Monday, September 17, 2012

Joo Chiat Road update

I like to walk in Joo Chiat for it gives me many fond memories of bygone days. Recently I walked down memory lane again to see the changes and reminisce the past. At Joo Chiat Road opposite opposite Joo Chiat Lane was a block of three storey shophouses. It was built after the war. Before then  it was a vacant land and a railway track passed through the land. The railway track began at Kallang Basin where the old airport was located. It cut across Joo Chiat Road and continued along Joo Chiat Lane and ended up at Kampong Batak now known as Eunos. The 3 storey building has been upgraded into apartments with shops on the ground floor.

                         Shophouses at Joo Chiat Road opposite Joo Chiat Lane

                                     Joo Chiat Lane facing Joo Chiat Road

                             Past railway track cutting across Joo Chiat Road
                 There was no building between Joo Chiat Road and Onan Road

I love to walk along Joo Chiat Road between Joo Chiat Terrace and Geylang Serai. That was where I had my fond memories. When looking at the sites of shops that were once there, I could still visualise the buildings, their characteristics and the shopkeepers who were my childhood friends. Last week I was there again. Standing on the vacant where my former house was situated, I would recall my growing up days. On the vacant land stood a block of 2 storey building with 5 shophouses. I lived in the second house No 73 Joo Chiat Road. Chew Joo Chiat's house at No 65 was in a block of 3 storey building. The 2 blocks of buildings were separated by a sandy lane which was also my playground. I remembered three closed friends living across the road diagonally opposite. I surveyed the sites where new buildings have replaced the old ones especially the shops that belonged to my friends. I wished time had stood still and I could visit them for a chat. The most prominent building in the area was the Chinese wayang (opera) stage. It was built of brick and mortar and was also the only one in Joo Chiat Road. Chew Joo Chiat built it for his own entertainment. I was told by my grandma that during his birthday he engaged Teochew opera to perform on the stage and he watched with family and friends from the balcony of his house on the opposite side across the road.

Beside the wayang stage was a block of 2 storey building with only 2 shophouses.
They were built 1926. The year was inscribed on the gable wall. The corner shop was selling hot and cold drinks including beer with only one chu char stall. The shop owner Teng Kee was also the chef. He dished out very good Cantonese cuisine. His neighbour was a char kiat (wooden clog) shop. The clogs were all hand made. After the shopkeeper's death his son Siam Loh did not continue with his father's trade but changed it into a sundries shop. Adjoining the 2 shophouses was a block of single storey semi-permanent timber building. There was a tin smith shop that made tin cans, pails, funnels, rain water down pipes, etc. Next was  Chinese cake shop followed by a joss paper/sticks shop. After the timber building was another block of permanent building with many shophouses. Their trade varied from joss sticks, sundries, fruits, textile, Chinese medicine, goldsmith, pawnshop and many others. My closed friend Goh Choon Guan aka Kek Leng occupied the corner shop selling Chinese praying goods. His shop name was chop Kee Lan Teng and it was very well known to the Buddhists and Toaists in Joo Chiat and Katong. He sold paper lanterns during the Chinese Eight Moon Festival and fire crackers on Chinese New Year. I remembered in the old days there was no printed ready made red paper evelopes aka ang pow and the Chinese used red paper to wrap coins and notes for ang pow during the Chinese New Year period. A few days before the Chinese New Year my grandma got me to buy a few sheets of red paper from my friend's shop. At home grandma used a scissors to cut each sheet into pieces of squares with different sizes. Ang pow was in oblong shape. Smaller square paper was used for wrapping coins and bigger piece for notes. I also remembered the women of that time used the red dye from the red paper to apply on their lips as sticks and on their cheeks to have a rosy complexion.

                      show ang pow samples

Alas, my 3 Joo Chiat friends were no longer around as they had returned to their creator. The wayang stage, 1926 building and the semi-permanent timeber building  had been demolished and replaced with a new block of 2 storey building. The scene at that location has changed. I had only old photographs to remind me of the past.
Below are photos of my house and those of my friends' shops.

                                               Before (view from Katong)

Then (view from Katong) 

Then (view from Geylang)

Today (view from Katong)
aerial view the vacant land where my house No 73 was located

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