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Bicycling In Singapore In The Late 1940s. (Song on the right bar):
I had started cycling as a child when I was in mid-primary, taking my father's straight-handle model Hercules bicycle (above) one morning without his permission. It was hardly used and left in our backyard to rust. It was an opportunity too good to miss and a yearning too tempting to resist so while my folks were still sleeping I quietly grabbed the bike and sneaked out the back door.
When I came home that afternoon I expected a reprimand for being such a rebel because the family instruction was to take the public bus to school. But he was nice and without fuss allowed me to cycle daily since he thought I was old enough.
Meantime I saved enough for one year to buy a beautiful Rudge from the corner shop near my home after a few months of savings and some money from dad. I had to register the new bicycle and received a circular shaped licence plate (image for illustration) with a number which had to be displayed on the two-wheeler.
I remember three brands that were familiar those years, the Raleigh, the Rudge, and the Hercules. They all came from England and strong bikes they were, but there were other brands too and just as sturdy.
The bicycle I owned was much lighter than my dad's, with shiny spokes and a bottle-like battery attachment on the front wheel that could light up the lamp in front of the bike. I was elated and cycled to school every morning much to the envy of my primary school mates. Evenings were spent cleaning the sporty contraption until it shone and glimmered in the sun. Brasso, a polish, was used to clean nearly every part.
It was a breeze to ride a bicycle in the early 1950s in Singapore because there were few vehicles then. Traffic was light and I remember saying that, "after ten in the evening anyone could sleep on the road and not be run over." It was that quiet.
There were no bus lanes or bicycle lanes, neither pedestrian crossings nor walkways. We were free to pedal anywhere and at any time but had still to be careful since the usual cars, buses, trams (image below), trishaws, hawker carts, and other vehicles ply the roads. Furthermore, don't fall into the longkang besar (large drains) found at the road periphery. Injuries could be serious!
In the '50s there were *policemen who stopped cyclists to collect tiga puloh sen (30 cents) each, as a 'fine' for not turning on their bicycle-lights in the evening. My two friends and I were caught one evening while we were cycling along Paya Lebar Road on our way home. Stopped by two cops, they shouted, "Lampu, lampu..." (lamp) as they pointed at ours which had not been switched on. Then, "Duit, duit..." (money).
We didn't argue and paid our dues because these uniformed officers threatened us with jail terms. Thirty cents was nearly all of my school tuck-shop money for the day as my meal consisted of noodles with two fish balls which cost thirty cents, two Hacks sweets were five cents and the other five cents was for a glass of cold drink.
I recalled cycling all the way to North Bridge Road just to buy a vinyl record. Sometimes if I had more funds, I would buy an EP (Extended Play). Once I had wanted so badly to buy a copy of the Ricky Nelson hit Someday (image: EP#4). The series consisted of five of Nelson's EPs.
The bicycle ride took me along the whole of Geylang Road, Kallang Road, Crawford Street, Bugis and finally North Bridge Road. The ride home took a longer time. I was too tired.
I still retain the EP today. It could have been a little warped. I mean, riding in the hot sun for so long.
|Durian Dave's Soft Film|
There were times when I had extra money I would cycle on from the record shop to the lobby of Capitol Cinema and grab a copy of Movie News, a Shaw Brothers' English publication that featured the latest Hollywood and local movie gossips.
I had kept my Rudge bicycle for years but don't know how it had disappeared since.
I hope some members of Cycling or Bicycle Clubs in Singapore and International Bicycle Clubs in major cities would write in and tell their stories.
(*Officers who behaved in this manner were few and far between.)
Today: 15 April 2015
I was nearly hit by a bicycle at the bus-stop recently. The cyclist, a burly guy, came from the left. I was not facing him and only saw him when he passed so close to me that the tip of his handle hit my waist.
It was too close for comfort as he balanced himself, getting in between myself and the bus-benches. He hastened his peddling and went off. No sorry, no stop also!!
All bicycles should have a plate with a licence number. Agreed?
|#4 Album has "Someday."|
1. Bicycle Episode - JM Richards - 1897.
2. The Bicycle Girl - Oddfellow, Meacham -1895.
3. Bicycle Race - Queen - 1978.
4. Bicycle Tillie - The Swallows - 1953.
5. Les Bicyclette - Engelbert H. - 1968.
6. Bike - Pink Floyd - 1967.
7. Dora Brown - Nelly Bird - 1897.
8. Daisy Bell - Harry Dacre - 1892.
9. Have You A Wheel - Hoffman - 1895.
10. Rockin' Bicycle - Fats Domino - 1961.
11. What A Beautiful Day - Beach Boys - 1979.
12. The Pushbike Song - Mungo Jerry - 1970.
13. Silver Machine - Hawkwind -1972.
and many more...
Cycling In Singapore:
1. The Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) is the national federation for cycling recognized by the world body Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and its affiliated Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC).
2. SCF is the National Sports Association (NSA) recognized by the Singapore Sports Council (SSC). SCF is responsible to SSC for cycling events that promote the sport...ANDY YOUNG
Nothing like a bicycle for a leisurely ride. Today not many will pedal; they scoot, with speed. And bicycles need a number plate. Check those bicycle songs on the list. 'QUEEN' IS IN. Any more to add?
COMMENTS FROM READERS:
Unforgettable Beautiful & memorial old days.
Hi Andy, Raleigh was a popular and branded brand. There were very few smaller sized bicycles. Many of us including myself started learning to cycle on full-sized bicycles by cycling in between the triangle hole of the bicycle. I lived in Farrer Park, and there were many lanes to cycle. Cheerio
This reminds me of my childhood days with the old bicycle that widened my own region. It was like discovering a new world.
Thanks, Freda, Michael and Hiroshi for the informative comments about the joys of cycling. Thanks also to
Re the “bicycle” song I wish to add “On A Bicycle Built For Two” by Nat King Cole. The three bicycle brands you mentioned were the expensive ones from the UK. My friend had an Italian racing bike which was very light, and the brand name was Lugano. Most of the lightweight bicycles were made in Italy.
There were lots of bicycle shops in the 50s and 60s and they had older bicycles for rent. The cost was 20cts per hour. Unlike the renting procedure today, the hirer must return the rented bicycle back to the shop then you could retrieve your ic that was deposited back.
I encountered a serious bicycle accident while being seated at the back seat. My right leg got entangled in the wheel while my friend was riding. The spokes were blended so too was my bloodied leg. Lucky the bone setter managed to straighten it after 3 months.
Mine was a Hercules
Thanks, Stephen for your short paper and Jimmy for your one-liner. It's a miracle you are OK today Stephen. We have so much to tell. Our memories just need one trigger to expose most of what we know.
Tracking The Trail, Telling The Tale.