Friday, November 13, 2009

Unk Dicko returned to the new Siang Lim Park

Yesterday, November 12 2009 was a memorable and a deeply emotional day for Unk Dicko.
It was the first time I had returned to my old kampong of Siang Lim Park since May 1995. That was the period when our original home at 94, Siang Lim Park ( see map ref 'Y' of previous post on S L Park ) had to be vacated for development work to start on the new SUNNY SPRING condos. My late parents were the only one living there. They were original tenants from before the 2nd world war. The rest of us my siblings and I have moved out long ago. But we have always returned to visit our parents and that home and the surroundings we all grew up in.
The story of Siang Lim Park on my blog actually began in January 2007 at our private Yippie Blogsite. I was then a complete newbie to blogging but having found the new experience fascinating, I started to blog in earnest.
Taking my old photo albums with pictures of S L Park and family members, I recounted real life stories and happenings of our childhood, of the people who lived there, of our friends, of the friendly hawkers, our neighbours, of unforgettable incidents and experiences...and more.

Then a nephew of mine asked if there was a map which showed the various houses in SL Park. He was intrigued and so was everyone else. Sad to say, no such maps exist..only a general overview map. I had promised that I would one day produce a hand-drawn map of sorts which could be used as a rough reference guide to follow the story.
Unk Dicko has kept his promise. That map is now on this blogsite.
Recently " Icemoon", a very active blogger, had asked about the 2 keramats that used to be at our side of the kampong ( Sunny Spring )...and about Queens Cinema. Added to that is Peter, another very active blogger friend, who wanted to know more about that famous Gunfight which made S L Park famous.
Well I thought the time is about ripe for me to do a major "mini-series" on the history of S L Park since the name itself has been forever wiped out from modern directories.
Then Tim Auger from Britain who has been working here for the last 14 years came upon my blogpost on that famous gunfight...and was surprised and shocked that it took place right where he is now residing...the Waterina!
Photo: Tim Auger [ unk Dicko's camera ]
You can check his comments at the gunfight post.
To cut the story short, I offered to meet up with him to confirm the location of the incident and to update him about the past history of that place.
Tim has a deep interest in our local and contemporary history. He has to be! He is the co-editor of SINGAPORE - The ENCYCLOPEDIA and is also on the editorial team of the huge project THE CHRONICLES of SINGAPORE.
As my car turned into Lorong 40, from main Geylang Road, I could still recognise the shophouses and houses of old. But once past that iconic Bridge over the Geylang River I felt as though I have landed on Mars! It was such a very strange scene to me. Not a single thing be it a tree, a lamp post, a building, plant or anything else was familiar to my stored perceptions.
It seems so incongruous to the very images that kept appearing in my mind's eyes. As I drove past the bridge, I slowed down staring to the right where our corner house used to be...expecting to somehow rather foolishly "hoping it's still there". Instead I saw a pinkish perimeter wall of the SUNNY SPRING and the adjacent condos within.

To my left was the bright white wall of the WATERINA condos. I stopped at the Guardhouse and stated my purpose of visit. It took a few minutes to security check. Again I felt alien and strange! We used to run around all over this place with no barriers to our freedom, fifty years ago.
I parked and made my way to Tim's unit at the very top of a block.
I said a cheery, " Good Morning Tim! Glad to meet you." We shook hands warmly and what began as a comment and inquiry on my blog lasted for nearly 3 interesting hours at his place.
After the pleasantries we chatted about our work and other things. He showed me the huge books he had worked on. I recommend all of you interested in history and heritage should get a copy. It's overflowing with fabulous pics and info.
I brought along my old photos and the map and with that was able to point out many interesting bits and pieces right before Tim's very eyes...looking out from his windows.
Photo: Here is a snapshot I captured from Tim's window. My camera was facing the north.
Part of the bridge over the river, the Lor 40 field on left, and the former makeshift wet market near the red car can be seen. In the background is Geylang Road.

Where today is the approximate location where the Gunfight at S L Park took place?
Using my map and checking my bearings from the outside as well, the famous gunfight occurred in the general area as shown in this photo.
Not any of the condo units themselves but in the common, open space near the pool.
Residents need not worry about this past happening as it took place 44 years ago. As far as I can recall, nothing untoward happened after August 1965 to any of the other kampong folks living in the 4 affected houses gutted by fire, then or since.
Pl refer to my map in previous post on the gunfight with Ref #29.
I wonder how many residents of this beautiful WATERINA condo estate today are aware of what took place here on 5 August 1965, witnessed by unk Dicko.
It's so pretty, peaceful and serene as I gazed at the scene before me here. Who could have imagined that 2 young men lost their lives right here when their paths a heroic Police Inspector and the other, a wanted gunman and henchman of Morgan Teo named "Ah Hiap". He was killed in the shootout.
More pictures from early S L Park days and today coming soon.
I must thank Tim Auger for being such a nice host. We promised to be in regular contact and to meet up again.

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