Thursday, October 29, 2009

Siang Lim Park - 1950's to 1970's, part 4

30 At the junction of Lorong 40 and Geylang Road were 2 coffee shops, one on the left and on the right. Ref # 30 was one of the most famous coffeeshops
in the whole of Geylang.
Why? What was the main attraction back then?
Probably the best “hor fun” or “ yi mee” or “chow fun” on our island.Thaaat…GOOD? Ask any old-timer about this famous cook nick-named “ malai kai “....whose hor fun would be the standard used as a measure against
all other similar fare down through the years.
In all my years of eating this dish everywhere, no one has come close to the original “malai kai” version.
I will do a separate post about him and his food. His customers come from all over, many in big cars of old.

31 The other coffeeshop on the left. It had a few stalls but could not pull in the crowds without a magnet like “malai kai”. But during the night, there was a tricycle stall that was a permanent feature parked by the side of this coffeeshop. Gentle apek and his equally gentle son, sold all sorts of cut fruits and their most popular drink...a homemade "buah lai" mixture turned into a drink. It was unlike any of today's canned drinks...which I would not rate highly. D2 and I would give apek's buah lai drink a 9/10 rating. No one knew his secret concoction, saved himself.

32 This was the coffeeshop along Lor 44 and Geylang Road, in front of Queen’s
Theatre. It was quite famous in Geylang for 2 stalls…the Indian prata and
nasi briyani and the more well-known “Mee Rebus”. On Sundays, there were
queues and the place was packed. You can see part of this coffeeshop in the 1956 photo below

on the left of the picture.

33 The site of Queen’s Theatre. When a popular movie was showing, the "black market"syndicate got into action. They would get their members to queue for tickets.These boys and young men were recruited to re-sell the cinema tickets to a higher price than listed. It was easy money for these black marketeers as we used to call them. The situation was quite fluid with not one but a few syndicates muscling in on this lucrative but illegal business.

But genuine cinema goers were livid and always at their mercy, pricewise!
Most times they made money. Some days they lost when they held many tickets that were unsold.

34 Right portion of Siang Lim Park had a quandrangular field that was never maintained
at all. So weeds and at times lallang grew. But there were some concrete
benches for folks to relax in. For football, our kampong folks played it daily
at Ref# 35, the Lor 40 field.

35 This was the field bounded by Lor 40, Lor 38 ( dead end towards the River ) and the river itself. It was the home territory of all living around there. On most evenings, our
kampong boys and youths will be playing their favourite game….soccer. Once in a while, the ball sailed over and into the smelly river and whoever kicked it had to go retrieve the ball. Most times, the bulrushes and lallang helped to trap the runaway ball. There were swings and see-saws for the younger children. As kids, many of us made our own camps and hideouts among the thick bushes and wild trees that adorned the sides of that gentle-flowing river. Smelly or not, it was “our” river…a favourite place for catching fishes, ( guppies, tiger barbs, ikan sepat ) tortoises, monitor lizards.

36 Home of Henry, another of my childhood friends. He was a true blue
Peranakan who spoke Hokkien, English and pasar malay.

37 Home of Mr Neo Yam Koon, my Primary 4 form teacher from GES.

The photos below were sent to me by Peter my online blogger kawan.

Thanks Peter!
This is the Queens Theatre as it was in 1956 and today, 2009.
There was a Muslim cemetery behind the theatre stretching along the river past Lor 42. As kids, after watching a malay movie like Pontianak, Orang Minyak or Hantu Jelangkong together with my kampong friends, we would deliberately walk home by the cemetery way (the backlane behind the shophouses ) knowing full well it gave us the creeps...especially after such haunted movies. Then we promised ourselves no one was to run. When someone shouted "HANTU!" ...everyone ran for dear life, promise or no promise! Haha!

What fun we had in our childhood.
Sometimes, I do wonder where all my childhood kampong friends are today.

It would be wonderful if I could track them down and relive
our childhood days again over some good music, food and drinks.


Andy Young* said...

Hi Dick,
The Queen's Theatre photograph astounds me and brings back instant memories of the time I went there to watch P. Ramlee in 'Penarek Becha', 'Bujang Lapok' and other films.

Just wondering if this is the same Peter who is a guitar man and also blogs on VicKoo's. If it is then he must let me have some other pictures of Geylang around the Queen's Theatre.

Used to watch Buster Crabbe in 'Flash Gordon', Gary Cooper in 'Saratoga Trunk' and Johnny Weismuller in, 'Tarzan Lost his Loin Cloth' (ha,ha) at Queen's. And the mee-rebus is fantastic because you can feel the 'grago' in the gravy.

Can I steal your Queen's Theatre picture and your posting to put on my blog to show how Malay movies have somewhat influenced my love for cosmopolitan music?

Please reply on the latest posting on my blog if you allow me to do so. It's OK otherwise.

unk Dicko said...

Over to you Peter..the guitar man.
Anymore of such good pics of old Geylang?

unk Dicko said...

Have replied on your latest blog, Andy. No problem.

Andy Young* said...

Thanks Dick. Will do it when I post about Malay pop music again.

Pat said...

Hi Unk Dicko, I saw your post when I was looking for info about the former Queen's Theatre at Geylang Lorong 44.

If you don't mind me reviving the topic, do you (or Peter Chan) have more info/ memories about this cinema, as well as the 2 shophouse units just outside the cinema's entrance ? I've searched through your blog & the internet, & it seems that you are the only one who had blogged at length about this cinema & the nearby Siang Lim Park.

From the 1940s to 1980s, my adopted grandmother's family lived in the Geylang shophouse facing the unit which you labelled as "32" in your annotated map. The unit's location is exactly on the spot where "44" is printed on your map.

The said shophouse can be viewed on the right-hand side of Peter's 1956 photo of Queen's Theatre. I think the visible window (towards the rear of the shophouse) belongs to the kitchen. The ground level was a coffee-shop belonging to grandmother's family. Unfortunately, I don't really have first-hand memories of this coffee-shop.

However, my mother apparently worked in the coffee-shop as an unpaid "kopi mui", I think in the late 1940s-50s. And I was told that there were many Chinese secret society gangs in the Geylang area during post-war years. From what I heard, when some of these gangsters disturbed the coffee-shop to demand for protection money, my incensed grandfather (whom I'd never met) did not hesitate to pour hot oil (or boiling water -- I can't recall which now) from the upper unit onto the gangsters below. It was said that the incident spread like wild fire & from then on, none of the Geylang gangsters dared create any more trouble.

As a small kid in the 1980s, I used to look out of the shophouse bedroom window (nearest the main road) to observe the Indian man flip pratas in the coffee-shop at "32". I also recall that "32" sold Mee Rebus, although I don't remember seeing long queues -- despite the fact that I was at grandmother's shophouse mostly on Sundays & Saturdays. However, I do recall that Lorong 44 was very short, & the concrete ground here (used as a parking area between the shophouses) was uneven & broken up in several places. And there was a very tall coconut palm behind the shophouse alley.

My earliest memory of Queen's Theatre: It was already closed & very mysterious. (I understand from reports that it closed in 1983.) I was very fascinated by the grand facade as well as the external spiral staircase, & often fantasized about climbing this stairs into the cinema to explore its dark interior. And I often pleaded to be taken on a shortcut through the cinema compound (ie. right side of Peter's 1956 photo) to reach a major/ tarmac road (not sure if it was Geylang Lorong 40, or one of the lanes of Siang Lim Park) -- because along the way was a quaint mama shop (housed a timber shelter) seemingly placed in the middle of nowhere.

From Lorong 44, I could turn left & walk through an alleyway to reach Guillemard Rd, Geylang River, then City Plaza. The river was already canalized & railed up when I first saw it -- it had no smell, quacking ducks, fruit trees, floating bodies, etc. I don't recall any keramats, but then as a small kid, I wasn't allowed to go outside w/o an accompanying adult. And the adults never wanted to go exploring -- maybe they already knew the area by heart, but did not want to show me. :(

Pat said...

And just to share the below old news report about Queen's Theatre ...

They fear a ghost on the roof of cinema in S'pore (ST - 02 Mar 1952)
Excerpt: "The Queen's Theatre, Geylang, is in need of repairs, but no workmen can be persuaded to do the job. They are convinced a spiteful ghost haunts the building. Repair work was begun last year. Then two men met their falls."

Does anyone remember the said haunting/ incident ?

Unk Dicko - I never got a chance to see the former Muslim cemetery mentioned in the post. Neither did the folks mention its presence to me. I guess it wasn't there anymore during the 1980s.

Unk Dicko said...

Hi Pat, thank you for your deep interest in my blogpost.I will try to answer some of the Qs you have raised very soon.

Unk Dicko said...

Hi Pat,
Thanks very much for the link to that v interesting archived story in the S Times of 1952. I doubt any of us would remember that incident today. Btw, in 1952 I was only 5 years old. For your information a large chunk of my former kampong of Siang Lim Park was long ago an ancient Muslim burial the 1800's. if you continue to read some of my posts about S L P, you'll find in one I mentioned that my late father and I had actually dug up ancient Muslim tombstones while digging out our basement to convert into an underground extra room. We found similar stuff when digging in our garden too. The entire Queens Theatre and the land adjacent to it ( present Ashton Mansions on my map ) was part of that graveyard. But the only difference was that old burial ground still had recognisable tombstones on the surface...not many though. They would be behind the back lanes of the shophouses along Geylang Rd, nearer to the bank of the river. They were still there in the 50's and 60's.