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.

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