Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Yes. And, unlike ol' Blue Eyes, I'm not exaggerating. I mean, I could feel and smell the morning fresh air when I awoke. And where I lived, in Her Majesty's Naval Base, the grass was always green and manicured, the drains unclogged, free-flowing and litter-free, and the garbage centre spotless. I remember, the dustbins were so clean, we kids used to hide in them. And we even used them to make home-made bombs! 

Ordinary but awesome: This was the original Chong Pang Village of the 50s and 60s before the bulldozers moved in. I used to frequent the Prata stall on the right of the car in the picture, where a man is cycling on what was Sembawang Road. The wet market was located on the right, a bit further up the road. This corner fruit stall in the foreground, at the entrance of Chong Pang Road, leads uphill to a roundabout of shops facing the renowned Sultan Theatre.

Going to market? Like going to a Fun Fair! I used to beg my mum to let me carry her basket. And we'd walk, sometimes, 3km to and fro to do the marketing. That, to me, was Heaven. 

To see, for instance, how an illiterate char-kway-teow man could be so enterprising and ingenious in setting up his stall out of nowhere, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat. Just 10 cts for fried kway teow or carrot cake. Wrapped in upeh daun*, a prime commodity today. And he had multitudes making a beeline for his offering. Dabbing the sweat off his face intermittently, he would be frying his "brown gold" 
from 7am till noon

"Backbreaking" would be how today's Yuppies would describe his daily bread. And yet, this tight-lipped 30'ish roly-poly Chinese never once complained. Rain or shine, he would be there without fail.    

Heaven was also sitting on a low stool, wolfing down piping-hot satay or mee rebus or drooling at the skewered barbecued beef or mutton on the hawker's portable pit.  

These days, everytime I go up north to Sembawang, I come back disillusioned, dissatisfied, unsatiated and frustrated. 

I've gotten over it now. But the first few times, I just refused to sit down for a tea. To reminisce, as my close fellow-Sembawangite G Segaran used to suggest. 

All because I can no longer see any trace of the Sembawang I knew so well. If not the British Naval Base enclave, at least the landmarks along 
Sembawang Road. 



Chong Pang Village,  for one. 
  And I don't mean the relocated  Chong Pang at Yishun Ring  Road today! I mean the  original one (above and below).   The one we fell in love with in  the 60s.               

Canberra Gate (above 1) was the entrance to the HM Naval Base, the former
British enclave. Visitors had to exchange their Singapore IC for a pass valid
for the time duration stated. The shops (above 2) at Chong Pang Road
are joined to one another to form a circle roundabout facing Sultan Theatre.
Chong Pang Road, Bah Tan Road, Kee Ann Road. The roundabout. Sultan Theatre. The Mamak stalls behind the string of bars at 14th milestone.    Kampung Tengah,  Kampung Wak Hassan, Nee Soon Village. 

All pillaged and pulverized to the ground!     

Who's to know about our         past? Our rich history? Our    heritage! What a price to pay for progress! Is this the way to nurture and perpetuate our unsung heroes?

How are our kids ever going to learn  about the games we used to play, the things we did for recreation, the places we visited, the type of people we met, the things we accomplished -- at home, at work, in school or in the playground? Or  the things we learnt to cherish in life? How? 

The old colonial bungalows on both sides of Admiralty East Road. 
The only saving grace, if ever there is one, is the Admiralty West Road that has been left unmolested.

So, too, the colonial bungalows that are seen still nestling intact near King's and Queen's Avenues, on  Admiralty East Road, towards the northern end of  
Sembawang Road. 

These are the last traces of the British colonial era, in all its old world loveliness. I hope the government will preserve these last vestiges of history -- if not for anything else, at least to show Gen Y a window to the past. 

Jalan Tampang (above this) and Sembawang Beach in 1968 (above).     

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