Dec 28, 2008

2nd Shot: Junction of Smith Street and New Bridge Road

Second Shot

Source is a 1960 photo and my second shot was taken on the morning of March 2, 2008. You can see Chinese New Year decorations leftover from the festive season a month before.

The scene of the 1960 Smith Street is pretty comical actually. It is like a standoff between the old and the modern. On the left you have those dingy shophouses with wooden creaky windows and walls in need of a paint job; on the right the stylish flats stand stoutly with their whitewashed walls. They stare across at each other with their eyes, the windows. If we agree that the pace of development accelerated in the 1960s, then the standoff can be likened to a struggle in post-independence Singapore - will the old make way for the new? Who will outlive the rest?

Residents of the shophouses in 1960 Smith Street would be surprised to find the flats opposite gone in 2008. Their own houses, interior modernised and facade preserved, are still staring defiantly across the street.


What got me interested in a second shot was the foreground building on the right. You may not recognize this nondescript building in the 1960 photo, but what if I were to show you this?

Kempeitai West District Branch

This famous photo, reproduced in history textbooks, will be familiar to those who paid a little more attention during their history lessons. You will also find it in the exhibition at Old Ford Factory which ordinary guy blogged about here.

This SIT flat was the Kempeitai West District Branch. The infamous YMCA was Kempeitai HQ as well as East District Branch. Because I've not read of any North or South Branch, the West Branch seems very high up in the hierarchy. The Kempeitai commandeered other civilian properties as well, like the White House Hotel at Mayo Street which is now Hotel 81 Rochor.

Here, I share with you some interesting observations. In both old photos, we see similar-sized advertisement plastered on the entrance wall. The one in 1960 shows the big Chinese characters 猪肉粥 (pork porridge), the 'porridge' is especially big judging from the lady in front. Below the advertisement, the wall was painted with a different colour. This colour stripe would be very prominent as it reached chest level, again using the lady as reference. I wonder how the building looked like in colour.

Next, look up and to the left, at the row of windows along Smith Street. Have you noticed the wall was actually tapered for the first two windows? But wait, here comes the most exciting part - the flower pot outside the window. It could be the same pot, barren in the older photo, but teeming with life just like the street downstairs in the later one.


This shall be my last post for 2008. I hope you enjoy this second shot post and also the Second Shot blog itself. More exciting posts coming up in 2009, including the backlog of exploration and research which I've not blogged.

I wish to thank you guys for your support, especially Adelin who has been my constant reader and follower; FOYers Chun See and Victor who first started linking to me from their blogs, contributing a large part of the incoming traffic; Noel for writing the post in I wish to thank Peter also for sharing with me his research from his family history project. To all the readers, whoever you are, wherever you are, let me say a big thank you!

Smith Street

Dec 25, 2008

Old Tracks, New Trail (3) - Track Excavation at Jurong Port Road

International Business Park

My last journey took me to Teban Flyover where my wearied spirit squeezed out the remaining energy and pushed on to Jurong Entertainment Centre. There, an oasis and a cute cheeseburger marked the end of my 'infantry' mission.

That was five months ago.

Last Saturday, a kind offer from Chun See brought a few of us FOYers together for a visit to the Old Jurong Line. It was enjoyable when you got to operate like cavalry (thank Chun See for his Toyota Wish) and had running commentary from an ex-kampong boy of the trees and plants along the way. We were also treated to Peter's interesting life accounts over lunch at the former Jurong Ice Skating Rink and I'm grateful for his patient sharing of personal research on topics related to WWII and old railway. My appreciation goes to the oldies.

For me, the trip was like visiting an old friend whom you have not seen for - in this case - half a year. People change, they grow bald as they get older, but the Jurong Line landscape grows in the opposite way. What was once upturned soil is now a verdant grass patch.

Sunset Way Sunset Way
Left: Sunset Way Railway Bridge on June 1, 2008.
Right: The same place, on December 20, 2008.

Turning bald (or bushy) is just external change. We are not oblivious of what happens internally. I think/hope/believe I'm more courageous now when it comes to crossing a railway bridge. Previously I was scared stiff and the mind conjured doomsday scenarios to deter my legs from moving forward, you can read my adventure here. I have my Kanchanaburi trip to thank for in this case. I self-trained by crossing (only twice) what is arguably the most famous railway bridge in the world.

Sungei Ulu Pandan Railway Bridge
Don't stop, never give up. It helps not to look down at the river below when crossing the Sungei Ulu Pandan Railway Bridge. Chiong ah!

Some places are just too memorable to be forgotten, even when they are covered with grasses now. When I resumed my journey from Sungei Ulu Pandan Railway Bridge the last time, I started from the Ulu Pandan Park Connector. There was no way for me to get onto the track from the pavement below. So I walked until the Clementi Ave. 6 Flyover where there was a clearing. The clearing is gone today.

Below Clementi Ave. 6Below Clementi Ave. 6
Left: The clearing to the right of the railway track on July 19, 2008.
Right: The clearing no more on December 20, 2008.

The stretch after the flyover had construction activity the previous time so I had to skirt around the area. This time there was none so I could walk uninterrupted to ITE College West (Clementi). With this stretch completed, I have officially 'conquered' the Old Jurong Line between the railway bridge at Sungei Ulu Pandan and Teban Flyover.

Behind Clementi Fire Station
Walking on high ground behind Clementi Fire Station.

I broke new ground. I also saw what I thought were new landmarks. But I'm not sure, perhaps I wasn't paying attention last time.

New Bridge, Commonwealth Ave. West
A new bridge beside Commonwealth Ave. West Flyover?

I also saw new use for old landmark. I'm referring to the Sungei Pandan Railway Bridge.

Sungei Pandan Railway BridgeSungei Pandan Railway Bridge
Left: The Sungei Pandan Railway Bridge on July 19, 2008.
Right: The same bridge on December 20, 2008. Can you see what has changed?

I didn't know why the authorities were so nice as to build a boardwalk until I consulted the street directory. Fact is, the disused railway bridge is the only link between the divided Ulu Pandan Park Connector.

Original map by SLA. Label by me.

Sungei Pandan Railway BridgeSungei Pandan Railway Bridge
Left: Apologies to the lady. She had to use the sidewalk as we were blocking her way. I thought I saw the man in front turning back for her after he crossed the bridge, so sweet!
Right: FOYers, guess whose?

Railway Track Excavation

Jurong Port Road Map

After a hearty lunch at former Jurong Ice Skating Rink, Chun See led a cavalry expedition to the rest of the Old Jurong Line. One of our stop points was at Jurong Port Road where, according to the old street directory, a railway crossing used to exist. The oldies were right also in claiming, while on the way back, that Bridgestone used to stand on the current SPH Print Centre. You can see this validated by the street directory.

It was at Jurong Port Road that I saw my first track excavation.

I was excited, not over the discovery of old tracks since I already knew of a crossing at the location, but that of the nature of the excavation. Tracks do get unearthed like the stretch before Sunset Way but the digging happens on undeveloped forest floor. Coupled with the fact that the stretch is relatively well known, as least from the old street directory, the discovery, if you may call it, is not very exciting. In comparison, check out my photo of the place in September, sans excavator. A pavement was built over the tracks (that they managed to dig out the tracks prove it). That it was next to the road made it more significant.

I was reminded of railway structures turning up surreptitiously over the years, like bridge foundations during the construction of Somerset MRT and underground tracks next to Buona Vista MRT, not to forget the grand-daddy of Singapore Railway - the Tank Line - parts of it may still be buried underneath the road.

Jurong Port Road
The spot on September 21, 2008. Photo taken by me.

Jurong Port Road ExcavationJurong Port Road Excavation
Tracks and sleepers excavated.

While not an expert on railway stuff, I can still recognize a track when I see one dug out. Those in my excavation photos looked like iron pickets used by SAF or what is called in general angle iron stakes. Thank Johnny for the name.

Angle iron stake. They even felt like iron pickets when I tried to lift one up. The track actually budged! I wanted to bring a souvenir home but found nothing suitable.

Before I end, here's a short video of the excavation. The process was pretty heart-wrenching. The excavator was trying to scoop the track up but to no avail. The track just refused to surrender. In the end machine triumphed. I wonder what happened to the tracks and sleepers afterward.

Track to Excavator: Let go of me!

Dec 20, 2008

Christmas Present from NHB

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way ....

Christmas is coming and NHB is giving out a big present:

During the Christmas Open House 2008, all entry to NHB museums and special exhibits are absolutely free of charge.

Read here.

Dec 14, 2008

A Sook Ching Centre 63 Years after the Japanese Surrender?

Hong Lim Complex

I'm not joking.

This picture was taken today opposite China Square Central. You may have visited the food centre before; I have tried their prawn noodle and fried char kway teow. But a Sook Ching Centre?!

Sook Ching (肃清) - purge through cleansing - was the systematic extermination of hostile Chinese by the Japanese military during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. It was at such a place, a mass-screening centre, that local Chinese, innocent or not, were chosen to be massacred. If such a place still exist today, 63 years after the occupation, you'd avoid the place at all cost.

Whoever approved the direction sign should be shot, Sook Ching style. How can one mix up direction to a historical site with direction to a local amenity? I'm pretty sure historical sites have their own unique direction signs. You may have seen them in the city area. They tell you unambiguously the direction to a historical site and some even indicate the walking distance. They are also located in the open and not like the one in picture - you can see the tip almost touching the ground floor ceiling.

The historical site in question is the Sook Ching Centre at the corner of Cross Street and South Bridge Road. There used to be a monument marker near the road junction, but today the whole area was fenced up and I could not find the marker from the small opening behind the traffic light. I guess the marker was temporarily removed to facilitate the construction work going on.

Dec 7, 2008

December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor

This eluded me until few days ago. December 7 this year falls on a Sunday, just like in 1941.

December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy.

Schedule is too packed for me to release anything related to Pearl Harbor or the war. They will come in future.

(This post was pre-written and released by Blogger's Scheduled Post feature.)

Dec 5, 2008

Who's that Guy inside St. Patrick's School and St. Joseph's Institution?

While going through some recent photos in my hard-disk, I found this. Now, get ready for the million dollars question -just who is this guy?

St Patrick's School
Statue in St. Patrick's School

Picture was taken while I was at St. Patrick's School. This huge bronze statue guarded the entrance to the school building. This must be St. Patrick right?


Whenever you walk along Bras Basah Road in front of SAM, look to your left for sexy SMU girls right. Above the foyer, a bronze statue with fingers pointing stands proudly since the St Joseph’s Institution days. Now, get ready for the next million dollars question. - just who is this guy?

Photo Credit: acroamatic under Creative Commons license.


Don't fret. One more chance. If the guy is not St. Patrick or St. Joseph, then he must be the school's founder right? After all, there is a statue of Tan Kah Kee in front of the clock tower in Chinese High School as well. Guess who founded Chinese High?

Wrong. All wrong!

The guy could not be the founder of St. Patrick or St. Joseph in the sense Bishop William Oldham founded Anglo-Chinese School. This can be verified from the picture taken at the base of the St. Patrick's School statue.

St Patrick's School
St. John Baptist de La Salle (1651-1719)

Singapore was founded a hundred years after his death, you say leh?

St. John Baptist de La Salle

Some tidbits about our man St. John Baptist de La Salle. First, he was a French priest so the name's actually Jean-Baptiste de La Salle. Second, the 'Saint' part of his name didn't exist until his canonization in 1900 by Pope Leo XIII, so he was John Baptist and not St. John Baptist when SJI was founded (am I right?). Third, and this is why he truly deserved a place in St. Patrick's and St. Joseph's, he founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Long name? Wait till you see the French - Frères des écoles chrétiennes and Latin - Fratres Scholarum Christianarum.

St Patrick's School
Forget about the long name. In Singapore (in fact U.K., Ireland and Australasia), they are known as De La Salle Brothers. Above was taken in St. Patrick's School when I was there for some business.

You can read about group's history if you are interested, like what they did and their contributions since the founding in 1680. Looking at how far they have come, I've to say it's pretty impressive. From wikipedia's last count,

Currently, about 6,000 Brothers and 75,000 lay and religious colleagues worldwide serve as teachers, counselors and guides to 900,000 students in over 1,000 educational institutions in 84 countries.

So St. Patrick's and St. Joseph's are just two of over a thousand educational institutions indebted to the movement. They are not the only ones in Singapore though. There are other Lasallian Schools as well, for example St. Anthony's Primary School and De La Salle School. Their school buildings are relatively new, so I'm not sure whether there's a nice bronze statue like the one in St. Patrick's. Heck, did they even "shift" the one from old SJI to SJI Malcolm Road?

St Patrick's School
Where is St. John Baptist pointing to?

If you observe statues of St. John Baptist, you can't help but notice the similarity - the man himself with stretched right arm and fingers pointing up, surrounded by two children and books. There's an old joke about the one at SAM, previously SJI. If you look again at the picture of the statue, it looks like St. John Baptist was telling the boy to go somewhere. Exactly where, you can find the joke in acroamatic's School Days at SJI. For acroamatic's own guess, look here.

To find out more about school days at SJI Bras Basah, read ordinary guy's award-winning blog article on his alma mater.