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.