Thursday, 5 January 2012

Tiger Balm Gardens

I love this photo taken at Tiger Balm Gardens which shows my brother, Alan, me and our mum. I look very little so I suppose the photo was probably taken in 1965 when I would have been 4 years old. All I remember about the day was that it was quite a job for me getting on that rhinocerous! My dad had probably quickly put me on its back before taking the picture with our Kodak 127 Brownie. I remember that there were signs everywhere, in both English and Chinese, asking people to keep off the exhibits. I don't think that anyone ever took any notice though!
Last time, I was at the gardens in 1990, there was no sign of the rhino and the gorilla at the main gate had also disappeared. I know that the gorilla has been re-instated, with his fierce pointed teeth filed down, but I wonder if the rhino ever made a reappearance?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

One for the Birds

Thanks to my good friend in Singapore, James Seah, and Dr Tan Wee Kiat for kindly sending me a lovely book this week called 'One for the Birds'. It features images of banknotes and stamps from Singapore, many of which I can remember from when I was a boy in the 1960s (seems a long time ago now!).
I think I've mentioned before in my blog that I once had a wonderful collection of stamps from all over the world. With my dad being in the Navy, he would send home stamps from every country he visited. I also had a lovely collection of stamps that we'd collected in Singapore, Malaya and Penang. However, sometime in the 1970s, they all disappeared. I can't remember if they were given away, swapped or (hopefully not) thrown away. I certainly wish I had them all now!
This lovely colourful book certainly brought back happy many memories for me. I doubt that stamps are much collected by kids nowadays but back then every boy seemed to have a collection.
It's a wonderful book and I'll certainly treasure it.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Nostalgia sites on the internet

There are many nostalgic sites on the internet remembering Singapore and Malaya as it once was. Many show old photos and include people's memories of the time. There are quite a few such pages on Facebook too but by far my favourite is 'On a Little Street in Singapore'. If you haven't seen it already, please check it out and join. There are many photos that you won't have seen before and every day, more and more people are joining and adding their memories to the page.
Singapore has certainly changed a great deal since we were all there in the 1950s and the 1960s but 'On a Little Street in Singapore' shows it as it once was.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Home movie from 1967

Here's a lovely home movie that's on Youtube which features Singapore in 1967. It's certainly a lot clearer than our home movies! It brings back a lot of memories of that time. I loved the monkeys at the Botanic Gardens and I'd forgotten quite how many of them there were, always pestering you for food.

The next scene shows Tiger Balm Gardens and it's just how I remember it, complete with the huge gorilla at the entrance.
Next, there's a scene of all the sampans and bumboats on the Singapore River. This area has certainly changed over the years.
There's shots of the streets, the cars and the people. It's one of the best movies I've seen of Singapore from that time.
Hope that you enjoy it and hope that it brings back happy memories for you too.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Who's that on the telly?

When I was a little boy, lying in my bed in Jalan Wijaya at night, listening to the chirping crickets and the croaking toads in the monsoon drain, I couldn't have imagined the future - returning home to England and living a totally different life back there. I couldn't have imagined future inventions such as colour televisions, cassette players or walkmans. Now, there's mobile phones, ipods, ipads and, of course, the internet. All this weird modern stuff would have seemed like something from one of the many tv shows, that I loved watching as a kid in Singapore and Malaya, like Star Trek or Lost in Space. I certainly wouldn't have imagined that one day I'd  be on the telly myself talking about our life back then.
So, it was a strange experience when Sitting In Pictures asked me to record a bit for their show 'Foodage'. Sohkiak Chang had already sent me the first episode via the internet and I was pleased to see all the people that I'd made friends with in Singapore appearing on the show. To me, they seemed natural speakers and I enjoyed every minute of it.
My bit was recorded and put together with photos and cine film of my idyllic childhood and appeared on the show last Thursday. Sitting In Pictures did a very good job of making me look not as bad as I was (like a startled rabbit in the headlights of a car!) and I think that it all turned out okay.
Watching everyone else's memories and experiences of Singapore past just makes me want to return even more!
Hopefully, people in the UK will one day be able to see the show (you can close your eyes when my bit comes on!).

Sunday, 14 August 2011


There's an excellent series showing on Okto television in Singapore at the moment. It's called Foodage and is shown at 8pm on Thursday evening. It traces Singapore's food history in the years since independence. Through collective personal memories, home movies and photos, the series recaptures the lifestyle and food trends of the past.
It features many of my friends and bloggers from Singapore reminiscing about food sellers, markets and the many changes over the years.
The show really captures how Singapore was in days gone by. The country has changed vastly and there are many clips of old buildings, kampongs, Tiger Balm Gardens and all the other places that we remember from our childhood.
If all goes well, I'll be in the episode shown on the 18th August (the day before my 50th birthday!). I've seen the first episode but I'm not sure I'll be as good as my other bloggers have been!

Here's a clip from episode 2 showing The Wise Old Owl - Unk Dicko. Dick Yip sings and plays the ukelele. Excellent!

Here's another clip, this time showing my good friends, James Seah and Dick Yip.
If you're in Singapore try to catch it and, if you're not in Singapore, let's hope that it will all pop up on YouTube eventually.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


There were certainly many dogs roaming around Century Gardens in Johore Bahru in the 1960s. Occasionally, we'd hear about someone being bitten and they would have to be taken to the local hospital to get a tetanus jab. This happened to Alan one day when he was out. I don't know what happened to the dog but Alan was fine (after he'd had his tetanus jab!). Some dogs were wild and just seemed to roam around scavenging for food and some dogs were owned by Forces families and stayed with them while they were in Singapore and Malaya. Unfortunately, most of the pets were left behind when their owners returned home.
To stop rabies etc (Singapore has been free from rabies since 1953) policemen would travel around on trucks and shoot the dogs with rifles. I never saw it happen but I remember Alan telling me that he'd seen it. The only contact that I had with dogs was being barked at when we were walking around the estate (the dogs were probably pets but looked ferocious to me!) and the time when I cracked my head open and was walking home and one stood up on my shoulders and licked my face! The dogs in Singapore and Malaya (well most of them) didn't look much like the dogs you got in Britain at the time. Most looked something like a dingo! I think I remember someone further down the street having a couple of poodles but they seem odd dogs for Singapore so maybe I'm remembering it wrong!
The photo shown is the only one I have of Alan and me with a dog. It was taken at Sandycroft in Penang in about 1966. The dog belonged to the cafe owner and it would play with all the kids. I loved it. I'd have been about 5 at the time but I still remember his name - 'Pepper'!
I suppose he was some sort of Labrador, he certainly looked friendlier than the dogs that lived near us!