From Amusement Park To Cement Park

Probably some youngster find the word “Gay World” amusing like someone posted in the STOMP site regarding the Gay World Hotel.

I’m surprised that there are still people not aware of the Gay World existence in Singapore. Of course Gay World is short for Gay World Amusement Park, one of the 3 main Amusement Parks in Singapore. You have probably read about my post on New World Amusement Park.

Gay World Amusement Park was originally known as Happy World Amusement Park in the 30s. Happy World was the last one to be built in 1936 after Great World (1932) and New World (1923).

How Happy World looked like in the 50s;

You can even see the British Flag then in the above photo.

Let’s take a look at Happy World Amusement Park over the years;

1936:


The Happy World Amusement Park, commonly known as 快乐世界 by the locals, was founded by George Lee Geok Eng (of George Lee Motors fame), brother of philanthropist Lee Kong Chian. He invested $350,000 to open this amusement park then in 1936.

It was a form of nightlife entertainment where East meet West, located at the junction of Geylang and Mountbatten roads. You will normally find cabaret performances, ronggeng, movies, gaming and arcades, wayang and cultural shows and even trade shows in this amusement park. It was one of those must visit places for courting couples in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Like New World, those unforgettable places of visits include dance hall where one could have a dance with taxi girls for probably twenty cents, and the popular ghost train ride;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

1939:

The Happy World Amusement Park was used for the Singapore’s first trade show – The Engineering and Trade Exhibition.

1941:

A 1941 Japanese Map showing the Happy World location between Geylang Road and Grove Road (now known as Mountbatten Road);

Credit : Lim Shao Bin 2004 Photos of Singapore

The Straits Chinese China Relief Fund Committee of Singapore organised a modernised bangsawan (a traditional Malay opera)  for 3,000 babas and nyonya in Happy World, to raise funds for China war effort leading to WWII.

1942 to 1945:

Even during the Japanese air-raids hit Singapore in January 1942, business at Happy World continued, and the cabaret had blackout dances (with no lights) to escape the Japanese bombings. Of course this has nothing to do with the recent Earth Hour haha!

The Japanese also turned the Happy World into gambling den. As these dens were precluded from raids, the bright lights at the Happy World continued.   The Japanese were not allowed in the gambling dens but they could patronise the cabarets and nightclubs in the Happy World.  The gambling dens were closed after Japanese surrendered in 1945. The Happy World was also used as a military workshop during the Japanese Occupation.

1950s to 1960s:

After the war, the amusement park continued to operate. But what I remember best about the Happy World was the frequent fire broke out in the park. In 1962, fire broke out twice in 2 months, destroying the theatre, part of the cabaret and 26 stalls. In fact, more blazes happened in 1972, 1976, 1977 and 1988.

Stalls were burnt in 1958 at Happy World;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Mr.Sin Ma Chai, those elderly Cantonese will know who he is, performed at the Happy World in 1963;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

1966:

The Gay World;

The Happy World was renamed as Gay World Amusement Park (繁華世界) in 1966. The word “Gay” here means “joyful”, “carefree”, “bright and showy” and only until probably later, it means “homosexuality”. Some of the main tenants were Eng Wah Organisation, Datoh Rajah Theatre and Cabaret, Tai Thong Restaurant and New Happy Cinema. By the way, the park used to have 4 cinemas, including one open-air one – Happy Theatre, Silver City and the open-air Victory Theatre. Do you remember the other one? Sin Wah Emporium, later became part of Emporium Holdings, and Tai Thong Restaurant, were my only haunt there. I went to Tai Thong Restaurant for their mooncakes.

The New Happy Theatre;

The Gay World Amusement Park ticket;

Credit : The Straits Times.

Way before the National Indoor Stadium was built, the Gay World Stadium was once the greatest covered stadium in SEA. This octagonal shaped stadium built for boxing and other sports could seat 7,000. The Gay World Stadium was later renamed as Geylang Indoor Stadium. It was even the venue for Malaya’s first badminton Thomas Cup in 1952.

The Gay World Stadium;

In 1973, the Gay World Stadium was one of the venues for the SEAP games. Boxing and wrestling fights were the popular sports held there and most paid only20 cents to see wrestlers like Tiger Ahmad and King Kong in the ring. The Gay World Stadium also held circus shows occasionally.

1980s:

Even with free admission to the park, it did not attract enough visitors. The park was badly maintained and rats were seen running about. Only 1 of the 4 cinemas remained and probably only screening Tamil shows.

2000s:

By 2000, the Gay World was in an abandoned state. There was no power or water supplied, and only about 40 tenants carried on business using portable generators.

The last days of Gay World;

In 2001, the bulldozers came and the Gay World and the Geylang Indoor Stadium were demolished. The site was zoned for residential development,  however, this does not material even till now. In 2004, the Nicoll Highway collapse sent one of the 2 concrete making plants there working non-stop.

Today, the two concrete-making plants and the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System site office are located there.

I’ve always wondered with 3 amusement parks in the past, why can’t we accommodate the last amusement park at Geylang – The Gay World Amusement Park and the Gay World Stadium (or Geylang Indoor Stadium). Why must we keep demolishing all these nostalgia amusement park in Singapore just for residential and commercial development?

A 1956 City Map showing the Happy World Park;

Credit : Singapore Improvement Trust, Survey Department

A 1976 Chinese Edition Street Directory showing the Gay World Park;

A 1988 Edition Street Directory showing the Gay World Park and the Geylang Indoor Stadium;

A 1998 Edition Street Directory showing the Gay World Park and Gay World Hotel:

Credit : Chief Surveyor, Survey Department, Ministry of Law.

The aerial view of the Happy World Park and the octagon shaped Stadium in the 50s;

Credit : Editions Didier Millet, National Archives of Singapore

Now the Geylang Indoor Stadium no longer exists though the name still remains at the Google Map;

The bus stop now stands in front of the old Gay World entrance;

The fence up area and those trees inside make the Gay World Park disappears from one memory.

The Cement Plant in the old Gay World Park as seen from the Geylang Road;

Another view of the Cement Plant as seen from Mountbatten Road;

The Cement Trucks queuing up along the Geylang Drive;

Credits : All photos above gothere.sg

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26 Responses to “From Amusement Park To Cement Park”


  1. 1 Victor Koo Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 12:51 am

    A very well-researched and interesting blog post, LKK. I didn’t know Mountbatten Road was known as Grove Road in 1941.

  2. 2 matt Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 1:29 am

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  3. 3 laokokok Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Thank you Victor. In fact I only came to know about it when I did the post on Sea View Hotel previously.

  4. 4 ordinary guy Friday, April 3, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Very good presentation bring the readers from the past to the present.

  5. 5 Lam Chun See Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for completing the trilogy. James Seah had blogged about Great World at my blog and like you, I have also blogged about New World. I did not know enough about Gay/Happy World to blog about it. I think I have only been there twice. Once was in 1969 or 1970 when I went there to watch a basketball match between my school NJC and another. Another time was maybe in early 80’s or late 70’s to watch a kungfu match.

    Of course we should forget the Wonderland with Spore’s first roller coaster.

  6. 6 Lam Chun See Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Correction.

    Of course we should NOT forget the Wonderland with Spore’s first roller coaster.

  7. 7 Patricea Chow-Capodieci Sunday, April 5, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    I remember very well having one of my tae kwon do grading tests at Gay World stadium. Can’t remember exactly which year but I started taking the martial arts in mid 91 to mid 93, so during that time. I remember thinking that Gay World was so run-down and badly maintained…

  8. 8 fuzzoo Monday, April 6, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    I used to patronise the food centre at Gay World regularly in the mid-1990s for the very yummy “guitar duck” at one of the stalls. There was also a furniture store there selling cheap furniture you find at a typical HDB furniture store.

  9. 9 laokokok Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Sad to say not many photos by locals of these amusement parks are found on the net. Also the reason for names changing from Happy World to Gay World and Gay World stadium to Geylang Indoor Stadium.

  10. 10 yg Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    when i was young, the amusement park i visited most was new world, followed by great world. remember going to gay world only when i started working. went there after our staff dinner when one of my ex-colleagues was ‘high’ after downing some beer. he booked one of those ronggeng girls and had his fun.
    in the 80s and evenup to the 90s, we used to go somewhere near gay world to eat the ‘lok lok’ stuff.

  11. 11 laokokok Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Hi YG, what is ‘lok lok’ stuff?

  12. 12 algae Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Gay World is a ‘must visit’ for me and my neighbour during CNY back in the 60’s. I was staying at around Lor 12 Geylang Road. I have since lost touch with him, Ah Sin. His father owns an electrical shop and was also a projectionist at Palace Theatre at Katong.
    I watched my first midnight show at New Happy Theatre. To promote their upcoming show, the cinema will print synopsis of the show known affectionately as “kai chew’. I have to save my pocket money, 10 cents a day for 1 week just to have money to buy a 50cts ticket. I watched ‘The Ten Commandments’ at, was it New Victory? The one next to the shooting gallery.

  13. 14 larry Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 11:30 am

    i remember myself visiting the New World in the mid and late eighties, trying out the air rifles, attempting to shoot out the light bulbs. I also had the chance to watch two basketball matches at the Gay World indoor stadium too, during the late eighties or early nineties…

  14. 15 huilin Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks for the very informative post, as the Worlds have often been neglected in the recollection and commemoration of heritage sites in Sg.

    I am actually writing my thesis on the Worlds – Great, New and Happy World in the 30s and during WWII, and was wondering if you would be kind enough to provide some aid regarding the Worlds. Thanks:)

  15. 16 jenny treasure Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    I also remember taking my yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do at the Gayworld Stadium around 1970 with Han Chakao??spelling! I am now a 5th degree master level and have travelled a lot since then. Just trying to finish my book on the subject. Best wishes Jennifer Treasure

  16. 17 eddy Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    i hav a question all these while in my mind for years. Abt 16 years ago i was travelling along the green mrt line when i saw an amusement park, with big roller coaster and ferris wheel. Is tat gay world? I dun think it is, cos gay world doesnt hav tat big ferris wheel. And also, watever happen to those travelling funfair with colourful entrance and flags and wooden fence with tiger beer adverts?

  17. 18 Rahman Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:17 am

    I remembered very well about Gay World. I used to frequent there in the late 70’s. I was only around 10yrs old then. I remembered very well taking the roller coaster ride that cost me 50cents.Playing the arcade game was only 10cents per game and there were so much more to enjoy. I remember there were wrestling match and Kung Fu Lee was the only Singapore wrestler then. The most havoc time during the match was when the Singapore spectator storm in and chased the European wrestler when Kung Fu Lee was being brought down by the opponent. Some of the gangsters even chased the ang moh wrestler right up to their locker room wanting to beat them up. Police were then being called in to control the situation. It was an indeed a memorable event!

  18. 19 Ayeshah Friday, October 12, 2012 at 1:41 am

    would be ever so grateful if anyone here who remembers Gay/Happy World (or knows someone who does) could do a short survey about their experiences there at this link here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEVSRmpERkl4d1kzdkRFSVNQcFJfMWc6MQ

    Your responses will be used for a school project. Thank you so much in advance!

  19. 20 Axelle Monday, April 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm

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  20. 21 pnl Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 10:12 am

    When someone writes an article he/she keeps the thought of a user in his/her brain that how a user can know it.
    Thus that’s why this article is great. Thanks!

  21. 22 douglas Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    thank you for the history… my dad was a wrestler during the 1967-1968 period by the name of David Lee… i still have a poster dated 9-11-68 when he was scheduled to take on Tiger Yusof….

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  1. 1 The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 2 Apr 2009 Trackback on Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 11:30 am
  2. 2 The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 13 Trackback on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 10:57 am

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