Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Queenstown Heritage Trail - A walk down memory lane (Part II)

My Queenstown Heritage guided walk continues from where i left off in my earlier article titled: Queenstown Heritage Trail - A walk down memory lane (Part I ). After listening to the story of Stirling Road resident Mr. Mahmood share about his growing up days and especially the incident of the Indian Circus Troupe. i am excited to hear more nostalgic stories of a time in the distant past from actual residents. I didn't had to wait long, as after a short stopover at Queenstown Community Centre for a water break we headed down to our next destination.

Tanglin Halt and stories by two of their residence, Alice and Shirley
Built in 1960's, the 10 storey flats of Tanglin Halt known by the locals as "chap lau keng" in Hokkien, are affected by the Selective En-bloc redevelopment scheme, which means they will be torn down. A total of 31 blocks are affected from Tanglin Halt and also Commonwealth Drive.

Over 40 years ago, Alice (now 66 years old) shared her story of her first experience moving into the high rise flats of Tanglin Halt. Arriving on the 10th floor of her flat she recounted she had a panic attack and her knees almost gave way. She clung on to her husband's hands for fear of falling over. She also shared that for the longest time, she was afraid to hang clothes out on the pole to dry for fear of falling over. Her story may seem weird in today's context but we must remember that at that time, majority of the population lived in landed properties or kampong houses. I am very touched by the years of friendship and bonding shared by Alice and Shirley. They have done many activities together such as going for breakfast, travel and are always looking out for each other. With the impending estate renewal of their flats, options were given to them for replacement flats. Alice, Shirley and their close friends have all decided to try to move to the same block and floor of the new flats so that it will be kampong living once again !
Our group together with Shirley (with a sling bag ) and Alice 
Tanglin Halt Flats and the new 40 storey flats in the background
source: Housing Development Board
We passed by two shops in Tanglin Halt which seem to have remained frozen in time.The Liang Yew Hair Unisex originally made of two shops, one the Unisex Hair salon and the second, a barber (now called Jali Jali barber). The hair perming machine that seem to be from the early 70's are still in used today !


Church of the Blessed Sacrament
Our next two stops are places of worship. The Church of the Blessed Sacrament was blessed and officially opened on May 8, 1965 by the Archbishop Rev Michael Olcomendy. The shape of the building is very unique with slate roof which is constructed in folds in the shape of a tent, said to symbolise the “tent of meeting” in the Old Testament and the roof appears to fall to the ground to wrap the interior, with portions touching the ground and resemble anchoring pegs. It was Sunday and there was mass going on, but we were fortunate to be allowed to take some pictures of its beautiful interior as well.

Church of the Blessed Sacrament 

Sri Muneeswaran Temple
A relatively newly furbished temple but historically important has it started out as shrine serving the Malayan Railway workers before expanding to meet the Hindu religious community spiritual needs.
Sri Muneeswaran Temple

3 storey flats of the Singapore Improvement Trust
Parallel to the greenery of the the former railway tracks ( the Green corridor) are the 3 storey flats designed by the Singapore Improvement Trust. The idea was similar to the landed houses in Stirling Road, which was to reduce the uniformity of flats built during that time. They are now vacant but at one time i was told it was leased out to a University as dormitories and University students used to occupy it. I love the wide green open space between each block.
3 storey and 10 storey blocks behind 
Tanglin Halt Neighbourhood Centre
We arrived close to noon at the neignbourhood centre where the wet market and the hawker centre are located. It was abuzz with activities with people shopping and buying grocery and catching up their fellow neighbors. Some of the shop units looked as if it has not change from the time they first open and it's amazing to see they are still well frequented despite the mushrooming of more modern hypermarts. This neighbourhood centre is slated to be demolished as well.
A square market abuzz with people 
Shop units that are nostalgic and seem to be unchanged since
it first open 
Queueing to buy food and buy hope 

An end to a chapter

My journey down memory lane ends here. Over a cup of coffee and chicken curry with rice, i contemplated and jot down my feelings of what i saw and heard today from the sharing of the residents and our guide. What is certain, some of the buildings i saw today will no longer exist and the shop owners who i spoke with, will either retire or take on different jobs.

The melancholic of familiarity lost and the separation of friends going their different ways as the result of this en-bloc renewal and the eventual destruction of landmarks of places the community grew up with, made me sigh knowing that this is the inevitably of life. Nothing remains the same and this is especially true for Singapore which moves at break neck speed.

Although a few buildings will be conserved, but the community will not. It will move on to new estates. For some people, like Alice and Shirley and their friends , i admire their positivity and their spirit to continue to recreate the same kampong spirit they had in Tanglin Halt, when they move to their new estate.

I admire the efforts of the civic group, My Community in sharing the old Spirit of Queenstown so that others who may not have lived in the same neighborhood can take away this memories as well. Who knows, some of the participants could end up staying in the future new Queenstown estates and create a new generation of memories while honoring the story of the early pioneers of Queenstown.
Bonds of friendship created over the years
Remaining Evergreen in a fast changing Singapore

Further information 
If you are interested in joining an interactive guided walk- the civic group group, My Community organises guided walks that takes place every month. More information is available from their website www.queenstown.org.sg/heritage. To register for this monthly walks, go to their event brite page.
The Heritage Trail tour i experienced is one of many in the pipeline planned by the group. Do keep checking out their website for future trail launches. They have a facebook page as well.

My Community Tours (updated on 14 Jan 2017)

Tour
Date
Registration
Commonwealth & Holland
Village heritage tour

Every third Sunday


www.myqueenstown.eventbrite.
sg or email
myqueenstown@gmail.com

Labrador & Alexandra
heritage tour

Every 2nd and 4th
Saturday

Tanglin Halt & Margaret Drive heritage tour

Every 2nd and 4th
Sunday



References
Archives Online. [website ] National Archives
NewspaperSG.[website]. National Library Board
My Queenstown Heritage Trail. [website].My Queenstown

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