If you pass by Ganges Avenue now, you would see new HDB flats and some private apartments. There are 7 blocks of high-rise HDB flats now when before that it had several blocks of 4-storey SIT flats. I stayed in Block 60 Ganges Avenue since I was born. I left this home after I was married and moved out in 1986. My parents had to move to Jalan Bukit Ho Swee rental flats after the government wanted to demolish all the SIT flats along this stretch of road.
For nearly 30 years, I lived in Ganges Avenue.
Layout of SIT flat
This SIT flat was a three-room flat. When you stepped through the door, you were in the living hall. The window faced a small side road running parallel to Ganges Avenue. When you moved further into the flat, there were 2 bedrooms on the left. Both windows faced Ganges Avenue. At the end of the flat was the kitchen. The kitchen had a window where you hanged out your laundry on a bamboo pole. In between the kitchen and the living hall was the shower room and toilet separated by a wall. What was unique in those days was that there was a chimney above the cooking area.
Fright of my life
My mother used to hang out wet laundry to dry on bamboo poles. There was a technique to push out the bamboo pole filled with clothes through the kitchen window and then insert the bamboo pole into a holder fixed to the external wall. When retrieving the bamboo pole, there was another technique.
There was this one time, when the rain came suddenly. I was about 12 -13 years then (cannot recall the exact year). I remember I rushed to the kitchen and tried to bring in the bamboo pole. I had done it a few times before without incident. But for this one time, I lost my footing and I suddenly felt that I was going to fall over through the window. My hands were still gripping the bamboo pole and did not had the presence of mind to release the pole from my hands. I felt the tilt of my body over the window. I stared death for a very brief moment and panicked. Very fortunately, I forced myself back and withdrew from the window with the bamboo still in my hand. I heard of maids falling over from the flats under the same condition and I still felt the same fear so many years ago.
I shared the same bedroom as my mother. We partitioned this room into two halves. My part of the room had the window view. It was to be my study area as well. I remember I was able to afford an Akai Hifi audio system with turntable, tuner, cassette player and two speakers. I enjoyed listening to Barry White, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Nana Mouskouri , to name a few.
First Black and White TV
When Singapore started to broadcast black and white TV programmes in 1963, our family bought a black and white TV. I was just 6 years old. One wonders how we could afford a TV and be the first to catch the TV broadcasts. My parents told me that the money came from my second older brother who had a cash award for doing well in his academic studies.
I remember we opened our door to allow our neighbours to watch these TV programmes. That was the neighbourliness in our community back then.
Talking about my siblings. I am the youngest in the family. I have three older brothers and one older sister. My mother is a homemaker. My father was the sole breadwinner. My brothers and sister (including me) moved out of Ganges Avenue flat when we got married. My mother always believes that we should move out and set up our own homes. She knows that staying under the same roof can result in frictions and relationships could sour. She rather stays on her own instead of moving in with us despite of her age.
We came a long way from those days. These are memories worth documenting.