Archive for January, 2008

Tay Buan Guan Entrance

There seems to be some confusion regarding my previous post on Tay Buan Guan…regarding it’s entrance haha. My fellow blogger friend Peter has emailed me too that Rumah Bebe doesn’t seem to be the Tay Buan Guan entrance that fits the black and white photo I posted;

Photo Credit : Portrait of Places

So it’s the current Rumah Bebe shop the real entrance to Tay Buan Guan? If it’s not, then many sources have been wrong…

Let’s investigate!

1. First take a look at the URA Walking Guide;

Photo Credit : Oceanskies79

In the guide, it said;

Check out the origins of the former Tay Buan Guan Katong Shopping Centre
• Former Tay Buan Guan Shop, now Rumah Bebe, 113 East Coast Road, Tel: 6247 8781

The faint TBG print on the shopfront of 113 East Coast Road is the only sign of its once bustling former occupant, the Tay Buan Guan shop. The Tay Buan Guan department store grew from this humble shophouse to a multi-storey shopping centre located to the rear of East Coast Road, and was one of Singapore’s best-loved shopping hubs. …
…This shophouse is now known as Rumah Bebe (Bebe’s House), a Peranakan arts and crafts…..”

My Point : This unit number may be the first Tay Buan Guan shop along East Coast Road that the late Mr.Tay started. From this first shop (unit 113), it grew bigger.

2. Now let’s check the National Library Board, Singapore Infopedia;

Early History
…Then he rented a shophouse and opened the first Tay Buan Guan shop, a provision shop in Pennefather Road. … But after the war ended, he returned to his business with a renewed vigour, opening three shops on East Coast Road. The shops presumably did well as in 1948, he was able to purchase a piece of land bound by East Coast Road, Joo Chiat Road and Fowlie Road. He built the Tay Buan Guan Supermarket on that piece of land, the first department store in the east. …

The Tay Buan Guan Supermarket had a Chinese emporium, a costume jewellery shop and a pharmacy within its premises. … The Chinese emporium was called the Singapura Emporium Limited and it occupied the first floor of the 4-storey building. …

Later Developments
The Tay Buan Guan Supermarket was made up of 13 freehold shophouses, some 2-storeys high, located at 83-119 (odd numbers) East Coast Road.

My Point : There may be 3 shops at East Coast Road. Tay Buan Guan Supermarket was 4 storey high.

3. When I do a Google Search with Tay Buan Guan Adress, I was pointed to 83A East Coast Road.

The link shows the map by Singapore Street Directory. Note the address is 83A and not 113. Unit 83 now is occupied by Greentown Audio Video (SONY products) and unit 113 is occupied by Rumah Bebe. So is Greentown Audio Video the real entrance to Tay Buan Guan Supermarket (the old photo)?

My Point : So the official address of Tay Buan Guan may be 83A East Coast Road instead of 113 East Coast Road. But why 83A and not 83. Usually ‘A’ refers to the staircase entrance to upstair unit.

4. Again when you Google Search East Coast Road, the National Library Board, Singapore Infopedia shows;

Katong area
Popular landmarks in the 1950s and 1960s include Katong’s first supermarket, Tay Buan Guan Building and cinemas like Odeon, Palace and Roxy. …The Tay Buan Guan shopping centre were torn down in 2001 to make way for a condominium project.”

My Point : So part of the properties owned by Tay Buan Guan were torn down to build a condominium. If I can find the condo, that must be part of Tay Buan Guan too. Oh no, so how big is Tay Buan Guan? Yes, unit 83 to 119!

5. Another blogger, Katong Gal, blogged about Tay Buan Guan too.

“…Tay Buan Guan (also called TBG) was situated just behind the row of shophouses on East Coast Road which continues into Joo Chiat Road; it could be reached through three of the shophouses. One of these shophouses was a confectionary. … The other two shophouses had different uses – can’t remember exactly what but I do recall that for some years one was used as a thoroughfare into the main East Coast Road. Near the entrance to this particular building was a games arcade. …

My Point : So there may be 2 or 3 entrance to Tay Buan Guan. One is via the carpark or the backlane. And these backlane or carpark may housed one of the Tay Buan Guan shops. The other may be via the front shophouse like unit 83 or unit 113.

6. Now what Peter said in his email;

“…You see I used to park my car in TBG carpark. There were 2 carpsk, the big faced the back of the bank, this small carpark was closer to ths supermarket. Separating the carpark from the row of shops was a lane and a fence.

…There were two ways to get to East Coast Road. One was through TBG Shop (“Katong Shopping Center”) where there was an Indian framemaker called Adi. The other was through a small lane sandwiched between two buildings. I usually took the side lane to get to the former Hong Kong Noddle House (enter by back door) and the Asia Commercial Bank (later became 101 Beauty and Health Center, a massage joint). All this while I thot the side lane was beside Katong Bakery; which was not the case. In fact the side lane was beside the bank (right of bdlg) which is now Sing Ho Hainanese Chicken Rice. The cobbler sat outstide the Katong Bakery. …”

My Point : So this confirm that there was another entrance via the carpark and lane behind. There is a small lane between two blocks of building. Like what Peter said, that 113 unit (Rumah Bebe) may be used as an office by Tay Buan Guan.

So I make a trip down to view from behind. Before that let’s take a look at the map provided by Singapore Street Directory;

I went in via the Onan Road and hope to find the old carpark there. But as confirmed by the above sources, the carpark was not there and part of the Tay Buan Guan properties were gone and made way for the Malvern Springs Condo;
Then I went via to the backlane via the side lane between the 2 blocks of building as mentioned by Peter;
Above Photo provided by Peter.
I took a look at the #113 Rumah Bebe back, but it was not as high as the #83 Greentown Audio Video. Let’s take a look at the back view of this #83 unit;
The Katong Bakery is just a few units from this #83 old Tay Buan Guan unit. The Katong Bakery is extended all the way back as seen in this back lane view;
Now if we take a second look at the first black and white photo of the Tay Buan Guan in this post (at the top), I noticed that both pillars at the entrance were ‘slanted’ or at an angle. It’s not like the rest where it’s right angle. This coincide with the ‘slanted’ pillars of the #83 Greentown Audio Video too;
The #113 Rumah Bebe pillars are not ‘slanted’. So from all the above points, the chances of the black and white Tay Buan Guan photo matches the #83 unit are higher.
Also please take note of the flooring pattern of the old Tay Buan Guan photo matches that of the #83 one (stripes type).
Below is a photo of the old carpark at Tay Buan Guan;
Photo Credit : National Heritage Board, Joo Chiat CCC

My Godmother’s Pillow And Fan

Credit : Chinatown Heritage Centre

The porcelain type of pillow on the right, hollow with 2 oval holes on both sides, was the type of pillow my Godmother used when we were staying at Beatty Road. It’s rather small in size compared to those new pillows we used nowadays.

I’ve tried sleeping on it but it’s hard to sleep on it and it’s cold too. When I tried to turn to my side, my head fell off the pillow. I don’t understand how my godmother managed to sleep on it so many years.

The one on the left is also a pillow but of better quality. Maybe it’s more expensive than the porcelain one, so not many could afford it. But even now, pillow price can range from a few dollars to hundred over dollars…and you won’t know how it suit you until you buy it and used it.

In the foreground of the above photo, you can also see the type of fan my godmother used. That is the normal types of fans made of probably bamboo leaves (correct me if I’m wrong) that most household will have. But now, how many of us still have it??

My Old Katong Final Pt.- Other Lost Landmarks

The other lost landmarks of Katong were located at the Heart of Katong – from Katong Shopping Centre to Still Road. I will just emphasize on the 4 main icons of Katong – Katong Bakery House, Tay Buan Guan, Joo Chiat Police Station and Katong People’s Complex . You can see the map below;

With the old names gone and new names over its place, it’s rather difficult to find them if you are not a regular at Katong. Even I am having trouble to locate the old TBG (Tay Buan Guan).

Katong Bakery House aka Red House Bakery

How I missed the fragrance when walking past this bakery shop. When it was there, I don’t seem so keen to pop in as it was rather old fashion and crowded. That was many many years ago when I was still in my 20s.

Located at 75 East Coast Road, the eye-catching red colored building has been an icon or landmark of Katong for many years.

It was around for 78 years since 1925 to 2003. It finally came to stop when it was deemed unsafe by the authority. It is said that Katong Bakery was the first to bake a 3-tier western wedding cakes in Singapore around 1920s. This bakery was famous for its curry puff too but I’ve yet to try it before…

So take a look of it in the past;

Photo Credit : Portrait of Places

And now how it looks (taken on 11 Jan 2008);

A subsidiary of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), is the legal owner of the property. So it’s currently undergoing restoration works and will it be an office unit or school or remain as a F&B outlet, let’s cross our fingers. Glad to know that this icon has been conserved by the authority.

Click here to learn more about this Red House Bakery.

Tay Buan Guan Supermarket

It was probably the first supermarket in the East set up in 1948 by Mr. Tay Leck Teck. Its business was badly affected by the newer shopping area nearby like Parkway Parade, and it finally wound up after 52 years in 2000.

Photo Credit : Portrait of Places

If you see the above photo, besides the name Tay Buan Guan, it also has the name Katong Shopping Centre.

It housed a Chinese emporium called Singapura Emporium, a pharmacy and a costume jewellery shop. This emporium occupied the 1st floor of the 4-storey building. The ground floor and 2nd floor were other departmental stores, while the 3rd floor was roof garden. The ground floor where the supermarket located also had a milk bar.

Click here to learn more about Tay Buan Guan Supermarket.

The TBG was located at 113 East Coast Road, on the same stretch as the Red House Bakery. Though I’ve walked past this TBG many times, but I’ve only been to inside only a couple of times, shame right?

So what has it becomes now? It has turned into a shop called “Rumah Bebe”, a Peranakan Heritage Home;

But is the structure still the same from afar;

Doesn’t look quite the same right? Though there is a year 1928 on the front, but how can we confirm that it was previously the TBG building? Let’s examine some ‘tell-tale’ signs left behind;

There are 2 TBG logos left behind on the 2 side pillars. The rest of the wall tiles and floor tiles, I’m not too sure if they are from the past;

The trishaw above seems to be part of the shop decoration. Now that the TBG was gone, I yearn to go in…are you like me haha?

Joo Chiat Police Station

Of course it’s one of those places that I don’t wish to go in. I have walked past it and also parked my car on the side road besides it when I wanted to visit that DBS bank there. The DBS bank was located at this GRTH No.66 Building;

On the left of this side road, is the old Joo Chiat Police Station now called the Katong Village or Hong Kong Tea House;

Take a look below when it was still a police station;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

So how old is this Joo Chiat Police Station building? Probably as old as the TBG building, about 80 years old. So when did this police station cease to be one? Maybe in 1980s if I’m not wrong.

Katong People’s Complex

Before I end this Old Katong episode, do you know what comes before Katong Mall?

Many may have forgotten the former Katong People’s Complex (not to be confused with People’s Park Complex though same developer) – the shopping complex with steel structure and gigantic pipes at the exterior. Some said the pipes constituted to the bad fengshui. Built in 1983 and aka ‘prison with pipes’ back then, the building was struggling with poor business and in 1994, a woman was shot by an unknown gunman.

Now take a look at this Katong People’s Complex in 1990;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singaore, PICAS

Then what’s on this site before Katong People’s Complex? If you take a look at the 1970s Singapore Street Directory, you may find that it’s actually a market before this complex! This market was previously from the now Hock Ann Eating House site. Where is this market now…somehow it has now shifted to Marine Parade.

Read more about Katong;

Katong History

Rediscover Katong/ Joo Chiat

My Old Katong Pt.2 – Roxy And Palace

cont’d from Pt.1

I’m talking about the old Roxy and Palace Theatre…funny right…they used to call it theatre instead of cinema. These 2 theatres are located along the same East Coast Road on the same side but opposite to the Odeon Katong Theatre. Both theatres are demolished.

If we walked along East Coast Road from Katong Shopping Centre to Still Road, this stretch was known as ‘The Roxy Area’. It was also the traditional ‘Heart of Katong’. From this, what can see how popular is the Roxy Theatre back in the 50s and 60s.

Take a good look at how the ‘landmarks’ changed its look over time… sad to say I’ve not been to any of these 2 theatres for a show but only passed by.

Roxy Theatre

This old theatre was there before World War 2 and much much older than me. Let’s check out some old photos;

Credit : Fairypoint

When I see the above photo, I doubt it’s Roxy Cinema in Singapore as it looked totally different. If it was then it must be very very long ago. Sad to say there isn’t much photos of the old Roxy in Katong. Luckily after searching for sometime, I managed to find another old photo which resembles the above;

Credit : Donor N Lloyd, Australian Was Memorial

The above shows the Roxy Theatre circa 1945. Read more about Roxy Theatre here.

When the Roxy Theatre was demolished, I’m not sure. The land now is occupied by Katong Plaza / Roxy Square and the back portion of the land is Grand Mercure Roxy hotel. Take a look now and you cannot never visualise how the old Roxy Theatre sits in there.

Palace Theatre

This is another old theatre along the East Coast Road which is demolished now. Take a look below see how it looks like in 1960;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore , PICAS

You are still able to see the theatre in 1990 as shown in the photo taken from Ceylon Road ;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Understand that this theatre in her later years was used more for live performances. Probably in the 90s, the name of the theatre was also changed to Paradise Theatre. Below shows the Paradise Theatre in 1994;

Creadit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

The theatre was demolished and now a Eastgate building in its place;

These 2 theatres Roxy and Palace were separated by a road called Brooke Road.

My Old Katong Pt.1 – Katong Shopping Centre And Odeon Katong

Let me wish all friends here a Happy 2008 New Year before I begin my first post for this year.

Katong Shopping Centre;

So when was it built? Yes, 35 years ago, opened in 1973, it was one of the nearest shopping centres from my home in Haig Road back then. I loved to visit there during Saturday especially after my NCC Air ECA (now known as CCA) at the Haig Road Camp.

When my dad bought a 5rm flat at Haig Road in the early 70s, I was so happy as it was within walking distance to so many shopping area there like Katong Shopping Centre, City Plaza, Tanjong Katong Complex, Parkway Parade – of course some were built later.

This 35 years old shopping centre used to be full of textiles and shoes shops in the early days. The popular Oriental Emporium was located at one corner occupying 2 floors. It was fun shopping there especially before the Chinese New Year.

Below is how it looked like in 1994;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Now the whole place especially the basement and ground floor, are full of eatery shops. But I must said some of the eateries shops served value for money food. The good old Oriental Emporium, and many textiles and shoes shops were gone… This used to be a good place to know some Tanjong Katong Girls School students haha.

Luckily this old shopping centre still retains its old look and not much of a makeover like most other shopping mall. The main structural change is probably the addition of a lift at the corner near the Haig Road.

This is how it looks now(photo taken Dec 2007);

The eateries at the basement;

Somehow as I’m very much older now, this shopping centre seems to have ‘shrink’;

Odeon Katong Shopping Complex;

I wonder how many still remember the old Odeon Katong Theatre (Cinema) here before this Odeon Katong Shopping Complex was built? For how long the old Odeon Katong Theatre was here, I really don’t know. If I will to base on the 1988 Edition of Singapore Street Directory, it was still here in 1988. However the 1998 Edition of the Singapore Street Directory, it shows Odeon Katong Shopping Complex instead. So it must be between 1988 to 1998 that there was a makeover.

This is the old Odeon Katong Theatre in 1960;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Frankly I’m not too sure if there is a mix-up of dates as I recall that in the early 80s, the new Odeon Katong seems to be there already. During the Chinese New Year, I remember I went up to the cinema by escalator to book 3 days advance tickets for a movie. It was a norm to book advance tickets up to 3 days and usually the queue was extremely long during the Chinese New Year period. Haha, maybe I’ve got the years wrong myself….anyway…

Here is the 1994 look of the Odeon Katong Shopping Complex;

And the updated look in 2007 below;

I didn’t realise that the cinemas inside were gone…until I dropped by last month. See what the whole building becomes;

Can’t see…haha…let me tell you: 80% of the building occupied by Cornerstone Community Church! In fact, a number of old cinemas in Singapore have been converted to Church.

Here is the escalator leading to the old Odeon Katong cinema;

There is some changes to the road when the Odeon Katong Shopping Centre was built.

Before the Odeon Katong Shopping Centre was built, the Mugliston Road was terminated before the canal at the Katong Shopping Centre Carpark Entrance;

Now after the Odeon Katong Shopping Complex was built, the Mugliston Rd was extended below the building and joined with the Ean Kiam Place;

I don’t know how long these 2 buildings will last especially the Katong Shopping Centre. Those old buildings surrounding are going and gone one by one…

to be continued in Pt.2


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January 2008