Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chew Joo Chiat seaside house

I always reminisced the good old days where things moved slowly with plenty of nature around. During my school days there was no Marine Parade Road. So the houses that faced the sea, each had a house number and  Marine Parade as the address. I visited the beach quite often with classmates  and Joo Chiat kampong  friends. We went there to swim, dug the beach for sea shells, built sand castles and played in the sea. It was also there that I learnt to swim and swallowed a fair amount of water from the sea.

One end of Joo Chiat Road was opposite Geylang Serai. The other end stopped at Marine Parade beach. I remembered  the beach were dotted with bungalows on  both sides of the road. At the junction of Joo Chiat Road and Marine Parade was a large house with metal gates. Each side of the gate had a golden lion head with a ring in its nostril. The metal rings were handles for opening and closing the gates. I was told the house belonged to a Ong family. I remembered the building well because I went to the beach to study for my O Level examinations. My favourite spot was outside the wall fence shaded by plants. It was quiet and the sea breeze was excellent. Opposite the house across the road was Tung Ling English School. It was a private school. Since then the school building had been upgraded a few times and is now used as a place of worship by the Church of Singapore. Two doors away was a compound house. It was a residence but after the war it became a coffee shop.

I remembered two itinerant hawkers thereat. One was an Indian migrant  named Ah Pow. He was selling ‘kachang puteh’ with a makeshift stall. I knew him well because of my regular patronage and we were like friend. He was single and lived with other Indian migrants in a shophouse at Joo Chiat Place.  The other hawker was a Chinese. He was the famous Katong laksa hawker known as ‘Jangot’. That was before he had a stall at Ceylon Road coffee shop. He lived with his family at Tembeling Road, close by Joo Chiat Terrace. I knew him because he was a squatter in my grand father’s property. Furthermore,  he ever come to my house at Joo Chiat Road to play poker.

My grandmother told me that her father-in-law Chew Joo Chiat owned holiday houses at Marine Parade. One was built over the sea. Those houses built over the water were all destroyed by Japanese bombs during the war. Recently I was curious to know where all Chew Joo Chiat’s seaside bungalows were located although I knew the old buildings were no longer there. I made a search at the National Archives of Singapore and found a 1934 building plan submitted by his son-in-law Lee Tian Seck for alterations and additions to the building. Its address was 119 Marine Parade.

                                                           119 Marine Parade

Chew Joo Chiat’s grandson Lee Beow Guan in his oral history recording said his mother Chew Quee Neo inherited most of her father Chew Joo Chiat’s properties. My grandma also told me the same story. So 119 Marine Parade originally belonged to Chew Joo Chiat. According to the site plan the building was sited at the junction of Joo Chiat Road and Marine Parade. The site is now occupied by a new condominium Parc Seabreeze.

                                                       Parc Seabreeze

Now I know my favourite spot for studying during school examinations was at the fence of a Marine Parade bungalow that once belonged to my great grand-father Chew Joo Chiat.