Online project shines spotlight on 50 days in Singapore history

Days That Changed Singapore series features stories behind key dates since independence

American fast-food chain A&W may have pulled out of Singapore, but this brand famed for its root beer has a significant place in local history.

On Sept 17, 1968, it opened Singapore's first fast-food outlet at the former Malaysia-Singapore Airlines building in Robinson Road, the site of today's Robinson 77 office building.

It brought "a whole new way of eating to Singapore (and) whet appetites for an even larger array of tastes", said a report in an online project titled Days That Changed Singapore, which aims to feature 50 days of interest since Singapore's independence in 1965.

  • FIVE DATES OF INTEREST

  • The Days That Changed Singapore series will look at 50 days of interest, starting from Singapore's independence on Aug 9, 1965. We look at five dates that are featured.

  • DEC 8, 1965: BARISAN SOSIALIS BOYCOTTS PARLIAMENT

    The Barisan Sosialis, Singapore's main opposition party, called for a boycott of Parliament and all subsequent polls. This led to resounding election wins for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), ushering in an era of one-party rule. Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew later said the absence of an opposition allowed the PAP to focus on economic and social development, unencumbered by politicking.

  • JULY 23, 1966: EAST COAST RECLAMATION SCHEME

    Singapore is more than 20 per cent larger today than it was in 1966, and it was the East Coast Reclamation Scheme that kick-started intensive efforts by the Government to grow the land mass of Singapore.

  • OCT 1, 1972: SINGAPORE AIRLINES' INAUGURAL FLIGHTS

    Singapore Airlines, which is one of the most successful airlines in the world today, took to the skies for the first time. It was the first airline to offer free drinks and meal options in economy class.

  • JAN 17, 1986: NETS INTRODUCED

    It was less than 30 years ago that Nets was launched here, starting Singapore's drive to become a cashless society.

    Today, cashless payment modes are commonplace, with options such as ez-link and Visa PayWave.

  • SEPT 1, 2000: LAUNCH OF THE SPEAKERS' CORNER

    The space at Hong Lim Park has now become a rallying point for different causes, such as the annual Pink Dot event that celebrates the freedom to love.

    Walter Sim

    The Speakers' Corner drew visitors such as Mr Ong Chin Guan when it was launched on Sept 1, 2000.
    The Speakers' Corner drew visitors such as Mr Ong Chin Guan when it was launched on Sept 1, 2000. TNP FILE PHOTO

KFC and McDonald's, both ubiquitous names today, followed in A&W's footsteps only in 1977 and 1979. This nugget of information is included in the project, which seeks to identify the historical days in politics, economics and culture.

The project is led by publishing firm Editions Didier Millet (EDM), backed by former president S R Nathan and supported by the SG50 Celebration Fund.

EDM editorial director Martin Cross told The Straits Times on Monday that the team wanted to look at Singapore's history in a "novel way".

And highlighting specific days was an "interesting way of doing it", he said. "With Mr Nathan's long history in public service, he could think of many of the key days that should be included in the project."

Other historic dates include June 12, 1967, when the Singapore dollar was born; Nov 7, 1971 - the first Tree-Planting Day; Nov 7, 1987, when the first 6km of the MRT network was launched; and Aug 9, 2002, when Newater was launched.

A total of 24 articles - written by experienced writers or journalists - have been published on the website, which went live in September. Eight more have been commissioned and are scheduled to be published by the end of the year.

Mr Cross said members of the public will be invited to vote early next year on the remaining days to be selected.

The project is due to be completed before Singapore's next National Day, he added. All 50 articles will be published in a book.

Mr Nathan wrote in a message on the website: "As I look back after a lifetime in public life, I sometimes wonder how we did it. We defied the odds."

He cautioned young Singaporeans not to take the country's future for granted, and to build on the foundations laid by former and current leaders. "I hope that today's Singaporeans can read about the past and take on board the lessons they need to learn if they are to enjoy a secure future," he added.

• To read the stories, visit www.daysthatchangedsingapore.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2015, with the headline 'Online project shines spotlight on 50 days in Singapore history'. Print Edition | Subscribe