Thursday, November 15, 2012

Joo Chiat Changing Scene 3 - Story Teller



















Story Teller picture from PICAS




Joo Chiat Square


Joo Chiat Square is located at the junction of Joo Chiat Road and Joo Chiat Place. It is a cemented vacant land as shown in the above photo. On 23 Decembeer 2006, Joo Chiat MP Chan Soo Sen launched Joo Chiat Square that will be a gathering point for the community for weekend activities every Saturday for the next several years.

Before the place becomes Joo Chiat Square, there was a Shell Petrol Station which was one of Joo Chiat Road's landmark since 1950s. Illegal car rental was very popular then, especially in the eastern part of the island. They were also called Pa Ong Chia in Hokkien. Unlike the pirate taxis, they did not cruise on the roads to pick up passengers. The cars were parked at the petrol station waiting for hirer. When business was at its peak, there were about 40 cars for hire. Car rental rates were $1.50 per hour or $15.00 per day on week days and $2.00 per hour or $20.00 per day for Saturday and Sunday. Car models were Morris Minor, Morris Oxford, Hillman Minx and Vaxhual. They were all British made cars as there was no Japanese car then.

To hire a car was easy. You only had to show your identity card or a driving licence for record purposes in case the hirer absconded. The cars were usually hired out for social uses. But there were instances that such cars were used for robbery. A friend of mine who had a 'pah ong chia' business there, had the unfortunate experience. He was not aware that a robber had hired his car to rob until detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department called on him. Pa Ong Chia business stopped a few years before Shell Petrol Station ceased operation.

Before the second world war, Joo Chiat Square was a vacant field. Every evening men gathered there to listen to story telling. They sat on improvised benches around the story teller just like the top photo. My grand uncle was an avid listener of Chinese stories. I was about 4 years old then, and every evenings I would ride on his shoulders to the story telling site which was within walking distance from my home. When the story telling started, there was complete silence and the audience were captivated. I was bored sitting beside my grand uncle with nothing to play. Anyway, I enjoyed the two way trip riding on his broad shoulders.

10 comments:

Victor said...

I remember the Shell station. It operated well into the 1980s. Once I repaired my 1000cc Mini Clubman there. The mechanic there took out one of the spark plugs while the engine was running, plug one of his fingers into the hole and told me in Hokkien, "This cylinder is not firing."

You may be laughing at his primitive diagnostic procedure but the best part was that he was right!

Victor said...

Oh I forgot to add - I think the Pa Ong Chias (pirate taxis) disappeared in the 60's or 70's because of a government clamped-down.

PChew said...

Yes, I was already laughing before I read your para 2 about the mechanic's primitive diagnostic.

The Pa Ong Chias that was clamped down affected those pirate taxis cruising on the roads. Those at the Shell Station, somehow managed to carry on. It stopped probably due to poor business

Tony said...

Actually, my dad was a friend of the shell petrol station owner (since he is a shell station operator himself). My earliest memories of Joo Chiat district was following my dad to visit that station. Remember fondly that Reddifusion was right next to the station. No idea if its just the sales office or the broadcasting office since I was pretty young at that time.
Actually, the spark plug firing thing. Its actually what i recall too from the mechanics that used to work for dad...

Philip Chew said...

Rediffusion at Joo Chiat Road was a sales office. The broadcasting station was at the present Singapore Shopping Centre or there about, fronting Clemenceau Aveunue

alex said...

Hi Philip, would you be able to recall what was the "office" along Joo Chiat Place, next to the Shell station, it was likely a governmental "station" was it PWD, PUB? it was between Tembling road and Joo Chiat road. All fenced up with

Philip said...

I am not very sure. I think it was a PWD depot. Behind the depot was the quarters for Public Cleansing Department daily rated workers.

remember me said...

I think that photo of the story telling session was taken in chinatown.

Philip Chew 周炳镜 said...

I think it is in the vicinity of Cross Street where there is a Chinese temple. The story telling was outside the temple as shown in the picture.

alex said...

The temple is actually located at Telok Ayer Street. Diagonally from Cross Street.it is 天福宮 or commonly called 媽祖宮。