In 1920s there were many residential buildings along Joo Chiat Road. They were Peranakan styled terraced houses and bungalows with fancy names such as Noel Villa, Sandy Point Villa, Mafeking House and so on. The facade had motifs and details symbolic of the Chinese and Malay cultures with European influences. Such buildings gave Joo Chiat Road a very unique character. The residents were mostly Peranakans except for the shphouses nearer to Joo Chiat Market. Coconut trees were still very visible along the both sides of the road. The roadside coconut trees got lesser as Joo Chiat Road progressed.
Chinese migrants and others could find accommodations at Gei Hin Kwang Hotel, Japanese Koyakan Hotel, Happy Hotel, Yumei Hotel and a few more along Joo Chiat Road. Clubs and Associations also held their meetings, ronggeng parties and anniversary there. Besides their legal businesses, they also had illegal business such using the hotels as brothels. A few were arrested and charged in Court.
Joo Chiat Road also had its ugly side. There were triads taking protection money from shopkeepers, hawkers and businessmen. There was an incidence of extortion reported in The Straits Times on 22 November 1923 as follows:
".......The complainant, a Hokien trader of 246 Joo Chiat Road, stated that he discovered a letter in the house early morning on the November 11 which was to the effect that he would have to pay a certain amount of money over at a shop, No 30 Joo Chiat Road, and if within 3 days the money was not paid, he would meet with some trouble. Two days later a Chinese called at the shop in question and said that he was the man to collect the money deposited by the complainant. He was told to wait and in the meantime the complainant was informed. The latter went to the shop and conducted the accused to a coffee shop, where he was subsequently arrested by a police corporal who had already been informed......."
We had just read the extortion drama above. But the mystery is, who was the Hokien trader which was mentioned in the newspapers article? The address given 246 Joo Chiat Road was the residence of Chew Joo Chiat. See the newspaper cuttings above and below.
I assumed the victim was Chew Joo Chiat. The extorner must be very desparate by showing himself to his victim. On the other hand, Chew must be a very brave man risking his life to go to the extortioner. Furthermore, the arrest seemed to be very easy. Only one policeman was needed to apprehend the bad guy. In today's context a team of policmen is required to lay an ambush in order to arrest the extorner.