Archive for September, 2009

My Father’s Old House Near Nam Sang Hua Yuan

Try telling the taxi driver “Nam Sang Hua Yuan”, I think many of them will stare at you and said “Er…..where?”. I’m not surprise that many younger generation may not know this place “Nam Sang Hua Yuan” in Singapore.

What so big deal about this “Nam Sang Hua Yuan” or “Nam-Sang Hua Un” ? This is part of an estate owned by the late Mr. Hoo Ah Kay (胡亚基先生). You may probably came across his name in your old History book or Social Studies book.

I came to know about Mr.Hoo Ah Kay when I was in Primary 3. It was in this book “The Pioneering Years” (believed I’ve posted this book before);

Shown below was the Mr. Hoo Ah Kay’s house aka Whampoa House;

Above 3 pictures Credit :  EPB, Ministry of Education (1970)

Below is a photo of his house in 1910 (see the resemblance to the above picture);

Credit : PICAS, National Archives of Singapore.

In all articles about Mr.Hoo Ah Kay’s house and garden (simply known as “Nam Sang Hua Yuan” (南生花园), it was simply stated as a very big estate. Nothing was said why was it known as “Nam Sang Hua Yuan” or why he called it that name. Even my father was not aware of why is it called “南生花园”. I did some research and finally found out that it probably has got something to do with Mr.Hoo Ah Kay’s name. 胡亚基先生 real name was “胡璇泽” and he was also known as “胡南生”. So the “Nam Sang Hua Yuan” or “南生花园” was named after his name “胡南生”.

Below shows part of his house garden;

Credit : Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd

In fact when my father was staying at 922 Serangoon Road (around 1940s to 60s) , the Whampoa’s House was already sold to Mr. Seah Liang Seah in 1880. Mr. Seah Liang  Seah was a respected  member of the Chinese community. The Liang Seah Street was named after him!

Mr.Seah renamed the house as “Bendemeer House”, “明丽园”. I believed the English name “Bendemeer” was translated from the Chinese name “明丽园” (probably from Teochew dialect). The Municipal Council named the road nearby Bendemeer Road because of his numerous contribution to the community. Sad to say even after the name changed, the estate was still popularly known as “Nam Sang Hua Yuan”, “南生花园”.

The Seah Liang Seah estate “明丽园” was very huge, about 4.7 hectares of land. So how big is 4.7 hectares of land? And it’s also said to include the land opposite the Whampoa River too. That was where the 3 schools were built later – Bendemeer Sec. Sch, Bendemeer Sch and Beng Wan Sch. Take a look at the map below showing the estimated area owned by Mr.Seah Liang Seah;

Credit : Chief Surveyor, Survey Dept. Ministry of Law

The Bendemeer House was deteriorated over the years and was eventually demolished to make way for a new housing estate in 1963.

Below show the rundown Bendemeer House and estate acquired by the Government for redevelopment;

Above photos credit : PICAS, National Archives of Singapore

The estate is today’s Boon Keng Housing Estate. So where exactly is this Nam Sang Hua Yuan or Bendemeer House? It is said to be at Boon Keng MRT Station, Bendemeer Shopping Mall and Blk.27 and Blk.28 location. Let’s see the old map below;

now take another look at this 1956 map (by SIT);

See how undeveloped the area was at that time.

Below shows the area acquired by Government for redevelopment into Boon Keng estate;

Credit : PICAS, National Archives of Singapore.

Below shows the aerial view of Boon Keng estate now;

Credit : National Heritage Board

My father’s old house 922 Serangoon Road was rather near to the Bendemeer House. My father’s house was also owned my Mr.Seah Liang Seah and was rented from him for about S$18 a month. It was common at that time to sublet the property even though my father’s family was only the 1st tenant. It was a double storey house and the ground floor was rented out to 3 different families (each family for a few dollars a month). Imagine some families may have a few kids all squeezed into one room!

My uncles and my father used to go near to the Bendemeer House to play with the bats hanging on the fruit trees there. There was a cutout hole on the fence round the perimeter of the garden and they would ‘smuggled’ in to play. The servants there would chased them out and swore to punish them if they ever got caught.

Credit : PICAS, National Archives of Singapore

My father told me that opposite the Whampoa River, there were  a number of sawmill as the logs were collected from the river;

Credit : PICAS, National Archives of Singapore

The Whampoa River now is more of a canal;

Photos Credit : Simboyfat

So when we said Nam Sang Hua Yuan, we are referring to Hoo Ah Kay and when we said Bendemeer Road, we are referring to Seah Liang Seah. The Bendemeer Road runs alongside the Whampoa’s estate. How rich they were!

Note : From today onwards, I’ll include in (a scan copy in my father’s handwriting) “What my father wrote” after each post. My father learned the English Language himself by reading through the dictionaries and books. He also love learning the English Idioms. My father is Chinese educated.

What My Father Wrote ;


Batman Mask Unveiled At S’pore Blog Awards 2009

(The Final Part Of Non-Nostalgia Article)

Frankly until now I still couldn’t believe that I could win the award in the Best Individual Blog category. I’m expecting Beru Betto (the woman who blog about art and craft) to win as I enjoyed reading her blog too. So I’ve been thinking why the judges choose me since that evening.

The wait for about 4 over months for the results is really ‘killing’ but when I received the invite to attend the Blog Awards ceremony at Supper Club, I hesitated. When I read about the ‘bedroom theme’ for the evening, it further add on to my hesitation to attend. Luckily casual smart was also allowed, otherwise… Told my wife Ms Lao Po about the invitation and she said without hesitation, why not? Then I think since both of us have not been out on a date (minus the kids) for 15 years, it’s also time to do so.

The night before the event, I couldn’t sleep well thinking what if I attend and they will know my identity (at least the organiser will know, even if I don’t win). Anyway the chances of me wining is not high, I thought to myself. I attended without my batman mask.

Once we stepped into the Supper Club, the organiser and the reporters seem to recognise or be able to spot me easily calling out if I’m Laokokok (calling my real name of course). I’m wondering am I the oldest there among the bloggers? But I thought I’m the second oldest blogger…or is it because of my white hair…

The reporters were interviewing me and had my photos taken even before the results were annouced. I felt rather embarassed and quite awkward as it is like everyone seems to be smiling at me. Am I a ‘senior citizen’ among them?

Finally results time and when they first shown my blog using the overhead projector and announced that I was the winner for the Individual Blog category, the crowd cheered and applaused loudly. Then when it was my turn to receive the award from Minister George Yeo, again the crowd cheered and applaused loudly. I’m wondering why? Is it because of my identity unveiled and they finally found out my true identity without my batman mask?

Even the Straits Times reported; “When he went on stage to receive his trophy, he received the loudest applause from the crowd, including a standing ovation from people of his generation, such as SPH’s chief executive Alan Chan and Cultural Medallion winner artist Tan Swie Hian.”

So why the judges picked me as the winner, I thought to myself. First probably the judges wanted to unveil my batman mask hehe.
As Victor had said, “Win Some Lose Some too” – I lose my identity. Second, maybe what I’ve posted in my blog are what the older judges can relate to. So what do you think?

Now most said I can throw away my batman mask…Wei Chong (friends from even came to me during the event and said “now we know who you are”. So do you think I really have my identity unveiled after all these exposure in the media? I strongly believe that you will not remember my face after a while haha.

Here is the video of me receiving the trophy with my mask on hehe;

For those who have seen me, pls erase me off your memory. Thank you.

About the Award Here.

Win Some Lose Some – Singapore Blog Awards

It’s an exciting and unforgettable evening attending the Singapore Blog Awards 2009 with my wife Ms Lao Po at the Supper Club (in Odeon Tower). As the location was in the ERP zone ($1.50 gantry) and with limited parking lots, we reached there about 4.50pm and managed to get a lot in Odeon Tower itself. Lucky me, didn’t expect to carry back so many boxes of prizes…

So why do I say “Win Some Lose Some” with so many prizes? I lose all my photos in my camera memory card! I don’t know what happen to it? When I tried to upload it to the pc, the pc couldn’t detect any photos or videos – there goes all the precious memories of the evening. Hope if anyone got photos of me getting my prize from the minister, can email to me. Thanks in advance.

For those who have seen me, pls help to erase me from your memory so I don’t have to discard my batman mask. Thank you for all your support. Many more interesting articles to come and I’ll continue to blog. …now thinking how to eat so many many packets and bowls of KOKA instant noodles?

My First Dictionary Half A Century

Do you still keep your first dictionary? I still have mine! Let me show you a small part of my dictionary collection…

My first dictionary was actually given to me by my godsister when I was in primary school, probably upper primary in the early 70s. So coincidentally, this dictionary is also called the My First Dictionary;

You see the two stickers on the front cover, and that was what I did to it. I don’t really remember whether these were those type of ‘water tatoos’ stickers – you put them on a pail of water and then place the ‘tatoos’ on your arms or legs or any other surface to apply the stickers. Here you see another one on the page inside;

So this First Dictionary was reprinted in Sep 1958, exactly 51 years ago – half a century! I like this dictionary because of the exercises and questions at the end of the dictionary;

In the past most of us really ‘read’ and ‘study’ the dictionary (use our dictionary throughoutly)  as you can see some of the words were underlined;

Now  my children’s dictionaries are as clean as those in the book stores.

I bought my first personal pocket dictionary when I was in Sec.4 in 1978. It was a Collins pocket dictionary and see – I’ve a Kentucky Fried Chicken sticker on the front cover. You don’t find this KFC sticky anymore now.

This dictionary has been with me for almost 35 yeasrs and now my daughter (Pri.4) is using it;

So between these 2 Oxford dictionaries, which do you think is ‘older’?

Do you think you get the answers right? OK, the white jacket one was reprinted in 1952;

While the dark blue cover one was reprinted in 1949 (60 years old);

I got it wrong too and I thought the one with the white cover was older… These 2 were handed down to me by my father. He probably used these when he was working in his twenties.

Come to think of it, I have more Oxfords at home! So do you still have your first dictionary with you?


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September 2009