Thursday, 25 February 2010

More photos from Sandycroft Leave Centre in Penang, 1965

Here's some more photos taken at the Sandycroft Leave Centre in Penang in 1965.
The first photo shows me in my pants - the uniform of all kids in Singapore and Malaya at the time. I would have been 4 years old then. Behind me, are the chalets that we stayed in. It's funny, even after all this time, I remember what they were like inside. Alan and me had mosquito nets over our beds. They must have all come out at night because I don't look too bothered about getting bitten in this photo. I remember that we played football on this grass with an inflatable beach ball and I recall having a collection of ice cream tubs, which I wanted to keep because they had charaters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on them. Mum must have chucked them all away when I wasn't looking! I think there were three levels of chalets and we were on the second. Below us was the arcade - plenty of fruit machines and shoot-em-up games, also there was the cinema, cafe, a bar for our dads, a small shop and a restaurant.
The second photo comes from the football match that my parents played where the men played dressed as women and vice versa. In the photo is my mum, Les Sharpe, Bette Sharpe, Fred and also Debbie Sharpe. It's funny that I was only 4 but I remember that this is the day that Alan and me bought a Man From Uncle car from the shop there. They were the thing to have back then. I'm sure that we probably ran around pretending to be Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakan! If you've followed my blog, you'll know that the women won the match.
The next photo was taken by Alan one morning when he went out for a walk on his own. He used to like taking photos with my parents old Kodak Brownie camera which I think became his when they got a new one. In the photo is the swimming pool and the sea can be seen in the background. On the water's edge is where we saw dolphins while having breakfast and everyone ran out of the sea quickly when someone shouted, 'shark!'. It was just like the scene from Jaws. Then the dolphins started jumping in and out of the water and everyone realised what they were and started laughing. I don't remember anyone ever seeing a shark, or hearing of anyone being attaked by one, the whole time we were in Singapore and Malaya.
The final photo shows me on the swing nearby to the chalets, There's a see-saw nearby and I remember Alan and me playing on there. He always gave me the bumps and we would get other kids to sit on the other end and bump them too. It seemed a great laugh at the time.
When we weren't pretending to be characters from the Man from Uncle, watching dolphins, going to the cinema, playing in the pool, in the arcade or playing football, we'd be out exploring the island visiting places like the Snake Temple, Iyer Itam and going on the Penang Hill railway. There were also boat trips and banyans, landing at beaches covered in starfish where we'd have barbeques, play cricket and other games or go swimming. I was happy just playing in the sand at the time.
Writing about it now, it seems very idyllic and such a long time ago.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The removal of the Penang Hill Railway


I wrote recently about the Penang Hill Railway and how I loved travelling on it back in the 1960s. Today, I was reading a blog from ygblog4 and read that the train has now been dismantled.
After 87 years of use, both the train and track have become so worn, that it regularly breaks down. I find it amazing that the train that we travelled on all that time ago is the same one that was still in service until very recently.
The good news is that the train isn't disappearing altogether and hopefully, later in the year, it will be replaced with larger, faster carriages, complete with air-conditioning.



Here's a little film that my dad shot of the railway back in 1966. It's not a very long film and, if you're a regular follower of this blog, you've probably seen it as part of a longer home movie but it's worth seeing again just for the great views. I wonder if Penang is still so green and lush today?
Hopefully, I'll return to Penang one day and travel on the new funicular and see all those wonderful sights again.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Singapore in December 1990

Here's another short film of our trip to Singapore in 1990. The building covered in bamboo is the New 7th Storey Hotel and we stayed there when we landed in Singapore. It actually looks worse in the film than I remember it! I think that the hotel was in Rochor Road and has only recently been knocked down. When the taxi driver dropped us off, he said, 'No good!'. We stayed there anyway, because we were on abudget. We appeared to be their only guests and they'd left a pair of flip flops out for us in two completely different sizes! The cockroaches woke us up in the morning and we went to have breakfast in the restaurant on the top floor. Great views but it looked nothing like their leaflet which I've still got. I'll scan it sometime and put it on here. I remember that there was a very old man operating the lift. Of course, many Naval families stayed at the 7th Storey Hotel in the 1960s but I think that it had gone downhill a lot since then.



The film also features views of the streets, Chinatown, the Merlion, Singapore River, the Christmas lights in Orchard Road, the remaining sampans on the river and right at the end, Singapore Zoo. It's worth sticking with the film just to see the swimming polar bear!
After we left the 7th Storey Hotel, we stayed at the much more plush YMCA on Orchard Road. It was better than any posh hotel I've stayed in but you could only stay there for 3 days so we ended up in the Supreme, which was a step up from the 7th Storey Hotel but not much of one. The wiring seemed dodgy and the air condition was jammed on which made it freezing cold in the rooms. The man on the reception told us if we wanted it warmer, to just open the window! When we left, the taxi driver said, 'Don't stay there - big fire!'.
I'd love to go again some day. I bet it's all changed and even many of the places in this small film will now be gone.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Tiger Balm Gardens movie, 1990

Here's a short movie I shot at Tiger Balm Gardens in 1990. Sorry it's a bit dark, my video camera had travelled all over Australia and had been dropped so the quality isn't as good as it should be!



The park had changed quite a bit since the 1960s. The gorilla statues had been removed and a huge dragon ride had been put in their place. It was great to see it all again but it wasn't quite the same as I'd remembered it. A lot of the land in front of the park had been reclaimed and built on so it felt like it was in a different location.
Tiger Balm Gardens has been knocked around a few times since I last saw it and I'm not sure if it's even still there today or if it's been moved somewhere else. I know that the dragon ride was later demolished. I've seen photos of it on the internet over the years but I'm never sure how recent they all are.
Anyway, the Tiger Balm Gardens that I remember fondly will always be the one in the 1960s, it's a pity that it's not been looked after over the years.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The disappearance of the city's snake charmers


Back in the 1960s, I loved seeing all the snake charmers and magicians who performed their act at the Padang and in front of Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The photo shows three snake charmers, complete with flutes, baskets and cobras, at Mount Faber.
When I returned in 1990, of course, they were all gone as was most of the old Singapore that I remembered. They were mentioned in a Singapore newspaper in 1978, ten years after we'd left and although, it sounded like the practice would continue, they eventually disappeared from the streets of Singapore completely.

Snake charmers : a dying breed.
7th February 1978.
Professional snake charmers were fast disappearing, although several who were interviewed dismissed the possibility. Their children, they said, were trained to folow in their footsteps as a matter of tradition, and even if they did chose other careers, they could always return to snake charming.
There were an estimated 40 Indian snake charmers left on the island. They worked seperately, but were part of a close community that pooled earnings and divided the total sum equally.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The End of Bugis Street


I've written before about Bugis Street, famous for its tranvestites and bars. Many of you will probably wonder whatever happened to it. Here's a newspaper story from 1980 that reveals all:
Tranvestites told to leave Bugis Street
22nd August 1980
The star attraction of Bugis Street, its gaudily dressed tranvestites, were told to leave the popular haunt and go back to Lorong 6 in Geylang or risk arrest. Some of them had been involved in fights, thefts and pick-pocketing.
Enterprising transvestites and photographers did a brisk business taking 'souvenir' photos posed with visitors to Bugis Street.
Both visitors and stallholders felt that the food would still attract tourists. In March, to 'tidy the place and reduce congestion', 60 hawkers located along the first 30 metres at each end of the street were moved to Hylam Street.

This was the beginning of the end. Continual 'tidying up' of the streets and major redevelopment saw the end of Bugis Street as many visitors had known it in previous years. Shopping malls and the underground MRT disrupted the area and a memorable part of Singapore was lost forever.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Robinsons Department Store


Does anyone remember Robinsons which I think was near Raffles Place? We all used to shop there and I think that it was very popular with British families. I remember at Christmas, it would be decorated with a giant hoarding showing Father Christmas in his sleigh being pulled by several reindeer. Underneath, in large letters, it said, 'Merry Christmas!' The colour photos shown here were taken by my parents' friends, George and Kit Holden. The first photo shows Robinsons store and the next photo shows the nearby John Little. I notice that George has his mozzie repellant socks on! Those things loved nipping your legs. I don't think that there are any mozzies left in Singapore nowadays!
Unfortunately, Robinsons store met with an unhappy ending and the story was carried in the local paper :
Robinson's Inferno kills nine.
21st November 1972.
A pregnant woman was among nine people when a fire razed Robinsons department store in Raffles Place. It was one of the worst fires in Singapore's history.
The fire which started at 9.55am, was believed to have been caused by a short circuit on the first floor of the four-storey building. By the time it was brought under control at 12,20pm, the store, which had occupied the building for decades, had been razed to the ground. Also destroyed were millions of dollars' worth of consumer goods waiting for Christmas shoppers.
The nine who died were mainly store employees, including pregnant salesgirl, Ainon Mohamed Tahir, 21.
Robinsons peon Ibrahim Shahul, who managed to escape, said he smelt burning rubber just before thick smoke and flames came roaring in. 'Then the lights went out. I heard someone shouting in the dark that the lift had stoped and that an expectant mother, a tourist and three others were trapped in it,' he said.
As the fire raged, businesses in Raffles Place were widely affected. The Stock Exchange in Clifford House, Collyer Quay, had to stop trading shortly after 11am. Police Reserve Unit troops and Criminal Investigation Department officers were called into control the crown and keep looters out of the area.Losses were estimated at around $14 million.

After the fire, Robinsons relocated to Orchard Road and today can be found at The Centrepoint Shopping Centre where they moved to in 1983.The Robinson Group nowadays manage John Little, Marks and Spencer, Principles, Trucco, Coast, River Island and Fat Face. It seems a long way from the Department Store in Raffles Place that we all used to love visiting.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Firecrackers


This photo shows a party at the home of my parents friends, Bette and Les Sharpe. The bar is called, 'The Almost Inn' and that's my dad in the background. Look at that crazy dancing!
Whenever I think of Les, I'm always reminded of the time when Les nailed a Catherine Wheel to a post in his garden at Jalan Dato Sulaiman, in about 1966, and once it was lit, it flew off and went up one of the legs of his shorts! Don't worry, he didn't have any lasting injuries!
As it's Chinese New Year, I thought I would mention a bit about firecrackers. I mentioned recently that when we first arrived at Johore Bahru in 1965, we were woken up by loud noises in the middle of the night. I think my parents were worried and thought that the noises might be gunfire connected with Indonesian insurgents. However, it turned out to be Mr Lee, across the way, letting off rows of firecrackers. I suppose it must have been Chinese New Year at the time and was probably about February as we had just moved in, in the January before.
I loved all the fireworks and there were many displays at the Naval Base especially at Chinese New Year and Christmas.
The film below shows a firework display in Singapore in the 1960s. It would have been quite spectacular then and much better than any display that you would have seen back in England at the time.



Firecrackers were finally banned in 1972 and an article in a Singapore paper covered the story:

No more firecrackers at Chinese New Year
1st March 1972
Indescriminate firing of crackers during the Chinese New Year season each year had turned the age-old custom into such a public nuisance that the Government has decided to put a total stop to it.
Minister of home affairs Wong Lin Ken said that the Government was forced to impose the ban because the public had not been cooperative in efforts to curb the firecracker menace.
On 2nd June, Parliament passed the Dangerous Firework Bill. It became an offence for someone to possess or fire dangerous fireworks, such as firecrackers and rocket fireworks. Anyone found guilty could be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to two years, or both.


To me, fireworks will always remind me of two events. One is Mr Lee letting off firecrackers on his balcony and the other is that Catherine Wheel flying up Les's shorts!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Jalan Wijaya home movie, 1966


Here's a little short 8mm film of me at Jalan Wijaya when I was about 5 years old. It starts with me peering in our side window which was our parents bedroom. Then there's a clip of me pretending to be a soldier while sat in a Rattan chair before the ice cream man arrives in his funny little van. While we're getting ice cream, a man, complete with turban, drives by on his motor scooter. Then, there's film of me pulling a funny face while wearing a hat. I remember that my mum filmed this because my dad was fast asleep indoors. I also remember that this was the day after a party at our house (probably why he was asleep). I've posted a photo of the party before but, look, there's that same hat which was left behind by one of my parents' friends and you can see whose face I'm trying to copy in the home movie! The sound is a bit funny on this film and that's not my stomach rumbling at the end but sound from the next clip which featured the Butterworth Ferry at Penang!
I hope to feature a home movie from when I went back to Jalan Wijaya in 1990 on here soon. You'll be able to see how much it all had changed over the years.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Street Hawkers


Back in the 1960s, the streets of Singapore were full with markets and street hawkers. They sold everything that you could want. As well as fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, they also sold furniture, rattan work, household utensils, toys, clothes, jewellery and many other goods. I loved going to them all but was probably more fascinated by the cheap toys and piles of rambutans more than anything. The stalls had their own smell especially at the end of the day when the fruit and vegetables weren't at their best after cooking in the heat of the sun all day. The stalls produced a lot of rubbish including cardboard boxes, rotting fruit and vegetables as well as other waste, much of which must have ended up in the Singapore River. As the government slowly cleaned up the streets, many of the hawkers were cleared away. A report in a local newspaper in 1970 covered the story:

4th August 1970.
'Street hawkers to be moved under cover.'
A massive five-year plan was announced to clear all hawkers - 25,000 of them - off the streets. This was consistant with the Government's effort of providing a better and healthier envronment for the people to live in. Under the plan, popular roaside stalls, such as those in Orchard Road, Satay Club in Beach Road and the noodle stalls at Hokkien Street, would be gradually moved indoors.

Today, Singapore is a totally different place to the one that I remember in my childhood in the 1960s. There are no more street hawkers, market stalls or snake charmers. All the rubbish is now gone and the streets are spotless. The Singapore River is clean and all the hundreds of sampans and bumboats that once inhabited the area have been cleared away. A lot has changed over the years and I miss the old Singapore. The new Singapore is very modern, clean and tidy but there's something that's been lost under all the tall skyscrapers, super fast railway systems and modern housing. I wonder how many people living in Singapore today miss it all?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

More Jalan Wijaya

A few weeks ago, I heard from Tracey Jamieson who said that she was enjoying my blog and that my tales of our days in Singapore and Malaya were strangely similar to her memories. By sheer coincidence it turned out that she lived at 97 Jalan Wijaya at the same time that we lived at 103 Jalan Wijaya. That meant that she was only three houses away from us (the house numbers went up in twos). We didn't remember each other but I sent her a photo of my 4th birthday party and Tracey was on the left of the picture!
Tracey was visiting her mother so sorted through her photo album and sent me some pictures. One of her dad, Jack Latimer, and friends was taken right outside our front door. Others showed the street and nearby houses. It was lovely to see the photos which reminded me of my childhood spent there and also jogged my memory of parts of the area that I'd long forgotten about.
It seemed a huge coincidence that we both lived in the same street at eactly the same time. I asked my parents if they remembered Tracey's parents but they could only remember our immediate neighbours and Tracey's next door neighbour, Harry Smith. I do, however, have a vague memory of going to school and a blonde haired girl living further down the street and I think that this must have been Tracey. I was only about 5 at the time!
The colour photo above shows Tracey's house at 97 Jalan Wijaya.
Isn't it amazing how the internet manages to put so many people, with similar memories and interests, in touch with each other? I've just started up a Facebook page called, you've guessed it, 'Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans' where I hope people will add their own photos and reminisces. If you want to check it out it's at
Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans (Facebook)

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Fresh chickens


James Seah kindly sent me a video that showed market stall holders in Singapore selling fresh chickens. 'Fresh' nowadays means buying it pre-packaged from a supermarket. Then, it meant buying the chicken alive and taking it home with you and letting it run around the garden until you needed it! I remember coming back from Singapore on the bus with my mum on many occasions and there would be live chickens running around our feet, together with lots of other produce including huge fish wrapped in newspaper. It was certainly different from getting on a bus today! Our chicken always came already cooked and we certainly never brought home any live ones. Even then, I felt sorry for the chickens and all the other animals like the lobsters that would be swimming around in tanks in restaurants before being chosen by a hungry customer and then cooked. I wonder if they still do that?
The bus journeys always were eventful and apart from the wildlife on board, there were the continuous breakdowns which meant that the many passangers outside the bus, some just seemed to cling to the side, would jump off and give it a push until it went again. Then they would all jump on again. No wonder the bus broke down with all that extra weight! As I said in an earlier blog, nobody ever queued for the bus and everyone just piled on. I can't remember how everyone paid, I don't remember there being a conductor on the bus.
I remember all the smells and noise of the livestock too. As a small boy, I loved seeing all the chicken running around. It seems strange now but, in a way, I sort of miss it! I know that if we'd brought a chicken home when we lived at Jalan Wijaya, it would have probably ended up being given a name and left to run around the garden until it died of old age!

Friday, 12 February 2010

The removal of Change Alley


Like me, many of you will have fond memories of our parents bartering in Change Alley in the 1960s. I remember a stall holder would approach you and shake your hand and say, 'Where are you from?'. You could say anywhere in the world and he would say, 'Ah! I have an uncle there!' Once they got hold of your hand, they wouldn't let go of it until they'd successfully manoevered you into their shop! Anything that you wanted to buy would be there including clothes and electrical goods. You could also get local cash from the Indian money changers trading at Change Alley. There was also food, carvings, rattan work, toys, gifts and jewellery. I think a suit cost about 30 shillings and could be made up in several hours. Many servicemen went there for their uniforms.
The Change Alley that we all remember disappeared in 1989. There's a news story in The Chronicle of Singapore which reads:
17th April 1989
Change Alley will be no more on 30th April. Shopkeepers and hawkers have been told to clear their stocks. They were supposed to have moved out earlier in April but have been given an extension following an appeal. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, demolition works will start in early May. Some hawkers have taken up the Enviroment Ministry's offer of vacant sundry and cooked-food stalls in existing markets and food centres.

An entry for 2nd February 1994 reads:
A Change-d Alley
The new Change Alley was officially opened as an up-market shopping podium as part of a $600-million Hitachi Tower/Caltex House Development. Once a bustling lane of little shops crammed with money changers and Asian exotica that attracted sailors, tourists and bargain hungry Singaporeans, it now houses upscaled brands like Anne Klien II and was designed for the professionals who worked in the area.

When I went back to Singapore in December 1990, I went to Change Alley and yet the reports say that it closed in 1989 and didn't open again until 1994. That's strange, maybe I travelled back in time. And, when I told the man in one of the shops where I was from, he said, ''Ah! I have an uncle there!'. Uncanny!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Happy Chinese New Year


I think today is Chinese New Year so, 'Gong Xi Fa Cai', which translates to 'Wishing you prosperity in the New Year'. There seems to be various diffent spellings including, 'Kong Hei Fatt Choy' and I think I've seen others but they all seem to be pronounced the same. I think that this is the year of the tiger. The photo shows my dad and mum attending the Chinese New Year celebrations in February 1966 at KD Malaya. I seem to remember us all going up to the base in Singapore and there being fantastic firework displays but I think that this must have been on a different night to the Chinese Dinner and Dance that my parents went to. Perhaps it was on the same day as it always got dark at 7pm so maybe we left earlier before our parents' party began.
As you can see, I still have the original invite which says that the party was on the 19th February, 1966 at 8pm. The evening included, 'Dancing to the Vigilantes', a Raffle, Spot Prizes, a Lion Dance and a Late Bar.There was also a Chinese meal which included Shark's Fin Soup, Satay Duck, Fried Rice and Ice Lai Chee. I don't know what the last one is!
I remember that when we first arrived at Jalan Wijaya, we were woken up by loud noises that we thought were gunfire. With the recent trouble with the Indonesians, my parents thought that we were under attack and that the noises were gunfire. It turned out that it was Mr Lee, across the way, letting off fire crackers for Chinese New Year. The fire crackers were very loud in those days and in subsequent years, they were banned.
I probably slept through it all as, although I've been told the story many times, I don't remember any of it. I slept through the nearby rubber factory burning down too!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Bartering

I'm not sure if the market stall holder in this photo is telling the buyer what he can do with his offer or if he is asking for $2!
Back in the 1960s, bartering was a way of life. You would start at about half what the seller was asking and between you, you would haggle to a price somewhere in between. This way both parties were happy. If you were unhappy with the price, you would walk off but you could always guarantee that the seller would call you back. Whatever the price was, you always felt that you got a good deal. The market stalls were great places for bartering as was Change Alley but it seemed that everywhere we went, they were happy to reduce their prices. When I went back to Singapore in 1990, I tried to barter again. I found that I was just laughed at, things had changed!
People enjoyed trying to get a bargain and the locals expected it anyway so put their prices up to start off with. I remember when we first got there, my parents were looking for a table and chairs. They saw some they liked and asked how much they were. Sometimes, you would get ridiculously high prices because the locals knew that you had just arrived by how white you were!
The reply was ‘Two Dollar Fifty, Missy!’
My mum was surprised and turned to my dad and said ‘Two Dollars Fifty!’, thinking it was very cheap.
The man in the shop thought that she thought they were expensive and instantly reduced the price to two dollars!
They couldn’t have made much profit in the shops because they always gave all of us a drink and if you didn’t have a car, they would take you and the furniture back home for free!
I'm sure that many people got a bargain and there must be souvenirs from Singapore all over Britain because of this. Unfortunately, after 40 or so years, much of it seems to have ended up in charity shops!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Whatever happened to the monkeys in the Botanic Gardens?


This photo shows my mum, dad and me feeding the monkeys in the Botanic Gardens in Singapore in about 1965. I was scared stiff of them!
I've probably written about this before but when I went back to Singapore in 1990, I wondered what had happened to all the monkeys that we loved feeding back then. In 1990, there wasn't a single one left.
This morning, I received a lovely book from a good friend, James Seah in Singapore, called, 'Chronicle of Singapore 1959 - 2009'. James has his own excellent Singapore Blog which many of you will know called Blog to Express.
The book is wonderful to read and it's very interesting to read not just the news stories of when we were there but also to read what has happened since.
I think, within it's pages, lies the answer to the disappearance of all those wonderful monkeys. An entry for 1971 reads:

MONKEY SHOOTINGS DRAW CELEBRITY PROTEST
23rd January,1971
Hollywood actress Barbara Werle and three friends staged a picket-line protest outside the Botanic Gardens against the culling of wild monkeys in the park. Police broke up the protest after half an hour.
Werle and her friends carried placards which read: 'Please don't shoot the monkeys - feed them!'and 'Save the Apes - take one to dinner. Stop the killing'. She said she was moved to protest after reading a report about the two-day cull in The New Nation, an afternoon paper.
In response, the Primary Production Department said the monkeys were a 'vicious and wily' nuisance that threatened public welfare and had to be destroyed. It added that the Botanic Gardens would offer a prize to anyone who could suggest a more practical and humane way to get rid of the pests.


So, there you have it. It looks like all those monkeys that we enjoyed feeding nuts and bananas to, all that time ago, were eventually shot. I find this quite sad but I suppose it's what I'd thought had probably happened to them. There seems to have been no place for monkeys in the new, very clean, Singapore.
I was reading about someone who had lived in Singapore in the 1960s and had returned in the late 1980s and found much of it unrecognisable. He said that he didn't want to return again because he felt that it would have changed too much since his last visit and he would rather remember it how it was. Perhaps many people feel like that. Singapore today is certainly a very different city to the one that I remember in the 1960s.
The book is an excellent read and it solves many other mysteries about disappeared parts of Singapore that I've often wondered about. I shall be including a lot more from its fascinating pages later on in this blog, so keep reading.
Thanks again, James, for an excellent book, it's very much appreciated.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Singapore Airlines advert 1960s

Here's a film sent to me by Hari Ramachandran which shows an advert for Singapore Airlines in the 1960s.
It features the music, 'Singapore Girl' and I believe that air hostesses with Singapore Airlines were called 'Singapore Girls.'
It's interesting because there's lots of shots of Singapore as it once was showing clips of Collyer Quay, Orchard Road, the boat Quay and Paya Lebar Airport.

There's also shots of trishaws and the black and yellow Mercedes taxis that we all remember. It's great to see Singapore as it once was including all the old buildings, the many sampans on the river, the many market stalls and also all the old cars.
I hope to include many more films like this later on in this blog which I hope will jog many people's memories of Singapore how it used to be.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Jalan Wijaya today

I've searched google many times before, hoping to find a modern photo of Jalan Wijaya, but with no luck. Recently, I put 'Jalan Wijaya' in the search box and discovered that there was someone on Facebook who now lives at 104 Jalan Wijaya! I was amazed to have found somebody who lived so close to us at 103 so I wrote to him and we soon became friends. It seemed incredible that I could contact someone living in our old street and it seemed a great opportunity to get some recent photos. Tan Chee Klong (CK) was happy to oblige and here's what Jalan Wijaya looks like today.
The first photo shows our old house. This picture certainly brings back a lot of happy memories. Back in the 1960s, there were huge monsoon drains in front of the house with huge toads who would croak during the night. Many kids and even the odd car would end up down there. The photo also reminds me of cycling past, coming off my bike, and banging my head on the front gate. There are so many things that come into my mind looking at this picture - the many barbeques, our birthday parties, building dens, firework displays, watching the monsoon water rising closer and closer to the front door, our Amah Azizah (I wonder if she still lives close by?) and many, many more things. I remember when we first moved in and my parents hired a tv set. All the local Chinese children came and sat on the gate to watch it!
The windows on the side were by our bedrooms and back in the 1960s they were covered in ornate railings. We used to leave the windows open at night because of the heat, I loved listening to the crickets, but there were reports of people with bamboo canes and fishing hooks trying to get stuff out through the open windows while people slept!
The second photo shows the view from our house looking towards Jalan Dato Sulaiman which is where all the shops were where we got our groceries etc. The first shop on the right housed an insurers who always had a monkey attached to their chain-linked door. The road was half the size back then and on the right was all grass. Women would cut your grass for $2 and used huge scythes that they swung over their heads. This was the area where I found a branch which I stuck in the back garden and it grew into a lovely tree. On the left, is Mr Lee's house, he must be long gone now. Of course, the skyscrapers and tall buildings are all new but I can still instantly recognise the area and it brings back so many happy memories.
The third photo shows Jalan Dato Sulaiman where all the shops were that we regularly visited. The ones that I can remember back then were an insurers, a toy shop, the cold store (where we bought a packet of Sugar Smacks full of ants), a photographers and a hairdressers. CK tells me that the hairdressers and insurers is still there. I bet the hairdressers don't still do those crazy bouffants that they used to give women in the 1960s! The right hand side of the road used to just be covered in grass. There were often discarded old films lying there, thrown out by the photography shop. There were no high rise buildings back then and a lot more trees and greenery. Following this road back up, you eventually came to endless jungle. Of course, it's all be cleared now. Further down the road, was a rubber factory that turned out endless flip-flops. We must have got through a lot of them as kids!
Thanks, CK, so many happy memories!