Like me, many of you will have fond memories of our parents bartering in Change Alley in the 1960s. I remember a stall holder would approach you and shake your hand and say, 'Where are you from?'. You could say anywhere in the world and he would say, 'Ah! I have an uncle there!' Once they got hold of your hand, they wouldn't let go of it until they'd successfully manoeuvred you into their shop! Anything that you wanted to buy would be there including clothes and electrical goods. You could also get local cash from the Indian money changers trading at Change Alley. There was also food, carvings, rattan work, toys, gifts and jewellery. I think a suit cost about 30 shillings and could be made up in several hours. Many servicemen went there for their uniforms.
The Change Alley that we all remember disappeared in 1989. There's a news story in The Chronicle of Singapore which reads:
17th April 1989
Change Alley will be no more on 30th April. Shopkeepers and hawkers have been told to clear their stocks. They were supposed to have moved out earlier in April but have been given an extension following an appeal. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, demolition works will start in early May. Some hawkers have taken up the Environment Ministry's offer of vacant sundry and cooked-food stalls in existing markets and food centres.
An entry for 2nd February 1994 reads:
A Change-d Alley
The new Change Alley was officially opened as an up-market shopping podium as part of a $600-million Hitachi Tower/Caltex House Development. Once a bustling lane of little shops crammed with money changers and Asian exotica that attracted sailors, tourists and bargain hungry Singaporeans, it now houses up-scaled brands like Anne Klien II and was designed for the professionals who worked in the area.
When I went back to Singapore in December 1990, I went to Change Alley and yet the reports say that it closed in 1989 and didn't open again until 1994. That's strange, maybe I travelled back in time. And, when I told the man in one of the shops where I was from, he said, ''Ah! I have an uncle there!'. Uncanny!