Friday, 31 May 2013

Travelled Back In time - Queenstown (former site of HDB at Margaret Close & Drive)

Mcdonald@Ridout Tea garden (Now)
Those times, a former small Japanese garden was a huge swampy area during early years, located opposite Queenstown at Block 81 to 83 in early 1960s. Thus this site was formerly known as Queenstown Japanese Garden by old residents living at Queenstown/Queensway.
I was once passing by this garden when I as a toddler, stayed with my mum's house opposite the road at Commonwealth Drive.
During my toddler years, my mum brought me to the garden when there was once a small Japanese garden before it was occupied by KFC in early 1980s.
Below photo are my friend and his cousin (maisie) taken by his late father at Japanese Garden in 1971.
Japanese Garden (1971) - Shops and KFC (Then)
Photo Credit by Kong Pin Liang 
But before that, there were rows of shophouses that lined the area selling items that ranged from furniture to a restaurant (Queens’ Garden Restaurant) and even a KFC outlet.
During my secondary days, I heard from my neighbouring blocks shouting 'Fire!' and many people running from the direction fo where my mum's block just one stone away from it. My mum would say there whether the times come, there will be a fire in the thick forest behind the Japanese garden as if the days had marked the WWII by the 'ghosts' of the Japanese war-soldiers resides as if they found their homes to be. Worst still, the time had come, in a few years later in 1976, Ridout Tea Garden comprised of a single-storey eating house and some pavilion and an emulation of a Japanese garden setting complete with bridges along the mini park after a massive makeover that cost approximately $500,000. Around in June 26, 1978, the once U-shaped rows of shop-houses at Japanese garden was razed in flames. Even the Firemen’s effort to douse the flames went in vain despite heavy downpour in most areas. In the meantime, the firemen had to pump and use water from the pond to combat the blaze because they found themselves running out of water. It was estimated that the fire had damaged over $1 million worth of property value. That's why water hydrant was not installed in this area in early times before the blaze instead they used the pond to pump water till it dried up the pond during downpour. 
Recent forest fire
Recently in early April 2012, there was a fire 'spark' in the forest close to Mcdonalds@Ridout Tea garden near the overhead bridge.
Fire on the forest next to the overhead bridge
Fortunately, it was not a huge fire and the forest was half-burned among the bushes that caused by hot sunlight, I could see from the distance where the bus-stop located behind the forest had engulfed half part of the forest next to the overhead bridge and close to the carpark.
Close-up of 'skeleton leaves' and leaves newborn
For the moment of heat burned along the forest and what left are the 'Skeleton leaves' that don't burn away. Somehow, it survives after one month, little leaves newborn will grow again in time to come.
I recalled those times, when I went with my old friends from neighbouring blocks used to hang out at Queenstown Japanese garden that called mini park beside KFC, along the major trunk road of Queenway, with a mix of private and public (HDB) housings that are Commonwealth Crescent, Commonwealth Close, Commonwealth Drive, Holland Hill, Jalan Kuning, Jalan Puteh Jemeh, Jalan Hitam Manis, Ridout Road, Swettenham Road, Pierce Hill and Pierce Road as long as I could remember in my teens years.
It's been over 4 decades and the moment I stepped in once a Japanese garden built in early 1970s, was told by my mum that this place was once called 'Queenstown Japanese Garden' and after WWII, it was dilapidated place.
Lovely pair turtles
My 3 year-old turtle in 1996
I recalled that I had released a 3-year old turtle at the Ridout Tea Garden's pond in 1996 that I had taken it from my late parent-in-laws' house at Havelock Road. Before that, I brought it to my mum's house and she painted in 'Green' colour on turtle's back, then I went to the garden to release it at the pond where there are many turtles swimming happily in the pond. I felt sad to see it go and at least I am happy to see my turtle made friends and swim with their friends in the pond. I still believe my turtle is still alive in the pond but I couldn't recognise it because the marked 'Green' had faded over the years when swam in the pond for prolong period, I should have marked it with permanent marker ink that can last long.
Released 1st pair of Malay Wedding Dress
Mcdonald Hello Kitty in 2000
 I also remember in those times in 2000, Mcdonld@Ridout Tea garden where many people queued up in the wee hours for hot babe toys - 'Hello Kitty' outside the Mcdonald's terrace till morning, waited for the staff to open the door in early morning at 7.00 am by the times there was no 24 hours boards hanged up the place until late 2005. The special serial of Hello Kitty promoted by McDonald’s became the most wanted thing in the new beginning of the millennium. I recalled that there was a fight among the customers, some congressmen asked the people to cool down and McDonald’s to solve the problem. McDonald’s at first wanted to sell the last pair of McKitty at the National Stadium, but under official and public pressure, it finally decided that the final pair would not be sold in the first week of February.Instead anyone who ordered the set meal could get a coupon that could be redeemed for the pair in July 2000.The craze finally died down. I remembered that the 1st release of Hello Kitty was a pair of Malay Wedding dress in Jan 2000.
2012 Hello Kitty
Last year in 2012, after 12 long years waiting since 2000, soft plush toys Hello Kitty was back in action again from 17 May 2012 to 13 June 2012.
2013 Hello Kitty "Fairy Tales"
And now, a new release of Hello Kitty "Fairy Tales"collection from 30th May 2013 to 3rd July 2013 while stocks last. Subsequently, as for 'Special Edition', first week released which booked online was told over the counter, a variety of the Hello Kitty soft toy had run out island-wide. Today in the morning, at Mcdonald@ Ridout Tea garden, one of the series - "Ugly Duckling" sells fast (out of stock) at 9.30am and Mcd@Queensway Shopping centre runs out of stock at 11am.
Well, Mcd@Ridout tea garden is the most popular spot for Queenstown residents alike.
McDonald Pavilions
Today, I would assume that the current eating place - one of the world’s biggest fast-food chains, MacDonald takes up the whole space by occupying the entire pavilions. In recent years, other ‘gardening’ and ‘flowering’ establishments such as Far East Flora can be seen sprouting in the area. However, consumerism has always been on the spotlight in its history,. The once Japanese garden and current food haunt remains a popular vicinity for students and residents.
My Short-cut route to Margaret Close
Along the road, there's footpath that led to short-cut to where I was used to set foot on the narrow road to the old site of HDB blocks at Margaret Close just behind the forests. The handrail on the left is clearly seen where the signage 'C'wealth Ave' stands, remind me of the past that I once took this path that led me to HDB at Margaret Close behind the former site of HDB blocks. Now, the handrail still exists till now.
Former site of 6 HDB blocks at Margaret Close
Lonely green green of home
Once, there was 6 blocks along Margaret Drive near Ridout road that was once stood along this areas that I used to walk from Japanese garden park footpath close to the signage shown above that lead to the these blocks.
Over the years till now, I would walk pass this area when I visit my mum's house at C'wealth Drive to Margaret Close where the 6 HDB blocks (above pic) that once stood there and now the place is defunct.
Margaret Drive via Margaret Close 
Queensway Sec Sch hidden from the trees
Along the Margaret Drive via Margaret Close, opposite building is known as Queensway Secondary School (QSS) started operation since 1961, is now a co-ed secondary school situated in the residential area of Queenstown, located in the central-eastern part of Singapore and located at 2A Margaret Drive, also was one of the first English Academic schools to be built after Singapore attained independence. 
Current site of Queensway Sec School
Peek thru the lens - new campus
A series of undergoing construction to rebuild program in 1999, a new campus was completed on the same historical site in December 2001.
Margaret Close - large empty pot of land
Rusty Handrail bar locked prevent entry to PUB 
Sadly, this large empty pot of land would remind us of the past where many old residents once stayed early 1970s and now left with nothing, only leave a PUB electricity station still stands behind the tree where the long bar is located.
PUB station (switchboard) at Margaret Close
Hidden away from busy road, stands a PUB station that connected to former site of 6 Blocks HDB that linked to. This PUB signage looks disused for a long period of times after demolished the site of HDB since 1988.
Stone-chair does look 'mourning chairs'
I will squiver whenever I see those stone-chairs that stand on the eerie sight with no one walking to the forests during daytimes and night times. I would call this land a 'Valley' as if I was walking into the forest that is made up of hills and valleys. On a slight hill is a set of five stone-chairs and stone-footsteps, which leads up to the 
HDB once stood on lonely hill
Disgruntled Single Stone-clapper steps
Opposite the Queensway Secondary School (QSS), there is a large empty pot of land that stood an eerie feeling as I walked pass to this vacant land with concrete tables and chairs still clearly seen in the quiet road at nights. However, I managed to snap a photo in the broad daylight. I would remember clearly that I had once visited my old friends who lived there for years till it demolished way back since early 1996. 
Long pole 'Bomb' shape
There was actually total of 6 blocks in this huge site and a long pole 'bomb' shape stands inscribed few words and numbers on it as I would see a distance while snapping a photo of it. The long pole 'bomb' shape stands still in the quiet lonely hill when the night falls and it make me feel uneasy while staring at it. Not many people dare to walk along this quiet path at nights.
Thus it would bring us memory of this historical place that filled with neighbouring blocks...came alive. 
'Dilapidated' Table-tennis
Among the 'bomb' shape, there are dilapidated stone-concrete stools/chairs and a 'worn-out' concrete table-tennis table that poorly maintained as if there is no cleaners out there to sweep the dead leaves lying around the area. So sad. Such a beautiful land and a park, full of laughters from the old residents who were once stayed, had gone in its history record.  I remember that I sat on chair watching people playing 'table-tennis' on the concrete table and also concrete chess tables still exist.
Rusty handrail bend unsteady
Beside this, there is stone footpath and uneven path leading to the vacant field, the rusty handrail beside the stone footpath staircase, is bend in an uneven shape that stood unsteady as if it will fall off the ground. Such a sorry sight!
Water Hydrant
The water hydrant on the foreground reminds us of the once existing HDB blocks for years as if Margaret Drive/Close residents will remember when they pass by.
'Loading & Unloading' path
The 'Loading & Unloading' area was still intact after more than a decade and this path was once used for the vehicles for loading and unloading their goods that transported from the previous locations.
Stone-footpath without handrail
This narrow stone-footpath steps without handrail that lead to the nearest stone-chairs on the hill next to the HDB blocks that many young kids would run to the narrow footpath without parent's supervision during at night when they were back from the movies or food centre nearby.
Once stood two cinemas - Golden City & Venus
Opposite the hill along the Margaret Drive, there is a carpark compound facing the once two old cinemas - Golden City Theatre & Venus Theatre stood and now occupied by two churches - The Fisherman of Christ Fellowship and Church of Our Saviour.
As for Queenstown Polyclinic and others will be in the next chapter.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Travelled Back in Time - Queenstown (Commonwealth Drive/Close and Queensway)

In early years around 1960s, Queenstown used to be a swampy area, where settlers lived in huts and farmed vegetables and livestock. As Singapore’s population grew, the need to provide adequate housing led to plans to develop Queenstown as Singapore’s first new town with mass public housing flats.
Those were the days when I was a toddler...travelled back in if I am back from the past.
That's me stood on the grass behind old blk 94 and 95 C'wealth Dr
Searching through the oldie times of the sandy hill on the top of neighbouring blocks that was once a huge playground with sand-based all over the area of the two old block 94 and 95 Commonwealth Drive where I stood as a child in 1966, side by side but the old sand playground was in front of block 95.
My friend & his pet duck at Blk 82 C'wealth Crescent
Photo Credit by Kong Pin Liang
My friend was holding his pet duck at Blk 82 C'wealth Crescent, behind him is Blk 83 and foreground is Blk 95 (blocked by pet duck). He told me that up to this day, he still wouldn't bring himself to eat duck meat. How true it is when you reared a pet animal at home.
There was a slope on top of the hill of the three blocks 81 to 83 Commonwealth Close in those time. Local residents who are the older residents had to climb these rocky-stoned stairs before it is built brick staircase with handle bar up the hill of the block 81 to 83. When I was in Primary School, I used to climb up the stoned-rock footpath that made me felt so tired all the way to the blocks to visit my Primary School classmates who once stayed there during school days.
This hilly slope was once had stoned-rock at Blk 83
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
Early years, there was no staircase leading to the top hill of blocks that surrounded by forest trees that hardly seen along Queensway road. This stoned-footpath without handle would hardy walked up to the Block 83 thus many residents like me would be so difficult to climb up the rocky path, this path was once sandy footpath back then in 3 decades ago. This built modern shelter (above pic) was once a hill top with sandy slope along footpath in the mountain hill.
There was no shelter walkway in early years
Shelter walkway from Queensway to Blk 81 to 83 in 1999
(Both Photos shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
Only footpath stoned brick used to patch together up the hill where the three blocks are in those times since 1970 when I was a kid, I stepped on the stone footpath up to the hill to where the block 81 now stands. Along the block 81 to 83 is the steep slope that measured about 8-storey high up above the sea level. But these stoned-rock footpath patched together without any handle and it would be difficult to walk up the hill with rocky staircase.
Foreground - Steephill facing Blk 81 C'wealth Close
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
In early years, these block 81 to 83 C'wealth Close had no shelter walkway and the road was too steep that the cars would hardly drove up the steephill  that was stone-rock road (rough) by then. Most residents had to walk up the road when there was no shelter walkway in early years.
VIP Block 81 C'wealth Close
Close-up - Façade Blk 81 C'wealth Close is declining
(Both Photos shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
Block 81, one of the 16 storey blocks often known as "Chap Lak Laos" was built in around 
1964, was better known as the "VIP" block because visiting dignitaries were brought here for a panoramic view of Queenstown and a showcase of Singapore's success in public housing of a model satellite town. Some of the prominent figures include Prince Philip (Prince Philip Avenue), Princess Alexandra (the lady whose given Alexandra Road), US Vice President Spiro Agnew and the Emperor of Japan, Akihito. The fading façade of Block 81 is declining over the years.
Reinforced glass and aluminium windows in early 1965
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
The façade window would still be old that was once replaced by reinforced glass and aluminium in Queenstown that similar to my mum's window. This can be found in Block 81 to 83 and some older residents had this window being kept intact for years.
Shelter walkway built in late 2002
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
Along the side of the steephill was once made of cobble-stone footpath on the pavement to prevent falling over the ground on the slope when local residents especially elderly folks who lives at Blk 81 and 83, walking down the footpath along the pavement as there was no shelter walkway built in these area in these 40 years.
This greenly hilltop once sandy hilltop in early years
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
This greenly hilltop was once a sandy hilltop in early years and there's no footpath leading to the above and only a small cap sandy footpath along the hill where you can look down on the ground above sea level just opposite the Block 84 to 88 below the hill. Over the years in 1984, the sandy footpath constructed on grass hilltop slope (pic above) to look greenly patch on the hilltop and many neighbouring kids including me would come and made cardboard sliding down the hill on the box as if you could remember in younger days! No skateboard in our times!
The bridge that linked from Blk 93 to reach the Blk 83
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
But Before that, there is a block 93 which in front of my mum's block that was built a 'metal rail' overhead pedestrian bridge at 4-level that led to the three blocks (81 to 83) in early 1970 even though this block 93 had no overhead bridge at all. In late 1999, the overhead pedestrian was repainted.
'Metal-rail' overhead pedestrian bridge in 1966
Above picture of my overseas friend stood at Blk 93 taken in January 1966 which is old bridge before it repainted in late 1999.
Footpath walkway is built in early 2002
Close-up of the overhead bridge of Blk 93 C'wealth Drive
(Both Photos shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
Seeing that this block 93 had a lucky spot to be build overhead bridge so that most residents would use this bridge located at the lifts ground floor to level up to three level and walked up to fourth floor that linked to it. My former manager who lives at Blk 81 till now for almost 40 years and I went to visit him by using the lift of the Blk 93 to the bridge. 
Two-can string telephone
Those times that the block 93 where my primary school classmate who once lived at the 3rd level facing to my mum's block, she called out my name at her kitchen facing to my mum's unit and I went up the grass hill that was once had by the time we were in Primary School then and had no mobile phone. One time, we used two-can string telephone that tied up the string to the end of the can that you ever heard of the child using a can talk over a distance.
'Round' Stone-chair in early years still exists!
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
This 'Round' stoned-chair had been there since early 1965 and still exists opposite Blk 88. There're six round stoned-chair facing the former school still stands - New Town Primary SchoolNew Town Primary School got its name because it was situated in this new town where high-rise, low-cost Housing Development Board (HDB) flats were built.
It was officially opened on 26th July 1965 by Dr Goh Keng Swee, Minister of Finance. This made New Town Primary School as old as the nation state of Singapore, which gained her independence on the 9th of August 1965.
My former New Town Pri. School since 1971
(Photo shot by Hp Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc)
Thus this old campus of New Town Primary School was then located at the junction of Commonwealth Drive and Commonwealth Avenue in Queenstown. The school building was a 4-storey block with 24 classrooms. Most of the students lived in public housing flats around Queenstown. During that time, New Town Primary School was an Integrated School, offering both English-medium and Chinese-medium classes in two sessions.
My last lesson was on 4th floor at the corner end
(Photo shot by Hp Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc)
This is where, I was formerly a student of New Town Primary School since 1971 to 1976 when my mum would fetch me to school during those times and I even know how to walk home by foot which is near to my mum's block in 5 mins. Those were the days, this school was not even built shelter walkway until 1999.
Former New Town Pri. Sch (right) and Permaisura Pri Sch (Left)
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
Close-up of Former Permaisura Primary School
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
In 1992, when Permaisura Primary School closed down, New Town Primary took over its campus which was located beside its old campus on Commonwealth Drive. On second of January 2004, New Town Primary School became single session. In January 2009, the school merged with Ghim Moh Primary School and was relocated to a new campus where it now stands at 300, Tanglin Halt Road. Both Former New Town Pri School and Permaisura Pri School now occupied by MOE (Ministry of Education) known as MOE Heritage Centre.
Signage board - 'State Land'
(Photo shot by Sony cam - DSC HX9V)
Besides the former schools, there is a big field track which many residents living in this area, would jog in this field for years and also use this track as the short-cut to the Commonwealth Drive station and bus-stop located nearby. The signage hanged on the fence indicated 'STATE LAND ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK' does not bother them at all and use it as short-cut route from their block 81 to 83. Residents of Queenstown like myself have been using this route for 4 decades since.
School field track opp. highrise buildings, Mrt and bus-stop
(Photo shot by Sony cam - DSC HX9V)
Along the school track that used for other activities e.g. School events that organised by Pri Schools as well as Secondary School just opposite the track on the left (pic above) hidden from view. This track also used for local residents' morning and evening jogging and when I was in my teens, I used this track for my exercise and jogging along the school track and occasionally I  still jog along this field track when I visit my mum's block nearby.
Opposite the school track, the sister school whereby there is some connected to both schools in early years formerly known as New Town Secondary School which is now occupied by Assumption English School (pic below).
Former New Town Secondary School
(Both Photos shot by Sony cam - DSC HX9V)
New Town Secondary School is a secondary school in Singapore, and its present location is currently located at Dover Road. It was established in 1965 is the same year as New Town Primary School. At first, the school was located at Queensway before it moved to the Dover road on 8th December 1998. Thus the once early school from New Town Secondary School then converted to CHIJ St Theresa Convent, in 2013 the formerly CHIJ St Theresa Convent is now used by Assumption English School from 2013 to June 2015 for 'holding' campus for the time period.
The once swampy area of the former New Town Secondary School where there was no walkway but rough sandy footpath along the slope down the hill opposite Block 81.
Kampong style - Residents' Corner in 1999
(Photo shot by Sony cam - DSC HX9V)
Over the years, there was no residents' corner or RC at that time in Queenstown housing estates until 1999, the kampong type of seniors citizen's corner was formed and eventually built at the tophill among neighbouring flats and now known as 'Residents' Corner.
Close-up Kampong Residents' Corner
(Photo shot by Sony cam - DSC HX9V)
The retro kampong style had been there for years after development of shelter walkway in early 2004 after clearing the former playground site that once stood on the ground below the Residents' corner.
Forgotten old playground once stood now disappeared
(Photo shot by Sony cam - DSC HX9V)
The Playground forgotten by many new residents moving in recently in front of Block 95, where there was once an huge old playground with sandy-based area - the old swing, seesaws and wooden merry-go round. Sady, I missed this old playground but luckily I had been there many times since early 1980 until it cleared and demolished in 2000 to make way for planted trees and small badminton court, walkways to the Residents' Corner up the hill slope.
Roof-Shelter and walkway in 2004
(Photo shot by Sony cam - DSC HX9V)
The once sloppy hill so called slippery hill with grass swampy area and stone-based footpath along the field that was once a huge tree beside the footpath that I used to play old skateboard sliding down narrow footpath all the way to block 93. Now it had changed to roof-shelter and walkway to the block 93 where there is a overheard bridge linked to it as seen in pic shown above. This old tree had cut down that once had many tiny brown 'durian' shape (in my earlier blog) dropped on the ground that I picked it up and I still keep till now as a memory of this spikey fruit shape.
Current small playground garden
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
Along down the shelter walkway, there is a playground beside Blk 92 that was formerly the site of the grass sandy area before it was built. Those were the days when my childhood friends and I who was then living in these blocks, would bring the cardboards down and sat on it, sliding down the hill slope where there is roof shelter currently stands on the background picture.
Sculpture of the children with letterbox
(Photo shot by Sony camera - DSC HX9V)
Beside the small playground garden, there is a sculpture hidden away from the spot that surrounded by bushes, next to the playground. This reminds us of the times the children was once played with the letterbox in those early years. This retro letterbox can be found along Malay Heritage Centre and Terrace houses at Queensway/Queenstown areas where the letterbox was once stood outside the building.
Next, my blog will figure along the Japanese garden that current forest known Ridout Garden Mcdonalds and Margaret Drive.