Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sundry shops and the old market

As with all new housing projects, P. E. Estate was built with a number of shops to serve the immediate community.
They were centralised at 3 rows of artisan quarters ( Blks 1 to 3 beside Hillview Ave), and another row farther in the estate next to the bus terminal (Blk 16).

For those who lived there, you might remember the following shops:

Blk 1   #1 The charcoal shop
            #2 Chinese provision shop
            #3 Malay barber

Blk 2   #4 Provision shop
            #5 Chinese coffee shop
            #6 Indian Barber – New Star Hairdressing & Barber
            #7 Chinese Tailor shop
            #8 Provision shop (original PEE Community Centre)
            #9 Provision shop
           #10 Coffee shop

Blk 3   #11 Rajah Clinic
            #12 Chinese provision shop
            #13 Indian Provision Shop (selling ice cream too!)

Blk 16  #99 Sin Wah Hin Provision Shop & Postal Agency
            #100 Dhoby (Laundry) shop
            #101 Ah Thian Provison Shop (site of the former PEE Community Centre)
            #102 Kopi tiam (Ah Pui 'fatman' coffee shop)

The provision shops at blk 3 (left) and the corner coffee shop (right)

I can recall the provision shops with its unique musky smell of gunny sacks, rice and dried goods. All the provision shops seemed to smell alike. I can tell you it's not pleasant! The shopkeepers used to keep their loose money change in 2 milk powder tins that were strung across the shop using a pulley system.

In the middle you can see the hung newspaper paperbags which were used for wrapping.

I also recall the shopkeepers would spend the afternoons making paper bags from newspapers. They would boil starch and glue newspaper into a triangular shape that would be used to contain your purchase of rice, sugar or loose items like beans. They would fold your purchase into a dumpling shaped pack and tie it with gunny jute string or another type of white vine string.
He would use his daching and weigh things in katis and tahils. 
Pounds and ounces were occasionally used but definitely not in kilograms at that time!

The dhobi laundryman hung his washing in front of his shop on a clothes line that consisted of a pair of twisted ropes. He didn’t use any clothes peg and simply slotted the clothes between the twists of the clothes line. It was such an ingenious method.

In the early years, there was only a makeshift market located at the footpath in front of the row of shops near the bus terminal. Vendors would bring their wares and goods in the morning and sold them out of baskets laid along the footpath. Much later, the more ‘established’ vendors started building wooden stalls and tables and eventually the quadrangle in front of that row of shops became the ‘market’

With the rise of Popular Estate and Bamboo Grove Park, the makeshift stalls became inadequate and a petition was made to the MP for Bukit Timah, Mr Chor Yeok Eng, for a proper market .

In 1967 a new market was built at the field fronting the shops beside Hillview Avenue.
It was a novel type of market then, where stallholders were given ‘shops’ instead of stalls. These individual shops, called ‘hawker pitches’, were more hygienic, had proper sales counters, electric supply for lighting and running water. The 52 hawker pitches lasted till the late 1980s when the adjacent HDB Hillview Estate market was built and the vendors were moved to the new HDB Hillview Market and Food Centre.


  1. The shops at Blocks 1, 2 &3 may be incorrect. Blk 1 OK except #3 was a Hainanese barber shop which later was taken over by one of the butchers from the market, but did not really do retail. The same butcher (used his Merz to pick up the slaughtered pigs from the abattoir early hours of the morning)later also took over Blk 2 #5 (ice kachang shop) which was Raja Clinic that later moved to Blk 3 for convenience of patients, Blk 2 #6 was one of the 3 coffee shops, then #7 the Indian barber "New Star" followed by #8 the fist CC which became a tailor shop when CC moved; #9 & 10 were provision shops. Raja Clinic took over #12 which was a Chinese Medical Hall (actually started as the "wet market" before closing when it lost out to competing illegal hawkers centering up near the bus terminus. The illegals were re-located to new market in front of Blk2 in the late 1960s.

  2. add: Blk 3 #13 and #14 were the provision shops. Blk 2 had 8 units - not 7 as listed. Blk 1 #1 was not a charcoal shop (from Tras Street)until the mid 1960s, cannot recall what is was then, The CC moved from #8 and took over the unit used previously by the evicted Finnish missionary.

  3. Oh my! Triggered my childhood memories! I lived there till we had to move in 1993. I stayed at blk 4. And everyday i buy bread with kaya n butter fm e coffee shop.

  4. Wow!!! I remember a store there that sold ground coffee that my grandfather would buy every other week. I was...5 then?