Saturday, 23 August 2014

A simple life that we had lived, eat and play (Part 1)

For those of you who born in early 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the places where we lived without HDBs or Condos, only to be seen as swampy areas and villages (kampongs), attap-houses or stilt houses. Back then, we were poor, living in 'poor' conditions and yet lived a simple life without electricity and used oil lamps or kerosene lamps to keep warm and safe on cold nights 
Stilt Houses
We hardly lived off with little foods and drinking water (running taps) or boil kettle with charcoal-stove (no electric kettle). We got water from the river or from a Well to wash our clothes and for drinking water or for bath.
Kampong house in 1950s
The quaint Kampungs give an insight of the life that most of us have relegated to the back of our memories. Our memories, but they are indeed real in rural Singapore.
'Open' Field
The 'Open' fields or swampy fields that we lived with full of flies and mosquitoes within my late grandma's kampong, surrounded in the forests. Yet we endured to it as if the kampongs that we lived and endured through time.
Old bug sprayer
We used mosqitoes' net for our wooden bedroom and used bug sprayer to spray within the house before we slept.
Kerosene Lamp on a wooden wall
We used kerosene lamp that attached to a wooden wall, to keep swarm in the cold nights and make the house stayed in dim lights surrounded the house, to make sure everyone had a good night sleep and safe. We also used it for studying at nights too.
Chicken and Ducks roaming at kampong
We reared chicken, pigs, ducks and even played with them. We feed them grains, such as wheat, barley, soy, rice and corn. Our kampung cockerel would make a sound "crowing" early in the morning as if predators are nearby or it wakes us up. We even planted some rambutans trees, coconut trees, bananas and sweet potatoes.
Kampong's Kitchen
At times, we brought water from the well at my late grandma (born 1912)'s kampong in 1960s where the huge kitchen with full of utensils, a 'huge' well (centre of the kitchen), fire-stoves using 'black' charcoals, washing area (washing clothes and & dishes), dinning tables with wooden tables/chairs and stoned-tables/chairs gathered for the whole families of 20.
Stool, wooden board, 'round' steel pail and charcoal stove
Those were the days, we were kids and grandma and parents were washing clothes using wooden blocks or boards with pails of water within the kitchen.
Granite Grinder with durable wood handle
I remember that my late grandma's solid granite grinder was huge with a durable wood handle as a grinding mill. As a young kid, I put the soya beans, grinded it and soya bean milk was made.
Charcoal Stove and mortar
Most villagers like us used charcoal stoves for cooking dishes, soup or boiling kettle while solid granite durable mortar/pestle for grinding chilli and spices.
Dining 'Marble' Table and durable wood chairs
When we were having a 'family' dinner at my late grandma's Kampung houses, we sat on the 'durable' wood chairs and marble wood table in those good old days. We use chopsticks and rice bowls instead of plates, a simple meal that we have to eat that would filled up our stomach.
Old 'Airmail' Envelope
Soft & fine thin paper 1990s
We used soft and fine 'thin' paper for writing a letter before it invented in computers, ipads, handphones (SMSes), only sent local/oversea mails, snail mails, pen-pals (overseas) as above. We never failed to write a letter when we received from loves ones and friends. We even lost or unable to receive a letter from postman or in the mail box due to floods in kampong days or letter get trapped by machine for a long time before it reached to our destination. Accidents do happen, and when a mail is found behind or under machinery or careless postman, it gets delivered.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Travelled Back In Time - Queenstown/Alexandra and Schools

Remembering the good old days in 1980s, I used to take bus 14 (now no longer service at bus-stop) from my mum's block to Margaret Drive to visit my old friend/sister of more than 28 years who grew up and lived in Margaret Drive Blk 96 since early 1970s till it demolished in late 1990s/2000s. Her former school - Hua Yi Sec School (formerly known as Hua Yi Government Chinese Middle School - 1956-1983) was once located along Margaret Drive, where she and her sister studied in 1980s. She told me that her former school was said to be "Haunted" school by Queenstown residents where she and her sister encountered that was not reported in news I believe. She mentioned that half of the teachers and students were suddenly sick during lessons and were sent to hospital. She and her sister were lucky then and it because they saw something that made them wavered and dared not speak. Well, I might not say what will happened about these former schools had ceased years ago after this incident. Then in December 1999, Hua Yi moved to an even bigger premises at the present Jurong West Street 42. How true it is and I may not know and it's up to you to believe or not.
Back then, it was noisy and busier towns at Margaret Drive, when I used to play bowling and watched movies at Queensway/Queenstown cinema in 1980s/1990s before it closed. Hawkers centres was where I used to dine for 30 years.
That was the time, there was no heritage group was formed, only just recently a few years ago. If I were the one to set up the site of the history in Queenstown where I grew up for more than 5 decades and lots of happening over the years. Having mixed lots of old childhood friends and old neighbours from neighbourhood blocks since 1970s till now (keep in touch) for many decades.
Photo taken in 1960s
I would remember I sat on the rattan chair as a child in 1960s (photo above) outside my mum's doorgate with my younger brother held a toy gun, oh yes, the old metal gate was installed when the neighbourhood blocks (1st satellite housing estates) was built in early 1960s. And the metal doorgate and alum steel window still exits in this neighbourhood blocks.
Metal gate door
The alum steel window and wooden door still exits in Queenstown at my mum's neighbourhood block.
Alum Steel window and wooden door
I recall the time, my good sister who lived at Margaret Drive, had this kind of units back then in 1970s and the living hall was small with 2-bedroom and a kitchen, the same as my mum's flat. But my mum's unit is on the ground floor.
Queenstown Sec School (formerly Queenstown Tech. Sec Sch)
Back to the Heritage Queenstown that you may or may not know much about this school that my hubby used to tell me about his old school at Queenstown Technical Sec school in 1970s (now Queenstown Sec. School)'s compound where there was used to be 4 storey-low rise housing estates (Princess estates) and playground next to Queenstown Sec. School back then in early 1970s. 
4 Storey-low rise Princess estates
In 1970s, my hubby recalled that he used to take old "SBS" bus from Havelock road to Queenstown Sec School for school class lessions and walked through the Princess estates where the playground was. He told me that after school, he used to wander around the princess estates and playground where there was old swing and see-saw, the ground was sandy and little grass back then. There was used to be children's football field too.
Streets Hawkers at Margaret Drive in 1960s
Before that there was used to be streets hawkers who peddled along Margaret Drive at Queenstown too. In early 1960s, many old Singaporean residents were used to live in kampongs and spoke many local dialects - Hokkien, Teochew and some Malay languages among old folks. There were those residents who used to unlock front doors for neighbours who came to visit one another and taken care of each other and their children when they were not around or went to work as they lived side by side in the neighbourhood kampongs that were formed. It was their kampongs spirit that helped to get to know one another and it was simple life to live with.
Princess House in 1950s (Now)
There is one prominent block that clearly seen along Alexandra road - "Princess House" built as part of Queenstown, the first satellite town, in the mid-1950s by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). It is sited near the junction of Alexandra Road and Leng Kee Road within Princess Estates which was the 1st of 5 neighbourhoods to be built too.
Princess House (Then)
Princess House was designated as the new office of the SIT and was used to be a multi-purpose building for office and community facilities to serve Singapore’s first new town. As the 1st Hdb headquarters, Princess House is historically, its significant, played an important role in shaping the post-war development of Singapore and was used to housed Ministry of Environment in 1970s. I heard that the foreign dignitaries such as Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh; Edward Heath, then Prime Minister of Australia; as well as ministerial delegations from Denmark, West Germany, New Zealand and to name a few, had visited Princess House after it was built. Princess House was gazetted and conserved in 20 Sep 2007 as a tribute to the beginnings of Singapore’s public housing programme, and also as a lasting reminder of Queenstown’s history.
Queenstown Consumers Club in 1970s
There was used to be shop along Alexandra road near Forfar estates. I recalled that my mum used to buy cheap goods at Queenstown Consumers Club in 1970s where she lives near her place. Each goods can be fetched about 20 cents or 30 cents each goods you chose. The Queenstown Consumers Club (Queenstown Cooperative Club) was popular to the Queenstown residents back then and opened to Queenstown residents only. She said that it was like a mini-mart or supermarkets where the essential items; sugar, rice, canned foods and others sold at 20 cents or 30 cents cheaper than the market prices. Now it costs about 50 cents (fine salt), rice $2.50 to $5.50(250gm)..etc from NTUC supermarkets and wet markets.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Iconic Colourful Rochor Centre

Iconic Rochor centre
A iconic colourful Rochor Centre is a building, built and completed in 1977. A colourful of its own which painted in four colours - Green-Blk 1, Blue-Blk 2, Yellow-Blk 3 and Pink-Blk 4 in early 1990s in a government upgrading programme but strangely, the lift were never upgraded to every floor at all since it was built in 1977. The Rochor Centre was used to be 'WHITE' in colour as told by my mum who owned her SALON located at 2nd floor at Rochor Centre in 1970s after the building was built. Do you know that in early years, the Rochor area was packed with opium dens and brothels, but they were demolished to make way for shopping complexes and commercial buildings.
The Rochor Centre residents will move to the replacement flats at Blk 8A to 8C Upper Boon Keng road (Kallang Trivista) which will be to be ready in 2nd Quarter 2016. Kallang Trivista is a public housing development of 808 dwelling units, comprising of Studio Apartments, 3, 4 and 5 Room premium flats
Colourful Blocks at Rochor Centre
When one would think of Rochor Centre, images of brightly coloured flats immediately come to mind. A unique attribute of Rochor Centre is that it is a unique retail spaces that a building comprises over 180 shops and eatery outlets.
Rochor Centre is listed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) as a landmark to be protected. However, in 2011, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) announced that Rochor Centre would be demolished by 2016 to make way for the construction of the North-South Expressway.
The demolition of Rochor Centre is to make way for the North South Line (NSE) in 2016 would inconvenience almost 570 families and 190 retailers and the new 21.5km expressway, which is set for completion by 2020, is expected to cut travel time for motorists by up to 30 percent during peak hours.Constructed in 1836, Rochor Canal was not just a canal or a large storm drain, but a water source for several industries and a channel for goods transportation in early Singapore. Rochor Canal also played a big role in its neighbourhood, as a waterway that divided the two historic settlements of Kampong Glam and Little India.
Welcome To Rochor Centre
When one looks at the concrete marker of welcome note calling to you, should you still be coming back again when the demolition starts in 2016. The history of Rochor would ring the bell to those who lived at Rochor Centre over 4 decades.
In the early years, the long stench came from the night soil treatment centre opposite Rochor Centre. I remember when I visited the shop who sells incense papers on the ground floor in early 1980s and the smell was terrible when passing by. The "night soil" trucks with their distinctive 32-door panels would deposit buckets of human waste at the centre. The smell got intolerable during hot afternoons. The night-soil trucks, also called honey wagons, made their last round in the 1980s, the centre closed, and Albert Complex with its OG department store opposite Rochor Centre, which stands today.

Blk 3 Rochor Centre
 Typical shops connected to each other
Rows of retail shops that connected to one another side by side that close to each other as if one could fix the bill that attract tourists and visitors alike. Retail shops sell cheap items from groceries to electronic items, salons and supermarket (NTUC) as well as Hwang Hui Kopitiam.

Right Step Trading at Blk 3
I usually go there to buy cheap home appliances as well as religious items or even cheap slippers at one of the  retail shoe shops - "Right Step Trading" at Blk 3 (Yellow Block).
The lifts at Rochor Centre do not go to every level, the interesting part of older HDB flats that have cargo lifts which are not for passengers as well. Both locals and foreigners should make a special visit down to Rochor Centre before it gets bulldozed away.
Old Cargo Lift at Blk 3
The cargo lift located at Blk 3 (Yellow Block) is only used for delivery the goods with the trolley and not for large steel roller cart to be avoided and restricted.
A sign or notice on the wall
A sign or notice on the wall next to the cargo lift indicated to the delivery of cargo man or deliveryman if he or she is unloading or loading the goods to the shops at level 2.
Road Between Rochor Centre & Fu Lu Shou Complex
The road between Rochor Centre and Fu Lu Shou Complex, many people frequent to Rochor Centre to buy some goods and others by crossing the traffic light. People use traffic light rather than to walk up to overhead bridge nowadays and the bridge looks empty and forlorn.
Blk 4 (Pink blk) corridor link overhead bridge
Only of the four blocks that built overhead bridge connected to Fu Lu Shou Complex, to ease safety traffic. When the linked overbridge was built and there are less visitors and residents crossing the old overhead bridge, they would prefer to use traffic lights crossing just below the overhead bridge a short distance. to shorten their time rather than crossing the bridge. This linked bridge has no escalator and old people have difficulty to walk up and down the staircase of the overhead bridge which built along with the four blocks.
Nam Choon Hung Shop
 Nam Choon Hung's Chinese calendar plate at Blk 4 (Red flat)
The shop - Nam Choon Hung at Blk 4 (Pink block) operates there for a long time after the building was built and I often patronise the shop to buy lots of religious items such joss-sticks, incense papers and other items, even ordered a complete set of "clothes" items for gift sending to "Kuan Yin" before CNY every year. This "Pink" block mostly occupied by religious shops on the ground floor facing "Fu Lu Shou Complex.
Old Staircase leading to level 2 & 3
Unlike many other old HDB estates built during that early period, Rochor Centre was specially designed in the podium-and-tower style, the first three floors of the building consists of a supermarket, retail shops, salons and other amenities, while the fourth floor is home to a spacious void deck and children playground & a fitness corner (2007) (managed by Jalan Basar Town Council). The residential units only start from the fifth floor up to sixteen floors which is the highest top floor.
In the 1980s, Rochor was eventually dotted with shops that were prone to fire and open drains that overflowed during downpours.
The Rochor residents have been compensated, the departure will be an emotionally difficult them, especially for those who have lived there for 37 years.

NTUC (left) and Kopitiam (right)
The Kopitiam - Kwang Hui Kopitiam is where my old friends, my hubby and I frequent this place for our lunch and dinner as well as desserts before heading to the NTUC supermarket and shops.
A old lift at Blk 4 (Pink Block)
Lift Buttons at Blk 4 (Pink Block)
The residential lift starts from fifth floor to sixteen floor but the lift that I went up from ground floor to 3rd floor where the void deck, spacious playground and two centres - "Rochore Kongsi For The Aged" and "PAP Community Foundation-Kampong Glam". Even since the lifts were never upgraded to every floor after repainted the four blocks with colourful colour of hue.
PAP Community Foundation-PCF Kampong Glam
PAP Community Foundation-PCF Kampong Glam is a pre-school kindergarten and managed by PAP Community Foundation, established in 1986.
Rochore Kongsi For The Aged (1977)
Both centres have been there for a long time since it was built n 1977. Especially one of the centres - Rochore Kongsi For The Aged, it was started by the late Dr.Toh Chin Chye, former Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, set up in 1977, Rochore Kongsi provides destitute elderly with a shelter for dignified, independent and healthy living. In 1991, it was upgraded for the better and brighter home with better ventilation for old aged and elderly folks who were found sleeping under public staircases and corridors at that time. Rochore Kongsi For The Aged is the first trace of the old 'Rochore' name with a 'e' has not vanished completely and was Singapore's first HDB void deck old folks' home.
 Rooftop top of flat
 Unit numbers shown above "based" of staircase
The interesting is.. the staircase of the lift of which the unit numbers are shown above of the staircase instead of the side wall of the staircase of each level. It would be easy for the elderly folks, Rochor Centre residents as well as visitors to look up the unit numbers of the level floor when they came out from the lift. Not all the housing estates have equipped with floor and units shown pasted above "based" of the staircase
Look through the gate
 Void Deck at 4th floor
Common corridors with void decks at each block more spacious feel where residents would chatting with neighbours, with fitness corner, children's playground next to Blk 3 (Yellow Block) & Blk 4 (Red Block) respectively. Parents would bring their kids to the playground at the podium while they chat with neighbours.
Children's playground (side view)
Facing at Blk 4 (Red Block), children's playground (2007), on the right is barbecue pits under the shelter (seen on the right).
Fitness Corner on the left
Closeup: Playground
Behind the children's playground is the Fitness Corner where young or old alike would exercise whenever they are free on certain days but the hot weather would keep them away as there are no shade or shelter within the area, only they would come down at night instead. The playground would fill with happiness and hear the children laughing during school breaks or school holiday.
 Fitness Corner
Reflexology Walk Stone Foot Massage
Not all housing estates have reflexology walk stone foot massage, the Rochor Centre has it all along, to get you workout on your foot reflexology massage. There are two reflexology walk stones next to each other - small white stone and large dark blue "smooth" stones that are embedded in concrete. I have tried it whenever I walk pass the smooth stones or even cobblestones at the park. But this one is no exception as it is huge and long and has the difficulty to step on it and it was painful at first when you step on with your bare foot. The uneven surfaces of stone paths are commonly used for wellness as "reflexology paths," although you can get the same beneficial effects from any uneven stone pathway.
Older residents who regularly walked on cobblestone/smooth stones surfaces, displayed lower blood pressure readings than those who walked on regular surfaces or engaged in no physical activity. I also wear cobblestone sandal wherever I go out for a short while.
   Two Barbecue pits & round benches

Closeup: Two Barbecue Pits

In those days, Rochor residents would book a barbecue pit for weekends or other occassions just below their blocks, it was very convenient for them as it's just one stone away from their blocks and also has two "round" benches next to it. It's just facing to the opposite the Sim Lim Tower.
 A good bench for barbecue gathering
It was such a spacious and yet cool place to gather with old friends from neighbourhood blocks for chatting and barbecuing as well.
 Pigeons line up on the steel bench
Even at the roof shelter
The favourite spot to the pigeons who seem unaware of the impending demolition in 2016. Where would the pigeons fly to if the Rochor Centre soon be demolished? 
For the years, the pigeons made it as their home and its favourite place to look for foods just below the kopitiam.
Bird's eye view from 4th floor Rochor Centre
The Bird's eye view from Rochor Centre on 4th floor across a Roman Catholic Church - Our Lady of Lourdes and Rochor estates along Rochor canal. It was built and completed in 1888 along Ophir road, a 19th century Roman Catholic Church building, is the first Tamil Catholic Church in Singapore and was was gazetted as a national monument in 2005.
 3 levels of shop-houses with colourful flats
Four colourful flats sit quietly above the shop-houses that built in 1977.
  Four colourful blocks with clear blue sky
Stretch photo: Spacious void deck
It is very breezy and convenient place, yet residents reluctant to leave their home as they are very attached to this place for so long. It is easy for them to go marketing at the supermarket and shops just below their blocks and across the road where the temples close by.
 Roomy and breezy space
Yellow & Blue Block of its name - Rochor Centre
Both Yellow and Blue blocks have the name of "Rochor Centre" indicated on the wall above, the building reminds them of the sentimental value of the area where they belong.
Many old residents were sad to leave their "nest" place and hold their fond memories of their home at Rochor centre where they grew up and lived for a long period of time. A demolition marks a closure to a very meaningful chapter of their lives. Yet gratefully, new home brings new lease of life to the residents at Kallang Trivista. But the sentimental value of Rochor centre is not easily replaced!