Where ‘seedless’ rambutan trees once grew

16 10 2011

My impressions of the 6th Milestone of Upper Serangoon Road have been shaped not by my experiences with the area, but by my mother’s accounts of the area when she lived there with her parents after the war up until the early 1950s. It is an area that I have in fact no experiences in, except in passing through in a car on the regular road trips toward Punggol or Changi that I made in the back seat of my father’s car in my childhood. The 6th milestone had always served as a landmark on the journeys, that was where a narrow Tampines Road started a long and winding passage towards the junction of Tanah Merah Besar and Changi Roads and or course where Upper Serangoon Road continued towards the farming area of Punggol, looking out in particular for the old market that stood in the area. My mother always pointed the market out – the market being significant as a place outside which my grandmother had, in the desperate days that followed the end of the war, set up a makeshift stall to prepare and sell apam balik. She did that for a few years, doing what many others would have done to make ends meet.

Once the site of a market that played a significant part in my mother's childhood.

There were a few things my mother remembers well of the area at the time she lived there. One that is fairly interesting is that there was a rambutan plantation, the De Souza Farm, right up Simon Road that was well known for its ‘seedless’ rambutans – rambutans with very small seeds. The area, which is identified today as a Teochew area, was also as it turns out, not exclusive to the Teochews and there was a large community of Eurasians that lived on Simon Road, many belonging to the Seventh Day Adventist congregation as a lot of land and houses there were owned by Seventh Day Adventists. My mother herself had lived in one of the houses owned by a Eurasian lady whose name she doesn’t remember, and mentions that in the same compound there was wooden house with a brick foundation (as many there were) in which the widow of a Seventh Day Adventist minister, whom my mother remembers as a Reverend Keasberry, lived and that house was later used as an old folks home for which a certain Mr Goodenough would do marketing for. Another thing that the area was well known for a hatchery which was further along upper Serangoon road (opposite Lim Ah Pin Road) which turns out to be the same one that an uncle of my brother-in-law ran. The area we see today is certainly one that is very different from the world that my mother describes. The old market for one was flattened some time back, and what now stands in its place is a newly completed condominium The Kovan and with that there is probably nothing but a few memories that is left of that old Simon Road where seedless rambutan trees once grew.

A road that would once have led to a rambutan plantation known for its 'seedless' rambutans.

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15 responses

16 10 2011
Francis Ang

Hi Jerome, this blog entry certainly brings back memories of “Lak Koh Cheok” or 6th Milestone. I grew up in the vicinity about 1km down Tampines Road in the Customs Quarters where my late dad was the Asst Superintendant then in charge of the Customs unit collecting taxes for imported eggs at Kangkar fishing village and at Punggol Point that came across from Johor farms, and those regular raids of illicit samsu distilleries in jungle hideouts. The house where my family stayed for about six years was a wooden house sitting on concrete pillars, and it is still standing today. I have seen many tenants come and go and I believe it is a private school now occupying it. Each time I drive by on the way home to Pasir Ris, it evokes pleasant memories of my childhood. The SImon Road market is where my mum frequently goes to for her weekly marketing. One of the best memories of that area is the food in the market. One famous stall is the “kau lak ter huang” or pig intestines stuffed with glutinuous rice and chestnuts, which is a rarity these days. I now know of only one in Tiong Bahru hawkers’ centre. Another favorite of mine is the Teochew beef kway teow. My favourite drink stalls were the freshly brewed water chestnut drink and the ice batu bandung. Opposite SImon Road market was this coffee shop known as “See Kar Teng”, which serves one of the best hor fun then especially if you ta pau home in the “oh-peh” or coconut palm leave. There is this Teochew fish ball noodles stall, which also operated a stall in my school canteen at St Gabriel that serves one of the best tah mee in that area. There is also this wanton noodles stall that operates further down Upper Serangoon Road at the junction of Valley Road that gave me my first taste of wanton mee..hmmm mama mia! A famous wanton stall from the Hougang area now operates in Old Airport Road Food Centre. Its chilli and soup is just mama mia – better than franchise-operated Pontian wanton noodles. As I share this, memories of “lak koh cheok” keeps on flashing in my mind. Of course, I can go on on my experiences in the Upper Serangoon and Pungool areas. The latter was where my late grandfather had the biggest house along Punggol road just after St Anne’s church. Today, HDB blocks have sprouted in the land where my brothers and cousins used to roam and play. Thanks, Jerome for igniting this fond memory of mine.

17 10 2011
hoosiers

Understand from my parents (both mid 80s now) this junction of Upper Serangoon and Tampines was actually the town centre for the folks here and the road further down to Kangkah and Tampines were not tarmac and without street lights during their childhood times. I was told by my parents that the wooden house mentioned by Francis was turned into a warehouse to store gunny sacks of rice during the Japanese Occupation.

Much later in the early seventies, we shifted to 8 & a half mile stone in Tampines Road (Lorong Baling/Lorong Halus) where I spent my childhood right till army in the mid eighties. “Luck-ko-chiok” to my brothers and I was just like the AMK Hub of today back then. This was the place to get the stationeries we need; to buy new clothes and shoes for new year; to savour good food (Simon Road Market); to take studio photos for ic and bus pass (Dainty Photo Studio); to watch movies (Empire and Zenith Theatres); and to browse at the toys we desire at Daily Bookstore (more interested in the toys than the books) just outside Lowland Road.

We always look forward to our monthly visit to “luck-ko-chiok” for our haircut, not so much for the haircut but the monthly fix of char siew rice at the “See Kar Teng” coffee shop where the barber shop was also located. (which is now a carpark at the Junction of Upper Sgoon and Tampines).

Another opportunity to visit this “hub” was the time when I was sick. My mom will bring me to the Lim Ah Pin Outpatient Dispensary to see the doctor and would take the chance to do some “shopping” as well.

The Simon Road Market was dissected by a huge canal and the food here were heavenly. Yes, the beef kway tiao stall mentioned by Francis was tended by a guy that has got eleven fingers! The hokkien mee (now at Old Airport Hawker Centre), the now franchised Poh Kee Satay; the mee rebus, popiah and chendol! There was an even push-cart fried kway tiao stall tended by a bearded old man that was a feature by the road side on the left as one turns right into Tampines from Upper Sgoon Road. Yes, I can’t forget the open-air superb wanton noodle stall (located new the present Maybank Branch) that provides a hearty supper for dating couples and movie goers too. Also at this location was a bus terminal for distinctively green buses (not SBS) that runs all the way to “Si-Pah-Po” (General Hospital).

Like Francis had said, one could go on talking about those good old times then..

8 11 2011
Melvin Sim

I remember the wanton noodles stall. It was fantastic. I used to live at Florence Road and would walk out to the terminus with my family for supper. The stall later moved to the Simon Road market before I lost track of it in the mid-80s. Does anyone have any idea where it was? Did it stay at the market thru the 90s? I don’t suppose it’s still operating today., is it?

13 02 2012
Francis Ang

Hi Melvin, the wanton mee stall from our “lark ko cheok” days is now found at Old Airport Road Hawkers’ Centre. It is now operated by one of the sons. The stall facing Old Airport Road and is located on the first row to the left. There are two wanton noodles stall but you should be able to distinguish it from the signboard. Bon apetit!

17 10 2011
Liz Bahar

Hi Jerome, couldn’t find your email address so going thru here. My mum is a Keasberry and her mother was Lena Keasberry, who I think was the widow of a reverend. They lived in Simon Road with the College family. The Colleges lived there till at least the 1980s. I remember still visiting them there until I left Singapore in 1981. There was an Eldin College who was a guitar teacher. My mum was born in 1931 and I think she lived in Simon Road until she got married in the 1950s. I’m not sure if she continued living there then – I’ll have to ask her. There was also a peranakan lady who lived in a little house in the same compound. I remember the address as 6 Simon Lane not Simon Road so I’m not sure if you’re talking about the same Keasberrys but I don’t think there can be that many. Plus my mum has also spoken of the Goodenoughs. I’ll ask my mum if she can remember more when next I speak to her but I thought if the name Lena keasberry might ring a bell for your mum, or the names Betty or Blanche.
I remember the 6th mile. I myself was born in Lowland Road and lived there until I was 9, but we always went back to visit my grandmother. Reading your blog has brought back so many memories. There was the Henry Furniture workshop at one end of Lowland Road (Flower Road end) and a row of houses at the other end. Adjacent to this was a row of shop houses with a dhobi. Walk down this road and there was a cinema and then Upper Serangoon Road (we called that area Batu Enam – 6th mile) – Daily Book Store, some provision stores, all leading to the 6th mile market. Getting nostalgic now. But I used to play with Sally and Pauline Tay and a family of girls Angeline, Evangeline, Jocelyn and Leslie – don’t know where they all are now. And I also remember a small malay kampong, or maybe it was only a house, with a Malay lady we called Kakak and her daughter Siti and family.
Hope you can provide more information about the area or the people – this is quite exciting!
Thanks Jerome, and I love reading your blog.
Liz

13 02 2012
mambodog

Hi Jerome,

I have tasted the de Souza rambutan. It grew next door and it was a big tree and we always had a ‘rambutan harvest’ comprising of a few of my uncles climbing up the trees.. Lots of ants tho…

26 04 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Hi mambodog … nice! How long ago was that – do you know if the tree is still around?

7 03 2012
missbossy (@missbossy)

I’m trying to help Teng Teng find the seedless rambutan tree… perhaps you could spread the word through your network? http://on.fb.me/ysUrlE Thanks

26 04 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Hi missbossy … just saw this and put the word out! Good luck on your quest! :)

18 10 2013
Seah Kwee Yong

I have a photo of me learning guitar from Eldin College of Simon Lane old run down house. Hope you can open the link provided. Rgds. SKY

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25575398@N06/8034461216/

19 10 2013
Liz Bahar

Hi Kwee Yong…the photo won’t load. Eldin College is my uncle. I remember that house. My grandmother lived in the little house that was next to Uncle Eldin’s big house. We last caught up with him in 2011.

19 02 2014
Marlon

Hi Liz, Can you pass a msg to Eldin that Lawrence’s son Marlon would like to contact him. The last time I saw him was in the 70′s when he came over to my home with uncle Bobsy.
Thanks,
Marlon

19 02 2014
Liz Bahar (Gwen)

Hi Marlon…unfortunately I don’t have Uncle Eldin’s contact details. You can try calling an aunt of mine, Mary Tan (she’s the one who usually arranges the get-togethers when we go back to S’pore – I live in Perth) on +6594321036 and she might have his contact no. She knows me as Gwen so tell her that Gwen from Perth, Betty’s daughter, gave you her no. What’s your surname by the way, Marlon? Maybe my mum knows your family..she’s Betty Tay nee Keasberry – she used to live in the same compound in Simon Lane as the Colleges.

23 02 2014
Liz Bahar (Gwen)

Hi again Marlon..I’ve managed to get Uncle Eldin’s contact no. so if you’d like to pm me, I’ll pass it on to you. My mum asked if your dad is Lawrence McCall and if his siblings are Dicky and Iris.

27 02 2014
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

I believe Mr Seah Kwee Yong meant to send this as a reply to the above comment, but it came through my inbox as an email:

Hi – just saw yr message to me, after so long, as it went into my email filter location. When you said the photo won’t load, do u mean the photo did not show up from my Flickr link? Where I was learning guitar from Eldin. I can send u a direct photo file. I had a sight of Eldin probably ten year back near Vista Park. Do send my regards to him as I still owe him a month of tuition fee, I was with PWD (with Herman and Leong) then, struggling to find time to learn guitar.
Rgds. Kwee Yong (retired from civil service)

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