And when it did spill over in the good old days …

6 09 2013

Yesterday’s big flood was quite a major talking point. Floods have actually been a regular occurrence through much of Singapore’s history, two massive floods that did occur in my childhood were the big floods of 1969 and 1978. Most people were unfazed by the smaller floods – when the waters did spill over, it was always an opportunity for the kids of those days to have fun, any way they could, bringing out rubber tubes and in the case of the photograph of the flood of 1978 in the tabloid newspaper of those times, the New Nation, a giant wok.

1978 Flood

A contributor Yuen Hun to a post on Facebook Group “On a Little Street in Singapore” speaks of the big flood of 1969 and other flood experiences in Potong Pasir, a low-lying area where flooding was a fairly regular occurrence:

For me it was in a Potong Pasir farm village in 1969. The water was chest high after several days of continous rain. The entire village was submerged in yellow muddy water.

Villagers had to evacuate ourselves to higher grounds of Toa Payoh new town. How do we avoid falling into invisible ponds below the water and not get drowned ? Thanks to the men in the village. They led all the women and children to safety. All persons moved together in a linear manner holding on to bamboo poles. All the bamboo poles were linked together horizontally by the men . A selfless and courageous man led the group by testing the ground and avoided the invisible deep ponds below.

I can recall vividly that my father piggy-back me while my 2 years old brother sat on our neigbour ‘s shoulder. Cannot remembered what he looked like , but remembered he has an affectionat nick name ” Loa Di ( 老弟 in Hokkien . At that moment, it was still raining.

My older siblings went on to stay in a large community hall in a school building, while my mother and the younger siblings went to live with my mother’s cousin’s one-room flat in Lorong 7 , Toa Payoh.

We relished a dinner of hot Fried Hor Fun (Rice Noodles) served on those fragrant yellow tree bark wrappings.

Then there were smaller floods every December. The fish and tortoises were displaced from their ponds. Wonderful opportunities for children to capture and collect them into multiple large cement fish tanks. We would use white paint to write serial numbers on each tortoise collected. The number accumulate up to 400 over many years.  I had so many wonderful experience and playtime memories of those floods.


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9 responses

6 09 2013
Alan Yarnell

Who will use such a huge cooking pot??

6 09 2013
James Tann

These cauldrons were used mainly by farmers to cook animal feed. In the gambier growing days in Singapore (late 19th century), even larger ones were used to boil the gambier leaves. They were known as bangsals.

6 09 2013
8 09 2013
George Lam

It is actually a huge kwali (Malay) or wok (Chinese), the Chinese (and other races) use it to stir fry, deep fry, stew and almost any other way to cook food. Very versatile. You can still see it being used in Malaysia. Recently, I saw it being used to make gula melaka (palm sugar) on Malaysian TV.

Basically meant for mass cooking over a wood or charcoal fire. The modern kwali/wok, much smaller of course, can be found in many kitchens around the world.

In the farms, I have seen the huge kwali being used to cook food for the pigs too – there were many pig farms -small and big- in the rural areas in the
60s.

6 09 2013
Charlotte

In the 1960s, when I was living in Alexandra Estate and the drains were flooded over during heavy rains, I used to stand at my balcony and yelled to any passer-by who got too close the 1 m deep drains so that they know not to step into them:-) Love those days, we used to float paper boats and of course no school too!

7 09 2013
henry

The large circular and deep pan is used to cook water hyacinth to be used as pig feed. There is a group of these plants on the right of the picture. Large ponds were dug to grow these plants and also for fish such as ikan toman, gourami. The ponds also doubled up as cess pits. A small wooden shack tuck in a corner would indicate that.

The ‘leaf ‘used to wrap cooked food such as “hor fun” is actually the ends of a sheath from the leaf branch of a palm tree.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roystonea).Which has dried. There was no plastic wrap or styrofoam during those days!

Flooding brings back good memories for me.. though for some it caused financial or human loss. Dead pigs, hens, dogs, cats would float by after heavy continuous rain.

It is good to be reminded that we are not masters of our universe.

12 09 2013
Melvin

Interesting flashback of the floods. I’ve had a flood experience too in Bombay although not too severe back in 2006. What we had to deal with most was vehicular breakdown along the streets due to water in the carburettor and exhausts and people stranded on their way home from work. I did my bit for the gang of 25-30 marooned inside our office and the next day rescued my damsel in distress from a building about 30 kms away. All thru this episode (luckily for me) a beer wasn’t more than an arms lenght away.

6 03 2014
Christine

I was part of the big flood in 1978 and still remember I slept with my family in the zinc roof and escaped via the green mental navy boat. I was six years old then and moved out of the village at eight years old due to urban redevelopment. There were so many beautiful memories there.

7 06 2015
SEM ABDUL ALEEM

I WAS a Pre University Meds – student at St Andrews School .The Principal was Mr FRANCIS THOMAS – former labour minister in the previous Government

When it was flooded at PP Village he made all arrangements for the senior students to get involved – the Pre University, sec 4 , the scouts, Rugby teams, Boarding school seniors under Mr YEE TECK PENG and the Form masters & Junior teachers were made to form teams and went all out to assist the villagers and had them stay at the school Community Hall and class rooms.

We student volunteers formed a team to assist and went in available sampans and what ever that floated to rescue stranded villagers and brought back them to safety.

My family were staying at Wan Tho Ave just across PP village and they chipped in to assist TO GET FRIENDs TO DONATE clothing – chong sam, sarees, blouses, pants, trousers and many more clothes of evry color and hue.

My family and friend also cook meals for the shivering Villagers. The best was SARDINE – AMOY BRAND there was a provision shop owner who was a friend of my Dad – at the then Macpherson Market who donated tins & tins to the cause and my mother chipped in along with some friends and the villagers we cooked the first meal in th evening. Bread was the staple food of the day and passed around.. Rice was not available then and it was hard to cook . On the other hand the scouts of ST ANDREW SCHOOL was mobilized and they went all out to help.

Thou I had vivid clear memory of the flood I just want to record the facts.

My ALMA MATER was very much instrumental in the rescue work. Besides there were able bodied Villagers who on their own accord assisted the villagers and it was a collective efforts that many were saved and to the day its a memory who were involved in the PP FLOOD PROJECT..

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