Life in Jalan Kayu - Snippets from Servicemen Interview April 2007

Shantini J , our young Pei Hwa historian , met some of the British servicemen who served here after the second world war during their visit to Singapore in April 2007 and here are some interesting snippets from her interview with several of them.

1) Where were the bachelor soldiers in Seletar Camp housed?
They mostly lived in the barracks at Seletar camp which had alphabets assigned to them.

2) What was one of the favourite sports that the RAF men and their families took part in?
Rowing was one of our favourite sports. On Saturdays we had family rowing races while on Sundays we would row to Cornie island where we would have a picnic . After which, we would dive down to locate the coral reefs.

3)What were some of the privileges that British civil servants had?
Well, we were allowed to buy cars from England and bring them to Singapore without paying taxes. We remember when we used to take trips to Penang and we took two days to drive there because the road surface was poor. Meanwhile, we spent the nights at the rest houses which were located on the way to Penang . These rest houses were very clean and served simple yet good food.

4) Can you name an item which you brought back from Singapore that reminds you of your stay here?
That would be carved camphor chests. We still use it now to store the bed linens at home. Some of the chests actually has a Kampong Village motif carved on them.

5) Where would British families live when you first arrived at Singapore ?
For ourselves , we first stayed at a flat in Jalan Kayu . Later, we moved into the married quarters in Seletar Camp . There was actually a kampong behind the flat we lived in. There were beautiful palm and papaya trees in the kampong’s premises .

6) What do you remember best about Jalan Kayu?
We remember there were many rubber plantations and fish ponds in the area. On Friday nights there would be a night market and the streets would be lit by lamps.

7) Were ay of your children born in Singapore?
My son and daughter were born in Singapore at Changi hospital because we did not have a hospital at Seletar. In fact, I was married in Seletar.

8)Can you tell me a little about the taxi transport system back then in Singapore?
There were two types of taxi systems. One is known as the ‘pirate’ taxis which operated all over Singapore except in the city area. ‘Pirate’ taxis are taxis without authorized permit to carry passengers. There are two types of authorized taxis . One is just like today which runs on a meter fare and operates within the city limits. The other type of taxi is the ‘pick-up’ type which means that it is not run on a meter fare . The passenger has to negotiate the fare with the taxi driver. This type of taxi operates outside the city limits.

9) Could you describe the surrounding areas of Seletar airbase?
The airbase was surrounded by forest and jungle . There were many snakes in the forested areas and sometimes these snakes made their way into our homes and the cats, we kept as pets, used to catch the snakes .

10) Could you describe the shops in Jalan Kayu and the services they provided?
I remember that there was a tailor and my mother used to buy her dress material and got them tailored there because they were done at a low cost and at short notice. We also bought our school shoes at the shops in Jalan Kayu.

11) Did you have any other British friends beside those in Seletar?
Yes, we had friends who lived at Paya Lebar and Serangoon Gardens .

12) What was the exchange rate to a pound in Singapore in the 1960s ?
The currency exchange SGD$8 to one British pound.

13) Did you have any local friends?
Yes , many of them lived in the near by kampongs . We used to interact often with them and sometimes I was even invited to join them for a meal.


Pavani J said…
Very Interesting !!!