IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Tales of bandits and mystics in old Queenstown

Documentary series recalls 1960s life in S'pore's first satellite town

MEMORIES of Singapore's first satellite town are being brought to life - from the shooting of notorious gunman Lim Ban Lim to a fortune teller who played the guitar.

Queenstown residents have shared their stories of the estate in the 1960s with the National Heritage Board (NHB).

Their tales will be used in its A Nation Remembers documentary series, which records milestones in Singapore's post-independence history through first-person accounts.

Stories featured in the project may include that of notorious gunman Lim, who was shot dead by the police during a gunfight in Margaret Drive in 1972. There are also happier memories of colourful characters such as the guitar-playing fortune teller.

Long-time resident Eric Kwa, 78, said: "We used to call him Gene Autry after the singing American cowboy. And we would pay him 10 cents to read us our fortune and sing us a song."

An eight-minute documentary will be uploaded onto the NHB's YouTube channel and website in May. Two other episodes are in the works.

Taxi driver Ang Teck Kuan, who has lived in Queenstown since he was 10, said he loved to run up and down the staircases of his then-new block.

The 57-year-old recalls how his fourth-storey flat in Ballater Close was one of the few homes with a television set, and residents sometimes lined up in the corridor, straining to catch a glimpse of the black-and-white programmes.

Queenstown was once hilly and swampy, with cemeteries and two villages called Boh Beh Kang and Ying Fo Lut.

After World War II, the British began to make plans to develop it into Singapore's first satellite town.

In 1964, the Home Ownership for the People Scheme kicked in, and villagers were resettled in the new estate, named after Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

Self-employed 55-year-old Low Kai See said residents enjoyed conveniences such as flushing toilets and formed firm ties with new neighbours.

He described the atmosphere as "electric", and remembers lighting firecrackers, which they hung from 10-storey blocks of flats.

Although the neighbourhood is now more sleepy than lively, it has not lost its charm for Mr Kwa.

He was recently offered $930,000 to sell his terrace home, but said he refuses to move out. He added: "I love my neighbourhood and I will be here till I die."

melodyz@sph.com.sg

This story first appeared in The Straits Times on March 6, 2013

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