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)