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.