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.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

School Days

I remember this day at school. Our class photo was taken on December 1967 and all the photos seemed to be taken in that month, I suppose because it was coming to the end of the term. I remember waiting at the top of the steps to come down to have our photos taken by, I think, a Mr Lee.
In the photo, I'm holding the hand of the girl next to me. I'd long forgotten who she was but her sister emailed me recently and told me that she was Caroline Flack. Also in the photo are my friends at school then, Ian Bagwell and Nigel Barton. 
I couldn't remember much that we got up to at school but then I listened to the tape that we'd sent my gran a year earlier and I'm singing some of the songs that we learned. These include, 'Little Bird', 'Rain Rain Go Away'. All Things Bright and Beautiful', 'A Spoonful of Sugar','Once I caught a Fish Alive' and 'Darkness, Darkness.'
Some of these I don't even remember today but I seemed to know all the words then! 

Football match, Penang 1966

This photo was taken on the playing fields at the Sandycroft Leave Centre in Penang in 1966. The men played the women in a football match but all the men wore the women's gear and vice versa. I think the women won by 7 goals to 5. I remember this day perfectly but for another totally different reason. Down by the main part of the Leave Centre by the cinema and arcade, there was a litle shop that sold toys. Alan and me loved Batman, The Man From Uncle and the Green Hornet and the shop had just got in the new Corgi Man From Uncle car. The Man From Uncle was a very popular show and the two stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum were treated like pop stars. The Green Hornet was a programme we also absolutely loved but when we got back to England, we discovered that it had been banned because apparently it was too violent! Maybe that's why Samurai was never shown either. It seems funny now, doesn't it? Anyway, back to the day of the match, Alan and me decided we wanted this Man From Uncle car so we set about tracking down our parents to see if we could hassle dad to give us our pocket money early. We finally found them playing football, got the money and bought the car. I've still got it today! It's funny how these things stick in your memory.

The Brit Club

Here's a photo of the Britannia Club on Beach Road in Singapore which was set up for members of the forces and their families for recreation and social purposes. It was also known as the NAAFI club or the Brit Club and was opposite Raffles Hotel. Inside, there was a swimming pool and in the back room was a giant scalectrix set, great for the kids though I think it was mainly used by Naval personnel!. Around and above the swimming pool was a huge balcony where we'd all eat and get drinks. You could have a full English breakfast - sausages, bacon, chips and Daddies sauce. Not a very Singaporean meal!
There were high diving boards too by the pool, though a lot of people didn't have the courage to go on them! Certainly not me!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Jalan Wijaya 1990

I've just found this photo I took in Jalan Wijaya in 1990. As you can see, it had just stopped raining. This was taken from the front of our old house looking towards Mr Lee's house on the left. The road leads to where the cold store and the other shops were in Jalan Dato Sulaiman. It's funny to think of the times I've walked along this road when I was a small boy. On the right was the area where the photo of the grass cutter was taken and also where I found the branch that became the tree in our back garden. It's funny that most of the stories in this blog centre around this small area. Lots of it hadn't changed but just further up the road, the area had changed completely with more houses and shopping centres. The land that was once just jungle was long gone. To the right of the picture, in the distance, is where the insurance man had his office and kept a monkey chained to his door. In 1990, this seemed to be some sort of garage and all of the small shops had disappeared. Mr Lee's house had grown considerably, I wonder if his family still live there. Looking back I wish that I'd spent longer looking around the area and taking photos and I'd love to be back there today just looking around. I wonder what it all looks like now?

Our new home

This photo shows Alan and me sat in the garden at Jalan Wijaya. Alan is reading, 'Mickey Mouse'! This picture was probably taken after we returned home from school, though we could have been on school holidays. I can't remember how the holidays worked, or when they were, but I know that we had them because Alan says about them on that reel to reel tape that I mentioned earlier. I hope to post clips of this once I work out how to do it! We had a Chinese landlord to start with called Yap Choon Lim but he sold the house and it was then rented to my parents by Swan Singh who I remember wore a turban and had shoes that curled up at the end. When he was asked his name, he would say, 'Swan Singh, fly like a bird!' Mr Singh would come around with his brothers if they had anything to discuss like the rent. I always enjoyed seeing them, maybe because of the way they dressed! They were all very friendly. There were times when I would just be looking at his curled shoes the whole time he stayed! I suppose I saw him like something out of the Arabian Nights! At the end of our street was just jungle, far different from now where all the land has been cleared and a Holiday Inn and shopping complex has been built. A lot of the area was covered in rubber plantations at the time. It's hard to imagine now!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Birthday parties

These two photos were taken on my 4th birthday party in August, 1965. The first picture shows Alan, me and my cake at Jalan Wijaya sat at the front of our house. I remember that this was taken in the morning before all the kids showed up to my party. Although it's a long time ago, I recognise some of the kids in the second photo.In the back row is Carol Webster who lived next door to us and then Alan and Fadzilla who was our Amah's daughter. Her brother, Fadzil, is in the front row next to David Webster and Judith Webster who also lived next door. Then I'm pulling a funny face and next to me is a ginger-haired kid who lived the other side of us but I can't remember his name.
 It was lovely all the kids turning up because they all brought presents. I remember getting a great remote control battery-operated tin car. The kid who gave it to me was so excited that he unwrapped it to show it to me! I also remember other toys like a tin aeroplane but the car must have been my favourite. There were some great toys available then. After we'd had our birthday party with lots of jelly and cake, we would play games that our mums had arranged like pass the parcel, pinning the tail on the donkey and blindman's buff. I've obviously been dressed up for the day because I would normally be just walking around without my shirt and shoes, keeping cool. It's funny that this photo would have been taken shortly after we first arrived in Singapore and Malaya. I don't think that I was even at school then. I've had many birthdays since but I'll always remember this one.

Monday, 2 November 2009


This very busy scene shows Chinatown in the 1960s. It was a very busy place with many market stalls and traders selling all types of goods. Washing can be seen hanging from long bamboo poles which poke out of the many windows. In the foreground is a trishaw complete with passenger. My parents were once tipped out of one of these onto the pavement when the driver had an accident with a car. He still expected a tip! The camper van in this picture looks like it has a long wait before it'll be able to make its journey along the road. Further up, a lady is loading up her car with newly bought goods. There are also quite a few trishaws further up the road maybe transporting sightseers and buyers around the busy stalls. I remember being fascinated by all the goods and eager sellers when I was a kid. When you're smaller, everything seems curious and of interest but I think maybe you miss a lot of this when you're an adult. I remember all the smells which included wicker, fish glue and the general smell of Singapore at the time! From this picture, I can see a lot of rattan goods for sale including chairs, baskets and tables. One of the chairs looks very similar to one that we had at Jalan Wijaya. The more modern building in the background looks out of place but of course, there are many far taller buildings in Singapore today.

Sampans and the Singapore River

This photo shows just some of the many sampans that inhabited the Singapore River in the 1960s. It was a very busy place with sellers plying their trade on both sides of the river bank while also loading and unloading cargo. The nearby crowded houses can be seen in this picture and these were said to resemble a beehive. There was a smell that was a combination of raw sewerage, rotting fruit and vegetables and also, there was general rubbish from the markets and hawkers. On top of this there was oil spillage and other waste water from the many boats moored there. This made it a haven for rats. When I returned in 1990, the area was vastly different and almost empty although the rats were still there. In 1977, the Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, decided that the river needed to be cleaned up. There was massive resettlement of squatters and relocation of hawkers. Refuse was collected daily and the river was dredged of all the waste that had piled up over the years. Most of the small boats disappeared and today it is much cleaner place and many species of marine life have returned. Without all the sampans though, it seems that it has lost part of its character forever.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Jason's Bay

This photo shows the huge tent my dad and his Naval friends used to set up when we had a banyan at Jason's Bay. It was ideal for keeping everyone cool. My mum and dad are pictured on the left of the photo and I'm beside them digging a hole in the sand. I think that the photo was probably taken by Alan.
My dad used to go spear fishing (very James Bond!) and I think I can see his spear gun and his caught fish in the foreground of this photo.
I remember that everyone loved swimming but I was never too keen and I'm sitting in the shade instead of being in the sun. I'm still the same today!
There was always a barbecue set up on the beach somewhere and plenty of Tiger Beer for the men. Everyone would end up swimming or playing cricket though I was just happy exploring.
I love this photo of Robert Bagwell and Alan at Jason's Bay. It was taken at a later time than the first photo, probably about 1966. This photo sums up the fun we all had and it appears on the back of my book, 'Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans.'
It was a lovely time and my parents and all their friends would join in on these trips. I remember them being quite regular events. The beach would be a very busy place when we all arrived, I wonder what all the locals made of us?