*Grace Chang: Ja-Jambo: Video MrHuang HK
Ms CY Lin has been a regular contributor of this blog. In a recent reply to my last posting about Hari Raya songs and kampongs, she mentioned the happy days she spent living in a bungalow with a unique roof and playing with friends of different nationalities. Below is her letter.
1 Paterson Hill in the 1950s - 1973 fits the category of a kampong where different races lived in close proximity, and children played and learned from one another. This was the residence of Dr Lim Boon Keng, a pioneer physician and social reformer who founded Singapore Chinese Girls' School.
My family of six rented a room ( S$30/- monthly rental raising to S$50/- in the later years) in his huge two-storey bungalow which had an atap roof. He and his family lived on the upper floor and leased out some rooms on the same level to British forces personnel. The ground floor rooms were for the locals. (The image is only an illustration and not the home of Dr. Lim. Image 2 is a S$50/- Straits Settlement Singapore currency which was still used in the 1950's.)
Each room was relatively large but all tenants shared a common bathroom and a toilet. Having a benign landlord in the good doctor, my ingenious father was able to single-handedly partition three small bedrooms, a washing area and a kitchenette. Later, with us as his helpers, a toilet was added - talk about child labour!
An outhouse was turned into a sawmill run by a three-generation Chinese family. Another became a motor workshop.
My siblings and I played with Dr Lim's grandchildren, his Malay gardener's children, the Chinese kids and some Indian-muslim ones from the house on Grange Road. We spoke English, Malay, Hokien and Cantonese.
There's **a big field in the compound with fruit trees for the picking - cherries, rambutans, chikus, pakia (guavas) and buah susu (passion fruit). The larger trees offered respite when the weather was hot - we'd be climbing and resting in our little tree house.
Those were happy days. And yes, 1 Paterson Hill was also the birth place of the pop group ***The Decibels.
*Grace Chang, with her beauty and vivacity , could have been an icon even today. She had appeared in more than 30 movies from 1953 to 1964. Her 1957 movie Mambo Girl was a very big hit. Chang was one of the most popular stars from town to kampong. She would be 82 this year (2015).
The song, Ja-Jambo could be a musical representation of what the world was in the 1950's, raw, wild and waiting. We had WWII, and after 15 years of settling in, would have awakened to a new dimension in life.
**Could be why the area is called Orchard Road since an orchard is a big field with lots of fruit trees.
***Read about The Decibels: