Saturday, 29 January 2011

Beetle Drives

It probably seems odd now but back in the 1960s, the game 'Beetle' was very popular and many service families seem to play it in Singapore and Malaya especially many of our mothers. Beetle Drives would be organised and the game was popular at parties. Maybe no-one remembers it now, it was a long time ago! Perhaps it's still played somewhere!
I remember plastic models of the kit, as shown in the first photo, but you could also draw the beetle and play. As far as I can remember, players used to roll a dice and each number on the dice would relate to a part of the beetle's body. The first player to complete their beetle with all sections would shout 'Beetle!' and the game was over. I enjoyed playing it when I was a kid but I probably enjoyed more playing with the large plastic insect. The toy seemed to better resemble the giant ants we got in our garden at Jalan Wijaya than a beetle! 

If you remember the game and want to play it again, all you need is a piece of paper and a pen. The diagram shows what numbers you need to roll to complete your beetle. I'm sure, almost 50 years later, that people wouldn't get so excited about the game today though!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Ninja stars!

Every kid we knew in Singapore and Malaya in the 1960s watched Samurai and most had a go at making Ninja stars. Coke tins back then weren't made of thin aluminium and you had to be bodybuilder to squash one. Because of this, many of the cans were rolled out and used again in things like toy tin cars and robots. They also made the ideal material for making Ninja stars. I remember making some hopeless ones out of a toothpaste tube (even they were more sturdier than they are today) but I think that Alan made some out of old Coke tins (although maybe my memory is playing tricks on me because I always remember Coke and 7-Up coming in glass bottles). I think that I remember sitting in the garden throwing the five-pointed stars at the old wooden packing crates that lay in the garden left over from us building a den out of them. Other people have certainly written to me saying that they did exactly the same thing and some of the stars sounded quite deadly. I never heard of anyone ending up in hospital because of one but it must have happened. I wonder what Koichi Ose who played Shintaro Akikusa would make of it all today. 

 It was reported that he died a few years ago but apparently, he's alive and well and living in Japan and here's a photo of him appearing on tv very recently. He hasn't changed much, has he?

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Green Hornet

Seeing the recent remake of the Green Hornet reminded me how much we used to enjoy watching the show in Singapore and Malaya. It was never shown in England because it was felt to be too violent. I'd have been about 5 when I watched it there though! The show starred Van Williams as Britt Reid and, of course, Bruce Lee as Kato. In Hong Kong, the show was known as 'The Kato Show'.
Bruce Lee once said that the reason he got the job was that he was the only Asian actor in the business who could pronounce the name 'Britt Reid'.
Alan and me used to re-enact the programme in the garden at Jalan Wijaya. I was always the sidekick so would have been Kato, which doesn't seem so bad nowadays. We probably had masks but I can't remember. I remember our Green Hornet playing cards though. I think that the only game I knew back then was 'Snap!'.
Playing the Green Hornet we never got up to anything on the estate and we certainly didn't do any Kung Fu. I wouldn't have even known what it was back then! It's amazing the imagination that you have when you're a kid. One week we were characters from Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea or Lost in Space and the next week, we'd be Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin or Batman and Robin. There was never any violence involved although Alan did once get stabbed in the arm by a Chinese kid on the estate. Where was the Green Hornet when he needed him?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

DVDs from Singapore

I love it when people kindly send me things in the post especially when they come from Singapore. Recently I was sent two DVDs from Peter Lamb who is the senior writer and director for the Moving Visual Company in Singapore. The first DVD featured a series of shows presented by Julian Davison called 'Site and Sound'. The shows are excellent and show the differences between the Singapore we all loved and Singapore as it is now. I particularly liked the episode about shopping which featured Tangs as we all remember it at the beginning of Orchard Road. It's certainly changed today but amazingly some of the same staff are still there! Site and Sound is very popular in Singapore and Julian Davison, who is British and lives in Singapore, is very well-known there. It's a pity that we don't get these shows over here in England. They'd certainly brighten up the cold, wet winters!
The second DVD is a collection of films shot in Singapore by Ivan Polunin who is now in his 90s. It includes colour film of life beside the Singapore River, the many stalls and trades that lined Chinatown, concrete nannies, kampongs, boat races and much more. The collection is called 'Lost Images'. It certainly brought back a lot of happy memories for me. I tried to find clips on YouTube to show here but couldn't find anything but there is a Lost Images website at
Thanks, Peter, for the wonderful DVDs, they're very much appreciated.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Singapore markets in the 1960s

These two colourful photos appear in the new version of 'Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans' which should be out some time before March this year. Both photos bring back lots of memories of all the open air markets that once lined the streets of Singapore back in the 1960s. The first photo shows a couple of children looking at the many Chinese lanterns on display. I would have been about their age when I first visited a market back then. I remember the streets busy with shoppers and full of fruit stalls selling all kinds of fruit. I remember the bananas were very sweet, not like the ones you get nowadays in England. Of course, I mainly remember the rambutan sellers. I loved them at the time and haven't had one since but can still remember what they tasted like. Some stalls seemed to sell only rambutans but maybe that's just how I remember it. I also recall that there were coconuts for sale too. They seemed very exotic back then but you can get them just about anywhere nowadays. You can even buy Rambutans in Sainsburys now! I remember the smell also. Perhaps it was the smell of the nearby river or a mixture of the fruit, vegetables, meat and other products. I especially recall the smell of all the wicker work and material. Of course, the sun and heat enhanced all these smells. I can't remember my parents buying any fruit from the stalls although we probably bought bananas for the monkeys in the Botanic Gardens. I used to get given rambutans free from the stall holders as we walked through the market because they liked my fair hair! 
The second photo shows a night market. There was a totally different smell at these markets. The air was filled with the smell of Kerosene lights and heaters which would attract moths and other insects. They would then attract chit-chats who would wait by the lamps for easy prey. There was also a moth ball smell especially around the stalls that sold wooden trinkets. Perhaps it's the smell of the wood? There were allsorts of items for sale that remind me now of Singapore including the Wanchai Burberrys held together by fish glue, the many colourful paper kites, Chinese lanterns, toys and wicker hats. All had a smell of their own and combined gave Singapore its own unique smell. I haven't been there for a very long time now but I wonder what it all smells of today?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas in Singapore and Malaya

It seems strange shivering in cold, wet England that we once spent our Christmases in the warm, humid atmosphere of Singapore and Malaya. I've featured the photo, shown here, before in my blog but I think it really sums up the heat back then. It's hard to imagine walking around like that nowadays in December in England. Back then, that silver artificial tree seemed huge to me. You used to get some brilliant decorations back then and mum would spend the day decorating the front room. I think that I helped to decorate the tree but probably knocked off more decorations than I put on! We had many of these Christmas decorations until the 1980s but they've all long since disappeared now. This photo would have probably been taken in 1966 when I was about 5 years old. Alan would have been about 10. There was a lot to look forward to back then. Not only all of our super presents on Christmas morning including go-karts, tin robots and cars etc but also the Christmas party at the Naval Base where there would be a Santa, another present, rides, fireworks and a cinema show. There was also the Christmas tv which included Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, I love Lucy, the Three Stooges, Casper, the Flintstones etc. It's amazing that this photo was taken 44 years ago and looking at it today is almost like looking at a totally different person. Certainly a lot has changed since the sixties!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Star Trek

There was one show that we all loved to watch in Singapore and Malaya back in the 1960s and that was Star Trek. It's funny how your mind plays tricks on you because I always remember watching the show in colour but, of course, back then, we only had rented black and white sets. I think Star Trek was always on about 7 or 8pm. I remember it was dark anyway! People laugh about William Shatner's acting back then but it all looked great when I was a kid and the show was way ahead of its time. We never missed it. I remember the first episode I ever saw of Star Trek. It was the one where Kirk fights an odd looking dinosaur alien. It appears that there wasn't much money spent on this episode! I recognise the location because it's been featured in many films and tv shows over the years, including 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure'. That dinosaur gave me nightmares afterwards but he looks very harmless today. Of course, nowadays, we've all seen every episode of the original Star Trek at least 12 times and know it all off by heart but back in the 60s it all seemed amazing. Alan and me would re-enact episodes in the back garden at Jalan Wijaya the next day.
I've found a clip of that very first episode that I saw on YouTube. It's described as the 'worst fight scene ever'. See what you think. I never did watch any of the follow up Star Trek shows on the telly and, although millions of people enjoy them, I don't think I'm missing much!