05 November 2012

Old Singapore Quiz (25) - Old Road in 1930s - Answers


24-year-old n.i.C first got the answer to the main question Q1 correct. Pastimes got 3 out of 4 answers correct (for Q1 to Q3). FL who put in a last-minute entry concurred with Pastimes. FL also remembered an air-conditioned cafe which he believed was called Les Bistro located near the piano shop. He had visited this cafe with his NS friends in the early 1970s.

Q1. What is the name of the road in the photo?
Ans: Orchard Road. (This is the end of the road which is near the Cathay Building.)

Q2. What is name of the building shown on the left side of the photo?
Ans: Amber Mansions.

Q3. From 1930s - 1970s, what goods was sold in the 2-storey building which is partially shown near the right edge of the photo?
Ans: Pianos.

Q4. What is the name of the road (where the premises of Peter's father was located) that runs to the right of the photo?
Ans: Dhoby Ghaut. (This road name is no longer in existence today but there is an MRT station with this name.)

More Information / Further Reading:

Comparing the old photo (top) with one that is taken recently (bottom), one realises the extent of transformation this area of Orchard Road has undergone in the last few decades. Only 3 or 4 buildings on the right of the old photo still remain today.


1963 street map of the area (top). The red arrow shows the direction in which the old photo was taken. Compare it with a 2007 street map of the area (bottom).

1. Similar photo circa 1928 taken from the book "Singapore - 500 Early Postcards".

The book was published by Editions Didier Millet in 2006 and was written by Cheah Jin Seng. The photo in the postcard provided the answers to Q2 and Q3.

2. Amber Mansions was built between 1922 and 1928 by renowned colonial architectural firm Swan & Maclaren and was one of Singapore's first shopping centres. Owned by Joseph Elias, a prominent Jewish businessman, it was demolished in 1984 to make way for the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station.

2a. My blogger friend Andy's post about his 1960s experience in performing at tea dances with the Silver Strings in the Celestial Room located on one of the upper floors of Amber Mansions.

2b. Daisy Flower Shop in Amber Mansions. Straits Times advertisement dated 3 Aug 1934 taken from National Library's newspaper archive. Note that Amber Mansions' address was 15 Orchard Road and the telephone number had only 4 digits then. (The SMA House, where Morris Motor Vehicle shop was located in the olden days and where MDIS is now, has the address of 14 Orchard Road.)

2c. National Library's article about Amber Mansions in its picture archive.

2d. Infopedia's article on Amber Mansions.


3. Photos from the National Archives showing Keller Piano Co Pte Ltd. The company, founded by the late Chiu Seck Joo in 1944, occupied the 2-storey building till the 1980s. Besides pianos, the company also sold other music instruments, music scores and records. (The company is now operating at 176 Orchard Road #04-01 Centrepoint, Singapore 238843.)

4. Aerial photo from the National Archives showing the same row of shophouses in the 2nd street level photo in Para 3 above.

Two of shophouses (circled red), at 2 to 4 Orchard Road, are likely to have been occupied by Radio Service Malaya Co where Peter Howard's father James Howard worked as a electrical/radio engineer in the 1930s.

James sailed from England for Singapore in 1934. Peter believed that his father worked for the British Government. During the years leading to World War I, his work involved checking the houses of people under suspicion by the British to see if their premises had transmitters capable of sending information to Japan. (Such interesting work! The modern-day term for this kind of work is called electronic countermeasure.)

4 comments:

Andy Lim* said...

Hi Vic,
I like this posting because I forgot most of the shops at Amber Mansions.

Thanks for memories.

jeremy said...

Looks strange to me but interesting.

countertops utah

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I was wondering where did you get the 1963 map of the area from? I am currently doing a paper on the transformation of the area around Dhoby Ghaut and access to that map could be quite useful. Thank you so much for your blog post!!!
-Gladys

Victor said...

Hi Gladys, the map is from Singapore Street Directory, 1963 edition. A copy the street directory is available on microfilm from the Lee Kong Chian Library, National Library Building, Victoria Street. If you just need that map on Dhoby Ghaut, you may write to me (my email address is at the side panel of this blog) and I am glad to email you a scanned copy.