Sunday, May 26, 2019

Old Market at Princess Elizabeth Estate

The old market at Phillip Walk, Princess Elizabeth Estate

When residents started moving into Princess Elizabeth Estate in 1952, there was no market of any sort for daily produce like fresh fish, meat or vegetables. The fledgling estate had a few sundry shops along Hillview Avenue and beside the bus terminal. These shops provided a variety of goods and services. There were coffeeshops, dhobies (laundries), Dr Rajah's clinic, charcoal shop, barber and hairdressers as well as a few Chinese and Indian provision shops. But there was no market!

Seeing an opportunity to earn some money, many of the nearby kampong folks set up makeshift stalls that eventually led to the beginning of what would be a small 'market'.
This was located at the open area in front of the row of shops beside the bus terminal, an obvious meeting place with the kopi-tiam as anchor. The stalls then slowly increased to occupy the area along the footpath which was beside the Community Centre fence.

This was the area where the initial makeshift market was set up, in front of blk 16.
The area was cleaned up after the market moved to the newly built hawker pitches at HillView Ave.

Kampong folks living up on Bukit Gombak and from the adjacent Chinese Village started selling their home grown farm vegetables and fruits, and soon more stalls began to be built along the footpath.

This was the beginning of the PEE market. As the market grew and became more established, hawkers would bring in meat like pork and mutton, fish and other produce to sell. The market operated only in the morning.

I can still recall the hawkers bringing their wares on baskets hung on a pole and the produce sold were all wrapped with newspapers, or with meat it was simply tied on a rattan string without any wrapping! Eggs were sold in wire baskets and fresh chickens were slaughtered on the spot. The smell and poor sanitation were simply part and parcel of those days.

In those early days of the estate, people were more tolerant of those roadside conditions, as the next nearest markets would be at Bukit Panjang Village or at Beauty World, and getting to either was no easy task then.

In 1965, the Member of Parliament for Bukit Timah, Mr Chor York Eng, initiated a project to build a proper market for residents of Princess Elizabeth. It was a very innovative project then, in that, the government would build and rent out what they called 'hawker pitches' at a low cost to itinerant hawkers and settle them in proper units that had lighting and running water!

This was long before the concept of dry markets was even thought of. People in those days were only used to 'wet markets' where hawkers of all kinds would simply pitch their own stands and stalls in an open space. The hawker pitches at PEE was truly innovative in its days. It was also an early experiment by the Hawkers Dept of the Ministry of Labour.

Princess Elizabeth Estate would be an early adopter of the concept of a dry market, even before this concept was known as it was. Fifty-four hawker pitches, each in inself a small shop with proper lighting and running water was built. This was a truly novel idea for its time.
The new 'modern' market would be built in the open quadrangle that was bordered by Blk 1, 2 & 3 and  Hillview Avenue. The location where this market was would be where today the condo sales showroom along Hillview Avenue is, beside the new Hillview Community Club.

The hawker pitches were balloted to an overwhelming flood of applicants but priority was given to the existing hawkers from the old roadside stalls near the bus terminal. The ballot was held in September 1967 and the market begun operations shorty after.

Another novel approach was to divide the market into sections. One section sold meat and fish, another section was for vegetables, yet another was only cooked food and one section was for services, like kitchenware, sundry goods and tailors.

Mr Chor York Eng at the balloting ceremony, Sep 1967.
The market continued operations until the 1980s when the hawkers were offered better facilities at the newly built HDB Market at HDB Hillview Estate. The old market continued till most of the Princess Elizabeth Estate residents were resettled to new HDB towns. It was demolished together with the demolition of Princess Elizabeth Estate in the 1980s.

Related links of interest:-
Location of the old market & map
A landmark of PE Estate
An aerial view of PE Estate