Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Good Bye Caldecott Hill, Hello Star Avenue

A pop guitar group performing during a recording session of Dendang Ria at the former RTS and SBC studio at Caldecott Hill in 1963.

Here's a note from good friend Mun Chor Seng, a Singapore television news photographer, who used to accompany the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew during the former PM's trips around the region. He explains in detail the workings of a well-protected area at the former MediaCorp, Caldecott Hill. 

Thank you Chor Seng.

MediaCorp has completely left Caldecott Hill and moved to their new office in Star Avenue on 27 March, 2017. The foundation stone for the new building was laid on 8 November 2013.  The new Campus will be home to 2,800 staff and a State-of-the-Art, 1,500 seats Broadcasting Performance Theatre.

In view of the above, I would like to share with you my collection of photographs of the changes to the reception counters in Caldecott Hill from 1952 to 2017.

Tight Security At Broadcasting Centre

Photo 1: 
August, 1952

This was the layout of the radio reception counter when they moved in Caldecott Hill in August 1952.  I took part in the Singapore Memory project with this photograph and this is what I wrote.  "This picture holds special fond memories for me; it shows my first contact with broadcasting in March 1958.  That was the receptionist in Broadcasting House, which was and still is a protected area.  

As usual, I have to get the necessary clearance from the receptionist before I report for work in the Recorded Programme Section.  I was then employed as a Broadcasting Assistant. There were two shift duties for the receptionists, morning (7 am to 3 pm) and evening (3 pm to 11 pm).  

In the morning an Office Attendant will be stationed there together with the Receptionist.  He will guide the visitor to the relevant officer/section.  The photograph shows Mrs. Naidu, a friendly and beautiful grandmother who was on day duty as indicated by the clock.  

On top the Enquiries sign, two sets of telephones, one for external calls while the other for internal calls on the desk.  On her left, next to the clock, is the door (with the letter A) to the air-conditioned Auditorium.  

The types of programmes produced (in four official languages), were displayed in the background.  These are news, school broadcasts, sports, talks and features, drama and variety, etc.  A pie chart indicating the percentage of the programme for the above also included.  Your Programmes in four different languages was featured in the four corners of the chart.  

Part of the Chinese characters and the Indian language can be seen on the top and bottom of the photograph respectively.  Mr. Lee Kuan Yew who spoke at the first Aneka Ragam Rakyat Show at the Botanic Garden (centre photo) was selected for display."
Photo 2
August, 1966 

The new TV centre as declared opened by the Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, in August 1966.  The Reception Counter now occupied a bigger space. To man the counter, there were a total of 6 receptionists working on 2 shifts from 7 am and ending at 12 midnight.  

Being front-liners,  their duties included meeting members of the public, visitors, clients, extras, artistes etc that came to SBC (Singapore Broadcasting Corporation) mainly during office hours.  They screened all visitors and requested their Identity Cards in exchange for the departmental passes.  Recording the particulars and to call up staff members and direct them to the respective offices were part of their duty.  

The rectangular cases on top of the counters were used to retain the visitors IC's.  Other duties of the receptionists involved receiving mail/parcels, issuing keys for self-drive departmental vehicles and checking vehicle log books.
Photo 3
August, 1986

In August 1986, the Reception Counter including the Security areas moved to the newly-built annex building opposite the TV gate.  There was a display of "Speak Mandarin Campaign" publicity materials in the Reception area.  

The photographs of President (Mr. Wee Kim Wee) and his wife were hung in the background.  The duties of the receptionists remained as before with only the Security personnel now added to assist them daily.   
Photos 4 and 5
2007 - 2008

The two photographs show 2007 and 2008 respectively the state of the Reception Counter with MEDIACORP proudly displayed in the background.  It is situated in the multi-storey building above the multi-storey car park which was completed in early 1990's.  

From the main road, the public can get access to the Reception through a walkway.  Those who drive will have to park their cars in the basement car park and use the lift to gain access. Except for the decorations (flowers) on the right, the counter is clear.  

The same procedure and arrangement listed above will apply and all the visitors IC's are kept out of sight for security reasons.  Visitors will be issued with departmental passes which will permit entry to areas required by tapping at the point of entry.  In view of security, they will be accompanied by the officer concerned at all times. 
Upon completion of their visit, they will have to surrender the department passes in exchange for their IC's before they leave the stations.  This is a far cry from the old days where visitors were able to roam freely around the broadcasting complex.

18 March 2017

The Caldecott Old Timers (COT) Club organised a final tour of Caldecott Broadcast Centre (CBC). I would like to include the following shots taken that day for your reference.
Writer and photographer Mr Mun Chor Seng at the former Reception Counter.


Whether you are a VIP, an international pop star, a band boy with a guitar, a postman with a package to deliver, or specially invited guests, anyone entering the premises has to go through the same protocol. 

At Mediacorp Star Avenue today, security is tighter still.

Images and Article: Mun Chor Seng (Copyrights Reserved).


Henri Gann said...

Nice writeup Mr Mun ! Very descriptive. Still sad to see Caldecott Hill go. A place with wonderful memories for the staff and performers alike.

Henri Gann said...

By the way Andy, the Trekkers recording with Hock Lye at Radio Singapore was at Caldecott Hill.

And the Trekkers was also the first guitar group to play in the Dendang Ria show of Television Singapura. Thought I mention that because of your picture in the blog.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Henri. Glad that this posting by Mr Mun brings back many memories for you.

And the Trekkers recorded with Tan Hock Lye; they were also the first group to play in Dendang Ria?

Readers should read Henri's postings about his group and his latest about the music scene in California where he saw the pop stars performing in the sixties.


David Lim
Frankie Soo
Jon Goh
Marcus Loh
Irene Hoe
Ann Rowena Lim
S Mohamad Al Sungkai
Nyonya Jenny Yeo
Foo Jong Fook
John Cher
Lange Brunei
James Seah
Kwandy Yao
Chen Hui Si

FL said...

The article about the good old days of our broadcasting station in Caldecott Hill is interesting as it brings us back to the heyday. I only watched two live performances there, an English talentime show hosted by Larry Lai and a Chinese Sheng Siong show. Thanks to Mr Mun, indeed.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks indeed, FL to Mr Mun and to you too, for always giving fair opinions and comments about the postings on this blog.

Yes I remember attending one or two shows at Caldecott and for singing a Malay song (as a Chinese person) during a BAHASA KEBANGSAAN month in the mid-sixties. We had all the races singing in Malay during the variety show.

Lately in 2015 and 2016, I appeared with the Silver Strings for ROLLING GOOD TIMES and NOT THE 5 SHOW. Also took my grandson and granddaughter to watch Frances Yip and JOHNNY HATES JAZZ. They nearly fell asleep because the show ended quite late.

Pleasant memories.

Again, many, many thanks FL.