A Mind Trip to Old Sembawang

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In this closed-up photo, the movie poster of Sultan Theatre was prominently displayed above the corner fruit stall.  The street sign of Chong Pang Road is at the junction of Chong Pang Road and Sembawang Road.

After watching the YouTube video “Old Chong Pang in Sembawang” by Norman  Wong (the link is posted at the bottom of the blog), I was inspired to blog my personal “mind trip” with selected captured screen still photos as a journey taken in my mind alone, a stimulating mental experience.

Chong Pang and Sembawang where I lived for 3 years in mid-1970s have changed vastly beyond recognition from the same familiar places today.  These photos from Norman’s video are the precious “memory-aids” for nostalgia friends of Chong Pang and Sembawang.  Please join me on a “virtual walk down the memories” of our favorite streets of Singapore in the past in the “photo journal blog”.

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Did you notice the many “yellow-top taxis” in the photo above?

Sembawang old-timers would remember that the “taxi-pooling pick-up point” for travelling from Sembawang to town and back to Sembawang would board the taxi at another pick-up point in town at Arab Street.  Each passenger paid 80 cents and the maximum of 5 persons in each taxi.  The passenger may alight anywhere along the way and are charged according to the distance they travelled.

Similarly, vacant seats available along the way would pick-up passengers and charged the taxi fare accordingly.  It works as the same way of “pirate taxis” (pah ong chia) system in the past.

Walking Towards Chong Pang

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The Chong Pang town center where the villagers gathered usually in the evening for food, shopping or meet friends and neighbors at the shops or “kopitiam” (coffee shops) in the vicinity of Sultan Theatre.

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The Watering Holes” of Chong Pan

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There were at least 3 or 4 coffee-shops with various food stalls in the area.  I was a regular at the various stalls for meals and the favorite food for chicken rice, laksa, rojak, satay, “char kway teow”, ice kachang and those mentioned by our friends of the “Old Sembawang Naval Base Nostalgic Lane” group on Facebook.  Thanks for their comments to share and add-on to the collective memories of old Sembawang.

Sembawang Outpatient Dispensary

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The Sembawang Outpatient Dispensary is located at the Chong Pang kampong, a short distance away from the Sultan Theatre and the town center.

Sometime in 1970, I was deployed to the Sembawang OPD when I was working as a “relief cashier” when the permanent cashier was on annual leave.  It was my first visit to Sembawang and I loved the rural kampong environment, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The village folks I met are friendly, humble and helpful

I was then stationed at the Outpatient Services Headquarters, Ministry of Health at Maxwell Road.

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As fate would have it, I found myself to move from my former flat at Jalan Rumah Tinggi, hundreds of miles away from west to the northern parts of Singapore to stay for 3 years in Sembawang; during my young days and was then single.  My room-mate, David and I rented a room in a wooden house at Sembawang 13 1/4 milestone.  The reason for moving house because I had a change of job in town to Woodlands, which was nearer and more convenient to stay in Sembawang at that time.

Pasar Malam at Chong Pang

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The “pasar malam” or “night market” was common in the 1970s and opened in the late afternoon for the roadside open-air stalls at Chong Pang.  All sorts of stuff were available and the prices of these items were cheaper than those sold in the shops.

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After moving out of Chong Pang Road and moved towards the left of the fruit stall in the first photo above, I could remember the century-old “Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea” located at the Sembawang main road.  On the left of the church was the post office which I did not have a photo to share.

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On the left of the church was the “Canberra Gate”, the main entrance into the Naval Base, where Sembawang Shipyard was located.  Another rig-builder, Bethlehem Shipyard was located inside the Naval Base.

The Sembawang Naval Base was built by the British government during the 1920s and 30s. Opened in 1938, the base was meant to play a significant role in the British Empire’s strategic defences against external threats in the Far East, particularly from Japan. The base was occupied by Japanese forces during World War II but reverted to British control in 1945 when Japan surrendered. With the withdrawal of British forces in the late 1960s, the base was converted in 1968 into a government-linked commercial shipyard known as Sembawang Shipyard Pte Ltd. It is now known as Sembcorp Marine Ltd and forms part of the public-listed group, Sembcorp Industries.

Another side gate (photo below) of the entrance into Naval Base.

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The old-fashioned bus-stop inside Naval Base is indeed an unique design which brought nostalgic memories to the heritage fans and former residents of Sembawang.

The “Patio”  in Sembawang

The “patio” was a small lane with several stalls of wooden shacks selling popular food. The stalls were opened in the evening and popular local dishes such as satay, mee goreng, soup kambing, “John Roti” and the “chop suey”, the favorite  Chinese dish which the ANZUK servicemen enjoyed.

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The “Patio” was squeezed between a row of shophouses and another row of bars in Sembawang (photos below).  The tables and chairs were spilled out from the lane of the  “patio” and occupied outside the shops.  At nightfall, the place was crowded with many “Ang Moh” servicemen from Australia, New Zealand and UK (ANZUK) before their withdrawal from Singapore in 1968.

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Here I end my “mind trip” to share with my Sembawang friends.  There are many interesting stuff about Sembawang which I hope other nostalgia bloggers could tell their stories and share collective memories on their blogs.  Sembawang is not a small place in early Singapore, especially during the colonial days when the Naval Base was the most important dry docks outside of Britain, built by the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles.

Thanks to Norman Wong for producing the “Old Chong Pang in Sembawang” video clip on Youtube to share here .

He said: “I would like to dedicate this clip to all those who once lived there, I hope this clip brings back some warm & sweet memory to you” and:

This clip will not be possible without the help from the kind following individuals:

From Singapore:

Ms Milo Swang, Ms Karen Lim, Mr Philip Chew, Mr Jerome Lim, Mr Lee Kip Lin, Mr James Seah, Mr Derek Tait, Mr Sean Fransus, Mr Ari Chandren, Mr Vincent Joseph, Ms Belen Tan, Mr Sebastian Phua, Mr Peter Lek, Mr Lawrence Alan Soh, Mr Kamal Abun Serah, Mr Loh Koah Fong;

From New Zealand:

Mr Ingo Wilhelm, Mr Stephen Rosser;

From United Kingdom:

Mr Paul Hockey, Mr Randal McDowell, Mr George Hardington, Mr Dennis N Nor Hardman.

Very special thanks to the following groups:

Old Sembawang Naval Base Nostalgic Lane .

The National Library Board

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