Thursday, December 4, 2008


Recently I walked down memory lane along Joo Chiat Road where I once lived. I stared hard at the vacant field and visualised the scene as it was before. My thought went to second half of 1940. I was living at No 73 Joo Chiat Road then. No 71 was a coffee powder shop with a large grinding machine that was very noisy when the shop opened for business in the morning. Next came the Indian grinding mill that ground spices and rice into flour. The 2 grinding machines were equally noisy. Peace finally came when there was a change of trade to Chinses medical shop. The owner, a Teochew practised Traditional Chinese Medicine. The last trade for the shop was a mixed business. The original trade was selling of charcoal. He was from East Coast Road nearby Roxy Theatre. Then he built a shed extended from the shop front to sell fancy fishes. Selling of birds was later added to his business.

The shop front of my house was let out to a dentist. Between the road and the shop front was a vacant space that could park 3 cars. Every morning the area was occupied by illegal hawers selling vegetables, eggs and food for breakfast. My house was a refuge for them when the Hawkers Department raiding squad arrived.

No 75 was a tyre shop as well as a single pump Mobil brand petrol kiosk. The petrol pump was just by the side of the road, marked X in the picture. At that time there was only one grade of petrol. Later the owner changed the trade to selling and repairing of bicycles. The last business was an electrical shop. No 77 was a textile shop. In those days, very few Malays came to Joo Chiat for shopping. So the hard working shopkeeper took bales of textile on his shoulder and a measuring ruler in his hand to Geylang Serai to service his Malay customers.



Between house No 67 and No 71 was a lane that led to a kampong behind the shophouses. The lane was my playground and the sandy ground was my drawing board. The kampong had about 2 dozens attap huts with a mixed population of Chinese, Malay and Indian. There was a public standpipe for the people to draw water for drinking, cooking and washing. At the edge of the kampong were 3 communal bucket latrines. I went to the kampong quite often to play dum (a game of a chess board) with my Malay friends. I also learned to speak Malay from them.
I was still staring at the vacant land but there was no buildings, no hawkers and no kampong. It was only a memory of my growing up years. The same place but another scene.