The street where I lived … during my childhood… East Coast Road.It’s an old street with many old buildings retained but with new shops and businesses. It actually made me wonder what became of the old shops ~ books & comic stores, ice cream parlors & bakeries, laundries, mom&pop sundry stores, medical clinics …
As I walked on … “Aargh! It’s still there!” though closed for that day. Mum once told me that I got my 1st shot of cocktail here ~ BCG & 4-in-1 (whatever made up the ‘4‘ during that era is anyone’s guess) ~ yes, I survived.
Each time I got sick, this is where I would end up and everytime I was here on that dreaded green flatbed, I would see Doc with a syringe in hand. I simply didn’t want to remember his name so I just called him Dr. Needle till I was 10 years old.
A more pleasant sight is the ever famous Red-House. For many years, it stood vacant, boarded up, sadly on a wavering status of whether to be conserved or not. Thankfully, it’s been restored but is now a bakery-nouveau of sort. I used to ride my bicycle here to get mum her bread & cakes and, yes, the aroma could actually trigger hunger so I learned to run this errand, twice a week, after lunch.
The Katong Red House Bakery has a fascinating history – it began with the 1925 ownership by a wealthy Muslim tradeswoman Hajjah Fatimah (Hajjah indicates completion of pilgrimage to Mecca). In 1931, a Jewish man named Jim Baker, started a Bakery (see the pun? 😀 ). Then came a Hainanese man, Mr Tan Siang Fuan, who took over, paying $600 as “coffee money”. The Hainanese are famous in Singapore for literally being Bartender, Baker & Chicken Rice Maker (see earlier post with Chicken Rice mentioned).
Every child had a hideaway then (not sure about now) and mine was right here in the back alley of the next street. Hey! we were cellphone-less & escaping from chores was considered cool.
We attached nets wall-to-wall and played badminton and volleyball. I collected stale bread from Red House Bakery and would feed & talk to the roaming chickens and dogs. Yes, life was good living in harmony with different beings.
The original windows and tiles of old Katong houses has the influence of the Peranakan Heritage ~ a mix of imported European, Chinese & Local designs and materials. I once simply took these for granted but now look at them in awe.
I’m glad the Singapore government has decided to put many of these old buildings under conservation. With all the speedy urbanization and public housing that had sprung up a decade ago, I once wondered if I would be able to find my way around when back on my home ground. Fortunately, now I am able to… even with fond memories looking at buildings I once walked past, under and into.
Beautiful assurance that some buildings of yesteryear will remain and be preserved … On This Little Street in Singapore.