Thursday, 25 March 2010

My books about Singapore and Malaya in the 1960s

Many people reading this blog will have read my three books about life in Singapore and Malaya in the 1960s. However, for those of you who haven't read the books, I thought that I would write a bit about them here in case you wanted to seek them out.
The first book, 'Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans : A Childhood in Singapore and Malaya' features our life living there between 1965 and 1968. There are many family photos and chapters include our homes, amahs, Navy life, chit-chats, Bombay runners and mosquitoes, Tiger Balm Gardens, shopping and CK Tang's, toys, school, Naval Base parties, television, wildlife, the Sandycroft Leave Centre in Penang, banyans, Christmas and coming home.
The book was very popular and many people sent me their own memories and photos which seemed too interesting to discard
so I included them all in a new book called, 'Memories of Singapore and Malaya'. This book features chapters on leaving England, the journey, arriving, our new homes, around Singapore, the people, Tiger Balm Gardens, the Botanic Gardens, amahs and amah's markets, the Woodlands Naval Base and HMS Terror, RAF Tengah, banyans, school, Malaya, Johore Bahru, Johore zoo, Kota Tinggi waterfalls, Jason's Bay, around Malaya, Penang, Christmas and heading home.
Both books sold worldwide and soon I found that I was receiving letters and emails from people every day, who all had the same memories as myself. After a couple of years, I decided to compile all these new memories and photos into another book, 'More Memories of Singapore and Malaya'.
All of the books can be bought online bookstores such as Amazon. In the UK, they can be ordered through all major bookstores and in Singapore, they're available through Select Books.
I hope that you'll enjoy reading them and I hope that they'll bring back many happy memories.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Kebun teh Royal Naval School, Johore

Both Alan and me attended the Royal Naval School at Kebun teh. The school can't have been very far away but we always got the school bus in every morning. These two photos both feature Alan's class in about 1966 or 1967. The photos were taken by Mr Lee who used to take all of the photos of classes and other events. I don't really remember him but he had a photo
studio at Admiralty Road, West HM Naval Base, Singapore. Apparently, he's still around and has a vast archive of old photos of Singapore. If you were in Singapore at the time and had your photo taken, I've no doubt he's still got the negative. I don't remember too much about the school at Kebun teh other than what I've written before. The whole area is famous for one other event though and I would imagine that a lot of the pupils who
attended the school in the 1960s know nothing about it. On 4th December 1977,Malaysia Airlines Flight 653 was on route from Singapore to Penang when it was hijacked once it reached cruise altitude. The plane crashed at Tanjung Kupang killing all 93 passengers and 7 crew instantly. The mystery of the hijack has never been solved. It was the country's worst air disaster and the victims of the crash buried at Kebun teh where a memorial now stands. 
The road beside the crash site was named Jalan Kapal Terbang Terhempas (Air Crash Road), the only reminder that the tragedy occurred there. More recently, I was sent photos of Kebun teh School by Margaret Howells that show the school it is was two years ago. As in a lot of Johore, much has changed. The school looks closed off and there are many high rise buildings nearby. It's certainly changed over the years and it seems a very long time ago that Alan and me attended the school, learned how to read and write and drank chocolate flavoured milk!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Cold Store

Reading James Seah's latest blog post on supermarket shopping (and the cold store) in the 1960s, reminded me of the cold store we used to visit in Singapore. Although we went there for our shopping, I think one of the main reasons for going inside was just to cool down from the heat and humidity outside! The cold stores were air conditioned and seemed at the time like the only place where you could cool down in those days. I don't remember any houses having air conditioning, ours certainly didn't.Another thing that Alan and me found fascinating about the cold store was that when you approached it (I think that the store was Fitzpatricks) the doors flew open to let you in. I'd only ever seen anything like this in Star Trek and usually, you'd have to open the doors yourself. Of course, nowadays, all supermarkets and stores have self-opening doors but, at the time, it seemed very space age!
Somewhere near the coldstore, was a shop that had the first escalator in Singapore. I can't remember what the shop was called but I remember going on it just before we came back to England in 1968. All these things are taken for granted now but were fascinating to small boys back in the 1960s. I remember we stayed in a hotel on the way back and the thing we enjoyed about it the most was going up and down in the lift! We were easily pleased.
Anyway, I don't really remember what we bought in the cold store, all I remember is the Star Trek technology and being able to get away from the heat of the sun (and the smell) of the Singapore streets!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Penang in the 1960s

Penang in the 1960s was very much like Singapore at the time, with plenty of market stalls, hawkers, tri-shaws and a large Forces presence. Here's some photos from that time which will perhaps bring back happy memories. The first photo shows the Magnolia Man delivering ice cream to a Forces family. There's something about the people in this photo that makes me think that they're British although there were also a lot of Australian families living in Penang at the time. I remember the tubs of Magnolia ice cream that we used to get from the van. It didn't taste much like the ice cream you get today and it had a sort of sweet, watery milky sort of flavour. It always melted as you ate it with the sun and humidity!

The second photo shows a market stall and I've a feeling that this photo was taken at the village of Ayer Itam. I remember going to the market there when we were on holiday at Sandycroft. I was about 5 at the time and the reason I remember the market is because my mum bought me a white monkey puppet! It's strange what stays in your mind. Most people stopped here before heading off to see the pagoda at the Ayer Itam Temple.
The third photo shows what appears to be a shoe repair stall. A mother is waiting with her small son. This photo must have been taken a bit later because I can see that 'The Exorcist' is being shown at the cinema in the background. It's funny that this film was banned all over the UK but was shown freely in Penang at the time!
The fourth photo shows a basket maker selling his wares, which includes all sorts of rattan work. There seemed to be someone, complete with all their goods, selling everything you could possibly want, up and down your street in those days. These included hot food sellers (remember the Satay man?), balloon men, gully gully men, fruit and vegetable sellers and even people selling live chickens. I hope to post more photos and memories of Penang here at a later date.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

My first passport

When we first went to Singapore in 1965, I must have been included on my parents' passport. It wasn't until 1967, when I was 6, that I got my very own passport. It was one of those lovely old navy blue passports that everyone had at one time. It's funny, I couldn't write very well then (if at all) and I had to sign the bottom of the passport but made a mess of it. That's why there's a bit of sticky tape over where my signature would have been. I remember my hand being guided to produce the signature that you can see here. I don't remember being measured but I was 3ft 10" at the time. I wonder if people still have to put their height on their passports nowadays? I'm not sure why I needed a passport at the time and it was always funny that the people who issued it spelt my name wrong anyway! Maybe it was issued because we were returning to England within 6 months. There are no exotic stamps in it, just one to get into Malaysia in 1967. We'd already been there two years! It was cancelled about 38 years ago but I'm glad I kept it. It somehow looks more official than the little passports you get nowadays. I quite like the passport photo, I think that I remember that t-shirt. My passport photos would never be the same again!

Monday, 1 March 2010

The New 7th Storey Hotel

I was very interested to read James Seah's blog post today about what became of the New 7th Storey Hotel. I know that many people stayed there in the 1960s on arrival in Singapore and again when they were due to leave. Reading James's blog made me look for an old leaflet that I had from the hotel from 1990. We'd travelled around Australia for 6 months and wrote to several hotels in Singapore, from Sydney, to see if they had any accommodation. The New 7th Storey Hotel was the only one kind enough to write back and book us in by mail. When we got a taxi from the airport to the hotel, the driver said, 'No good! Very old!' We'd stayed in worse places backpacking around Australia so we weren't too bothered.

The hotel had obviously seen better days and was covered in bamboo scaffold. Inside, the staff were very friendly but we seemed to be the only guests. We were shown to the lift which had a metal gate type elevator which was operated by a very old man. This seemed to be his only job, to see people up and down, and he looked like he'd been there forever. The room was very sparse with two beds and a ceiling fan. I think that I've said before that they'd left one pair of
flip-flops out for us but each was for a different size foot! They let us have a plastic cereal bowl, which looked like it had been kicked around since 1960, and a spoon. We'd travelled so far that we had a sleep and when we woke up the next day, there were cockroaches in the bowl so we decided not to eat our own cereal in the room. I'd picked up a leaflet at the reception which showed the restaurant on the 7th floor and it looked fine so we went up there for breakfast. There wasn't another soul about but the views were great. There was a language barrier but we eventually ended up with some toast and cereal, which seemed to take forever, which was strange as we were the only guests. I always remember that the toast tasted of sugar, for some reason. The staff were nice enough but it wasn't the best place in the world to stay and after a couple of days we said goodbye to the cockroaches and moved to the YMCA on Orchard Road, which is the best YMCA I've ever stayed in. The leaflet for the New 7th Storey Hotel reads (word for word): While fast-changing Singapore develops as a modern cross roads and port of south east Asia, it's good to know that certain things are still in existence and changes made into a new Singapore.
New 7th Storey Hotel is centrally located amidst bustling busy shop-houses, one of the few remaining fore days of Singapore milestone.
Each of the hotel 38 rooms have been refurbished spacious and safety, add with a homely touch, has a colour television and direct telephone facility, with individual air-conditioning control unit and wall to wall carpeting.
Restaurant and Bar on the 7th floor provides magnificent views of the harbour and city areas, serves Western and Eastern Ala Carte Menu and breakfast in the morning.
I've scanned some photos from the leaflet and although the leaflet is from 1990, I think the photos were from the 1970s. We never saw this many people when we were there. Reading James's blog, it's all now disappeared which seems a shame because even though it was run down it was still a reminder of the old Singapore and how it all once looked.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

More photos from Sandycroft Leave Centre in Penang, 1965

Here's some more photos taken at the Sandycroft Leave Centre in Penang in 1965. The first photo shows me in my pants - the uniform of all
kids in Singapore and Malaya at the time. I would have been 4 years old then. Behind me, are the chalets that we stayed in. It's funny, even after all this time, I remember what they were like inside. Alan and me had mosquito nets over our beds. They must have all come out at night because I don't look too bothered about getting bitten in this photo. I remember that we played football on this grass with an inflatable beach ball and I recall having a collection of ice cream tubs, which I wanted to keep because they had characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on them. Mum must have chucked them all away when I wasn't looking! I think there were three levels of chalets and we were on the second. Below us was the arcade - plenty of fruit machines and shoot-em-up games, also there was the cinema, cafe, a bar for our dads, a small shop and a restaurant.
The second photo comes from the football match that my parents played where the men played dressed as women and vice versa. In the photo is my mum, Les Sharpe, Bette Sharpe, Fred and also Debbie Sharpe. It's funny that I was only 4 but I remember that this is the day that Alan and me bought a Man From Uncle car from the shop there. They were the thing to have back then. I'm sure that we probably ran around pretending to be Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakan! If you've followed my blog, you'll know that the women won the match.
The next photo was taken by Alan one morning when he went out for a walk on his own. He used to like taking photos with my parents old Kodak Brownie camera which I think became his when they got a new one. In the photo is the swimming pool and the sea can be seen in the background. On the water's edge is where we saw dolphins while having breakfast and everyone ran out of the sea quickly when someone shouted, 'shark!'. It was just like the scene from Jaws. Then the dolphins started jumping in and out of the water and everyone realised what they were and started laughing. I don't remember anyone ever seeing a shark, or hearing of anyone being attacked by one, the whole time we were in Singapore and Malaya.
The final photo shows me on the swing nearby to the chalets, There's a see-saw nearby and I remember Alan and me playing on there. He always gave me the bumps and we would get other kids to sit on the other end and bump them too. It seemed a great laugh at the time. When we weren't pretending to be characters from the Man from Uncle, watching dolphins, going to the cinema, playing in the pool, in the arcade or playing football, we'd be out exploring the island visiting places like the Snake Temple, Iyer Itam and going on the Penang Hill railway. There were also boat trips and banyans, landing at beaches covered in starfish where we'd have barbeques, play cricket and other games or go swimming. I was happy just playing in the sand at the time. Writing about it now, it seems very idyllic and such a long time ago.