Archive for August, 2007

Pesta Sukan

This was another Festival that was celebrated in August in 1976 and 1977 – not the Chinese 7th Month again please…

Below shows the 6th National Walk in 1975;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

I’m not too sure how many still remember it – “Pesta Sukan”. First what is Pesta Sukan? It means “Festival of Sports” in Malay. The common phrase now is probably “…Singapore International Triathlon…” and who would remember Pesta Sukan?

Pesta Sukan first started in 1964 when Singapore is still a State of Malaya. Remember we gained independence from Malaysia in 1965 August 9! So maybe because of that, Pesta Sukan was used instead of Festival of Sports.

The other strange thing is this idea was mooted by the then Ministry of Culture. Wonder what has sports got to do with Culture then?? In 1965, it was the Ministry of Social Affair that organised the event but in the midst of the festival, Singapore broke away from Malaysia.

It’s then called”Pesta Sukan Minggu Merdeka from 1966 and in 1969 it was reverted back to it’s original name “Pesta Sukan”.

National Walk, Jog or Run and Cycling are some popular mass events organised in the 70s. It’s the kind of mass event that can attract about 20,000 to 30,000 participants of all ages.

The National Walk or the National Jog then was a standard 8km distance. When I was in Sec 2 and Sec 3, I participated in the 7th and 8th National Walk in 1976 and 1977 respectively; also the 3rd National Jog in 1977. As long as one complete the journey, they will give you a certificate of participation. I got mine and when I reached home, I will then use my manuscript pen to write my name on it. It was common for students of my time to use manuscript pen for art.

And in 1970, Singapore has it’s first and probably the only one “Festival of Sports” stamps series (let me know if I’m wrong);

Note : It’s called “Festival of Sports”.

Sports in Singapore seems to be like Fashion – some sports that are not so popular now are squash or badminton. Names of sports also undergoing changes….

Ghost Month

Today is the 15th of July (Chinese Month) and it’s again must close windows again. Why?  To avoid those burning incense “flying” into my house…

I don’t know if it’s coincidence or what, whenever during the Chinese 7th month period  I used to see those “special” insects like very big moth (Atlas Moth- the edges of their wings look like snake head to scare off their enemies);

or even weird grasshopper;

Some said these are “their” transporters or “themselves” (you know what I’m talking about”. Our elders told us in the past, not to step on them or disturb them.

I’m wondering what title should I used for this post : “Getai”, “Song Stage”, “Chinese 7th Month”, “Hungry Ghost Festival” or “中元节”? Actually they mean more or less the same issues…or topics…or things….

Why the sudden interest in this Getai or Song Stage in Singapore recently? Probably it’s due to the publicity of the local movie “881”.

You may ask what so special about this festival? This is one celebrated by – I may say regardless of individuals, company, nationality and countries… many MNCs also celebrate it or at least don’t stop their employees from celebrating it. I’ve seen employees and staffs of big and small corporation making offerings during the Chinese 7th Month.

Here are some of the characteristics of this Chinese 7th Month;

1. Wayang Show;

I remember the Getai and Wayang shows were very popular in the 70s. During the day time, it was the Wayang show and at that time, the stage were made of wooden poles (nowadays it’s metal poles) and much higher.

Below shows the wooden stage for the Wayang Show;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

As years passed by, the number of audiences watching the wayang is getting lesser and lesser. As the cost for staging a wayang show is high, and the demand is getting lesser – the wayang show somehow is disappearing from the local scene.

In the 80s when the economy was bad, some organisers made do with screening of movies at night during the Hungry Ghost Festivals instead of Wayang and Getai.

2. Temporary Stalls;

These were probably things of the past as nowadays most temporary stalls are considered illegal! Maybe what’s left are the Ice Cream Man Stalls haha.

Under the wooden stage, there were carrom board and children were playing carrom with sticks to hit the seeds! A totally different way to play carrom. Also many delicious road side food and drinks stalls then. Some of those stalls were Tikam, Toys, Swallow Drinks and Sugar Cane…not forgetting those gaming stalls. Of course, sometimes there were Puppet Shows instead of Wayang Shows.

Below shows some stalls set up during the festival in 1978.

Tikam stall;

Swallow Drink Stall;

Sugar Cane Stall;

Photo Credit : All 3 photos – National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

3. Offerings;

Those gigantic joss sticks, and road side burning of incense especially during the night time were some related to the festival. I remember it was also a time where children helping in folding of “ingots” for the offering were put in bags and bags of plastic bags;

Photo Credit : Silentshutter.

Giant Joss Sticks;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

Remember I mentioned that this festival is also celebrated by the companies staffs of various nationality or race;

Photo Credit : Swami – A group photo of staffs celebrating the Chinese 7th month.

In most companies, a leader will organise such event and collect money for the offering. After the prayers, each member will get their share if they paid for the offerings;

Photo Credit : Swami

Below shows an offering by some shop owners in Tampines Mart and an afternoon prayer session;

4. Dinner and Bidding at Auction;

Night time, dinner and those noisy bidding (auction for good luck items) are the norm.

Here is a photo of the Bidding in action and the dinner during a Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival in 1979;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

Below are some items for the auctioning during the dinner time at the Hungry Ghost Festival in Tampines Mart;

The most popular item is the “Black Gold” which is actually Charcoal being wrapped up nicely for the offering. One thing to note for such auctioning is that what you bid this year successfully must be paid up by next year offering. Of course, there were some who default in their payment…

5. Getai;

Besides the night dinner and bidding, getai is the most popular event to be enjoyed by the young and old. As the wayang show disappearing, the getai is getting popular by the cost is even higher.

Remember last year, someone came out with Afternoon Getai.

A typical night Getai at Tampines Mart;

and one of those dialect song;

I wonder for how many more years will such practises still carried on? Even my own Sec. 1 son is not interested in these getai….sigh…

1 Room Flat

Look at the above floor plan…and you may ask where is the the Living Room (or Hall)? Maybe you will ask if this is a Studio Apartment? But when you look closer at the plan, the main door of one unit is directly opposite to the neighbour’s main door. You don’t find these configuration any more in the newer flats.

The Living Room is counted as one room, so it’s called 1 room flat. This is probably the 23 sq.m. type. You can imagined in the past, for those with big family – all of them squeezing into this 1 room flat sleeping on the floor.

See how they look like in real – door to door;

I’m not too sure if the inside of the above photos are still of 1 room flat type as I found these flats at Beach Road;

I remember I used to visit my cousin who was staying at Tronoh Road (off Lavender St.) in such 1 room flat. The narrow passageway was very dark and some were smelly as well. In the past, most of the kids were playing together outside and usually the doors were not closed. I myself had some experiences staying in such 1 room flat at my Auntie’s house at Mattar Road and later a 2 room flat (1 living hall and 1 bedroom)at Aljunied Road then.

Guess the early HDB flats were designed with minimum sizes and costs in mind. Also these were probably built in the 60s period, so they may be rushing for time to complete as many as possible.

Do you know why HDB called those without any bedroom a “1 room flat” and those with 2 bedroom and 1 living hall a “3 room flat”? It’s because like I’ve said earlier, the Living Hall is considered as 1 Bedroom.

My Memories of Toa Payoh

My earliest visits to Toa Payoh were for my majong sessions with my Poly classmates. I don’t think I could remember which Lorong Jeffrey Heng stayed… Every trip there brought excitement to me. I loved the big old bus interchange and the hawker centre besides it. We ate there before going to his house for majong.

– Bus Interchange

Sad that the old bus interchange was demolished in 1999 to make way for the HDB Hub (HDB shift their HQ from Jalan Bukit Merah to here). So the bus interchange relocate to a temporary location opposite its original site and then shift back after the Hub was completed.

Here is how the old bus interchange looked like in 1988;

Photo credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Below the temporary bus interchange in 2002;

Photo credit : dgf6928 (definitely not me in the photo, so don’t be mistaken – just someone off the net that I don’t know)

The new Toa Payoh air-conditioned bus interchange (first in Singapore) at the HDB Hub;

– Toa Payoh Library

Of course, the nearby Toa Payoh Library was another must visit then when I needed to borrow some books. In front of the library, there was a fountain but now it’s replaced by amphitheatre. The library together with the fountain was built in 1973;

The fountain in front of the library in the 80s;

Photo Credit : HDB, Designed For Living

The above photo you can see the cinema besides it and the old bus stop on the right hand side.

How the library looks like after a face lift;

Below the amphitheater in front of the library;

Below you can see the HDB Hub building behind the library;

Photo credit : Jakrapong
– Toa Payoh Garden

Remember this was the landmark of most wedding couples having their wedding photos taken here then.

This was the Toa Payoh Garden Restaurant in the 80s;

Photo credit : Yiho

How it looks now;

Above 2 photo credit : Sophiazz

Photo credit : Chyeo1979

My Pager Number Is 40x xx47

My Pager Number is 40x xx47 …. When I first said that in the late 80s, I felt so proud of being the owner of a pager. You don’t see people wearing a pager nowadays too (or maybe not too common);

The one on the left was my first pager in 1989 when I had my first sales job. At that time, it was still 7 digits without the 9 added to the pager number. At least, mine was considered new fashion if you compared it with those long and skinny type of pagers without any display. Those were probably the first generation of pagers I’ve come across – just a simple beep with no display; when you received a beep, you just returned a call to the company (usually it’s used by the company you worked for).

Take note of that old Telecom logo on the pager. Here are the receipts I still kept, my goodness – $260 for a pager!

My First National Day on 3rd June

Credit : vPost.

My wife asked me a few days before National Day if I would like to buy the new National Day stamps (above). I immediately recalled I’ve one very special National Day stamp below;

What so special about the above stamp of mine? 2 things you must take note – 1. Date was 3rd June 1961 and 2. The “State Of Singapore” instead of “Republic Of Singapore”.

Maybe it’s a printing error that National Day was 3rd June in 1961, you may said. But no no, from 1960 to 1963 our National Day was on 3rd June. Let me show you with the use of stamps.

In fact our first National Day issued stamps were on 3rd June 1960. You may wonder why is that so if we gained independence on 9 August 1965 right? Before I proceed, here are our first National Day stamps;

So why was our National Day on 3rd June then? Let’s take a peek at my son’s Pri. 5 Social Studies textbook two years ago… Under the Chapter 2 “Steps towards Self-Government” : In 1957, Lim Yew Hock asked for control over Singapore’s internal affairs and the British government agreed to grant Singapore control over it’s internal affairs but not the external affairs like defence and relations with other countries. Following this, an election was held 3rd June 1959 to elect leaders to from the new government.

So when Singapore achieved full internal self-government in 1959 after the election, it became known as the “State Of Singapore”. In that year, British symbols were replaced by Singapore’s National symbols and Yusof bin Ishak became our first local Head of State.

The above stamps were issued on 1st June 1959 to celebrate Internal Self-Government and note the “State of Singapore” printed on them. The portrait of Queen Elizabeth 2nd was printed on the top right hand corner.

Below are the National Day Stamps issued on 3rd June from 1961 to 1963;

Then why the 3rd June National Day stamps end in 1963 and not 1965 (the year we gained independence from Malaysia)? OK, let’s continue with the history…

Singapore became a part of Federation of Malaya on 16 September 1963 together with Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, the merger didn’t last long…the shocking news that Singapore’s exit from Malaysia on 9 August 1965 may be a disbelief to many.

Credit : SPH, Straits Times.

Though we gained indepedence on 9 Aug 1965, we didn’t have our National Day on 9 Aug until 1966. That year we celebrated our First Anniversary of Republic with these stamps;

In 1967, we finally had our own Republic of Singapore National Day Parade stamps on 9 Aug;

So I celebrated my First National Day on 3rd June 1962!

Reminiscing our Past National Day Parade

This year 2007, Singapore celebrates its 42nd Birthday as Singapore gained Independence from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. So is this our 42nd National Day Parade? No, it’s our 41st National Day Parade.

We had our 1st National Day Parade in 1966 at the Padang. The first National Day Parade started at 9am in the morning. There were no such thing as tickets issued for the National Day Parade so if you wish to view the parade, you may have to be there as early as 7am.Our President then was Mr. Yusof Bin Ishak – yes the face you see on our currency note.

Below shows our 1st National Day Parade at the Padang in 1966 and the third one shows the NDP in 1967;

Above 3 Photo Credits : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

Note : Did you see our late President Mr. Yusof in any of the 3 photos and what was he wearing then? Clue

For the next 8 years, our National Day Parade was held at the Padang until 1974 (inclusive). During the earlier years, NDP was very much simple and not so glamorous as now – maybe I should said more solemn and serious then.

For example, our first National Day activities include an official cocktail party at the Istana Negara, a special variety show staged at the National Theatre and a spectacular fireworks display at Fort Canning in the evening, besides the formal parade at the Padang in the morning.

For those who watched the parade on TV, it was then still in “Black and White” – without colour. Maybe I’m sadist, but I love to watch the soldier dropping down (fainted) while standing still on the parade;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

Later on in the years, improvement in the NDP were made where soldiers no longer need to stand still there and wait for hours.

In1969, we started to have our first mobile column during the National Day Parade. I was so fascinated by it. The 18 AMX-13 tanks rumbled down the St. Andrew Road at the 4th NDP (1969).

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

I could felt the floor vibrating even before their arrival. In the past, though the National Day Parade were held at the Padang, the troops were then marched right to the heartland location. Below shows one in 1968 parade;

After those tanks or heavy armor vehicles driven on the roads during the parade, the road need to be resurfaced again. Probably because of these, the mobile column display was stopped ater 1970. It made a comeback in 1990 and then maybe once every 5 years.

We had our first Decentralised National Day Parade in 1975 and the last one in 1983. The parade alternated between Decentralised and Centralised at either Padang or National Stadium. It was probably to mark the 10th years of Independence and to reach out to a wider audience. 13 locations were selected then. Some of the locations of Decentralised parade in 1975 were Toa Payoh, Redhill, Haig Road and Queenstown.

1976 – the National Day Parade was held at the National Stadium for the very first time. It was the natural choice to stage the nation’s biggest celebration. In fact, the utilization of the National Stadium was so successful, since then, three out of every four National Day parades has been held there. The Padang, being the historic site of the first National Day Parade, now stages the parade once every four years.

Below shows the first Decentralised parade at Toa Payoh in 1975;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore.

The National Day Parade was first held at the National Stadium in 1976. The National Stadium was opened in 1973. Tickets to the parade were also issued to the public for the first time as previously admission were by invitation only. Altogether the National Day Parade was held at the National Stadium for a total of 18 times and the last one was in 2006 – the final one before it demolished.

Some of my favourites in National Day Parade were;

Precision Drill by the Military Police first started in 1986 at the National Stadium.

Photo Credit : Singapore Idler in 2006 NDP Precision Drill.

The Fly Past of our fighter planes and the parachuting display by our commandos were great too. I hate the mass display and I think it’s rather boring.

In 1986, the Flashcard display were first used and I love it.

1986 was also the year where “Count On Me, Singapore” NDP Theme Song was introduced. Everyone likes this song as the “count one me” section sound like “count money”….

1986 was also the first time the National Day parade was held in the evening. Since then except 1989 and 1990, every NDP was held in the evening.

I remember in one of the NDP (but don’t remember which year), all the religious leaders were gathered and blessed Singapore before the start of the parade, do you remember? That must be a special year…

Frankly I prefer the simple but solemn parade of the past at the Padang than the much “commercialised” type of glamor parade nowadays – but this is my personal opinion. Too many road closed for the rehearsal and preview and think the cost of such events are also too excessive.

All our past NDP were held on solid ground but this year 2007, it is the first time to be held on water at the Marina Bay Front! Seen the making of it on tv.

The Making Of National Day Parade 07 ;

Wishing our country a Happy Birthday!


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August 2007