Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Johore Zoo

After mentioning the three-legged tiger in Johore Zoo in my last posting, I came across two old photos from the 1950s and 1960s of the zoo. The first one was sent to me by Chris Manning and shows a small elephant, complete with tusks, being fed by visitors, some of whom appear to be British. Beside the elephant is a pool and I think that I remember this part of the zoo from when I was little. I think that it contained turtles and Koi Carp but my memory might be playing tricks with me. Across the way, there are some very small enclosures but I can't tell from the photo what is in them. The flowers all look very colourful in the foreground. The second photo shows a later view of the zoo and around the pool are
either goats or very small deer. People on the left are peering into some very small cages and I wonder if the clapping gorilla that I wrote about in a previous post was in one of them? It looks like the Sultan's Palace in the background but I can't remember them both being so close. From the photos, the zoo looks very tidy and well kept but that's not quite how I remember it. The animals were kept in very poor conditions, especially the apes and tigers, and the place had a smell like I've never smelled anywhere else! It's still going today but, hopefully, it's improved in the last 40 or so years.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Tiger rugs

Many of the shops in Singapore and Malaya sold tiger rugs. As a boy, I was fascinated by them and wanted one for our bedroom at Jalan Wijaya. Of course, tigers would have roamed wild not too far from where we lived and were probably easy prey to hunters. At the time, it was something exciting but nowadays, of course, the thought of someone shooting anything as beautiful as a tiger disgusts me. We were all putting Tigers in Our Tanks and tying fake tails to our bikes and car aerials while hunters were out shooting and trapping real ones close by. Tiger rugs seemed to be everywhere back then, in hotels, offices, banks as well as for sale in places like Tangs. Their snarling heads made you think that they could leap up and bite you at any moment. A tiger is certainly a beautiful animal which is why, perhaps, that someone would have wanted one as a rug back then. I think that I've written about the three legged tiger that was on display at the zoo at Johore Bahru (it lost its other leg when it was trapped). Looking back to those days, I would have thought that people there cared little about animals but then I found this newspaper clipping from a Singapore newspaper dated 14th October 1966:
Spider fight : $500 fine
'Get caught staging a spider or fish fight and you might have to pay a $500 fine, 6 months in jail or both.' This was the message from a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals official to Tiong Bahru Secondary School students as part of a kindness to animals campaign.
It's funny that they were so concerned about insects such as spiders but not too concerned about tigers, apes, dogs and other animals. I'm sure that much has changed over the years. Of course, nowadays, I would never want or have anything in my house like a tiger rug but to a small boy, it was something incredible and fascinating.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Gooi Rubber Company

This photo was taken on our trip up to Penang in 1966. I've mentioned before that we travelled all the way up to Penang from Johore in a tiny Toyota.
There were lots of rubber plantations in Malaya but this one made us laugh because it was called the 'Gooi Rubber Company' which looked a lot like 'Gooey Rubber' to us and that's what we called it ever after. I think this photo was taken by my mum and we must have stopped on the way to take it. Although we were warned of bandits and wild animals such as tigers, I don't think we ever saw any, just the few working elephants that crossed our path further into the journey. I don't even remember seeing any monkeys on the long journey although there were plenty of dead snakes on the road.
The rubber trees used to have grooves cut in them which led down to a metal cup or half a coconut to collect the rubber. This seemed a long drawn out process even back then and I'm still not sure how they collected it all and put it to use. Some of it will have turned up in our tyres and the many flip-flops we wore over the years. There was a rubber factory near our home in Jalan Wijaya and I recall the smell. Alan remembers opening one of the bins and finding a sheet of rubber with all the shapes for flip-flops pressed out of it. It all burnt down one night while we slept. There must have been a huge black cloud and an awful smell but we missed it all because we were fast asleep.
I wonder if the Gooi Rubber Company is still in business?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Monsoon Memories

I have been putting this blog together for quite a while now but many people who were in Singapore and Malaya don't get to read it because they have no access to the internet. Because of this, I've compiled all the tales featured here into a new book, 'Monsoon Memories'. If you have relatives or friends who would like a copy, or if you would rather have a book version for yourself, then there are more details about the book on the right hand side of this page.
The more I write about our times in Singapore and Malaya, the more I seem to remember. I enjoy sharing all these memories with everyone and there are still lots more to come. I hope that the book will bring back many happy memories.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Buddha's Belly, Tiger Balm Gardens

Here's a lovely photo of my mum and me in Tiger Balm Gardens in about 1966. My mum had just been rubbing the Buddha's belly and many people did this because it was meant to bring them good luck! When I went back in 1990, the Buddha was still there and people were still rubbing his belly for luck!
At the time, I saw this statue as being quite high up but when I saw it again in 1990, it wasn't really much off the ground.
Most of our photos of Tiger Balm Gardens seem to have been taken on the same day as we're wearing the same clothes. This must have been the day also when my dad took his cine camera.
It's funny, I remember going to Tiger Balm Gardens on many occasions but, wouldn't it be funny if my memory has played tricks on me all these years and we only went a couple of times? I'll have a look through my old photos and see if this is the case.
I remember that we had a lovely time on that day. Of course my favourite statue will always be that fierce gorilla at the beginning of the park!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Sea Cadets

Unlike me, Alan loved joining things. Here's a photo of him in his Sea Cadet uniform in the drive of our house at Jalan Wijaya. I'm not really sure what being in the Sea Cadets involved, probably a lot of marching, being given orders, swimming and messing about on boats. Alan had several badges but I can't remember what they were for. I'll have to ask him sometime. One thing that I do remember him learning in the Sea Cadets is how to tie knots. The main reason I remember that though is because we were playing Man From Uncle and, as usual, I was the baddie, so he tied me up with the promise that he'd let me go if I couldn't escape. Of course, he then went out and my mum had to free me sometime later! This would probably explain why, when he came back, I gave him the water from the jar I'd been cleaning my paint brush in and told him it was orange juice (I was only five)! He must have been thirsty because he drank the lot and didn't even notice the strange taste. It didn't do him any harm though! I think that the Sea Cadets was perhaps designed to prepare you for a later career in the Navy. Alan had a lot of fun in the cadets but neither of us ever joined the Navy!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


It's strange, I can't remember there being many different sorts of birds around when we lived in Singapore and Malaya in the 1960s. There were certainly many chickens and also ducks and some kids would bring their eggs home to watch them hatch. The ducklings would happily swim around the tin baths that we all had. However, there didn't seem to be many other sorts of birds and all I can remember are the few sparrows that used to come to the back door for bread crumbs and probably to eat the many insects that crawled around. There's another reason why I remember there were sparrows near our home and that's because, one day, I was walking along the side of our house and one flew straight into my eye! It didn't do any damage although the sight in my right eye has never been so good as it is in the left. There must have been many other birds in Singapore and Malaya but I just can't remember any. There must have been pigeons because they seem to be everywhere else! When I went back to Singapore in 1990, I thought that it was funny that the crossings tweeted to let you know when you could cross which was more interesting than the bleeps we get here. When we returned to Britain in 1968, as a boy, I thought it was strange that sparrows were also in England as well as in Singapore. It seemed then that there were only so many different types of birds in England; robins, blackbirds, sparrows, seagulls, thrushes and pigeons. There certainly weren't all the magpies, birds of prey, jays, goldfinches, greenfinches, blue tits etc that are around today. Or is my memory playing tricks with me?