Pasir Panjang Days: One of the concepts that never made it off the Tourism Board’s drawing board of national symbols? (See Cory Doctorow’s Flickr Set of Haw Par Villa).
“412 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore 5.”
That was how I used to recite my address to anyone who’d ask me where I lived. I must’ve been five or so, and attending kindergarten, where I stuggled with English and Mandarin because the ‘Ah Soh’ that my parents hired to look after me spoke only Hokkien.
The house at that address was rectangular, and we had a garden out front, that at that time, to me, was the hugest garden I’d ever been in. There was a swing, a slide, and a driveway where I’d ride my bicycle, which, for some reason, liked to crash into my father’s car.
My father had his own accountancy practice, and by standards of that time, must’ve been doing pretty well. He used to boast (to us only, he says) that the first car he owned in Singapore was a Mercedes. I remember us having a series of Mercedeses, the nicest one being a 280S with the number plate QC21Y.
There was a makeshift bus terminus right outside our gate, and we used to get into all sorts of quarrels with the bus drivers, who’d block our gate with their buses, and sometimes, we’d even have to walk across the street to the police station to get it sorted out. They were more like thugs than ‘bus captains’ in those days, and safety was never that big on their priorities. Some days we’d witness the most horrific accidents, with victims, mostly pedestrians, lying bleeding to death on the road before the ambulance came.
More importantly, there was the sea across the road from our house. The sea’s no longer there. It’s been reclaimed. Or rather, land had been ‘reclaimed’ from the sea some time in the 1980s. Where the sea and a jetty were is now a road, a park and container wharfs.
On good days, my father would take us kids to the seaside for a walk, and we’d watch as fishing boats unloaded their catch – there was a fishmonger at the corner of Pasir Panjang and Clementi Road who as late as 2003, still sold what he claimed to be fresh off the boat/sea fish.
On bad days, or rather, on one particular day where I had been particularly bad, my father put me in one of those vegetable baskets and carried me across the road and threatened to throw me into the sea. I saw my life flash before my eyes and in between the rattan slats of the basket as my bellyaching and wailing subsided into little whimpers. I remember being calmed by the salty air even though I was still fearful of being upended off the jetty.
On other days, when I’d be ordinarily bad (as opposed to particularly bad), all my father would do was threaten to call the police. Sometimes, all he’d do was to point to the police station, and when a policeman did appear, I’d all but wet my pants.
When we kids were behaving ourselves, our parents would let the servants take us out, but mostly either to Ah Heng’s the fishmonger’s, or down the road, by bus (so convenient – at our doorstep), to Haw Par Villa, where we’d wonder some more how good we had to be before we were treated to something less horrible than the gruesome depictions of the punishment of sins.
There’s only so much reminiscing one can do without the aid of photographs. So, does anyone have any photographs of the Pasir Panjang area, pre-reclamation? I’d like to revisit places like the police station, and the jetty, and the sea.