Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Walking back 50 years...Tiong Bahru, Bt Ho Swee !

The biggest fire in Singapore's history took place on May 25 1961, almost 50 years ago. There was no bigger fire before or after that in our short 200 year history. The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire has remained in the memory of all those directly affected by it...real victims like blogger James Seah ( Thimbuktu ) and countless others. James has many an interesting tale to tell about that unforgettable, frightening day. Unk Dicko had the rare opportunity of walking with him and listening to him as he described the tragic events of that terrible day of a FIRE that changed the entire landscape and the lives of those living there forever.
In all, 4 persons were killed, nearly a hundred injured, and more than 16,000 people lost their homes and possessions.

Was I in any way involved in the 1961 fire?
In 1961, I was studying in Victoria School and was already a very active scout.
Unk Dicko, together with other members of our Scout Troop -the 6th Arrow, did our part by helping out at some of the relief centres set up for the victims of the fire. More than 16,000 people were made homeless. And they needed food, blankets, clothes to help them in the immediate aftermath of the fire.
We helped in the distribution of these items, beside other duties, at the centres.

James had sent me an invitation by email to join him, together with Peter Chan who is another avid guest blogger and Loh Kah Seng , a history researcher/lecturer. The date was 28th September 2010..nothing special except to James. He was born on that day 62 years ago and at the spot indicated by a red dot on the map.

For a more personal account, please check out his blogpost ( Blog To Express ) HERE. It has many photos from the past about Bt Ho Swee and the Fire too.

The map that was prepared by James for our Walk down Memory lane

The view as I stepped out of Tiong Bahru MRT station

We had fixed our meeting up place at Tiong Bahru MRT station at 5 pm.
I arrived by MRT at about 4.45 pm and had time to wander around. It was
the first time I'd been to that station. Everything looked so 'foreign' and strange to me. This is because that locality is not where I grew up in. I knew the place in the mid 60's when my work took me there. The entire area has been one huge transformation, so modernised that it is very difficult for 'outsiders' like me to be able to distinguish between present and past...in the things that I saw all around me. Of course some things hardly changed like the General Hospital location, former Institute of Health and some other buildings pointed out to me.

The other 3 friends all had some roots in this neighbourhood as you shall see.

Another view from outside Tiong Bahru MRT station

The 3 former kampong boys..Peter, Kah Seng and James

We started our walk from the MRT and proceeded according to a planned route. Original kampong boy, James led the way. Unk Dicko was the first to flash out his camera for some incidental snapshots. The above was the first one, with Jalan Klinik in the background.

As we ambled along at a leisurely pace, we would all stop to look closely at the buildings we passed by. Here is this building called 'Equation'.

Anyone knows the history of this building?

This building obviously is run by the MOE.

But what was it formerly in time past? Don't ask me. Check out Thimbuktu's blog for the answer.

Behind James is an example of the new upscale HDB apartments.

Former kampong boy, Kah Seng and his former block

At least I know who is the MP here..a pretty one!

The 3 men searching for precious memories of the past

The grateful outsider flanked by 2 generous insiders

More to come.....in next post!


yg said...

dick, the equation building used to be a community centre/club. i based a quiz on it <a href="http://ivyidaong4.blogspot.com/2009/09/where-is-this-campus-when-i-first-saw.html> here </a.

yg said...

seab is a statutory board, so technically it is not moe.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Ha, Dicky, Election coming, election coming! (Just kidding).

Unk Dicko said...

Haha Andy...Election is really coming and NO, yes...NO Kidding !

Unk Dicko said...

YG, thanks for enlightening us.
I presume the SEAB is still staffed by MOE officers or they exist separately ?

Anonymous said...

your words of your blog speaks in a jovial kampong cheeky manner . like how my relative ( mainly eurasian & mixed of all race ) would tease all day long ! never get bored of your blog :D

:: Paul

Anonymous said...

The picture below the "Equation" picture - that used to be Tiong Bahru secondary school.