This post is truly revealing of my age, but I am feeling nostalgic today and going with the flow. The charming red brick building in the picture, used to be my favourite hang-out as a child. It was the only library then and it was a treat to go there every Saturday. I watched in a trance as the librarian stamped the return dates on the books on a flap of paper inside them. I so badly wanted to use the stamping device and knew right then that I was going to be a librarian (I found out too late that you need a librarianship degree in order to be one, but I still hold on to a dream to own a little bookshop).
I have always adored books. Finding a book I like and hadn’t read yet was like discovering a lost treasure. I drowned myself in seventies classics like ‘Ramona the Pest’ and everything by Enid Blyton, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Judy Blume, I could get my hands on. I loved books about British Boarding Schools like Malory Towers and St. Clares. How I yearned to be shipped off to one. The girls seemed to have countless secret midnight parties, always with ginger beer, that seemed like so much fun. I had no idea what ginger beer tasted like and it all seemed extremely exotic.
Our pocket-money was usually about 30 cents a day. Just 20 cents could buy a bowl of fish ball soup with yellow noodles or Mee Goreng (delicious spicy Malay Style Noodles darkened with sweet soy sauce) in the school tuckshop (canteen). When I was in primary 1 at age 6, I did not even have a purse to put my money in. My mum tied it in a corner of my handkerchief. Sometimes it was a bit hard to get the knot out. We were ecstatic when my dad got us little beaded purses.
With the rest of the pocket-money we could buy a lot of junk. Drinks dyed apple green, cost just 5 cents a glass (they had a sweet limey chemical taste). We also bought something called satay which was actually a snack of cuttlefish that was sweetened with sugar. We could get 3 sticks for just 5 cents. (You can buy a version of it today for a dollar or two at the Value Store in Hougang Mall)
We had just 20 minutes for recess (tea break), where we spent just 5 minutes gobbling down our meals and the remaining 15 minutes, running in the fields, getting dirty and playing police and thief (I guess American kids would call it cops and robbers).
As a child of the seventies, I wore my fair share of bell bottoms and my absolute favorite show from age 4, was the Donny and Marie Osmond Show. I remember it was shown every Saturday at 7.45pm (that was how much I loved it). Everyone little girl in kindergarten wanted to marry Donny or be Marie. I recall taking a red pen at age 7 and drawing on his wife’s face in the newspapers when he got married. (It now it seems so super silly and my dad found it hilarious). I kinda get why that little 3-year-old who became a you tube sensation, was infatuated with Justin Beiber. We only got a colour TV in 1974 and I hazily remember that the first show that appeared in magical colour, was ‘Land of the Lost’.
Also it was inconceivable to think of anyone replacing the beautiful Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.
Holidays were spent with my dad driving us down to our wonderful neighbouring country Malaysia. My father had a groovy Orange Ford Escort and once he drove us all the way to Penang stopping along the way in Kuala Lumpur. We stayed at $6 dollar a night sleazy motels but it was so much fun. We bought durians which were wrapped in newspapers and could bring them back to the room to feast. Our car had no air-conditioning and we wound down the windows and stuck out heads out as the wind blew into our faces.
ABBA was on full blast and full rotation. Today I wonder how our parents didn’t go crazy with the same songs played a millions times. In between we let out Dad listen to Greek singing sensation, Nana Mouskouri whom we started to like too. “We had joy, we had fun, we had season in the sun” We sang at the top of our little lungs and I remember I felt truly and completely joyous. We would get a little concerned when the cassette tape got stuck in the car player, but we knew there was little to worry about. Our Mum expertly wound the massively knotted tangled film back into the cassette with her finger and always prevented any childhood meltdowns. (Take pictures of your ipods today kids, tomorrow it will be glorious relic of the past like the cassette tape.)
It was so relaxing to pass by rows and rows of rubber trees. There were tin cans attached to the trees and sometimes we could see rubber tappers collecting the liquid rubber. I was horrified when my mum told me chewing gum was made from it since I often swallowed by chewing gum (it was not banned then) and we love chiclets.
I often felt like the luckiest kid in the world because, apart from school where many teachers were abusive (that’s a whole other kettle of fish), I was quite aware that I was having a magical childhood. I had totally won the lottery when it came to my parents.
CHICLETS. LOVE. I had them on my first trip to HK as a little kid. I was obsessed, because I felt like such a badass chewing gum. LOL
I really loved that National Library building. I didn’t really go there often, so it was super special to get to go. The red-brick look of it all is just so… library-like! So much better than that huge white corporate monstrosity that is the NLB now. I was so heart-broken when I first saw it. Luckily I don’t go to the library anymore thanks to my horrendous habit of spending all my money on buying books.
When you open a bookstore, can I work in it? It’s one of my do-before-die wishes to work in a bookstore.
Chiclets were the best huh? I also remember the strawberry bubble yum which was great to blowing huge bubbles as big as your face. I would pack a couple into my mouth.
I thought you would be too young to remember the wonderful red building. The plastic glass libraries today have absolutely no character. I hang out more at the bookstores too.
Yeah that’s for sure….maybe you’ll open one first and I can work at yours 🙂
Yeah both of you open a bookstore, with a cafe in it. I’ll come visit and read all your books!
I love all those Enid Blyton books too!!! I remember when I was in secondary school, I so badly wanted to study at RI or ACS because they were the ones with the hostels! It must have been really fun. But to be able to study in Hogwarts would be the best of all!!!!
I wonder why they never kept the old national library even though so many other buildings are preserved. Personally, I don’t have much of a relationship with the old library. I hardly visited it and I thought the building was nondescript…It is possible to climb over the Fort Canning Tunnel and stand where the library once stood.
yup….expresso and books just go together 🙂
What I forgot to mentioned about the red brick library was that there was the great tiny hawker centre within it’s grounds that served the best wan tan mee ever. There was also an ice kachang stall that attracted loads of bees. And further down the road we could walk to the beautiful book store MPH. It was an exclusive well stocked bookstore then.
Oh yes! That shabby eatery smacked in that corner surrounded by over grown trees! I sure miss that! Besides the wanton mee, they had really good kaya toast with coffee too. And there was also a malay stall that sold the usual noodle stuffs. YUM! And that famous beef noodle stall was in there too!
Then after this wonderful nostalgic place was gone. One of the first food court took over that spot. It was called S-11. Remember?
i think my memory is failing me…..J, thanks for jogging it. I did love that lil hawker centre. It was tiny and charming with my fave wan tan mee. I also had the daisy strawberry milk in glass bottle….that was so good..it tasted a bit like ice cream milk shake…wish they still made it.
Thank you so much for this wonderful journey down memory lane. I think we may be close in age. Bet I’m a little older. I loved “Wonder Woman,” “Bionic Woman,” “Six Million Dollar Man”…oh, the memories! I’m so thankful to have been a little kid in the 70s. I remember I used to sit in my room and listen to records too – and I had an album (KTel hits) that HAD “Seasons in the Sun” on it. I’d totally forgotten about that song and album until you mentioned it. Thank you!
oh yes LD…somehow music from the record player was so much richer. the 70’s were definitely the best time to grow up 🙂 glad we have that in common too!
I love Wonder woman too. And I still harbour that desire to own that invisible plane!
I can’t imagine anyone else playing Wonder Woman if a movie is made of the TV series. Lynda Carter was and will be forever Wonder Woman to me. Just like Christopher Reeve will always be Superman 🙂