Pages of the past in coffee-table books

Community groups are taking on book projects documenting various aspects of Singapore, from the famous Hoover Rojak stall (top) in Whampoa to the Queenstown estate (above).
Community groups are taking on book projects documenting various aspects of Singapore, from the famous Hoover Rojak stall (above) in Whampoa to the Queenstown estate.PHOTO: HAIRIS
Community groups are taking on book projects documenting various aspects of Singapore, from the famous Hoover Rojak stall (top) in Whampoa to the Queenstown estate (above).
Community groups are taking on book projects documenting various aspects of Singapore, from the famous Hoover Rojak stall in Whampoa to the Queenstown estate (above).PHOTO: HDB

Whampoa Market's famous Hoover Rojak is being immortalised in a book, as a trend for nostalgic community-themed tomes takes off.

The stall's history is among the stories of the Whampoa area detailed in a coffee-table book out next month. My Home In Whampoa features pictures of the neighbourhood off Balestier Road, as well as interviews with its long-time residents, in its 120 pages.

Among them is Mr Shaik Aziz Shaik Mohideen, 69, a management consultant who has lived in Whampoa for most of his life.

He recalls: "There used to be a lot of gangsters in the area. But instead of shunning them, we helped them as many came from troubled backgrounds. We managed to reform a few and it made me very happy."

The book, put together by Whampoa Community Club since November last year, is funded by the National Heritage Board's Heritage Grant Scheme, which was introduced in 2013 to help people research, document and present content about Singapore's past in creative ways. The community club plans to print 14,000 copies to be given to every household in Whampoa.

At the neighbouring Kolam Ayer Community Club, the book, On Lotus Pond: Kolam Ayer Then, Now And Forever, will be launched today. It traces the modernisation of the area, which is bordered by Potong Pasir and Bendeemer.

The 228-page book features landmarks such as the National Aerated Water Company, which manufactured well-loved carbonated drink Kickapoo Joy Juice in Moonstone Lane, and archival footage of old residences in St Michael's Estate.

Mrs Kiang-Koh Lai Lin, chairman of Kolam Ayer Community Club's education committee, who is in charge of the project, says: "It's amazing how far the estate has come, from its humble origins as a swampy wasteland to a bustling housing area."

The book project was started in April last year and 2,000 copies have been printed and will be handed out to every household in Kolam Ayer.

Mr Vincent Chua, 65, who has lived in Kolam Ayer all his life, contributed his memories to the book.

The engineering officer with the Land Transport Authority recalls: "There used to be a big field around St George's Estate where we'd run around and fly kites when we were younger."

The field is now the site of a new HDB development.

He adds: "There was also a timber sawmill next to Whampoa river where we would hang out after school. Timber logs drifted down the river. It was an idyllic sight."

Another long-time Kolam Ayer resident, teacher John Lee, 47, recalls being the only Chinese family living in a Malay kampung.

"That's where I picked up my love of Malay food," he says. "During storms, fish from the nearby fish farms would flow into the river. After the rain, we'd go into the river and catch the fish. That was our source of protein in those days."

In May last year, the heritage board also helped release the 250- page Pasar Geylang Serai: 50 Years Of Continuity Amidst Change, as part of Geylang Serai's 50th anniversary celebrations.

Each copy - 1,000 were printed and production costs were close to $40,000 - is priced at $10. (Those who wish to buy a copy can call the Pasar Geylang Serai Merchant's Association on 9818-4635.)

The association's secretary, Mr Rahmat Sawie, says: "There's a very strong kampung spirit in Geylang Serai. Hopefully, this generation of readers will learn about and appreciate the area better."

Elsewhere, heritage enthusiast Kwek Li Yong is producing a book about the Queenstown estate. He received $47,500 from the National Library Board's irememberSG fund, with support from the Tote Board and Lee Foundation. The project is estimated to cost nearly $100,000 due to the purchase of rights to publish various images.

Mr Kwek, 25, a Jurong resident, says he chose Queenstown as it "was the first planned town and played a huge role in Singapore's development".

The book - My Queenstown: My Heritage, My Community, My Aspirations - has been in the making for six years as the team was waiting for classified documents from the Housing Board and National Archives to be released to it.

The 250-page tome will document the history of Queenstown from the 19th century to the present day and includes neverbefore-seen footage of the estate during World War II.

The book will be on loan at public libraries from December. A limited number of copies will also be available for loan via requests made on Mr Kwek's website - www.mycommunity.org.sg/ - which celebrates Queenstown's heritage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'Pages of the past in coffee-table books'. Print Edition | Subscribe