YEAR 1948 - 1950

 
THIS IS A CONDENCED WEBPAGE OF THE TIME THAT I, PETER STONE, SPENT IN SINGAPORE AS A CHILD.
Note: This website is on the internet.   See also Childhood Memories of Singapore.   Contact Peter Stone.
 
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SINGAPORE   1948 - 1950
Arrivided Singapore with Mother, on the Burns,Philp ship Marella, August 1948.
Left Singapore 30 October 1950, on Qantas Constellation. 
First home at 26 College Crescent near the Singapore Hospital. 
Not there for long, just a few months perhaps, then moved to 5 Seton  Close, Tanglin, off Tanglin Road. I went to three schools in Singapore. 

In 1948, father had graduated and accepted a posting with the Department of Inland Revenue in Singapore. Singapore and Malaya reverted back to British colonial rule after the war, but the British public service were not exactly rushing to fill the overseas posts, so Australians were called upon. Dad arrived in Singapore on 16 May 1948, and took up his position as Assistant Comptroller of Income Tax, in the Department of Inland Revenue, with offices in the imposing Fullarton Building next to the Singapore River. Mother and I joined him later; we left Melbourne on 2 August 1948 for Sydney by train,  then boarded the Burns,Philp ship ‘Marella', for Singapore, arriving 24 August. We lived for several months at 26 College Road near the Singapore hospital, then to a large colonial ‘bungalow' at 5 Seton Close, Tanglin. 

I attended three different primary schools in Singapore during the years 1948, 1949, and 1950. One of these was Deans School - I cannot recall the others. During 1950, Nan came up for an extended visit of several months. On 30 October 1950 I returned to Melbourne on my own by QANTAS Constellation, via Darwin and Sydney, and lived with Nan and Pop, attending Princes Hill Primary School, Pigdon Street in 1951. My departure from Singapore was to be the last time I would live with my parents as a family. For some trivial reason, I made the front page of The Straits Times, Singapore's premier English paper, where I am shown shaking hands with my mother and father as I would not be kissed in public. 


 
The back of the photo is stamped ‘Sailing Snaps, Sydney'. My specultion is that this was taken when I went to Singapore for the first time, which was later established as being ion th Burns,Philp ship Marella, in August 1948. I have no recollectiuon of how we arrived in Singapore, and it could well be that we went by train to Sydney and then by boat from Sydney. Nan did not come on the trip, but she may have come to Sydney to see us off, or indeed the ship may have left from Melbourne. Closeup of PJS.
This photo provides the only evidence of which ship took mother and I to Singapore. On the back of the photo was a note, "To Peter, from Sandra. Marella, August 1948". This shows how important it is to date and caption photographs, as Mother could not remember the name of the ship. I certainly cannot remember anything whatsoever of the trip. But it looks as though I made a few playmates. I have no idea who Sandra is, nor the name of the other boy. 
Our first home in Singapore, at 26 College Road, near the Singapore Hospital. I do have a few recollections of the College Road house. I can remember it being huge, particularly after living in the Waterdale Road house at Ivanhoe. It had a flat roof, and I recall a marvellous winding wrought-irin staircase that led to the roof. There appearsed to be no instructions to prevent me from wondering up there which I did on many occasions, and can recall how easy it would have been to fall off. I can also recall how barrent he rooms were. I suppose that was partially because they were so huge. I can also recall the smell of the plac, somethin new to a young boy just arrived in the tropics, but not unique as it turns out - a damp musty, unlived-in smell, coimbined with the 'typical' tropical smell of decaying vegetation and exotic flowers. In retrospect however, 26 College Rod was a neglected dump, barren of furntiture and character, but it was only a temporary home and probably used by such by the administration foir newcomers till a 'more-respectable' home could be found. I'd liked to have seen the reaction of mother and father when they saw their nxt house, at 5 Seton Close - it was like a mansion, particularly when considering the small West Brunswick home that Dad was brought up in with two sisters and three brothers. 
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Our first car in Singapore, a Vauxhall if I remember rightly, this taken at our first home at 26 College Road, Singapore. Late 1948. I believe Dad lived here on his own for at least half a year, but we didn't remain for long once Mother and I arrived - just a matter of weeks I suppose, before we moved to 5 Seton Close in Tanglin. 
Soon after our arrival in Singpaore in late 1948, taken at 26 College Road. I cannot recall any emotions about arriving in Singapore. Was it exciting? Was it scary? All these strange looking people, a language I could not understand, a huge house that defied full exploration. Overall I think I was quite happy, even if somewhat overawed by it all. It must of course also been quite unique to Mum and Dad who had to 'learn the ropes' so to speak, and to assimilate into the 'white high society'. The langauage would have been one of the first priorities - a Chinese dialect was out of the question, but Malay is relatively easy and I can recall Mum and Dad taking Malay lessons at Seton Close, and Dad with his immaculate notebook of phrases. But I believe it was Mum who mastered the language, although I soon picked it up and by th end of my stay in Singapore I could speak Malay vry well, and could get by with the kids in Cantonese. 
The house, or 'bungalow' or 'black-and-white' house as they are called, at 5 Seton Close, Tanglin, was every bit as huge as that at College Rod, but it was obviously well maintained, and being double-storey, lent itself to a measure of grandeur as indeed it was. The main living area, or lounge, was upstairs, that area above the car entrance. There were no glass windows - just huge open spaces with long ratan blinds that would be closed in the evenings. 

The downstairs rooms were also devoid of glass; for security, such as was required in those days, the downstairs rooms were surrounded by tall thin shuttered doors that were slid across at nbight or when required, perhaps during a storm. The bedrooms were upstairs - mine was to the left in the lower photograph. Downstairs, to the left of the driveway was the dining room, with th kitchen and servants quarters at the rear of the house. There was probably about an acre of grounds, kept immaculate by Talib, our Malay kaboon (gardener). The parents retreat was to the right (with the small private balcony), and below that was another living area, a casual reception area for guests. There were five identical 'bungalows' on the estate. I believe the police commissioner lived opposite.   Larger photo.


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No. 5 Seton Close, sometime in the 1980s. You will note that the open style has been enclosed with formal windows due to the introduction of air-conditioning. No longr would a natural breeze flow through the house, and in particular the open lounge area above the car port. Of course, it now mant no more bats in the house, and the chee-chaas (geckos) probably kept falling off the ceiling when they patted themselves on th shoulders because of the cold. 
I believe these were taken at Seton Close but I can't really recall. And my previous comment that there were no glass windows seems to be incorrect from these photographs. Perhaps there were a few windows on the ground floor - I can't be sure. When I last saw the house on the trip in 1992 I think it was, there wewre certainly glass windows all round, upstiars as well, due no doubt to the installationn of air-conditioning. In our day however, we had huge ceiling fans to circulate the air. I can never remember feeling uncomfortable with the heat. Strange as it may seem, every now and then, perhaos three or four times a year, Dad and I would go the Singapore hospital and stand naked before a sun lamp. Considering the amount of sun that we received during the course of a day, it seems rather bizarre and to this day I have no idea why we did this. 
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The Vanguard superseeded the Vauxhall sometime after I had left Singapoore in 1950. Dad brought the Vanguard over to Australia on his next trip a year or so later. I thought it to be a most ungly car, with its convex curve from th roof to the rear mudguard. Mum and Dad stayed at 5 Seton Close till they moved to Malacca in 1952. 
Our servants at 5 Seton Close - gardener Talib and family, and the cook Ah Jwee. 

I am certain of Ah Jwee as I remember this wonderful man very well. But of the others I cannot recall so well, and thus they may have been servants at another location. There is however a photo of myself with Talib and Ah Jwee.

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This undated family photo is taken at Blakanmati (island) now known as Sentosa. I'm not too sure about the story of Blakanmati but it has something to do with pirates and other undesirables in the 19th century, and is now a tourist 'theme' island. It would have been a rather remote place in the 1940s. You can see the Simngapore docks in the background. 
Our beach holidays and occasional weekends were at a house on the beach at Changi, at the eastern end of Singapore Island nar the infamous jail. There was an airforce base nearby, and to get to our beach house I can remember we drove over Marsden matting, the steel sheets used to line makeshift runways in wartime. The beach house was government-owned, like our residential homes. The house was right on the beach which made it very comfortable and convenient, but dont think for a moment that thse were crystal clear waters - far from it, as the sand was rather 'muddy' and thus th sea not clear, but it was clean and free form th polution so apparent narer the city. 
At Seton Close, with Talib, the kaboon (gardener), and our cook, Ah Jwee. I got on well with our servants and their kids. We also had a wonderful ahmah, Ah Soo who stayed with the family for most of their time in Singapre and Malaya, and brought up Stephanie. Unlike most government officrs, we did not have a chauffeur as Dad always prefered to drive himself. Ah Jwee and his family lived behind the house at Seton Close. Not sure where Talib lived. I believe Ah Soo also lived behind the main house. 
With Ah Jwee's kids, at Seton Close, 1949 or 1950. 
An additional photo of the kids. 
An enjoyable family afternoon outing was at the Botanical Gardens, replete with its swarm of cheeky monkeys who would do anying for a peanut, and were tame enough to climb up and grab one out of your pocket. This could be a dangerous game as these were rather nasty little fellows, and many years after we left, the Singapore government got rid of these primates - probably after too many tourists had been bitten. But they were certainly an attraction at the time. I enjoyed the Botanical Garden as it was always cool amongst the trees and there was also the opportunity to have a few satay sticks at the cafe. The Botanic Gardens are historical in that it was here that the rubber-plant seedings were developed for distribution to the new rubber industry in Malaya. 
Another outing was to the many cemeteries around the island, this one at the East India Cemetery. Yes, thats a bone that I have dutifully pulled out of a grave, but it certainly does not look human. Its probably a posed shot. I can see Dad finding a cow bone somewhere and saying, 'hey son, pretend you are pulling this out of a grave'. Makes for an interesting shot. I am not sure where the East India Cemetery is - maybe on Blakanmati - Sentosa - island. 
Haw Par Villa was another favourite outing, a colourful garden of Chinese dragons, torture and legends, perhaos the first of the world's theme parks. Haw Par Villa was built by the 'Tiger balm' king, Aw Boon Haw, whose house was just dwon the road from us when we lived at Seton Close, and opposite us when Mum and Dad lived in Nassim Road just before he died. 
My favourite outing however was always to the Singapore Swimming Club, an exclusive 'whites only' club in those days, with a huge Olympic-sized pool and a smaller toddlers pool. My most fondest memoryt is being called over by Dad to sit with them an have a bottle of chocolate milk and a bowl of hot chips and tomato sauce. What a treat! It is probably at the Singapore Swimming Club that I learnt how to swim, not formally but just by splashing around I suppose. 

Th seimming poolwas always a great outing, but the favourite places for entertainment were the 'eorlds' - there were three - the Great World, the New World, and the Happy World.  These were huge walled adult and children 'playgrounds' with showground type rides (ferris wheel et), stalls selling all kinds of food, produce, toys - whatever - and theatres and cabarets. They were fun placs. 


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I can remember attending a marvellous air show at the airport. I saw two aircrashes thatday, certainly not part of the planned pogram. One was a tiger month that went 'straigt in' nose down into the ground, and the other a single fixed-wong plane whiuch flipped over and went upside down into the sea - I was with dad when they dragged it out. Not sure if there were any deaths but i should imagine so. To me, it was all part of the act. here we are at the 'wishing well'. The airport was not far from town, at Paya Lebar, and I can remember a road which cut across a runway, with railway-type boom gates to close the road when an aircraft zoomed by - quite exciting for a youngster. 
I think the Vanguard was bought after I left Singapore in 1950. 
Photo taken at Seton Close.
Haw Par Villa was a favourite weekend visit, extremely colourful but tatic, no comparison to the 'theme parks' of today. Built by Aw Boon Haw, the founder of the Tiger Balm ointment company, it was quite a showplace, with colourful concrete statues depicting chinese legends, some quite graphic both in violence and sexual explicity which were morally 'cleaned up' many years later. 
The Straits Times
Singapore, Tuesday October 31 1950.
The previous day was a most important day for me. Being on the front page of the newspaper was one thing, but much more important was the fact that 30 October 1950 was the last day that I spent with my family, save for a few months travelling around Europe. I was off to Melbourne, to live with nan and Pop whilst i went to Pigdon Street Primary, then to Geelong Grammar for two years as a boarder, a year in Europe, nd then back to Nan and Pop's before Dad died in 1959. If only I had known what a sad moment this really was for me, saying goodbye to Mum and Dad virtually for the last time. I certainly dont look sad in the photograph, and indeed it was just another adventure for me. There was o sence of pending homesickness. I wonder how Mum and dad felt. Mum certainly looks concerned, and Dad has a proud smile on his face. Well, I hope so anyway. I left Singapore on 30 October 1950 from Kallang airport on a Qantas BOAC Constellation - still my favourite passenger airliner. Breakfast in Darwin at the terminal nd then to Melbourne. I sat at the back of the aircraft with a pile of boxes next to me, cargo no doubt. The hostesses were kind and attentiv - not too many kids of seven travel by air on their own, although I am sure it became more common as air travel took over from the 'schoolship kids'. 
And it is true - I wouldn't kiss my Mum and Dad in public. Why that should make front page news I have no idea, but there was probably a reporter handy at the time, and it sure beats headlines of murders and gang wars that usually dominated the paper. In fact, I cant rcall kissing my father at all. I find that very sad, and make up for it now with Sam - perhaps too much so. And here I am for the first nd probably only time on the front page of a national newspaper and they can't even get my name right. The text reads:
A handshake, that's all....
Seven year old Peter John Stone(r) yesterday refused to kiss his mother goodbye in public before leaving by Qantas BOAC Constellation for.....
(I have the rest of the text somewhere - will add when I find it). It goes on to say that when no-one was looking, I did give Mum a kiss goodbye. 
I managed to find a copy of the Straits Tims photo with Mum, but have not located one with Dad. Pity, as I would also treasure a shot of my father and I shakeing hands like this. You may notice that there are no photographs of my father and I together after this date. 
Hey - its great to see I have my own teeth!!