Sembawang Hill Estate is a small estate off Upper Thomson Road, being founded in the fifties by Bukit Sembawang Estates Limited.
At Jalan Leban, a unique little hut stands here for some forty-plus years. It is the focal point of Sembawang Hill Estate Taxi Services, where in the past the cab drivers would gather here for a chat or drink coffee while waiting for commuters to call and book their services.
Previously owned by Sembawang Hill Estates Limited, the hut is now maintained by a group of old cab drivers, who decorated it with colourful bulbs and lanterns. Bonded by friendship, some of the former drivers, probably in their sixties or seventies now, also gather here once in a while even though their taxi-driving careers are over.
There are two old stone benches in front of the hut. The Chinese wordings on the left and right of each bench indicate that the taxi services station was established in the summer of 1968. Note that the phone number for booking was only five digits during that era (compared to eight now). The Chinese name of Sembawang was also stated as 森峇旺 instead of the current 三巴旺, and it refers Sembawang Hill as a new estate.
There are another similar taxi services huts elsewhere in Singapore
One is located at Boon Lay Place, standing beside a possibly former bus terminal of Jurong West. Boon Lay Place, previously known as Boon Lay Garden, has seen more crowds in recent decades due to Boon Lay Shopping Centre and the popular Boon Lay Place Hawker Centre.
Another old taxi services hut is situated at the junction of Ulu Pandan Road and Clementi Road. Like Boon Lay Place, there was once a small bus terminal here in the seventies and eighties, before the premises were taken over by an outdoor restaurant called Rong Guang BBQ Seafood Restaurant.
According to its signboard, the little humble house once provided both day and night taxi services islandwide. Even trips to Johore could be booked.
The seafood restaurant has ceased its business in 2011, and with the taxi services hut in little usage, the buildings might give way to redevelopment soon.
Hope these little cozy huts will continue to be maintained and preserved even after the older generation of taxi drivers are no longer around.
Published: 09 June 2011
Updated: 14 April 2013
I remember it very well as in the sixties and seventies I use to go there for the “Sunday” pasar malam (night market). Also the Singapore Grand Prix circuit was there and I was a volunteer track marshall. Chan Lye Choon (race driver) and K C Wong ( motor bike rider), Soh Guan Bee and Chris Proffit-White (England) who won the motorbile Grand Prix one year. I have lived in Perth, WA for the last 30 years but I still have wonderful memories of those days. I used to live in Jalan Pemimpin and opposite The Little Sisters of the Poor (Thomson Rd.) were some good eating shops. There was also Pek San Teng (the Chinese cemetry). Can anyone remember all this?
Yeah mate I know where it was. There was a huge tree at the entrance of Jalan Pemempin @ Upp. Thoson road and few metres away there was a Shell Petrol Station owned by the Ng and See family, very nice people. There used to be a coffee shop under the big tree and they used to serve very good coffee. A lot of memory….!
Yes, I remember the Shell petrol station very well. I was studying at Braddell Rise Primary school in the early fifties. I was staying just opposite the Little Sister’s of the Poor, just behind the entrance to Kampong San Teng. As a young boy I used to hang out at the Shell petrol station helping out in pumping petrol and etc. I know the Ng family and Mr. See very well.
Good day mate.
I hope that you still can recalled the ‘old lake view’ market and hawker centre which is demolished now. Can you recalled the nick name along Jalan Pemimpin as ‘gor pa keng’ in hokkien meaning lieterally 500 units houses? now with the latest development of cicle line, RI and some condo’s, the place is no more as kampong-like as before.
HI James, I am the nephew of Tim Proffitt-White, John Proffitt-White and have the copies of the photo;s of tim winning the grand prix on his works Honda. my email is email@example.com. Regards
So great to see this message. Chris Proffitt-White was my dad who sadly passed away in 1989. I am so proud to see him still being remembered and his name getting a mention. Thank you.
Hi there Victoria – I see your message posted on the site. I I knew your dad well and he first taught me how to ride a motor bike over in Singapore. A great guy and we were best mates for some time until he returned to UK and then I moved to NZ. Where do you live – in the UK or NZ.? It is great catching up with both John in the UK and Robin here in Australia where we now live. Robin lives very close to us and so when John comes over at Christmas time we are all hoping to get together for a trip down memory lane. Would love to hear more about your dad as we were good mates and had many friends in common before we all lost track of each other – tends to happen in the Forces. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org Regards, Jo Christmas
Hi Victoria,I lived in Singapore from 1960 to 63′ and was at Alexandra Sec Mod School there..Happy Days. I also went to the Singapore Gand Prix in those early years and of course saw Chris race the Honda 4 and Soh Guan Bee on the Norton manx. I still have post card pictures of them on those machines in those early days.
a good memory of my formative years in the far east.
Best regards..Dave Wayment
The Singapore Grand Prix, held at Upper Thomson Road on 16th and 17th September 1961, drew thousands of spectators
I grew up in Sembawang Hills Estate. My primary school was in the Grand Prix circuit – Sembawang Hills Estate School. I used to be there every year. I remember all this. I now live in Melbourne.
I remember everything. I grew up in Sembawang Hills Estate – Jalan Leban. The Grand Prix circuit was in the area of my primary school. I used to be at the Grand Prix every year.
The cemetary is now part of Raffles Institution!
I was at Raffles Institution, Bras Basah Road – the original site of the school.
Brings back so many memories, particularly of old Thompson Road and the Singapore Grand Prix which I watched from the sidelines. Does anyone know the present whereabouts of Chris Proffit-White – a very old flame!!
Jo, Unfortunately Tim passed away back in the 90’s. I am his nephew John Proffitt-White
Thanks for the info John. I lived in S’pre from 1960-64 at the 6th milestone Thompson Road, just down the road from Sembawang Hills Estate. My father was a pilot in the airforce in the same section as “Prof” as he was known by then, and they were both motorbike fanatics so had many discussion. When dad found out I had bought a motorbike (from the firm that Prof used to race for) he had a fit of the horrors as S’pore driving back then was horrendous at times and he had visions of me being plastered all over S’pre. He persuaded Prof to teach me how to ride a bike properly and that is how we got to know each other. Our relationship was that of best friends and we used to drive all over S’pore and would then go out to dinner or a film on a Friday night. I eventually moved back to the UK but before I left I introduced Prof to very good friends of mine and I gather they kept up the correspondence for many years but they suddenly
lost track of him.after they moved to Perth. I met and married a Naval Pilot and we then emigrated to NZ for 28 years before moving over to Brisbane, Australia sixteen years ago. When I saw the site about old Singapore I was so interested as I have many great memories of living there, long before all the high rises went in. We are hoping to go back over there for our 50th wedding anniversary next March but it is nothing like the place I remember and more of my old haunts are not longer in existence. I often wondered if Prof kept up with his racing and I did hear from my friends that he had got married and visited them on his honeymoon. I was so sorry to hear that he has since
died and wondered if it was a racing accident or through sickness.
Thanks again for passing on the info and I am so sorry that Prof is no longer with us.
Hi Jo, Very interesting to hear about my uncle in his earlier years, I was not born until 66 so great to hear about him. It was through illness that he passed away. My mother and sister both now live in Christchurch and my mums husband now flys single prop planes as a hobby normally pipers. My brother now lives north of Brisbane with his family at a place called jardina. Kathy and I will be going over to NZ from 26 Dec and then onto my brothers on 26 Jan – 31 Jan, not sure if we could meet up even if it is in the airport prior to us flying back to UK???? be good if we could. let me know.
Sorry Jo I meant Yandina north of Brisbane!!
Most houses around this area were all occupied by British Army and Navy families this is Jalan Leban I’m sure some of you can remember Lucky Store? I was 10 than now reaching 62, I use live about a kilometer and a half from this taxi stand in fact my primary schools is Sembawang Hill Estate School. This taxi stand really brings back old memories I wonder if could anyone remember, just opposite this taxi stand there was a lone push cart hawker selling Mee Pok? I can still remember his mee pok ta. This hawker will take his trouble to decorate the mee with sliced prawns and vege before giving it to his customers that was the best mee pok with soup around before msg was introduced into our local food.
I grew up in 41 Jalan Leban & know what you say. We might have known each other as we went to the same primary school. I then went to Raffles Institution in the City. My basic training for NS was at Seletar Camp.
I remember the good days. I lived in Jalan Rukam in Sembawang Hills, just behind the shophouses. Used to go to the pasar malam every sunday night, and also used to watch the grand prix with my family. And yes, British Army families were our neighbours.
I lived in Jalan Leban & we used to get taxis from the taxi stand.
There is another taxi services hut at boon lay shopping center/market place at the car park area facing the food center. You may check it out =)
Thanks for the information, have added to it 🙂
Are these the only two remaining old taxi services huts in Singapore?
I rememeber going to the “San Xi” supermart with my dad …. and playing snooker/feeding bey kee at the mess nearby ie. on top of the lounge, Mayflower.. etc
Yes I remember the taxi Stand. There was also another taxi stand on the entarnce of Sembawang Hills Drive. Just opposte there use to be a small mama (muslim) shop and there was also a frame shop. I stayed at 101, Sembawang Hills Drive – the last 3rd House of the terrace houses just before where now ST Nicholas school is. Can anyone of you remember what was there after the last group of Houses before ST Nicholas. I was at Sembawang Hills Estate Primary School from 1961 to 1966.
From 1967 to 1970 I was at the Former Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School ( now occuopied by Duke University)
Anyone interetsed to contact me can do at my mobile 97567004
I lived in Jalan Leban & went to Sembawang Hills Estate School, then to Raffles Institution in the City for secondary school. I now live in Melbourne. Check me on LinkedIn.
there still one along pandan road near clementi road junction
We lived in Jalan gelenggang from 68 to 70,when we were in the British army. I remember the Bar on the corner,Charlies bar. also all the trades people who delivered to the door and gave US christmas presents!!!
We have been back 4 times since, we are going back in 10 days time yet again!!!
I grew up in Jalan Leban & know the bar well as I had to go past it to get to the shops.
Are Old schools haunted cause i hear funny sounds in school when im in class with my friends
Which school are you refering to. Within Sembawang Hills Estate there was 2 schools -One is the Sembawawang Hills Estate Primary School at Old Upper Thomson Road near Pierce Reservoir ( which already been demolished long ago and replace by Private Housing) and the other is the Former Ahmad Ibrahim Intergrated School at Jalan Kuras ( where the building is still there and now been occupied by Duke University ) Both of this two school I studied from 1961 to 1966 at the Primary School and from 1967 to 1970 at the Secondary school . I stayed at 101, Sembawang Hills Drive. If anyone happens to visit Singapore I will be glad to show Sembawang Hills Estate and soem of the British sites as I can still remember till now ( not many folks in Spore are able to – some of them no more living)
I was at Sembawang Hills Estate School from 1963-1968. Then I went to RI at Bras Basah Rd, That Old RI was haunted. I used to hear noises when I was alone, especially in the Art Room.
It’s so interesting to read all this. I lived at 1 Jalan Menarong from late 1960 to 1963, it was a bungalow then but looking at Google street maps today I see it is an extended house. My sister was born in Changi Hospital. My Dad, Syd Steer, was in the British Army in the Royal Signals, I believe he was attached to an RAF unit. I started school, Nee Soon Primary, while living in Singapore and have vivid memories of being frightened by an army training camp next to the school – I think it may have been Ghurkas. As I was so young I have only a few memories of my time in Singapore but they are precious.
Most of the houses at Sembawang Hills Estate has been torned down/ modified to 2nd/ 3rd story typw with extension here and there .Sadly the original type of house does not exist.Some of th Nee Soon Primary School after finishing their primary school did continue at Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School located at Jalan Kuras ( within Sembawang Hills Estate). Mr Mau was one of the principal at Nee Soon School and he ows a spectacle shop that time at Nee Soon. The shop name is Mau Johnson Spectacle.Can you remember. If you stayed at Jalan Menarong during 1960 to 1963 you may know british family name Mike and his wife Ann, melvin family, Jane to name a few. The corner house was a Indian house
I remember the house on the corner having one or more caged monkeys in the garden, They used to poke it/them and make them squeal. This used to upset my mum. I don’t really remember any people except a girl about my age who lived across the road, her name was Elaine and I once caused her to fall into the monsoon drain when I opened our garden gate. She hurt her arm quite badly. And I remember our amah Ah Bee (not sure of the spelling). I also recall a nice man called Cass who helped my dad when his car broke down. Cass took the car away and my dad thought he’d never see it again but he turned up a few days later with it all repaired. I also remember going to visit Ah Bee’s family in their little village of mud/straw huts. Apparently it was a huge honour for a white family to do this and the whole village turned out to greet us.
I lived at 41 Jalan Leban from 1958. My father sold the house in 2001. I now live in Melbourne.
I was based at the old Gurkha camp for a while when I was doing my National Service. I grew up in Jalan Leban.
Taxi services were already available before the Second World War. Most of the passengers were the British military servicemen and their families.
The Rural Board set up many taxi service huts in different parts of Singapore, one of which was located at Kangkar in 1951.
There was also similar taxi stand at the entrance of Sembawang Hills Drive near the Sembawang Circus. Can anyone remember this
You are right including the riders like Chris Corn ( no 77) Profit Wide ( No 103) Suzuki ( No (69) and drivers like Albert Poon, Sonny Rajah, Rodney and Philips Seow ( both brothers) which I can still remember a few. The Grand Prix was held in March ( not Sept) during the Good Friday/ Easter session. If you remeber those days Easter Monday beside Good Friday was also a public holday in Singapore.
The trial was held on Good Friday, Saturday was the events for Vintage Cars, Motorcycles ( different cc) and Saloon cars ( Covered Cars ) The main Grand Prix was held on Sundays
Has anyone reading this have stayed in Sembawabg Hills Drive. I stayed at 101( the last of the terrace house) just before leading to the Chinese Kampong ( Village)
Yes, I used to walk past it to get to school – Sembawang Hills Estate Primary School.
3rd July 2013
I served at PRU, RAF Seletar from Nov 59 to May 62. I married Alice during my 2 week’s embarkation leave in early September 59 and she arrived to join me on Dec 23rd at 182/3 Jalan Kayu, behind the village shops. The amah I hired helped me to put up Christmas decorations in preparation for my new bride’s arrival.
Despite having no previous experience I became a Track Marshal during the First Singapore GP, luckily positioned at The Devil’s Elbow on the Old Thompson Road, one of the most exciting bends on the makeshift road circuit. The Honda Racing Team was headed up by factory rider Gichi Suzuki riding a similar 4-cylinder m/c to Chris Proffitt White’s but with an enlarged petrol tank, which, unlike Chris, ensured he wouldn’t have to refuel during the race. The Honda Team intentionally took a longer time than necessary refueling Chis’s bike in order to give Gichi an advantage. By then it had become obvious that Chris was faster than the Honda Factory rider who they badly wanted to win. Chris overtook Gichi within 2 laps of the end of the race. In an obvious attempt to save face Suzuki then dropped his machine on a slow part of the circuit and Honda’s press team later claimed he would have won the race had it not been for his unfortunate “accident”. Nobody was fooled, Chris put in an amazing performance that day and won the First Singapore GP fair and square.
Our son, Kris, was born in RAF Changi Hospital in August 60.
We would love to hear from anyone who remembers us from those days, long ago
Hi Geoff, My father, Chris Proffitt-White, would tell me the story of him overtaking Suzuki at the end of the 1961 race, thank you for reminding me of the details. I have lots of great photos but I can’t see how to upload them here…
Lived at No 1 Jalan Tarum for a few Months in 1968 before we got a Quarter on the Naval Base at Dixon Road. I can recall the taxi stand well as well as the grocers shops who used to deliver daily and the market stalls behind the shops selling fireworks every day of the year.. We used to get the Naval bus every day to school from the area close to the taxi hut.
There also used to be a Chinese aquarium shop nearby. We kept tropical fish and would buy them from this shop.
Evenings we went for walks over the reservoir other side of the road? the name escapes me. And to the large market which wound along a lane down towards where they used to stage the Grand Prix. (I can remember the Grand Prix and as kids we always found a gap in the fence to sneak in.
Lived in Singers 68 – 71 Old Man was Fleet Air Arm.
Fantastic recollections of the motorcycle racing scene in 1961. Even new info (for me) about the G. Suzuki/C. P. White in the final 2 laps by eyewitness account from a true enthusiast just like me. They were both outstanding riders limited only by their bike capability on the given day. True respect to No. 103. Thanks very much.
C.P.White’s daughter here. Delighted to see your wonderful messages about my dad. Thank you. He died when I was only 12 but it means such a lot to see him still being remembered. I wonder if I could manage to post some of his race photos on here. I’ll have a look and see. Victoria PW
Victoria, I would enjoy seeing photographs of your father in race mode. I didn’t know him personally and my only experience of seeing him in action was that one time at the Singapore Grand Prix. My view of him was limited to that part of the course over which I had track marshal responsibilities but his obvious racing talent and determination to win made an impression on me which has lasted down the years. I have no mementos of the race other than my memories of it and to see photographs of your Dad after all this time would be truly amazing.
It would be lovely if you put pictures of Tim/your Dad up here. Yes, it is great to know he is still remembered so fondly after nearly 50 years but then he was that sort of person!
Love Aunty Ro x
Myself and Kathy are planning to see family in Christchurch NZ end of Dec 14 ( I know it is a long way off but..) we have an 11 hour stop over in Singapore from 9am on 31 dec will be at terminal 3 and not sure what is the best option to use that time anyone got any ideas. Be nice to see some of my uncles friends if possible over a drink?? John
I lived in Johore Bahru and there were many British army personnel living in my neighbourhood. Two sisters Linda and Sandra Moorhouse were our friends and neighbours from 1961 to 1963. I would love to contact them but have no idea how to do it.
We lived in Jalan Tarum for a few Months before moving into accommodation in the naval base area. I recall this taxi office very well.
We were out 1967 – 70 (I was 10/11 at the time) and used to embark the navy buses right by the office to take us to school every morning.
I recall the local shops and the small market behind them and the fireworks around Chinese new year, the Sunday night market further up the road towards the grand prix circuit.
I can also recall an aquarium shop a little further up on the Thomson road. We kept tropical fish as many families did and used to get all our stock from there. The reservoir across the road which was handy for evening walks to look at the wildlife and orchids
After a few Months we moved to a large flat in Dixon Road there were 7 or 8 large blocks with 6 flats in each with an ahmah’s flat tagged on the end, Have looked at length on google street-view but am unable to find it again so assume it has been demolished and replaced with the many high rises which now reside on that part of the island. I can recall an old air raid shelter at the end of the small estate which we used to play in as kids.
Maybe the moderator can shed some light on what happened to this area?
Looking at Sembewang Hills in detail it now seems very much to be an upcoming area. The house we lived in in Jalan Tarum No 1 was knocked down and a much larger house built in its place.
Just before Christmas 2015 we once again returned to Singapore for a holiday. As we always do,we visited Jalan Gelenggang to see what has changed and how our old house (48) is getting on. Although many of the houses have been improved and some have additional levels the street is still very recognisable as is the row of shops at the bottom where Charlies Bar and the Chip shop etc were. With a little imagination, if you close your eyes it is possible to feel we are back as it was 40+ years ago one thing that never changes is the heat and humidity. hopefully we will return some day.
The old Singapore Grand Prix 🙂
We returned for our final visit in July 2017.as is our usual practice we did a “nostalgia” visit to our old house at 48 Jalan Gelenggang which improves every time we see it.As I said after our 2016 visit, everything looks much the same although there have been tremendous improvements to what were once just very basic bungalows with corrugated iron roofs.We had a bonus this time though, we were lucky enough to find the old taxi drivers hut open and a few of the old time drivers sat inside.we were welcomed in and had a nice chat about old times.Old age has caught up with us now so it is very unlikely we will travel long haul again,We will still have the memories of a wonderful country though.
Trying to trace my old Amah when I lived in Jalan Kuras she was Shirley(Pik Sem Lim) she had a daughter in 1965 same time as I had mine Helen, Shirleys partner was Tony a Filipino and she lived in the Kampong at the top of Semewang Estate.
We moved to 36 Jalan Tarum from downtown Jalan Rumbia some time in 1968 and stayed until early 1970. Whist the morning motor bike ride to my unit at Sembawang airfield used the Thompson Rd straight, the return journey always utilised the Old Thompson Rd. The bends always seemed more exciting when one had lunched on Tiger. Most of our neighbours were service personnel with a close friend living in Jalan Leban. I have visited Singapore many times since those days and also spent another two years living there from 2005 However, my time living there in the 60’s is the time I treasure most.
We lived at 41 Jalan Leban from 1958 when the Estate was developed. My siblings & I moved out after we married but our parents lived there for many more years. My brother was also at Sembawang Air base during his days in uniform & also rode his motorbike to & from the base. I used to take our car out late at night some nights & run on the Old Upper Thomson Rd Grand Prix track. I grew up around the Grand Prix during Easter & used to spend Easter watching the races.