Memories of School Tuckshops in the Past

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With courtesy of Blueninja Ng of “The Good Old Days Singapore” group on Facebook, I am pleased to be inspired by his recent post and share the memories of school tuckshops in the past.

I have previously posted a related blog here .   Pls take a look at these old nostalgic photos of the school tuckshops in Singapore in the past.

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Tuck into healthier fare

Tuckshop programme on, but students must play part, too

By Reeta Raman
[TODAY, 2 August 2005]

Call it the silent “diet”, but without much fanfare, many schools in Singapore have already taken steps to produce healthier menu for their students.

Most children eat at least one meal a day from school tuckshops on most days of the week.

And because eating habits that are cultivated early in life have an influence later in life, the nutritive value of foods served in tuckshops play an important role in determining the child’s health and well-being, said Ms Seah Peik Ching, a nutritionist with the nutrition programme at the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

It is for thiese reasons and more that approximately 80 per cent of schools in Singapore have voluntarily participated in the Model School Tuckshop Programme since it was launched in 2003.

Singapore schools are not alone in their desire to whip their tuckshop menus into better shape.

Over the past year in the United States, efforts to shape up school nutrition standards intensified as concerns mounted over the increasing number of school-age obese children.

States such as Texas, Washington and Chicago are reducing snack portions by setting ceilings for calories.

Efforts to promote healthy eating in school tuckshops in Singapore started in 1992, with the introduction of the Trim and Fit (TAF) programme.

The tuckshop programme was recently introduced to provide an incentive for schools to make healthier food choices available in tuckshops.

It encourages tuckshop vendors to meet seven guidelines, such as restricting the sale of deep-fried food and preserved meat once a week, and using skinless poultry and lean meat.

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO TO HELP THEIR CHILDREN EAT HEALTHILY

  • Eat the first meal of the day with your children to encourage the habit of having breakfast
  • Plan and supervise two meals (for example, breakfast and dinner) at home daily.
  • Set a good example by getting to know food facts and values and encourage your child to eat healthy and to exercise regularly.

Pupils get a taste of healthy eating

[Source:  The Straits Times, 8 November 2002]

Ask Tun Mun Chun, 12, whether he prefers fruits and vegetables or burgers, and he barely hesitates over his reply.

“I’d choose fruits and vegetables.  They’re very tasty and healthier than burgers,” said the Primary 6 pupil from Townsville Primary School. “Burgers are very oily.”

He and other students watched a skit on 7 November, 2002 about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.”

They also received an apple each as part of a Health Promotion Board scheme to distribute apples to pupils of 165 primary schools.

More than 70,000 apples were given out over two days.

The board’s message to the pupils to eat two servings each of fruits and vegetables every day.

Ms Janet Loo, the board’s executive in charge of the Fruits and Vegetables Day programme, said: “You give them the apples and they will eat them immediately.

“That’s the call for action we’re looking for.”

A 1999 study of more than 700 Chinese Singaporeans found that those who develop the habit of eating fruits and vegetables from a young age are three times more likely to eat, or attempt to eat, the recommended amount of these foods when they are adults.

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Shot in the arm
Typhoid jabs for all tuckshop vendors

[Source:  New Nation, 26 January 1976]

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Ouch! Madam Wee Hiang Lye, who sells sweets at the Singapore Vocational Institute, grimaces as she is inoculated against typhoid by Staff Nurse Puah Swee Kim.

Madam Wee and 12 other tuckshop vendors at the institute lined up for the injections by a team from the Ministry of Environment.

This is part of the Ministry’s mass campaign to immunise all tuckshop vendors against typhoid to safeguard the health of Singapore’s 500,000 school children.

All 2476 stallholders working in school canteens will be inoculated against typhoid by the end of April, 1976,

Although the jab gives protection against the outbreak of the disease, the hawkers must still practise proper personal hygience when preparing food.

Roving days of street hawkers over by 1990

 

img0096Registered hawkers balloting for hawker stalls at Bukit Ho Swee, 1966.  A new Hawkers Code was implemented in 1966 for licensing and controlling hawkers.  Since then, street hawkers were progressively relocated into markets and shophouses with running water, electricity and proper refuse disposal facilities.  They also had to comply with minimum public health requirements and empty all refuse at proper public refuse bins.  Food and drink hawkers were tested for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera.

Roving days of street hawkers over by 1990

By Corinne Tham

[Source:  The Straits Times, 10 December 1978]

The wandering days of all street hawkers in Singapore will be over by 1990.

That is the official deadline set by the Ministry of the Environment, a ministry spokesman said on 9 December 1978.

“The current policy is to house all street hawkers because of public health reasons,” he said.

Street hawkers provide a major source of water pollution, do not have proper facilities to prepare hygienic food and obstruct roads.

Channelled

The government has up to now resettled about 20,000 street hawkers by channelling them into food centres and markets located mainly at housing estates.

“There are still 6,986 hawkers in the streets,” said the spokesman.

“We expect to resite some 4,600 street hawkers by 1981 – 4,200 will be absorbed by the Housing and Development Board and 400 into three food centres to be built by the ministry, he added.

Two of the three proposed centres will be located in the Central Business District.  Plans to have them constructed by 1981 have already been submitted to the Finance Ministry and the Master Planning Committee for approval.

The proposed sites will be in the areas within High Street, Telok Ayer and Farrer Park.

There are now about 4,108 street hawkers distributed over 200 sites in the Central Business District.

These hawkers are patronised mainly by office workers.  The Public Health Inspectorate checks hawker sites to ensure that only hygienic food is sold to the public.

In order to settle all remaining hawker centres by 1990, more hawker centres with an average of 150 stalls will have to be constructed, said the spokesman.

“As an interim measure until such time suitable sites are found and more food centres constructed, exisiting hawker sites are being improved and provided with anti-pollution facilities,” he added.

Some of the areas where such programmes have already been implemented are Eu Tong Sen Street, St. Gregory Place and the backlanes of Robinson Road.

Subsidy

All food centres are subsidised by the government.  It costs an average of $15,000 to build a food stall excluding the cost of land.

No more street hawker licences will be issued in line with the current policy to relocate street hawkers.

The present policy is to discourage the young and abled to take up hawking although consideration will be given to hardship cases, the spokesman said.

Archived photos of street hawkers in Singapore [Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore].

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img0084img0009Singapore street scene showing patrons at roadside hawker stall, 1956

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img0061Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew stopping at a street hawker stall during his tour of Paya Lebar constituency on 24/03/1963.

img0102Outside Goodwood Park Hotel, 1930

img0082img0080img070img0070A street hawker selling bananas to a soldier, 1945.

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Photos courtesy of Carl Mydans

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The heritage photos of street stalls in Singapore are shared on Facebook by Carl Mydans here .

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My blogger friend, Andy Young’s blog ‘Singapore 60s Music’ is available here .

Hawker food of yesteryear

In this series, Natalie Wong finds out more about the lives of hawkers in early Singapore

[Source: The Straits Times, 14 October 2014]

The five-foot way along shophouses of 1950s Singapore became a natural place for hawkers to open small businesses, to attract the masses of passers-by.

The five-foot-way shelters were ordered by Sir Stamford Raffles to be built in the 1800s.

He ordered shophouses to have a covered walkway of about five feet wide (1.5m) along their street fronts.

This was picked by hawkers as a suitable place to run their businesses, because of the shelter it provided.

Hawkers manned pushcarts and it was common practice for them to hawk their wares by shouting aloud to attract customers.

Without needing a licence to operate and to pay for rental space, these hawkers lined the streets of Chinatown in droves.  Their mobile carts or bicycles allowed them to travel about to sell anything from laksa to satay and wanton noodles.

They also made and sold other popular food and tidbits like ding ding tang (a malt candy), muah chee (a sticky glutinous rice snack covered with crushed peanuts) and grilled sweet corn, among a myriad of other dishes.

However, with hygience concerns and economic progress, the Singapore Government constructed hawker centres to house travelling hawkers in permanent stalls.

In 1993, the Government passed a law that banned hawkers from operating mobile pushcarts along the streets unless they had a licence.

The newly renovated Chinatown Food Street in Smith Street, with 24 street hawker stalls, tries to recreate these days of yore by ling the street with stalls constructed to look like pushcarts of the past.

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River Hongbao & Chingay 2020

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River Hongbao 2020 is organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Association (SFCCA), Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and People’s Association.

Since its inception in 1987, the event has evolved to become a major highlight of the Singapore calendar, attracting one million participants every year.  About 30 per cent to 35 per cent of whom are made up of tourists keen to experience Singapore’s unique Chinese New Year flavour, with most of them coming from China, Malaysia and Britain, said the STB.

There is no better way to celebrate the Lunar New Year than to be part of the largest, most anticipated Lunar New Year event of the year.  River Hongbao 2020  features special choreographed fireworks, interactive exhibits and intricate handmade lanterns that truly brings the festivity to life!

It was held at The Float @ Marina Bay from 23 January to 1 February, 2020.   Find out more at the River Hongbao   website .

My personal memories of River Hongbao are shared on my blogs here .

Walking down my fond nostalgic memories once a year again on 31 January, 2020, I arrived at my favorite places in Singapore on a blessed hot sunny morning.

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thumbnail_IMG_20200201_075714The young friend from Taiwan helped to take me a photo.

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The colorful and decorative lanterns at River Hongbao 2020

thumbnail_IMG_20200201_011252_editYear of the Rat 2020, my Chinese zodiac animal.   I was born in the Year of the Rat 1948.

The 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals

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The God of Wealth at River Hongbao 2020

thumbnail_IMG_20200201_011632The God of Wealth at River Hongbao 2020 carries an abacus for you to count your money …  uncountable as more and more money flow in to you.   Huat Ah!

The stage performances of the Peranakan dance and Chinese dance video clips on YouTube.

This piece of melodious Chinese music [Spring on Yi River 春到沂河] brings back the joy of spring at the river here .

With thanks to Sean for the YouTube video of the opening ceremony of River Hongbao 2020 here .

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thumbnail_IMG_20200201_011757The ‘Wishing Tree’ at River Hongbao 2020

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Chingay Parade Singapore 2020

As night falls and the sky grew dark over the Singapore waterfront …..

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Chingay is one of Asia’s largest street and floats parade that epitomises the dynamism of Singapore’s vibrant and multicultural society.  To mark 60 years of community building by the People’s Association in 2020, the theme for Chingay 2020 is ‘Colours in Harmony’, expressed through the use of different colours to symbolise Singapore’s cultural diversity and harmonious blend of different cultures in this 48th edition.

An estimated 6,000 volunteer performers from all walks of life and different organisations were involved in co-presenting this People’s Parade to showcase their passion and skills in a vivid display of their talents, over five parade segments.

As a national platform that brings people from diverse backgrounds together to celebrate Singapore’s unique culturalism, Chingay was the first event mark this milestone.

Over the years, Chingay is always associated with diversity, due to the multi-cultural performances that are put up.  Most times, these ethnic groups will present their individual items.  But for the first time, in Chingay 2020, the creative team has challenged themselves to choreograph a unique fusion item titled ‘Harmony in Motion’ where performers of four different races will perform together as one.  There will be common elements in their costumes, music and choreography, but yet, each ethnic identity will remain distinct.  This is an example of how Singapore is – we celebrate diversity in harmony.

[Source: Chingay Parade ].

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Wishing everyone a blessed, peaceful Happy Chinese New Year of the Rat 2020 for happiness, good health,  success and prosperity!

Second-Hand Books in Singapore

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Second-Hand Books in Singapore

Poor Man’s Library – Crop of Shops in Bras Basah Road

[Source:  Morning Tribune, 8 May 1936]

Numerous and varied are the trades and industries which have come to stay in Singapore as a direct result of the slump during recent years.  Malaya is no more the land “flowing with milk and honey” and extravagance in the country is a thing of the past.

One of the most interesting, and one which supplies the intellectual needs of the educated, but poorer classes, of all communities in Singapore is the trade in second-hand printed matter which is now a very flourishing line of business in the city.

Located at the top end of Bras Basah Road there are at least ten such establishments today and all through the day and the evening until closing time customers in search of something to read may be seen looking through the amazing collections.

VERITABLE LIBRARY

Each second-hand bookshop is a veritable library in itself and the stocks embrace practically everything in the line of text books, fiction, magazines, penny papers, periodicals and the thousand and one other publications with whch the reading world is flooded today.

There are books and magazines for almost every class of reader and every taste.  Instead of paying in dollars or going without the joy of reading, a wide range of printer matter is to be had at these second-hand bookshops and the price you pay is reckoned only in cents!

With the welcome advent of these shops in Singapore, reading is no more the very expensive pastime it was in prosperous days gone by.   Hundreds who were regular patrons of the big bookshops – dealers in new books – in the city, now hard hit by the slump and for other economic reasons, spend their leisure hours in Bras Basah Road looking through the amazing  and varied collection of second-hand literature.

School-boys form a considerable portion of the customers of these flourishing dealers in second-hand books.  Before and after school hours groups of them may be seen in these shops searching for “school-boy thrillers,” detective and cinema magazines and stories of adventure and the Wild West, so dear to the heart of average modern youth.

Their parents are no more in a position to afford new books and the pocket money allowed to school children is nothing like what it used to be.  Instead of having to pay twenty or thirty cents or more for a “thriller” the school-boy today gets the same mental thrills for three or four cents.

THE POOR PARENT

Second-hand school books and text books are also to be had and many a poor parent, for whom the education of his offspring is nothing less than a sacrifice, finds a great measure of relief in these school authorities were by no means helpful in this as invariably brand new books were insisted upon.

These Bras Basah Road second-hand book dealers do not experience any difficulty in keeping up their stocks in slump-ridden Singapore.  Victims of the slump find ready buyers in them and old collections lying covered with dust in shelves and corners are now converted into much needed money.

Public auction rooms and auctions in private homes, so frequent and regular in Singapore, are haunted by the second-hand book dealer and “lots” usually unwanted by the others are knocked down bargain by him.  Thus he is never at a loss to supply the needs of the reading public with almost anything at a fraction of the original cost.

Personal experiences of second-hand school text-books

Since I went to secondary school, I did not buy new text books because the prices of the books were not cheap.  As my family was poor and I tried my father not to spend too much money to send me to school.

Before the school opens and I was given the book-list by the school, I would approach my schoolmates who had those books which they do not need to use them for a higher standard or are graduated and left the school.  These kind and generous schoolmates sold the books to me at very low price or given me the books free of charge.

With other classmates who wanted to save money for our parents, we would then go to the second-hand book shops in Bras Basah Road.  Sometimes we were lucky to buy all the required text-books in a day.  At other times, if we were unlucky, we would have to look for the books at different shops on several days or weeks to get hold of all the necessary books.

These are my personal schooldays memories and experiences in the 1960s.  Of course, our classmates with parents who can afford to buy all the new textbooks for them would not have to go “second-hand textbook hunting” when school opens.

The archived photos of the bookshops at Bras Basah Road, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.

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A page from the past

By Stephanie Yap
[Source:  The Straits Times – 2nd Edition, 18 February 2007]

It’s dowdy next to the new National Library, but Bras Basah Complex is still the place where students and book-lovers go, and there are plans to refresh it.

Sitting in the shadow of the glass-and-steel National Library, Bras Basah Complex looks run-down in contrast.  Built by the Housing and Development Board in 1980, it was once dubbed the City of Books because of its five storeys of more than 50 bookshops.

Indeed, book lovers with the patience to prowl along musty aisles will still find the building a treasure trove.  There, they can get anything from second-hand Nancy Drew mysteries published in the 1970s for 50 cents each to the latest issue of cult design magazine Wallpaper.

But with the rise of mega bookstores like Borders and Kinokuniya in the 1990s, the complex today is a far cry from its heyday.

Back in the early 1980s, it was buzzing with students because of its numerous bookstores.  It was also a centre for xin yao, which is Chinese music written by Singaporeans.

At the height of the movement’s popularity, hundreds of students would gather at the complex’s open concourse to catch their favorite musicians, who included Ocean Butterflies music director Billy Koh and singer Eric Moo.

Times have changed

Mr Yeo Kar Han, 36, a senior operations manager with Popular Book Company, recalls spending many of his Saturdays at those performances.

“But times have changed.  People now want to go to places that are air-conditioned, where they can shop and then go for food or a movies,” says Mr Yeo, who oversees the Popular outlet in the complex, which has been there since the latter was opened.

Another long-time tenant is Tecman, one of Singapore’s largest Christian bookstores.  Owner Jane Tan, who is in her 50s, remembers how it used to be a magnet for shoppers.  “Everyone had to come here to get books, and it was very packed and busy.”

The complex is also home to many Chinese language titles sold at stores like Shanghai Book Company, one of Singapore’s oldest bookstores.  Mr Ma Ji Lin, 53, the managing director of the 2,900 sq ft store, says: “We have been in business sine 1905, and have been in the complex since 1980.  Why do we like it here?  Because people know this is where you go to get books”

Bras Basah was synonymous with books even before the complex was built in 1980.

In the early part of the last century, Bras Basah Road along with Victoria Street and North Bridge Road, was lined with bookshops catering to the many schools in the area, including Raffles Institution, St. Joseph’s Institution, Catholic High and Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus.

Popular (then called World Book Company), Shanghai Book Company and MPH started in this area, and its prestige as a book hub was raised when the old National Library in nearby Stamford Road opened in 1960.

Mr Wong Kai Hong, 52, who studied at RI when it was at the site where Raffles City now stands, remembers buying comics like Beano and Dandy there.

Restore to glory

Mr Wong, the CEO of retail consultancy TR21, recently signed a contract with the Bras Bash Complex Merchant’s Association to help restore the ageing centre to its past glory.  But he adds:  “It is true that as an old HDB building, there is only so much improvement we can do.”

Any makeover must also consider the needs of the residents who live on the sixth to 25th floors of the complex.

“However, we can make its HDB ambience a characteristic of the place rather than a setback,” says Mr Wong.  He foresees books and arts and craft fairs beinbg held at the atrium.

He and the merchants want the complex to build on its reputation for specialty books, as well as an art supply destination, as there are about 20 such stores there.

Already, students from the many nearby tertiary institutions have boosted sales.

Mr Abdul Nasser, 43, who runs Basheer Graphic Books, which his father Basheer Ahamad set up in 1992, says the company has no plans to move, citing the central location, lower rent and reputation for books and arts supplies.

“Bras Basah is an ugly duckling compared to the surrounding buildings,” he says, “But actually, having a contrast between old and new is what makes a city interesting.”

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Second-hand Book Service Group on Facebook

School textbooks which the owners do not need them could give to those who need them.  Please reuse and recycle these books.  Don’t throw them away.

I have taken the initiative to create a new group ‘Second-hand Book Service’ on Facebook.  Your respected suggestions and comments is much appreciated.

Please join the group if you find it useful and helpful to everyone.  Thank you.

Singapore’s Tourist Trade

img040Chinatown Tour – Curious tourists looking at a finished product in a coffin shop in 1958

It is interesting and amusing to blog about Singapore’s tourist trade in the past.  I bounced on this archived photo in 1958 (above) with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.   I believe the photo was taken at a coffin shop in Sago Lane (Chinatown) and a popular tourist attraction at that time.  Of course, these coffin shops have been demolished.

budhisttempleThe Buddha Tooth Relic Temple now was built on the former Sago Lane.

Tourist trade is the best revenue earner for every country and it brings benefits for the peoples.  Some people may criticise the government to spend so much money every year to build and develop the interesting places which tourists are attracted … such as Gardens by the Bay, Changi Jewel, etc.

Sarong Island

The official opening of Pulau Sarong (Sarong Island), Singapore’s first tourist isle was marked by a dinner and show for invited guests only.  The owner, Mrs Christina Stone (standing) said that the five-acre isle, just off Pulau Blakang Mati, was catering to tourists.  Photo date:  21/09/1967.

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A former blog about Sarong Island to share.

Tourists travel in sea vessels and land at Singapore Harbour

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Tourist Attractions in the Past

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Breakfast at the Zoo with Ah Meng

Tourists posing with Ah Meng, the orang utan during breakfast time at the Singapore Zoo.  c 1988

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Tourist guide with tourists for sight-seeing

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The Tourist comes to Singapore

The amusing cartoon published in The Straits Times 83 years ago.  These illustrations depict the scenes which the tourists could see at witness in Singapore over 8 decades ago.
Source:  Straits Times, 4 July, 1937

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Source:  Straits Times, 11 July 1937

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I spoke about the production of water from the Singapore River as “smelling salt” …..

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How Singapore can cash in on $ tourists

By A Special Correspondent [Source: Malaya Tribune, 21 May 1950]

It won’t be long until round-the-world tourist ships crowded with dollar spending Americans will be tying up at Singapore’s docks every three weeks.  But if Singapore is to attract them ashore from their air-conditioned cabins it will have to get to work now creating the proper atmosphere for tourism.

The American government is trying to get Americans to travel abroad even more than they do now.  It is one of the most painless methods of alleviating the Dollar Gap.  Travel restrictions have been reduced and every American from one to ninety can bring home US$500 worth of souvenirs free of duty.

The American tourist today isn’t the free spending millionaire he was once imagined to be, but a thrifty, sober citizen who has saved up enough money to see the world.  He wants to get his money’s worth.  He wants to be entertained and enjoy the trip, as who wouldn’t.  When he does, he spreads the word and he is followed by many more.

Singapore has certain great advantages in this regard.  At the risk of disdainful disbelief, it can be stated that prices here are on the average cheaper than in the United States (with the exception of occasional items like cinemas – a foam rubber seat at New York’s finest theatre complete with first-run films, stage show and symphony orchestra isn’t any more, even in terms of pre-devaluation currency, than a smoky Singapore showhouse).  There isn’t a cleaner or a more orderly major city in Asia.  The climate is hot – but nothing compared to a U.S. city in summer.  The island has a surprising variety of scenery for its size.  Where else can one see Asia’s many races at one swoop?

One can’t go around the world on the standard shipping routes without stopping at Singapore.  Geographically, it is a convenient centre to explore South-East Asia in a hurry.  The food is adequate and plentiful, the water potable, health excellent.  And if the police continue their ccommunists, Singapore will continue to be an oasis of peace in a turbulent region.

Singapore isn’t on the round-the-world air routes.  The writer is not sufficiently acquainted with the reasons to express an opinin, but somewhere Singapore is missing the boat by not encouraging American airlines to include it on their Pacific-Europe routes.  There is little encouragement to detour down from Bangkok enroute to Manila and Japan.

The trouble with tourism in Singapore is that it has need to be fostered and developed and advertised.  How did Hawaii ever get the trade? Or Mexico? Or Italy?  The average tourist likes to be taken by the hand – not forcibly or ostentatiously, but nevertheless, guided gently.

European countries have granted ECA dollar funds for advertising their tourist industries in America.  Singapore might be able to get some too – or use some of the dollars from its surplus of exports to America.  Most Americans think Singapore is part of China.

Singapore, for the long run, needs more modern hotels.  Running hot water, beds with springs, decent coffee – and reservations are very hard to find in Singapore these days (i.e. 1950s).

Travel upcountry is unfortunately out of the picture in the foreseeable future.  But airlines based in Singapore could attract those elusive dollars by arranging packaged all-expense tours by air to such tourist Meccas as Bangkok and Bali.  With air speed a tourist could leave ship in Singapore, fly to his goal, and rejoin his vessel in Penang.

The colony could help the unknowing tourist by listing approved stores with fixed prices in the same way the Army approves restaurants for the Forces.  One of those “two or three minor incidents” concerning the sailors in town recently was reputedly caused by a wily gem merchant passinga zircon off as a diamond.  Most tourists can’t retaliate as effectively as did the gypped sailor.

The docks need dressing up.  Admittedly, there has been much more serious work of reconstruction to do since 1945 but the time has come when efforts could be made to make the Singapore Harbour Board area more attractive.  A van from the Tourist Bureau-to-be could meet ships, pass out booklets explaining the town, provide telephones and taxis, distribute free samples of Singapore products.

Singapore’s industries could be made into tourist drawing cards.  Every visitor would like to have the thrill of snapping a piece of latex right on the rubber tree; seeing how rubber is processed; visiting a pineapple cannery; eating a coconut freshly picked.

There is big money in  tourism.  Singapore to be out getting more of it.

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 The impact of the tourist flood on a developing country

[Source:  The Straits Times, 7 June 1979]

In 1978, more than two million visitors came to Singapore, nearly one for every Singaporean, man, woman and child.  The number of tourists had doubled in the half decade since it hit one million in 1973.  What problems will this human flood bring in its train?  PETER STALKER looks at how it is affecting India, in a special report marking the UN Environment Programme’s World Environment Day.

The flow of tourists around the world is assuming dramatic proportions.  Trains and boats and planes disgorged some 243 million international passengers in 1977 and the number is now growing at 1 per cents a year.

And as ever more exotic horizons are opening up for the determined traveller, many of those who live on those horizons eagerly await the arrival of thicker and thicker wallets.

Tourism is indeed big business.  It now accounts for 5 per cent of international trade – US$50 billion (S$110 billion) a year.  But this year’s “State of the World Environment” report from the UN Environment Programme rings alarm bells on the potential impact, socialand physical, of this massive migration, particularly for developing countries.

How will the onrush of conspicuous wealth – the clothes, the cameras and the money – affect desperately poor societies like India?  How will ancient monuments that have lain undisturbed for centuries stand up to the buffeting of jumbo jet-loads of fast-moving humanity?

There are people in India who neither know nor care about such things, and take pains to place themselves in the firing line.  For US$6 a month 20-year-old Afaq Ahmed rents a hole in the wall near the Taj Mahal, leaping out every few minutes or so to try and divert the stream of toursists:

“Just come and look!  You get carvings cheaper here than in government shop.”  Then, surrounded by his marble elephants, jars and chess sets, he haggles over the price.

“I do OK.  My father he was a shoemaker, but I prefer this.  I like to talk to people and I can make more money here.  Look, I started with just US$60, now I can earn about US$100 a month.”

And the money he earns ripples through the rest of the local economy.  Some estimates put the “tourist multiplier” at four to one, so that each dollar is effectively spent three times more after it passes through Afaq’s hands.

In fact, keeping the tourist cash in the country is one of the major headaches for those poor countries which do manage to attract foreign visitors.

Tourists expect comfort, in the hotels they stay in, the vehicles they ride in and the food they eat.  But if the original investment is made by foreign corporations, or if the things the travellers demand have to be imported, the tourist cash can disappear on the next plane back.

Certainly, when it comes to luxury hotels the Indians can do things in style.  The sleek and opulent Ashoka hotel in Delhi is a real city within a city.  Inside you could be in any country in the world.

But the real world does not go away.

The tourist in India will, when he leaves the comfort of his hotel, trip over the bodies of people sleeping rough on the streets.  And, not surprisingly, he himself will be the object of attention.

For no matter how modestly dressed, tourists shine as a beacon of wealth around which the poor will congregate.

There can also be a resentment against wealthy tourists.  The problem is that when it occurs, it is bound up with so many other issues – economic, cultural and racial – that the part the tourists themselves play is difficult to disentangle.

“Tourists won’t cause resentment here,” one wealthy Indian explained to me.  “There have always been such gross disparities between the lives of rich and poor Indians that the tourists are hardly going to add significantly to it.

“And then again the Indians are such a fatalist people.  They accept poverty and wealth as the will of God.”

That may be wishful thinking.  But it is certainly true that the ordinary Indian off the tourist track has an open-hearted acceptance of travellers of any kind, however wealthy.

As one young American girl making her way around India on a few dollars a day said:  “If it was the last piece of food that they had they would insist that you sat down and ate it with them.”

Indeed it is these jeans-clad overlanders who probably get closest to the spirit of Indian life.  If tourism has the chance to contribute to a measure of international understanding this is where it is likely to be.

Mr Sunil Roy, a former Director-General of Tourism, explained that they also bring an indirect benefit to the economy which is not often realised.

“When these young people sit down at the roadside and eat off a stall, the money goes direct to the shopkeeper and then from him to the vegetable dealer or whoever.  Whereas with the hotel money a lot of it stays on top, in salaries and administration.”

In fact, India’s attitude to low-budget tourism is likely to play a key part in the way that the tourist flood affects the environment.

The luxury hotels that have scarred the coastlines during massive building booms in Europe, with waters clogged by effluent far beyond the cvapabilities of the sewerage system are looked on with some horror.

“We don’t want mass tourism,” said Ms Anjari Metha, the Indian Government’s Additional Director-General of Tourism.  “We want people to come here who will understand the country and who won’t be a threat to the environment.”

She argued that in any case it wouldn’t be practical to deal with people en masses.  Japanese tourists for example, who want to look at Buddhist shrines, “will often find they are in isolated spots with no facilities for tourists at all.”

She took me over to a model in the corner of her office.  “This is the kind of tourist village we need to build.  It will use local technology for simple buildings, maybe bio-gas for heating and light.”

It is hoped that the tourists will take things as they find them and accept the local standards.  “And maybe,” she added, “The local people can also take their cue and use some of the ideas here to improve their own homes.”  –  UN Environment Programme.

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What our tourists complain about …  And how the STPB acts

By Judith Hale

[Source:  New Nation, 7 November 1980]

Acting on complaints is one of several ways the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board can safeguard tourist interests.  And it is important to protect thier ingerests as revenue from tourism is too important for Singapore to lose.  Find out how the STPB goes about doing this.

One tourist complained about a tour guide who had brought two “female impersonators” to perform an illegal show in a hotel room. (See picture above).

An Arab gentleman felt he was discriminated against because a bus driver and hotel porters refusted to help him carry his luggage.

A Britisher, brought to a shop by a tout, grumbled about being made to pay for his beer after he decided not to buy anything there.

Yet another visitor complained about a Szechuan duck ordered in a restaurant which was served looking like a “deflated mess”.

Reading this you might conclude that our tourists are a troublesome lot.  To some degree, they are.

While Singaporeans who absent-mindedly leave their umbrellas somewhere would promptly forget all about them, one tourist actually bothered to complain to the board about losing hers.

The board has the unenviable task of listening, reading, recording and acting upon every single complain from tourists provided of course, thge name of the offending place or person is given.  The number of complaints amounted to 607 in 1979, up 132 from the year before but the increase is not alarming considering the jump in the number of visitors coming here.

Most of the complaints are against overcharging and non-delivery of goods rather than messy ducks.

STPB writes to the establishments named stating that a complaint has been lodged and asks for an explanation.

Over the years, it has learnt that the visitor may not always be right.

In the duck case, for instance, the board learned that the restaurant had not charged the customer for the dish.

And in the touting incident, the shopkeeper replied that the Britisher had provoked him into charging for the beer by loudly declaring in front of other customers that the goods sold in the shop were very expensive.

There was nothing more that the board could do.  While it frowns upon touting it is not empowered to prosecute any establishment which indulge in the practice.

But this is something to be working towards.  Meanwhile, the board is fairly successful in taking offending establishments to task when the complaints, especially of non-delivered or damaged goods, are genuine.

Complaints about over-charging are more difficult to resolve.  As an official pointed out: “No one forces you to buy something.  This is a free enterprise system and that’s why we always advise tourists to shop around before buying.”  Acting on complaints in one of several ways tourists are safeguarded in Singapore.

You might wonder why it is necessary to protect their interests at all since they are more or less here today and gone the next.

The reason is that Singapore’s reputation as a good place to visit has to be maintained.  If tourissts complain and nothing is done about it, word will soon spread that Singapore is an unscrupulous place and one to be bypassed if possible.

The country needs the tourism revenue too much to allow this to happen.

So apart from having a complaints bureau of sorts, STPB has also set up a compensation fund regulated by a committee chaired by the board director, Mr K. C. Yuen.

On April 1, the fund at a comfortable sum of $481,111.

This comes from travel agencies which have to pay cash contributions and furnish bank guarantees when they are licensed.

The funds are used to compensate individual travellers who are victims of fuinancial collapse or malpractices of agencies.

The third safeguard STPB has is the close monitoring of travel agencies.  Apart from prosecuting unlicensed companies and acting as agencies, the board takes a good look at their accounts before renewing their licences each year.

Checks are made on whether complaints have been made against them too.

There have been several cases of the board refusing to renew licences.  This sort of control reduces the likelihood of malpractice of financial collapse.  Another less successful attempt to protect tourists from the unscrupulous has been accepting shops as associate members.

This entitles them to display STPB signs which enhance their reputation.  However, some of the shops have not lived up to this reputation as they are repeatedly mentioned in complaints.

Perhaps, the board should cancel the associate membership of repeat offentders.  Otherwise, STPB’s endorsement via the sign, may leave victims of malpractices wondering if the board approves of the duping of tourists.

City Sightseeing Tours for Tourists

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Your Singapore is waiting!  Explore and travel freely around the city with a hop-on hop-off bus.  Take a seat on the top deck of the bus and get ready to surround yourself with the intoxicating sights and sounds of Singapore.  This is a great introduction to all the best landmarks and attractions and if you choose a flexible hop-on hop-off bus tour, visitors are free to ride the buses at their own pace.  Touring Singapore independently has never been so easy!

Find out here .

Tourism in Singapore then and now.

Once upon a time, coffin shops in Sago Lane.  Now, every tourist to capture a photo with the Merlion to bring back the memories of Singapore home.  They are singing this song  …..  “I left my heart in Singapore!”.

lwxtourist251017

 

New Tampines Central Post Office

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What last heritage blog should I post at the end of 2019?

I happened to pass by Tampines Central this morning and noticed that new Tampines Central Post Office is opened today and found it interesting to share on this blog.

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The post office is located directly opposite the Tampines Central bus interchange and very convenient to reach it.

This is not an ordinary post office available in Singapore.  Stamps, gifts, collectibles are sold in Tampines Central Post Office.  SingPost is very innovative and creative to offer postal services to the customers.

The place is not very big, but not crowded because most of the self-service are provided with computerised vending machines and the staff serve the customers fast and efficiently.

Look at the philatelic gifts to discover the story of the nation through stamps.

My blogger friend, Tan Wee Kiat have written several interesting educational books about stamps here .
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The layout, design and concept of this modern post office is very user-friendly and comfortable for the customers to take their drinks when thirsty and to wait for their services and very relaxed.  The post office staff are helpful and friendly, and I had a chat with a few of them.

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Have a visit to the Tampines Central Post Office and learn many new stuff of evolution of postal services in Singapore.

It reminds me of the General Post Office where I first visited five decades ago to buy a First Day Cover.

Fullerton’s history relived

With thanks to NewspaperSG and National Archives of Singapore for the resources on this topic.

By Huang Huifen [Source:  The Straits Times, 9 July 2010].

The hotel’s past as the General Post Office is seen in a permanent exhibition.

You can post a letter at The Fullerton again – 14 years after it ceased operations as the Republic’s General  Post Office.

No, the luxurious hotel has not reverted to its original use.  But a colonial-style red pillar post box located outside the newly launched Fullerton Heritage Gallery in the building will function as a regular mailbox.  Letters posted there will carry the Fullerton stamp.

The 500kg mailbox flown specially from Britain is part of a permanent exhibition of photographs and artefacts which traces the history of the Fullerton Building from a fort to post office to its present day use as a hotel.

There is another functioning postbox at the hotel’s Post Bar.

sp_posting_box_red_coin_bank_latestcspbspc1It is the brainchild of Mr Giovanni Viterale, the Italian general manager of The Fullerton Heritage, a company which manages properties in the Fullerton Heritage precinct.  These include The Fullerton Waterboat House, One Fullerton, Clifford Pier, The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore and Customs House.

Mr Viterale, who arrived in Singapore in early 2010, was immediately fascinated by the rich history of the area.

“It has so much to tell about the history of the building and Singapore.  We feel that we should do something about it and bring back to life the history of this monument,” he says.

The gallery’s exhibits include the Foundation Stone, a monument erected outside the building in 197o by Singapore’s first president Yusof Ishak as a tribute to the early settlers.

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Other attractions include philatelic items such as a 1906 picture-less postcard, a letter from Chicago which made a stop in Singapore enroute to Europe in 1935, and a weighing scale.

The history of the Fullerton precinct is also told through photographs, maps and building plans.  The collection of 70 artefacts were brought from the National Archives, National Museum of Singapore and Singapore Philatelic Museum.

Paintings of the Fullerton precinct by Cultural Medallion recipient Ong Kim Seng can also be seen.

The National Heritage Board’s Heritage Industry Incentive Programme, which supports private players in developing heritage attractions, funded half of the gallery’s start-up costs.

For the first postmaster-general, Mr Bala Subramanion, 93, the gallery captured one of his fondest memories of his 35 years of service in the post office.

A photograph which showed him receiving the Public Service Gold Medal from Mr Yusof in 1965 is prominently featured in the gallery.

He says that he hopes the gallery will go beyond merely showcasing the history of the building to rekindling the warm feeling of receiving traditional mail.

“I hope this gallery will remind Singaporeans of the pleasure of accepting a cover from a friendly posstman, looking at the postage stamp affixed on it and reading it with interest.  I still enjoy sending and receiving greeting cards through the post,” he says.

Fullerton building: From GPO to national landmark

90-YEAR-OLD STRUCTURE GAZETTED AS 71ST NATIONAL MONUMENT
By Stacey Lim [Source: TODAY, 8 December 2015]

Overlooking the mouth of the Singapore River and the heart of the Central Business District, the Fullerton Hotel’s colossal two-storey Doric colonnade bore witness, for almost nine decades, to the growth of the country through the colonial and pre-independence era till today.

Before its present day incarnation as a five-star hotel, the building was home to the former General Post Office, and over different periods of time, housed government offices and departments where some of the Republic’s pioneer leaders began their careers, as well as a hospital providing makeshift operation rooms for wounded British soldiers during World War II.

On 8 December, 2015, the iconic eight-storey building – which was declared open on June 27, 1928 – was given its own place in history when it was gazetted as Singapore’s 71st National Monument.

The gazetting ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as well as Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who had worked at the building in his days with the Economic Planning Unit in the 1960s.

PM Lee himself had fond memories of the building.  During General Elections, political parties would hold lunchtime rallies at Fullerton Square and his father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, delivered “many stirring and memorable speeches” there, as his mother listened from the balcony of the building, he said.

The speech of the Prime Minister to watch on YouTube video here , with courtesy of the Prime Minister’s office.

“When I first entered politics in 1984, I too spoke at the Fullerton Square rally, which back then was still at Fullerton Square,” PM Lee said.  “Today we still call it the ‘Fullerton Rally’, but it’s actually at the UOB Plaza promenade at Boat Quay.”

Tracing the history of the building, which sstarted out as the General Post Office, PM Lee noted that it was an important point of reference for public roads in Singapore.

Back then, the British used the milestone system for measuring road distances and the post office was “Mile Zero”.  During the Japanese Occupation, the building became the headquarters of the Japanese Military Administration.  Throughout the years, the building was home to many government offices.

“The transformation of this building reminds us of how far Singapore has come together as a nation.  In its lifetime, we have developed from Third World to First,” PM Lee said.

He added: “When the Governor Sir Hugh Clifford opened this building in 1928, he said that “the building is, and will be for many years, one of the principal landmarks of Singapore’.

“Almost 90 years later, his words remain true.  I am sure this buiding will continue to stand proud and handsome, and witness an even more prosperous and vibrant Singapore for many years to come.”

Under the Preservation of Monuments Act, gazetted buildings are preserved with the highest form of recognition for its national significance.  Each National Monument has its own tailored set of preservation guidelines.

Made of reinforced concrete, the facade of Fullerton Hotel encompasses ornate classical decorations that were created by Swiss sculptor Rudolf Wening and Italian sculptor Cavaliere Rudolf Nolli, who was also responsible for the sculptural works at the former Supreme Court and the College of Medicine building.

Former marine officer Capt P J Thomas, 73, said that he holds many memories of the former Fullerton Building.  He said: “However, the one that still remains vivid in my mind is standing on the balcony outside my office, looking at the clock on Victoria Memorial Hall, enjoying the cool breeze and adjusting my watch.”

At the time of its completion, the building represented Singapore’s status as the prime postal unit in British Malaya – there were 14 lifts in the building and the post office had automated mail-sorting equipment.

Mr M Bala Subramanion, 90, for mer Postmaster General, remembered how there was a tunnel from the building into the sea for postal boats to deliver and collect mail.

“The tunnel, measuring about 10ft high and 8ft broad, was large enough to enable assisstant postmen to push trolleys carrying the postal bags,” he said.

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Hawker parents for their children’s education

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She made her hawker parents proud

[Source:  The Straits Times, 1 August 1997]

Her parents, both hawkers, urged her daily to study hard so that she could have a better life than they did.

On 31 July, 1997, they had the satisfaction of seeing her graduate from Temasek Polytechnic as its best business student.

Miss Toh Chew Hong, 20 (photo above), earned that accolade and a Singapore Technology Gold Medal with a final report card of eight As and 19 distinctions.

As she went on stage to receive her prizes and business diploma, she was accompanied by her beaming parents, Msr Toh Seng Song, 47 and Madam Ang Poh Lian, 41.

The couple have sold prawn mee and laksa at a rented stall in Serangoon North coffeeshop for the past five years.

Besides Miss Toh, who is now an assistant tax officer with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, they have another daughter, and two teenaged sons.

They work 12-hour days, seven days a week, taking only one day off a month.  Some days they are up as early as 5 am.

Miss Toh helps out at the stall on weekends.  She said: “I know what it’s like to work in a coffeeshop stall – it’s hot, its stuffy.  So I really appreciate what they have done for me.”

She now plans to study accountancy at the Nanyang Technological University.

He kept his promise

Three years ago, Nsg Lip Chye nearly missed getting a place in Temasek Polytechnic because his application was too late for admission.

Yesterday, he won a Lee Kuan Yew Award for being the top technology students to graduate from the polytechnic.

The 20-year-old National Serviceman bagged seven As and 22 distinctions during his three-year Diploma in Electronics course.

Quite a feat for a youth who had missed the deadline for applying for the course in the last week of June 1994.

Desperate, he begged the polytechnic’s admissions counsellors to give him a chance and promised that he would study hard, if admitted.

They did, and he kept his promise, scoring nine distinctions in his first-year examinations.

Friends saw her through

She went blind in her left eye just as she was preparing for her second-year polytechnic examinations.

Blood vessels in her eye had burst.

To add to her woes, she could not pay her school fees as her medical bills were mounting.

But her mother, friends and lecturers rallied round to help.

Today, Miss Ong Sok Kim, 23, now working in a financial audit firm, holds a diploma in accounting and finance from Temasek Polytechnic.

She had to fight long odds to get it.

The injury in her left eye in late 1995 was caused by complications arising from the diabetes she had been suffering from since she was 15.  An operation failed to save the sight in the afflicted eye.

She read her notes and sat for some of her papers while in hospital.

Friends and lecturers helped by enlarging her notes and examination papers so that she could read them better.

Her mother also took to sewing clothes for manufacturers to supplement the family income and to help meet the hospital bills, while Miss Ong took a bursary and a book grant and worked part-time to pay the rest of her fees.

Despite the hardship she has been through, she is cheerful.  “I plan to upgrade myself by taking further courses in accountancy.”

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She is doing grandma proud

By Dawn Quek
[Source:  Today, 7 July 2005]

JC dropout wins Lee Kuan Yew Award

Four years ago, Dian Farziana Mohd Farid was skipping classes at Anglo-Chinese Junior Colleg.

Yesterday, she became the first Malay student to win the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew award, which is given to the top graduates from mathematics or science-related courses at secondary. pre-university and polytechnic levels.

The 20-year-o;d Singapore Polytechnic (SP) graduate also won a Public Service Commission (PSC) Merit Scholarship from the Ministry of Education, after bagging 38 distinctions during her three years at SP.

Dian dropped out of junior college after her first year to enter the polytechnic and quietly worked her way to the top of her cohort.  Her family members did not even know.

Said her paternal grandmother Madam Salmah Rahman: “I was shocked.  She had distinctions all the way from Year 1!”

Dian cites her late maternal grandmother, whom she lived with, as her inspiration.

She recalls visiting her often at her workplace at the then Kandang Kerbau Hospital.

It was there that Dian developed an interest in medicine and biology.

Said the graduate:  “To me, my late grandmother epitomises what a woman should be.

“Not only was she successful in her career as a head nurse, she was also a mother of four, my mentor, guide, friend and ‘mother’ all rolled into one.”

However, Dian is not planning to be a nurse.

She wants to get a degree in biomedical science, then teach biology and chemistry in a secondary school.

Another winner at the awards ceremony was Han Zhihang, who was given the Toh Chin Chye Gold Medal – one of the polytechnice’s four top institutional awards.

Despite suffering from juvenile arthritis since he was 15, Zhihang topped his Computer & Technology course.

The 22-year-old wants to get a degree in Computer Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University and, like Dian, plans to teach once he graduates.

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Poly grad owes his success to hard times

By Shahida Ariff
[Source:  The Straits Times, 19 July 2002]

His outlook on life changed after his father’s near-fatal accident forced him to take up odd jobs at 13

Singapore Polytechnic graduate Thum Yew Leong had to grow up fast when his father was almost killed in a traffic accident in 1994.

The accident left his father with serious lung injuries and unable to work again.  So, at the age of 13, Mr Thum started working during school holidays to help support his father and family.

But he also worked hard at his studies, and on his graduation day next month, he will receive two gold medals and five book prizes as the top student in the diploma in maritime transportation (management) course.

Mr Thum, who is now doing his national service, said his father’s accident, and the financial prssures which came with it, changed his outlook on life.

“I used to be mischievous in class and didn’t study much,” said the soft-spoken 20-year-old.  “But after the accident, I told myself to put more effort in my studies and help lighten the family’s burden.”

His 16-year-old brother is studying in a secondary school and his 50-year-old mother works as a chambermaid.

From Secondary 1 until last month, he spent his school breaks doing various jobs, from waiting on tables at a hotel to doing odd jobs at a shoe factory.

When he started out, he took home just $20 for a day’s work, of which half went to his family.

In later years, he got double that amount, but he remained prudent, confining his spending to an occasional compact disc or movie.

“I learnt how hard life can be,” he sid.

“The environment in the working world was not sheltered, like in school.  So I told myself to work hard so I can progress to a higher level and get better jobs.”

At the polytechnic, he scored distinctions and As for 27 of the 37 modules he took.

He plans to go to university to do a business-related or logistics course, and then in the marine industry.

His father, Mr Thum Weng Soon, 49, said he was proud of his son’s achievements.

“I’m very happy he did well.  I hope to see him do well in the university and to his work.”

Another proud parent was retiree Lim Poh Swee, 63, whose son, Kok Heng, won the Tay Eng Soon gold medal, awarded to the polytechnic’s top Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduate.

The 24-year-old Mr Lim, who is now working as a senior officer at NatSteel, entered the ITE in 1993 after failing his Primary School Leaving Examination.

Said his father:  “In primary school, I had no hope for him, his results were very bad.  Now, I’m so proud.”

Are the children of hawkers, coolies, bus drivers, odd job labourers and other low-income parents ashamed of their parents or did not reveal to their friends the type of work their parents do?  Did they appreciate and be thankful to their parents who have to go through hardship to earn a living and to send their children to schools and universities?

Something to learn about the ways of people who have rich or poor parents from the article below:

IMG_20191223_152202.jpgMiss Melissa Kwee

[Source:  New Paper, 25 February 2000]

She’s filthy rich but …

Her family is behind the massive Millenia Singapore development at Marina Centre, owns he Regent Hotel and several residential properties.  But Melissa Kwee does her own laundry and cleans her room herself.  GENEVIEVE HANG meets a woman determined to live a life less extraordinary.

RICH.  Many people dream of being that. Rich. Life would be so easy, if you are rich.  Just kick off your shoes and relax.

Well, you would think that is what Miss Melissa Kwee does all the time.

Her father is a multi-millionaire.  She lives in a semi-detached house with two maids.  And she doesn’t need to work for a living.

But getting her to talk about her wealth is like squeezing water out of stone.  She will have none of that rich-lifestyle story.

Indeed Miss Kwee, 28, who belongs to the family which owns a Pontiac Land, takes great pains to live a life less extraordinary.

She says she does the laundry and cleans her own room.  No caviar and smoked salmon for her.  More like popiah at a hawker centre.  And yes, she takes the bus and MRT most of the time, although she has a car.

She is in T-shirt and jeans, with hardly any make-up on her face.

During our interview at Millenia Tower, she waved and smiled at almost anyone who walked by, even the security officer.

No one would guess that she’s the daughter of the man who owns the tower, Mr Kwee Liong Tek, 54.

Said Miss Kwee, the eldest of four children: “I know that I’m blessed.  That’s why I try not to waste, and use whatever resources available to me to do something worthwhile.”

She set up Project Access (PAX) in 1996, a company which designs programmes for secondary schools and junior colleges, to help develop leadership qualities in young people.

She is now busy with an Aids awareness campaign.

PAX is non-profit organisation.  Miss Kwee says it earns enough to support herself and her crew, though she admits her parents pay for a part of her monthly expenditure.

“I haven’t come across many nasty people saying that I’m some rich girl with too much time.  And I don’t feel like people don’t take me seriously.

“Nothing bothers me,” said the Harvard University anthropology graduate.  She took time out from college to spend a year in Nepal teaching and doing research work.

Said her mother Mrs Donna Kwee, 54, a housewife: “Of course, we were worried, but Melissa has always had this adventurous spirit and confidence that she can make a difference in other people’s lives.

SUPPORTIVE PARENTS

“And as parents, we don’t want to stand in the way of her ideals.  We’re supportive of what she does, so long as she doesn’t hurt herself or others.”

Miss Kwee recalled the trip:  “The first night I was there, I had to sleep in the loft of a barn.  There were buffaloes and chickens below me.  I couldn’t sleep the whole night, but it was quite an expereince!”

For a year, she lived without proper toilets, electricity or telephones – and without complaining.

“But it was worth it because you see them ploughing the field and singing and whistling.  There’s this sense of fun in all they do.  It’s a great attitude to have.”

When she’s not working, she relaxes with her family at home.

Or goes for a picnic with friends at the Botanic Gardens.

Fiercely protective of her privacy, she declined to tell us if she was seeing anyone special.

So how does she see herself 10 years down the road?

“Probably happy, with lots of kids, taking long walks by the beach!”

She (Melissa Kwee) has no airs at all.  She never mentions her family connections, I think she doesn’t need to.  She’s always nice and very down to earth

– An acquaintance of Miss Kwee’s, who declined to be named.