Memories of Jalan Kayu and Seletar by Terry K Oxford

Hi all you wonderful Jalan Kayu-ites,
My name is Terry K Offord, I first arrived in Singapore in July 1956 and was posted to RAF Seletar. I was an RAF Photographer those days. Whilst I enjoyed Jalan Kayu and Singapore, I did not like RAF Seletar, primarily, because like many of my colleagues, we had to do so many Guard Duties, such as Bomb Guard, Searchlight Guard, Train Guard, Lighter Guards where we accompanied Lighter barges from the Outer Roads, opposite Clifford Pier, all the way to Seletar Pier, the trip would take all day, and sometimes, the next day, the Bombs we'd unshipped, were taken to RAF Tengah by road, this meant yet another guard duty.
I often wondered why technicians had to perform so many guard duties.
I recall RAF Seleter as little more than a prison camp for those of us who had to perform such onerous duties. There were many hundreds of servicemen at Seletar who didn't, ever, have to serve on Guard Duties, and as we photographers were so often put on Guard Duties, we disliked Seletar intensely.
Now for the positive side of Seletar, we enjoyed leaving the base and going to Jalan Kayu Village, it was a shoppers paradise, especially having arrived from a dull, boring England where everything was rationed. It was luxury to see all the food and fruit, so readily available.I served at Seletar for about two years, and was detached to Changi for one year, Changi was like heaven!
I had many friends in the Kampong at Jalan Kayu, both Malay and Chinese, and often, at weekends, I would walk around the kampong, studying the lifestyle which appeared to be idyllic, peaceful and quiet. I recall a Mr Toh Kim Teok who worked at the Photographic Section as a maintenance carpenter, Teok was a clever man, he would make anything from timber for the airmen, and many of us had him make record player cabinets and speaker cabinets etc.,There was a Mr Lim who would drive around the Base selling 'Cold Storage' Eskimo Pies and Strawberry milk, then in the village, the Highway Bar first on the left outside the gates, where both European and delicious Chinese food could be bought for very little money, and like many others before and after me, K Wah Tailors and Ngai Sun Tailors, and Mohan's Silk Store come to mind, Ruby Photo and Lim's Photo shops processed our 35mm Kodak Ektachromes and B&W films for us.Curry's aplenty were available and my friend, Vic Maratea and I would spend time at the Indian Cinema at the bottom left of the village,watching Indian Films which usually lasted for many hours, we'd buy a packet of peanuts or a drink of Basil Seeds or Lichee juice for 10c then enjoy a Nasi Goreng for fifty cents or a dollar, in a Banana leaf of course, with a Condensed Milk tin full of delicious Coffee (Kopi Su Su) which I am happy to say, I was still able to buy in Geylang Serai on my recent visit to the most wonderful country on Gods earth. In the early days in Singapore, I was very political, I used to take around the 'PETIR' which was a newspaper published by LKY'S PAP, a party that I often use, even today, as a benchmark for political progress. I have since been back to Singapore in 1967-70, when I was then working at Changi in Air Traffic Control, and even later, 1973-74 when I was then serving with the New Zealand Navy, where, on leaving the RAF, I found a position as a Stores Officer with the Navy, only in order to get back to Singapore.I married a Singapore Girl in 1958, we were married for 37 years when, sadly my wife died. I have lived in NZ for 28 years, then emmigrated to Australia in 1998. I had wanted to stay and live in Singapore back in 1970 but the Singapore Government did not permit foreigners ease of entry during those days, nevertheless, I have always loved and admired Singapore, her amazing people and everything about the most wonderful mini-nation.
I have a number of black and white pictures of events/people/places which I have treasured all these years, including pictures taken in the Kampong of a Malay Wedding, of a handsome young Chinese boy who, would be in his fifties by now, I often took photographs, making free copies available for the Village People who were so friendly and kind toward us, I must say that, on my most recent visit to Singapore two years ago, I was saddened to see the old village of Jalan Kayu had changed beyond recognition, and like Geylang Serai, it looked so sad and forlorn on the very rainy day when I visited it,only to find that it was not possible to visit the old RAF Seletar base.I used to visit a Malay Friend in Kampong Ayer Gumeroh, (near the Changi Prison), it has now vanished, as had the block of flats at Geylang Serai where my friend Ali Bin Haji had once lived.
When I first stayed at Seletar, I lived in H Block Centre Floor, then when I got married, I firstly lived at 29B Paya Lebar Crescent, then later, at #1 Huddington Avenue, Sernagoon Garden Estate, on my later posting in 1967-70 I was stationed at RAF Changi (also know as Paradise on earth) first house was at Guan Soon Avenue, then I moved to 488-A Upper Changi Rd, 5.3/4 milestone and I was surpirsed to find that place was exactly the same as when I lived there all those years ago, PLUS the Liang Suan Restaurant was still in business at the junction of Frankel Avenue and Upper Changi Road. So many memories, I feel they should help to give a picture of the life and times of Singapore's transition from a Colony to an Outstanding, brilliant and positively beautiful nation that can be very proud of its heritage.Sould anyone wish to make contact with me, please feel free to do so, I'll be happy to speakof more experiences of 'Life in Singapore as a British Serviceman'.

Sincerly, Majulah Singapura!
Terry K Offord.


pinto said…
Thanks, Terry, for sharing your memories.
John Mason said…
Terry, I have been trying to find out where you had gone for 40 years and by chance I stumbled on this page. Please email me at Look forward to hearing from you, John Mason
David said…

Ray King is trying to contact you.
We are both members of the RAF Seletar Association.

David Lloyd
Anonymous said…
Reading all the stories brings back lots of memories. I was a young Singapore girl at the time and lived not far away from Jalan Kayu. I remember the servicemen stationed in Singapore and later as I grew older I would visit the Pasar Malam or night market and me and my girlfriends would flirt with the servicemen or rather they flirted with us! I have been away for a long time now but the memories remain and when I come across such blogs it does bring the memories back.
Newbie Ho said…
Brings back memories of my childhood years living as a Jalan Kayu. Wild n fun times those were my rascal yester-years. Thanks for sharing ur memories
Newbie Ho said…
Brings back memories of my childhood years living as a Jalan Kayu. Wild n fun times those were my rascal yester-years. Thanks for sharing ur memories
Newbie Ho said…
Brings back memories of my childhood years living as a Jalan Kayu. Wild n fun times those were my rascal yester-years. Thanks for sharing ur memories