Enough With The Nostalgic Videos Already

I watched the LTA Bus Story Virulent Video and disliked it very much. I’ve had it with these nostalgia exploiting commissioned stories. But let me tell you my memory of buses from when I was a child.

I watched the LTA Bus Story Virulent Video and disliked it very much. I’ve had it with these nostalgia exploiting commissioned stories. But let me tell you my memory of buses from when I was a child.

I lived on Pasir Panjang Road, across from the police station, behind which was a beach. It was an idyllic place – there was a little jetty where fishing boats unloaded their catch, which was sold at Ah Heng’s fish shop on the corner of Pasir Panjang and Clementi Roads.

Right outside our bungalow on Pasir Panjang Road was a bus terminus. In those good old days, this was simply where buses stopped at the end of their assigned routes. There was a little structure where bus conductors busied themselves, I believe, with replenishing their bus tickets and other administrative matters. Bus drivers, who weren’t called captains then, would smoke, standing or squatting on the five-foot way on the other side of our garden’s brick wall. I could hear them clearing their throats and spitting. Sometimes, cigarette butts would end up in our garden.

Often, there would be too many buses that had finished their route and had to stop at this terminus, and our gate would be blocked. My father then had to go to the police station to complain and the policemen, yes, who wore shorts, would have to coax the bus drivers to move their buses so we could leave or enter our driveway.

One day, while we were going out, there was a terrible crash, and some frightening wailing, and I saw, lying on the ground in a growing pool of blood, an elderly man with a horrific head wound. Our path was blocked by the accident, and I was transfixed as I saw the SBS bus reverse away from the dead man.

So yeah, that’s my earliest memory of our buses. Now go make that a viral video.

The Dance of The Flaming Arseholes: A Royal Australian Navy Tradition

Things would get rowdy, as you would imagine, but the sailors from the RAN took the cake – there are photographs of men on the roof of a public toilet in a Bugis Street alleyway, with something alight sticking out from their naked buttocks.

Back in the day when Singapore was an unruly sailors’ town, Bugis Street was a thriving collection of bars, Zhi Char stalls and transvestites, all vying for the custom of thirsty, hungry, and horny military men on shore leave.

Things would get rowdy, as you would imagine, but sailors from the RAN took the cake – there are photographs of men on the roof of a public toilet in a Bugis Street alleyway, with something alight sticking out from their naked buttocks.

This stunt was practiced in various ports of call, and was called The Dance of The Flamers, or The Dance of The Flaming Arseholes. The steps were simple: The sailors who volunteered to entertain everyone else simply had to strip naked, find a rolled up newspaper and kiap it between their buttock cheeks, and set it alight. Then he simply had to walk from one end of the stage to the other without dropping the buttock torch.

These days, visiting sailors seem much more restrained, while other types of tourists let their children defecate on the floor of cafes in our shiny integrated resorts.

Podium dancing, RAN style
Before hot yoga, there was this workout

I Have Old Stuff From My Dad’s Office Too: Part 1

The picture above is of former Minister of Culture Mr Jek Yuen Thong giving a speech at the opening of the Oriental Development Corporation Limited (Marble And Plastic Factories) in 1972. My father is seated at the extreme left in the photo.

28 October 1972: Check out the hand-painted banner

Since PM Lee Hsien Loong is slowly going through his family’s treasure trove of historical artefacts, I thought I might join in with mine.

The picture above is of former Minister of Culture Mr Jek Yeun Thong giving a speech at the opening of the Oriental Development Corporation Limited (Marble And Plastic Factories) in 1972. My father is seated at the extreme left in the photo.

I was really excited as a three year old when my father told me he was helping to set up a marble factory, and was very, very disappointed to learn that it actually made ornamental marble slabs and vases and not the kind of marbles one could bring to marble battles with the other kids in the neighbourhood, with the other kids protesting, “Wah lao, liddat he sure win one lah, his father open marble factory one leh!”

Grandmother’s Tales

My paternal grandmother passed away 13 years ago at the age of 100. I was blessed to have spent a fair bit of my childhood in her company, where she’d regale me with fabulous tales of China, my grandfather whom I never met, of how my father was when he was a child like me, and how all that mattered was that you were Hainanese because every other dialect/ethnic group in China were barbarians.

When she visited us from Seremban in the 70s, she’d take me (her favourite grandchild) on trishaw rides to across town, which in those days were divided by the Singapore River into what the Chinese called “Big ‘Pore” and “Small ‘Pore” – with Big ‘Pore on the west of the river, and Small ‘Pore on the east.

Much to my mother’s chagrin, because she was the most ‘western educated’ of anyone in our family, Ah Por would buy me treats from Hainanese streetside vendors and get me Chinese bowl haircuts from Hainanese streetside barbers. I later learned that these were in Little Hainan, the few blocks beginning from Seah Street next to the Raffles Hotel.

It was only after her passing that my father told me how the family had settled in Malaya. Some time around the early 1930s, my grandfather was apparently a communist who had been arrested and jailed on account of being accused of arson and destruction of property in Hainan, then part of Canton. Ah Por, who was then his mistress/2nd wife, managed to bribe officials into securing his release and departure from China – he fled to and settled in Port Dickson with my father’s older brother, where he took on another wife, unleashed his inner capitalist and started buying and selling goods and foodstuff.

Ah Por and my father would have been out of sight and out of mind, but for Ah Por’s steely determination – she sent word that she’d send my father, then six years old, on a boat to Singapore for Grandpa to pick up, and that with the remainder of her resources, would travel overland to Port Dickson to meet them later.

It still gives me goosebumps thinking about their epic adventure settling here. I’ll write more about this in due time, but if you’ve got a grandmother’s tale to share, there’s this event coming up soon called “The Grandest Story Ever Told” – where if you’re able to bring your grandparents, or a photo of them and a story to tell, you’ll get a free coffee at Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee House on Tyrwhitt Road.

Come and contribute, and listen to other people’s grandmother’s tales.