Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Sultan's Gardens, Johore Bahru

We often visited the Sultan's Gardens in Johore Bahru. The Sultan's Palace was close by but I don't remember it all. I think that all the buildings were closed to the public but the grounds were open on most days.
There was really only one reason why I wanted to go there and that was to feed the fish! At the time, I just thought they were goldfish like the ones I bought from the coldstore and kept in a jam jar but they were actually, of course, Koi Carp. Mum would save all our old bread, she's holding a loaf in this picture, and we'd run off towards the pond and happily feed them. They loved bread too and must have been a lot fatter by the end of the day because all the kids fed them it. I wonder what the Sultan would have made of it all? Thinking about it now, I wonder if all that bread perhaps killed some of the fish? It probably wasn't good for them though they certainly seemed to enjoy it.
If you've seen our home movies on this blog, then you'll have seen us all happily feeding them. I had to be lifted up because I couldn't see over the ledge. From the pond, there were great views of the Johore Straits but I think I was so mesmerised by the fish that I didn't notice much else in the gardens!
When you're a kid, anything to do with animals fascinates you. Like other kids my age then, I loved the monkeys in the Botanic Gardens and I loved seeing all the animals in Johore Zoo also. Seeing elephants on our way to Penang and being told that there were tigers in the nearby jungle close to our house just seemed a natural thing back then. I'd probably run a mile now if someone suggested there was a tiger nearby!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Cereal

Back in the 1960s, when we lived at Jalan Wijaya, I loved Kelloggs Sugar Smacks. I can't remember what they tasted like but I do remember the reason why I liked them so much - the free gifts!
This cereal packet shows the cereal I remember the most and the free gifts, 'mini-models'. I wonder how many people remember these? There was a double decker bus, a penny farthing, a covered wagon, a locomotive, a steam engine and a car.
We collected them all and I can even remember mum and dad having them on display in a cabinet in the front room!
We'd get all our shopping from the little shop across the way from us at Jalan Wijaya and one reason I remember the cereal so much is that, one day, we bought a packet and when we got home, it was just full of ants! This happened often and I also remember it happening with merangues and any other sugary food. I remember saying to my mum to fish the free gift out before we took the cereal back to the shop but she wouldn't! When we got back to the shop, he just laughed and gave us another box. They were always quite happy about things and it was just a normal occurrence to them that something edible would attract ants.
I loved all the stuff we got from those shops including all the toys. I think all the cheap stuff, that cost next to nothing, impressed me the most. Everything seemed to be 'Made in Japan' in those days.
I think when you're a kid, cereal holds a fascination with you, especially the brightly coloured boxes and the free gifts from that time.
I think that cereal will always evoke my memory of us buying a box of ants at the coldstore in Malaya though!

Christmas at George's Steak House, 1966


Here's a menu from George's Steak House which was at Bukit Meldrum in Johore Bahru. We used to go there often and the waiters recognised us after a while. I always had soup and ice-cream and it got to the point that they just brought it to the table before we ordered anything! Although we went often, I remember little about it. I remember that they used to have barbeques in their grounds that we would go to and I remember that we would watch rows of ants climbing up the walls with small crumbs of food. When they got near a picture frame, a chit-chat would jump out and eat the lot!
We must have been quite busy at Christmas 1966 because we have photos at home, photos at the Naval Base party in Singapore and this menu from George's Steak House. The restaurant has, marked on the front of the menu, that we went with my parents' friends', Les and Bette Sharpe and their daughter, Debbie. I wish that I could remember more about it.
On the menu was Prawn Cocktail, Cream of Tomato Soup (my favourite) and Fillet of Sole with Tartare Sauce. Then there was Roast Turkey and York Ham with Chestnut Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Potato Maitre d' Hotel. Cauliflower Dubarre and Fresh Garden Peas. There was also Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce, Mince Pies, Assorted Nuts, Vanilla Ice Cream (another favourite) and Coffee with 'Christmas novelties free of charge' . Sounds great, I wish that I could remember more about it!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas Cards


The Christmas cards sent in the 1960s had a different look to the ones nowadays especially the ones sent in Singapore and Malaya at the time.
My parents kept a few and some of them are shown here. The first card has a very Far East feel to it. It was sent to us by my parents' landlords when we lived at Jalan Wijaya. It's dated 1967 and reads inside, 'To Mr and Mrs Tait and children. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year from Mr and Mrs Dider Singh and Mr and Mrs Daljit Singh.' I remember there were quite a few Singh brothers who were all very friendly and would come around to our house when anything had to be discussed like the rent. My favourite brother was Swan Singh who would always say to us, 'Swan Singh - fly like a bird!' and he would wave his arms like a swan. He wore a turban and had shoes that curled up at the toes. He would sometimes give us sweets, they were all very friendly.
The second card comes from my parents' friend and my dad's work colleague at KD Malaya, Omar Mahmood. It say 'Bonne Annee' on the front which I think translates to 'Happy New Year'. Inside it reads, 'I wish you and family a Merry Christmas and enjoy your new year. May prosperity and harmony be bestowed to family. From intimate friend, Omar.'
The third card comes from my dad's good friend, Poon, who he also worked with at KD Malaya. It's a Naval Christmas card and was sent in 1969 after we returned to England and says inside,' Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy new year. Love, Poon, Kim and William.' Poon has written a message inside saying that he will soon be leaving the Navy. Unfortunately, we all lost touch after wards and we never heard from Poon again. His family must still be living in Singapore.
It's lovely having these Christmas cards and I often wonder what has happened to Poon, Omar and the Singh family over the last 40 years. I hope they're all well wherever they are. It seems a shame that you lose touch with people over the years, it has been a very long time though!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

It's Christmas!

I've written about Christmas before but here's a few photos of the Christmas party at the Naval Base at Sembawang in Singapore in 1966. I was there on the day but remember very little about it.
All the kids got very excited when the Naval Base Father Christmas arrived and we all got a present in the main hall where there was food laid out and we would play games afterwards. I remember lots of jelly, cake and us all having a Christmas cracker!
Outside, everyone would wait for a go on Santa's sleigh, which was actually a red fire truck. There was also a park with swings, slides and see-saws. I can't remember if the Christmas party was held on Christmas Day or shortly afterwards. We all had a great time and I think that there might have been a film show and fireworks afterwards. I'm sure it all went on until after it was dark (about 7pm) and maybe our parents were attending another Christmas party on the base somewhere.
These aren't my photos but I appear in one of them (the one looking down on Santa) pestering my mum for something. My brother, Alan, is nowhere to be seen so I wonder if there was another children's party for the older kids. I remember him being there when the presents were handed out though.
We must have had a great time but it's all so long ago that I've forgotten most of it!
A lot of these photos appear in my book, 'More Memories of Singapore and Malaya' and they belong to my parents' friends, George and Kit Holden. There children, Loraine and Lynne, appear in the photo of the park with the see-saw.
What a great time we all had back then, it certainly does seem like a different world.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Cowboys and Indians

This photo shows me and Alan in our garden at Jalan Wijaya in about 1967. All the kids loved playing Cowboys and Indians at the time and I think mum made these Indian outfits out of part of our school uniform. I always remember this being our PE (or PT as they called it then)kit but if it was, I don't know what we wore when we returned to school. Maybe we just arrived dressed as Indians! I don't remember having PE at school but it's probably just one of those memories, like a lot of my early school days, that I've totally forgotten.
I remember watching more tv shows that featured Cowboys and Indians back in England in the 1970s, although I do remember watching some in Singapore and Malaya including The Lone Ranger, Branded, F Troop, Casey Jones and Sugarfoot. I loved watching Zorro too. We also must have got our love of Westerns from old films shown on the telly and at the cinema. There were certainly many cowboy shows when we returned home to England like High Chapparal, The Virginian, Bonanza (maybe we saw this in Malaya), Laredo, Alias Smith and Jones, Kung Fu, Maverick, The Loner, The Cisco Kid etc though a lot of these were quite a bit older and some dated from the 1950s.
Anyway, we had a great time running around the garden pretending to be Indians. I had a tomahawk and Alan had a bow and arrow. The arrow had a rubber stopper on the end but it probably still hurt if it hit you!
Thinking about it, the costumes might have been the outfits we wore at school if we did art. It's such a long time ago now, it's hard to remember. It's funny how the craze for Cowboys and Indians died out in the 1970s and the next wave of themed tv programmes all seemed to feature detectives!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Royal Naval School Badge


Here's a photo of my Royal Naval School badge from Singapore. I'm surprised that I still have mine but I'm pleased that I do. Mine says 'Singapore' even though I went to school at Kebunteh in Malaya.
Many of us had these at the time but, unfortunately, many have been lost over the years. If, like me, you're nostalgic for anything connected with your time in Singapore and Malaya, you probably, if you've lost yours, would like another one. The good news is that in January 2010, I am having replicas made up and will be selling them for £2.99 each. You can order yours now, if you want, but they won't be ready until January sometime.
If you want one, please pay by PayPal, there's more details here

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Christmas at Jalan Wijaya, Johore Bahru

With Christmas fast approaching, I thought that I would post some photos of us taken at home in Jalan Wijaya in 1966. Christmas is certainly more magical when you're a kid, isn't it?
I remember Christmas morning in the picture above. We'd opened all our presents in our room that 'Santa' had left us. One was a string puppet of a clown. I thought that the puppet wasn't meant to have strings so I pulled them all off! Then in the front room, my main present was waiting, this fantastic go-kart. I loved that go-kart. Anyway, in the excitement, I ran over the toy clown and you can just see the two halves of him in the picture! What a shame that he didn't make it through Christmas day!
The second picture shows Alan and me by our Christmas tree in the front room. You might think that I'm in my pants because it's either early morning or evening but that's not the case. It was so warm and humid in Singapore and Malaya that most of the kids just went around bare footed and in their pants! It's funny, this Christmas tree used to seem big to me back then.
I'd have been 5 years old then, I wonder where my first trip on the go-cart was? Probably just around the garden!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Banyans!

Here's a photo from June 1967 of me on the back of a boat heading off on a banyan. That's my mum's thumb on the side of the photo but I thought I'd leave it in as it reminds me of the day!
I don't look too happy in this photo and I remember why. I'd been given a bit of fishing line and a red coloured fly attached to end of it which I was dangling in the water. My mum thought I was fishing but, being a five year old with a five year old's imagination, I thought that I was actually goind to snag some treasure! When some of my favourite programmes were Marine Boy, Stingray and the Adventures of Seaspray, where this sort of thing happened all the time, what could go wrong? The reason for my unhappy face is because my line had just gone over the side!
It was great taking a boat out on a banyan. All the kids would get to drive and, because I was smaller, I had to sit on a pillow. I remember one beach that we landed on and the sands were covered in starfish. I've never seen anything like it since. All the kids collected them up (shame for the starfish) but I think most were let go afterwards. I can't remember where this island was but it might have been off Penang when we stayed at Sandycroft.
Everyone loved the banyans and we'd have a great time. I used to think that the islands were deserted back then but thinking about it, there always seemed to be someone who would pop out of the bushes selling Coca-Cola! They've probably all got high rise hotels on them now!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Annuals


There used to be a shop in Sembawang that sold annuals and I know many kids got them for Christmas. I still have one today and here it is! I used to love the Flintstones when I was a kid and so did many adults. It must have been on at about teatime. It's amazing that this annual has lasted so long as I have no others from this time. The pictures are lovely and colourful inside and I remember every story in there like I'd just read them yesterday. This one is dated 1967 so I would have got in on the Christmas just before we returned home in January 1968. Looking at it today, it certainly brings back memories. I wonder what other presents I got that year?
I think a lot of the shops sprung up just to serve the forces personnel and their families. I wonder if the local kids liked the Flintstones too? I suppose they must have, though it was all shown in English. I remember Top Cat was on also as well as Yogi Bear, Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner which all the Navy blokes found hilarious! I also remember Casper the Ghost.
I wonder how many other people have kept their books and annuals from their time there? I used to love all the comics too, even the smell of them. Wish I had some now! This was probably just a boy thing, I suppose, and many of the girls probably didn't read comics or annuals. It's funny how much stuff you wish that you'd kept sometimes!
Incidently, the price is still written inside in pencil. The cost was $5.25. A bargain!

Friday, 4 December 2009

The Ice Cream Man

Here's a couple of more photos taken from our home movies shot in about 1966. The first picture shows the strange little van that would show up everyday at Jalan Wijaya selling ice cream. I think you got free Marine Boy transfers if you bought popcorn from him and that might be the white packets you can see on the back of the van. Looking at the van, I think this might have been the Magnolia Man. Other people have mentioned the Magnolia Man to me but I didn't remember the name. I do remember that he sold Cornetto type ice creams long before they were for sale in England. I was beginning to think that I'd imagined that but when I was putting together my second book of other people's memories of Singapore and Malaya, I came across an advert for Magnolia ice cream and there was an advert for the Cornettos that I remembered! I think the van might have also sold tubs of ice cream which we kept in the top of the fridge. I remember that any ice cream you bought, you had to eat quickly because it soon melted down your arm!
My brother remembers buying flavoured gums including Cola ones and I also remember Cola flavoured tic-tacs, mainly because my brother dropped his off a drain we were walking over, went to retrieve them and cut his arm badly. I loved the visits by the ice cream man. As you can see, I'm bare-footed and in my pants which seemed to be the uniform of all service kids in the Far East!
The second photo comes from the same day and I'm in a Rattan chair just by our front door looking out into the street. It's funny how things stick in your memory. Although this was about 43 years ago, I remember exactly what I was doing at the time - pretending to march like a soldier!
I wonder if these pictures were taken after school had finished at 1pm or if maybe I was pre-school age? Whenever it was, the Magnolia Man always seemed to know where I was even turning up at the school gates to sell ice cream to kids on their breaks or returning home.
Seems such a lovely, happy time looking at these photos. Now, so much later, it almost seems like a different world!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Johore Zoo

I remember being taken to Johore Zoo when we were kids in about 1966.
At the time, we thought it was great fun going to the zoo. There was a gorilla who would clap for food and everyone liked seeing him. Nowadays, I realise that it was all pretty appalling. The gorilla had no more than a small cage to be kept in and had been trained to clap his hands to amuse the public. These weren't animals that had been born in captivity but were wild animals who had been trapped and put in the zoo.
I do remember that the zoo was very smelly and unclean at the time.
I think that I've told the story before about the three legged tiger. He had been trapped in the jungle for the zoo. By the time the trappers found him, his leg was in such a poor state that they had to remove it. This didn't stop them from exhibiting him as soon as he was well enough! I don't know what the zoo is like today though I know it's still open. Many years ago, Bill Travers (of Born Free fame) campaigned for the zoo to be shut down.
I loved seeing all the animals when I was a kid but looking back, it all seems very sad. Even today, I won't go to a zoo anymore because I feel it's unfair on the animals and they really should be where they belong in the wild. All these pictures come from our home movies so sorry they're not very clear. They show my brother feeding the gorilla, him clapping, the forlorn gorilla looking out of his cage and the three legged tiger. I hope the animals are better looked after today!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

More Memories of Singapore and Malaya


I'm glad that everyone enjoyed reading my previous books, 'Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans' and 'Memories of Singapore and Malaya'.
I had so many people write to me with their own memories and photos that I decided to put these all together in a new book called, 'More Memories of Singapore and Malaya' which has just come out today. It features stories about Forces life, our homes, food, drink, markets, the dreaded mozzies, parties, Christmas, schools etc as well as all the other things that we remember fondly from our time there.
I've tried to include all new photos and stories and I'm sure it will make interesting reading for anyone who, like myself, misses those idyllic days in the 1960s!
There's more information about the book and how to buy it here.