Friday, 29 April 2011

My first photo

Here's the first photo that I ever took when I was about six years old in 1967. It's of my mum at our house in Jalan Wijaya, Johore Bahru. It's amazing how well all of our photos came out in those days. This was taken with an old Bakelite Kodak 127 camera. It seems funny now that you had to buy rolls of film which you had to find somewhere dark, not always easy in Singapore and Malaya, to load the film. It was a long time before digital photography would be invented. In the background is the road leading away from our house towards the shops where the films would be developed. Every Naval family seemed to have seats like these at the time, my parents brought them home with us when we returned in 1968. We're lucky to have so many photos of our time there, especially colour ones, and every one brings back a memory. I think that this one was taken after school had finished at 1pm. Dad was still at work and Alan had disappeared out somewhere, probably to go fishing or to make a den, perhaps.
The TV set was nearby where I'd watch Samurai which always seemed to be on even in the afternoons. I remember when we first got a telly and all the Chinese kids sat on our front gate to watch it.
Seems a very long time ago now...

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Neighbours from Jalan Wijaya

When I first started writing this blog, I never thought that I would ever hear from anyone who lived in our old street in Jalan Wijaya, Johore Bahru. In the last couple of months though, I've heard from quite a few people who would have been near neighbours when we were there. An older post tells of a very close neighbour, Tracey Jamieson (then Lattimer), who lived at 97 Jalan Wijaya. This morning, I heard from Steven Rayment who lived at number 78 (we lived at 103) so we must have lived quite close to each other. We were both there at the same time in the 1960s.
I also recently heard from Eric Williams who lived at 99 Jalan Wijaya which was just two doors away from us! Strangely, we didn't remember each other but we must have passed regularly. Eric kindly sent me some photos of a visit in 2003. Finally, Keith Galway wrote to me from Perth. Keith lived at 20 Jalan Wijaya much later. 

Here are a couple of the photos that Keith kindly sent me with the film. The first shows the view from our front door. I walked along this road many times to get to the shops which were just in the next street. On the left is Mr Lee's house. I'm sure that he must be long gone now. The house has been extended but the original slate-type wall was there when I was a kid. In the distance, where the red roofs are, can be seen Dato Jalan Sulaiman. The skyscraper certainly wasn't there back in the 1960s! Around the corner on the right was a grocery shop, an insurance salesman (who had his own monkey), a photographers and a cafe.

The second photo shows the view walking down into Jalan Wijaya. I walked that way many times and it reminds me of the time I came off my bike as well as the time I cracked my head open and walked all the way home and a large dog stood up on my shoulders and licked me! I ran after that!
Eric's first photo shows where the shops at Dato Jalan Sulaiman once stood. Today, there's some sort of car dealership there. This photo really brings back memories for me because we were always at 

the shops there. I remember the box of cornflakes that we bought which was full of ants! We'd catch the bus just a little further down which would always head up 'Flipflop Hill' before heading off to Johore.
Eric's second photo shows his house at 99 Jalan Wijaya in 2003. The gate is exactly the same as it was in the 1960s!

Anyone who reads my blog regularly would have seen the 1960s home movies of Jalan Wijaya posted here, as well as the home movie I made in 1990.
Seeing everyone else's photos makes me want to make the trip back and walk along the streets of Jalan Wijaya once more!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

New edition of Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans

The new edition of Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans should be available from Amberley Publishing very shortly. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the cover. It should go to print sometime this week so will be in the shops very soon. The original version has sold very well, selling all over the world, and I'm hoping the new version will appear in many more shops and get a lot more coverage. It's already available on Amazon and Waterstones on the net to pre-order if anyone wants to check it out. I love the front cover with all those sampans covering the Singapore river!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Wanchai Burberrys

This photo shows me and my dad outside our home in Jalan Wijaya, Johore Bahru, in about 1965. It's the only personal photo that I have that shows a Wanchai Burberry. Have you spotted it yet? It's standing in the corner behind me against the wall. Wanchai Burberrys are what everyone called the paper umbrellas you got back then. I think they cost $1 and were very handy if there was a sudden downpour. All I remember about them is the strong smell of fish glue which was used to hold them together. The smell got far worse when it rained. Perhaps that's why our Wanchai Burberry is outside the house! The paper umbrellas got their name because many were made in Wan Chai in Hong Kong and 'burberry' was the name that Naval personnel called their raincoats.
They still sell them, even in England, but I wonder if the girl who runs the nearby shop selling Chinese produce would know what I wanted if I asked for a Wanchi Burberry today?

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?