Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Joo Chiat Road Past & Present

Starting from last year, I noticed that many Singaporeans were interested in Joo Chiat. They were university and polytechnic students, IE trainee teachers, club members, company staff as well as new residents. They asked me for interviews and walk about Joo Chiat regarding their Joo Chiat projects. Their interests were Joo Chiat history, Peranakan culture and buildings conservation in the area. I was glad that Joo Chiat had generated so much interest and acceded to all their requests.
In February this year, the Rotary Club of Jurong Town invited Tony Tan of Betel Box Hostel and myself to give a presentation on Joo Chiat to their members at Tanglin Club. This was followed by a walking tour of Joo Chiat recently.

Joo Chiat Road has changed a lot over the years. I have many memories of Joo Chiat for I grew up there. Each time I passed the vacant land where my home once stood, my mind would flashed many years back recalling the sights and sounds of yester-years.

Pic 1 below shows my fomer house on the right with a trishaw parked there. Every morning before the cock crowed, house wives walked passed my house for their marketing at Joo Chiat market. The click clock sound from their wooden clogs was music to my ear. It also served as a natural alarm clock for me to get up for school and later for work at my office. Another sight and sound were from the itinerant hawkers setting up stalls on the recess fronting my house. House wives stopped over to have breakfast and gossip about friends and families. I could also hear some of them haggling with the roadside hawkers over their purchases. This part of Joo Chiat Road had charm and character as seen in the picture. There were cyclists and people walking on the road. A large tree by the roadside provided shade. The gable wall of the building had windows for lighting and ventilation and also for viewing.  Not any more now since Joo Chiat market had been demolished and all roadside hawkers had been resited. Furthermore, Joo Chiat Road is now a one-way street. The block of houses where I lived before together with those fronting the big tree had been demolished and is now a vacant land (pic 2).

Pic 1. Joo Chiat Road between Joo Chiat Terrace and Geylang Serai in 1968

Pic 2. Same site and angle as in pic 1 above. Old buildings gone and now a vacant land

Pic 3 Policeman directing traffic in 1968 at Joo Chiat Road/Geylang Serai junction

Joo Chiat Road junction where the four roads (Joo Chiat Road/Changi Road/Geylang  Serai/Geylang Road) converge, has changed. In the 1960s there was a policeman (picture above) to direct traffic at peak hours. Now traffic lights regulate the flow of traffic.

Pic 4. 1960 street map - credit to Singapore Survey Dept

There were also 2 wet markets at the corner of Joo Chiat Road and Changi Road. Changi market was facing Changi Road and Joo Chiat market was facing Joo Chiat Road. The 2 markets were separated by a narrow lane as in pic 4. Changi market was very popular with the people living in Geylang Serai, because things were cheaper there than in Joo Chiat market. In late 1970 the 2 wet markets were demolished for the construction of Joo Chiat Complex (pic 5) which is now the new icon at Joo Chiat Road and Changi Road junction.

Pic 5. Joo Chiat Complex facing Changi Road


Pic 6. Joo Chiat Road and Geylang Road corner                          
Above picture shows a 2 storey building at the junction of Joo Chiat Road and Geylang Road. The ground floor was a coffee shop with a few food stalls. One of them was the famous goreng pisang (banana fritters) stall and opened for business only for a few hours a day. Often there was a long queue of regulars. Behind the shop was a backlane. It was deserted during the day but at night both sides of the lane were lined with hawker stalls and crowded with people seeking yummy food, such as Indian rojak, soup kambing, mee rebus, soto ayam, satay and kueh kueh (Malay cakes) highly delightful to the taste. My favourite goreng pisang was pisang rajah. Its sweetness went very well with the slightly bitter taste of kopi O. At night the aroma of satay from the stalls made me yearned for them. Furthermore, it was very hard to resist the succulent taste of bbq beef, mutton and chicken.    

Pic 7 Same site as in pic 6. Joo Chiat Road and Geylang Road corner         

Picture 1, 3 & 6 credit to National Archives of Singapore.