Motor cars cost a fortune in our country. The cheapest two-door, standard would cost at least S$60,000 brand new. With what is known as COE (Certificate of Entitlement), which an owner needs to drive a vehicle on the road, it would be heartbreak to find a tiny scratch, a dent or a puncture on the recently acquired car, etc.
Nowadays in Singapore, if you park your car anywhere you can be reasonably certain that it will still be in one piece and unscathed when you come to pick it up from a parking lot. But it was a different ball-game a long time ago.
In Singapore 50's and 60's when you are about to park your car on a playing field or open ground - there was hardly a designated car park those years - a group of boys will swarm your car and demand that they look after it for the duration you are away.
If you refuse the car will probably be in a mess afterwards. These *jaga kereta boys (or watch car boys) would probably have decorated it one way or another with a long artistic scratch, a large beautiful dent on the body work or a newly-shaped designer wheel (punctured).
I remember an incident when I was parking my car near the Odeon Katong Cinema (image) along East Coast Road in the mid-sixties. A few friends and I were going to watch a pop music show featuring some of our Shadows bands on stage.
As we were driving into the large grass patch two boys approached the car, knocked on the window and suggested they looked after the car while it was parked.
I refused them but very politely, hoping not to antagonise the two scruffy looking lads. It was a mistake because I found some scratches on my grey Volkswagen (image) afterwards. The jaga kereta boys, who formed a gang around the area, had all disappeared into the night.
All too soon as the four of us drove out on the main East Coast Road and proceeded to Siglap which is on a hill, a tire caved in.
Down the road and over the hill
I took my baby ridin' in my automobile
Ridin' along, me and my heart's desire
Ssssssss, a flat tire...
It took us some time to fix the flat but definitely most of the evening was wasted and our trip to Changi Point for a sea-food dinner was cancelled.
Incidents like these became quite a fearful experience for many drivers, especially the ladies. Although reports were made to the police it was not easy to catch these youth.
Even as late as 1971, there were incidents of jaga kereta nuisance. Here's an edited letter from a 'taxpaying motorist' in the Straits Times Singapore, dated 24th February, 1971, who wrote:
On February, 6th, at about 4pm, I was pestered by a group of jaga kereta boys on arrival at the Chinese Swimming Club.
I ignored them and went to the club canteen to phone the police. At 5 pm when I returned to my car the boys were still present, bold and demanding as ever.
That was not the first time I phoned the police about this menace. I have phoned four times in all.
Why has no action been taken?
(Left images of jaga kereta boys not from Singapore.)
I was all shook up and feelin' bad
I was thinkin' 'bout the fun
That we could have had
I had just about figured out what to do
But the Police, and all government departments that were involved, took action. Like the notorious Singapore gangsters that terrorized the island during those tumultuous years, the jaga kereta boys with underground connections were got rid off from the streets and car parks soon enough. Today there is not one jaga kereta boy in Singapore.
Do you have a social nuisance like jaga kereta boys in your country? What about our Singaporean reader? I'm sure you have encountered our nuisance in the 60's?
*Jobless, these boys resorted to making a few cents for their daily expenses. When the government stepped in, most improper activities were resolved as these young people acquired a decent education, housing, proper work and career paths.
An original article.
The Song and Vocal Group
The Del-Vikings or The Dell-Vikings is a vocal group specialising in doo-wop, rock n roll and recorded several pop singles in the 1950's. They lasted for many years with different line-ups and known for their racially integrated members. Their top hit was Come Go With Me.
You Tube and Lyrics: Del Vikings, Flat Tire.