Thursday, October 26, 2006
This short childhood autobiography was written in December 2002 at the age of 47 whereby memories of the good old days seemed just only yesterday and is still lingering in my mind. The intention of creating this autobiography with the aid of modern technology is to educate the next generation on lives of the sixties and the fading architecture, which may not be a common sight in Singapore anymore. The illustrations are mainly hand drawn with the aid of paintbrush program incorporating into power point as a presentation package. Due to availability of blog space, it has been revised to direct posting for the convenience of interested readers. The context will lead you through the living environment, which depicted the early kampong day’s life.
The pictorial illustrations were mainly memories and I've tried to present the situation to the closest possible means. Deviations are kept to the minimum level. Traditional games were also introduced during my childhood and most of which had already been long forgotten.
After much consideration and encouragement from my daughter Sylvia, I've finally took the courage to post my childhood memories on 26th October, 2006 to share with friends and relatives - peng
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my daughter, Sylvia for her assistant and guidance throughout the creation of this blog which also includes the debut blog at www.huaguoshangong.blogspot.com
She's the one that inspire and encourage me to go into blogging which has become one of my new hobbies. This will eventually be an on-going activity which will lead me through my golden years-peng
I lived with my parents, 2 elder sisters and 4 brothers in the atap house belonged to my grandfather. I’m the fourth son in the family and after me is my youngest brother who is one year my junior. My father worked as a carpenter in a wooden case workshop at Lavender Street and my mother is a washerwoman who also collects clothes home for washing. My father worked very late every day and my mother collects pile of clothes for washing just to keep the family going.Childhood Life
During those days, we rarely had a chance to taste chicken or duck meat. The only time that we can have these delicacies is during Chinese New Year or Ancestor commemoration day. Our meals are simple mostly consist of porridge, bean sprout, vegetables and fish. Nowadays children can enjoy chicken meat almost everyday not mentioning the convenience of fast food outlets, which even cater delivery service. Like all my brothers, I studied in Balestier Primary School, which is situated along Balestier Road. As three of my brothers were already in the upper primary, I followed them to school daily. The distant between the school and our house is approximately twenty minutes walking. During those days, transport is not as convenience as today and apart from this we cannot afford to take a bus to school. Our parents provide us with ten cents daily for our school expenses. I can still recall a peculiar incident that my second brother practiced. When time to go school, he will put on his white shoes and when school is over, he will take out his shoes and tie them to his school bag walking bare footed home
This is the atap house owned by my grandfather with wooden case workshop by the side and front portion of the compound. I lived at lavender street, which is currently being occupied by factories. From the background you can view kallang gas work, which was once a glamorous sight, which had already been demolished. Surrounding the vicinity is seawater which leads to kallang river. On the left hand side in front of the atap house is a garden once belonged to my aunt. Alongside are sheds meant for rearing poultry and beside the poultry shed is actually a toilet
By the right side and near front are the wooden case workshops whereby crates are being produced. During those days, crates have to be manually built with hammer and nails unlike the modern way using pneumatic gun with nails loaded. The workers are mainly relatives and kin's. Imagine the strenuous work with the thumping of nails using hammer and hands. Those days’ worker building wooden crates have rough hands. Wooden crates are mainly used for containing goods, machinery, etc., for export purpose
The back portion of the atap house simulated in this picture consist of kitchens on the left side and on the right side and on the far end are bedrooms for us to live in. The main structure of the atap house consists of 7 bedrooms and my grandfather’s office. There were 2 toilets available for all household usage. The wooden table in the picture is mainly use for dining purposes. In the background to the right are neighbours with house built with zinc roof and on the far left are 2-storey building which is a common sight in those days. In fact some of the 2-storey building are still preserved till today. Imagine the simplicity of life in those days without the influence of modern technology whereby only nature surrounds us.
I can still remember having breakfast in the morning overlooking the Kallang Gas Work and when the sea breeze blown across my face, there’s a feeling of relieve and comfort which today have been long lost. I can still recalled one day i happened to peep through the gap of wooden floorboard and notice there are many “Japanese fish” and have tried to go down to the sea water to catch them unknowing the danger that may have prevailed. By default, living with sea surrounding you tend to be a good swimmer.
GAMES I PLAYED
Here are some of the traditional games that I've played during my childhood.The Catapult
Catapult which is illustrated below is just one of the games I used to play during my childhood. It is made from tree branch, which have an angular joint allowing a perfect inclination for the bullet (buah cherry) to be fired. The elastic strip is made from old inner liner of bicycle tyre and the pad for the bullet is from either rubber or leather. The buah cherry (bullets) are easily obtainable, as within our compound we’ve planted a buah cherry tree. The fruit from this type of trees are edible when it turns reddish. Sometimes we plucked and enjoyed the ripe fruit instantly from the trees
The game illustrated below mainly consists of glass marbles. To play this game, two or more players are required. Each player will take out certain amount of marbles and laid them in a straight row. An arrow depicting the start and end is usually drawn to enable players to claim their win accordingly. Players are then asked to serve their marbles to determine their place in throwing the target. An additional line is then drawn away from the target. The players who throw the marble closest to the line will have the priority to roll his marble first to hit the target. When a player hit the first marble from the arrow head, he will then collect all the marbles and if he hit the one at the arrow ends, then he will only win one marble and subsequent win in the order of merit according to the arrow head
Like the catapult, the wooden gun serves as a firing purpose and the ingredient used for the bullet is similar to the catapult. By making use of the buah cherry round and rigid head, a rubber band is used to strap to the bullet and upon releasing the trigger which held the bullet, a shot is fired
This is a spinning top, which today have been converted to plastic material and being released with a spring-loaded device. In those days, skill and tactic is needed to wound the string and throwing the top to let it spin. The players with the longest top spinning is the winner
Bottle Cap Innovation
This game is mainly made from soft drink bottle cap and strings. The bottle caps have to be flattened and two holes are punched in the center to allow the strings to go through it. To start off this game, minimum 2 players are required. By spinning the string in a clockwise or anti-clockwise manner this will create a force turning back the bottle cap when the string is straightened. By pulling and releasing the string this will create a circular motion whereby the bottle cap will be spinning in a reciprocal motion. The players will then try to cut the opponent’s string during the spinning. The player who successfully cut the string of his opponent will be the winner
The Wheel Barrel
This game is called wheel barrel whereby creativity can be seen by using a used thread wheel with the combinations of rubber band and matchstick. The rubber band is inserted through the thread wheel core with 2-match stick (one end is shorter while the other is a full length of the match stick). The rubber band is then hand wind with the longer end to provide a spring effect by holding the shorter end When this gadget is released on floor level, the spring effect will release thus pushing the wheel to turn forward or backwards depending on the direction of the rubber band being twisted.Pinball Game
A traditional pin ball game made out of wood, nails and rubber band with the base inclined at an angle to allow the marble to roll towards its target. The layout is simple and the targets are also numbered accordingly. The player with the highest score wins the game, which also depend on the allocated number of marbles given each try. Unlike the modern pin ball game whereby sound and lighting effect are enhanced with score registered.Paper Airplane
An airplane made from paper folding of schoolbook, which kids nowadays seldom practice. Today, this type of plane comes in self assemble foam or cardboard which is easily available in shopping center. The more sophisticated model propelled by engines will cost more than one hundred dollars with remote control. Others toy airplane comes with wire remote or battery operated model with special sound effect and light.
Hand made wooden sword is simple and straightforward. The material used are mainly wood and nails. Nowadays, toy sword comes in a wide range of models with special sound effects and light. The wooden sword reflects the simplicity of life in the sixties.
The five-stone game, which is rarely played by, kids nowadays. The stones are hand made with cloth and sewn into a triangular shape (similar to the shape of dumpling). One edge is left open to fill in either beans or sand and is sewn tight once the filling is sufficient. Most of the children today do not know how to play this game and some of which don’t even know this game exists. This game is played with minimum 2 players. Each player will have to serve to determine who starts first. To serve, the five stones are place together to form a pyramid shape and place on the palm of the player. The player will need to toss the whole pyramid and turning the palm to determine the number of stones that can land on the back of his hand. The player with the most stones landed on his hand will get to start the game first. To start off the game, the player will toss all the five stones to scatter them. Picking up one, he has to toss it into the air while picking up another on the floor and capture the stones being thrown up. Subsequent steps follow by tossing one and pick up 2 stones and 3 stones. On the fourth stones, the player will have to grasp the five stones together and separating one stones to throw up to the air and subsequently placing the balance 4 stones on the floor. Before the stone falls from the air, the player is required to retrieve the four stones being placed on the floor. The fifth move is quite similar except that the falling stones needs to go through the circle formed by the thumb and index finger. The sixth and last move requires the player to throw all the five stones while the next player point out the specific stones to pick up and toss to the air. Once the stone is determine and being thrown up, the player will need to retrieve all the stones scattered on the floor. If he fails, he has to start from this stage and the turn goes to the next player. If the pointed stones over-lapped another and upon retrieving the other stone move, it is also considered foul and the turn goes to the next player.
My kampong days ended in the mid 60’s whereby land reclamation forced us to relocate to HDB flat allocated by the government. It was very difficult to adapt to the change as HDB flat comes in multiple storey and as high as 12 storey during those days. Nowadays modern HDB flats soar as high as 30 to 40 storey. We lived in a 3-room flat on 5th storey at Kempas Road. Imagine how cramp it can be with my parents, sister and 4 other brothers. Life became very much different for us not only to cope with environmental change but also the burden of monthly utility and rental bills that my parents have to sustain. It seems that all the games that I’d played in the past had became history as probably I was already 11 years of age during the relocation.