Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blog's 4th Anniversary: 21st November 2012

Happy Birthday Blog. I didn't celebrate it this year. Forgot :-) How can?
Of Kipper Ties n Impressionable Teens At RAF Bases
When Allan Thompson and Ms Chong Yoke Lin wrote to me recently in response to my previous post about Han Suyin, they have one thing in common.  Both had been in the restricted military compounds of  Singapore's RAF base camps in the 1960s. Below are their letters about wearing kipper ties, meeting William Holden, Roger Moore at a shop doorway and impressionable teens watching movies at RAF cinemas:
1. Sound track credits Riz Ortolani.
1) A note from Allan Thompson
Dear Andy,

I saw your feature on Love Is A Many-Splendoured Thing (previous posting) which is a film I enjoyed as much for the music as the story. Its male star, *William Holden, did quite a lot of filming in the East, partly because he loved Asian women (and who could blame him?).
2. British trad: kipper-tie
I remember buying a pair of slacks in Singapore in 1964/65 from a shop called Chosenco which had a life-size cut-out of William Holden in the doorway.  

Apparently, when he was in Singapore, he had some clothes tailored by them which is why they called themselves Chosenco! He also filmed The 7th Dawn in the region, co-starring Susannah York, and the **film score was composed by Riz Ortolani.

When I returned to Singapore in 1968, I bought a gaudy tie from Chosenco and found that a life-size cut-out of Roger Moore was standing in the shop doorway because he had recently been filming there and had some suits made by them. Poor William Holden had been relegated to the back of the shop near the changing rooms!

Incidentally, I still have my gaudy Chosenco tie because it has a special significance for me. I was based at RAF Tengah from 1968-1970 and I worked on 74 Squadron which flew Lightning jet fighters. One of the youngest pilots was a Scots chap called John Webster who used to wear brightly-coloured ***kipper ties at Squadron functions.

3. Song Sheet courtesy of Allan Thompson.
Some of the other men tried to outdo him in this respect which is why I bought my tie. Sadly, John was lost in 1970 (or 1971) when his aircraft hit the sea during a night-flying exercise in the Malacca Strait and neither he nor the aircraft was ever recovered. I wrote a poem about him many years later called "No More Kipper Ties" which I will send you sometime if you wish.

*According to the local dailies, William Holden had been in and out of Singapore countless times. He must love Asian women. Holden was in Singapore in 1963 on transit to Bombay and in 1975 to promote his movie, Towering Inferno. Roger Moore was in Singapore in 1965 to promote his TV series, The Saint.

**The haunting theme song had been recorded by Filipino/Chinese pop singer Jose Mari Chan. (It's on the right bar of this blog.)

***A Kipper Tie is a necktie fashionable in Britain in the mid 60s to late 70s. The characteristics are its extreme breadth - 4.5 to 5 inches - with unusually garish colors and patterns.

2) A note from Ms Chong Yoke Lin

Hi Andy,

I read The Rain My Drink (also by Han Suyin) a long time ago but can't remember what it's about. Such reads are not meant to be retained --not even in long-term memory bank. I watched A Many Splendoured Thing in the mid 50's in an RAF cinema (could have been Seletar).  
4. Astra Cinema @ RAF Tengah Singapore.
My father, a radio technician, saw to the smooth screening of films in the RAF cinemas in their 4 base camps - Changi, Sembawang, Tengah, Seletar. So on frequent weekends, we lucky kids got to go to the movies.
5. Projectors in use at an RAF Astra cinema.
Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing was one memorable picture for an impressionable mid-teen fed on a diet of movies produced in the west. The film was rather short-lived but not the theme song. It brings back fond memories whenever I hear it.

Original articles by: Allan Thompson and Ms Chong Yoke Lin.
Image 1, 2: Google.
Image 3 courtesy of Allan Thompson.
Image: 4, 5 from:


Wikipedia: said...

The Movie:
'The 7th Dawn' is a 1964 drama film starring William Holden, Capucine and Tetsuro Tamba.

The film set in the Malayan Emergency was based on the novel 'The Durian Tree' by Michael Keon and filmed on location in Malaysia.

The Song:
The film's score was composed by Riz Ortolani. The theme song 'The Seventh Dawn' was sung by The Lettermen on the movie soundtrack.

Sergio Franchi recorded the song on a 1964 single - RCA 47-8409 and Roland Shaw provided an instrumental cover version.

FL said...

Hello, Andy, I refer to the note by Ms Chong and the photo of Astra Cinema at Tengah airbase. For your info, there was also a cinema with the same name at Seletar East Camp I used to watch movies there in the evenings with my NS comrades in 1971/72 during my full time NS. I remember we paid for ticket (about $1.20. It was meant for the British families. However, NSmen in our camp were allowed in provided we wear our army uniform. I also recollect that before the show started we had also to stand up for the "God save the Queen" as a respect. However, I don't know when the cinemas ceased screenings and whether the cinema building is still there. Anyone who knows, care to tell us. Thanks.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi FL,
As far as I have learnt from the websites I visited, all RAF cinemas are named ASTRA followed by the name of the area airbase.

I remember going to the movies in Singpore in the 50s where we had to stand up when "God Save The King" was played.

For your final statement about whether the buildings are still standing we might need Ms Chong or others to help with the information. Anyone?


Hi Guys,

I think we all are from this "fabulous and memorable" age group, eh?

I can still vividly recall the days spent with my Malay, Indian, Eurasian friends from the "kampung" we grew up in!

It was simply a marvelous era! Too much & too lengthy, to write about those good old days on email!

Better still, we should get together when the opportunity arise and talk about those wonderful period, after all life is too short not to do it.

We should get together, not in a fancy restaurant, but maybe a "Serabat stall" (if there's any still around) or "kopi tiam", when I next visit Singapore!

With God's blessing, probably in May. Till then, "selamat jumpa lagi"!

Guru Happy.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

The email above , accompanied by a lengthy essay about 60s happenings, has prompted me to write to Guru Happy who has agreed to allow me to publish his stories which are varied, interesting and exciting.

So watch out for the first episode where Guru Happy tackled a group of 'samseng kia' during a 60s cinema queue. I'd prpbably call it 'Kung Fu Fighting' after the famous martial arts song.

CYL said...

Sorry Andy,

No answer for this because by end 50's, my father had to leave - air force troops were being withdrawn - Singapore gained independance in 1959?

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Lin for the information. If anyone out there knows when the cinemas stopped screenings and whether the cinema is still there please write in.