Remember Change Alley? This photo shows it as it was in the 1960s. When I went back to Singapore in 1990, there was still a Change Alley but it was in a different location and a lot different from the 1960s version (they still sold pirate tapes though!). Nowadays, I believe Change Alley has gone forever.
In the 1960s, it was a place where you could buy anything. You could be measured for a suit and it would be ready the same days all for a knock down price. Everybody bartered for everything and always came away feeling that they'd got a bargain. You couldn't get by a stall without its owner calling out to you or coming to greet you. Quite often, he would shake your hand but not let go and slowly pull you back into his shop.
I remember them selling everything there - electrical goods, clothes, bags, furniture, toys etc. The stall holder would always ask where you were from and when you told him, he would say, 'I have an uncle there!'
If you didn't want the item, or just wanted it cheaper and were walking away, they would always call you back and offer it to you at a lower price. I'm sure we came home with stuff that we didn't want to buy in the first place! It was very popular and could get very busy at times. I always remember the shopkeepers being happy and even tempered. I think as a small kid I just found the whole experience totally fascinating. Of course, if you bought something cheap in Singapore and took it back over the causeway to Malaya, you were meant to pay customs duty. I'm not sure anyone ever did though!