Retracing the “Ice Ball” Trail

22 01 2014
A guest post by Edmund Arozoo who takes us on a walk back 50 years in time on the ice-ball trail to his kampung at Jalan Hock Chye


Your whole life flashes in front of you when you experience a near death moment. Memories come flashing back. Memories of all the good times and bad – and times that one had forgotten or chose to forget come back vividly. Having been in that position almost two years ago there is one strange memory that strangely stood out in my mind and often came back to me after that.

It takes me back fifty or more years ago when I was in primary school at the then Holy Innocents School (which later became Montfort School). Those were the days when the Ponggol Bus Company or aka the “Yellow Bus” Company serviced routes in the Serangoon and Ponggol District. My generation of users of this service would remember the wooden louver windows these buses had in those early days!

Well, the average daily “pocket money” for school kids our age then was 30 cents. 10 cents for bus fare to and from school, 10 cents for a plate of Char Kuay Teow or Mee Siam etc, 5 cents for a drink and 5 cents for Kachang Puteh or sweets.

On certain days after our morning school sessions when the urge for a “cool” after-school treat was high a group of us, living close to each other, would decide that if we walked home we could use the 5 cents saved to buy the refreshing “ice ball” – shaved ice shaped into a ball (like a snowball) and sweeten with various coloured sweeteners and a dash of evaporated milk. This was handmade and looking back was pretty unhygienic but it was a special treat for most of us to quench our thirst.

Well the walk from our school, which was next to the Church of the Nativity, back to our homes in Jalan Hock Chye, off Tampines Road, covered a distance of about a mile. We were usually hot, sweaty and thirsty by the time we reach the “kaka” (Muslim Indian) shop that sold iceballs. However walking the last few yards home sucking on an iceball was simply “heavenly” then.

I was in Singapore recently and a strange urge came over me – I wanted to walk the iceball trail again! (I did not think it was the progression of a second childhood coming on).

Well on 10th August 2012 I and my wife caught a bus from Upper Thompson Road to Houggang Central to do the trail. Sadly my old school is no more there but the Church of the Nativity is still there and that was my starting point. With camera in hand I recaptured memories of various roads and lorongs that were landmarks then. Fifty years has seen lots of improvement on what was then on a whole a rural environment. Some lanes like St Joseph’s Lane have gone but it was nostalgic to recap what was and still is present. Very few landmarks of old remain. I knew we were getting close to our destination on approaching Lim Ah Pin Road. By then we were thirsty and welcomed a cool soya bean drink at a shop opposite Lim Ah Pin Road before heading for Kovan MRT station. This station used to be the terminus for the STC bus company that ran services into town and other parts of the island in those days.

Rd signsa

Sadly too Jalan Hock Chye is no more around, being replaced by Hougang Avenue 1. However other landmarks are still there to pinpoint precisely where we used to get our iceballs. The Kaka shop used to be directly in front of the start of Jalan Teliti which is still there; and where my old home used to be is where Block 230 now stands and diagonally across there was a small lane that is now the present Jalan Hock Chye.

Well fifty years on I am glad I still could do the ice ball trail again and to all the old Monfortians who did the walk with me then – life was very simple then but very much cherished. However no ice ball for me at the end of the walk this time – had to settle for an ice kachang as a substitute!


Words and images by Edmund Arozoo, who now resides in Australia and whom I had the pleasure to meet last December.




8 responses

21 01 2015
Bernard Yeo

Great blog!

Have you joined the Montfort alumni Facebook page? You could reconnect with some old friends. 🙂

15 03 2015
Edmund Arozoo

I am glad you like the Blog Bernard Yeo. Thanks – yes I have indeed joined the Montfort Alumni (not fb though). But through fb I have caught up with some of my Pri 1 class mates – great reunion in 2013

3 06 2015
Ivan Chew

NIce post! Are you by any chance related to Arozoo Avenue because just this morning I was also trying to retrace steps on site from where I lived (Jalan Payoh Lai) more than 40 years ago to my primary school Charlton School next to Arozoo Primarty School. Wished someone could post old photos to refresh my memories. I do indeed remember the coloured Ice Ball Stall and nearby do you also remember a kway chap stall, my favourite, only 30 cents a bowl with pig skin? My granma lived in Jalan Hock Chye, and I had neighbours studying in Mornfort so this brings back fond memories.

Thnks for the post.

4 06 2015
Edmund Arozoo

Thanks Ivan Chew for the feedback. No I am not related to the Aroozoo family. There is a slight variation in the spelling of the surnames. No we were not the”Rich” ones. Loll. Yes I too regret not taking any photos when I went back for holidays in 1979 after 2 yrs in Australia. The kampongs were still as they were. The areas you mentioned were areas me and my neighborhood friends would walk cycle etc during school holidays. I have met up with few of my neighbour’s in April this year. Who knows we can meet next time I am back and recollect the old days. Cheers

19 08 2015
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

A request from the author of this post, Edmund:

There is a loooong story behind this request.

This is the gist -I was connected via email by a family originally from Singapore and now residing overseas because of my references to Jalan Hock Chye in my many posts on the Internet. Mainly the guest blog I did on Jerome Lim’s blog “The long and winding Road” entitled “Retracing The Ice ball Trail”.

Anyway the mother only recently discovered that she was adopted from a family living in Jalan Hock Chye. And the only particulars available is the address of the family she came from and the date of Birth.

So this is request post on this and other fb pages that if anyone out there knows or is related to the lady’s family who stayed in 289-28. Jalan Hock Chye in the 50s and 60s and even possibly 70s please drop me a message.

It would be such a great ending if a reunion can be established.

5 09 2015
Edmund Arozoo

GREAT NEWS – Success ! Through an uncanny twist of fate via facebook – the two families have been reunited! For me to witness and read the JOY of this reunion has been overwhelming considering that in reality it had a chance of one in a million – like finding a needle in a haystack. The Kampong has long gone and all of the residents have been resettled elsewhere. At this stage I will respect and accord the privacy that the individuals deserve as they cherish these wonderful moments of JOY. Edmund

11 02 2016
Ng Aik Huat

Good evening mr. Edmund Arozoo. I am very happy to read your blog. We shared our younger days in the kampong ways…. you in serangoon.. I at jalan Eunos kampong bata. Now I am living at your old place..!! Block 230 hougang avenue 1. .since 1983.
Very happy to see your post. Great days ahead for you and your family.

12 04 2016
Edmund Arozoo

I just noticed your message. Glad you like my blog. Yes the area has changed a great deal since I left in 1977. When I am back in Singapore I do visit my cousin who now lives in Block 236 – I make it a point to have a meal at the food shops just opposite your block or at the hawker centre. Thanks for the wishes Ng Aik Huat. Same to you and your family

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