Saturday, October 01, 2016

60's Car Park Boys (Jaga Kereta) Give You A Flat

Del Vikings: Flat Tire Video by Eric Sempels

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.

Images; Google.
You Tube and Lyrics: Del Vikings, Flat Tire.



A bad experience was my Ford Capri being scratched badly way back in the 60's just for taking up the space in front of a shop.


What an interesting article! No experience with them. I ws just a little girl and was driven around. By the time I am aware of surroundings they must have disappeared!

You write such interesting articles, Andy.


wow not heard this since the early 70's when it was played on a local radio station very rare i think!

chakap chakap said...

The Straits Times: 18th March, 1958


Seven jaga kereta boys were conditionally discharged in Singapore yesterday after admitting charges of 'importuning' at the HAW PAR VILLA car park on Sunday.

Police say the seven were pestering motorists into allowing them to watch their cars. The seven were told to behave themselves for the next six months. All are teenagers.

60's DJ. L.L. said...

I always tipped the leader. Saves a lot of hassle. Sometimes they even cleaned my car.

Ian Levene You Tube said...

Flat Tyre is a truly fabulous song..It wouldn't be out of place on a Coasters album


Hi Andy,

Back then I could not afford a car. Had a small motorbike - 50c.c. Honda Sports. Motorcyclists weren't spared from the jaga-kereta boys either. I remember parking my bike at The Orchard Cinema and refusing their services. Bad mistake.

After the movie, I went to my bike and tried to kick-start it but it just wouldn't start. I then checked the engine area and found that the connector to the spark plug had been wrenched off the ignition cable.

Thankfully, there was some slack in the length of the cable so I was able to push the cable end onto the spark plug terminal. Managed to get the bike started. Luckily too, they didn't puncture any of the tyres.

The jaga-kereta boys are long gone. Now what we have in nearly all car parks throughout the island are 'one-arm bandits' :-/

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks to all for the interest created about JAGA KERETA BOYS. Some comments are very interesting. Perhaps I could have saved my tyre by giving a bit of money to the ruffians like LL did.

But poor Jimmy Chng. Ripped off his motorbike artery, it nearly died. But his technical knowhow saved his bike.

I didn't know JAGA KERETA BOYS troubled motor-cyclists too. Learnt some today. Thanks JC.

And Eusoof's car was scratched too because he took someone's space. And Irene was driven around, even today.

Please write in with your JKB experiences. Those who were in that era knew the problems.

Linda said...

Wonderful photos and post. It is a shame that groups sometimes become a menace. Definitely bullying!

Ooi CH said...

Kereta Boys are rare and found in Kuala Lumpur only.

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...

Yes Linda they were bulling,like ruffians.

And Ooi CH, surprised that JAGA KERETA BOYS are still around, but in KL only. Hopefully they will get proper jobs and subsidies soon to help them.

Glad you love the West Point post, SCENIC. Just wondering if there were JAGA KERETA BOYS at West Point those years?

Thank you all for reading, commenting. Please make another visit soon.


Hi Andy,

I am Matthew and I am a student from NTU, Singapore. I am currently doing research on the 1970s long hair ban in Singapore and I am looking to speak to individuals whom have personal experience with the regulation. I am particularly interested in individuals whom were involved in the music scene too.

By any chance did you have any personal experience or do you know of anyone who does? I would love to find out more.

You can reach me at my email at Any information will be helpful! I hope to hear from you!


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Matthew,

I hope you get what you need. I have published your mail accordingly. Hopefully some musicians out there may be able to help you and write to you personally.

If you need mine just leave me your mobile phone number at the same comment page and I will get back to you. I shall not publish your phone number.

(Readers if you can, please assist Matthew in whatever way necessary by writing to him direct.)