This is the kindergarten that I attended as a 5 year old, at the Yio Chu Kang Village Community Centre, way back in 1974.

It has since been torn down and I should say the area has been completely redeveloped, but the truth is more that the entire place has been wiped off the face of the earth so to speak. Not that the area was some heritage site worth preserving in the first place, but maybe to modern Singaporean eyes used to our clean & green manicured lawns and superstructures, the place can actually be considered quite a blight on the landscape. Anyway, the only former landmark from the area that is still surviving today is the Yio Chu Kang Radio Receiving Station of Singtel, which lies further east of the Yio Chu Kang Village Community Centre / Kindergarten, along Yio Chu Kang Road.

I don’t really recall doing any of the things that the children are doing in these pictures, short of vague memories of communal consumption of government-sponsored milk like all other malnourished children of the 1970s, which was all of us I think, hee hee hee. The checked uniform we wore was red and white, very patriotic.

I also remember Pei Hwa Chinese School just opposite the road from our kindergarten. Even to a child used to seeing run-down buildings everywhere in 1974 rural Singapore, the school had already struck me then as being particularly old and decayed. If there is such an architectural phrase, I would say the school building looked “Chinese-colonial”, something that could belong in old Shanghai. The immediate area surrounding the school was very sandy with little vegetation. Looking back now, I am wondering why this was so as you can spy some coconut trees in these pictures around my kindergarten just opposite the road from Pei Hwa.

It seems strange that Yio Chu Kang Village and its Community Centre have since been swallowed back into the undergrowth as part of the local forested area from whence it first emerged from, like it had never existed.

Another weird memory that stuck with me all these years was how very “sand-swept” the school was. There seemed to be perpetual yellowish-brown dust “storms” whooshing all the time, and the school walls and white uniforms of the schoolchildren had seemed yellowish as a result. Years later I would read about the great sandstorms in Northern China blowing from the Gobi Desert to the Yellow River, and I would always imagine in my mind’s eye that it would look like this sandy windswept little corner of Yio Chu Kang Village.

Or maybe everything was just dustier, less kempt, and generally less vacuumed back when Singapore was still a new nation struggling to survive in the 1970s.

It seems strange that Yio Chu Kang Village and its Community Centre have since been swallowed back into the undergrowth as part of the local forested area from whence it first emerged from, like it had never existed. And the CTE now runs through it, separating it forevermore from its old Singtel neighbour to the east. The rustic village of sleepy little mama shops and mechanic repair shops has been demolished since the 1980s (or was it the 1990s?); time just slips away from you.

All I remember of the place comes from these photos.

*Editor’s note: Yik Leng penned the following accompanying entry days after the first one above:

By some cosmic coincidence, just days after I posted photos of my kindergarten days on the web, my mother came to visit my family and said that she had been spring cleaning at home when she found a nearly 40 year old bale of cloth remaining from my kindergarten days in the deep dark recesses of her closet! The same cloth used to make the PAP kindergarten pinafores for the girls and the pants for the boys.

The checked uniform we wore was red and white, very patriotic.

She had brought it along with her to show us and I just had to snap a picture as the cloth looked brand new! I was so amazed to be able to see the plaid pattern again in such vibrant colour that I almost cried. Nowhere in my memory or in these photos could I have ever even remembered how the red & white checked pattern really looked like. I certainly didn’t remember the plaid pattern as being so intricate… sigh, waxing lyrical over an old piece of cloth, my my I am getting so sentimental in my middle age.

My mother said that all mothers had to sew their children’s kindergarten uniforms by themselves then. Parents were just directed to fabric stores to buy the cloth, and in those days, everyone went to People’s Park Complex to buy fabric.

Here is the photo – by the way, I forgot to mention in the previous submission that the photos were taken by our old neighbour, Mr Choo, who was a People’s Association grassroots leader in Yio Chu Kang then. He had a keen interest in photography which is why the images look so nicely framed unlike most kindergarten & school photos you see from people. I remember he just followed us to school one day and snapped away as we went along with the day’s activities, with the teachers’ permission of course. Pity he didn’t give my parents more photos then – developing photographic film was expensive in the 1970s. 🙂

Photos and Text: Quah Yik Leng

This is a edited entry blending two of Yik Leng’s submission to the Singapore Memory Project.

You can read the original entries here and here.

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