Kampong Silat SIT Flats

The flats located at Silat Avenue were mostly built between 1949 and 1952 by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), the predecessor of the Housing Development Board (HDB), making them the second oldest surviving public housing estate in Singapore after the Tiong Bahru pre-war flats.

The neighbourhood used to be known as Kampong Silat, with its name probably derived from the Malay martial arts. A Silat Community Centre once stood along Silat Avenue, only to be replaced by a point-block flat and a nursing home after the late nineties.

The squarish Art Deco-styled flats, mostly three- or four-storied tall, have wooden window panes, large balconies and a huge red-tiled roof with chimney-like structures. Such designs were also used in the construction of SIT flats elsewhere in Singapore, such as Princess Elizabeth Park at Upper Bukit Timah.

There were originally 15 flats built, with their block numbers ranging between 17 and 31. Two of the front blocks that stood facing Kampong Bahru Road, numbered 20 and 21, were demolished in the late nineties.

An interesting and unique feature about these SIT flats is that, despite standing close to each others, the blocks’ addresses are categorized by the three roads that run around them, namely Silat Avenue, Silat Walk and Kampong Bahru.

In 2007, all the 13 SIT flats were announced to be part of the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) program. By the first half of 2012, most of the flats were vacated.

On the opposite side of Kampong Bahru Road stand two high-rise HDB flats (Block 1 and 2) that once housed the personnel of the Royal Malaysian Customs and Malayan Railways Limited, or Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM).

Built in the eighties by HDB, the two flats are called the Kemuning Residential Block and Melati Residential Block. The blocks are also commonly known as the Spooner Road flats, where Spooner Road is the minor road that leads to the small estate and was named after Charles Edwin Spooner (1853-1909), the State Engineer of the Public Works Department during the British colonial era. The road to the former property of KTM was appropriately named as Spooner was also the head of the Federated Malay States Railways in 1901.

In 2011, the flats, as part of the KTM railway premises, were handed over to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). The former KTM workers’ quarters were then converted into rental flats with 10 years’ leases.

Also read Singapore En-Bloc Flats.

Published: 20 September 2012

Updated: 14 June 2013

97 Responses to Kampong Silat SIT Flats

  1. Tim says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I did not know the spooner flats were to be converted – looks like this area may not be ‘redeveloped’ in the near future – hopefully.

  2. Lucy Tan says:

    Thank you for sharing your excellent photos and information. I grew up in Kampong Silat. It’s a treasured landmark in my memory of childhood.

    • Louisa says:

      Hi Lucy,

      I’m Louisa. My friends and I are currently doing a mini-documentary on Kampong Silat and are looking for past residents to interview. If you do see this and would like to share your views about your time staying there, do drop me an email at gohr0007@e.ntu.edu.sg. Thanks (:

      Louisa

      • Lucy Tan says:

        Hi Louisa
        That sounds like an interesting project. However, I live overseas now (Switzerland) and it’ll be difficult for us to meet for an interview :-).

        Have fun and loads of success with the doc.
        Lucy

    • Susan Yap says:

      I grew up in Kg
      silat Est too. My old address Blk 20 Kg Bahru Road 280-C. Do you happen to know Irene Tan who stayed in Block 21 also on the 4th floor.

      • Edward Salvaraj says:

        I was born in Room 21 Kelantan Flats, Kampong Bahru Road, on 30th Sept 2602 (1942). Is the premises standing or has it been replaced.

  3. The Spooner Road flats have been given a fresh coat of paint now


    The old M.R. Running Bungalow, the former resting bunks for the KTM train drivers, is also under renovation (but not sure what it will be turned into, let’s hope it won’t be demolished)


  4. Gerald Lim Vernon says:

    Used to visit my then grandma’s flat in Kg Bahru and she used to lived in the 2nd floor during the 80’s. I could tell you that the living hall was extremely large, that could hold 2 large round tables of 10pax each, or 5 mahjong tables and even have the space to walk, and so as the Kitchen and the Rooms.
    I remembered when I was young and during every Saturdays, my family and I would visit my grandma, together with my 7 Uncles and 6 Aunties and including my cousins (mostly are from my Mom’s side). Everyone would made a heck-lot-of noise as they loved that till now even my grand-parents weren’t around, and I do not know why. You could imagined how big my (Cantonese) family was at time and also not being boastful, my grandma was my grandpa’s first wife. (During pre/post-war time, polygamy for non-Muslim was allowed till the 60’s). So imagined the crowd during the Chinese New Year, his (grandpa) other 2 wives together with their off-springs and off off-springs would also dropped by. Totally madness…
    Anyways, there are some of these type of (similiar) houses along Tiong Bahru Road. You could drive or walk by during the evenings to catch a glimpse in the interior, and mostly are occupied by the expats.
    BTW…my Dad’s a pure Peranakan, and so that makes me a half-Peranakan? “-_-

  5. Jonno says:

    Didn’t there used to be a notorious group of mini cooper (original Mini, not BMW mini) enthusiasts living around the Kampong Bahru area? Once saw Frankie Boo, Mini racer, chicken rice seller who used to sell at a coffee shop along Short Street at Kampong Bahru with his famous mini cooper S. Mostly Indians, Sikhs & Eurasians in the mini clique.

  6. karen says:

    I used to live at block 18 Silat Road from 1953 to 1961 when I was born till I was 9years old. We stayed on the top floor and I used to come downstairs to play.

    • Lucy Tan says:

      Hi Karen
      There’s Louisa (see her comment above) who is doing a mini-documentary on former residents. Why not get in touch with her at: gohr0007@e.ntu.edu.sg. and help her with an interview?
      Regards
      Lucy

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Karen,

      I’m working on a mini project to analyse the former SIT flats throught the occupancy point of view. I will love to learn more
      about your story if you don’t mind sharing. Kindly contect me if you’re interested:) thanks!
      inderevery@gmail.com

  7. Joseph says:

    This really brings back memories. My family used to live on the first floor in Block 30, where Silat Walk ended in a t-shaped cul-de-sac. The cul-de-sac itself was lined with a row of concrete garbage receptacles which were later demolished after a proper bin center was built next to Block 25 (this was later removed and a new one was erected at the previous location). Behind the row of receptacles was a large field (looked at least to a kid) where a makeshift open-air cinema operated in the weekends. For 10 cents one can watch old Hollywood westerns, Hong Kong kungfu shows, Shaw Brothers local Malay thrillers or whatever the operators happened to lay their hands on. If one was broke, no problem, just find a space on top of the concrete garbage receptacles, settle down and watch the show from the back of the giant fabric screen. The operators tried hanging a black cloth to block out the view but enough of the show filtered through for a decent viewing. The only drawback: everything was in reverse! A show like that was always going to be a big draw, pulling in the crowd as well as hawkers and roadside peddlers for miles around. Almost every weekend, depending on the weather, there was a carnival going on!

    The field itself was L-shaped intersected by footpaths and part of it extended to the back of my block. Almost every evening the neighbourhood kids took to a soccer match enthusiastically and it was no surprise that we often find a wayward ball in our kitchen balcony.

    But the best part of my childhood was spent exploring the strip of land acting as a buffer between the field and the KTM railway lines. It was a haven for small animals – birds, monitor lizards, rodents, and of course, fighting spiders. My neighbours and I would sneak in through a hole in the wire mesh fence and spent hours hunting.

    Looking away in the opposite direction, Silat Walk opened up to the shop-lined Silate Square (if I remember correctly). At the far end was a tiny chapel, the Kampong Bahru Gospel Center which later relocated to Mattar Road in Macpherson and become the Grace Baptist Church.
    Now looking back, the actual physical size of the neighbourhood wasn’t that big, but to a small kid, it was the perfect romping ground.

    It is sad to see it go for the sake of new developments, but hey, thanks for the memories.

    • Lucy says:

      I can remember the open-air cinema but no idea where that field was exactly. The entry-price was 10 cents and kids free. I remember playing football with my cousins in a field between SIT blocks as well. And we used to go search for fighting spiders in the lalang field on the slope beside the railway lines. The lalang grass was taller than most of us. And end of the year we flew kites on that slope.

  8. Ricky Lim says:

    I was born in Silat Road in 1966, my address previously was 82A, Silat Road,we moved out in 1973,which i started primary 1 in Silat Primary School,our school do have different school badge, morning class is called Silat 1, afternoon class is Silat 2. When i was young, we like to play at d low rise buildings. cos there is a slide. My house is directly at e entrance to e Chinese temple called Tai Yang Kong( The Sun Temple). My mum use 2 work a construction worker in Kg Bahru Chinese temple which named is Tang Gak Bio(The Hell Temple)

    • Joseph says:

      Ah, the slide … and if I’m not mistaken, there were swings too. Located just behind a U-shaped 4-storied apartment block (painted red), in some sort of a “courtyard” due to the building layout, they were a delight to the neighbourhood kids. The apartment block sat above a basement and each ground floor unit had a staircase leading from the kitchen to the “courtyard” below. Painted white, they stood out against the red. I remembered always wondering what it’s like to use those stairs. And of course the basement and what lurked in there was always a common topic among the neighbourhood kids.

    • Susan Yap says:

      Ricky, I was also born in Kampong Bahru Road Block 20. In those days, its legal.

      • Ricky lim says:

        Susan , my he was exactly at e bottom of e 太阳宫, which is an attachment houses wif my relatives beside us.

    • Susan Yap says:

      Hi Ricky,

      Nice to know u were also from Silat Primary School. I was th 1967 P1 batch of Silat Primary Sch II. Do you have any pictures of our old Primary sch to share?

      • Lucy Tan says:

        Hi Susan and Ricky, my sister and 4 brothers all went to Silat Primary School. The brothers were all originally in the Radin Mas where my Dad also went in his time but my mother transferred the boys to Silat because it was closer to home and they could walk there on their own and also keep my youngest sister company. My sister was born 1959, so she would have started P1 in 1966 or 1967. Her school-name was Tan Cheng Hoon. I’ll askk her if she has old photos.

  9. Lucy says:

    Thanks for sharing. I can remember all these landmarks. The Tai Yang Kong was the temple basically next-door to the Silat Primary, right? My Dad used to drive his car to the front yard of the temple on Sundays and there, in the shade of huge tree, washed and polished his precious car. Sometimes, a few of us kids went along for the ride and played about the yard till he was done. The Tang Gak Bio was next-door to the St Theresa Catholic Church. I wonder if it’s still there.

    • Susan Yap says:

      Yes, you are right, Lucy. it’s hard to forget all these old memories. Myfamily moved out
      of the flat in 1997 after they were allocated a flat opposite Jurong Point. Block 20 had already been demolised. Very sad!

      • Lucy Tan says:

        So true, Susan. So much to remember. I think it’s also because they were some of our earliest childhood memories that they have settled so permanently in our minds.

    • Ricky lim says:

      Lucy, the tang gak bio (东狱庙)is still there, beside Tai yang gong is e Thai temple, slat primary is at opposite e silken temple,hokkien ppl call it si pai po boey.

      • Lucy Tan says:

        Hi Ricky. Yes, si pai po, the Hokkian pronunciation of sepoy meaning Sepoy Line – remember the post-office was called that. It was somewhere along Neil Rd, in the vicinity of the General Hospital.

  10. Joseph says:

    Hi,
    I was born and bred in kampong Bahru , used to live in the Railway quarters (not Melati or Kemuning) there were other Railway quarters before these were built. I used to go often to Silat Road to buy kites. I am now 53 years old. I can never forgot those good memories. There used to be a cemetery there.

    • Susan Yap says:

      Yes, me too Joseph. I only moved out after I got married in Jun 1985 and stayed at Jalan Bukit Merah Block 106 which is the Bus Service 65 terminus.

  11. Good news…

    5 blocks of Kampong Silat SIT flats (18, 19, 22, 23 & 24 Silat Avenue) will be conserved as part of the URA Master Plan 2014

    • Ricky Ng says:

      Dear readers,
      I’ve heard about the MRT Circle Line proposed to close the loop between Marina South and Harbourfront station via its tunnel.

  12. Tim says:

    Just passed by yesterday for a photoshoot and no wonder they tore down some of the older blocks(I believed there were some blocks 17? that were on the slope that were torn down now. So it seems like they are conversing only certain blocks. I wonder what will they become if. This is certainly an interesting area as when are walking around, you will feel a kampong feeling like . Rare indeed in Singapore now.

  13. Lucy says:

    The address of my grandmother’s house was 81A Silat Rd (if I remember correctly). Now I’m wondering which house was 82A. You must have been one of the neighbours’ little boy … 🙂

  14. Stephen Tan says:

    I am now living in Australia, having migrated to Christmas Island in 1969, i originally a Singaporean, born in the old St. Andrew’s Hospital at Tanjong Pagar in 1943. I don’t think it’s there any longer. I live in a little row of flats, at Silat Walk, since I was born, until the age of about 6 years old, my parents passed away. I was then brought up by my Uncle and Aunt at Spooner Road, just next to Silat Road area. We lived at Johore Flats, opposite the now Running Bungalow, thankfully now still exist. Then a couple of years later, my uncle got a promotion, we then moved to Pahang Flats, a two bed room unit, on the 2nd floor. This was when I started schooling at Sacred Heart Boy’s School at Kampong Bahru, the principal Mr. Charles d’Rozerio, (I hope my spelling is correct) a few years later I was transferred to the newly build De La Salle School. That was about 1952. That school is no longer De La Salle. So, back to Spooner Road, and a few years after, we moved again from Pahang Flats to Perak Flats, a three bedroom. I left Spooner Road in 1963 and stayed at Klang, Malaya for the next six years, before i went to Christmas Island in 1969, I am now living in Australia . Times have changed, they are beautiful memories of the passed, they will never go away.

    • Lucy Tan says:

      Hi Stephen, your schoolmaster at the Sacred Heart Boys’s School (a few hundred yards away from the Radin Mas Primary?) was more likely spelt de Rosario. His daughter Charlotte sat next to me in primary school in the St Theresa’s Convent up the hill. I’ve often wondered about what became of Charlotte. I ca remember that she had younger twin sisters and an older sister and brother.
      I can remember the De La Salle School too. Some of my friends’ brothers went there but that would have been later than your time there.
      Christmas Island is such a nice name. You must be happy there. I live in Switzerland for decades now. But yes, lovely memories of the old-fashioned colonial times, and the slow-paced Kampong Bahru ambience, and definitely more preferred by me than present day Singapore.

    • Peter McGovern says:

      Hello Stephen
      I’m living in New Zealand now I hope you Doris and family are doing well, you were both always kind to me and I have fond memories and a lot of respect you both.

      Kind regards

      Peter McGovern

    • Ricky Ng says:

      Dear Steven Tan,
      St. Andrew Hospital is now located next to Simei General Hospital. It is known as a community hospital which offer primary healthcare services. General Hospital provide tertiary healthcare while community hospital provide step down service.

  15. Susan Yap says:

    I guess u must have live in those SIT terrace houses. Those which had a living room and a huge bedroom which had an entrance to living room and another leading to the bathroom n toilet area. The kitchen is long and the roof is open. Very interesting, as I recalled those houses. May I ask which unit were you living in. I believe you are the row of houses behind the coffee shop, photostudio, sundries shops and a Grace Baptist Church. We may know each other cos I frequent there very often as a kid.

  16. Stephen Tan says:

    Yes, I lived in one of those Terrace houses, 97, Silat Road, around 1945-1950. Outside our terrace was a commom public bath place, just by the side of Silat Road. Night soil was collected in the early hours of the morning. Right on top of our unit, were those flashy new S.I.T. Flats, 3 storeys I think.

  17. vasu govindasamy says:

    Hi everyone who used to live or knows someone who lived at Kampong Silat,

    I need your help to reconcile my Mom with her family!
    My Mom who is Chinese was given up for adoption into an Indian family.
    She was about 5 days old (needs verification).
    She was born 6th of December 1938 I am her son and she is now 76.
    She asked me tonight if I can help her to reconnect with her family.

    When she was a little older, she was told by a “neighbor” and some relatives that a Chinese man, her brother, who was probably 10 years her senior, came to visit her but her adoptive parents became very protective of her and stop those visitations.

    Any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Please write to vasgoz@gmail.com

    Thank you.

    Vasu

    • Lucy Tan says:

      Hi Vasu, when I was between 4 and 6 years old I knew about a girl of Chinese descent adopted by an Indian family. She was very pretty and young as I was, I had often wondered how could any parent give away such a pretty daughter and not regret it? But you said your mother was born 1938 which in the Chinese Lunar Calendar was the Year of the Tiger and the Chinese do not like having female ‘tigers’ in their family and hence, ‘tiger girls’ tend to end up in adoption. Wicked superstition!
      However, this pretty girl I remembered was only a teenager when I knew her – that would be sometime between 1956 and 1959. However, I remember grown-ups saying that her parents were already going to marry her off.
      Their house was opposite a block of SIT and very close to a public stand-pipe where the village women fetched water for their homes or wash their laundry there in the mornings, and their vegetables in the late afternoon before cooking dinner.
      This adopted girl’s grandmother made and sold apom in the mornings and we kids used to stoop around before her little charcoal stove (or were there 2 stoves?) watching her pour the white rice batter into the little iron pan, swirling expertly to spread the batter before covering the pan with a wooden-lid to let the apom cook. We used to wait patiently for our turn to buy an apom from the old Indian lady for breakfast – white lacy and crisp with a thick soft centre sprinkled with brown palm sugar, and piping hot. That was super yummy.
      Anyway, sorry for my longwinded degression, but I doubt there’s anyone left from the older people from the village who could have known who your mother’s birth parents were. A lot of those gossipy neighbours moved to the Bukit Merah HDB settlements.

    • Gregory ware says:

      Vasu

      My dad is 72 and also grew up in the area, he remembers your mum, his name is Spencer Ware

      He remembers your mum and group up in block L17

      He recalls your mums adopted mother has a son who was a detective and his name was tumbi for the Singapore police department

      Happy to share more info

      Wareisgregory@yahoo.com.au

      • Edward John says:

        Hi Greg, I believe you dad used to live in the middle block in the second photo from the top. I think my mum knew your Grandma.

  18. tcwdoggy says:

    I got 3 photo of that area in the 70s here:

    Silat Road Unit
    • Susan Ya says:

      This picture seemed to be in the Silat Road Market Place area where there are squatters .

      • Edward John says:

        Hi Susan, which part of Silat is this, I’m trying to recall. I’ve lived in Silat Road since 1957 till 1969 when we moved to the HDB flats just after the kampong. In Silat we first lived beside the Charcoal shop and later moved behind the Chiang Teck School. Thanks.

  19. Joseph says:

    Hi Vasu, sorry for this late response as I have not visited this site for a long time. Hope you found what you were looking for by now. Like Lucy, I remember a young Chinese girl (at least she looked Chinese to me being so different from her “family”), living in a wooden house in the kampong next to the SIT blocks. The kampong and the SIT flats were separated by a chainlink fence. And yes, the granny sold apom, and I would be fascinated by the way she lightly touches the hot pan with the batter wrapped in a white cotton cloth, and presto! a delicious apom is made.

    They had a dog too, a mixed breed, think part border collie and part something else, but boy, it was very fierce and dog aggressive. My dogs were attacked several times when I was out walking them. But coming back to your mom, I thought she was well loved by her adopted parents though.

  20. Lucy Tan says:

    Tcwdoggy, thanks for sharing those old photographs. I have some vague and some vivid memories of the kampong. These are early childhood memories because we moved away in 1961. I left Singapore in 1971 which was a few years before the whole village got torn up and buried under HDB flats. Glad to know that the old SIT blocks escaped the bulldozers.

  21. Lucy Tan says:

    Hi Joseph, I’m so happy to read that you too remember the apom granny. There was a stand-pipe almost next-door to Vasu’s mother’s house and the granny’s apom vendor-spot was just across the path from it. Housewives got together at the stand-pipe early in the morning to wash clothes, bath their small children and/or carry water back home for cooking. Always a chatty atmosphere. And in the late afternoon, they congregated to gossip and wash vegetables for dinner-preparation.

    There was a kedai on the other side of the path from the stand-pipe. Young Chinese guy (called Peng Yan, I think) who was in charge of the family business. I remember they had a little counter in the doorway to sell fresh cut fruit like pineapple and water-melon, and also sweet-onions preserved in vinegar as well as buah long-long in jars of yellow liquid. It was fascinating to watch the Peng Yan guy skillfully clean and cut up a pineapple. He wore a rubber glove on one hand to hold the pineapple and with the knife in the other, he got rid of the hard skin, then he cut diagonal grooves into the surface to trim off the brown ‘eyes’, rotating the pineapple dexterously in his gloved hand.

    Anyway, maybe Vasu, you could try and trace the people of that kedai and ask if they remembered hearing where your mother came from. Good luck.

  22. Joseph says:

    Hi Lucy, yes I remember that stand pipe and that little shed of a shop. We kids loved to visit it for the golly (concrete marbles) and the tee-kam (Chinese lucky draw). Unfortunately, I had never won anything. There was this sneaky feeling that the shop was kept going by our “contribution”.

    The shop itself sat next to the opening in the chain-linked fence that served as a doorway. And you are right. It sat directly opposition to Vasu mother’s home. If my memory didn’t fail, it (Vasu mother’s house) was painted light blue or some sort of bluish hue. I concur that tracing the people connected to that shop will be a good start.

    I also kind of vaguely recall witnessing a fanfare taking place during Vasu mother’s wedding. I couldn’t be sure as it happened so long ago.

    • Lucy Tan says:

      Vasu’s mother must have been a very beautiful bride and her adopted family must have been very proud of her. It’s just such a shame that she and Vasu hadn’t started searching for the birth-parents earlier.

  23. Elvin Woo says:

    Hi
    Stumbling upon your blog brought me many memories of Silat Road.
    My parents stayed in one of those SIT flats together with my father’s parents and siblings. It was where the present Block 149 is located. My birth certificate showed the address to be 13F Silat Road and I lived there from 1953 – 1959 before my parents moved to another SIT flat in Margaret Drive. I remember riding my 3-wheel bicycle along the blocks, ducking to avoid open windows. Our immediate neighbour on the same floor was a nice Indian family.
    The most memorable times were the visit to the open air cinema with my aunties. I also remembered looking out the window seeing the bright orange horizon towards the SGH area when the Bukit Ho Swee fire occurred.
    Got a picture of how the near area looked like from my house window and one which showed my deceased father cycling below the block.

    • Ng Hou Seng says:

      Thank Elvin Woo for kindly sharing heritage. These SIT flats are built before my birthday. Now, I visit the Thai temple also near here.I noticed those 4-storey SIT flats were SERS and offered alternative flats in Kim Tian Place. Tentatively, the Circle line MRT stations would close the loop from Marina Bay to Harbourfront. It would also integrate with Greater South Project when Tanjong Pagar container terminal relocate to Tuas port. That’s so much info for now. When the future built up environment happens, your old photographs would be useful archive (artefacts for Kampong Silat museum). Over to you Elvin, Ricky is penning off now.

  24. Lucy Tan says:

    I’m a year older than you, Elvin and I share the same memories of the open-air cinema in the field by the railway, and of seeing the dark columns of churning smoke from the Ho Swee Swa great fire.

  25. Max says:

    Hi all !
    Stumbled upon this site….I grew up in Silat Rd albeit at a later time than the seniors here. I left the area in 1976. In the 60s Kampong Silat was a notorious area as that was the HQ of the 18 Sio Gee Ho secret society (site of old Chang Teck School) which was running a 18 yrs attack-on-sight curfew with arch-rival the 18 Seow Koon Tong in See Kah Teng (Gaga Selera Barat) now known as Jln Bukit Merah. Then there were Silat Walk, S Rd, S Lane, S Ave….The 1st demolition came in 1977 to make way for HDB flats in 1979…Blks 146, 147 etc . The 60s and early 70s – those were the good old days…

  26. Lucy Tan says:

    Hi Max. Interesting that you were there till almost the eve of the destruction of the old kampong. Thanks for sharing the information on secret societies of the area. I remember the name See Kah Teng (probably named after a 4-posted pavillion) but never knew that it’s the present-day Jln Bukit Merah. Fascinating for me to connect my childhood memory with facts and information I learn only now.

    • Edward John says:

      Hi Lucy, I used to live behind the Boon Huat coffee shop beside the charcoal shop in Silat road from the day I was born in1957 up till 1970 when we were resettled to the new HDB flats just at the end of the then Silat road. Blk 110 Jalan Bukit Merah aka Si Kah Teng. which was close to the Buddhist Temple on the hill up till the time I got married in 1984 and moved out to Tampines. I still cherished the days of walking along the train tracks to school (De La Salle) and playing at the Silat Community Centre.

  27. Max says:

    Hi Lucy,

    Up to 1979 by-election when Devan Nair won then re-named Anson consistuency, the area was still known as Sepoy Lines consistuency – Sepoy Lines was dissolved and re-drawed when then MP Wee Toon Boon serving as Minister of State for Environment was arrested for CBT in 1974-75.
    Back in 1967-69 when they cut a path from end of Neil Rd and start of Kampong Bahru Rd, at the start of the Hindu (with a large mural of Tata on the wall) Temple, the Jln Bukit Merah road came to become the 2nd longest stretch in SG then (2nd to Serangoon, Upper Serangoon Road).
    In the years prior to 1973, the area was known also as “Hoo Ah Sua” denoting the hilly attap kampung behind the SIT flats of Silat Rd – the terrain next to present-day SGH. Before Jln Bukit Merah cut through dissecting Silat Rd and Hoo Ah Sua, no taxi would drive into Silat kampungs due to the area’s notorious reputation – enter at your own risk !
    And from 1970-71-72, the construction of Jln Bukit Merah, Jln Membina, Kim Tian Rd HDB flats started. As for the other side of kampung, at the terminus of the railway line….there was Reaburn Park football field where the “Knights” team were playing. You have to cut through a small pathway at Neil Rd peranakan houses to get to Reaburn Park. There were two Hindu Temples along the railway tracks, one at the Reaburn Park site and another nearer to Bukit Chermai. And the Thai Buddhist Temple at the top of the hill looking down at Tai Yang Gong temple is the pre-eminent Thai Buddhist temple in SG – then Field Marshal Thanom Kittitachon took his vows there after leaving Thailand following his bloody coup in 1973. And some of the early bandboys in Matthew and the Mandarins (not Matthew) were from Spooner Rd….(if I recall correctly) the band came together in Spooner Rd ! Of course, the railway field hosted once a while movies at night. And the CYMA team (catholic young men association – aligned with parish at St Teresa Church) was playing there.

    On another note, the Grace Baptist Church at Silat Walk was the the childhood church of Rev Lawrence Khong who now runs a much bigger congregation. He was still with the church in 1983 until some time later due to differences with the GBC Elders over “speaking in tongues”.

    These are some of the memories ! Good Old Salad Days !!

    • Ng Hou Seng says:

      Thank you Lucy, so now I’m more aware. How did the Thai temple came into being. Regarding Rev Lawrence Khong is busy with his newly completed building over at Touch Community centre. Perhaps during Christmas carolling he would open up for visitors to the new centre.The SGH is gradually transforming into a new outfit.The little bus interchange at SGH would be relocated to the Tanjong Pagar railway station on top of Circle line MRT station extension.Let’s update and share information as we get along! 

    • Lucy Tan says:

      Dear Max
      Thank you for sharing this wealth of information! I remember the Sepoy Lines area – called See Pai Por in Hokkien. We left Silat Rd to live in Everton Park, just off Neil Rd. And I especially remember the Sepoy Lines post-office just opposite the drive up to the SGH because I wrote regularly to 2 pen-pals in Europe (Ireland and Switzerland). Those were pre-facebook days when one makes virtual friends through a pen-pal club.

      And I remember what you mentioned as Hoo Ah Sua which I think is Koo-ah Sua, Hokkien for ‘tortoise hill’ possibly either because of the shape of the hill or some physical association with tortoises or turtles.

      And guess which school I went to till I joined NJC? St Theresa’s Convent, almost a mile trek inland and uphill from the church. We went often to mass in the Church of St Teresa to celebrate special feast days and also for Novenas. Though spellt differently, both church and school were dedicated to St Therese of Lisieux or St Therese of the Infant Jesus. Next time I’m in Singapore I must remember to visit the church and admire its achitecture properly.

      The railway-field movie nights seem a very strong anchor-memory for many of us who spent our childhood in the Silat-Kampong Bahru area :-).

      • Hi Lucy, here’s an 1970s photo of the Sepoy Lines Post Office


        (Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore)

      • Lucy Tan says:

        OOhhh! Thank you, Max, for posting the picture of the Sepoy Lines post-office!!! OMG, what memories and nostalgia that brings :-). I can see my teenage self again coming round the corner from Everton Park and either going into post-office or passing its gates to get to the STC terminal on North Bridge Rd to take, I think, the No. 10 bus into town to the USIS library and/or meeting up with friends for window-shopping along Hill St and Bras Basah.

        Quite a pretty house, it was, wasn’t it? A post-office with a little garden and bamboo chicks blinds, and shaded by that giant old tree. You can’t get a post-office more ‘old-school’ than that! So sad that it’s now gone and in its place, just a few tired-looking trees.

        I remember that complicated road junction just in front of the post-office with Neil Rd, Kampong Bahru Rd, North Bridge Rd and Hospital Drive all coming together, neither in a cross nor in a roundabout circus. And all those great big roadside trees, and the middle-line of stately palms with heads of windmill fronds leading up Hospital Drive. My bestfriend from Convent School lived in the peranakan house next-door to the coffee-shop in the corner of Neil Rd and Spottiswoode Park Rd.

        Those were drowsy, laid-back days :-).

      • Elvin Woo says:

        I was searching for information on Bukit Teresa but came to nought. My wife was from STC and inevitably she lived in the kampong at Bukit Teresa, just beside the Carmelite. Now the area is known as Bukit Purmei estate. St Teresa High School, a Chinese medium school used to be at the site of the present Kellock Convent. There were a few rows of low houses leading up to the kampung on top of Bukit Teresa Road. The road still exists, the private houses are still there. On the right side of the road was a small cemetary..We could walk to the Bukit Merah & KIm Tian area from Bukit Teresa, passing through kampung houses and the railway track until the Expressway across it was constructed.
        I regretted not taking photographs of the area before it was demolished.

      • Elvin Woo says:

        St Theresa Church did not change much except that it is air-conditioned inside. Beautiful architecture….. The yearly Feast Day procession around the Church perimeter is still being held.

  28. Elvin Woo says:

    Hi all,
    I did blog about my first home at Silat Road some years ago (link below). I am now searching through my parent’s old albums, hopeful to find some more pictures of the place in the 50s. Ah, i remembered the kampong houses which were beside my grandpa’s block and my uncles and aunts were told to strictly keep out of bound because of the frequent fights there.

    http://rosewiththorn.blogspot.sg/2008/07/nostalgia-silat-road-old-home-1.html
    In my blog I included a picture of part of the ‘square’. It was taken from the room of our flat. Also a picture of my late father who was riding his ‘Raleigh’ bicycle at the ground floor of the block. I believed that brand of bicycle was considered as the ‘BMWs’ of bicycle at that time. Quite ‘atas’. I was told that he would ride his bicycle to work at Harbour Board, the present PSA, in the Pasir Panjang area every day.

    • Lucy Tan says:

      Hi Elvin
      Thanks for sharing the photos. I can remember those long low rows of housing along the road. When it’s wayang time, a lot of food stalls and ti-kam (lottery) stands were lined up there. With regret I’ve never visited the area again after 1971 and now I doubt that I’ll be able to find my way around there anymore. Time flies and kampongs transform into shopping-malls and express highways.

      And oh yes, the Raleigh was the ‘BMW’ if not Rolls Royce of bicycles in 1950s Singapore! My Dad’s first wheels were those of a Raleigh too. Not that I had ever seen the bike because I wasn’t born yet then.

      • Lucy Tan says:

        Hi Elvin, sorry to hear that your search for information on Bukit Teresa was unsuccessful. Nowadays, when one googles for old places in Singapore, the results are mostly apartments for sale and maps with confusing new express-ways and road names created for new housing estates.

        I remember Bukit Teresa Rd with the Chinese school and the row of low houses on the left side which included a coffee-shop. I remember passing the Carmelite Convent whenever I chose to walk home to Silat via Bt Teresa Rd and crossing the railway-line, in fact, walking part of the way on the railway itself was the main part of the fun. Those days (1960s) there were no fencing or any form of safety precaution for the pedestrian crossing the railway-line as a short-cut. But there were like 2 trains a day sort of thing and some goods-trains carrying stuff from the rubber estates and tin-mines on the mainland.

        You said your wife was ex STC (St Theresa’s Convent)? What years was she there? St Theresa’s produced a few beauty-queens of the early 70s and many models. One of my primary classmates, Seah Jiak Choo, became the Director-General of Education at the
        Ministry of Education in the early 2000s.

        The school itself (since the 50s, I think) is on the Radin Mas Hill and there were 2 ways of getting to it. One way was to leave the school on the western end, go down a flight of hundreds of cement steps, through the roadless kampong which now has roads like Bukit Purmei Rd and Bukit Purmei Ave, and down to the Kampong Bahru Rd, and the other was on a tarred bit of ‘road’ that ran past Tang Gap Beo, a few kampong houses with a Muslim graveyard and a steep climb either on the steep, narrow, one-lane road up to the eastern side of the school or on footpaths between attap houses on the kampong slope.

        Now all those paths and primitive roads are of course gone. I don’t think I’ll be able to find my way to the STC without a taxi :-).

  29. Max says:

    Hi All !

    Yes……Harbour Board with the logo of 3 funnels & smoke – my neighbor was working there and his
    pay in 1965 was SG$ 25/- (I saw his little blue pay card !) Singapore has come a long way….!! Cheers !

    • Lucy Tan says:

      Hello Max
      The Singapore Harbour Board, present-day PSA (Port of Singapore Authority), also holds special memory for me, I guess because the livelihood of our family and extended family was maintained by the SHB. My Dad started his career at the Singapore Harbour Board too like his great-uncle, uncles, cousins and some schoolmates. In fact, most of them were Harbour Board lifers. Dad climbed from a lowly clerk to the coverted position of Storekeeper, attaining his life-long ambition to one day own a similar job to those of his first and beloved ang-moh bosses. However, despite of that, he took early retirement and started his own transport and warehousing business. The SHB must have been one of the biggest, if not the biggest, employer on the island back then.

      • Elvin Woo says:

        Yes, SHB was the premier employer then esp those who lived around the area. Beside my dad, my 3rd uncle was also employed there till his retirement. These were the ‘Englsh educated’ and a clerk was highly looked upon.

    • Lucy Tan says:

      Haha, so Elvin, you were a ‘Habour Board’ kid too. Many of my schoolmates had fathers working with the Harbour Board too. Strangely none of my relatives in my or the younger generations joined the SHB. I guess the financial sector, Jurong and the airport seem more attractive nowadays. And yes, those days, English-schooled clerks were a highly looked upon.

  30. Max says:

    Hi Lucy, Elvin, Hou Seng and All !
    There was a chapel by the side of the post office also…..and the St Matthew Church was down the road facing the Everton Park red-brick blocks….this was early 1970s when the buses plying Neil Rd and Kampong Bahru were Bus Nos 61, 123, 124, 143 and from Neil Rd diverting into Jln Bukit Merah were Bus Nos 181, 196 and …..good old days !

    Cheers !

  31. Lucy Tan says:

    Sorry, Remember Singapore, I was confused about who posted the picture of the Sepoy Lines Post-office. Thank you for it.

      • Lucy Tan says:

        I remember there was a mosque in Kampong Bahru and seeing men in white or light-blue Malay clothes and white taqiyah prayer-hats going or returning from prayer-services on Friday evenings. However, I can’t remember exactly where the mosque was located and if it’s still there. One fond childhood memory is waking at dawn to hear the muezzin’s call to prayer, and sometimes hearing the azan again at midday, and definitely again at sunset. I remember because of the feeling of peacefulness and ‘all’s well with the world’ the musezzin’s melodic voice effected.

  32. Hi Elvin and Lucy, here’s a 1966 map of Bukit Teresa Road and several landmarks such as the St. Teresa Church and School.


    (Map Credit: Singapore Street Directory 1966)

  33. Lucy Tan says:

    Thank you so much, Remember Singapore. This 1966 map of the Radin Mas/Bt Purmei area is a treasure and it makes more sense to me in connection with the routes I walked to and from St Theresa’s Convent School than the present-day map. I was in STC from 1960 to 1968. I see that the present-day Bt Purmei Avenue and Road are not where the narrow tarred lane to kampong Bt Purmei used to be but on the Radin Mas end of Kampong Bahru Rd. No wonder I felt so confused when I looked at the google map because I knew my memory of the 2 routes is correct!

    • Elvin Woo says:

      Real gem of a map. My in-laws lived at the exact location where the short divert of Bukit Teresa Road. Address: 15 Bukit Teresa Road. It was a nice cool kampung house with area big enough for a few fruit trees. The Carmelite area was so peaceful, serene…I blogged about it 2 years ago. Ah…those were the days.
      .
      http://rosewiththorn.blogspot.sg/2014/01/bukit-teresa-singapore.html

      This short road still exists! At the end of that road was a cemetary, think it was a Muslim one which you mentioned. My wife also attended STC from 1960 till 68/69….She also told me about how difficult it was to go to school…initially from her place at Radin Mas, then from Bukit Teresa. Nowadays, STC is so reachable from the main road, can’t miss it.

    • Edward John says:

      Hi Lucy, you are correct. Some of the roads are gone, like Bukit Kasita between the St. Teresa Church and the Chinese Templ, no longer exist. I used to use the same route to and from school in De La Salle from 1964 to 1969 as you, passing the coffeeshop along Bukit Teresa to cross the rail tracks to Silat road. Those were some of the fondest times which I cherished. Thanks for the memory.

  34. Lucy Tan says:

    What’s your wife’s name, Elvin? She and I could have been in the same classes. In 1960 I was in P2 and my teacher was a Miss Chia and she remained with us for P3. My P4 teacher was a Miss Toh who lived a stone’s throw away from the STC bus No. 10 terminal at Sepoy. My Sec1 teacher was a Miss Yeo, Sec2 with Mabel Tan, Sec3 with Mrs Mowe and Sec4 with a new teacher who had just returned from university in Australia.

    • Elvin Woo says:

      Lucia Ho. Her two sisters, Irene and Mary, one older and the other younger, also attended STC…She remembered Mrs Martens…other teachers a blur….She still kept in touch with a couple of her classmates like Jessie, Cecilia…she mentioned that one of her Malay classmates is a well known cook/restaurant owner….

      • Lucy Tan says:

        Hmmm, I can’t remember a Lucia Ho. The Lucia I remember was a year older and Eurasian and she won a beauty title after leaving school. Irene Ho sounds almost familiar, though. Yes, I remember Mrs Martens to but she was never my class teacher. Ask Lucia if she remembered a group of girls always together during Sec3 and Sec4 – Lucy Tan, Stella Chiang, Wee Sau Hui, Jenny Ho, Jacintha John. Or older girls like Lorraine Davies (also later a beauty queen) or Stella Williams (very white skin and blonde hair). Or other girls who lived in the area like Hafsa, Mahmoona Ali, Basaba, Gloria, Charlotte di Rosario, Bernardette and Eugenie Paulo (who became SIA stewardesses)?

  35. Lucy Tan says:

    And oh, there was a girl called Anna who lived in that row of low houses along Bt Teresa Rd; coming down from Kampong Bahru Rd, I’d say it was the last house in the row. I also wonder if Lucia could remember the girls who live on Pulau Bukom: the de Silva sisters and Bertha Paul (dark skinned, very tall and chubby). And if she remembers the principals Sister Marie and Miss Rodrigues, and the secretary Miss Martin (I think that was her name, she was a rather beautiful Eurasian).

    • Elvin Woo says:

      You are my wife’s senior by a year. She told me her cousin, also from STC went gaga over Eurasians. Finally found an Eurasian husband…

      • Lucy Tan says:

        Eurasian girls and boys are good-looking – probably because of the racial mix. Say, ‘Hi’ to your wife for me. It’s kind of nice to discover fellow schoolmates from so long ago.

    • Edward John says:

      Hi Lucy, the girl Anna you are referring to living towards the end of the row of house along Bukit Teresa. If it is, then it’s she’s Ann Marie Chua who now lives in Telok Blangah. My Uncle used to live in the middle of those row of houses. The first unit being a coffeeshop with an indian man selling Goreng Pisang. Glad to share.

  36. Lucy Tan says:

    Hi John, thanks for your 2 replies. I had quite a few neighbour boys who went to De la Salle. Did you move on to St Joseph’s Institution in town like most De la Salle boys?

    I lost touch with Anna after Sec2 and I can’t remember her surname. My parents lived in Telok Blangah till 2010 but I had heard of only one other schoolmate living in the same area who was from Silat. I can’t remember that classmate’s name but her grandmother was called Mary Hock.

    Yes, I remember the coffee-shop in that row of houses. I really miss those old days and locations because they recall images in my mind of a life less complicated and hectic but so laid-back, relaxed and tranquil. I’d love to live in those times again but with computer and iPhone! Haha!

  37. Joseph says:

    Hi one and all

    Been away for a while but thought I’d drop by and see what’s brewing. Looks like there’s been quite a bit going on. All of us boys, except for my oldest brother, attended Radin Mas and all of the girls, except for my second sis, went to St. Theresa. Talking about crossing the railway tracks, they did it everyday, going through a “gate” at the end of a SIT block. If my memory didn’t fail, I think there was some sort of a wooden hut that sat right next to the “gate”. A Chinese family stayed there. The hut being so near to the tracks, I have always wondered what’s life like at 12 midnight when the train thundered past.

    Talking about the railway track, it’s the demarcation line that divided two warring secret societies: 08 and 24 (I think). I had for classmates children of gang members from both sides. They taught me the various hand signals that identified the group they belong to. My parents were incensed when they found me practicing at home. I was given more than a tongue lashing and severely warned never ever to stray into those forbidden territories.

    Back in those days, most schools ran two sessions: morning and afternoon. The students alternated between the sessions. If you were in the morning session then you would be going to school in the afternoon next year. I loved the afternoon school and I look back with the fondest memory, Well,for one thing, you didn’t have to get out of bed so early. But the best part was when St. Theresa’s Church bells tolled at 12 noon. That’s the get ready call. It’s time to go to school. With two younger brothers in tow, I would make my way first across the “bridge” that spanned the railway line. It was part of the Kampong Bahru Road. There were 4 huge concrete “posts” with a stone finish that anchored the bridge.Later on, as a teenager, I often climbed and sat on top of those posts, watching the train went by or firing rockets (fireworks) into the distance. 

    Then a little distance further down the road there was this rubber factory sitting almost at the junction of Kampong Bahru and Bukit Theresa roads. Yes, I remember the coffee shop and the delicious goreng pisang. And of course the Sino-English school students with the white top and kaki shorts as well as St. Theresa Church where I learned to cycle. I just rode around the church many times and presto! I could cycle.

    Further down you would come to a bend where a row of low shop houses came into view. My favorite shop? It’s the bicycle shop. I depended on it to get my bicycle fixed! Shortly after that was Nelson Road and across it was a police station. After that Maris Stellar and De La Salle came up quickly and each had an archway with its name emblazoned on it. A couple of yards more and you would come up to Sacred Heart. Across it were the Harbour Board flats and a candy factory next to them. Believe it or not, together with some classmates, I occasionally would search for discarded candies along the huge drain that separated the factory from the SHB flats. 

    By now, I was almost arriving at school. Just before that I had to pass the road leading into Kampong Radin Mas and the school field. Once done, I would turn into Mount Faber road and into school. But before that, after all that walking, I needed to visit the water station: Ah Liap pineapple juice stall. It’s stationed just outside the school gate and boy did Ah Liap have business! Over the years I got to know him so well that I drank for free. Maybe that’s why I’ve had yellow skin to this day 🙂

  38. Lucy Tan says:

    Hi Joseph. Thanks for sharing your happy and humourous contribution to our forum of reminiscence. I prefered morning school because there wasn’t such a great hurry to get home before it was dark and so, unless we were very hungry for our lunch, we could dwaddle along the way skipping on the railway-line from sleeper to sleeper or doing the zig-zag hop along the inside of the big V-sided drain on the railway side of the SIT blocks. If afternoon school, my Dad would drop the boys and me at Radin Mas after lunch and collect us there again on his way home from the Harbour Board in the evening. This meant I had to walk through Radin Mas village to St Theresa’s but it also meant I could stop at the Chinese kedai on the other side of the big longkang from Radin Mas and buy ice-balls deliciously coloured with red and green syrups to suck while walking inland in the hot sun. And in the evening before driving home, Dad would sometimes buy us ice-cream and I liked the kind with a block of ice-cream sandwiched between 2 wafer-biscuits. Years later when I took the bus from Radin Mas to Everton Park, there was the Indian chendol man with his cart at the corner between the main road and big longkang dividing Radin Mas school from the village but I cannot remember if that was during morning or afternoon school years.

    I can’t remember the wooden hut by the tracks but I can remember something of the rubber factory. I also remember that the air always smellt of rubber all the way into Silat kampong. I had schoolmates living in Nelson Road and hence, can remember it together with the police station. Years later my 2 younger brothers and a cousin were arrested and taken there one evening because they had chest-long hair (1970s) and were cheeky when a policeman asked to see their ID-cards. One of my Dad’s cousins was a ‘big-dog’ police inspector those days, and he had to go and bail them out before they were locked into cells for the night 😁. They got off lightly with just having to apologise but no fines to pay.

    I can remember the De La Salle gates quite well but not the Maris Stellar portal or the candy factory. And something else, I can still see very clearly in my mind the spikes of red on the flame-of-the-forest trees standing by the back block of the Radin Mas school where the road curved round there going up the Mt Faber.

    • Joseph says:

      Ah, Mount Faber …, but first the kampong Radin Mas Road. Lucy, you’re fortunate to be a girl as you could go through the kampong unaccosted. But not so with boys. It was a “no-go” zone. The kampong kids were extremely territorial and if they ever spied an ‘outsider’ walking alone, that guy better start praying, really hard. Call me a coward if you like, but I never ever ventured in unless I was with a group of at least five guys, or better still, with one of my sisters. Sometimes the same thing happened in school: don’t offend any of the “local” boys or you’d find brothers, cousins and neighbours waiting for you after school to settle scores. The prefects had it the worst. Catch one of them “locals” and you’d have to go home under protection.
      But back to Mount Faber. Lucy, do you know the lyrics of the original Radin Mas school song? I’m not sure about the present one, but back then it was set to the tune of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” or “John Brown’s Body”. A part of the lyrics mentioned something about the school being “at the foot of Mount Faber”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the rest. But the song’s right. Mt. Faber was Radin Mas’ playground, and a gigantic one at that. Fighting spiders, birds, squirrels, lizards, fruits, secret tunnels, derelict WWII military equipment and an abandoned swimming pool beckoned tantalizingly. I’d jump at every opportunity to explore it’s wild habitat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for progress and development, but what they did to it today had all but destroyed its rustic charm. We don’t raise kids the way our parents did anymore.

      • Elvin Woo says:

        Kg Pahang, Radin Mas, is gone long long time ago when they built the Bk Purmei estate. However, the old Malay graveyard is left untouched, behind Block 102. You can still feel the serene kampung atmosphere…crickets sound, leaves of the trees swaying….

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