|Bras Basah Road bookshops, right, near Cathay Building - Images: singas.co.uk|
I loved your feature on comics and I'm glad so many people responded. You obviously struck a nostalgic nerve in all of us. I have a few anecdotes relating to comics/magazines when I was in Singapore in the 1960s.
When I was stationed at RAF Changi I used to buy paperbacks from the second-hand book stalls in Changi village and Orchard Road, but I don't recall any of them selling comics. There were several book shops in Bras Basah Road and I occasionally bought textbooks and hardbacks there. I remember calling at one of those shops on my way to the Capitol cinema and seeing a huge pile of Dandy and Beano comics from the 1940s and 1950s on top of the glass counter.
There must have been about a hundred comics and I asked the Chinese shopkeeper how much he wanted for them. I can't recall the exact price but they were amazingly cheap.
I asked how long they had been in stock and he told me they had been there for several weeks. I didn't want to lug a pile of comics to the cinema so I left them, intending to call back later in the week to buy them. Why I didn't pay for them and ask him to reserve them, I will never know. Needless to say, when I returned a couple of days later, they had gone. Very sad.
On another occasion, when I was looking for a particular short story by D.H. Lawrence for my English Literature course, I tried all the book shops in Bras Basah Road. None of them had his collected short stories or any anthologies containing the story I needed. In the last shop I tried, the Chinese owner was quite knowledgeable.
"D.H. Lawrence?" he said. "He write Lady Chatterley's Lover?" I nodded. "You wait," he said. He gave me a bottle of Coke and a Consulate menthol cigarette and told me to sit down on a chair before disappearing upstairs. I could hear him moving around above my head and when he returned, he beckoned me to follow him, leaving his young male assistant to mind the shop. We went up two narrow flights of stairs and emerged on to a balcony with a low table and some cane chairs. A suitcase lay on the table.
"Sit! Sit!" he said excitedly, so I sat down on one of the chairs, still clutching my Coke and cigarette. Then, with a triumphant flourish, he lifted the lid of the case. It was crammed full of glamour magazines with garish covers featuring over-developed young ladies wearing very little, if anything, at all. I was astonished. After a brief look at one or two of the *magazines, I told him they were not quite what I was looking for.
He looked puzzled. "But D.H. Lawrence - Lady Chatterley - very naughty. No?" "Very naughty, yes," I replied, "but not exactly what I was looking for, thanks." He obviously equated anything written by Lawrence with pornography.
Silver Bells Hanging On a String
Thanks very much for your contribution. Here's some inspiration from Chuck Berry and 130 very sporty ladies. We're not going to equate this song with pornography are we folks?
(Only 3 verses of a 6-verse song):
When I was a little bitty boy
My grandmother bought me a cute little toy
Silver bells hangin' on a string
She told me it was my ding a ling
And then mother took me to Grammar School
But I stopped all in the vestibule
Every time that bell would ring
Caught me playin' with my ding a ling
Once I was swimming cross Turtle Creek
Many snappers all around my feet
Sure was hard swimming cross that thing
With both hands holdin' my ding a ling
(My Ding-a-Ling was originally recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1952.)
Image 1: http://www.singas.co.uk
Images 2,3,4,5: from Allan Thompson and Google.
Video: You Tube.
** Allan has written up to 20 articles for this blog, documenting his experience on Singapore in the 1960s both as a uniform personnel and a lover of life. Check him out by clicking on his name under Labels below.