Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Sngapore's old gateways

The gateway to the old People's Association. It is standing strong despite massive road realignment and widening at Kallang.
Gateway to good food -- the entrance to Maxwell Food Centre at 1 Kadayanullur Street. You can still see the old name "Maxwell Market" on the facade. The market was established in the 1950s to serve Chinatown residents -- where pig brain soup as well as turtle soup were flavour of the day. 
Gateway to Sultan Mosque. at Kampung Glam.
IT is very nice of Singapore to retain some remnants of the past -- especially the "gateways" -- entries to a world so different, and for some, so full of memories.

Remnant of the past -- the arc at Great World City at Kim Seng Road. I am not sure whether the arc is a reminiscence or a remnant (original) of the grand past. I remember a similar arc which formed part of the gate leading in to
 the old Great World Amusement Park, opened in 1929 and closed in 1978. 
This gate pillar still guards the site where the
old Nan ChiauHigh School  once stood at Kim Yam Road.
 The building was erected in 1941 as Nan Chiau Teachers'
Training School and became the  Nan Chiau Girls School in 1947,
 admitting boys in 1984. Demolition started around 2001? I am on
the lookout for more "remant" gateways and
 will post the pictures in this blog.
The New World Amusement Park at Jalan Besar also had an arc as part of its gateway. The structure was retained though the site was redeveloped into a condominium and shopping area. Then of course, there's the Gay World (once also known as Happy World) at Geylang Road, next to the old People's Association headquarters (which has moved since 2009). This one did not have an arc though as gateway. And nothing of its past to remind us of its existence. I must go there to take a look soon, to see if I can find any traces which Time did not erase.

I remember Great World most for its ghost train and merry-go-round. Mum would stay outside as dad went on the ride with me and my brother. I loved the way the skeleton with green eyes suddenly popped out as the train chugged along the dark, dark tunnel. Those days, we never knew that the site was once a cemetery (in the 1920s). Dad put an end to the train rides because he once got his finger snagged by something in the darkness (he didn't quite know what). So, he said, no more train rides. Dangerous.
Charming terraced houses still remain at Kim Yam Road and talking a walk
along the road is close to entering a gateway to the past.

                                                                                                              The Gay World and New World brought back later memories of childhood. Mum and I would take the No. 9 Tay Koh Yat bus from the bus terminus at Serangoon Gardens to the terminus at Geylang. The bus terminus at Geylang was a dark road. We would alight into the darkness  and then walked a short distance to the amusement park. I think it was about 50 cents from Serangoon Gardens to Geylang. Anyway, it was the maximum fare for this bus service. The ticket was a bright orange colour. ( I used to collect bus tickets and the orange tickets were my favourite.)

Those days (60s & early 70s) Gay World was always having "expos" -- and mum would go there to look at furniture, crockery, materials (for sewing)...  There was also a stadium at Gay World where they had basketball matches and boxing. I remembered watching a boxing match with mum -- tickets were courtesy of an old friend of dad. (Mum quite like to watch boxing and sometimes she would watch those late boxing shows on TV.)

The old New World gateway that was preserved at Kitchener Road. It was exactly how I remember it. The cinema was just a short distance from this gate. Much had been written on this amusement park --  opened in 1923 by the two Straits Chinese merchant brothers, Ong Boon Tat and Ong Peng Hock. They were sons of Ong Sam Leong (who had a road named after him, off Jalan Besar.

We didn't go to New World at Jalan Besar often. But I remember badgering mum to watch Madam White Snake at one of the cinemas there -- starring Linda Lin Dai as White Snake and Tu Chuan as the Green Snake. We missed the first screening at the big theatres (1960s) so this re-run (in the 70s) must not be missed -- come hail storm or floods.

Come to think of it, this old cinema was popular (to us) for its old Cantonese films. Our favourites were, of course, the sword-fighting ones starring Siu Fong Fong, Chan Poh Choo and the older Yu Soh Chow. The "handsome" male star -- inadvertently -- was Jiong Ying Choi (a bit on the fat side, especially obvious in scenes showing him running up mountain paths). He was always the good guy and Chou Tat Wah (who always acted as detective in more modern films) was usually the bad guy. More commonly though, the bad guy was Liu Yan (the villain opposite Kwan Tak Heng in Wong Fei Hung movies).

The gateway to the former People's Association building (which was the former old Kallang Airport) was grand and a bit imposing -- and on a blustery day, one could feel like he or she is walking into Dracula's castle. According to a URA website on the conservation plan for the area, it says that the gate posts and old lamp posts will be retained. But I failed to find these last Sunday when I went to the site... maybe I missed them somehow. What I found was this new road which leads to the construction of the new sportshub. I couldn't find the lovely long walkway to the old building either. Ah well, maybe under wraps -- all to be revealed when completed. Tar-rum!
Update: I was so wrong. I revisited the place yesterday, and ta-rum, the old gateposts , down to the ye ole lamp post are intact. Actually, from where I was the last time, I just needed to walk a bit further towards Kg Bugis, and I would have been able to see the gate posts behind the piles of rubbles, rocks and soil. 

This beautiful tree remains, not sure for how long. The clump of green has been around for the longest time, separating Gay World from the compounds of the old People's Association.

Gay World Hotel along the row of shophouses at Geylang Road is a reminder of  the past. Hope it doesn't change its name though.

Now, this gate (the green one) is reminiscent of the gates I know during my childhood. Our house used to have a gate that's like this -- low and with those curly-wurly things on top. I would swing along one side until mum scolded saying that I would bring the gate down from its post. Sure remember the times when we had to help give it a new coat of paint -- usually silver. Painting a gate is no joke. You need a thin paint brush to painstakingly reach all the curves and corners of the patterns.  I am happy to find an old-fashioned gate like this at Brighton Crescent. 

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