Residents' tales add spice to Queenstown heritage trail

Above: Mr Mahmood Tamam, 63 (right), a long-time resident at Stirling Road, speaking to media representatives during a preview of the My Queenstown Heritage Trail yesterday. Left: Mr Kamsari Gari, 63, trimming the hair of Mr Mohamed Ani, 38, at Jali
Above: Mr Mahmood Tamam, 63 (right), a long-time resident at Stirling Road, speaking to media representatives during a preview of the My Queenstown Heritage Trail yesterday. Left: Mr Kamsari Gari, 63, trimming the hair of Mr Mohamed Ani, 38, at Jali Jali Malay Barber yesterday. Mr Kamsari is an old resident of Tanglin Halt and has been staying there since the early 1970s.PHOTOS: DESMOND LUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Above: Mr Mahmood Tamam, 63 (right), a long-time resident at Stirling Road, speaking to media representatives during a preview of the My Queenstown Heritage Trail yesterday. Left: Mr Kamsari Gari, 63, trimming the hair of Mr Mohamed Ani, 38, at Jali
Above: Mr Mahmood Tamam, 63 (right), a long-time resident at Stirling Road, speaking to media representatives during a preview of the My Queenstown Heritage Trail yesterday. Left: Mr Kamsari Gari, 63, trimming the hair of Mr Mohamed Ani, 38, at Jali Jali Malay Barber yesterday. Mr Kamsari is an old resident of Tanglin Halt and has been staying there since the early 1970s.PHOTOS: DESMOND LUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

It will be first heritage trail in S'pore to introduce estate with residents' stories

Queenstown resident Mahmood Tamam was a child when he saw a travelling circus' elephant keeper get killed by the animal in the neighbourhood in the early 1960s.

"When the circus came here, some of the children would throw stones at the elephant or feed it rubbish like plastic and paper," said the 63-year-old. "I guess the elephant got angry that the keeper did not protect it."

Another resident in the estate, retiree Alice Lee, 66, was petrified when she moved to her 10th-floor flat in Tanglin Halt Road 44 years ago.

"It was my first experience in a high-rise building. I clung to my husband and dared not open my eyes when I walked from the lift to the flat," she said.

These were some of the stories shared by long-time Queenstown residents at yesterday's media preview of the revamped guided walk offered by civic group My Community.

To give a better flavour of the estate, tales of its history from the people who have lived there for decades will now be included in these free monthly walks, started in 2010.

Mr Kwek Li Yong, the group's president, said the residents had approached it to offer their participation after the Housing Board said last month that 31 residential blocks in the estate would be redeveloped under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

"They wanted to share their stories so people would know more about the area before it is redeveloped," he said.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, the MP for the area, said the guided walk will be the first heritage trail in Singapore to introduce the estate's history and heritage by having its residents tell their own stories.

"Although Queenstown is small in size, our stories are big in heart and soul, and certainly speak volumes of life in the 1960s and 1970s," he added.

The heritage trail spans a large area stretching from Tanglin Road to Portsdown Road, and takes about five hours. My Community broke it down into five smaller trails.

Its guided walk combines two of the trails, but it plans to offer such walks on all five trails by next year.

The guided walk, which takes place every last Sunday of the month, includes stops at iconic landmarks such as the Queenstown Public Library.

Opened in 1970, it is now Singapore's oldest library after the old National Library at Stamford Road was torn down in 2005.

Mr Kwek noted that Queenstown was Singapore's first satellite town, and many social institutions were pioneered in the estate, including a polyclinic built in 1963.

"Although Queenstown has transformed tremendously over the years, there are still many impressive landmarks left," he said.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

Get the group's brochures on the trails at the Queenstown Community Centre or at www.queenstown.org.sg/heritage

To register for the walk, go to www.myqueenstown.eventbrite.sg, e-mail myqueenstown@gmail.com or call the Queenstown Community Centre on 6474-1681.

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