, there's a blanket on the bed. Perhaps we just adjusted to it.
I remember we were very cold when we finally returned to England!
Here's a photo of Bugis Street in the 1960s. I can't rememember if we ever walked down this street but I suppose we must have done when we were in Singapore.
By day, it was an ordinary enough street but by night, it was the meeting place for tranvestites, some of whom were very convincing. Forces personnel who visited the area wouldn't realise that the beautiful girl on their arm, that they'd been buying drinks for all night, was actually a man!
It was said that the way to tell if they were men or women was that the men dressed as women looked stunning, whereas the proper women just looked ordinary!
Bugis Street was once crammed with merchants and traders making it one of the most vibrant areas in Singapore. In the 1960s, there were also many outside bars.
When I went back to Singapore in 1990 and was sitting near Orchard Road at night, I noticed many men dressed as women parading up and down the street. It was certainly more obvious though!
Bugis Street became famous the world over at the time. However, all changed in the 1980s when the area went under major redevelopment. Restaurants and modern shopping malls took over and the building of the underground MRT disrupted the area, changing it forever.
Amazingly, the Singapore Tourist Board tried to recapture some of this previous 'glamour' and created New Bugis Street but the area had changed too much for the idea ever to be successful.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
The snakes were meant to have their poison removed before they did their tricks. We were still scared stiff of them though!
I remember us all going to Singapore on a shopping trip and Alan and me wandering off so we could watch the street magicians. It was all amazing to us, I don't think there were even magicians on the tv at the time. One trick they did was to hide a ball under three containers,move them around and let someone from the crowd point to where they thought it was. Of course, they were always wrong. This is quite a commonplace trick nowadays but then, it was all new to us.
I can't remember if they got money from the audience, either by them guessing which container the ball was under or from them just paying them for the show.
Some kids had the gully-gully man come to their birthday parties and he would perform tricks with snakes, card tricks and other acts of illusion. He was very popular at the time.
Nowadays, the street entertainers such as the magicians and snake charmers have long since disappeared from the streets of Singapore.
It seemed a lot more interesting place back then and has certainly lost a lot over the years.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
This photo shows my dad at Kota Tinggi waterfalls using his Super 8mm cine camera. Super 8 was the latest thing then. We had a projector at home and would enjoy watching all the films that he shot. We only had one other film which was Frankenstein which lasted about 15 minutes. I didn't like it much but I remember the projector being set up and some of the other kids in the area coming in to see it.
My dad shot quite a lot of film it seemed at the time but nowadays, it seems to squeeze into about 20 minutes. I'm sure some of it must have disappeared over the years. For instance, here he is in this photo filming but we have no film of the waterfalls whatsoever.
The cameras could be hit and miss in those days, unless you had a lot of money to spend on them. I remember that you had to go somewhere really dark to change the film and make sure that no light got in. Then, when it was finished, about 4 minutes worth, it had to be taken to a lab to be developed and you'd get it back about a week later. It must have been quite exciting seeing it for the first time.
Many years ago, about 1980, I had our films transferred to video tape. They were silent but I got a sound effects LP out of the library and added sound as best as I could. It probably doesn't quite fit! Then when DVDs came out, I transferred the tape over. I'm sure a lot of the quality must have been lost and I haven't seen these films shown by a projector for over 30 years. My dad says that the quality was never very good in the first place. Anyway,here's one of the movies. This one starts on the Penang Hill Railway and shows Georgetown and the Botanic Gardens, along with those cheeky monkeys! There's also clips of Sandycroft and I think I even cry in it (I would have been embarrassed at one time!). There's also clips of us feeding the Koi Carp at the Sultan's Gardens in Johore - you can see I wasn't very big at the time - and film of Johore Zoo which shows a clapping gorilla and a three legged tiger. The worst zoo I've ever seen.
I hope that you enjoy it and oh, try turning on the sound!
We went to the nearby school at Kebunteh which couldn't have been too far away from our house. There was a bus stop just down the road and we used to get the school bus in every morning. When we first started, they tied parcel labels to us, like evacuees in the Second World War, which carried details such as our names and address. They did manage to lose us a few times, I remember! I remember sitting on the bus looking out of the window and watching the large sun rising. It always seemed bigger and more orange over there.
We were always quite tidy for going to school and all of the Navy kids used to dress like this. I can see my brother has his RN Navy School badge on - I've still got mine. He also seems to have a prefect badge or something similar. Our cases, and all the kids had them, probably just contained our lunch, an exercise book and some pencils. Mum would always put a Cadbury's chocolate bar in there which I would share with the chubby boy in the class. One day, he decided he wanted it all and snatched it and ran off with it. I ran after him but he ate it before I could catch him! I wonder if he remembers that?
Lessons were only until 1pm because of the heat so we would have the whole afternoon to do what we wanted. I think dad would come home early somedays and we'd go across to Singapore or somewhere nearer like Jason's Bay, Johore Zoo or the Sultan's Gardens.
Everyone who went to school in Singapore and Malaya will remember the bottles of milk that they gave us in the morning. Where as you would only get ordinary milk in England, you would get a choice of chocolate, strawberry or plain at the Naval School! I always had chocolate. Some kids just had the ordinary milk which I never understood.
My memories of being at school are fading. I remember an incident where a girl ate poison berries off one of the bushes near the school, I think she was alright though. I also remember the Christmas Nativity plays, singing hymns in the main hall and various classes. We had a lovely teacher who I suppose was in the Navy, it's a pity that I can't remember her name. I remember the first book we were given to read which was called 'The Story of the Little Black Sambo' which is a title which would be frowned upon today but strangely the book is reprinted regularly and is still on sale today.
The infant and junior parts of the school were seperated at the back by a large fence and I would go and talk to Alan there sometimes during our breaks.
Parts of the school are still there though they're run down and look disused. There used to just be just barren land around about the school but now there's tall skyscrapers and modern shopping centres. It's probably hard for the locals to imagine what it once look liked.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
This photo shows my brother, Alan, my mum and me in the Botanic Gardens in Singapore in 1965. It also shows our lovely Triumph Herald! The gardens were full of monkeys at the time and I think that's one of the main reasons that we went. I don't remember any of the plants! There used to be banana sellers outside the main gates and there were many people happy to buy them to feed the monkeys. I loved seeing the monkeys but have to admit I was scared stiff of them! You'd have a bunch of bananas behind your back and before you knew it, they would be snatched and you'd just see the monkey running off with them! The bananas were nothing like you get nowadays. They were short and very sweet.
I think that I told the story in my book of the time we left the windows down on the car. It was so hot, it was the only way to cool it down. When we came back, the car was full of monkeys, one even looked like he was trying to drive. My dad scared them off and was just about to sit down in the driver's seat when my mum noticed that one of the monkeys had pooped there. She caught him just in time. We all laughed about it at the time.
When I went to Singapore in 1990, one of the things that I was really looking forward to was visiting the gardens and taking the monkeys some bananas. I was disappointed to discover that they had all been moved on. I really hope that they weren't all killed and I hope they were relocated elsewhere but I have my doubts. I really missed them and think that they were a huge tourist attraction. Perhaps the locals saw them as pests though. I think that they used to take sunglasses as well! I've heard the ones in the Botanic Gardens in Penang are still there and I've seen movies on YouTube of them.
They certainly gave us a lot of pleasure and I'm sure lots of people have funny and fond memories of them.
Here's a photo of me in about 1966. I think it was taken on Jason's Bay in Malaya. In the background is a man on a bicycle hearding oxen. To this day, I remember the smell and it's a smell I've not come across since! My face, I think, gives it away! We used to visit Jason's Bay often. It was close to home for any of the service men who lived at Johore Bahru. There were regular banyans and barbeques and the kids would enjoy playing on a lilo (do they still have them?) or swimming in the sea. There must have been allsorts of dangerous creatures swimming around out there but I don't remember seeing any of them. I wouldn't be surprised if there was an occasional shark. There were certainly jellyfish though we all seemed to survive unscathed! This photo reminded me of all the smells that you used to get in Singapore and Malaya. I remember the smell when catching a bus. There would be live chickens running around, this is what they called 'fresh' in those days, and fish wrapped in newspaper on the floor. Singapore itself had a smell all of its own. I think that the canal running through the city had just about everything floating in it! Of course, the river was a much busier place then, full of people and sampans. The market stalls with their fruit, vegetables and meat all added to the smell and any rubbish just seemed to end up in the river. Of course, it's all very clean nowadays. When I went back in 1990, the streets were spotless. There were fines for eating on the MRT, dropping litter and even for not flushing the toilet! All very different from the Singapore of the 1960s. I still miss it though. I wonder what Jason's Bay is like today and if there are still Oxen taken across the beach?
Monday, 19 October 2009
In the 1960s, it was a place where you could buy anything. You could be measured for a suit and it would be ready the same days all for a knock down price. Everybody bartered for everything and always came away feeling that they'd got a bargain. You couldn't get by a stall without its owner calling out to you or coming to greet you. Quite often, he would shake your hand but not let go and slowly pull you back into his shop.
I remember them selling everything there - electrical goods, clothes, bags, furniture, toys etc. The stall holder would always ask where you were from and when you told him, he would say, 'I have an uncle there!'
If you didn't want the item, or just wanted it cheaper and were walking away, they would always call you back and offer it to you at a lower price. I'm sure we came home with stuff that we didn't want to buy in the first place! It was very poular and could get very busy at times. I always remember the shopkeepers being happy and even tempered. I think as a small kid I just found the whole experience totally fascinating. Of course, if you bought something cheap in Singapore and took it back over the causeway to Malaya, you were meant to pay customs duty. I'm not sure anyone ever did though!
Sunday, 18 October 2009
There was a talent show on every night. The prizes weren't up to much and nearly every contestant either sung, 'Fly me to the Moon' or 'I came to your wedding.' I remember the presenter announcing the week's prize as, 'a lawnmower, ideal for mowing lawns!'
As a boy, I loved watching cartoons such as Marine Boy, Gigantor and the Flintstones. The Flintstones was enjoyed by adults at that time also.
In the evening, there was a whole variety of programmes, mainly from America. These included Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Star Trek, Mr Terrific, Lost in Space, I love Lucy, I dream of Jeannie and Bewitched. Just hearing the tune of Bewitched takes me back to living at Jalan Wijaya.
All the tvs were rented and there were no remote controls and it had to be tuned on a dial to get the programme. I think that there were two tv channels at the time. When we first got our telly, we were watching the Flintstones in the front room and we turned around when we heard giggling and all the Chinese kids were sat on the gate at the front of the house watching it. They'd never seen the telly before and their families were probably too poor to afford to rent one.
When I see any of the programmes repeated nowadays, it instantly reminds me of living in Singapore and Malaya. It seemed the golden age of television, I have to admit that I hardly watch it at all nowadays!
Saturday, 17 October 2009
We would have a great time there. There was an arcade I remember just in the background and also a cinema where I remember me and Alan going to see, 'Born Free'. I'm still reminded of Sandycroft everytime I hear that song.
I remember us all sitting to the right of this picture having our breakfast. There was a small cafe nearby. Suddenly, everyone came running out of the water and it was like a scene from 'Jaws'. Someone had thought that they'd seen a shark and shouted out to everyone in the water and it started a panic. As we watched, the 'sharks' started jumping out of the water and it turned out it was just a school of dolphins. Everyone had a good laugh once they realised what was happening but had been pretty scared previously.
Some days, we would tour around Penang. One day we went to the Snake Temple where I had snakes put around my neck, much to my parents' displeasure! We also went to the Penang Hill Railway - great views from the top - and we also visited the Botanical Gardens. I loved it there because of all the wild monkeys. We made sure that we had plenty of bananas for them before we went in! I was scared of them but, I suppose at the time, I wasn't much bigger than them.
On some days, all the Naval people would hire a boat and we would go on a banyan to a beach or island somewhere close. Dad always seemed to have a barbeque on the go and there was always plenty of Tiger Beer to hand. A huge parachute would be set up on the beach and we would all shelter from the sun under it, in between swimming and playing in the sand. I remember one beach that we landed on and there were thousands of starfish everywhere.
The first year, my dad drove up to Penang in a hire car. It must have been one of Toyota's first cars and certainly their smallest. Dad had his legs up around his chest! It certainly seemed to take a long time getting there and was quite a journey, broken up by wild tigers and working elephants. We needed a holiday by the time we got there! The following two years, we flew up by plane instead.
I also remember visiting Ayer Itam Temple and seeing the turtles there that were hundreds of years old.
Unfortunately, Sandycroft is now long gone. Dalat School stands in its place, though parts of the old leave centre can still be recognised. I think that some of the huts might still be there. A few years ago, the beach at Tanjong Bungah was hit by a Tsunami but the area has now been rebuilt.
Looking on the internet, it's all certainly changed over the years and seems to be surrounded by high buildings, mainly hotels. I bet we all wish that we had a time machine and could travel back to those happy, relaxed, blissful days!
Friday, 16 October 2009
I'm sure that everybody who was in Singapore in the 1960s will remember the House of Tang which was situated at the corner of Orchard Road.
How times have changed! Orchard Road looks nothing like it does in this picture anymore. Singapore is far more built up nowadays and although Tang's is still there, it totally different to this.
It's interesting to see all the old cars around the building, I wonder if our Triumph Herald is parked there somewhere?
Tangs was a shop that seemed to stock everything. My favourite time to go was at Christmas when a whole floor would be stocked with toys - robots, cars, tin toys and mechanical toys. They would all be battery powered and would all be working on the floor as you walked around. It was a magical place for a kid.
I also remember all the wicker and rattan furniture, the carved camphorwood chests, carved wooden statues as well as just about anything you ever needed. A lot of this stuff seemed very foreign and exotic in those days but now, it can all be bought in your local high street!
Tangs was founded in 1934 and was established on Orchard Road in the 1950s.
Today, Tangs is a very modern store and nothing like it is in this picture. Times change but it seems a shame that the Tangs of the 1960s that we all loved to shop at, has gone forever.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
I used to love our visits to Tiger Balm Gardens back in the 1960s. I think the gorilla statue was somewhere near the beginning of the park. In those days, I remember the park being right beside the sea but nowadays, with all the land reclamation, the sea is far in the distance.
My favourite statues in the park were all the huge animals and although there were signs telling eveyone to keep off, I have to admit that we climbed all over them. It seemed a fantastic place when I was a kid. My brother still talks about it and remembers the hideous statues that were contained in a room within the gardens that were for adults only. I never saw them but I do remember him sneaking in.
I went back to the park in 1990. It didn't quite seem the same and a lot of it had changed. It was meant to be bigger but somehow seemed a lot smaller than I remembered. I've heard that since I last visited, it has been closed and is now restored back to how it was in the 1960s. I saw a recent photo of the gorilla and he appears to have a smile on his face!