Sunday, 7 February 2010

Singapore Airlines advert 1960s

Here's a film sent to me by Hari Ramachandran which shows an advert for Singapore Airlines in the 1960s.
It features the music, 'Singapore Girl' and I believe that air hostesses with Singapore Airlines were called 'Singapore Girls.'
It's interesting because there's lots of shots of Singapore as it once was showing clips of Collyer Quay, Orchard Road, the boat Quay and Paya Lebar Airport.

There's also shots of trishaws and the black and yellow Mercedes taxis that we all remember. It's great to see Singapore as it once was including all the old buildings, the many sampans on the river, the many market stalls and also all the old cars.
I hope to include many more films like this later on in this blog which I hope will jog many people's memories of Singapore how it used to be.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Jalan Wijaya today

I've searched google many times before, hoping to find a modern photo of Jalan Wijaya, but with no luck. Recently, I put 'Jalan Wijaya' in the search box and discovered that there was someone on Facebook who now lives at 104 Jalan Wijaya! I was amazed to have found somebody who lived so close to us at 103 so I wrote to him and we soon became friends. It seemed incredible that I could contact someone living in our old street and it seemed a great opportunity to get some recent photos. Tan Chee Klong (CK) was happy to oblige and here's what Jalan Wijaya looks like today. The first photo shows our old house. This picture certainly brings back a lot of happy memories. Back in the 1960s, there were huge monsoon drains in front of the house with huge toads who would croak during the night. Many kids and even the odd car would end up down there. The photo also reminds me of cycling past, coming off my bike, and banging my head on the front gate. There are so many things that come into my mind looking at this picture - the many barbecues, our birthday parties, building dens, firework displays, watching the monsoon water rising closer and closer to the front door, our Amah Azizah (I wonder if she still lives close by?) and many, many more things. I remember when we first moved in and my parents hired a tv set. All the local Chinese children came and sat on the gate to watch it! The windows on the side were by our bedrooms and back in the 1960s they were covered in ornate railings. We used to leave the windows open at night because of the heat, I loved listening to the crickets, but there were reports of people with bamboo canes and fishing hooks trying to get stuff out through the open windows while people slept!
The second photo shows the view from our house looking towards Jalan Dato Sulaiman which is where all the shops were where we got our groceries etc. The first shop on the right housed an insurers who always had a monkey attached to their chain-linked door. The road was half the size back then and on the right was all grass. Women would cut your grass for $2 and used huge scythes that they swung over their heads. This was the area where I found a branch which I stuck in the back garden and it grew into a lovely tree. On the left, is Mr Lee's house, he must be long gone now. Of course, the skyscrapers and tall buildings are all new but I can still instantly recognise the area and it brings back so many happy memories. The third photo shows Jalan Dato Sulaiman where all the shops were that we regularly visited. The ones that I can remember back then were an insurers, a toy shop, the cold store (where we bought a packet of Sugar Smacks full of ants), a photographers and a hairdressers. CK tells me that the hairdressers and insurers is still there. I bet the hairdressers don't still do those crazy bouffants that they used to give women in the 1960s! The right hand side of the road used to just be covered in grass. There were often discarded old films lying there, thrown out by the photography shop. There were no high rise buildings back then and a lot more trees and greenery. Following this road back up, you eventually came to endless jungle. Of course, it's all be cleared now. Further down the road, was a rubber factory that turned out endless flip-flops. We must have got through a lot of them as kids! Thanks, CK, so many happy memories!

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.