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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Dec 2, 2014

Memories of Provision Shops in Singapore

The provision shop in the rural areas in 1960s.

The place where I was born in 1948 was located at No. 608A, Havelock Road in Bukit Ho Swee, Singapore.

In this intuitive blog to turn back the clock to 66 years ago when I was born, I now visualize what happened to me as a child.   This is for brain exercise.

From the day I was born until maybe 5 or 6 years old, I could not remember about anything.  My mind was a blank to try to recollect my memories as my baby years. Nothing to think about, no memories to blog.

At that age, I needed only to eat, drink, sleep daily and to grow bigger in a natural and normal way while my mother fed me as a baby in my growing up stage.

It was amazing for me to know that I was once a baby like everyone.   There was nothing special about me as I grew up as a human person.  I was told that I was an active, chubby baby and like to smile with everyone I meet.  Everything was new and curious to me when I came into this world.

It sounds like I was kinda funny but my mother was happy to hear complimentary remarks, such as "this baby is very chubby hor", "this baby likes to smile and laugh a lot", "very friendly, not afraid of strangers" blah, blah .....

When I watch my children and other babies, it must be how I behaved as a baby too.  Every generation recycles from babies to elderlies.

I was not a "cry-baby" who disliked strangers for no reasons. At other times I amuse others by giggling or laughing, I was told.  I am sure I must have cried and wailed as loud as I could to attract the attention of everyone when I was hungry, suffered pain, urinate or to shit.  The crying stopped when job is done.

As a toddler, my mother and my elder sisters would carry me around when I was awake at home or outside the house in the nearby kampong. There was a provision shop next to my birthplace.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore

Unfortunately I do not have any photos of me as a baby in the olden days, long before smartphone cameras to post on Facebook in a popular way.  The above photo is not of me but of about 2-year-old child slung with a sarong at the back of his mother at the provision shop in the way which I was carried around by my mother.

Next to my birthplace was an old grocery shop, a small wooden building in the Bukit Ho Swee kampong where I grew up for about 6 years and moved to another part of Bukit Ho Swee.  My birthplace and the old shop owned by Ah Bee and her father were destroyed in the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961.

 The shop was owned by our neighbors and family friends.It was a family business which Ah Bee, her father and her brother runs the shop for many years.

The shop was conveniently located at Havelock Road and the family lived at the back of the shop.  The kampong folks patronise the shop for decades and their customers became neighbors and friends.

My mother used to buy provision such as rice,  sugar, cooking oil and even salt from Ah Bee's shop.  We were trusted customers and able to supply us on credit without payment in cash for each purchase at the shop.  A small "555" note book was used as a record and produced at the end of the month when my father received his salary.

Other trusted neighbors like us were given a special service on credit terms.  Similar to "credit card system" of today's banks and other financial institutions ..... but no extra interest charged on the purchases.

In a way, I grew up as a child feeding "Lifeguard" condensed milk (not instant milk powder) on credit for many years until I was old enough to feed on porridge and non-solid food.

As my family was poor and I have grown up since young from "hands to mouth", we managed to survive with my father's job as a book-keeper at Kheng Seng Chan, a import export company at Telok Ayer Street.  He was the only breadwinner in the family then.

Without banks so commonly in the early days to provide loan services on credit, neighbors willingly bid tontines to use lump sum funds to tide over hard times for children's school fees to enter the university or to attend courses for their career future; or someone at home need emergency medical treatment in hospital.

I understand that Ah Bee and her father had helped my family and many poor neighbors in the kampong to offer credit for purchases of groceries from their shops and then return their payments from their salaries at a later date.

The "kampong spirit" relationship of the shopkeepers and customers in a tightly-knit community to help one another at times of hardship of the neighbors.  Mutual help, co-operation and honesty is the essence of the "kampong spirit" for a harmonious community.  The community bonding built a trust and loyalty to develop a long term relationship with gratitude.

Please watch the "Old Times - Singapore's Provision Shops" video on YouTube and spot the nostalgic stuff in the shop.

Did you notice the old "Milo" tin with a pulley and a rope used as a "money safe-box" container?

The shops in Singapore over a century were found by Singaporeans, mostly migrants from China, India, Indonesia and other neighboring countries.

To earn a living in the early days, the enterprising businessmen with some savings as capital to open shops to venture for profit as local traders.  For non-farming occupation and activities, the craftsmen with special skills would open shops for various businesses.

The shops at the kampong were few and wide apart. The village womenfolks were busy day and night with household chores - cleaning the house, laundry for the family, cooking the meals for the family, dish-washing after the meals.

We have to remember that electrical appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, electric cookers, electronic ovens, water heaters for shower on cold days, fans or air-conditioners on hot days etc to save time and energy for convenience in every home were either not affordable except the wealthier families or because the invented appliances were not available in the market until in the mid-1980s or 1990s.

Lets take a look at the provision shops in the 1970s in the rural areas archived photos curated on this blog with the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore to share our collective memories of traditional type of provision shops in Singapore in the old days.

The blinds with advertisements in front of the shop
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited the kampong shopkeepers in 1970

With urban renewal to develop many parts of Singapore in the 1970s, the kampongs in the rural areas were resettled and replaced by HDB satellite towns and housing estates.

Dwindling business in old estates where many have moved out, or having no one in the family to take over the business, have forced some shops to close down.

The old-fashioned and traditional friendly neighbourhood provision shops were affected by the modernised Singaporean lifestyle.

During the transition of the shopping experience in the old days as the younger generations of Singaporeans prefer to shop at the air-conditioned supermarkets with comfort and convenience.

There are very few traditional "kampong-type" provision shops in the older HDB housing estates stll exist today.  The shop owners were the pioneer generation Singaporeans who inherited from their parents or grandparents.

The younger generation shop owners would modify their business management methods, styles and layout of the shops as supermarket-lookalike for arrangement of the products on shelves, air-conditioned, price-tagging and fixed prices without bargaining by the customers as was common in the olden days.  New ways are now done with electronic devices to computerize the business for efficiency and improved services for customers satisfaction and delivery.

The "kampong-type" provision shop at Teban Gardens, Singapore.


Nov 15, 2014

Raffles City Then and Now

The Raffles City in Singapore over 30 years is stll young and not described as an old heritage building.  Many visitors to this place for their first time to Singapore wouldn't believe that this famous historical institution was located over a century ago. 

The surrounding buildings are blended with the modern designs and architectures developed and built in the 1980s. 

Like people and places, life is moving forward for the future with hopes and aspirations for improved conditions and situations,  memories of the past looks back.

These selected archived photos are curated with the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) to share the memories of Singapore on this nostalgia blog.

"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered...the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls...bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory"

"Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, and the past perfect!"
~ Owens Lee Pomeroy

The same space for a different purpose at different time.  The big school field for former students to play rugby and other games in 1950s disappeared and later replaced by the Raffles City Shopping Centre which was conferred the title "Best Shopping Experience (Shopping Centre)" by the Singapore Tourism Board in 1998.

The Raffles Institution was relocated to a modern building with latest design, better amenities and bigger school field to cater to the new generations of RI students.  Unlike the noisy heavy traffic sound of the former school in the city, the new RI is located with quiet environment and facilities.

Raffles Institution at its first site bounded by Stamford, North Bridge, Bras Basah and Beach Roads.  Established in 1823 as the Singapore Institution, it was demolished after 1973 when the school moved to Grange Road.

Group photograph of Raffles College.  On the right (front row) in Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Construction of Westin Stamford Hotel, Westin Plaza, Raffles City in 1980.  These archived photos contributed generously by David Ng to NAS.

Artist's impression of Raffles City (late 1980).  Photo credit: Singapore Tourist Promotion Board.

Building design model of Raffles City in 1980

The completed Raffles City as juxtaposed against the photo of the design model

Inside Raffles City -  direction to the Shopping Centre


Groundbreaking on the site took place on 14 August 1980 and officially opened to the public on 3 October 1986.

The complex was designed by l Pei in one of his earliest works in the city state.

Built on the former site of Raffles Institution, the first school in Singapore, and located beside the historic Raffles Hotel, its aluminium-finish and simple geometric designs gave a stark, modernist contrast to Victorian architecture and classical architecture which used to characterize architecture in that district.

The design includes the one-time world's tallest hotel and currently the world's fourteenth tallest hotel, the 73-storey Swissôtel .

The Stamford, as well as a 26 storey high-end twin-tower hotel, the Fairmont Singapore.

The three blocks are complemented by the rectangular 42-storey Raffles City Tower, an office block.


 On 1 January 2002, the two hotels were rebranded as the Swissôtel The Stamford and Raffles The Plaza (now Fairmont Singapore]) when FRHI Hotels & Resorts took over the hotels' management.


Nov 11, 2014


叶金富遇到困难时总喜欢自己摸索,不喜欢向人求助。享受自我挑战的乐趣。摄影 - 黄施嫣

曾是"暴龙" 级的科技恐龙,退休后却化身科技达人。在网上畅所欲言,竟引來匿名恐吓。曾是体肓健将,却因一场运动意外,被告知不能再踏上球场。58芕毅然离开坚守38年的工作岗位,乐龄生活却是一刻也不得闲。


文• 萧佳慧

"杀人很好玩,多杀几个也不错。"  这是匿名网友在叶金富部落格上写下的留言。

2010 年底,销声匿迹多年的本地私会党 "369" 死灰复燃,金富在部落上撰文严厉谴责这些 "三牲仔" (私会党) "懦弱","没出息","混帐",结果竟引来网友恐吓。


每天早上,他一起床就会启动电脑,打理好家中宠物和植物后,就在电脑前耗上数小时-- -- 査阅电邮,阅读新闻,搜寻乌克丽丽 (ukulele) 乐谱,浏览社交网站等。

加入部落格一族长达五年,金富目前拥有四个部落格 --- --- 三个不同主题的个人部落格以及一个家族部落格,写作灵感除了來自日常生活和时事新闻,还有他收藏了几十年的剪报,数量多达50份厚三,四公分的文件夹。"我的剪报足够让我再写30年的文章,写到100 岁绰绰有余。"

金富活跃的网络生活让他在小女儿叶丽心 (35岁) 的提名下获颁 "2008 年活跃乐龄资讯通信推动奖"。年长者学上网已经不是新鲜事,但金富和其他不曾接触电脑的同辈不同,因为他强烈抗拒了近20 年。

电脑科技在80 年代末开走入本地职场,当时就任华中初级学院体肓部门主任的金富时常需要利用电脑处理行政事务。不过,已步入中年的他学起这们新技术自然不如年轻老师们得心应手。


网络在本地越来越普及化,新加坡资讯通信发展管理解局 (IDA) 也在 2007 年推出锒发族资信计划 (Silver Infocomm Initiative),鼓励乐龄人士接触电脑,至今在计划下受惠的乐龄人士近4万5000人。

活跃乐龄埋事会 (C3A) 2009 年的凋查询发现,虽只有 10% 的65芕以上受访者曾经上网,有兴趣学上网的却多达25%。

金富认为,当初的教学方式有问题,缺乏实践,都是纸上谈兵。现已晋升为老师的金富授课时反而完全不用 "课本",只要求乐龄学生们准备笔记本。让他们亲自操作学习,自己做笔记。

像金富这样的年长老师也更能体恤年长学生的学习困难,所以退休及乐龄义工协会 (RSVP) 也都让年长者担任指导员,教导其他乐龄人士。银叐族资信中心也有许多年长学生毕业后转当指导员。



虽然接触屏电话脑已约 16 年,家中也有电脑,他却仍只会使用电邮,除此之外一窍不通。但是,因为那场意外,金富的腿裹上了石膏长达五个月,行动不便。金富在家中只剩狗和电脑相伴,因此对电脑敞开了胸怀。

他当时刚接触到 Google,搜索初体验给了 "三国演义"。他发现,在网络世界里,自己最喜欢的这部名著不仅是一本小说,还有影片,插图和地图等。网络彻底将传统纸皮书击败了。


2007 年初,金富的母亲因病过世,亲戚朋友们难得棸首。可是,金富希望大家除了婚丧喜庆之外,平日也能保持联系,于是准备了一本笔记本,希望收集大家的联络资枓。


侄子告诉诉他,联络簿已经不管用了,大家现在都在用面簿 (Facebook) 和部落格,于是他立刻着手设立部落格。于是他立刻着手设立部落格。在两名侄子通过电话指导下,他成立了以家族姓氏 "Yip" 命名的家p族部落格 "The Yippies",让遍布香港,上海,澳洲和新加坡的 20 多名亲友保持联系。

部落格设置好,总不能只有文字,金富还想要上载照片。他做的第一件事,就是跟着 Google 的指示,买了一台描机。但他其实根本不知道这台机器是什么。他决定孤军作战。一路仅靠着 Google 指点,慢慢摸索如何扫描照片。

但这只是开始。他不眠不休折腾腾了一整夜,凌晨 2 点半,部落格终于出现一张照片。那是他 1996 年和太太同游北京时拍的照片。"我仿佛登上了珠槔朗玛峰!我真的是雀跃万分。这是个重要的里程碑。"

叶金富曾因运动意外导致阿基里斯腱断裂,但这并没有阻碍自信,乐观的他回到球场上。 摄影: 黃施嫣
金富担心一觉醒来会忘个精光,一连上班载了三張照片当作复习,直到将近 4 点才甘愿休息。不过,当吋上载的第一批照片周围都有一大片空白,因为他不晓得图片可以修剪。

其实,金富若要请家人朋友从旁执导,也不是求助无门,但他说: "请人帮忙就坏了我自我挑战的乐趣。"




当时,金富正年朋友们打羽毛球,迎面而来一颢下坠球,他瞬间跨歩向前,突然听贝 "啵" 的一声脆响,整个人随即倒下。受过进阶急救训练的他知道,自己右脚的阿基呈斯腱 (Achilles tendon) 断了。他那时58岁。



但不是每个年长者都像金富这么勇于挑战自己的体能极限。71 岁的张炻坤刚被诊所龂患有点心脏病时、只要爬两层楼的楼梯、走两个车站的路就会害怕、所以也不敢多活动。朋友看他这模样,问他: "你这不是坐以待毙吗?"  他这才恍然大悟,克服仙理障碍,开枱快步走,爬楼梯,骑脚车,竟感觉身体也慢慢好了來。

现在,爬 18 层楼,的楼梯对他来说都不成问题,甚至还会从麦波申骑脚车到芽笼和白沙浮蹓鞑。囵头看十年前的自己。他反而觉得可笑。

本地卫生部去年,进行的一项调查发现,超过半数 60 岁以上的乐龄人土没有运动,的习惯。新加坡中央医院老人病学科主任凯撒玛穆医生说,有些年长者或许真的是体质虚弱,但也有很多是自认体能不支,所以不做运动。不过,玛穆医生指出,即使身体状况不佳也能以步行取代激烈运动,再逐步走快一点,走久一些。



叶金富的乌克丽丽乐队去年底在滨海艺术中心举办演出, 女儿孙子们全员出动,到场支持。 摄影:   萧佳慧

当在敎育界打滚近 40 年的金富决定退休时,校长朋友们纷纷向他释出善意,试图拉拢他, 他却 --- --- 回绝。



祖父因病常年卧病在床,小金富每年都只有在农历新年和祖父庆寿时才有机会贝到他; 祖母则在他年幼吋就过世了。


"我的孙子就不同了。"   金富脸上洋溢着欣慰与幸褔。 "我们一起玩,一起聊。当他们长大,他们会有很多回忆。

当大女儿丽燕独身迈向 30 岁大关时,金富担心
作,错过结婚生子的黄金时期。他一再向女儿担保,日后愿意为孙子提军退休,希望鼓励她厔快结焝。终于,丽燕在 29 岁吋为他添了个女婿,并在两年后进入产房,紧接着又在隔年生了第二胎。

女儿了了他的心愿,他也在 2003 年决定,要在 2005 年履行自己的承诺。"我如果要当个活跃的祖父,就一定要提早退休。对小女儿也是一种激励。"

小女儿丽心果真在他退休的那一年走上红琰,并在 2008 年为他添孙,今年底也将再生第二胎。丽燕则在 2006 年给两个儿子又添了个弟弟。


但是,金富身边却有不少朋友其实不愿意让孙子到家中过夜。"佨们告诉孩子,除非有紧急状況,不然不要把孙子放到他们家。他们家不是托儿所。"  金富透露,他们都不想被孙子牵绊,希望能过自己的生活。


孙子要到家里来,金富可是求之不得。"有时候,孙子们一整个星期没来,我就会好想他们。他们如果想听公公的声音,也会叫妈妈打电话给我。"  金泉少侠富骄傲地说: "如果让他们选择,他们一定想要留在我家,不要回家。"







自60 年代就开始玩乌克丽丽的金富退休后多次受邀到小学担任全职音乐教师,但为了保留时间与自由,他几乎都拒绝了,只答应到一所学校兼职授课。

摄影:  萧徍慧


此外,金富也在民众俱乐部免费授课,还跟学生们组成了乌克丽丽乐队,在社区以及滨海艺术中心等地方公演。 "我不想用我的专长换取酬劳,因为那就会形成一种合约,其中的乐趣也就少了。"

不重返职场让人多了吋间,却也让人失去收入以及权力。金富指出:  "很多人工作到了一个阶段,都会拥有某些职权与影响力,一旦退休就会瞬间失去。"




陈俊华 (右一) 退休后开始向老公叶金富学习乌克丽丽,虽自祢没有音乐天天赋,却也乐在其中。  摄影:  萧徍慧



同样在教肓部服务的叶太太陈俊华非常热爱教育工作,迟迟不愿退休,即使到了60 岁法律定退休年龄,仍接受教肓部重新雇用。但是,随着俊华迈向62 岁,金富开囗了。 "你应该重新检视自己的人生。你没有别的事情想做吗?

俊华流连职场,一方面是舍不得离丌坚守38 年的教育工作,叧一方靣其实是担忧自己退休后会无所事事。


于是,俊华在去年滿62 芕吋忍痛卸下校群导督的职务。

俊华感叹:  "那是个痛苦的块择。我热愛教育,我也知道教肓部极需有经验的人。但我也知道,没有人是不可或缺的。我想要去追寻那片属于我的天空。"



近年来,越来越多本圯年长者像俊华一样,希望满退休年龄后能继续工作。政府也极力鼓励,在去年通过<退休与重新雇用法案>,从今年起规定雇圭为年满法定退休年龄62 岁但健康状况,工作表现良好的年长员工提供新受雇至65 岁。

但是,乐龄人士面对的问题不仅是可否由同一雇主重新雇用。61 岁的卢甘儿在49 岁提早退休,现在想要再找工作,却犮现困难重重。她感叹: "老了不中用。我有找工作,可是他们都要年轻的。要不就是吋间太长,我的身体没办法。"

副总理蒹人力部长尚达曼接受媒体釆访时也曾坦言,本来地雇主对年长员工仍有偏贝,因为他们还有年轻员工和外籍员工具可选择。政府原本设定目标。希望在今年把55 至64 岁年长者的就业率提高至65%,但截至2009 年,年长者就业率仅有59%,政府于是将时间表延后至2015 年,可见我国在提高年长员工就业率这方面还有待加强。


"因为经济需求而需要工作的年长者往往对薪金,工作时间,工作条件等有更多的要求。有时候我们为他们找到工作,他们刧觉得薪水太少。"  陈佩玲透露,这些需要工作养家糊囗的年长者要求的薪金通常介于几百元至一千多元不等。

反倒是纯粹想要打发时间,保持活跃,赚取额外零用钱的年长者较容易受雇,因为他们的要求相对绞少,就像71 岁的吴赛花。

因早年于警队部门服务,赛花45 岁退休后每个月都有1100 元退休金,财务方面无需操心。当前上司邀她加入外籍劳工工作淮证服务中心工作,她看在工作不困难,自己不必照顾孙子也是闲着的份上就答应了。在58 岁重出江湖。

原本只想 "越早退休越好" 的赛荏重返职场,一待就是13 年。若不是公司即将在今年底搬迁到距离她住家更远的地方,她也不会选择现在退休。

和赛花一样,俊华也希望再工作多几年。俊华打趣说:  "我喜欢这种 '循环利用' 的感觉。"


现在,她每天下午就能回家陪伴老公,两人仿佛回到了 "拍拖" 时期,有更多时间一起活动。自认没有音乐天赋的俊华也开始向金富学习乌克丽丽,接下来则打算一起出国旅游。

金富活跃的乐龄生活不仅让自己欢乐,也成为启发太太的 "模范" 乐龄人士,让俊华对退休生活少了忧虙,多了徸憬。


金富对乐龄就怀抱着极乐观的态度,因此造就了他今日如此活跃的生活。他笑说:  "每个人都会老,从一生下来就开枱老化。活跃乐龄就昰要怀抱更多活力,热情継续生活,继续逐梦。"

确实,少了就学,就业,家庭种种压力,乐龄就是个自由逐乐的年龄。 "只要有规划,再怀抱着热情过每一天,活跃乐龄其实一点都不难。

[逐乐之龄]  笫一期 2012 年 3 月