Archive for February, 2010

Census 1980

February 23, 2010

To follow up on the subject of Chinatown shophouses. In 1980, I took part in the population census conducted by the Department of Statistics as an enumerator (another fancy name for a guy who goes house to house to collect data). Enumerators were paid about $400 a month, much better than the miserable $200+ paid to me while serving in the army. We were required to attend a month of training and learn among many things, how to conduct interview, how to fill in the census form correctly, etc. Everything was to be done manually. One of the subject during the training was to how to identify and categorise the type of building, eg. detached house, semi detached house, flats, kampong house, shophouse, etc. Slides were shown during the class training. One of the slide was on the shophouses.
Typical shophouses at Tanjong Pagar :
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During the weekends, the shop on the ground level will be closed. There are two ways for the people living upstairs to get out of the building : via the front shop door or from the “trap door” staircase which can be lowered down to the five foot walkway. This is a sketch of the ladder which was lowered down :
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We were told that if the ground floor shop door was locked, we can climb up the ladder and look for the owner living upstairs.
Typical shophouse five foot walk way :
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Typical location of ladder :
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Whenever I am in town, I always look out for these unique feature of shophouses but unfortunately, most of the shophouses has been renovated. The “trap door” and ladders were no longer in used and removed.
This is the certificate that was given to all of us who worked during the 1980 census :

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Chinese New Year

February 16, 2010

Chinese New Year is here again. This year’s CNY falls on 14 Feb Sunday and 15 Feb Monday.
Back in the 60s and 70s, every CNY, my mom will bring me and my brothers to visit our relatives who lives in some shophouses along Neil Road in Chinatown:
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A number of the upper floors of the shophouses in Chinatown are rented out. Rooms are extremely small, enough for one bed and and some small space. Personal belongings are stashed under the bed or hang above the bed using hooks and strings. Most of the tenants are unmarried people who came to Singapore before World War 2 to work.
This is a typical five foot walk way :
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It is extremely hazardous to walk along these five foot walk ways during CNY. People living upstairs cannot see the walk way from the windows and when come to lighting fire crackers, they just toss it out of the windows. Sometimes the exploding fire crackers shoot off in all directions and landed right onto the five foot walk way!

Visiting relatives in Chinatown is a love-hate relationship for me. I love it because it was the only time I get to ride on STC buses and add the bus tickets to my collection. I hate it went it comes to climbing up the stairs. The stairs were steep and the entire staircase is very dark. Lights were never turn on during the day. This is a typical staircase of the Chinatown shophouses :
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From the photo above, the staricase is completely enclosed, the lights were turn on so it was not a problem going up or down. But if the light were off, the entire staircase will be pitch black.
I also hate to hold on the the railings. The railings were made of wood and were never maintained. Wood worms bored holes and “trenches” which gives it a very rough and creepy kind of feelings, especially when it was pitch black. Most of the time I would keep my hands by my sides and use my feet to “feel” for the steps, just like a blind lad.

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Singapore Airshow 2010

February 8, 2010

Singapore Airshow, a 6 day event held at Changi Exhibition Centre
on 2 – 7 Feb 2010. The first four days are opened only to trade visitors while the final 2 weekend days are open to public (9:30am – 5pm, 6-7 Feb).
The main attractions are the aerial displays :
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Here are some of the aircrafts on static display :
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Mrs Spykerman

February 3, 2010

This is my primary school badge :

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The image is taken from my school report book. The school no longer exists although physically, the buildings are still around.
Throughout the six years I spend at the school, nobody explain to me what the two words “bersatu” and “berjaya” means.
Here is my principal Mrs Skykerman:

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The signature below is taken from the report book. She is a big, mean and fierce woman. Her trademark is the thick horn rimmed glasses and equally thick make-up on her face. Our school building is 3 storey high. Her favourite pass time is to scream at students who hold on to the staircase railings when going up or down the stairs. No one is allowed to touch the stair case railings, for some reasons only she herself knows. Her favourite scream is “ARE YOU AN OLD MAN/WOMAN? YOU NEED TO HOLD ON TO SOMETHING?”

She will also not hesitate to cane anyone caught breaking the school rules. Many naughty students were caned in front of the whole school during assembly.