Sunday, May 24, 2015

Lim Tua Tow Market and Teck Chye Terrace

This was a popular market and hawker centre in the 50s and 60s. The Lim Tua Tow market was sited on the left of the picture, while the shop houses along Teck Chye Terrace are on the right.

The place surrounding the market was rather filthy and complaints were made to the government in hope that something could be done. There was no proper refuse disposal and items that were unwanted were dumped into the side drains. (17)

Not only was the place laden with filth, gangs also ply the back lanes. (5)

The market was demolished in the 1980s due to road expansion. The shop houses on he right are still currently there.

Teck Chye Terrace (Postal Code: Singapore 19/ 1954; 5 1/2 milestone Upper Serangoon Road)

Ask anyone about what Teck Chye Terrace is about and they will tell you it's all about food. From the traditional porridge stalls to buffet styled steamboats, this stretch of shophouses have different eating places to whet your appetites. (26) More recently, this row of shophouses made news as "five adjoining two-storey shophouses" were sold at a whopping cost of S$14.63m. (12)

But what was this place like before the advent of these makan places?

One of the first mention of the road name Teck Chye Terrace was seen in a 1930 Straits Times article. Police raided 19 Lim Teck Chye Terrace, Paya Lebar Village and arrested 10 Chinese for gambling. (13). Other vice activities included taking "chandu" or opium. (16) 

Teck Chye Terrace was acquired by the government in 1931 and declared as a public street. (6) The owners of the freehold land was selling buildings No.1 to 17 - Odd numbers. This road was already present in 1929. (7) It was purchased by a Mr Lim Soo Sian for a princely price of $22,000. (14)

After the Japanese occupation, the Christian community from Paya Lebar Methodist Church pumped in money to build a children's playground close to Teck Chye Terrace, adding some joy to these younglings. The area where the playground was to be built was said to be "overgrown with weeds, banana plants, and bushes and is a dumping ground for scrap and timber". (15)

Adding to gang activities, the filthiness of the place and mosquitoes infestations, Teck Chye Terrace was not a place where families would want to make this place their home. (18)

Source: OneMap, 1954

In 1962, one of its residents named Teck Chye Terrace as "one of the filthiest roads in Singapore". The road was totally crowded with "more than 100 stalls illegally constructed obstruct road users". (8) There was even a call to move these stall holders into the existing market and vacant playground. (3)

Companies that used the buildings at Teck Chye Road include:-

a. Hong Huat Timber Merchant in 1974 at 41, Teck Chye Terrace(9)

b. There was a slew of retail and wholesale liquor and beer shop that applied for a joint licence under the Singapore Provision Shop Friendly Association in 1975. These provision shops included 3, 9, 21, 27, 31, 33, 37 Teck Chye Terrace. (19) (20) (21) (22)

c. Hong Lee Goldsmith at 13 Teck Chye Road (11) (23) from 1982-91. The shop was then named Tiara Creation Pte Ltd in 1991. (27)

d. the now defunct Serangoon Sewing Machine Co. at 33, Teck Chye Terrace (10) in 1982-89. The company went on to sell other electrical appliances such as coloured television, video recorder and hi-fi sets. (24) (25)

First written on May 13, 2014.

Updated on May 31, 2015.


1. Left photo: From the Lee Kip Lin Collection. All rights reserved. Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board, Singapore 2009

2. Right photo: Google Map. Retrieved on May 13, 2014.

3. The Straits Times. May 22, 1963. Filth and Dust. P8

4. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. March 16, 1932. P2.

5. The Straits Times. The gangs like the dark. October 11, 1955. P8.

6. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. Declining Property Value. August 17, 1932. P12.

7. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. September 28, 1929. Municipal Commission. P11.

8. The Straits Times. Top prize for squalor. July 21, 1962. P10.

9. The Straits Times. Advertisement. December 9, 1974. P25.

10. Singapore Monitor. November 21, 1984. P3.

11. The Straits Times. Advertisements. June 14, 1983. P23.

12. Rashiwala, K. March 5, 2015. Mortgagee sales lift number of auction properties in Jan-Feb. The Business Times. Retrieved on May 31, 2015.

13. The Straits Times. Caught Gambling. January 30, 1930. P17.

14. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. April 27, 1932. Property Sale. P7.

15. The Straits Times. April 2, 1948. Paya Lebar Plans Centre. P5.

16. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. January 13, 1938. Had two cards: opium smoker fined. P15.

17. The Straits Times. January 29, 1955. Even the city cleaners don't dally here. P12.

18. The Straits Times. August 26, 1957. Back lanes need watching. P6.

19. New Nation. January 8, 1975, Advertisements. P15.

20. New Nation. January 29, 1975, Advertisements. P16.

21. New Nation. February 6, 1975, Advertisements. P21.

22. The Straits Times. January 4, 1975. Advertisements. P18.

23. The Straits Times. November 20, 1982. Goldsmith jailed for cheating another goldsmith of $20,000. P8

24. The Straits Times. July 22, 1984. Advertisements. P6.

25. The Straits Times. August 25, 1985. Advertisements. P23.

26. The Straits Times. December 11, 2005. Mass Market it is. Retrieved on May 31, 2015.

27. The New Paper. June 6, 1991. Advertisements. P29.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Ride Through the Years

Wonderful bus exhibition by the Singapore School and Private Hire Bus Owner Association

Today in Singapore Trails, I visited the bus exhibition at Pek Kio Community Club. I read about this exhibition and I thought back to those years where my parents brought me and my sisters around via public transport. 

The Leyland brand of public buses, ticket clipper and bus sign

Frankly, public buses has been a part many people's lives. I remember the bus brand - Leyland. I remember the thin-rod gear stick that sometimes, the bus drivers found it hard to engage. I remember the bus conductors using their ticket clippers to knock on their ticket holders to get the attention of those who have yet to pay their fare to pay up. I remember the fogged-up bus windows whenever it rained and where we were forced to shut all windows, barring those that were stuck. I remember my first bus ride, bus number 62 that brought me to my school in Geylang. That was also a time that I bawled my eye out as I could not reach the bell because I was way too short to press the red bell strip found on the ceiling of these buses.

Trolley buses

Trolleybuses used during the Japanese Occupation

There were pictures of trolley buses used during the Japanese Occupation. During that time, electricity would have been at a premium and thus a ride in these trolley buses would not be within reach of the common man.  It was also shared that charcoal buses (Burning of charcoal to power the buses) were also used.

After the war, the Singapore Traction Company started its trolley bus service in 1946. The last of the trolley bus service was taken off the road in 1962. So no more ugly-looking overhead wires. (1)

Bus Tickets
Bus tickets from the different bus companies
The bus tickets were all so colourful. Different colours signifying the different prices that one paid based on the planned distance travelled. There are the single coloured bus ticket for students, while the adults have the tiered-pricing tickets based on distance. I used to collect heaps of these.

Different tickets and the old bus ticket stamp

Bus Signs

Hand-written signs placed on both the front and side of the bus

Updated: November 20, 2016


1. Off for good: S’pore trolley buses (December 16, 1962). The Sunday Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Phoenix Park: The Walls Have Ears

The Main Gate of Avondale Grammar School

This was a Heritage Festival Tour that was top on my to-do list. This is one place that we cannot just walk in to visit. It has been this way ever since the ground was occupied by Singapore Japanese Golf Club from 1930. (1)

The Japanese team was a keen player of the game. They had competed against other foreign-based teams since 1930 and their final competitive game was against Johor in 1941, just before the war. (2) Other teams the Japanese team had played against were the British, Americans and also British Municipals. (2)  

Looking out from the window

When Japanese took over Singapore in 1942, the Japanese ordered the Allied Forces to surrender their weapons at the Golf Club. (3)

The 'silent' corridor of Phoenix Park Camp


The complex was erected in 1949 and was designed by the architectural firm Messrs Palmer and Turner. It was called “Phoenix Park” as the British’s Southeast Asia Command  was located there and their emblem was of a mythical bird.(4)

Phoenix Park had also housed the who's who of the post-war British government. The offices of the Commission General, the Commander-in-Chief Far East and the Far East Defence Secretariat were all based there. (4) (5)

There were also other critical services that based themselves at Phoenix Park. such as the Regional Fisheries Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The organisation later moved themselves to Bangkok. (6) 

The British left Singapore in 1971. The Internal Security Department (ISD) made 318 Phoenix Park their home in 1976 and shortly after in 1977, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also set up their headquarters there. Both ISD and MHA moved out of Phoenix Park by 2002. (7) (8)

The Visit

Brilliant re-enactment of the rice talks by students from the Avondale Grammar School

The doors of 318 Phoenix Park was opened to public for the first time. Both the staff and students from Avondale Grammar School, who school was located within this historic building, were wonderful hosts. The students, some of them as young as six-years old, brought to life historical milestones through their re-enactment. One was about the critical rice talks that was held in that building. The purpose was to ease the post World War 2 rice shortages in that region. (8)  

The Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) talks

Another re-enactment by the students was the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) talks that was held in the 1950's. Countries came together to find ways of how to stop the communist threat in that region.(8)

All in, it was a really lovely visit to this historical building.


1. To-morrow golf at Tanglin. April 11, 1941. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942).  P12.

2. Municipal golf team to play Japanese. March 11, 1939. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942).  P10.

3. Escape from Singapore. November 10, 2003. BBC: WW2 People's War. Accessed on: May 11, 2015.

4. Home Team News. September 6, 2012. Phoenix Park leaves its mark in Singapore's history. (Part I) Accessed on: May 12, 2015.

5. Scott talks to newsmen. February 19, 1956. The Straits Times. P5.

6. Moves to Bangkok. August 29, 1949. The Straits Times. P5.

7. Home Team News. September 6, 2012. Phoenix Park leaves its mark in Singapore's history. (Part II) Accessed on: May 12, 2015.

8. Hassan, N. J. (May 9, 2015). Students re-enact region's important meetings at Phoenix Park tour. Accessed on: May 12, 2015.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Singapore's City Hall and the Former Supreme Court

The main rotunda of the former Supreme Court

Two buildings steeped in history - the former Supreme Court and City Hall. Both buildings have witnessed history first hand.

The buildings went through a major makeover and are now joined together by two bridge connectors and an overhead shelter. The National Gallery Singapore are into its final stages of completion, that is to transform the place into the largest gallery of South East Asian's art. (1)

We were given an exclusive tour of this unique museum called the Naked Museum. Our wonderful museum docent, Sheila, was herself a former lawyer from the Arbitration Courts. I enjoyed her candid quips and also her in-depth knowledge of the place as she had worked in the Supreme Courts of a number of years.

City Hall (Formerly known as the Municipal Building)

The side entrance to the all important hall

Singapore's City Hall - Built between 1926 and 1929, the building was formerly known as the Municipal Building. (2) This building holds two monumental blocks of history. This was where the Japanese officially signed the surrender papers, effectively returning the rule of Singapore back to the British in 1945.

Japanese surrender tables were lined across the hall - between the second and third pillars

The Japanese hung their heads low, walked up the 23-steps of the City Hall and into this magnificant hall. The massive pillars and wooden pane doors looked pretty much untouched by time. In this same hall in 1959, the first fully independent Singapore government held their first swearing-in ceremony. (3)

Former Supreme Court

The main courtroom

Built on the site of another former great - Hotel L'Europe, the Supreme Court was the place where lawyers battled it out; where judges say "guilty" or "not guilty". The former Supreme Court, built between 1930 and 1939, had many more verbal narrative than the City Hall as the latter saw criminals, commoners and legal professionals walking through its doors, each of them with a story to tell. (2)

Looking up from the Former Supreme Court Balcony
Sheila then brought us out to the balcony to have a look on the outside. The weather was pretty good and we had a good view of the Padang, though much of the grass field has been laid over in preparation of Singapore's 50th National Day.

Rattan chair as good as new
Many things of old within the two buildings have been nicely refurbished. For example, the rattan chair
held up many people of the past. They must have waited patiently for their cases, or the cases of their loved ones to be read.

The Supreme Court's grand library
Sheila had more to share about the Supreme Court. This library holds bitter-sweet memories for her. This was where she was sent to by senior lawyers requiring quick information. There were just row after row of leather-bound books and she had to look through thick stacks of law books to locate the information.

Underneath the hexagonal plaque lies a time capsule that was buried in 1937

One of the lock-ups sited within the Supreme Court

It was a truly an eye-opener of an outing and meeting dedicated docents such as Sheila truly bring to life the rich history of the place.



1. Shetty, D.  April 24, 2015. National Gallery Singapore has Naked Museum tour. The Straits Times. Accessed on May 2, 2015.

2. National Gallery Singapore. About the Buildings. Accessed on May 2, 2015.

3. National Gallery Singapore. City Hall and Former Supreme Court at a glance. Accessed on May 2, 2015.