Thursday, June 12, 2008

As I remember

Picture from Joo Chiat a living legacy

I am blogging the history of the area between Joo Chiat Road and Tembling Road for misterpo who moved in to Joo Chiat about 4 years ago and wanted to know its history. The area is a rectangular piece of land is bounded by Tembling Road/Joo Chiat Terrace/Joo Chiat Road/Joo Chiat Place. It has a very interesting history as the famous Katong laksa and the ever popular 'poh piah' skins came from there. My grand aunt lived at No 3 Tembling Road at Junction with Joo Chiat Terrace. It was a bungalow house with a large compound. The architectural design is similar to the picture above. Adjoining the other side wall of the house at Tembeling Road was a row of 5 single storey attap huts. The huts and the piece of land behind them belonged to my grand father. Diagonally opposite the huts was a roadside public standpipe where the people living nearby collected water for drinking, cooking and washing. In the morning it was very crowded with housewives, queue up for water. Empty pails and empty kerosine tins lining up from the standpipe and snaking about 10 metres long was a common sight. Within the row of attap huts was a dwelling cum joss sticks manufacturing business. The joss sticks were all hand made. The finished products were dried on the vacant land across the road opposite the hut. The famous Katong laksa hawker lived in one of the huts. He started as an itinerant hawker. He carried his pot of laksa gravy over a stove and the paraphernalia on each side of a pole across his shoulder. He moved from place to place in Joo Chiat area and finally settled on the five foot way of an eating house at East Coast Road/Ceylon Road junction. The Peranakan in Katong called him 'jangok' whereas the Hokkien referred to him as 'goh ki chiew' because he had a few strands of long hair growing downwards on his chin. When the Hawkers Department took action against unlicensed hawkers in 1970s, he moved inside the eating house to continue his business because the people in Katong loved to eat his laksa. After his demise, his family members branched out along East Coast Road, competing with each other. Now we have a few Katong laksa stalls, all claiming to be the original. Indeed, they are as they came from the same family.

Another well known eatery is the popular 'ang moh' koloh mee. His stall was located at an eating house between Joo Chiat Place and Tembling Road corner. The shop's eating area was small and with a long queue, one must have the patience to wait. At the corner of Joo Chiat Place and Joo Chiat Road was the Chop Ban Seng Wine Merchant. Besides liquor and beer, soft drinks and provisions were also available in the shop. The owner's family lived in the upper floor. I remembered a mama stall behind the wine shop. At Joo Chiat Place there was a Chinese barber shop that cleaned your ears and gave you haircut as well. There were 3 furniture shops. One was owned by a man nick named 'panjang' (meaning long or tall in Malay).

At Joo Chiat Road, opposite the mosque was a timber yard selling building materials. Beside it a narrow lane provided access to the Chinses temple. Next to the timber yard and moving towards Joo Chiat Terrace was a row of 2 storey shophouses. There was an electrical/plumbing shop that also made duplicate keys too. The well known 'poh piah' skins business occupied one of the shops. Next was a shop that provided clothes dyeing services. The clothes were dyed either black or blue for mourners. A carpentary shop that provided carpentary works was also there. The last building was a small coffee shop at the junction of Joo Chiat Road and Joo Chiat Terrace.

The public standpipe at Tembling Road was the first to disappear when piped water was provided in the area. Then the bungalow and the attap huts made way for new buildings.
History of other areas between Joo Chiat and Tembling Road are covered by blog 'Joo Chiat Changing Scene 1 & 2'.