Long Time No See, Friends


Humans, not places, make memories”  –  Ama Ata Aidoo

My old-timer friend of over 30 years and former neighbor at Clementi West Street 1, Thomas Lim, gave me a surprise at the Drama Box “IgnorLAND Of Its Time” Town Hall Meetings at Blk 42A, Havelock Road, Singapore on July 19, 2014.


“Long time no see, my old friend!” we both shouted out loudly as we shook our hands warmly and firmly.  “Its great to meet again after so many years”.  We were like kids again as we had a strong, hard bear-hug, with decades of memories floating in our minds …

Our long, lost friends were found to add as friends on Facebook network to contact via Internet only a week ago.  Thanks to Facebook as an effective “Lost and Found Friends” service.

Thomas and I were the pioneer members of the West Coast Zone 3 Residents Committee when we first moved into the new Clementi West housing estate in 1978.

At the Drama Box “IgnorLAND Of Its Time Town Hall Meeting at Bukit Ho Swee” event, we were introduced to Kok Heng Leun, Koh Hui Ling, Han Xuemei, Jean Tay and our Drama Box friends.

We need more time to catch-up and have a drink after the program.


I didn’t know that Thomas was a former Bukit Ho Swee resident after the fire when he was young.  He shared interesting nostalgic memories and stories with other Bukit Ho Swee former neighbors at the Town Hall meeting.  A lady participant brought her old photos to share with us.







Uncle raised his hand to tell us “Yes, I remember that place at Bukit Ho Swee …”

With thanks to Drama Box with the laminated old photos with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore to be used at the Bukit Ho Swee Heritage Trail shared here:


These photos were shown to the audience that the archived photos taken during the Bukit Ho Swee fire on May 25, 1961 captured by a Straits Times journalist during the poignant moments of the old man with only some clothing in his hand as he watched at the dark billowing sky and his home destroyed.   (Photo above).

Another photo of the fire victims and their young daughter crying and the mother with a cloth sack of belongings.  The shirtless father was apparently telling the family that it was the end of the world without home, without money, without hope for survival.  We were like refugees during wartime.

However,  the 16,000 fire victims managed to survive the calamity with the help of the generous philanthropists, community leaders, social welfare departments, the charitable organisations and the Government to provide public housing, clothings, food, school text books, donations in cash and kind to  persevere through the hard times during that period 53 years ago.



It was a meaningful sharing afternoon session with Bukit Ho Swee residents who remember the transformation of Singapore from the time of the Bukit Ho Swee fire on 25 May 1961 until the Bukit Ho Swee housing estate today.  They pointed to the high-rise HDB apartments at Havelock View now and the lessons from the fire hazard in the attap and wooden settlement, the development and environment at Bukit Ho Swee for an improved and better place for Singaporeans to live over the decades of development and changes.

Note:  The photos posted on this blog with kind courtesy of Drama Box.

Photography & Design:  Zinkie Aw

Contact: awzinkie.com/photos

Email: zinkie.aw@gmail.com

One thought on “Long Time No See, Friends

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