Thursday, September 18, 2008

memories of balestier road

further to chun see's blog about the thomson/balestier heritage area and my exchanges with one of his ardent readers, i have decided to add a bit of what i know about balestier road.

the bottom picture shows the corner of jalan raja udang. i used to visit a former colleague who lived in the private apartment block on the other side of the road. because of an en-bloc sale, he has moved out of the place.

when anonymous/katherine mentioned that she lived above peking studio, i knew exactly where because i am familiar with that area. i started my teaching career at balestier hill integrated secondary technical school (bhists). then it changed its name to balestier hill technical school (bhts). some years after i left the school, it became balestier hill secondary school (bhss). today, the school is still around. the two primary schools - balestier hill east and balestier hill west - have become one: balestier hill primary school.

certain things have not changed. the rakyat (people's) clinic, associated with the barisan socialis political party, is still around. one of the bars, a legacy from the 70s, is also still in business. the glass merchant at the corner of irrawaddy road has not moved out yet. the bird shop, located along the same road as pegu road outpatient dispensary, is still chirping away. on the other side of balestier road, the spectacle shop and the hardware shop, nearer to the former towner road, have withstood of the challenges of the time.

the other two pictures show the newly-renovated balestier market which is no longer a market. it is now a 24-hour food court.

when it was a wet market, i hardly stepped into it and the couple of times when i did, i did not buy anything from the stalls. however, i know of an old neighbour - who used to live at jalan tenteram - who preferred to go marketing at this small wet market to the one at whampoa.

beneath the veneer of a staid facade, balestier is actually quite a colourful place. away from the old cinemas, bars, temples and makan places are private apartments where the rich and wayward men like to house their mistresses. in a way, it is like river valley road but not so upmarket. hidden among these apartments are also gambling dens and places which offered discreet massage services. i am not so sure if the massage services are still available nowadays.

i am not a cinema fan and i have not been inside a cinema for more than twenty years but i do remember going to watch some shows at hoover and ruby cinemas when i was a teenager. i also used to accompany my mother, at an unearthly hour, to pray at the tua pek kong temple on the 9th day of the lunar new year. when i had bad cough or had flu, i would visit the outpatient dispensary at pegu road. the building is still around but it is leased to some private company.

so, balestier is not just about bak kut teh, boon tong kee chicken rice, tau sar piah and durians; it offers much more.


katherine said...

yg, thanks for the photos of the former wet market and my former house. Will make it a point to visit the place next time. I understand that my former house turned into a beauty school/salon run by the landlord's daughter-in-law or somebody.

When you mentioned Pegu Road outpatient clinic I remember that place cos we went there when we were sick and also to get our shots which we needed as kids.

Did you remember about the Monday night pasar malam along Balestier Road ? I really miss pasar malam.

PChew said...

I remember that every evenings there was an evening market selling perishable goods such vegetables, meat and others from Ava Road towards Pegu Road. The roadside hawkers and the people buying the goods caused traffic congestion.

Another memorial place was the Shaw Film Studio at Jalan Ampas where P Ramlee became famous.

psylesque said...

Yg, there's also a shop that's been selling old-fashioned ground coffee since the 70s, sitting along a row of shops along balestier road (slightly opposite pegu road..and the chirping birds)

yg said...

mr chew, the studios are still around? must check them out one of these days.

yg said...

psylesque, yes, i have seen the shop; it's next to another old shop - the spectacle shop. said...

The old shop selling ground coffee referred to by psylesque is the Nanyang Coffee Company. They are still in business. Their neighbour is the equally ancient Lim Kay Kee Spectacle Shop, also still in business. I just had my glasses done there last month. They still have something like thousands of old retro frames dating from the Seventies. Now all back in fashion thanks to Austin Powers, of course. Next to them used to be an old bookshop called the ''He Ping Shu Dian'' (Peace Bookstore). My parents used to buy their monthly magazines like 'Ming Bow' and 'Da Chen' from there, whilst I got my ''Er Tong Ler Yuan'' and ''Shi Jie Er Tong'' fix there. The said bookstore suddenly shut down one day - I tried to visit them but just suddenly they are just gone, in the early 90s. Opposite them is an equally ancient pet shop specializing in birds, still in business. And the FOOD!! There ought to be a separate thread discussing the cuisine in Balestier Rd. And does anyone want to discuss the Moulmein Community Centre?

yg said...

foo c m, you really know the balestier road area - at least, the stretch up to kim keat road - very well. you can even remember the names of the shops.

JustJim said...

Thanks for the memories fellas. In the 50s/60s at the junction of Balestier Road and Kim Keat Road, there was the hylam coffee shop on the one side (still there and well decorated too)and a small liquor store on the other side of Kim Keat. A small section of the liquor store was sublet to the bread lady(mum's best friend). Further down the road from this shop was Hoover Cinema which was built on land previously occupied by a Chinese school. Then there was Jalan Ampas where Shaw's Malay Film studios were. My old neighbour was the girl who did the make up for the actresses. The studios are not there any more. Across the road from Hoover cinema were a row of provision shops and the most patronised by children was Teck Cheong. They sold the best marbles that didn't break easily, the most fashionable and fast paper kites, not forgetting the strongest gasings. Behind this row of shops on Pegu Road was a small Chinese kindergarten, where I would bring my young brother home at 5pm everyday. Those were good old days.

yg said...

you remind me of the tua goli (big marble) which we used to play with. we would challenge each other - usually two persons - to see whose marble would break into pieces. we would take turns to smash each other's marble with as much force as we could muster, using our own strength only. i wonder if those marbles were actually made from marble?

peter said...

I almost forgotten the "rules" of this goli game. Can u refresh me? White marbles from limestone right? Some really tua liap (20 cents or 50 cents each) and some swei liap (1o cents each). We made a hole in the ground; sandy area and drew a line about 10 ft from the hole. We stood behind the line to shoot at the opponent's goli by using the one finger to hold the goli and the other finger form the other hand to catapult the goli. I dont nderstand the part about shooting the goli into the hole. Sometimes we shoot to crack the opponent's goli into pieces and once that was achieved, your opponent was counted out and there went his 20 cents goli.

I think at one time there was also metal goli which cracked those marble (limestone) golis. There was also glass goli (many colours inside the goli). So I need help on the rules because I am pretty confused having not played for >45 years. It was an individual's game rather than a team sport.

yg said...

peter, sad to say, my memory also does not serve me very well. i had to check with my friend nah, who is my age age and who used to play the game as a kid.

according to him, you first made a hole in the ground. those days, we actually used our heel to do it. like you mentioned, the players would start behind a line away from the hole.

the primary objective was to be the to get your marble into the hole first and at the same time to thwart your opponent's attempts by hitting his marble away from the hole.

i think the 'reward' for being the first to 'hole' the marble was that you got a go at smashing your opponent's marble with your own. the problem was, sometimes, it was the smasher's own marble that 'exploded'.

peter said...

u got photo of goli?

yg said...

peter, only of the small, colourful glass marbles. i think you can still get the big, limestone marble from some shops and stalls in the arab street area.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the last picture, the middle shop, now known as Itali or whatsoever, was once my grandparents' furniture shop. Due to a certain fire accident next door, the whole shop was closed down.

Till today, memories of that shop with my grandparents still burn vividly in my mind. Thank you for sharing these photos especially the last one. That certainly bring back memories when I was a child.

yg said...

anonymous, i used to send my photos for developing and printing at the peking photo studio. i remember the bookshop next to it. i thought the furniture shop was to the left of the photo shop. my memory of the place is a bit vague.