My big, strong, and maybe a little less than friendly experiences at the corner of Orchard and Scotts Roads

16 04 2010

There was a time when the prospect of a visit to the bank would fill me with terror. That was during the time when I was a boy of four, perhaps five, and would dutifully accompany my mother on her many errands, shopping trips and visits to the hairdresser and the like. I accompanied her on her banking trips as well, including those that she made to the branch of The Chartered Bank at the bottom of Shaw House on a fairy regular basis. The visits to the bank, which was then touted as being “Big, Strong, Friendly”, somehow never seemed friendly for me. Big and strong maybe. It would always mean that I had to come face to face with the tall burly guard who also served as a doorman, who, wearing the stern look of a bearded and turbaned Sikh, would always open the doors for us. For some reason, I never did take notice of the warm smile my mother tells me that he would usually flash, choosing to focus instead on his imposing appearance which heightened my irrational sense of fear of policeman and security personnel, which was perhaps brought about by having been constantly reminded during my bouts of misbehaviour, that a figure of authority would soon apprehend me. Such was the terror that I felt that I would chose to forego the opportunity for childhood adventure that being outside the stuffy confines of the Austin 1100 would have presented me with, opting to remain in the parked car with nothing to do except stare impatiently out of the partially wound down window. There were actually a few occasions when I did have to overcome my irrational fear, venturing into the banking hall once I remember, to get my hands on the brightly coloured Donald Duck coin box that I so craved. I must have trembled at the sight of the guard, while keeping a tight hold on my mother’s hand as I followed on her on the far side of the guard hoping that her skirt could obscure me .

Lido and Shaw House at the corner of Orchard Road and Scotts Road, seen in 1960 on an old Postcard.

In the later years, a Chartered Bank advertising campaign actually had another burly Sikh security guard as the face of the “Big, Strong, Friendly” slogan, opening the doors to a banking hall with a big cheery smile. I would often then look back in amusement at my own personal experiences as an anxious young boy of the big, strong and maybe a little less friendly banking experience I had in my younger days.

Another view of Shaw House with Lido next to it c.1960 from an old postcard.

I was indeed sad to see the old Shaw House being demolished when that happened sometime in 1990, having been a prominent landmark at the corner of Orchard and Scotts Roads since it was unveiled in 1958. Along the way, it also housed several embassies, consulates and national trade bodies, including the Swiss embassy and also the South Vietnamese embassy until the fall of Saigon in 1975 when it was abandoned. Another landmark next to Shaw House, Lido Cinema, went with it in 1990. I too have a few fond memories of Lido. That was where I had watched many movies with my parents. Lido was also where I watched the first movie unaccompanied by my parents. I went with a few older neighbours in 1975 for the screening of The Pink Panther Returns.

The new Shaw House now houses the Lido Cineplex.

Looking at the area where the new Shaw House has come up over the old, you wouldn’t see anything of how it was all those years ago. In place of the block of offices and a small open car park in front of it where I would often wait in the parked car, and the a cinema next to it, the new Shaw House stands tall, housing the new Lido – a cineplex popular with Singaporeans, as well as Isetan Department Store and several popular eating places. Very little is left behind to remind me of the big, strong and friendly experiences that I had there … maybe only the successor to The Chartered Bank – a branch of Standard Chartered Bank which moved from the old Shaw House to neighbouring Shaw Centre in 1985.