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


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 meringues 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 afterwards 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. Their 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
(Sorry, this is an old posting and they are no longer available)

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


Here's a photo from June 1967 of me on the back of a boat heading off on a banyan. 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


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!
 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!

Sunday 29 November 2009


Here's a photo I found of my dad recently setting up his barbecue at Jason's Bay in about 1966. Barbecues seemed very popular back then. Dad would carry this home made barbecue with him if we were going out for the day. It weighed a ton!
We were always having barbecues in the garden, sometimes in the evenings, watching the chit-chats run up the walls while the crickets started to chirp. Sometimes dad's friends from work would come around and there'd be a bit of a party or a game of darts. It seemed at the time that everyone owned a barbeque and everyone was invited.
Even when we went to the nearby restaurant, George's, at Johore, there would be a barbecue going with all you could eat. The trouble with being outside eating was that the mozzies always got you (my dad more than most!) but the smoke seemed to keep them at bay. I remember sitting at the front of our house having a barbecue and the Flintstones being on. So, whatever time the Flintstones was on must have been the time when we had our tea! Adults used to enjoy the Flintstones then too and it wasn't seen as a cartoon just for kids.
Incidentally, I was pleased to find this picture because years ago, it somehow got thrown away. Then, a few months ago, I was scanning some slides that I'd taken in the 1970s and I found that I'd photographed the missing picture! I'm glad it wasn't lost forever because it really reminds me of having barbecues in Singapore and Malaya. I know that people still have them today but somehow it doesn't seem quite the same (and I'm a vegetarian now).

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Stamp collecting

It would probably seem boring to kids today but when we were growing up in Singapore, all of the kids seemed to like collecting stamps. We had quite a collection and my dad's friends, Poon and Omar Mahmood, would keep them all for us. I remember Poon sending us stamps from Borneo and then when we returned to England, he continued to send them. With dad travelling all over the world, he sent us stamps from every country he visited also.
There were some beautiful stamps in Singapore and Malaya in the 1960s. Anyone who was there at the time will remember the fish stamps. They were all quite colourful. There were also stamps depicting local traditions, flowers and wildlife. Just seeing these stamps takes me straight back to our days in Singapore and Malaya.
When we returned home to England, we had quite a collection of stamps and they would probably be worth something today. Unfortunately, after a few years, our interest in stamp collecting waned and I think all those lovely stamps were given away sometime in the early 1970s. I wonder where they all are now?
I have a few stamps from Singapore today. They're mainly the colourful ones from the 1960s that remind me of our times there. Incidently, I've quite a few spare stamps from Singapore in the 1960s so if anyone wants to rekindle their stamp collecting memories, let me know!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

The Balloon Man

Here's a photo of the balloon man touring the estate some time in the 1960s. He sold ordinary balloons, stripy balloons as well as inflatable cartoon characters, dogs and reindeers. There's an inflatable girl on the front of his bike here but I think I also remember him selling inflatable cartoon characters such as Marine Boy and, maybe, Gigantor.
It made me think about all the other people who used to call around with all their goods piled on their bikes or small scooters. I remember the brush man who had every variety of brush you could imagine. He had so many brushes on his bike that you couldn't see him underneath! Then there was the man who came around, again on a small bike, with plastic buckets, washing up bowls and every other plastic utensil you could ever want. It seemed that they had to get as much on their bikes as was possible, so much that you wondered how they managed to see whaere they were going! Of course, the ice cream man would come around regularly but he wouldn't just have ice cream, he'd have toys, transfers, stickers, popcorn and anything else a kid could want. There was also the satay man and also other people selling curry. Aparently, the was a fish and chip seller but I don't remember that one! All these small enterprising businesses sprung up purely to supply the influx of Western servicemen and their families. They must have noticed the difference when they all disappeared!
I would look forward to the ice cream man coming around. He would stop right outside our house in Jalan Wijaya and, even if you were just buying an ice cream for a few cents, he would always give you a free gift like Marine Boy transfers, which I loved. It made it all very interesting for a kid back then, I bet it's not like that nowadays!

Friday 20 November 2009

Naval Parties

There always seemed to be parties going on when I was a kid. Sometimes they would be around our house and we would love all the visitors though I was packed off to bed and slept through most of it! This photo doesn't seem to have been taken in our house though I recognise many of my dad's Naval pals and their wives. In the back row, is Pete Barton who lived near us at Jalan Dato Sulaiman. He was always in charge of showing the films at the Naval Base and always got hassled when they broke! In the middle row, is my mum in the centre and her friend, Bette Sharpe is on the right. In front of them are Jean and Tom Bagwell and Les Sharpe and Ron Morrison are at the front. I think this might have been the party where Les came as James Bond complete with a plastic duck strapped to his head! My parents had a great social life with knowing so many people at the time and there were always barbeques, firework displays and banyans. I'll always remember the firework show at Les's house when the Catherine Wheel flew off the fence post it was nailed to and shot straight up the leg of his shorts! The Naval Base always had events going on too including the Summer Ball, Chinese New Year and shows which included celebrities of the day such as Harry Secombe and Anita Harris. We loved Christmas day parties for the kids which included food, cinema shows, firework displays and lots of games. When I think of it now, there seemed to be something going on all the time! It must have seemed strange for all our parents when they all finally returned back to England.

Thursday 19 November 2009


When I was a kid growing up in Singapore and Malaya, there was one thing that I loved - robots! My favourite cartoons were Marine Boy, which I'm sure everyone remembers, and Gigantor. Set in the year 2000, the cartoon features Jimmy Sparks, a 12-year-old boy, who controls Gigantor, a huge flying robot. When I wasn't playing Samurai, or pretending to be the characters from Time Tunnel, I was pretending to be Gigantor. I watched the show when I was three years old but apparently it had to be edited to take out the violence when it was shown in America. Like Marine Boy, it was made in Japan and dubbed into English. I've not seen the cartoon since the 1960s but here's a photo from the show.

I think that's what started my fascination with tin robots. I had two - a talking one and one that showed a space scene in a television in its chest. Alan had a walking tin robot that would stop and fire guns! We used to have battles in our bedroom with them. Alan's lasted until we got back to England when he dismantled it and found that it was made from tin from old Coca-Cola cans and other re-used metal. They never wasted anything in Singapore! My robots lasted until the 1980s when, unfortunately, they were thrown away. They'd be worth hundreds of pounds nowadays and are very collectable. As I mentioned Marine Boy earlier, here's a clip from the show, I hope it brings back memories. 


Gigantor was colorised and released on DVD, though I haven't seen any of the episodes. I wonder how many other people reading this remember the show?

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Driving in Singapore and Malaya

I found my mum's old Singapore driving licence the other day. It's dated the 31st July, 1965.
I don't remember my mum driving the car at all but I do remember her taking lessons. Her instructor was called Ahmed and he use to drive a black Morris Minor. He was always chewing betel nuts which made his mouth very red. If my mum wasn't driving too well, he would say, 'I think you fight with husband!' or 'I take you out when you cool down!' It was scary learning to drive out there and everybody seemed to just drive down the middle to avoid the monsoon drains which ran

down either side of the road. There was often a car stuck down one! They would even over take you on both sides.
Mum passed eventually with a few extra lessons from friends who were more used to the roads. I think that the licence had to be re-newed each year.
Her photo in the back certainly sums up the times and fashions!
What was funny was that when we returned to England, a Singapore test pass didn't count so she had to take the whole thing again!

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Road trip to Penang, 1966

In 1966, my dad decided to hire a car and drive us all the way from Johore Bahru to Sandycroft in Penang. I'm sure it must have seemed a good idea at the time but it was a very long, tiring journey. Dad's friend at KD Malaya, Poon, had said that all should be well if dad stuck to the proper roads and didn't stop as some areas were known to have bandits. Dad hired a Toyota, which I think must have been one of their first models. It had no fuel gauge so we never knew how much petrol there was in the tank. Also, the car wasn't that big so dad had his knees up around his chest for most of the trip! The journey was hot and humid on the way up. I remember seeing dead snakes on the road. At first, we thought that they were old fan belts off other cars that had travelled the same way but then we realised what they were. Mum had got us lots of games and puzzles to play but we soon got bored with them. She told us to look out for tigers, and I've no doubt that there were some. She had just said this when we turned a corner and three elephants walked across the road in front of us! With it being such a long journey, and with us not stopping much, the obvious happened and being just five years old, I was bursting to go to the toilet. We pulled over at a row of shops or shacks and mum asked if I could use their toilet. They were only too happy but as I went in, I saw that they were slaughtering chickens and there was blood everywhere. It was like something out of a horror movie! They really do run about without their heads! I was shown the toilet which was just a hole in the ground and I can't really remember if I managed to go or not with all the commotion going on! We were soon on our way again and strangely enough, it never gave me nightmares. That journey was the first time I remember getting car sick. It was a mixture of petrol fumes, dad's cigarette smoke, the cramped car and the humidity. Mum gave us some rice pudding but it just tasted like petrol to me and that was enough to make my stomach start turning! It's funny, I don't remember many buildings or much else between Johore Bahru and Penang. I bet it's a lot more built up nowadays. We got to Sandycroft safely and had a great time but we made sure we got the plane after that!

Monday 16 November 2009

Christmas 1965

This photo was taken within the Naval Base in Singapore at Christmas 1965 when I was 4 years old. Beside me on the float is Debbie Sharpe who lived near us at Jalan Wijaya. I remember most of this day quite well. There was a party for the kids with lots of food and jelly and excitement when the Naval Base Santa Claus arrived. They would call out your name in turn and you would then get a present from Santa, who was, of course, someone from the Naval base with a false cotton wool beard! I remember my present was a camera and I think it lasted till I got home and then it fell apart! There were lots of games and then in the evening, there was a film show, shown outside. I remember that the film was Pinocchio and this probably sticks in my mind because a kid nearby was sick after eating too much party food. It was a horrible smell but I think I stayed till the end of the film. Most of the other kids just wandered off! Once the film had finished, it was time for the fireworks. The firework shows seemed amazing then. The rockets would go up and little plastic soldiers on parachutes would shoot out of the end and float to the ground. I've never seen anything like them since. All the boys would run around collecting the parachutists to take home though they could be pretty hard to find in the dark. All the Naval personnel really went out of their way to make the day a happy time for the kids and we all had a great time. It seems strange now spending Christmas on such a warm, humid day. Certainly a lot different from cold, wet England!

Saturday 14 November 2009

Sandycroft Home Movie 1966

Here's another home movie taken at Sandycroft Leave Centre in Penang.
This one starts with the Butterworth ferry crossing over to Penang. I wonder if this was the year my dad hired a car and drove up to Penang from Johore Bahru as I don't think we would have taken the car ferry otherwise. Alan and me can be seen on deck. After views of the river, the film cuts to my dad and Alan in the sea on our lilo at Sandycroft. Everyone had lilos in those days! Alan's got his diving mask and snorkel on. My dad had one and used to go spear fishing with one of those spear guns that you used to see in films like James Bond in the 1960s.

The next shot shows me building a sand castle on the beach and then there's shots of the Leave Centre. Everyone who visited there will remember the red and yellow umbrellas. The seats are where we'd have our breakfast and lunch brought out from the nearby cafe. It's also the spot where we saw everyone run out of the sea when someone shouted, 'Shark!' I think I mentioned before that it turned out to be a school of dolphins!
Next we're blowing bubbles up by the chalet where we stayed and then there's more shots of the Leave Centre which shows the children's paddling pool. We were always in there. Then Alan, mum and me are sat on the front while Alan continues swimming. There are more shots of the Leave Centre and then dad walks me along the beach. Then we all set off to go out and I think we pass that tiny Toyota that dad drove us up in.
Next, we're playing golf in a park. The film of the surrounding countryside shows just how much jungle was still in place at the time. I wonder what it looks like nowadays?
Next, we're back on the beach at Sandycroft and Alan is being buried in the sand by dad. The bucket that ends up on his head is one of those buckets that you used to get free when you bought washing up powder.
Then there's just shots of us swimming in the sea and finally, mum films a water skier going by because she'd been water skiing the day before!
I've never seen any other footage of Sandycroft from the 1960s so I hope you enjoy these short films.

Friday 13 November 2009

Our Triumph Herald

This photo shows me and Alan in front of the family's Triumph Herald. If my memory is right, this picture was taken in the Botanical Gardens in Singapore in about 1967.
The car had leather seats and a walnut dashboard. We must have travelled all over the place in that car. It's funny, if I ever get in a car when it's very hot and it has leather seats, the smell takes me straight back to Singapore. It's funny how your mind works, isn't it? The same smell also reminds me of the Mercedes taxis that we used to travel in whenever we were in the city.

I have the original receipt for the car. It cost $1,206 when my dad bought it. The receipt is dated 27th June 1966, which is strange, because we moved to Singapore and Malaya in January 1965 and I don't remember us having any car previous to this one. I'll have to ask my dad about it! Does anyone remember the Hong Heng Company?
The car number plate was SP 3040. It was a lovely car and was white with a red stripe down it. It would have probably been very modern then. We went all over in it, I remember one day when we were driving in Singapore and we got hemmed in by lorries on both sides. The driving always was crazy there, it's probably worse today! Does anyone remember how the motor cyclists used to drive with their jackets on back to front? I'm not sure if this was to cut down the wind or to keep the rain off.
Apart from visiting places like Jason's Bay, Johore Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, Tiger Balm Gardens etc, I've also got fond memories of visiting all those Esso garages so we could put a 'tiger in our tank!' I loved all those free gifts especially the Tiger Tail!
It would have been lovely to have brought the car home with us. I can't remember what happened to it but I doubt it's still going today. It would be nice to think that someone in Singapore is still driving it around but I somehow doubt it!

Thursday 12 November 2009

More Home Movies - Tiger Balm Gardens

This home movie starts with a trip to Tiger Balm Gardens. Sorry that the quality isn't too great. You should be able to make out all those statues that you remember from the 1960s. There's one bit where we climb down and ride on the animals, something that was frowned upon by the owners at the time! I think the shot of us sitting in front of the huge gorilla would have been taken on the same day as the photo that appears on the front cover of my book, 'Memories of Singapore and Malaya'.
Notice how close the water was to the park in those days. It's not like that anymore with all the land reclamation that's taken place over the years.

Seen in the film are the statues of Confucious, the huge Buddha which everyone rubbed his belly for luck, and the giant Cobras! It didn't look like the same place last time I visited in 1990.
The movie ends up with me on a beach, I think, in Sandycroft in Penang.
This joins up to another movie which, if I haven't posted it already, I hope to add to the blog very shortly.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Water fight

Here's a photo of Alan and me, in our back garden at Jalan Wijaya, having a water fight! The year must have been about 1966. This was certainly a good way to cool down though I always seemed to end up the most wet! Our den is on the left of the picture. We'd made this out of old packing crates that we found outside a house in Jalan Dato Sulaimin where a new Naval family had just moved in. I remember us rolling these crates all the way home. Mum and dad didn't seem to mind at the time though I can't remember how long it stayed there for. Also, in the picture, you can see the open drain that led around the house to the monsoon drain at the front. I remember that I had a pet fish that I'd bought in one of the shops nearby. It died but mum decided not to tell me and flushed it down the toilet. Of course, we were playing in the garden and we saw it's journey along the drain! I wasn't that attached to it though - I'd only had it a week! Someone reminded me how all the kids in Singapore and Malaya used to just wander around in their pants because it was so hot and here I am proving it. I never wore shoes either though I wore flip flops if I was going over to the shops. Maybe that's why my feet are so big and wide now!

Sunday 8 November 2009

More Tiger Balm Gardens

Here's a few postcards from the 1960s featuring Tiger Balm Gardens. It's been knocked around a bit so probably doesn't look quite like this anymore! The first picture features the lovely ornate entrance to the garden. In the 1960s, this had the words, 'Tiger Balm Garden' written on it though, in later years, this was changed to 'Haw Par Villa'. Above the writing was a brightly painted tiger. As you walked up to the gate, you could see the sea on your left but, with land reclamation, the water is now much further away. I think on the right of this picture was where the gorilla statues stood. Every visitor to the gardens probably had their photo taken there!
The second photo shows the bottom entrance. The park seems very busy and most of the people are Chinese and I can only spot one Western visitor. There's a stall selling cold Coca-Cola on the right hand side of the picture and the stall on the left seems to be selling fruit. The third photo shows a temple in the middle of the park. There's a statue of a Buddha on top. I remember playing inside this pagoda when I was small and my dad filmed this on his cine camera. I'll add
the movie later. The bridge on the left of the picture was above where all the animal statues were and these included a giant frog, a turtle, a hippo and a walrus. We loved playing on them when we were kids, even though there were signs saying, 'Keep Out!' The final picture shows my favourite statues in the park, the gorillas. The statues here have barbed wire in front of them, not to keep the gorillas in, but to keep the visitors (probably English ones!) off the exhibits! This deadly barbed wire was later replaced with a fence. In the background is the Buddha statue that appears in the previous picture and what looks like a statue of a toucan. The gardens had several different areas. I remember there was an Antipodean part featuring kangaroo and emu statues and other areas that incorporated Chinese legends, history, folklore and mythology. There were also statues of Confucius, reindeer, rhinos, zebras and many other brightly painted animals.
 Also, there were giant Buddhas and the notorious Ten Courts of Hell which was not for the squeamish! I think there was a warning outside. I don't think children were let in anyway and I never bothered with this part of the park even when I went back in 1990. When I returned in 1990, the gorilla statues had disappeared, there was a huge dragon ride and a statue of a tiger driving a car. It seemed to have lost a lot of its appeal since the 1960s and almost didn't seem like the same place. It's recently been refurbished but I don't suppose it'll ever quite be the same as the place I have such fond memories of.

Saturday 7 November 2009

More photos of Sandycroft Leave Centre, Penang 1960s

I was asked to upload a few more photos from Sandycroft Leave Centre in the 1960s, so here they are! If you attend Dalat School which stands on the same spot, you may be able to recognise some of the areas in the photos. The first one was taken by my brother with our Kodak 127 camera looking down towards the children's swimming pool. I believe the cinema was off to the right. Just past the pool was the area where the beach was and we took boat trips from a jetty on the right.
The second photo is of the bar area. You can tell that all the Forces personnel here have just come straight from the beach! Plenty of Tiger Beer on tap and a juke box on the right. The bar faced towards the sea and I think that the cafe and restaurant were joined to it. Look at that mural of the beach at Tanjong Bungah. I remember walking past the bar on the way to the arcade, I think that it had large windows looking out towards the sea.
The third photo shows the children's pool area again. We used to always play in there, it wasn't very deep. Sometimes, we would even take the lilo in! The fourth photo shows the area on the right that, I think, was the arcade. Lots of 'shoot-em-up' games and slot machines. If you were lucky to win, you had to find the arcade owner, who was Chinese, and show him the machine to verify this before he would pay out the money.
 The problem was, and he knew this, that someone always wanted to play the machine in the meantime! The tables,chairs and umbrellas are where people would have their breakfast and lunch from the nearby cafe.
The final photo was taken by my parents friend, George Holden. His three children can be seen playing on the swings on the right. Incidentally, if you click on any of the photos in the blog, you can see them much larger. I hope to post more photos of the Leave Centre and Penang shortly.