Monday, September 10, 2007

Yan Kit Swimming Pool

Yesterday, I had a short opportunity to walk up memory lane.

I saw the Kim Lan Hng (Jin Lan Yuan) that was all that is left of the place where once stood temples, one being the Jin Lan Miao (which is now at Kim Tian Road). Across the road is the only temple that is still standing, the Phor Tor Jee, an interesting syncretic temple that must have seen much of the transformation of this corner known to the local residents as the "Chye Chi Ya", meaning market. In the old days, to reach the temple from "Tua Beh Lor" (big horse road or Tanjong Pagar Rd), one had to wade through the often wet and dirty street up Narcisus St where the wet market once stood.

That was the place where I accompanied my Mum marketing. I learnt how to select a piece of sting-ray by smelling (you know why?), got the cheapest offer, such as cockle shells at 5 cents a kati or the chicken hearts that were frozen (and often frown by the well off) - only to learn that they are high in cholesterol! Ah, chicken hearts fried with thinly sliced ginger and a touch of sesame oil was sedap (delicious). During festive days, we would be selecting the most alive chicken to buy to bring back and fatten it up for the actual day.

I was to take over the marketing when my Mum went to work to bring in extra income. For S$10 a week, I was to market and cook for a family of 8 people. But I digress as this would be a long story on how I started cooking at the ripe old age of 10! (^^)

Ah, the Yan Kit Swimming Pool brought back memories when with a neighbour, we would sneak off for a swim. If my memories hold, the entrance was like 30 cents and because Mum would not allow us to swim (the fear of us kids drowning), we would keep the swimming trunks at our neighbour's place.
It was also a time when apart of the fear of drowning, we had to contend with territorial wars of the local gangsters or secret societies. Of course, staying in Term Tiam Hung (Alley of Pawn Shops - although I remembered only seeing one) helps since we were the residents, but then, there were so many gangs operating there. "Li chi to si mi?" (what do you play?) a small boy would accost us in the swimming pool, expecting us to give the password, the two-digit number of the local gang/secret society. It was dangerous to try to give a number. We would say, "Gua bo chi toh" (I don't play) and try to look behind him, as often, there would be some bigger guys waiting. (^^)

Apart from such occasional encounters, we enjoyed our childhood in this neighbourhood with a swimming pool that was so near, and probably one of the very few in the 1960s.

When I tried peeking into the pool, I saw big recesses .. what were the pools were now dry. While Farrer Park Swimming Pool had reinvented itself, Yan Kit Swimming Pool did not seem to go that way. I could remember the three pools, the biggest being nearest to the entrance, often used for water polo and diving. The middle pool was probably the most congested, since it ranged from about 4 feet to 6 feet. And the further end was the wading pool, where we started, learning to swim on our own. From time to time, we would be adventurous enough to venture into the second pool. And when we tried to go at it in the first pool, the ever attentive life guard would blow his whistle and got us out of the pool.

At times, when we were lucky to have that extra 5 cents or 10 cents, after a swim, we would go to the small canteen to enjoy a piece of chye-tau-kueh (Chinese deepfried radish cake) coated with plenty of chilli sauce. Often, we would share between three persons, the neighbour and my younger brother. Happy, with skin and hair smelling of the chlorinated water, we would stroll back home.


Lam Chun See said...

I used to go to Farrer Park pool near Ang Kio Tau. Did the Yan Kit pool have the turnstyles type of entrance that seem to be used by all the swimming pools?

chinatownboy said...

Hi Chun See,
Yes, they have the turnstyles, and they are right to the ceiling. No way to jump over. (^^)

Say, where about exactly is Ang Kio Tau? Where the Farrer Park Swimming Pool is? Do you know why Ang Kio Tau? (^^)

Victor TAN said...

My school, Keppel Primary, used to conduct swimming lessons there. I'll never forget the deep cuts that I had when I scratched on the swimming pool wall by accident!

From what I remembered, it was suppose to be turned into a NTUC club house. However, the pipes were in a very bad shape and NTUC dropped the idea.

Moon said...

Finally, I was expecting an article from you about Yan Kit swimming pool, sooner or later.. that's the nearest swimming pool from Chinatown..I guess.

I used to go Yan Kit almost every weekend for fun swimming when I was a kid.. loved the chai-tau-kwey from the small food bar at the second storey, I would always buy two pieces of that kwey whenever I was there. Nice with chilli.

When I was in my early teens, I decided to lose some weight, and that was the pool I went to for my twice-a-week swimming sessions. Yes, I lost weight. I lost a hefty 13 over pounds..

Sweet memories indeed.

Moon said...

I remember not too far away from the pool, there was a big departmental store named Chang-Chen - 长城.. like to stroll there everytime after the swim..

Yeah, thanks indeed, for bringing back the memories. ;-)

chinatownboy said...

Hi Moon,
So, you must be a Chinatown girl la! It was the carefree days. Do share with us about your days in Chinatown (assuming you are not in Chinatown these days) ... and for your kids too. (^^)

Visited your blog, very lively! Waiting for your next blog! (^^)

chinatownboy said...

Hi Moon,
So, you must be a Chinatown girl la! It was the carefree days. Do share with us about your days in Chinatown (assuming you are not in Chinatown these days) ... and for your kids too. (^^)

Visited your blog, very lively! Waiting for your next blog! (^^)

Moon said...

Yes Chinatownboy,I used to stay in Chinatown and Duxton Hill when I was a kid. Wish I could write all about my childhood days in Chinatown.. but cannot remember all of them, just bits and pieces.. ;-P

The temple you mentioned in your article that moved to Kim Tian Road, was that the same temple that used to sit next to the swimming pool? Oh how I missed that temple, my grandma used to bring me and my siblings there for prayers.

Enjoy reading your articles very much.. thanks!

from chinatown-moon ;-)

chinatownboy said...

Ah, then, we were neighbours, probably our houses could be on back2back! I was staying in Turn-tiam-hung (Craig Rd), where the Craig Place is now.

Yes, yes, that Kim Lan Beo (Kum Lan Miu in Cantonese or Jin Lan Miao in Mandarin) is in Kim Tian Road now, and it was next to the Swimming Pool.

My memories are also fading, but I think sometimes, with a question or two, it could jot us to more memories. So, post la .. and maybe, fellow readers and I could help you jot your memory. (^^)

Haha, I should call myself the chinatownson .. or chinatownsun. (^^)

Moon said...

I was actually staying in Duxton Hill...then moved to Chinatown itself.. South Bridge Road to be exact.

Yeap, had fond memories about the Chinese temple there.. my late grandma used to bring all of us (me and my siblings) there to pray during some festivals. When my mum gave birth to my one and only brother, she was so happy she brought us there to pray, and my brother became the god-son of the Mighty Monkey God there and then. ;-)

Loved staying in Duxton Hill, but the house is no longer there, quite upset, come to think about it. Now the whole row of houses is just a patch of land, made way for car parks. The shop houses there are spacious, and there were some grasslands that made good playground. When I read your flash backs on mid-autumn festival and Chinese New year, brought back some of my own memories too.

;-) chinatownmoon

Celpaby said...

Please post more :) I'm a fan. Chinatown and Arab street (kampong glam) are my most fav places. I've added you to my site's blogroll

chinatownboy said...

Sure, sure .. been digging my inner brain cells to try to recall the good young days. (^^)

Shao Hongxi, Singapore said...

I was born opp Maxwell Market and grew up in Neil Rd, New World Amusement Park, Upper Pickering St. Since we are from the same generation, I am inviting you, everyone who visited this blog, to visit mine at.. http://cantonoperasing.blogspot.comand
Does anyonw has pics of the cowhead & 7th fairy festival? Shao Hongxi

algae said...

wow, stumble upon this site. Very interesting. I spent my childhood in my grandma's house at Narcis Street and later during the school holidays when I was older. I stayed in Geylang and would take a STC bus. After Metropole cinema (Kim Hua) once I can see the banana stall outside Craig Road (Tng Tiam Hung), it's time to drop from the bus. Opp Yan Kit Swimming pool there are some clans association that also served as schools. I remember waking up every morning very early by the sound from the ball bearing of push carts of people collecting water from the public standpipe outside No.6 Narcis Street.

Moon said...

hmm I know kim hua, its methodist church today.. yes, kum hua in cantonese, was a cinema, in the 70s, used to screen movies from lin ching xia and lin feng qiao.. ;-) but I seldom visit the movies, can't afford to la.

hey we were neighbours, in a way.

chinatownboy said...

Hi Algae,
Thanks for the memory jot. Yes, now I remember the two banana stalls that seemed to come out of the wall of the corner shophouse of Craig Road and Tanjong Pagar Road.

Did you hear of the ghost stories of Kim Hua? (^^)

Kit said...

Wow! I used to stay over at my grandparent's place when I was younger. One of the two orange tall HDB flats beside craig road. But i've not much memories of the place because I was never allowed to go out alone. I din have any frens there too since I dun study there. But i feel very attached to the place and has been wanting to find out more. Thanks for this blog entry. Anyways, what are the ghost stories of Kim Hua? Curious to find out. Hehe. I've got more photos of tanjong pagar and yan kit swimming complex at

Feel free to browse.

chinatownboy said...

Haha, I must ask around about the ghost stories. Somehow, like stories of various cinemas, it's got to do with toilets. (^^)

Say, you do great pix!

Which years were you staying at Craig Rd, at the point-block flats, right?

Denisvr@HOTMAIL.COM said...

Hi there,
As a resident (French) I went swimming to Yan kit very often during lunch-time between 1994 and 1997. That was a real pleasure to "crawl" almost alone in the 50m "Olympic" size pool. I can still feel the burning print of the sun on my back as I was swimming not to fast to avoid sweating ! Really one of the best souvenir I have from that 3years stay in Singapore.

Gary said...

Hi chinatownboy,

I am a JC student currently working on a conservation project and I stumbled upon this blog post on Yan Kit Swimming Complex. I was wondering if you might be so kind as to provide some first-hand information regarding the complex and its history. It would be tremendously instrumental to my project's success. Please contact me at gnjz(dot)sg(at)


chinatownboy said...

Hi Gary,
What I have are just fleeting memories of my childhood days. I could try to recall but perhaps, you might have some specific questions?

Other visitors to this blog could also help. You could also find out through the where there could be researchers and residents who are also familiar.

Hope this helps!

Gary said...

Thanks for your help! I do have some questions and was wondering if you could answer them -

1.Yan Kit Swimming Complex – What were your memories of it? How was it a part of your life?

2.How and to what degree was it significant to you, then and now?

3.In your opinion, which part(s) of it should be conserved? Are there portions of the complex that are more important that should be preserved in its entirety?

4.There is a possibility that the complex may be converted to serve a different purpose (Water theme park, dance studio, restaurants). What are your views?

Thank you.


chinatownboy said...

Hi Gary,
1. Haha, that's probably one of the most exciting time of my childhood. That was where I learnt to swim, secretly as my Mum did not allow us to go swimming. It meant saving money to buy a decent swimming trunk and to pay for entrance to the swimming pool. I started from the wading pool to the middle pool, and finally when I was confident enough, to the deep pool. We spent many a wonderful afternoon there. If we had the additional 5 cents, we could share a chye-tao-kueh (radish cake) that we ate with relish with the chilli sauce on top of it.

2. Yes, my swimming started here - more or less self-learned with neighbour. The few moments where we had the luxury of fun in our poor young days. It brings back good memories.

3. This is a tough question. To me, if we could preserve it like Farrer Park Swimming Pool, many of us could have stories to share with our grandchildren. Like Farrer Park, this place was old and need much renovation and restoration. I remember the outside wall of the changing room at the wading pool end. It could still be a good swimming complex as swimming is one of the requirement for school kids. I am trying to think tradition, history, heritage and modern functionality. A tough challenge to the planners and operators, but not impossible. (^^)

4. To the few who hang on to the past, if it is changed completely, it will only be in our memories and will not go down further down. The collective stories of the community then might fade away. Question will then be, is it really important? To each his/own own, maybe yes. To the current community who might have no links to the past, maybe no? (^^)

Gary said...

Thank you very much for your response.

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Kay Vasey said...

This is a lovely post. I wonder whether you would consider posting some of your memories on Writing the City. The current theme is 'Hidden Skyline' and is all about memories of the past.

Please contact Kay at:

Glee Lee said...

Hi all, you all here born in what year huh? I think im junior i was born in the 80's and lived tanjong pagar since then.

chinatownboy said...

The moment we begin to know our surroundings, we start collecting such memories. So, you can start sharing from the 80s. :)

I was born in the 50s, growing up in a house at Craig Rd. Then, in 1963 thereabout, we moved to the newly built HDB flat along Cantonment Rd. The two flats have been been demolished and in their place the huge Pinnacle. :)