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Heartlands – Then&Now

Then&Now By Roslyn Chua

Roslyn Chua

1


INTRODUCTION Then&Now is a collection of the dying heartland—the places that are slowly ebbing away with the new generation. May this book be a way of holding on to what we are unconsciously losing in our nation, for what is gone are not just places and shops, but also an identity. One day, we will no longer see concrete playgrounds or small, rugged shops with decades of history. They will be replaced by cookie cutter playgrounds and new, modernised shops. Though some of them still stand within our heartlands, there will come a day when the old will inevitably be buried under by the new and fast, so visit these places while you still have a chance, for it does not take long before they will be part of history and memories.

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CONTENT 01 PLACES – Playgrounds 4–13

– Bookstores 14–17

– Bakeries 18–23

– Other Shops 24–31

02 REMINISCE 32–37

03 TRANSITION 38–47

04 MAP 48–51

REFERENCE 52–53

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5


Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.

Mad Men

66

01

PLACES

7 7


1.1

PLAYGROUNDS 8

PLAYGROUNDS

PLAYGROUNDS

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R

emember back in those times when we played in sand playgrounds with colourful mosaic tiles? Those were the playgrounds locally designed by the Housing Development Board (HDB) for public housing estates back in the 1980s. The different playgrounds were inspired from fantasy creatures to animals to fruits, some of which reflected Singapore’s history as a nation – bum-boat playground at Elias Mall in relation to Pasir Ris’ history as reclaimed land. These playgrounds carried a strong nation identity, setting us apart from everyone else in the world. However, in 1993, the construction of such playgrounds ended when a warning was carried across regarding the dangers of such concrete playgrounds after an unfortunate accident happened, when a boy injured his thumb on a faulty slide. An inspection was then done by safety experts who declared our playgrounds “unsafe”. Ever since, HDB stopped designing concrete playgrounds and replaced them

10 PLAYGROUNDS

with playgrounds purchased from international suppliers. Our sand pits and dragons faced defeat in the fight with the modern rubber floors and plastic slides. In this day and age, the playgrounds we grew up to are slowly depleting as they get torn down and replaced. What the new generation defines as playgrounds are the plastic slides and steel infrastructure, a far cry from our sand and concrete. Back then, we played rough, we played wild, and we got down and dirty. Today, the playgrounds of the new generation no longer differentiates us from the world, what we have are cookie cutter playgrounds that everyone else in the world has, the life in our playgrounds slowly fades away as we keep up with the world. Technology may have helped us greatly but it too has taken away some of the things that made the best memories.

PLAYGROUNDS 11


12

PLAYGROUNDS

PLAYGROUNDS 13


Technology may have helped us greatly but it too has taken away some of the things that made the best memories.

14 PLAYGROUNDS

PLAYGROUNDS 15


1.2

BOOK STORES 16 BOOKSTORES

BOOKSTORES 17


T

he smell of old books has always been lovely – a hint of mystery in them, evoking curiosity in its readers. Stepping into this cluttered book store, the musky smell of books will overwhelm you, along with the little things you find in this store. As I manoeuvred my way around the store, I spotted a bottle of glass marbles going at fifty cents a pack, bringing back memories from my childhood. Those were the days when children would run to the void decks to meet their neighbours and gather around to play with marbles. The ones who won would return home victorious with more marbles in hand, while the dejected would return home begging their mothers for money to buy more marbles. There were many things in the shop that reminded me of early school

18 BOOKSTORES

days – book wraps, notebooks and the familiar square grid exercise books we often used for Chinese lessons. The little boxes of board games were especially memorable as well. Remember games like “snakes and ladders” and “animal chess”? The games each generation plays is a definition of change. How many children of the new generation have actually played “snakes and ladders”, or even board games for the matter? Technology plays such a huge role in our daily lives right now, very much to the extent whereby we get over reliant on it and lose touch of some of the look and feel of things. This book store may be a small shop, but what it was cluttered with were not objects, but childhood memories.

BOOKSTORES 19


1.3

BAKERIES 20 BAKERIES

BAKERIES 21


B T

he Sing Hon Loong Bakery is a well-known icon of the Whampoa district. This quaint, traditional bakery has been around for decades, popular amongst its residents as well as customers who deliberately drive by just to pick up loaves of freshly baked white bread. It is hard to resist when you are bound to catch a whiff of the aromatic smell of such delicious bread when you pass by this bakery. Not only so, this old school bakery attracted many by its old, traditional looks. The moment one steps into the bakery, it feels as though you are being brought back sixty years ago, when it was not a surprise to see such quaint bakeries around the district. However, as years passed, such bakeries closed down store by store to allow for commercial bakeries, like Breadtalk, to take its place. What we get at bakeries nowadays is a variety of bread in different shapes and flavours, where you are spoilt for choice. In comparison, our traditional bakeries may seem boring with their minimum number of flavours of sugar loaves, kaya and cheese. However, one must not belittle the recipes that have been keeping the shop around for decades after all, every loaf has its standards – white, fluffy and ever so fragrant. A taste and heartwarming feeling that you can never get from bread sold by commercialised bakeries.

22 BAKERIES

BAKERIES 23


A taste and heartwarming feeling that you can never get from bread sold by commercialised bakeries.

24 BAKERIES

BAKERIES 25


1.4

SHOPS 26 SHOPS

SHOPS 27


“ H

ave you ever gone through those parts of your childhood where you would beg your mother for a dollar coin just so you could run to one of the shops downstairs and spend a fair amount of time just picking something to spend that rare dollar on? That must sound vaguely familiar to most of us.

The proliferation of major convenience stores in heartland neighbourhoods has posed significant threats to smaller provision shops. Even though economically it is definitely logical for larger, well-equipped corporations to out-wrestle their smaller counterparts, the nostalgia and cultural significance tagged to the provision shops – affectionately known as “mama” shops – makes it an unfortunate pity.

28 SHOPS

My grandfather used to operate a small provision shop in Balestier; and while the scale of operations was considerably limited, the front of the shop was a constant hub-bub of activity. Residents from the surrounding neighbourhood gathered around to converse and exchange about their daily happenings as they made purchases of household items and various necessities. Throughout my adolescence, I remember fondly the memories of serving an assortment of snacks and drinks, after school, to the men who gathered around the small tables to chat and joke. In essence, the provision shop was more than a mere store selling goods and offering services; like the wet markets, it was a venue of affection, friendship and wondrous connection.

… the provision shop was more than a mere store selling goods and offering services; like the wet markets, it was a venue of affection, friendship and wondrous connection.

SHOPS 29


Times have changed, and many might opine that the advent of a variety of communication channels has made keeping in touch more accessible and efficient. Yet, the “human touch” of these smaller shops – in the form of personalised service, familiarity of the staff, and the tremendous attention to details et cetera – remain inimitable for the large grocery chains. Let us not forget their historical and traditional importance as well. It is possible and feasible to harmonise the advantages of the large convenience chains with the positives of the smaller provision shops. Rather than entirely replacing the existing stores, PSC Corporation’s iEcon chain has offered the latter the possibility of maintaining the business whilst enhancing the relevant standards and quality. This provides the shop-owner the same flexibility in management and staff employment, and continues the precious “human touch” in sales and interaction. Other than such cooperative schemes, individual provision stores can band together regionally to make bulk purchases and negotiate as a group: so as to capitalise on available economies-of-scale. This can be endeavoured as improvements are made in terms of general cleanliness, product specialisation and introduction of new services to cater to diverse needs.

The wheels of development must turn – yet, wherever possible, let us progress without losing too much of our valuable heritage and memories.

The wheels of development must turn – yet, wherever possible, let us progress without losing too much of our valuable heritage and memories.

30 SHOPS

SHOPS 31


32 SHOPS

SHOPS 33


Once the job is done, then it will be time to look back and reminisce.

Nate Whitford

02

REMINISCE

34

35


T

he Little Dröm Store – a nostalgic vintage store filled with knick-knacks. Well known along the streets of Ann Siang Hill, this little store has an array of vintage items, ranging from cameras to apparels to stationeries, a perfect place to visit and reminisce about the old days. A tiny walkabout in the store brought back many memories. They had five stones in a jar, a game using five small triangular cloth bags filled with rice, sand or saga seeds that used to be widely played by children in the past. In 2009, Little Dröm Store launched a collection of pins, inspired from the mosaic playgrounds around Singapore. The pins came in three different designs – the dragon, the pelican and the elephant, each of which came in a pouch, nicely designed with geometric shapes.

36 REMINISCE

Here is an exerpt written by the bosses of the store – “The playground was our school, our imagination, our friend; life lessons were learnt through bruises gathered from knocking against colourful mosaic tiles, by scraping our knees falling on gritty sandpits, the feeling of sand between our toes. It is an irony and pity that such innocent and spontaneous play-time is fading away as today’s society gets increasingly “safe” and “protected”.The architecture of these nostalgic playgrounds ultimately stands as public art installations – and even these are gradually disappearing from the Singapore landscape. ”

REMINISCE 37


It is an irony and pity that such innocent and spontaneous play-time is fading away as today’s society gets increasingly “safe” and “protected”.

38 REMINISCE

REMINISCE 39


“

The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and the establishment of the new, constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism.

�

John C. Calhoun

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03

TRANSITION

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SINGAPORE HEARTLAND IN A DECADE

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he Housing & Development Board was formed on 1 February 1960 as a statutory body responsible for Singapore’s public housing programme. Since its establishment, HDB has played an important role in the development of Singapore.

HDB’s objective in the early years was to build low-cost housing for low-income Singaporeans to tackle the massive housing shortage inherited from the colonial government. Moving into the seventies, it concentrated on improving housing standards and encouraging home ownership. In the eighties, it set out to build, not just homes, but communities in self-contained towns. In the nineties and beyond, the challenge is for HDB to respond to aspirations for a better quality lifestyle, one that will continue to remain affordable and innovative. HDB today is no longer a mere provider of basic shelter. It is committed to housing that

42 TRANSITION

can meet the needs and aspirations of a more affluent and modern generation. Singaporeans are now looking for quality housing and services in an environment that supports and enhances their lifestyle. HDB has gone about meeting these expanding needs and aspirations by setting high standards and harnessing technology and ingenuity. The awards and accolades it has received testify to its capacity and ability to surmount the challenges coming its way. The HDB of tomorrow faces new challenges as new housing needs will surface in the future – keeping up with the needs of a younger generation as well as caring for an aging society. By coming up with new housing forms and taking fresh approaches to town planning and development, HDB has already prepared for these challenges. In the future, as in the past, HDB will continue to innovate to cater for the housing needs of different groups of Singaporeans and to help make Singapore the Best Home for all. TRANSITION 43


HDB today is no longer a mere provider of basic shelter. It is committed to housing that can meet the needs and aspirations of a more affluent and modern generation.

44 TRANSITION

TRANSITION 45


Remaking Our Heartland Subletting of Flat Policy

During the National Day

HDB has been gradually

Rally in August 2007, the

With effect from 10 June 2003, all

relaxing its policy on the

government offered a

homeowners are allowed to conduct

subletting of whole flats

vision of a first-class living

small-scale businesses in their homes

since 2003, flat owners

environment with

could sublet their flats was

attractive and innovative

Launch of Home Office (HO) Scheme

under the Home Office (HO) Scheme. The

Quality Assurances

scheme allows flat owners the flexibility

With the many quality

reduced to 10 years for

homes, where

to work from the comfort of their own

improvements made over

owners with an outstanding

communities thrive and

homes. It will help to reduce start-up

the years to HDB homes,

HDB loan and five years for

live modern lifestyles. The

costs of small businesses that choose

HDB implemented Assure

all other owners. In March

launch of the Remaking Our

to operate from home rather than rent

3 in April 2005. Assure

2007, the policy was further

Heartland Exhibition

separate office premises. The scheme will

3 is a new warranty that

relaxed, making some

showcased plans to realize

also save commuting time and expenses,

goes beyond the previous

645,000 HDB flats eligible

the vision for new towns,

and enable residents to spend more time

1-year Defects Liability

for subletting by their

rejuvenate middle-aged

with their families. Flat owners must

Period. It covers three types

owners. This policy

towns and regenerate old

ensure that their businesses do not cause

of defects for new flats –

relaxation means

estates.Punggol, Yishun and

disturbance to neighbours or to the

ceiling leakage, external

supplementary income

Dawson estate in

residential neighbourhood to ensure

water seepage, and spalling

for flats owners and also

Queenstown were selected

concrete, over a period of 5

enlarges the rental market

to encapsulate this

to 10 years.

for HDB flats.

new vision.

that the residential ambience of housing estates is not compromised.

2003

2006 2007

2005 Adding Variety and Choice – Involving the Private

2009

Offer of 2-/3-Room Flats

Sustainable Development

Lease Buyback Scheme

under BTO system

On 28 Mar, 2007 HDB

(LBS) In addition to the various

Sector

HDB resumed the building

launched its first

To introduce more

of 3-room flats and offered

eco-precinct, Treelodge@

monetisation options

variety and choice in

for sale such flats under the

Punggol, incorporating a

currently available to HDB flat owners, HDB introduced

housing design, the ‘Design

BTO system. There was

good spread of

& Build’ scheme was

strong demand for 3-room

environmental features

the Lease Buyback Scheme

launched. This scheme

flats due to changing

which respect nature and

(LBS) to make it easier for

involves the private sector

demographics, as families

use proven green

eligible lower-income elderly

in the design and construc-

preferred to buy or

technologies, and which

households in smaller flats

tion of public housing. It has

downgrade to smaller flats.

focus on effective energy,

to unlock their housing

since been subsumed under

HDB also launched the first

water and waste

equity to meet their

HDB’s Premium Apartments,

batch of new 2-room flats

management. It will bring

retirement needs. This new

which comprises both

for sale under BTO system

about greater

scheme was implemented

Design & Build and Design

at Fernvale Vista in

conservation efforts for a

in 2009.

Plus flats. The Design, Build,

Sengkang in 2006.

healthier environment. The

and Sell Scheme (DBSS)

successful implementation

was announced in March

of the eco-precinct will also

2005 under which the pri-

set the direction for HDB

vate sector designs, builds,

towards environmentally

and sells HDB flats.

friendly designs for future projects, bringing it a step closer to achieving environmental sustainability.

46 TRANSITION

TRANSITION 47


237, 433

223, 309 222, 693 222, 474 221,824 220, 969

1999

2005

2006

2007

2008

81

1999

2007

82

82

2005

2008

81

82

2006

2009

2009

NUMBER OF THREE-ROOM FLATS UNDER HDB

1,191

1,152

83

1,157 1,150

1,145

1,108

PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION LIVING IN PUBLIC HOUSING 1999

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

NUMBER OF SHOP SPACE AVAILABLE

48 TRANSITION

TRANSITION 49


04 MAP

50 50

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MAP This map will take you on a nostalgia trip, filled with memories from the old days. Visit these places before they vanish from our ever-changing landscape.

52 MAP

MAP 53


REFERENCE Kwan, J.Y. (2010). Farewell to wet markets? farewell to provision shops?. Retrieved from http://guanyinmiao.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/farewell-to-wet-markets-farewell-to-provision-shops/ Lee, S. (2010, November). The little drom store. Retrieved from http://thelittledromstore.tumblr.com Tan, B. (1999, January 20). Five stones. Retrieved from http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_194_2005-01-07.html Department of Statistics, (2010). Singapore: Retrieved from http://www.singstat.gov.sg/pubn/reference/yos10/ statsT-construction.pdf Zhuang, J. (2009, October 20). It’s time to come out and play [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://justrambling.sg/?p=708 Zhuang, J. (2010, February 9). Old singapore playgrounds. Retrieved from http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie= UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=110905565950468529812.00047f39e52d9cae05254&ll=1.342561,103.862933&sp n=0.087496,0.15971&source=embe Passing through time. (2000). Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/C006891/passingtime.html

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REFERENCE 55


Then & Now