The Singapore of my younger days …

A collection of posts on the Singapore that I knew

Growing up during a time when Singapore was a very different place, in a family that could perhaps be seen as a reflection of what was seen to be Singaporean then, I have a perspective on the world around that is shaped very much by the wonderful experiences I have had growing up. Those were the days when the newly independent nation was in a state of transition, the days before the rapid changes which were to transform Singapore from that small insignificant nation that many thought would struggle to survive, to the confident modern city-state that it is today. It was an exciting time for me growing up and then witnessing the transformation which swept over much of Singapore. There is certainly a lot as a Singaporean to be proud of but at the same time, this feeling is somewhat tempered by the sense of sadness and nostalgia that I have for the many wonderful places that I grew up knowing that have disappeared or changed completely. It was in those times and in those places that I have had such rich and memorable experiences, some which made me what I am today. Take a walk with me down memory lane as I revisit the Singapore that I once knew, the Singapore of swinging sixties that gave way to the sizzling seventies, the Singapore that I had such a wonderful time growing up in, and one that is so very different from the Singapore we see these days:

1. In and around Orchard Road

2. The Civic District

3. The areas around Saint Joseph’s Institution (SJI) and school days at SJI

4. Growing up in Toa Payoh

5. School days in St. Michael’s School

6. The commercial heart of Singapore

7. Sembawang and Nee Soon

8. Changi, Tanah Merah and Somapah

9. Queenstown

In and around Orchard Road

Impressions of Orchard Road in the 1970s

A overall look at the Orchard Road before the invasion of the shopping malls and skyscrapers back in the days when we could see and smell the Stamford canal.

Orchard Road and the Magical Tivoli Coffee House

The Orchard Road stretch between Scotts Road and Bideford Road, and memories of the wonderful and magical Tivoli (the coffee house that is)!

Lido and Shaw House and the Security Guard at the Chartered Bank

The Shaw House before the present one and the Lido next to it, and scary moments in the branch of the Chartered Bank in Shaw House.

When Sands wasn’t at Marina Bay

Memories of Clemeanceau Avenue back in the good old days of Sands House and the Highway Inn. Clemenceau Avenue then provided a back door to the Orchard Road area around Cold Storage and the popular makan (eating) places such Koek Lane that have since disappeared.

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The Civic District

Windows into the Past

A peek through the windows of the Empress Place building to its past as a building housing government offices.

Old Parliament House and the Armenian Church

The bronze elephant statue at old Parliament House and a bit on the Armenian Church.

The Esplanade and the Merlion.

The Esplanade as we knew it then, a place where you could take a stroll and listen to the sound of the lapping waves and indulge in satay and chendol, and the Merlion at the mouth of the Singapore River.

Anderson and Cavenagh Bridges

Two of the most beautiful bridges in Singapore right at the mouth of the Singapore River, one of which hid a secret for 20 years.

The Old Supreme Court

Memories of being caged in the magnificent old Supreme Court.

The Early Founders’ Stone and the monument that was never built

Saying hello to an old acquaintance at the National Archives.

The statue of Sir Stamford Raffles

My favourite statue … not that were were many to choose from in the Singapore of my childhood.

Chicken Pies on Battery Road

The Battery Road of my childhood … not just a wonderland of wonderful buildings like the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building and the Chartered Bank Building which have been replaced by the cold glass, steel and concrete structures that now tower over the area, but also a “wonderland” of pies and pastries at the Wonderland Cafe.

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The area around Saint Joseph’s Institution (SJI) and memories of school days

Bras Basah Memories on a Map

Navigable memories and photographs of the Bras Basah area from myself and other sources On a Little Street in Singapore consolidated on a Google Map.

Whispers of an otherwise silent world

The silent world that is the Bras Basah area of today is one in which I sometimes here the whispers of the forgotten world that I had once interacted with.

Schooldays in SJI

Adventures of a SJI schoolboy in and around Bras Basah Road.

Memories of Bras Basah Road

Bras Basah Road in the days of bookshops and sportsshops

The Forbidden Hill (Fort Canning Hill).

A walk around the Forbidden Hill and memories of adventures on the hill.

Waterloo Street.

A walk down the street where the best Indian Rojak, a Jewish house of worship, and a church that was used as a car workshop.

Queen Street.

A walk down the street of churches and schools.

Victoria Street.

A walk down the street where the Red House cafe and a coffee shop callled Smokey’s where schoolboys and girls once hung out in the days before McDonald’s and Starbucks.

The Log Book

A trip back not to a place, but to the pages of a book I used to visit everyday in SJI.

Bus rides to SJI and other memories of the buses

A trip back to the bus rides that took me to SJI and to other parts of Singapore.

Stamford Road

A walk down a road that had the Capitol and many wonderful buildings including the former National Library.

The Far Side of Fort Canning Hill

A walk to the far side of the hill where there were encounters from school boys who went to school at the Teochew Building and where some of the icons of the newly independent Singapore once proudly stood.

The magical hill with a fairy-tale like mansion that was Mount Sophia

A walk through the magical Mount Sophia with a fairy tale like Eu Villa, and the 100 steps to Plaza Singapura.

Middle Road, where the Mahallah and Doh Jin Hospital once existed

A walk through the street which was once a main street in the Jewish quarter and later the Japanese enclave, where a hospital called Doh-Jin once existed.

Middle Road then and now

A stroll through the Middle Road of today and memories of the Middle Road of yesterday.

Park Lane, Mayfair and Hyde Park

A time when we had Park Lane, Mayfair and Hyde Park.

Curry puffs, brightly coloured candy and a bus garage: Selegie and Mackenzie Roads

A walk along Selegie Road and MacKenzie Road where there was alleyways of great food, curry puffs and coconut candy.

My stroll through the streets that made up the Mahallah: Selegie Road

A walk through the lower half of Selegie Road.

Where the stork once visited: Prinsep Street (Rochor to Middle Roads)

The upper part of Prinsep Street and the former Salmon’s Maternity Home.

The Tiger Balm Building at the corner of Selegie Road and Short Street

The tiger that went missing at the corner of Short Street and Selegie Road.

A church occupied by Sin

The curious sight of a church building occupied by a motor workshop named Sin Sin Motor Company.

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Growing up in Toa Payoh

A view of life through the front door

A view of life on the outside through the front door of the flat that I lived in. I can never forget that glorious smell that came with the curry puff man!

Life in Toa Payoh

Life as it was in the good old days of Toa Payoh.

Cowboys and Indians

Playing a game of Cowboys and Indians on the staircase of Block 53.

The Queen and a few important guys visited me

Recollections of the visits of HM Queen Elizabeth II, President Sheares and a few other dignitaries to the humble 3 room flat that I lived in in Toa Payoh.

My swinging sixties

Fun on the swings, see-saws, slides and the rest of the playground at the foot of Block 53.

To Market, To Market

Memories of trips with my mother to the market.

The Smells of the Toa Payoh that I grew up in

Growing up in Toa Payoh with the smell of coffee beans being roasted and bread fresh out of the oven.

When the postman came a calling

Reminiscing about the days when the postman delivered the mail at the doorsteps of HDB flats.

Around the Toa Payoh on the Rise

Memories of the area around Toa Payoh Rise, including the Toa Payoh Hospital, First Toa Payoh Primary School and the missing blocks of flats on the hill.

Revisiting the corridors of my childhood

A visit back to the corridors where I grew up around, corridors where I had played games such as Police and Thief, and Cowboys and Indians, and discovering that some things are still the same some 33 years after I left them behind.

The Fairy-Tale like Castle in Toa Payoh

The castle that once rose above Toa Payoh which was a source of fascination for many children.

The Toa Payoh Library area 37 years ago

Landmarks that came up in the vicinity of the Toa Payoh Library 37 years ago, including the Library itself, Kong Chian Cinema, the first fully air-conditioned POSB Bank and the 7th SEAP Games Village.

Voids that have Filled Our Lives

A post that revisits the common spaces that I grew up around written in support of NHB’s third community heritage exhibition on void decks entitled “Our Void Decks, Our Shared Spaces.

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A Second Page of Posts on the Singapore of my Younger Days…


8 responses

4 09 2010

I am impressed by your blog that brings back alot of history and memories.

Especially on Toa Payoh, Bras Basah and Victoria Street. Incidentally I was from Raffles Girls Primary and lives in Toa Payoh since my primary days.

I can read that you shld be staying in Blk 53 and apparent I had a friend that stayed on the 18th floor but unfortunately he had passed away from cancer. He was 14 years my senior then… puppy love :).

When we grew older over the years, the past and childhood sad, bitter or happy memories all flashed back constantly and seems we missed them alot eventough we now lives in a more comfortable Singapore.

I hope to continue your blog here and hope to gather back more memories. Infact there is alot to catch up here.

Thanks for keeping all these history and information. I think they are valuable and priceless to Singaporeans.

Not sure if you had came up with a book on this. I think you should.


6 09 2010
The wondering wanderer

Hi Jen, thanks so much for your kind feedback. It is very much appreciated. 😀

From what you mentioned, it would have been the RGS along Queen Street that you went to. Whereabouts Toa Payoh did you live? I am really sorry to hear about your friend. How long ago was that? I lived in Blk 53 until 1976 and might have met him at some stage …

Yes, I certainly agree about memories of the past coming back to us as we grow older, some bitter, some sweet, and many that makes us miss with fondness the days we have left behind.

I do hope to write a book one day … and I suppose this blog helps me to collect my memories together as a prelude to that … thanks so much for following this blog … 😀



24 09 2010
When Sands wasn’t at Marina Bay « The Long and Winding Road

[…] 24 09 2010 There is a lost world that lies where the Central Expressway (CTE) passes under Orchard Road cutting Clemenceau Avenue into two, what is now referred to as Clemenceau Avenue North and […]

11 03 2011
Happy Wanderer

I am trying to find some old pictures of Kangkar – the old fishing village at the end of Upper Serangoon Road. Also for the area near Ponggol – namely Track 22, Seventeen Avenue, Fishery port. Anyone can point me to some collections? Thanks.

14 03 2011
The wondering wanderer

Hi Happy Wanderer, you might like to look at these, as well as try other searches on the National Archives PICAS website.

26 04 2011

Would you allow two or three of the Jurong Railway images be used in a non-profit and public educational event? There will be acknowledgement.

8 12 2011
lucy childs

You might be interested in a group I started on Flickr for photos of Singapore pre 1975. If you are a member of Flickr it would be great if you could join.

_Z2A4124 Keppel Hill reservoir
17 12 2011

Any of you guys got any info on Emerald hill no 9… My late grandad used to live there…. Now is Ice Cold Beer…..

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