Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I FOUND BUKIT PANJANG !

My recent few posts were about Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak, the hills which tower over my old village Princess Elizabeth Estate. In fact, being located right in the central hilly region of Singapore, the estate was surrounded by more than just these two hills. Another two hills there are Bukit Timah and Bukit Panjang.

But, strangely, Bukit Panjang was the one hill that I have not been able to locate!
It had been on my mind for a long time, that for the life of me, I really didn't know where the hill was?
Of course, I knew where Bukit Panjang, the village, the New Town, the old BP kampong were, but where was the hill?

It really seem so strange that no one has it on their directories, maps or even just a indicator where Bukit Panjang hill is sited.
There were lots of hills at Gali Batu, Woodlands and the Mandai region. Could Bukit Panjang be located somewhere there? After all, it stands to reason that it would be somewhere in the 'Bukit Panjang' area. Perhaps it was levelled during the construction of the Bukit Panjang New Town?

Most people I asked didn't know as well. I presume some of you may know where it is but I really didn't have a clue despite living near this area for so many years.

So I dug and I researched, but quite frankly, I found that most statements about Bukit Panjang, tended to repeat the same 'fact' which I felt was a self fulfilling circle. Somebody said this... and 'this' was picked up by somebody else... and when it was repeated often enough eventually 'this' became fact, albeit without any basis.

What most statements say stems from the translation of the Malay name Bukit Panjang which means 'Long Hill' or perhaps meaning a ridge. The commonly found explanation is that the name comes from the series of long ridges found from Mandai up to and ending at Bukit Timah.
This is where everyone appear to accept that reason simply because it was mentioned by 'somebody' else. This really riled me.

I was very sure that this CANNOT be a logical reason for it being called Bukit Panjang.
And why was it that no one has ever pinpointed a specific spot, hill or even which ridge?

After all, how can the entire range from Mandai to Bukit Timah be called Bukit Panjang when there are Bukit Gombak, Bukit Batok as well as Bukit Timah within it? How can they be part of Bukit Panjang ridge? It just didn't gel with me.

Surely, there must be a hill top that should be called Bukit Panjang as part of a ridge.

Then today, quite by accident, as I was looking at some unrelated data, I came across a topographic map that showed the exact location of Bukit Panjang.
I whooped for joy and I had to do a double take to make sure it was correct.
The topo map was dated 1978 and it showed a hill clearly marked and surrounded by quarries.

Eureka! I FOUND BUKIT PANJANG the hilltop .
It's not a ridge as most people presume but an actual peak at 132 metres.
No, the hill was not removed by any land development and is actually still there.

You will be surprised, as I was, when I reveal to you now where Bukit Panjang lies.
Here is a composite map I made from an actual photo and a current road map of the area.
Bukit Panjang ridge is outlined and the peak marked with a white triangle.

Photo on the left is an aerial reconnoissance picture from 1958.


I guess the reason why nobody could identify Bukit Panjang nowadays is that it was 'absorbed' into  Gombak Ridge and was treated as part of the ridge. Most of us know the entire ridge as Bukit Gombak.

In fact, in the blog I wrote about Bukit Gombak just a few days ago, I mentioned as trivia the fact that the Gombak Ridge has TWO peaks, one at 139m and the other at 132m.
I now know that this lower peak is Bukit Panjang!

Life is full of surprises.

This is the hilltop of Bukit Panjang today. (seen from Boys Town)
The building is MINDEF. (see comments below)
Related blog: Bukit Gombak




Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bukit Batok Hill (2)

For residents of P.E.E. and Hillview, the hills of Bukit Batok, Bukit Timah and Bukit Gombak were special to them as the estate was surrounded by these hills. Ex-residents will each definitely have their own stories to tell about these places.

I have previously blogged on Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak but have yet to touch on Bukit Timah.
I will do this once I gather my thoughts. Soon.

For now, I want to share with everyone some very rare pictures of Bukit Batok hill itself.
As we all know, the Imperial Japanese Army built the war memorial on the summit in 1942.
This memorial, called the Syonan Chureito, was destroyed after the Japanese surrendered at the end of WWII.
Contrary to popular misconception, it was not destroyed by the returning British but was actually dismantled by the Japanese themselves. Their reason was to prevent the desecration of the memorial by the returning British forces. The ashes of the Japanese dead from the shrine were re-interred at the Japanese Cemetery at Chuan Hoe Road at Yio Chu Kang.

The road leading up to the summit of Bukit Batok (today called Lorong Sesuai)
was built by British and Australian Prisoners of War. They were forced to march
from the POW Camp at Sime Road each day to labour on the road building.
The original road ran in a straight line down from the summit to join Bukit Timah Road.
This junction with Bukit Timah Road would be where today's Southhaven Condominium stands.


The foundation stone for the shrine that was built at the summit was laid by General Yamashita himself.
Every Japanese soldier had to attend the dedication service once a year called the Yasukuni to pay respect to their fallen comrades.





The 2 base pillars and the 121 steps are all that remains of the memorial today.
The original 121 steps have been repaired over the years and there are actually only 119 steps left today.
A memorial to the Allied dead was also erected by the POWs behind the Syonan Chureito 

Here is a picture comparing the area in 1950s and today in 2012. I have marked out the original Jurong Road (in white) on the 2012 section for your reference. Click on this picture for a detailed view.


Related posts:
Bukit Batok Hill (1)
Bukit Batok Nature Park & Old Jurong Road Videos


Friday, July 27, 2012

Bukit Gombak Hill (2)

Recently, my blogger friend Chun See had uploaded several pictures of Bukit Gombak taken in the 1960s on his heritage blog. Prompted by this, I wrote a post on Bukit Gombak as well and included a sketch superimposed over a RAF reconnaissance photo of the ridge taken in 1958.

Another friend Peter asked if I could do a comparison of my sketch of Gombak against the pictures that Chun See had. Peter is more of a graphics person than of reading texts. So this is what I did for him.

click on the photo to get an enlarged view for clarity

The top section is the aerial sketch I made superimposed onto a montage from the RAF photos.
The bottom section is the picture from Chun See showing Bukit Gombak from the 'back' taken from the Tengah area.
In the middle is a photo I took 2 days ago from Choa Chu Kang. I went to Tengah to try to get the same angle as the bottom picture, but the view is now completely obscured by trees.

In the middle photo, the buildings on the left are the Bukit Batok Fire Station and ITE College, while the tall white blocks on the right are the flats along Bukit Batok West Ave 5 which were allocated to the ex-Hillview Estate residents when they were resettled enbloc there.

Here's another little trivia about Bukit Gombak which many may not know about.
The ridge along Bukit Gombak hill has a 'valley' in the middle.
Geologically, this is known as a COL, making the ridge saddle shaped.
You can see this clearly in the bottom picture above.
In the top picture you can see a kampong located in this col, just at the word "outline".

This physical feature actually gives Bukit Gombak 2 peaks along its ridge.
The higher peak is at 139m (where the radar station was) while the lower peak is at 132m (left side of that kampong)
Based on this fact, Bukit Gombak technically would have the 2nd AND 3rd highest peaks in Singapore. However, most geologist consider Bukit Gombak as a single entity and so Bukit Batok Hill retains its 3rd position at 120m and while Mount Faber is 4th position at 105m.

In the middle photo, the col is now obscured by trees and most people do not see it anymore.

Addendum: (Aug 2012) - SURPRISED.
I finally found out the name of the hill on the other end of the Gombak Ridge! You'll be as surprise as I was. Click here for the answer.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Wrong Note

Hillview alive with the sound of music (4)

Peter Chua used to live at the 3-storey block of flats just beside the community centre (blk 17).
At PEE, he started a boy band called The Jumping Jades, comprising himself with the 3 D'Silva brothers, Alex, Richard and Kenny. However, the band broke up later as they had to focus on their school studies. (Richard D'Silva later went on to join the Pest Infested.)

Peter, now in his young 60s, formed another band called The Wrong Note. 
Even though Princess Elizabeth Estate is just a memory for us, Peter's band The Wrong Note is still performing today!

The Wrong Note with Peter Chua (in red shirt).

I was emailing around some ex-PEE residents trying to get Peter's contact.
I asked my friend Tony Cheong for some snippets about the Wrong Note and Tony told me that Peter  was instrumental in getting him on the road towards being a musician.

Back in the Princess days, Peter would spent hours with Tony's family playing on his guitar and having singing sessions with them. Eventually, greatly influenced by Peter's enthusiasm, Tony learnt the guitar and would go on to join the band, Pest Infested.

Through the old PEE network I finally managed to reach Peter Chua and he gave me this information about his current band, The Wrong Note.


The Wrong Note started playing together "just for fun" in January 2011. 
Within a few weeks they decided to be more more serious and began to practice regularly. Every member of this band had been involved playing professionally  or semi-professionally at one time or another many years ago.
Each member sings and harmonises to complement each other to produce good music for your listening pleasure and dancing.

The members of the Wrong Note are:
Paul Shankar - bass guitarist, who once played for the Duke in the 60s. He is a retired Sr. Teacher
Kelly Tan - rhythm guitar, who plays now and then with the band Locomotion. 
John Cher - He used to play for a band in 60s as well (cant remember the band's name)
Alvin Tan - Keyboardist (He's a civil servant currently )


As I mentioned, Peter's band The Wrong Note is still performing today.
We are lucky as they have uploaded many of their performances to Youtube.
You can listen to Peter's band on his Youtube channel here.

Here is a short clip from The Wrong Note.



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Photos from ex-residents (6) - Subash Chandran

This is a contribution from Subash Chandran, who was in PEE School from 1959 to 1964.

Many of you will remember the signboard at the corner of the small garden.
This was long before they painted the school name on the side wall at a much later period.
You can see parts of Bukit Gombak before it was developed. (background left).
Click on the picture for an enlarged view.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Blue Stars

Hillview alive with the sound of music (3)


The Blue Stars was one of the 60s era pop bands which originated from Princess Elizabeth Estate.
As was usual at that time, it consisted mainly of male instrumentalists on electric guitars, drums and other instruments and backed up with a female vocalist.


The band comprised the following members:- (L-R)
  • Brian Ward, piano, vibes and rhythm guitar.
  • Jeffrey de Souza, vocals, lead guitar and trumpet
  • Ian Moss, drums
  • David Moss, vocals, tenor saxophone and bass guitar
  • Patricia Pestana, Vocalist
  • Larry Besapa, bass guitar.


In all honesty, I didn't know much about the Blue Stars as I was just a little kid at the time, but I do remember always trying to sneak into their practice sessions. They would practice at the home of David Moss who lived in the same block as me. Kids like me were always fascinated by the band boys, perhaps we were the groupies of those days! Alas, most of the time, we pesky kids were always booted out during their practices.

To find out more of the Blue Stars, I tried to locate some of the band members and managed to contact David Moss who kindly returned my email with details of his band. This was what David wrote....


Hi James

First let me congratulate you for producing such a wonderful blog bringing back fond memories of the days gone by. You must have done a lot of research to be able to cover life as it existed then in that old estate. And those photos ... where did you get them? I enjoyed the article on Pest Infested. I hadn't had the pleasure of seeing or hearing them perform but heard that they had a huge following of rock and blues fans. They were formed a couple of years or so after the Blue Stars disbanded.     

Unlike Pests Infested, we played mainly dance music and the old rock & roll hits that were popular in the 60s. Patricia Pestana was a soloist in her own right and joined us as and when a female singer was needed. She was also known as the "Connie Francis" of Singapore.  We played for the British forces here, at corporate dances, fashion shows, concerts and other popular venues.      

Today, Ian lives and works in Sabah, Brian and Patricia reside in Western Australia. Larry and I still live in Singapore while Jeffrey has sadly passed on. 

The timing of your email coincided with a surprise visit by Brian from Perth. I had not seen Brian for decades. And of course that gave us the chance of catching up on things while reminiscing the good old days. Here's a recent picture of Brian (on the left) and me at a local restaurant. 



I hope this little piece of data is helpful and thank you for your interest in our Band. And of course, keep up the good work!

Sincerely
David Moss


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bukit Gombak Hill

Princess Elizabeth Estate was built on the slopes of Bukit Gombak.
Bukit Gombak is the second highest hill in Singapore at 139m (437 feet) and used to house the British Royal Air Force radar station in the 1950s & 1960s.

Today, almost the entire ridge of Bukit Gombak, from Choa Chu Kang to Hillview, has been fenced off as a restricted military zone. In fact, Bukit Gombak is the location of the Ministry of Defence in Singapore and therefore one of the most secured areas here.

However, when the RAF were based at Gombak, they only occupied the summit and the hillsides around Gombak were squattered by hundreds of kampong houses all round.
The main areas for squatters and their kampongs were at Bukit Panjang beside the KTM railway tracks, around Chua Chu Kang Road near the British Army BOD (British Ordnance Depot), and at Jalan Perang which ran around Bukit Gombak on the Choa Chu Kang/Jurong side.

Closer to Princess Elizabeth Estate, the entire Chinese kampong that was at  Lorong Taluki and Lorong Seburut were also built at the base of Gombak.

Here is a montage sketch of the Bukit Gombak ridge. I think there's TMI (too much info!) in it but I think you get the idea. (click on the sketch if you really want to see a detailed view)


There were 3 major quarries on the western side of Gombak ridge along the old Jalan Perang. Only the smallest today is conserved as the Little Guilin Park.

When Singapore took over from the British and converted Gombak into a military zone, all the kampongs and squatters around Gombak were resettled.

The demolition of the kampongs and squatter housing around Bukit Gombak.


The above 3 photos are taken from PICAS, the Heritage Board photo archive.


My blogger friend Lam Chun See had just posted a series of 12 photographs in his blog he received from his British friend who was based in Singapore in the1960s. I am prompted by his posting of the photos to write this post.

Photo from Lam Chun See's blog Good Morning Yesterday.
Taken from the top of Bukit Gombak, it shows the Dairy Farm Quarry (right)
with the Union Carbide factory at Hillview (white building).
The large green patch (left centre) beside the quarry is the old Dairy Farm meadow.

I recommend you visit Chun See's blog to see alll the pictures of Gombak ridge, read his comments and those from his readers about Bukit Gombak. His blog is at this link  click here.

Related link: Exploring Bukit Gombak

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Pest Infested

Hillview alive with the sound of music (2)

The Pest Infested band was formed in 1967 by Princess Elizabeth boys John Ali and Ernie Koh.
In the beginning, they had Francis Chan (lead guitar), Sng Say Juan (drums), John Ali (Rhythm guitar) and Ernie Koh (Bass guitar/Vocals). This was the founding lineup and the band specialised in hard core Blues music.

In the early days, the band played gigs mainly in British forces camps and at 'Tea Dances' but soon had opportunities to play support at the Golden Venus Nightclub at Orchard Hotel.

Back in the late 60s, Golden Venus Nightclub was the apex for band boys. If you were somebody, you had to be playing at the Golden Venus. I guess the nearest thing today would be like comparing it to Zuok or St James today. They also landed a stretch at the London Scene at Hotel Malaysia - another happening place at that time.



As common with bands in the 60s, there were lots of lateral movement among musicians, back ups and vocalists. So it was not uncommon for band members to leave and new musicians joining the band later.

For Pest Infested, quite of number of estate boys played for the band and later moved on to others. Musician who did some time with Pest Infested included
Gerry La Chica (The Flybaits)
Robert Suriya (Naomi & the boys)
Richard D'Silva
Jack Elias
Lim Thian Soon (Straydogs)
David Ng, bassist
Chris Ong, lead guitar
Philip Hardie.

Even Rex Goh auditioned once for Pest Infested but found he wasn't compatible with the blues genre that Pest Infested played. Rex Goh later became the guitarist for the Australian group, Air Supply.


I managed to contact Tony Cheong, one of the final members, who wrote me as follows:-


Hi James,

Here is the pic of us (above photo), it was taken near our practise studio at Chestnut Ave in 1974. Before Chestnut, our equipment & studio was at a kampong house in PEE ..... remember the forested area at the fringe of the estate, beyond Kum Sung's block. 
We rented a whole kampong house with grass laid compound from a family who had moved out, for just $40/month. And we would practise & blast our rock music & no one would complain cos the  nearest kampong house was about 70 m away. Cool huh!

The guys you see in the photo are actually 3rd generation PI, except for Ernie(founder) & Shah(2nd gen). Well, we went on to play for another 4 to 5 years until our day jobs became too much of a commitment to continue the music. 
I think the last gig was at a club called Queen Bee at the Queens hotel at Mt Elizabeth.

I remember your dad Tann Yean, he used to hang out with my dad & Ernie's father, Koh Keng Kwee.

Cheers,
Tony

Tony Cheong (right), with members of the band Humble Origin.
L-R: Terry Tan, Bernard Koh(standing) & Tommy Tan.


Sadly,  most of these talented local bands slowly faded away in the early 70s in part due to clampdowns by the authorities. I guess band members found it hard going with all the restrictions and connotations with hippie culture and drugs at that time. Pest Infested disbanded around 1978.

If you wish to hear a sample of the music of the 60s, click here. (This is not the Pest Infested but I am still hoping I can find a recording of them somewhere)


Hillview alive with the sound of music (1)

The decade of the 1960s were the heady days for local bands in Singapore. 
Among whom were names like Susan Lim & the Crescendos, The Quests, The Trailers, Naomi and the Boys, Straydogs, The Thunderbirds, Shirley Nair and Silver Strings, October Cherries and The Siglap Five. These local bands were mostly semi-pro but many could hold their own against international names in the recording industry.

From Princess Elizabeth Estate, there would emerge a number of boys who would go on to support and join a number of these bands.  Our own ‘resident’ bands were the Pest Infested and The Blue Stars.

I can still recall them practicing in their homes. You just can’t soundproof the old PEE flats against loud amplified guitars and drums! However, estate residents were mostly tolerant and the boys knew well enough not to play all through the late evening.  

Pest Infested started playing at Sng Say Juan’s home at the 7 storey block and occasionally at Ernie Koh’s house next to the bus terminus.

Pest Infested
L-R: John Ali, Lim Thian Soon, Ernie Koh, Richard D'Silva, John Chan.

I also remember always trying to peek into the practice sessions by the Blue Stars who were located in the same block as my home. But many a times I would be kicked out from their place as they didn’t want pesky kids disturbing their practices.

In those early days, there were already quite a number of families in our small estate getting their children interested in music. The Phua &  Moss girls at blk 21 played the piano. My Indian neighbour Tanga played the violin while her brother Menon played the classical guitar.  I know of the Thomas girls, Diana and her sister, who learnt their music at the Trinity College. I am sure there were many, many others as well.

Musicians who were connected to Princess Elizabeth Estate and who would later gain fame in the local music scene are Ramli Sarip,  known today as Papa Rock, and Moliano Rasmadi.  Ramli and his brother would form the '70s band Sweet Charity, while Moliano would form the band Lovehunter.

Don’t worry if you have not heard of any of them. I will try to dig out some details about our own home grown musicians and post them on this blog at a later time.

As for myself, I was one of the early converts to the then new musical instrument, the electronic organ.  I started learning it with my sister back in 1967 and I actually obtained Grade V of the ABRSM. 
Alas, I then discovered that I really had no musical talent. I guess it was my father who was more interested in showing off his children than his children being musically inclined. LOL. 
However,  I did redeem myself by becoming a church organist for many years (St Joseph & Mary of the Angels).  So at least my meagre talent did not totally go to waste.

This was my very first organ, a basic Yamaha Electone B6.

Later upgraded to a better Yamaha Model D-3 with all the bells & whistles.


You may be surprised to learn that my music teacher was actually a rock band artiste, so the focus of my lessons were always modern pop pieces rather than classical. My teacher was Mr Patrick Foo who was the keyboard player with the 60s band, The Trailers. When not performing on his gigs, he ran a music school that was located at a shophouse on Orchard Road. Today the same spot where the shophouse stood is occupied by Orchard Towers.

Orchard Road shophouse where I had my music lessons.
This stretch now occupied by Orchard Towers.
(Picture from NHB PICAS)

When we first bought our little Yamaha B6, Ernie Koh and John Ali from Pest Infested came over to our house to look at the organ. At that time keyboards were not usual with electric bands and they were interested to see if such a new kind of instrument could be used with their band.

My next blog would be on the estate bands, Pest Infested and The Blue Stars.
Do send me an email if you have information on our estate band boys.

If you would like to hear what the 60s band sounded like, I recommend you visit
JoeWuSeattleWAUSA youtube channel for a sample. Click here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Photos from ex-residents (5) - Anne Duncan

This morning when I opened my email, it felt like I won the lottery!

An email from Anne Duncan in Australia came with a whole bunch of vintage photos that will always be treasured, especially by me. Why? They were photos of me! I would never have seen these pictures if not for this blog. Thank you Anne.

Here they are:-

Picture taken outside PEES gate beside the school fence.
L-R: (front) June Moss, Stephenie Tann, Anne Moss, Betty Lee
(back) Me, Junior Moss, Ian Hogan


This photo would have been taken around 1960.
L-R: Me, Ian Hogan, Gerrard Moss (Junior)
Ian was younger than me but I was always bullied by him!
The 4 Princesses - Anne, Betty, Steph & June
The Kindergarten at the old Community Centre. (Blk 16 shophouse)
On the left, Ian Moss & Glen Hogan.
(If you recognise any of these children, do email me.)
Anne & June in front of my house (#126, right)
They lived at the unit above me (#126A).
In the background, PEE School and the hill where Bamboo Grove Park
and Popular Estates would later be built.
PEES Sports Day 1960 at the school field.
Sportsmaster Mr Venugoplan standing on the left (in white).
Anne waiting for her turn in the relay race standing beside Miss Pat Ortega.

Anne also sent another copy of this picture, of which a similar pose can be found in an earlier article.
This is the group photo of parents and teachers taken at Princess Elizabeth Estate School with Mr M. Ponnusamy, the 1st Principal of PEES (centre, in white).



There's a bunch of other photos as well and I will be using these in some articles that I will be writing soon. Check back again soon for these!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The No.5 Green Bus terminus.

Princess Elizabeth Estate was the terminal station for the Green Bus service No. 5 started way back in 1953. The No. 5 bus route began at Queens Street in Rochor, up Bukit Timah Road, Upper Bukit Timah Road, Hillview Avenue and ended at the small car park at Princess Elizabeth Estate.

The bus terminus was located between the row of shophouses (blk 16) and block 21 where I lived.
This was just beside the Princess Elizabeth Estate School.

At that time the car population was small and so the car park could comfortably fit 2 to 3 buses along with all the other cars. The car park then was not paved with bitumen but was covered with red laterite stone gravel.  I remembered that my white school shoes would get covered with red dust each time I crossed the car park! It was in the later 1960s that the car park was paved and had proper lots marked out for cars and the buses.

In 1971, the Green Bus Co merged with other chinese 'mosquito bus' companies to form the United Bus Company. The No. 5 bus route was then renamed as UBC Service 173. The route was extended to start from New Bridge Road in front of Singapore General Hospital and it went through Orchard Road via Stevens Road along this new route.
However, the amalgamation of the chinese bus companies did not suceed and by 1973, the government stepped in to re-organise the bus system and formed the Singapore Bus Services (SBS) monopoly.

The P.E.E. bus terminus c.1975  (Photo courtesy of Peter Chan)

The time-keeper's hut was situated under a huge spreading tree. Residents call this 'The Big Tree"


During my secondary school days (1968-1971), I had to rely on the No. 5 bus to get to my school at Dunearn Road. The buses in those days were, for want of a better word, atrocious. They were prone to frequent breakdowns, stuffy, leaked when it rained, had bad seats, was hot and noisy and worst of all, had poor drivers and surly rude bus conductors.

Some of these buses were like these shown in the photos below. They were the British-made Seddon and Vulcan buses which were the norm at that time.


The same few buses were assigned to this route and usually with the same drivers and conductors as well. So you often see the same staff on their rotational cycle many times each day. From experience, we learnt which buses to take or to avoid in order to have a better experience with the bus service. We knew which buses tended to break down more often and which unfriendly bus conductors to avoid.

I remembered there was an old driver whom we called "The Vulture" because he was haunched and when he drove the bus, he was always bowed over and seem to gazing only at the road immediately in front of him all the time. He was always assigned to drive one of the older half-cab buses that looked like this. We nicknamed his old bus the 'boneshaker' as it vibrated and rattled a lot.




I also remembered there was a very nasty chinese old conductor with white crew cut hair and un-buttoned shirt. He was bad tempered and was always shouting at the passengers, especially students. Woe be you if you got caught under-paying your fare!
The buses were always crammed to the brim and shouts of "ho lang loke" (let people out!) were usual.



The buses were with equipped with bells to signal the driver to stop at the next bus-stop.
To indicate your desire to stop, you press the buzzer once, yes only ONCE!
The conductor will press the bell TWICE to signal the driver to proceed after the passenger had alighted.

If you press TWICE by mistake to signal Stop, the driver, depending on his mood,  may or may not not stop!
You can't even protest if he doesn't stop where you want.



The most irritating thing about taking the Green Bus those days was that it always seem to run low on fuel, and 2 out of 3 times the bus you were riding on would make a detour to the depot at the junction of Clementi Road/Bukit Timah Road to top up its fuel tanks.

It was most annoying because of the extra 'wasted' time it took. The driver and conductor would get off to take a short break whilst the passengers were left sitting or standing in the hot crowded bus. All this while the diesel fuel was being pumped into the bus. There was no consideration about passenger safety at all!
Imagine the fumes you had to breathe in, and what if there was a fire? I can't imagine the horror. Yet this was a routine thing that took place on almost every trip. If you were lucky, the bus might be back out on its journey again within 10 minutes.

The dreaded Green Bus depot (bottom right)
at the junction of Bukit Timah and Clementi Roads.
The same site, at King Albert Park, is today occupied by the
MacDonalds HQ and Cold Storage Supermarket.

The depot at King Albert Park.

Around the early 1980s, another SBS bus service no. 193 was re-routed to end at this bus terminus at Princess Elizabeth Estate. Service 193 then had the unique distinction of having a bus route that connected 2 'royal' bus terminal stations - Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward.

By the time Princess Elizabeth Estate was demolished in the late 80s, SBS service 173 was already re-routed to ply the new Bukit Batok New Town. SBS 173 still continues to serve the Hillview area today except that it no longer terminate there with the demolition of both Princess Elizabeth and Hillview HBD Estates.


Related links: Pictures of the Terminus at P.E. Estate



Saturday, July 7, 2012

The old children's playground.

Within P. E. Estate, there was only one specially built children's playground in the early '60s.

It was a small playground built by the "City Council", a term used by the residents to refer to the authorities then.
It was of the standard design of that time and comprised 2 swings and 2 see-saws built over a sand pit. 
The swings had seats of wooden boards and the see-saw were made of the same wooden material.
The swings hung from the metal frames on metal chains that would squeaked very loudly.

This was how it looked like then.



This playground was located at the far corner of the field in front of block 17.
However, only children, who would be in their late 40s or 50s today, would know of this playground.
This playground was removed when they started constructing the community centre in 1963 over the grounds.


I used to spend lots of time playing on the swings and see-saw with my siblings and neighbours. One neighbour, Debbie, still remembers that she had to place a handkerchief on the wooden seat to avoid getting splinters!


In the picture above, you can see one of the swings in a sort of funny position. It actually has its chain wrapped around the frame bars. Kids today would not know but there was a reason for doing that.


The swings were built in a sand pit and over time as children play on the swing, there would be a natural depression or deep groove created under the swing path. The depression would get so large that when it rains, the area under the swing would become a big puddle of water.


Smart children would wrap the chain around the frame so that they can still play the swing even with a puddle of water under it. If they didn't do that, they would get their feet wet trying to retrieve the swing hanging over the puddle!


The same problem was to be had with the see-saws. As the ends of the see-saw hit the sand, it created a depression. Whenever it had rained, we would find the sitting ends of the see-saws submerged and that would put the see-saws out of commission until the puddle dried out.


Those days the swings and see-saws were just rudimentary. 
Children born much later during the HDB era would have better facilities and playgrounds. 
Remember the dragon slides at HDB housing estates?
Even those have now been replaced by safer and ergonomically design playgrounds today.

The HDB dragon playgrounds of the 1980s & 1990s.