Friday, September 30, 2011

Esplanade Sea Dragon Songs Singapore 50s Part 1

 Part I:

Page references are from the coffee-table book, 'Remember The 50s: Objects and Moments of a Dynamic Era' by Tectum Publishers 2010 (image 3).

Nothing jolts the memory like snapshots of old. Using the coffee-table book as a guide, the content as milestones and the photographs as lightning conductors I recreated my own teenage journey as I flipped through the pages of time and reminisced the moments, mementoes and music of the 50's.
Images quickly conjured in my mind as I read the short paragraph about the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (page: 18). In the first week of June 1953 when I was only 13, Singapore celebrated the coronation in style. 

I recalled how my parents booked one of Adelphi Hotel's uppermost rooms facing North Bridge Road so we could watch the coronation floats passing by below us. This event could have been the original concept for our annual Ching-gay parade.
The Adelphi Hotel from

A trip to the old Esplanade the next evening revealed the most fascinating sight that I had ever seen in the 50s. A dozen sampans at sea were carrying a beautifully illuminated sea dragon spouting neon lights (image 1) but from afar the illusion was so life-like and breath-taking. And this was a time before the advent of high technology and laser lights.

As I turned around to face inland, the crowned 20-storey Asia Insurance Building before us stood high and mighty in the night sky. It was the pride and joy for Singaporeans then as the building was the tallest on the island. Neon signs below the crown twinkled brightly announcing, Long Live The Queen (image 2).
In the same year, certain songs played constantly over the radio waves. Bill Hayley's Crazy Man Crazy, Les Paul and Mary Ford's Vaya Con Dios, Perry Como's Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes, Dean Martin's That's Amore, Kay Starr's Changing Partners and Earth Kitt's C'est Si Bon were some of the more conservative ones featured on Radio Singapore.

Do you remember the 50s in Singapore? Or perhaps your parents do? Are you aware that God Save The Queen was Singapore's National Anthem in the 50s?

Check out Part II soon for references from the book about the hula hoop, pony-tail, Tupperware, Capris, Match-Box Cars, Cadillac 59, Playboy, Drive-Ins and James Dean.
Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes: Perry Como. A strong favourite those years.

Images 1 and 2 by courtesy of Susan Brooks.
Image 3: Book cover 'Remember The 50s' Editor: Mariel Marohn (Tectum Publishers 2010). NLB Singapore. Ref: 306.09045 REM.

Original article: Andy Lim.
(This posting is not a book review.)


Anonymous said...

I think one of us blogged about this before. Maybe James.

But in a related post, my brother Chun Chew blogged about her visit to Singapore and the excitement it caused at the PSA.

Chun See

Anonymous said...

A coronation being such an impotant occasion, there was a series of commemoration stamps issued by the different (11) states of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah (at that time Sabah was known as British North Borneo).

wee kiat

Anonymous said...

phillip chew blogged about the coronation.


Andy Young* said...

Thank you blogger friends. I understand that some have blogged about the QEII Coronation in Singapore.

My idea was to recall those months and the songs in 1953 that went with them.

I clearly remembered songs like 'Seven Lonely Days' and 'A Dear John Letter' that went on and on and on over the radio at home.

Andy Young* said...

Thank you WK for your expertise on the Coronation stamps that were issued in Singapore.

I wonder why nobody composed local songs for the Coronation.

Thimbuktu said...

Thank you Andy for jolting my memories about the firework display at the Clifford Pier for the celebration of Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Day.

This is a video during my training assessment in Mandarin.

Andy Young* said...

Thanks James for the visit and your video.

You are truly bi-lingual.

noelbynature said...

13 Oct 2011:

The floating dragon of the Esplanade.

Posted by noelbynature under 'Heritage Sites and Trails, National History' 149 Reads.

Today in school, we begin the day by singing the National Anthem.

What was sung before Singapore gained independence and had her own anthem?

The answer was 'God Save The Queen' (or King, depending on the ruler of the day).

Andy Young* said...

Thanks for spreading the blog internationally.

I am glad to be part of National Heritage Board's endeavour for Singaporeans to tell their stories.