Sunday, October 30, 2011

West Point Gardens Pasir Panjang: When Fairyland Beckons: Singapore 50s Music

Dance and Pop Band Venues in the 50s:

I remember when I was in my early twenties being chauffeur driven in the night in an Opel Record (image 3) to *West Point Gardens. A good friend had suggested that we experienced the place and I agreed.

To the uninitiated West Point was a distance away from the Orchard Road belt of nightclubs, dance floors, lounges, pubs and bars. From its name description, it was also on the west end of Singapore compared to another music hot spot, the more populated east coast.

So it was the first time in my life that I went there and as we were approaching the area under cover of trees, shrubs and near darkness, I could hear faintly the music and noticed the glow of fluorescent lighting.

When I came out of the car I was pleasantly surprised to see that West Point Gardens was a fairyland in the woods. And as Peter Chan explained: "One thing I cannot forget was the strings of multicoloured light bulbs hung across the garden." Don't forget it was the beginning of the 60s and as a young 'un-everything seemed bright and beautiful to me.

West Point Gardens had been in existence since the early 50s and was patronised by the well-heeled Caucasians and locals to dine and dance. The main attraction was a circular open-air area that had a bandstand, a cafe with chairs and tables at its peripheral, guarding the precious dance floor jealously, allowing only the selected to tread. During high-tide evenings I was told, betwixt the music, one could hear the lapping waves from the sea besides.

Doli Tupaz and his Hawaiian Rhythm Kings (image 2) were the resident bands at the Gardens since the 50s and the 1955 photographs above show Anthony Danker, Doli Tupaz, G. Mani, Jimmy Tupaz and William Frois.

The other line-up (image 1) included Charles Danker and Horace Oliveiro. Their repertoire of popular hits from the 30s onwards took them to royalty status indeed! Samba, rhumba, mambo and grass-skirt, palm-tree swaying music filled the Pasir Panjang air. Sliding guitar, ukelele maracas combinations were the order of the day.

After the 50s and during the Singapore garage band (locally known as kampong bands) explosion, these swing bands were taken over by the more youthful guitar gangs, as they ambled in rapaciously with their portables and colourful Hofners, plugging them into their black box amplification. And as the solid bass guitar replaced the booming double-bass a new era was born; anyone could jive, twist, shake and rattle on the floor as West Point Gardens changed its tune.

*NB: According to Peter Chan, whom I consulted to authenticate yesteryear locations in Singapore: "West Point is a condominium today. As one travels along old Pasir Panjang Road near the junction with Clementi Road, there is an old house which was Kwa Geok Choo's family house during pre-WWII. One door away was a police station (maybe a carpark now), then a condominium. That place was West Point Gardens.

I passed by that place very often in my father's car in the 1960s as we took the West Coast Road over a road bridge to Boon Lay before turning into Old Jurong Road. West Point had an old Peranakan type bungalow raised on legs.

There was a large garden and the beach was in front - today's longkang (exceptionally large monsoon drain) - between West Coast Highway and those old houses."

Images 1, 2: National Heritage Board Singapore Website.
Image 3: Google.
Information: (1) Peter Chan's distinctive recollection of West Point and 
                   (2) Ms E. Chua, her Opel Record and chauffeur.
Original article: Andy Lim Collection.


Anonymous said...

From email:

Funny, come to think of it, I've never had any gigs there. I've been there a few times when Barney Morier was playing.


Anonymous said...

From email:

Sorry. Never heard of this place. Is it some kind of disco at East Cost Rd near to Bayshore?


Andy Young* said...

Thank you Anon for comment.

FYI: Barney Morier and George De Frettes popularised Hawaiian music in Singapore during those early days.

Andy Young* said...

No, West Point Gardens is a nightclub in the West Coast that plays popular music for dancing by the sea at Pasir Panjang, Singapore.

The area has now been reclaimed.

Anonymous said...

The question is: Where is the location of West Point Gardens in Singapore today?

Answer from email (edited):

I remember (going) to the Pasir Panjang fish shops at the junction with Clementi Road. On the map today that would be 430 Pasir Panjang Road.

I remember hearing that those fish shops (selling live and fresh
sea-food) were patronized by Kwa Geok Choo. So was her house
at nearby 503 or 505 Pasir Panjang Road?

Those days there were makan stalls at the junction of PPanjang Road and Neo Pee Teck Lane, including a 24-hour stall in a coffee shop selling roast duck and black-sauce duck.

All these have given way to new developments, including two
'Fragrance Hotels' and a 'Santa Grand Hotel'.


Andy Young* said...

The comment by JK explains itself. He has also accompanied his note with a Google map.

Thank you very much JK for pinpointing the area where West Point used to stand.

It is important that we learn the exact location of these night-club venues for those interested in their geographical positions

Anonymous said...


From email:

Thanks for the memories. I used to frequent that place when I was dating, in my younger days.

There is a long road with many turnings, like the GAP as they called it.

I think there is a place called Balmec Hill where lovers used to park their cars and enjoy the surroundings.

Those were the days.


Andy Young* said...

Wow D,

Thanks for your memories. Never knew about Balmec Hill.

I know the GAP though. Scootered there once.

FrameTurnerWins Pictures said...

Yet another wonderful piece Andy! I was transported back to the late 50s thanks to some details i.e colorful hanging light bulbs. (And Samba, rhumba, mambo in my head)

As a kid, living in a Kampong back in the 80s, we had one of those from the 60s, lighting up our verandah.

And also, I just realised how quick the Opel brand (and other German markers) managed to recover and make a mark in Singapore after The 2nd World War. As some of us may know, Opel almost closed shop 2 years ago.

I've always liked the West coast area (NUS Area) and the northern Part (Upper Thomson/Sembawang) of Singapore.

The colonialists may be gone, but commuting on a a bike between these 2 areas late at night often gives me the rough idea to how it was back then.

Andy Young* said...

Thanks Erwin,

You always provide another viewing angle for the same picture. A different perspective altogether.

Typical of the multi-media expert and professional.

Anonymous said...

From Facebook:

Hi Andy, can u pls check White Cloud Recording Company for me?? I recorded 10 albums under that label.

Thank you
Irene Yap.

Andy Young* said...

From Facebook:

Sorry, Irene,
these recording companies are 40 years old. I dont know if they exist anymore.

But I will write to some musician friends and find out, so watch out for future postings. Thank you for reading and for your question.

Were you a singer? Please tell us all about yourself.

Anonymous said...

Yes, was discovered by White Cloud Records when I was 11. Between 11-14years old, recorded 10 albums, 7 EPs 3 LPs.

Anonymous said...

From Facebook:

Would be nice if I can find the manager of White Clouds. Mr.Heng Ser Piah.

Andy Young* said...

From Facebook:

Thank you. And what are these albums. Would you like to leave me your email address so you can send me a feature story of yourself?

You can write on the blog Comment so your email add will not be revealed. I will try to find out about Mr Heng. Give me some time.

Andy Young* said...

Thanks Irene.

I will wait for your write-up and will write to you soon.

Anonymous said...

From private email:

Hi Irene,

From someone who knows Mr. Heng but who wishes to remain confidential:

Mr Heng is still around, but not sure whether White Cloud Records still exist.

Lost contact with him for 40 years. Will try to get his contact again.

Andy Young* said...

So there you are Irene. Let's wait a while and I am sure you will get your contact number soon.

Anonymous said...

I have a picture of Westpoint Gardens in 1966 - it is of my family sitting at some tables out in the open & then a row of trees with the sea behind. (I can email it if you would like to see)

Andy Lim* said...

Hi Ingrid, I am so glad you got in touch. Please write to me again leaving me your email address and I shall write to you immediately. I shall not publish your email address.
Thanks so much.

Andy Lim* said...

Ingrid has contacted me again. Thanks so much for your generosity.

Frank G said...

I remember West Point when it was a sort of boatel in the 70s. Used to take bus 146 from school in town and dropped off at last bus stop which was in front of West Point, as bus 146 terminal was opposite he road. I remember the Trees in West Point were like pines. I think it was 7 mile stone.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Frank G for your detailed bus location and description of trees. Please visit this blog again

scenic said...

Thank you Andy and all the others for your contribution on West Point Garden. I am 67 years old and this blog has brought back found memories of my younger days at this nightclub with my friends. The hanging coloured light bulbs were the markers when we were traveling along the long and dark road. Of course we will hear the faint music getting louder as we approach West Point. Hahaha, a great story to recall those 'rascals' looking for good fun there.
Looking forward to hear more stories from the others 😃

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Scenic,

Thanks for the visit. I happen to be blogging and read your letter.

I'm glad the blog has proven useful for you as we are all enjoying our twilight years.

Please visit the blog again soon.

Unknown said...

Hello, very interesting post about West Point Garden! It seems like a nice place to relax and hang out with friends! May I know what happened to West Point Garden? Cause I cant find it now.

Denise Ho said...

Hello, very interesting post about West Point Garden! It seems like a nice place to relax and hang out with friends! May I know what happened to West Point Garden? Cause I cant find it now.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Night club was long gone. Now, since land is so precious in Singapore, the area is filled with beautiful apartment buildings, parks and new houses.

Thanks for the visit Denise. Come again.

Rachel Ong said...

Hi Andy.

Thank you very much for this lovely post. I doing a bit of research on particularly Doli Tupaz and his music. Would you happen to know or seen him play before? How can we get in touch?

Rachel Ong (Malaysia)

Cewade said...

I used to live opposite the gardens and a Police station,in 1958.
My Mother used to be friends with a Chinese lady who lived next door to us,The Family had a little girl called Kimmy.
I believe the ladies father owned West Point Gardens and lived in a 3 story mansion
On the sea front.The house and gardens had a big wall and gates facing the road.They used to have welsh collie dogs.
It was approximately 300/400 m up from the Gardens and police station.