Old bus tickets among 400 items of historical significance donated to National Archives of Singapore

Mr Sim Soo Tee with his collection of old bus tickets, which he donated to the National Archives of Singapore.
Mr Sim Soo Tee with his collection of old bus tickets, which he donated to the National Archives of Singapore.PHOTO: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD

SINGAPORE - As a teenager, taking winding bus rides from his home in Paya Lebar to Capitol Theatre at North Bridge Road to watch movies or to Chung Cheng High school where he used to study were indelible memories for Mr Sim Soo Tee, now 70.

A bus conductor, decked in cardboard-coloured uniform and carrying a green bag full of stacks of bus tickets, would punch a hole on the ticket of the bus stop number which he boarded the bus at to make sure he paid the correct fare.

"Back then, it was a sweaty and uncomfortable experience because buses had no air-con and no hydraulic steering wheels," said Mr Sim in Mandarin, a former container truck and lorry driver.

These fond memories prompted him to collect and keep old bus tickets that are in running order from the 1960s and 70s.

On Saturday (July 14), he donated the tickets to the National Archives of Singapore (NAS), which held a public donation drive at the National Library Building along Victoria Street for historical materials related to Singapore's past.

By encouraging the public to come forward and contribute their materials related to Singapore's history, NAS hopes the community will develop an appreciation of Singapore's history and heritage.

The donated materials will add to the National Library Board's (NLB) - of which NAS comes under - current collection of photographs, documents, collaterals and audio-visual materials.

"The bus tickets are comprehensive as they are in running order and that is significant and interesting. They will add to our existing collection of materials on the transport system in Singapore," said Ms Noor Fadilah Yusof, assistant director of records management at NAS.

During the donation drive, the library staff did a quick on-the-spot assessment to determine if the materials met their requirements and donors were asked to provide background information on the materials. A full assessment will be conducted later to determine if the items will be added to NLB's collection.

Those bus tickets, however, were not from bus rides that Mr Sim had taken.

When he was a young adult, he enjoyed browsing at flea markets at Chinatown, Sungei Road and Boat Quay after work. He found SBS bus tickets with special serial numbers of 0000 and 9999 and Singapore to Johor Bahru bus tickets in running order and decided to buy and collect them.

"I have kept them for decades in my cupboard. On Sundays, I would take them out to have a look and they would remind me of my younger days and how the pioneer generation worked hard to get this country going," said Mr Sim, who also donated movie tickets from the 1970s and 80s issued by old theatres such as Odeon, Golden, Prince and Jubilee Theatre.

On Saturday, more than 400 items were collected from members of the public. They include a medal awarded to a voluntary firefighter for his service during World War II, a 1920s old photograph of Geylang Methodist Girl's school, and VCDs of shows of popular comedian duo Wang Sha and Ye Feng.

The collection event was organised as part of the NAS 50th anniversary this year. The materials added to its collection will be preserved for posterity and made available to the public for personal research, academic work, publications or exhibitions.

Those keen to donate items can write in to NLB at nas@nlb.gov.sg for more details.