The New Good Old Days

Hello Singapore (or foreign) Visitor.  Singapore is a fast-paced country where everything is about efficiency and competitiveness. Many old icons of Singapore’s past have long ceased to exist.  Young Singaporeans may even not know of their existence. The 3D artists here at SIXTREES decided to revive some of these memories putting the things of yesteryear into current day context, using Computer Graphics and Visual Effects (VFX).  There are lots of references on the Net to the history of these facets below, so we’re not going deep into historical fact, but enjoy and reminisce with us (for those who can).  And for the young’uns, ask your parents, grandparents and other old foggies. 😉

1) National Theatre

That 5 diamond facade building…whatzzat called?  The National Theatre!  Way before Kallang Theatre / Indoor Stadium or the theatres at Esplanade!  Sydney had its Opera House, this was ours!  Such an iconic building that was very functional too.  Form followed function.  It had a huge cantilevered roof at the back of the building, allowing for open air performances. Designed by Alfred Wong in the 60s, it remains a very very prominent landmark building in the memory of the older folks here in SG.  Truly a gem, truly missed!

2) CK Tang

The rags to riches story.  Mr Tang Choon Keng, arriving in Singapore in the 1920s with a chest of Swatow lace and embroidery.  Growing to an iconic shop along Orchard Road before giving way to the Super Store it is now on the same piece of land.  I still have memories of going to the old CK Tang (as it used to be called) in the 70s.  With staircases at opposite ends of the building leading up to the toy section!  While mum would browse the 1st floor for clothes and other stuff.  During Christmas, they had lucky dips in the toy department.  Mum liked to choose the biggest wrapped items (typical KS even in those day).  The current day TANGS store was built as a in 2 phases as can be seen in the photo above.  Half of the current day TANGS was built first while allowing the old CK Tang building to remain in service.  The latter was then torn down and the current day TANGS building took over the site of the old building.

3) Merdeka Bridge Lions

I wonder how many Singaporeans even know the bridge along Nicoll Highway is called Merdeka Bridge.  I knew the bridge’s name at a younger age as my school uniformed group operated under that bridge!  NCC – Sea (Kallang Sea Training Centre).  But I never saw these lions guarding the bridge. They were before my time. They guarded the bridge in the 1950s and story has it they got lost for a while before finally being found and now placed at SAFTI.  Sculpted by an Italian sculptor-architect, who also had his hand on the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and another sculpture in the old Supreme court.  As our dear LKY rallied.. MERDEKA!!  (and thank you Sir!)

4) Clifford Pier

Another before-my-time piece of Singapore’s urban landscape.  Clifford Pier, built in 1933, was named after Sir Hugh Clifford (Governor of the Straits Settlements in 1927 – 1929). Once a busy pier for all sea passengers, a red oil lamp used to hang from the pier to alert ships that they have entered the harbour, hence it earned the name Red Lamp Pier , or 红灯码头 in Chinese, and lampu merah in Malay.  The side pier ‘arms’ were a later addition to the main pier building; now gone, and the pier becoming a fine dining restaurant today.

5) SBS & City Shuttle Service Buses & Bus Stops

The old red and white (or sometimes silver) SBS bus!  A bone rattler with an enormous roar of an engine.  During those days we had bus conductors who you’d pay your fare to, and he would clip a little ticket the size of a stick of chewing gum (gum? what’s that? Singapore has no chewing gum now, perhaps we should have featured that too).  There were different colours of tickets for the different fares.  Our red & white public buses that we are so used to have been in operation since 1973 – a good 42 years! Formed from the merger of 3 smaller bus companies, Singapore Bus Service (SBS) was formed  as an initiative to create economies of scale and ultimately improve bus services.

2 years after the establishment of the red & white buses, smaller blue buses came along: the City Shuttle Service (CSS). As the name implies, it provided shuttle services from the fringe carparks into restricted city zones to reduce traffic congestion in the city.

And the orange bus stops.  Where kids (or adults) would scratch out ‘art’ and what-nots on the plastic seats!

6) SIA’s Concorde Airplane

Give me supersonic anytime.  Still twice as fast as today’s passenger jets!  The mighty Concorde!  A Delta wing supersonic passenger jet capable of speeds close to twice the speed of sound.  Singapore Airlines and British Airways established an agreement in 1977 to fly between London and Singapore at Paya Lebar Airport three times a week on the Concorde. However, this service only lasted 3 years, till 1980, due to financial reasons and complaints about noise from the Malaysian and Indian governments. Those who remember the ‘Bird’ Series of Singapore dollar notes will remember the 20 dollar note (yes we had a 20 dollar note, young Singaporean) had a picture of an SIA Concorde.  How I wish I could see it at Changi Airport.

7) Tanjong Pagar Railway

The now defunct Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was a railway station owned by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) the main railway operator in Malaysia.

Built in 1903, it operated all the way till 2011.  As a kid, I would take the train with my mom to Ipoh.  The clackety clack of the wheels on the rails, and the ‘onboard dining’ vendor calling out ‘Naaaasi Lemak! Kaaaaari Pop!’ (Nasi Lemak, Curry Puff).  And in-train toilets where you could peer right down the stainless steel toilet bowl to the track down below.

8) Pelican Playground et al

Us kids from the 70s and 80s in Singapore had interesting looking public playgrounds to play with. Built out of concrete with mosaic tiles on its surface, these playgrounds were sculpted in the shape of different fruits, vegetables, and animals — from pelicans, sparrows, doves, dragons, elephants, tortoises, rabbits, (and even dinosaurs!); and planted in a bed of sand. Many of them were the works of  former in-house designer of the Housing and Development Board (HDB), Mr Khor Ean Ghee.

Today, most of them were demolished, and replaced by new plastic playgrounds with rubber mats, which are deemed safer and more hygienic for the children, but lack the iconic character of the yesteryear playgrounds with their almost identical designs across the island.

9) Big Splash at East Coast Park

Big Splash was a water theme park in East Coast Park built in 1977. Its main feature was its 85 metre long water slides, said to be the longest and highest in the world then. There were several pools, all filled with sea water and had sand bottoms to create the feeling of a beach. The largest pool at the bottom of the water slides was said to be able to accommodate more than 1000 people!

Over the years,the popularity of Big Splash declined. It underwent a major revamp in 2006, where those 85m long slides were torn down and the whole compound was redeveloped into a dining and lifestyle destination, known as Playground @ Big Splash.

10) Green Spot bottled drinks & Singtel Coin Payphones at coffee shops

Green Spot Orangeade,  was a popular soda in the 1950s – 80s available across all coffee shops in Singapore. They were a famous brand from the USA which was franchised and bottled locally by Amoy Canning Corporation (Singapore) Ltd, a Hong Kong enterprise which established a factory in Singapore.

I recall in primary school in the 80s, we had a game where kids would form a circle, call out ‘Greeeeen Spot’  (but usually, Pepsi Cola, 1,2,3), jump outwards to a wider circle as far from each other as possible, and then the game proper was to try to step on each other’s nice white canvas shoes.

Another thing which was commonly seen across Singapore’s coffee shops were the orange coloured Singtel coin payphones — before mobile phones became widely available across the island by almost all Singaporeans, young and old. People would prep their wallets with 10 cent coins — the cost for a call with these coin phones, which last up to 3 minutes. These orangey coin phones were slowly phased out in the 1990s with the introduction of payphone phone cards (I hear the young’uns say ‘whats that also?’)

Have they evoked a sense of nostalgia in you? We sure hope you are reminiscing the past together with us.  Leave a comment and share your memories too!
credits: chris, rico, patrick, adrian, ning, tyas, jing, vivian, bagus, marc, amy, waynne, max
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