Friday, 29 January 2010

The Lion City, 1957

Here's a lovely film that was shot several years before we arrived in Singapore. It's all just how I remember it. There are clips of the airport and views of an old-style bus taking people from the plane to their hotel which, at the beginning of the film, is Raffles. Raffles looks very posh, we certainly never stayed there!
There are also shots of the local fishermen with their huge nets and footage of the beaches around the coast. The quay looks very busy with many boats and the many sampans on the Singapore River can also be seen.
Then, there are many views of Singapore including the shops, temples and markets. It's good also to see all the people and the many old cars and buses passing Sir Stamford Raffles' statue. The area has certainly changed a bit over the years.
It's interesting seeing the old film posters and 'Kismet' is showing at the Cathay Cinema. I think that I spotted a Chinese Cary Grant on one of the posters!
Next, there's a trip down to busy Chinatown which shows much washing hanging from windows on bamboo poles. The markets all look very busy and colourful with plenty of stalls selling fruit and other goods with many trishaws cycling up and down.
A Chinese funeral is also featured which shows many mourners carrying umbrellas while a man strikes a gong to frighten away evil spirits. It seems a lot more solemn than I remember.
Next is a place that everyone will recall - Tiger Balm Gardens! Suddenly, there seems to be a lot more Westerners around and the narrator tells us that these are the visitors from the airport who were seen earlier in the film. This is just how I remember the place before it was knocked around and torn down. It looks a lot better than the Tiger Balm Gardens I visited again in 1990.
The next scene takes us to the Botanic Gardens where people are seen feeding the many cheeky monkeys. The Aquarium is also featured but I can't remember if we ever visited it during our stay in the 1960s.
Lion dancers, Change Alley, night time entertainment, Chinese food, crazy Western dancing are also all featured. Did people really dance like that?
The film ends with the tourists leaving on a lovely old BOAC plane. This is just how I remember Singapore and I hope this film will bring back very many happy memories for many of you.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Penang Hill Railway

I remember going on the Penang Hill Railway when we were staying at Sandycroft in about 1966. Being a kid, I was fascinated by the journey up and although I've been on funiculars since, in such exciting places as Aberwysthwith and Lynmouth, I've never been on one that was as much fun as the one in Penang. The train started at the small station at the bottom and carried on, slowly, up the steep hill
. My dad filmed the journey and you can see it elsewhere on this blog. Travelling up, I remember seeing Georgetown below and the surrounding area was covered in jungle. I imagined all the monkeys that must have been in those trees. We'd just been feeding them in the Botanic Gardens earlier so I was expecting one to jump on me at any moment. It didn't happen though! There must have been allsorts of wild animals within those trees though I don't remember seeing many of them. I don't think that there were any Tigers in Penang at the time although I see there are plans to open a Tiger Park there now with Tigers brought in from Malaysia. I always think it's a shame when animals are kept in captivity like this.
Once up the railway, there was a viewing point at the top of the hill and I think I remember a small park. From the top, you could see much of Penang. It was certainly a lot cooler up there and many people went on the trip just to get away from the humidity of Georgetown.
We went to Sandycroft three times and I think I remember going on the railway several times although, perhaps, my memory is playing tricks with me and I just remember the journey up and then down again. I haven't been back to Penang since we came home in 1968. I would love to go there again one day and once again travel on the railway. Looking at YouTube, it looks much the same today as it did then.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


When we arrived in Singapore in 1965, the money was similar to the coins in England although they were a lot smaller. I remember that there was a strange square coin which seemed odd at the time because they were usually round back home! I've included a few pictures here of the coins and notes we used. The one dollar note will 
probably bring back memories for many people.

I think it was worth about 2/6 then which would work out to about 12 pence nowadays. I liked all the little coins and wish that I had kept a few. I remember all the smaller coins from when we would be given money to go across to the shops near Jalan Wijaya for sweets. We'd sometimes buy Chinese sweets with the money although I think it was because they came with a free toy. Neither Alan or me liked the sweets which were very hard and chewy!

In 1967, the money all changed and new coins came into circulation. These were smaller and much lighter. I remember one featured a seahorse, others featured a swordfish, a snake bird, a lion fish and the $1 coin featured the merlion. The most boring of the new coins was the one cent which featured a picture of multi-storey flats! I don't think that I'd seen a $1 coin until we were returning back to England in December 1968 and my mum and dad bought us both coins as souvenirs (I've still got mine!). I think
that they were used side by side with one dollar notes and the $1 coins weren't used much so weren't seen. I remember being on the plane returning home in 1968 and dad showing us all the money we'd be using when we arrived back in the UK - huge pennies, half crowns, two shilling coins and half pennies. The threepenny bits were an odd shape, which I loved! I think you're fascinated with coins when you're a kid especially back then. Again, I wish that I'd kept some of that old money. There was also another kind of money used in Singapore and Malaya - Hell notes. These were specially printed bank notes that were burnt so that the recently deceased person would have money in the next life! Other items such as paper cars and houses were also burnt to bring them good fortune in the afterlife. I've a few of those old coins and just holding one of them reminds
 me of those sunny days spent at the shops near Jalan Wijaya or in Singapore shopping or at the late night Amah's markets.

Friday, 22 January 2010


I certainly watched a lot of telly when we lived in Malaya in the 1960s but I don't remember ever seeing any adverts. I'm sure there was some but I certainly don't recall them. I recently came across a book called, 'Papineau's Guide to Singapore' which dates from 1965. It certainly makes interesting reading. All the buildings, shops, hotels, restaurants, and everything else that you can remember from that time, seems to be mentioned. I particularly like it though for all the adverts which are now wonderfully dated but certainly remind me of the 1960s. The first one (the only one not from the book) is from the Esso campaign, 'Put a Tiger in Your Tank.' Like most kids then, I loved that tiger and all his free gifts! 

The second advert is for Pan Electric. Look at that very 1960s fridge. I can't quite remember if we had one like this or not. I like how the artist has made sure that the bottom shelf is taken up by Tiger Beer! The family look very much like the cartoons at the beginning of 'Bewitched' and that too reminds me of our time there. Talking of Tiger Beer, the next advert features that very popular drink that seemed to to be drank by service dads all over the Far East! There never seemed to be an establishment that was short of it! 

The next advert is for a Mobil garage and also has a very 1960s feeling to it. Now I don't remember any garages other than Esso and Shell but I wonder if that's because we pestered our dad only to only visit those so that we could get all the free gifts! The final advert is for Kodak and has a very Far Eastern feel to it. Millions of feet of photographic film and cine film must have been shot by servicemen and their families during the 60s. I wonder how much of it still exists? I hope to feature more of these adverts in future blog posts, they certainly jog the memory!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


This photo shows a party at my parents' friends house at Johore Bahru in 1967. At the time, many of my parents friends smoked and enjoyed a drink. Nowadays, there seems to be a lot of stories in the papers about people giving up smoking. Back in the 1960s, all our dads seemed to smoke and some of our mums did also. I think that it might have even been seen as cool and sophisticated by some Navy wives. It was just a done thing and I don't think that anyone then thought much about future health problems. I think a lot of forces personnel smoked at the time and I believe cigarettes were free in the Navy (or very cheap). No wonder all our dad's got hooked on them! I remember the long drive we took up to Penang. It was very hot and very smoky! At the time, I really didn't mind the smell of the smoke and it just seemed natural that all our dads and their friends smoked. Certainly all the bars, like the one at Sandycroft, were full of smoke and the smell of beer (another smell I still like and which instantly reminds me of Sandycroft!). Unfortunately, the habit probably killed off a lot of servicemen and their wives! My mum never smoked and luckily, my dad gave up about 25 years ago probably because we all nagged him so much about it! In Singapore at the time, most people seemed to smoke. I remember many of the Chinese market stall holders and fishermen smoking as well as the general population of Singapore and Malaya. There were many adverts on the television and in the newspapers and magazines for various brands of cigarettes. I think that there was even a huge billboard poster for Rothman's beside the Esso garage that we always went in to Put A Tiger in Our Tank! It seemed like a different world 40 years ago and it was probably thought unusual if you were in the forces and didn't smoke! No-one then would have imagined all the smoke free zones that are in place nowadays.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Jason's Bay, 1966

Here's some photos from a banyan at Jason's Bay which was quite near to where we lived at Johore Bahru. They were all taken in about 1966. The first one shows Debbie Sharpe, Ian Bagwell, Linda Bagwell and me (complete with water wings) on our lilo. I didn't like swimming then any more than I do now. My dad is pushing us along. I never did take to the water much! From this picture I can see that I'd recently lost my front teeth. In the background can be seen everyone's cars parked on the beach. I can't remember what the tin hut was used for.
The second photo shows my brother, Alan, blowing up an inflatable ring under a covered area that was put up to keep the sun off everyone. There was usually a huge parachute spread out that everybody would sit under when things got too hot. There's two things that I've never noticed about this photo before. One is that I'm on the right hand side playing in the sand and the other is that my dad is on the left hand side, on a sun bed, having a snooze!
The third photo shows Alan and me playing in a boat of sand that was made for us by mum and dad's friend, Les Sharpe. It has 'Jasons' written on the side in shells. I think that the flag was made out of a white hanky. I always preferred to be playing in the sand than to be in the sea which was littered with sea snakes, jellyfish and probably the odd shark. I don't remember anyone getting bitten by anything though. 
The fourth photo shows me and Ian and Linda Bagwell again on our lilo. We all lived close to each other at Johore. The Bagwell's dad, Tom, can be seen in the background. 
The next photo shows Alan walking along the above-ground roots of a banyan tree. This photo reminds me of all the walls, drain pipes and roofs that we used to balance on around our home at Jalan Wijaya. Alan was always climbing on our roof but once he was up there, he couldn't get down again until dad rescued him. I think I've written before about him falling off the drainpipe! 
The next two photos show Alan and a friend on a lilo and then them all playing on the beach. I don't remember who the other kids were but I seem to remember that, after being out in the sun all day, even with us being covered up most of the time, that we both got sunburnt! Looking at the photos, it all looks a lot of fun now!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Tiger in Your Tank badges

I wrote earlier about the Tiger in Your Tank campaign and how we all used to make sure our dad's filled up in an Esso garage when we needed petrol.
The other day, I found my 'Put A Tiger in Your Tank' badges and I thought that I would post them here. These must date from about 1966 and would be from one of our visits to an Esso garage in Singapore at the time. It's amazing that they've lasted so long and I'm glad that I kept them for all of these years. There were similar badges brought out later when they had a campaign to 'Save the Tiger'.

Also posted here, is a photo of a Tiger Tail. At the time, these could be seen hanging from petrol caps and aerials everywhere. All the kids had them, I think I tied mine to my bike.
There were lots of other free gifts such as glasses, beakers, transfers, trays and plates but I think the favourite with all the kids that we knew had to be the Tiger Tails!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Penang 1960s

I loved visiting Sandycroft in Penang for our holidays in the 1960s and we used to have a great time touring around the island.
Many servicemen and their families were stationed there and their lives were very similar to ours in Johore Bahru.
David Yap kindly sent me some photos from Penang in the 1960s recently and I hope to include them in this blog over the next few weeks.
The first photo shows two girls queuing for a cone from the ice cream man. Although, this is a different contraption from the one in my dad's cine films, there was one of these bike-type trolleys that toured the estate where we lived at Johore Bahru.

The second photo shows the Balloon Man. Now I've seen this photo, I'm reminded how there was a similar trolley bike that came around our estate and inflated balloons with helium, ideal for parties and Christmas. This street looks so much like ours did, that it could almost be the same place.
It's funny there seemed to be someone supplying every service that you needed at the time, all from the back of a bike!

The third photo shows the local fruit seller who appears to be selling oranges, bananas, melons, rambutans, durians and all the other fruits you got in the Far East at the time. From this picture, I can imagine that smell of fruit on the market stalls that were so common in Singapore at the time.
There are many more of David's photos and I hope to include them soon.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Kota Tinggi Waterfalls 1966

All of these photos were taken at Kota Tinggi Waterfalls which was near our home at Johore Bahru. The waterfalls were a great tourist attraction and were located a few miles north-west of the village of Kota Tinggi at a place called Lombong. The water drained off a mountain called Gunung Muntahak to a series of shallow pools. There used to be lots of people swimming in them and it was a fond haunt of sericemen and their families as well as many of the locals. I've heard that today, it's a bit spoilt by development of nearby resorts which seems a shame. I suppose though, that most of the places we remember fondly when we were kids in Singapore and Malaya have now long gone and hotels, supermarkets, housing and leisure complexes have taken their place. The first photo shows my dad, complete with cine camera, my mum and me. I remember my dad filming but none of the footage seems to have survived. I think that I remember seeing it when it was originally shot and there were scenes of people bathing in the pools. The film probably got 

mangled in the temperamental cine projectors of the day and was probably, unfortunately, thrown away. The second photo shows my brother, Alan, with our Kodak Brownie 127 camera that my grandad had bought my parents a few years before we left. We must have had two cameras at the time though I don't remember the other one. In the background can be seen families paddling in the nearby pools. The third photo shows me with the waterfalls in the background. I don't look too happy in this photo but I can't remember why! Maybe it was because Alan had the camera and was taking all the pictures!

The last photo shows my dad, me and Alan. In the background is a local man, probably wondering what all the crazy foreigners will get up to next! He was probably selling drinks to all the visitors. I notice that we all have sandals on as well as socks. The socks were probably to keep the mozzies off our ankles, there would have certainly been plenty of them ready to bite near all that water!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Concrete Nannies

This photo shows a 'concrete nanny' helping with building work in the 1960s. This photo was taken by David Papworth and features in my book, 'More Memories of Singapore and Malaya'.
A concrete nanny was a Chinese female manual worker who helped out on building sites to give their children, many who were adopted from poorer families, a better education. They usually wore red hats.
I mentioned earlier about Mr Lee's house which stood opposite us at Jalan Wijaya. When we first moved in, in 1965, the house was just being built and there were many concrete nannies, complete with red hats, working on the building site. My parents remember them being called 'cement amahs' at the time.
They were once a popular sight and there were even dolls made of them which were bought by tourists. Nowadays, they've long since disappeared from the streets and buildings of Singapore and Malaya.
I wonder how many other people remember them?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Injections and illnesses

This photo shows me with our neighbours, Judith and Carol Webster, sitting on their doorstep at 101 Jalan Wijaya in about 1966. I wonder if anyone else remembers all the injections that we had to have during our time there? I think they seemed worse for kids. I certainly remember having a few and I remember that your arm would ache for days after and you couldn't sleep comfortably on that side. I think we had injections before we went and then some during our stay there. I remember sitting in the waiting room and some of the kids were crying. Alan went in and kicked the doctor so hard that he limped for a week! I think one of the injections was BCG which stopped tuberculosis and there were other injections for, I think, polio, cholera and other diseases that they expected you to pick up in the Far East. I can always tell people who have had this injection because of the sliced-sausage like scar on their arm! For all these injections, I still had all the illnesses that most kids get including German measles, ordinary measles and mumps. All of these illnesses seem to hit you a lot worse when you're a kid than when you're an adult (I had German measles again when I was 29) and the doctor always prescribed pink penicillin which we kept in the fridge. You were given it for everything in those days and I got to quite like it in the end! Doctors don't ever seem to prescribe it nowadays. Apart from illnesses, I only ended up in hospital once when I fell when we first got there and I cracked my head on the front step. I still remember the huge x-ray machine coming down on top of me. I soon recovered and my only other accident was coming off my bike into the front gate! I know that lots of other people my age had similar scrapes and accidents including falling down the many monsoon drains. Luckily, most of us survived the ordeal and carried on looking for more dangerous things to climb such as banana trees, wall and water drains. It's surprising that we all survived the experience but it was a wonderful time and adventure always seemed to just be around the corner.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Fun and Games

Here's a photo of me pretending to be an Indian sitting at the front of our house at Jalan Wijaya. With Christmas just over, it got me thinking about the toys and games that we had at the time. I've mentioned all the tin toys, cars, planes and robots before but there were also many board games. I think that nearly every house we went to had Monopoly and Mouse Trap. I remember Monopoly in particular because it seemed to go on forever. Another reason I remember it is because I recall my brother playing a game with someone else on the estate, I can't remember who, and the game just went on and on! In the end, in frustration, the other kid got the board and threw the whole lot up in the air! It went everywhere including down the storm drain. We never did find all the bits!
Someone recently mentioned to me how all the Naval wives would meet up for a Beetle Drive. Now, this is a game I haven't heard of for a long time but if you were in Singapore and Malaya in the 1960s, you've quite possibly played it because it was very popular at the time. Beetle Drive was a game where you added parts onto a plastic beetle but I can't quite remember the details of how it was played. A quick look around the internet shows that the game is still available though I suspect that most people nowadays wouldn't have a clue what it was.
We also played Scrabble and a lot of card games. Alan and me had our
own Green Hornet playing cards. I can't remember the games that we knew at the time but 'Snap!' was very popular.
When we weren't playing games, we were building dens, climbing trees, riding our bikes or doing a tightrope walk across the local drainpipe.To the computer generation, this probably all sounds mundane but we had great fun at the time and it seems like a lot of this fun of childhood has been lost over the years.