Mention Jalan Kayu, and most Singaporeans will think of the delicious crispy roti prata. Indeed, the two large roti prata shops at Jalan Kayu, perhaps more popular and famous than the ones at Upper Thomson Road and Clementi Road, have become the representative names for this old road and neighbourhood.
Jalan Kayu literally means “Road Wood” in Malay. Was it a road formerly made of wood, or was the road named after a person called Wood? The latter is more likely, although in the olden days, stacks of firewood could be found along the road.
Historical sources did indicate that the name of Jalan Kayu was probably named after British planner C.E. Wood, who was the supervisor for the building of Seletar Airbase in 1927. The road leading to the camp was suggested by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) to the Singapore Rural Board in 1937 to be named as Jalan Kayu, with respect to the Malay-majority community in this region. The original name was supposed to be Air Base Road.
The other end of the narrow 1.2-km dual-lane Jalan Kayu Road is bounded by Yio Chu Kang Road, the Seletar Hills private estate and the cluster of fish farms at Seletar West Farmway. Seletar East Farmway has been developed into the new neighbourhood of Fernvale (Sengkang) in the early 2000s. The popular Seletar Hills market and hawker centre, built in 1975 and demolished in 2004, used to be the focal point for food and grocery for the residents in the area.
The old two-storey concrete shophouses along Jalan Kayu, designed with basements, spiral stairs and metal gates, add a captivating nostalgic charm to the area. Walking in the calm and peaceful alley, one may mistaken himself in an old Malaysian town.
The shophouses were built in the fifties by property developer Ang Oon Hue (1917-1998), whose company also built the shophouses at Sembawang Road. The early zinc-roof wooden houses at Jalan Kayu were also Ang Oon Hue’s accomplishments at Jalan Kayu, but they were demolished in the eighties. The shophouses survive till this day, and have become an identity node of Jalan Kayu.
At Jalan Kayu, there are rows of private terrace houses, also developed by Ang Oon Hue, situated in a small network of roads interestingly named after traditional Indonesian dances. The roads are Jalan Tari Piring, Jalan Tari Lilin, Jalan Tari Payong, Jalan Tari Dulang, Jalan Tari Zapin and Jalan Tari Serimpi. The meanings of the road names are as followed:
- Tari Piring – Known as “Plate or Saucer Dance” in Indonesian, it is one of the most enchanting traditional dances of Indonesia, originated from a place called Solok, West Sumatra.
- Tari Lilin – It is the “Candle Dance”, and was traditional dance of the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra.
- Tari Payong – Known as “Umbrella Dance” in Indonesian.
- Tari Dulang – Dulang is an exploration of movement that is taken from the vocabulary of Tari Piring, the “Saucer Dance”.
- Tari Zapin – The “Zapin” dance was probably introduced to Malaya and Sumatra around the early fifteenth century by Arab traders and missionaries during the spread of Islam.
- Tari Serimpi – A traditional Indonesian dance of 4 dancers in the late nineteen century, served as entertainment during the negotiation with the Dutch colonial government.
The road, off Jalan Kayu, that leads to the terrace houses is called Tong Lee Road. Not surprisingly, it was named after Ang Oon Hue’s property company.
In the vicinity, there are also two minor roads, Lorong Tanggam and Lorong Samak, located on the opposite side of Jalan Kayu private residential estate. Tanggam refers to wood joint in Malay/Indonesian.
The Abundant Grace Presbyterian Church is a Chinese-speaking presbytery at Lorong Samak, one of the 40 Presbyterian churches in Singapore. The origin of the Presbyterian Church in Singapore could be traced back to as early as 1829, when Reverend Benjamin Keasberry arrived in Singapore to start the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.
Arguably one of the most famous names at Jalan Kayu, Thasevi Food Prata Restaurant is more than half a century old and was selling their dough at Tong Lee Road 500m away before moving to their current location at one of the shophouses. Despite fierce competition and spike in their prices, the roti prata business continues to thrive in recent years.
During the early days, rural farming and rearing of pigs and poultry were common in Jalan Kayu. The Chinese and Indians lived in harmony with the Malays, and some of the British would live in the terrace houses although majority of them had the luxury of staying in the black and white colonial houses at Seletar.
Pasar malams (night markets), wayangs (street theatres) and a small cinema provided the entertainment for the Jalan Kayu residents in the early days. It was said that one of the earliest roadside pasar malams in Singapore started at Jalan Kayu.
The sleepy neighbourhood of Jalan Kayu has yet to be affected by the major changes at nearby Fernvale, where new blocks of flats have sprung up like mushrooms in the last five years. There are proposals of widening the main road of Jalan Kayu or converting the place into a food and drink haven similar to that of Siglap or Dempsey, but most Singaporeans will probably hope the laid-back place to remain as it is.
Check out more old photos of Jalan Kayu here.
Published: 17 November 2011
Updated: 19 December 2019
Thanks for the nostalgic post! The other end of Jln Kayu that was Seletar Airbase also used to be an interesting haunt. I always looked out for the lovely houses en-route to Sunset Grill. What a pity that the area is now being developed into an aviation hub.
Thanks Jenny, the black and white houses at Seletar are charming indeed…
I have added them earlier at Portsdown and Seletar Colonial Houses
Thanks for this website. I just bought my new place in Jalan Kayu and am really looking forward to moving into this place that is so full of nostalgia and history. 🙂
Served at Seletar with 51 1965 to 1968 with real fond memoirs. great site and well worth the history lesson, pity we didn,t know it at the time….tooo busy taking in all the sights at the age of 18…….
I lived in Poulden Court Jalan Kayu from 1969 to 1971, the court consisted of 6 blocks of flats, car parking and a club house! The compound was secure at night and occupied by Brit Govt officers from Chai Keng 2. The location was between the village and the Air Base and a large grassed area was between the two camp roads! If anyone recognises the name or has photos of it i would love to chat to you as some of my happiest memories are here!
Thanks and best regards
yo i used to live there in a block below the hill, my dad was in Safti logistics ; we were good friends with a singh family , whose son & daughter stayed in a block further up , we left Poulden Court in 1980 to head to ang Mo Kio newly built flats
its nice to find this
keep info coming , i can answer some questions ,i was born in 1970 by the way 🙂
Lived at Poulden Court from 1952 – 1955, and 1960 – 1962.
Father worked for GCHQ.
Ian, would have worked with your father…was Aussie signals corps operator there 1961-63, lived on RAF Seletar first then at Amoy Quee. Len
Hi, mate, I was at ck2 from 1959-1963 with the australian army sigs. lived at seletar and amoy quey. i am occasionally in touch with some of the brit civies i knew there. i live in tasmania now – and if you are a reader, i write books on the arthurian legends with my recently deceased wife. we have had 21 novels published now and they are sold around the world. Check out mkhume.com
all the best
Hi Ian, I believe we were at school together in Seletar. My father also worked for GCHQ (as it is now known) and we lived at Poulden Court from 1952 – 1954.
Hi David, Your name rings a bell, but I can’t put a face to it.
Hello Dave, probably you would remember the fish & chips shop just opposite the famous prata shop in Jalan Kayu.
I used to hang around in Poulden Court. Just outside the court there is big open field we play soccer
Doris fish and chips
Hi Diane, My guess is you knew Tony Howlett, Jim Pagan, Ian Morrison (Haggis) and possibly Rich Acott (Ace)? Also maybe you are on the SSM FB page too? I was a bit of an inbetweenie being just 14 and the others were all 16 plus or younger but you may just remember me LOL
PS if you could get a couple of photos of the general area I’d be eternally grateful, all I have is a couple of RAF Ariel recon photos of Poulden Court.
Hi David – Tony Howlett and Jim Pagan were my best mates. I think Tony is still living in Albany, a suburb of San Francisco, and Jim has recently moved from Cheltenham to the Forest of Dean. I loved it in Singapore and have so many great memories.
I lived in jalan tari dulang just down the road from jalan kayu ,1970 – 71.I remember mum and dad taking us to the amahs market on a friday night.It was a place of exotic wonder for an 8 year old girl from Australia. I can still remember how it smelt……wonderful.
I would appreciate if you could forward photos of Poulton Court to me, if you have, for a book on Jalan Kayu I am putting together. I have photos of Jalan Kayu and RAF Seletar but none on Poulton Court. Thank you.
I lived in number 24 poulden court from 1954 to 1957.I was 11 years old and had 3 wonderful years there.I went to school in RAF Seletar .Joined the royal navy in 1958.My first posting was back to Singapore in 1960 for 2 years .I returned again in 1967 with my wife for another 2 years.
Hi Robert, Oddly enough we must have lived in the same block! Our flat was number 19 on the ground floor. We moved in in 1969 If you visited the club in Poulden Court you may have met my dad? Charlie Smith?
Hi , I have just found this site. i lived in number 15 Poulden Court between 1966 and 1970. went to RAF changi grammar. remember the chip shop -doris’s and Hamad the gate keeper.spent most weekends at Selatar Swimming pool , good to see old pics of the shops ….. never went back to Singapore as I wanted to remember it as it was then.
regards … Mike Reed
Your name rings a bell.
You lived in one of the flats at the bottom. Wasn’t there a greek lady (someones wife) with an obnoxious kid living in the same block of flats?
Was there 1952 – 1955, and 1960 – 1962.
Mike Reed you were there during my time! I was in the bottom block, flat 19! Your name rings a bell didn’t I buy a huge pile of Biggles books from you?
What a coincidence! We lived in 24 Poulden Court from 1957-1960 and I went to school at RAF Seletar
My family lived at 19 Poulden Court from 1969 to 1971. Some happy days Remembering names. Harveys, Marrs, Glastonbury’s, Robertsons and many more.
I’ve often wondered what happened to Poulden Court! I know it was still residential in the 1980s but when was it demolished? is the site under the freeway now? I can’t quite work it out on google earth. Can anyone help me?
After 1980, the court was occupied by military officers served in Seletar camp then demolished. Not sure when but definitely before 1990
In front of the camp gates is now an 8 lane dual carriage way, running across where Poulden court used to be. I visited last in Sept 2015. Going again next month.
I lived in Poulden Court from 1961 to 1965 – from age 11 to 14 – I can’t remember the number but it was the second floor of the block right at the bottom left, next to the wire of the camp. I’d love to see any photos of the old site if anyone has any. I remember the club very well – and the badminton court at the back..Yes, it looks to me as though the site is now under the new freeway – but the camp gates look very much the same !!! I went to Changi grammar school. Happy days indeed.
Hi Doug, my first visit to Singapore was in 1963, we were on route home from Bangkok on the Danish Liner Jutlandia! we returned for a tour in 1967 and moved to Poulden Court in 1969, it appears we lived in the same block! Our flat was number 19 on the ground floor. You may remember Mr Lim the club steward and Hamed the groundsman? I remember so many things about our time there in fact my partner and I are going back for a brief holiday next year!
I don’t lived in Pouldon Court but I would go there very often as a kid as my father owns the laundry called Ak Kow Laundry across the famous roti prata shop. Do you have any pictures?
Hi Doug, is your Dad Hugh?
Might have some photos hidden away somewhere.
Any pictures of Telecoms Quarters near Jalan Kayu?
hmm my church friend says he lived in the quarters behind Telecoms ther in the 70’s
,he told me his haunted stories , anyone here got information about the area?
i would also like to find out
Photos of Jalan Kayu in 1973
(Photo credit to Colin Liddel)
The newly-built terrace houses at Seletar Hills Estate, near the junction of Jalan Kayu and Yio Chu Kang Road. 1973
(Photo credit to Colin Liddel)
More old coloured photos of Jalan Kayu, 1970s
(Photo Credit: Facebook Group “Jalan Kayu Primary School”)
Attended the a kindergarten there and then Jalan Kayu primary school in 74. Was staying at the shop house beside the church during my childhood years. Ate the delicious prata at the coffee shop beside my school. Opposite the prata shop was a fish & chips shop. There’s a dessert shop beside the chips shop in 80s-90s. There use to have a old cinema behind the church. The cinema chair was of hard wood & not really comfortable. Will climb into the church to play futsal in there and sometimes we got chase out by the father.
I was at the Air Base at Jalan Kayu in 1974 when I was enlisted into the SAF. Stayed there for 6 weeks while on transit to the School of BMT in SAFTI. The street brings many fond memories specially with the Parat Shop. There was a lot of bonding with the mates there at that time.
Fantastic story, fantastic pictures! I spent my childhood at what has now become the Fernvale Road. Jalan Kayu was within walking distance from my house and that’s where we would go for our entertainment. It moved me emotionally to see these well preserved photographs of old Jalan Kayu. They bring back so much fond memory.
great pictures my parents lived in Jalan Kayu infact Jalan Tari serempi house 47 from 79-81 I have fond memories of that place. Small shops owned & run by Chinese & indians hope to visit the place soon,
Venugopal ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
I was there from 1961 to 1965 – just imagine what it was like then – fantastic place to be as a 14 year old. Lot’s of trips down to the fishing pond, down a track which started at the entrance to Jalan Kayu village – through what was still jungle in those days. We used to buy balls of aniseed bait from the pond owner and fish all day long – we caught fish which were called ‘grasseaters’ – wonderful memories – anyone else ever use that fishing pond ? Doug.
Hi doug, I was a big fishing fan too, I remember two types of bait Tapioca and a brown bait bought in balls for 20 cents! The fish were Java fish, Grasseys (grasseaters) An Asian Carp type fish, Song fish and of course different types of carp, my haunts were ussually Chap Sengs and Redmire ponds amongst the rubber plantations along the Yu Chi Kiang road! I also remember fishing around the Seletar Yacht club too for mullet and gar fish but also in the mangrove for eels and Java fish too.
You would probably remember a provision shop ran by an indian lady at the end of jalan tari lilin just before the wooden bridge.
nope the whole part except the jungle beside SLE which i trekked into 5yrs ago & almost injured myself ,its all gone ,taken over by that highway lo ,if you remember our semi-detached houses used to face the jungle ? yep that jungle is now next to the park called Sengkang West i think ,well there are so many exciting areas in remembersingapore.wordpress ,its nice to re-discover the pasts
thanx a lot people ,im Michael by the way
Hello Michael – thanks for the final confirmation that it’s all gone! I used to live in a place called Poulden Court just between Jalan Kayu and the Seletar base gates – and I’v been scouring google Earth and other satellite maps for any trace of where it used to be – but you are right nothng remains. Which is why I’m so delighted that rthe website exists with all the old photos of the village – but no-one has yet been able to post any photos of Poulden Court itself. All the best. Doug.
its been many yrs shits goin on ,change job stress , heavy metal music ,but hmm i see what i can share if i got any old photos i hope unless all been trashed as its only my brother n my sister left in my family my parents gone since 2008 ,so keep healthy as best in this it-enovatives times ya ,
i see if i really can find as im cleaning up much
my classmate and me used to go St.gabriel’s pri near hillside drive since 1975
More photos of Jalan Kayu in the 1970s
(Photo credit: http://www.rafseletar.org/ Brian Williams)
Wonderful pictures – evoking wonderful memories – thank you.
Tari Dulang is “Tray Dance” as Dulang is Tray in Malay/Indonesian. It is a dance where the dancers will carry “trays” but not the trays we use to serve drinks and such but more the trays that Malays bring for the “gifts” or “hantaran” at weddings, that are exchanged between the groom’s and bride’s side of the party. I guess in those “bangsawan” days or era, the exchanging of such trays are presented in the form of a dance … At least, that is what I know it as….
Hey what nice memories. Used to live close by at seletar hills estate where I use to grow up with a pack of guys called seletar hills boys, They use to have their regular soccer games at the jalan selaseh park opposite chusan restaurants. Some of these boys were from jalan kayu vicinity. i was barely into my teens then and these chaps were 7yrs my senior on average. Later on after I shifted to serangoon gardens, my NS brought me back to that vicinity as I was attached to seletar west camp.I’m not versed in the little side roads off jalan kayu but I was actually in jalan kayu primary school for one or two years before my parents pulled me out of that place in a jiffy for various reasons hah. I remember a very nice silk store i use to patronize just next to jalan kayu school and of course that place tarzan store. Love to go back some day for old time sake….
Yep, nice memories, Brocky – but don’t go back, it’s all concrete and tarmac now. I was there as a kid, from 1961-64 and loved every minute. I haven’t been back myself, but people have told me you can’t recognise a thing now, and that’s what makes this site so valuable – capturing what was – and is no more !! Cheers. Doug.
Oh really Doug, that’s a pity, and I’m not the least surprised. And isn’t it not surprising that three quarters of that Seletar Hills Park Boys are no more in SG anymore, did they see all this coming? what foresight. And you’re probably one of the lucky ones too. But I can tell you that was the best time and place of my life, the camaraderie and fantabulous sense of location identity and community of that park I’ve never seen since. HDB living is the pits, almost devoid of any concept of ‘home’. I doubt if my seletar hills PETS would survive the kennel existence its master is obliged to endure these days. There was space galore for owners (and pets) to move around, a premium in SG living these days, That’s why u cant blame me for having occasional fantasy of simply going back there, to the err now tarmacked park no doubt, kick a ball or two, and maybe one or two ghost of that same era, sharing same fantasy, will re-appear and regroup on that pitch, and the 70s music will roll again, and the beer at Chusans. Oh happy day, again…
One hell of a delayed response sorry as I visited this site by chance then added my two cents worth and then kapoot forgot about whole thing. I;m feeling terribly nostalgic again and was elated to see your response to my entry. You sound like real oldie from that place, wow, early 60s, so I’ll call ya Chief ha. if my daddy hadn’t sold our sprawling jalan woodbridge corner bungalow (was a bloomin landmark four giant palm trees) I’ll be in Manhattan today ha. That house would command about Sgd 4M todays market. Well…
I came across your posting on this site and as a former pupil of JKPS I have to ask you if you remember arriving to school in chauffeur driven car with a girl named Margaret. If so she was a friend of my sister who also attended JKPS. My Brother was in the same year as yourself and my younger sister took care of you at recess time as you were new to the school.
Hi Brocky, I used to know a guy called Brock who lived at the place you mentioned, so I am guessing its you :). I used to live around the corner in Jalan Kechubong. I think we even took the same school bus for a while. I was in JKPS from 1970-75.
Hi Rajesh, I am T.Kumar and used to live at 141 Jalan Kayu. since I left in 1959 and could not find time to look back. I wonder if you could let me know about this place and the people who lived there. I will be very grateful to you and I also found a new friend. I hope for good news. Thank you and GOD Bless you.
Im looking for my long losy friend name irni which ive been studying with her at jalan kayu primary school since 1971
Anyone who ever residented at The Telecoms Quarters back in the 70’s ?, if you have old pixs of this place, pls post it online, for this was my childhood home those days, thks !!!
booh ghost poohs used to roam there dude haha
Hi everyone used to live at 32 jalan bangau on seletar hills estate in1969-1970 went to school on the air base, these pictures bring happy memories, have been trying to locate the whereabouts of mike aka goh Leon king from seletar hills grocery store for some time now , any information would be greatly received
Hi. I lived at 57 Tong Lee Road from 1961 to 1963. I was 5 when we moved there to be with my dad who served at Seletar and I went to school on the base. I remember there was a young chinese girl called Amoy who used to come and help my mum and babysit me and my younger brother. There was a Kampong at the end of the road. I will search out any photos I have of those days gone by.
Hi Gail. I was in Jalan Kayu from 1961 to 1964 – aged 11 to 14. I lived in Poulden Court, a set of apartment blocks just outside the Base gates – so a few pics from around that time would be great to see. I went to school in Changi. Cheers. Doug.
Hi Doug, I lived in Poulden Court from 69-71, Your Dad must have been at CK2 as well! I visited Singapore in 63 on our way home from Bangkok! Our fathers may have known each other. Dad did a tour 67-70 plus an extension to 71 and was stationed at Culmhead. If you fancied a natter my email is email@example.com.
My two best friends in Singapore,Tony Howlett and Jim Pagan,lived in Poulden Court 69-71. I remember days drinking 7 UP and eating peanuts and playing cards at the Maccan stall just outside the RAF base.
Hi Martin. I remember Jim and Tony very well. Jim had a younger brother Brian! We all embarked on the Achille Lauro in 71 to travel home. Then lost contact with everyone!
i used to stay blk just above roundabout ,we were indian family
and my dad was a british volunteer all since shifted amk after 1979 lol
yes i remember fish and chips shop
n my sister was kindergarden teach opposite a bldg facing church n we also went seletar camp eat fish mn chips see boats go by then ,
u know which part of seletar camp i think then army officers could bring family into that area ,
my family n me we all in 50s now lol
used to stay in Lorong Tanggam..free to run about….played the so called *concrete slide* outside the mosque…. school at Jalan Kayu Primary school…..till 1986 moved out to new estates Ang Mo Kio…anyone here form Lorong Tanggam???
I served on 209 sqdn from1964,1967 was an active member of the sailing club. Sad to see that there has been very little mention of the members during this time slot. I raced one of the first Ospreys (Opalescent) with Ray Bacon as crew. We were a successful team and did win the Osprey cup.
Other members I remember are Ollie Goldsmith, Russel Brockbank. My daughter Heidi used plat with Jeremy Flood and went to Jalan Kayu primary school 1966-67
I lived at 73 Lorong Tanggam, Jalan Kayu in 1969 with my two sisters and my mum and dad before we moved into RAF Seletar; I am eternally grateful for my dad being in the RAF and have very happy memories there. I shall return………
I used to stay at Jalan Tongkang Pechah. Anybody has the old photos of the kampung? Where is exactly the place now?
Did anyone know how can i buy this jalan kayu old day picture?
Many memories flooding back. I was stationed at RAF Seletar from 1972 to 1976. Loved Jalan Kayu and spent many hours there and made some good local friends
we lived at 54 seleter hills drive, my dadraymond haines was a aircraft engineer there 1959-1961, I was born in change,. numb 54 is still there
Is it possible to trace people living at 141 Jalan Kayu. I left singapore in 1959 and at present lived in England UK.
After finishing my recruit training, I was posted to Seletar East Camp in Feb 1971 to continue my NS until our ROD in Oct 1972. That’s not all, we came back regularly for ICTs (reservists) and routine reportings until around early 1980s. Hence, quite familiar only with the “old” Jalan Kayu during my years there. Those articles and old photos were consistent with what I have seen and witnessed of the old Jalan Kayu. I remember there was a small shop at Jalan Kayu selling fish and chips. While doing our guard duties, we used to go out of the camp in the evenings to buy the foods for our suppers. Anyone heard of this fish and chips foodshop then ? Thanks.
Hi, Good morning in UK time Thursday, 18 February 2016
I left Singapore in 1959
The address was as
141 Jalan Kayu
Seletar, Singapore 28
After all these years I still remember them but not all names are with me now.
The only person’s name is Ah Choo female who was my friend when young.
It would be a great help if you would help me to locate her and family.
Sometime after your reply I would like to make a journey to Singapore.
My greetings to you and family.
That may have been Doris’s?
Yes, I remember Ah Kow Laundry shop, Doris Fish & Chips, Tokyo Beauty Salon, Neo Soon Whatt Supermarket, Jalan Kayu Primary School, etc…
The British families will form a line dance from the gate (before seletar camp) to row shops at Jalan Kayu on every Christmas Eve..
My father owns Ah Kow Laundry. Which year were you in JKPS?
So are you Chee Keen or Chee Kang? I vaguely remember you and your brother 👍👍👍
Neither. That is the guy, my friend too, from the other laundry opposite the church near the wet market. Leong Chee Keong
Which side of the road is your father’s laundry shop? I recall the name Ah Kow Laundry but probably confused it with the laundry shop opposite the church run by the Leong family
Lived in Japan Kayu 1962-1965. Tong Lee Road then Heng Hock Lane, up a lane by the local cinema. Took a while to get used to the noise. Electricity by generator. Happy days
Hi Tom, my Granny and Grandad lived on Heng Hock Lane from 1964-1965. Their names were Margaret (McLoughlin) and Richard Eshelby. My Grandad was based in Seletar by the RAF. My Granny also remembers the cinema and the loud music coming from it.
Hi Molly, We live also on Heng Hock Lane from 1964/1967 My daughter Heidi played with a girl who also lived I the same street her mother had a Scots accent so who would know.
I was also in the RAF on 209 Sqdn.
Great times Regards Bill
Hi Tom, just found this site and been reading the posts, I lived in Tong Lee Road briefly when we first arrived in Singapore in 1963. Will never forget those overwhelming first impressions as an 8 year old child. We later moved to Birdcage walk on Seletar camp and then to Regent street. I remember going to the Ahmahs market and the yacht club on camp. The school was just behind our house in Birdcage Walk, remember the teacher was called Mr Lodge My dad was with JARIC and his name was Tom Whitelaw . Will never forget that time in my life.
At raf seletar 1956 to 1959. Ate and shopped on Jalan Kaye regularly.Fond memories of the fishing ponds and skin diving from hired sampans out of Singapore Harbour. Still wearing K Wahs superbly tailored clothes for decades after return to UK. Happy days still appreciated now at 80 years old. Best wishes to all Seletar comrades Peter Upton.
My family and I lived in Jalan Tari Zapin (Jalan Kayu) from February to May 1969, before I was promoted in April and moved to a bungalow at the end of Regant Street on Seletar . I well remember the heavy rain thundering on the zinc sheet roof of the terrace house and lightning dancing close overhead. The nearby Indian shop/shack was a constant source of Anchor Beer when we ran out.
I would still like to know who pinched my bicycle from the front of the house one night!!! At that time it was only a short walk past the shops and food stalls to RAF Seletar’s main gate and my workplace at 6TSU on the right just inside the gate.
Happy memories of May’s fish & chip bar and the food stalls that sprung up at night.
I was stationed with 224 Group HQ from 1963 and remember the fish and chips from May’s as well as great curries from the local maccan shop, after a night on the ‘grog’. The boys and I spent many a night doing the town and drinking in Bugis street.
I owned a Studebaker car and abandoned it when I left to go to Kuching during confrontation when I returned, after 3 months, it was gone. Ah the fond memories
My family and I now live in Australia and have holidayed in Singapore some 30 times and we are going there again next week.
Hello Leon. I was a lad in Jalan Kayu a couple of years before you arrived – but your post brought back memories of my old man’s blue and cream Studebaker Champion – what a car. He worked in the Seletar camp and we lived in Poulden Court. Unlike you, I have never been back and have heard that there is nothing at all left of those good old days. Cheers. Doug.
Just found this site. I was at RAF Seletar from 1956-1958. In WRAF. Married in the C of E Church on camp June 1st 1957. Moved into the flat which is the first in this series of pictures on the main street in Jalan Kayu on the day we married. My honeymoon was spent at the fishing ponds across the road and up the lane way. We were over a photographic shop and a grocery next door. We were then the last block in the village. Used to love the amahs market in the evenings.
Further down were Serengoon gardens . A housing estate. I worked in the signals section and at AHQ just inside the gate and down to the right.
This is a picture my uncle took in 1939 Of Seletar Village
Trying to put the picture on
A old picture of Seletar Village
Uh….but where is the photo?
Just found this site, my husband was in the navy and we lived in 24 jalan tari serempi from 1969 until 1971
My family and I lived in Jalan Resak in 1963 and have very fond memories of our time there. My son recently went back and felt very much at home in spite of the changes.
An entertaining and vivid description of old Jalan Kayu and Seletar… the part about the Santa Claus is interesting!
A Monopoly Board
27 August 1984
The Straits Times
When the residents of about 270 Seletar houses leave daily for work or school, they know they will not be able to return later without their housekeys, and security passes.
Their homes lie in a residential area within Seletar Camp Complex that has a unique history.
Imagine yourself in a small plane. Below is spread a vast carpet of green with winding, narrow grew lanes. Scattered over the green are toylike red roofs peeping through clumps of trees.
The effect is somewhat like hovering over a Monopoly board – especially when the streets below bear names like Oxford Street, Park Lane, Regent Street, Lancaster Gate, The Oval, Haymarket, Half-Moon, Hyde Park Gate, Bayswater Road and Knightsbridge.
Across the green carpet stretches a runway – from the air the most prominent landmark – to which you are returning for touchdown.
The complex contains – besides the aerodrome and the Republic of Singapore Flying Club – an army camp, golf club, several companies serving the aerospace industry, a post office and petrol kiosk.
Gone are the schools, medical centre, cinema, churches, bank and provision shops selling mostly British goods for the Royal Air Force personnel stationed here from the late 1920s to early ’70s (except during the war years).
The only way to get to the complex, apart from flying, is along narrow Jalan Kayu. Kayu is Malay for “wood” and the road is named after C.E. Woods, who helped to build the air base.
Having turned into Jalan Kayu from Yio Chu Kang Road, your nostrils are sometimes assaulted by an unpleasant but not unfamiliar smell. There is little to see but trees and undergrowth, beyond which lie farms and a sewerage plant.
Driving along this single lane that has to accommodate two-way traffic can be taxing when you are tailing a bus which stops at every bus stand.
Wood and zinc shophouses line both sides of the stretch of Jalan Kayu that leads up to the guard at the gate, through which you enter the complex proper.
There are newer concrete houses, some along the road and many more beyond, hidden from view. But these don’t immediately spring to mind on recollection; you tend to think of Jalan Kayu as being really quite ulu (countrified).
One of the shophouses contains a famous roti prata stall, considered the best in Singapore by its customers, who either come on foot or in Mercedes Benzes.
Some old shop signs still refer to the Royal Air Force, though business has, for some years now, taken a new course.
Once there were fish-and-chips joints, dress-making and tailoring shops and milk-bars.
There are also a church, a wet market, motor-repair, bicycle, hardware, provision, coffee and Indian shops, a Chinese pastries shop, photo studios and clinics.
Jalan Kayu ends abruptly at the gates of the airbase. Inside the “protected area”, the picture is very different, and prettier.
Nothing here is drab or dilapidated. The place smacks of efficiency, security and tranquillity.
Past the guardroom, the first thing that confronts the visitor is a traffic circus, in the centre of which are four charming old pendant lamps, each atop a concrete post.
By the circus are tow sets of signboards which mark the beginning of two of the three roads that eventually lead to the others in the base.
Piccadilly, the main road which runs right through the base, used to have a tailor’s shop, hairdresser’s, milk-bar and a curio shop. These are gone. There are now houses scattered along the left side of the road, while on the right, there is a golf driving range.
In the early ’50s, residents likened the base to a “South Seas Paradise”, partly because of its idyllic setting amidst colourful blooms and its recreational facilities – yacht club, cinemas, swimming club, theatre and social clubs, and a golf course reputed to be the best on the island.
The designs of the houses, once considered low-cost, show they were built in different periods. There are the pre-war, barracks-like, two-storey terrace versions, with high ceilings and ventilation gaps; the large colonial-style bungalows raised on concrete posts; the post-war semi-detached ones, with charming red-brick verandahs; the houses with timber facades, and the obviously newer two-storey detached houses with clear window panes.
The older houses have delightful details hard to find nowadays.
Boxy windows have fat inside ledges for displaying knick-knacks. Doors and windows are louvred, with green glass panes giving off a lovely zircon-like glow when light filters through.
There are pantries in kitchens. There are solid timber bannisters, plain red square floor tiles, coat and hat hangers by the doorway and white long baths with room enough for two.
All four homes in each terrace block have upstairs bedroom balconies connected by doors. This is believed to have a kind of safeguard in times of political upheave, facilitating communciation among the occupants. Now, of course, the locks are sealed.
Previously, many of the houses were leased out for a small sum. Now tender deposits (indicating the minimum rental) for vacated houses, run by the Housing Board since 1976, start from about $325. The successful bid is usually at least double that amount.
Mr Asirwatha, 60, who grew up, married and raised nine children on the base, remembers when quarrels between families arose over the use of the toilet/bathroom, because five families had to share one.
His children, Moses and Gina, remember when Sunday was the only day when an Indian film was screened at the Astra cinema. Best of all was Christmas, when there were lavish firework displays and Santa Claus would fly in by helicopter to the community centre grounds. Some years, Santa even arrived in a red fire engine, complete with what sounded like reinderr bells!
This kind of life came to an end with the “changing of the flag”, said Moses, who was then in primary school. “My friends and I cried. We still talk about the old times when we meet.”
When you go home to the base in the late evening, you are far away from the lure of the expensive restaurants, nightclubs, hawker centres and shopping complexes.
And when you come to the closed gates at the security post in the small hours, there is a definite feeling of having broken curfew.
As the houses are spaced far apart, over rambling grounds, there are vast pockets of darkness at night.
On rainy days, the odour first detected along Jalan Kayu gets unbearably heavy. And on rainy nights, the enveloping darkness does little to comfort the already overactive imagination of anyone left along in an isolated house, with old, gnarled trees practically at the doorstep.
Indeed, there cannot be many residents here who have not, at some time or other, indulged in thoughts or conversations of the ghostly kind.
Like the soldiers on setry duty, who claimed they heard invisible troops in the dead of night, or the taxi driver who claimed to have picked up a woman passenger at the base who “disappeared” shortly after alighting outside a cemetery, or the resident who was cycling past a mango tree when he claimed he smelt incense and flowers and found himself cycling in mid-air…
“Interestingly, two minor roads, Lorong Tanggam and Lorong Samak, located on the opposite side of the main road of Jalan Kayu were given Tamil names, where Tanggam (Thanggam) means gold in Tamil.”
Tanggam means mortise in Indonesian, part of a woodwork joint – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortise_and_tenon.
A road named after a type of woodwork off a road named after wood would make sense. Also, according to your article, a lot of names around the area have Indonesian origins, for example:
“Tari Piring – Known as “Plate or Saucer Dance” in Indonesian, it is one of the most enchanting traditional dances of Indonesia, originated from a place called Solok, West Sumatra.
Tari Lilin – It is the “Candle Dance”, and was traditional dance of the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra.
Tari Payong – Known as “Umbrella Dance” in Indonesian.
Tari Dulang – Dulang is an exploration of movement that is taken from the vocabulary of Tari Piring, the “Saucer Dance”.
Tari Zapin – The “Zapin” dance was probably introduced to Malaya and Sumatra around the early fifteenth century by Arab traders and missionaries during the spread of Islam.
Tari Serimpi – A traditional Indonesian dance of 4 dancers in the late nineteen century, served as entertainment during the negotiation with the Dutch colonial government.”
It is harder to explain the use of a Tamil word. What does Samak mean in Tamil?
In Indonesian, “samak” means “tan”, “a yellowish-brown colour”, which could be a type of paint or varnish used in woodwork. Again, we can find a connection to wood and woodwork.
I think this would make an interesting discussion.
Thanks! Tanggam does mean wood joint in Malay/Indonesian. Will update accordingly.
Anyone with alternate views feel free to comment. After all, there was previously a sizable Indian community at Jalan Kayu (https://remembersingapore.org/2019/12/08/jalan-kayu-church-of-the-epiphany/)
So glad to find this site. I used to live in Jalan Kayu between 1981 to 1991. I now live in Australia, but have been reminiscing about my childhood. I remember my friends on the school bus complaining about picking me up/dropping me off, as the dirt road to my house was so bumpy! Our landlord owned crocodiles too, in a sunken pool of sorts. And the best part was definitely the roti prata for breakfast on weekends 🙂
These comments always stir up many happy memories for me. in 1963 I was stationed at HQ 224 Group , as a young airman of 19 years, i later transferred to Kuching (for 3 months) and later Tawau for 12 months, during confrontation, I returned to Seletar in early ’65. My great memory was shopping at the night markets and eating the great food at the various eating houses. as always the locals were the friendliest people I have had the pleasure to meet.
I lived in Jalan Kayu in 1970~ 1972
I remember the Friday night Amahs market .The satays,nasi goreng wrapped in a banana leaf.
My sister and I took the bus to Nee Soon primary school.
We had a Kampong across the road from our house I remember the local kids swimming in the monsoon drains when it rained.
The monsoon rains came every afternoon like clockwork.I still remember the steamy wonderful smell.
Back in those days there was still little pockets of jungle with villages where we used to explore .
Singapore is a lot different today but I managed to find my old house on google maps.
I lived in Jalan Kayu between 1958 and 1960, 6 YO to 8 YO. Over the years I was sure we lived in 52 Tong Lee Road. I remembered 52 because it was the same number as my grandmother’s house in England. When I searched Google maps it appeared that I’d been wrong. Our house was 31 Jalan Tari Piring. I recognise the layout and the wide gap between us and our neighbours at 29. This wide gap continues across the road from us. This gap is clearly visible on the 2009 street view on google maps. At that time our road and houses had just been built; there were no other roads behind us. I have recently found a document that confirmed our address as 52 Tong Lee Road. My only conclusion is that this first road built behind the shops was treated as a continuation of Tong Lee Road but was renamed Jalan Tari Piring when the other roads were built. I well remember the roti shop at the top of Tong Lee Road. We used to watch the rotis being made before getting the garry to the primary school on the base. Anybody else been confused with addresses?