Although I did not know what to expect, I was very excited to receive a copy of the Limited Edition Illustrated book, Singapore in the 60s by James Suresh, best selling Author and co-creator of Mr Kiasu.
I was actually hoping to share the book with my 6 year old whose always had an interest in Singapore’s history and times past. Wey enjoys watching documentaries about old Singapore and was a huge fan of the Days of Disaster series on Channel 5, so I thought he would enjoy this book a lot.
Launched on 25 June 2015 and illustrated by Syed Ismail, the book is Mr Suresh’s personal account of his childhood experiences, lifestyle, recreation, people and practices in the 60s and will appeal to both the young and old.
I was glad that the book was a simple read. Each page was a short narrative and just right to read together with Wey… it helped that there were nice (comic) illustrations alongside each narrative. I could tell that as I read it to him, he was captivated and of course amused at how things used to be back in the 60s.
Life, it seems, was way simpler then… My favourite quote from the book is “We needed very little then to make us happy.” That simple sentence speaks so much. Today, we have so much and are enjoying a way better standard of living and yet many of us are not content and have become habitual complainers grumbling about everything.
I am hopeful to teach my son to appreciate his blessings and to be thankful. To look at the good things in life and not to dwell on the bad things or the things he sees others have that he doesn’t have. To put his attention on working for his aspirations that can come true with hard work and effort. To dream the Singapore Dream and not stand still and blame others when things don’t go his way or happen to his liking. After all, this is the pioneering spirit that my parents and grandparents had and look how much they’ve seen their lives improved and mine as well.
Wey giggled when he saw the illustration of the 4 children squeezing on one bed to sleep. No doubt he was surprised to hear how families used to ‘squeeze’ together in one room and on one bed and still considered themselves blessed and were happy. His eyes almost popped out when he saw the illustration below! Lol!
I like that the book gives the younger generation a glimpse into a Singapore past and gives a great start point opportunity to talk with our little ones about all that we take for granted now and to teach them to stop for a moment to appreciate our blessings everyday….
Wey and I both had a good laugh when we read about the strange design of the old SIT flats where neighbours were separated by one single metal bar and children running away from an angry mum would just escape over to the next door via this escape route, leaving the fuming mother stuck on the other side! hahaha!! Bet he was wishing he could have that same escape route away from me or probably imagining me stuck under the bar like the woman in the picture below!
We also got to read about what my mum talks about when she eats her favourite Ice Kachang dessert… her dearly missed Ice Ball! In her days, it cost 5cents a ball and they would save up a whole week to buy the Ice Ball. It was pure joy and glee to share it with her sisters when they finally had enough money. haha… My mum would even make the sound of sucking on the Ice Ball to demonstrate how it was eaten… LOL!
Seeing this illustration below of the Bread Man on bicycle brought back some distant memories of this very very old man that used to come to our estate to sell bread.
My Dad would bring me downstairs and we would buy a loaf of old fashioned bread not like the Gardenia’s of today and sometimes we would also ask him to spread some Kaya in it. I am quite sure this old man is no longer alive but I suddenly remember so vividly, his old wooden box sitting on the bicycle as he sliced expertly at our loaf of bread.
We are still midway reading through the book together but here are some of our other favourite picks:
The Swill Collector
I’ve never seen a Swill Collector and Wey was particularly curious about this. We had a fun time reading about the ‘barter trade’ of daily leftover food for the pig farmers to feed their pigs in exchange for that one live chicken at the end of the year.
I remember my mum had a small grey plastic container in our old HDB flat which she never used. If I’m not wrong, it was for people who participated in the swill programme… haha… amazing how memories come back with this book.
The Night Soil Collector
Wey first learnt about the Night Soil Collector when watching KidsFest Horrible Histories’ Vile Victorians earlier this year and he was surprised that not so long ago, we too had night soil collectors serving the many kampong houses.
The Super Fierce Missy (Mee-see)
This page really brought back scary memories of mum bringing me to the Kelantan Polyclinic when I was a little girl. I hated that place. It smelt of Dettol and medicine and I hated the long nervous wait to see the doctor. The nurses (known as Mee-see) were somehow the fiercest women on earth! They shouted at the top of their voices at everyone and never smiled! Eeewww!
Things are so different today. Perhaps it’s also because the population is better educated and nurses can no longer lord it over those who cannot understand English? Whatever it is, I’m thankful that doctor visits are pretty pleasant and non-fearful for the kids these days. (or so I think?) hahahha… Maybe I should ask Wey what he thinks of the nurses now.
Water Rationing Exercise
I actually remember a time when I was a little girl when my mum too would ask me to help collect water in pails to be set aside in our bathroom because of a water rationing exercise. We did it with no grouse or complain and simply took it as how things were. In fact, I was excited. My mum would boil some water and add it to an empty pail to mix with the water collected earlier before the rationing exercise. I thought it was fun to scoop water from a pail and splash it on myself instead of using our water heater hehe….
This is a great book for parents or grandparents wanting to share the good old days with the little ones without having to plough through a ton of words. Wey and I had a fun walk through Old Singapore as we read the book together. Each page is a digestible bite size story packed with information that will not bore young ones and will definitely bring some great memories and discoveries for children, parents and older folks too. So do try to borrow it at the library when it becomes available. I hope that some will be made available for sale as it’s a cute keepsake about Singapore and I would imagine a fun gift for overseas friends and family!
Although the book is not available for sale to the public, we’ve got great news! The Influencer Media has 50 copies to this limited edition keepsake to be given away! So don’t miss this chance, do hop on over here to take part and share, contest ends on National Day, 9 August 2015!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Bestselling author and co-creator of comic icons such as Mr Kiasu, On a Street in Singapore and Kopi Tiam, James Suresh produces a SG50 illustrated book about life in the 60s when he grew up in a rented flat in Queenstown.
‘Singapore In The 60s’ will be a personal recollection of experiences seen through the eyes of author James Suresh who grew up in a rented flat in Margaret Drive, Queenstown, one of the first housing estates in Singapore. The flats have since been demolished but the memories of life in the sixties will help the young to appreciate the past and the older Singaporeans to recall and reminisce about days gone by.
With the assistance of the Character and Citizenship Education Department at the Ministry of Education, of the 5,000 SG50 sponsored books, some 4,500 will be placed at school libraries with 10 copies made available to each school library in Singapore. Mr Suresh intends to donate the remaining books to his former primary school, secondary school and other institutions where he pursued his studies.
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SAys! Audrey 🙂
Disclaimer : We received 2 copies of the book for the purposes of this review. All opinions expressed remain our own.