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'.


Anonymous said...

Hey Philip!

I really appreciate that you posted a reply this swiftly! I have never heard much about that area prior your post, but I do know the ang moh koloh mee! It is still at Joo Chiat... one of the coffeeshops along Tembeling Road.

I am also curious about the history of the two plots of land. One is currently occupied by Haig Girls School, the other is the plot adjacent to it; the one with the condo built on it and next to the Kwan Im Tng Temple. Any idea what was standing on them before? Thanks again!

Philip said...

Haig Girls School is bounded by Tembling Road/Koon Seng Road/Everitt Road/Joo Chiat Lane. Facing Koon Seng Road were 2 schools and a Chinese congregation church called Zion Presbyterian. It has been relocated to Changi. The schools were Choon Guan Chinese School and the Presbyterian School. In 1950s there was an afternoon school called Dryburgh English School using the Presbyterian School building. The church building was beside the road.

At Joo Chiat Lane/Everitt Road was the Kuo Chuan Girls School. At the other end Tembling Road/Joo Chiat Lane was a provision shop together with other shophouses facing Tembling Road. In between the school and the shop were squatters.

The second plot, is it at the corner of Joo Chiat Lane and Tembling Road?

Anonymous said...

Yep it's at at the corner of Tembeling Road and Joo Chiat Lane. It's primarily occupied by Legenda at Joo Chiat, which is where I stay.

Philip said...

Legenda at Joo Chiat, the interior part of the condo was mostly squatters and vacant land. Along Everitt Road side, there was a row of about half a dozen single storey timber houses. They are replaced by new terraced houses. At Joo Chiat Lane were a few bungalows and squatters. Opposite the Kuan Im Tng Temple was a 2 storey bangalow. My grand father was once the owner. The shop houses at Joo Chiat Place and part of Tembling Road are still the same. During the Japanese occupation there was a nail factory behind the electrical sub station. In pre-war time, a railway line passed through Joo Chiat Lane(see my blog).

alex said...

Hi Philip,

Thanks for brings us back to Joo Chiat the way it used to be. Did you remember that it used to have a small song-bird & hobby fish shop just outside the small lane mentioned. It was a make shift shop, likely fenced up from parking space, just bat the start of the poh-piah skin shop row of shop houses.

Philip said...

I was living No 73 Joo Chiat Road and my neighbour at No 71 was selling song birds and fancy fish in a fenced-in unauthorised shed outside the house. The illegal structure was not on a parking space. In pre-war days the open space fronting the the house had wooden fence and within the fence were flower pots on stands. Next to No 71 was a small lane that led to Langsat Road, off Lorong 101 Changi. I hope we are on the same wave length regarding the location.

alex said...

Hi Philp,
Bingo, we are talking about the same place. Yes, I mentioned carpark because that space was to be for owner to park their car, in my memory. Yes, the lane leads to langsat road off lorong 101 Changi. Now that you mentioned that you lived in house 73 and 71 is where the fish and bird shop is, I believe I must have stood outside your house many time, while waiting for my dad to pick me up. I usually spent my time buying a10 cent packet of blood worms for the fishes at home and/or try to select a mata puteh or Jumbo when the adults are in Joo Chiat market.

In fact, I may have seen you in those years.....

Philip said...

No 71 & 73 Joo Chiat Road were built by my grandfather as family houses. There was inter-connecting door at the dinning area. My aunt's family lived at No 71.
It's possible that you had seen me, but we were stranger to each other.

Ahmad Zainudin said...

Hi Cousin assalam,
I am humbly sorry was overlook your call yesterday at 4.25pm ,
However I was returning your call immediately at 2.15 am last nite .

I would call you again tomorrow morning .

Thank you
From your sepupu
Ahmad Zainudin
Kuala Lumpur.

Philip Chew 周炳镜 said...

Hi Ahmad
Go to my Facebook "Philip Chew" and we can chat from there.