Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chinatown in 1938

Wow, this is before my time, but I thought some of you might be interested. And it reminded me of my childhood days when Grandpa would bring me to visit his Tua-Kow (lighter) moored in the Singapore River. Jumping from Tua-Kow to Tua-kow was no joke, when I was probably about 6 years old. On one side was the dirty water of the river (this video showed much cleaner water) and the other was like three storeys into the depth of the empty Tua-Kow.

Grandpa took care of one Tua-Kow which was one of the many that could be linked from one to another, pulled by a small motor boat from Singapore River to the Outer Roads (meaning the outer part of the sea just out of the Singapore River mouth, which then had a long bund to keep the waves from crashing into the Inner Roads). Loads of rice, flour, copra and many things were transported this way from the ships to the godowns (warehouses) through the Tua-Kows and back to the ships. Singapore was an active entreport trade then, and I guess now too, except that they use containers.

Grandpa died on one stormy night when he tried to cover the goods in his Tua-Kow and was knocked off the Tua-Kow when wind blew the huge cover into him. That was in 1960. Since then, there was no more Tua-Kow jumping, no more trishaw rides and no more kopi in a saucer from the Chinese Sarabat Stall (roadside coffeeshop stall) in the Hokkien part of Chinatown, known as Giao-Keng-Kao (Outside the Gambling Den).

From A tour of the British colony of Singapore in 1938.Footage from this film is available for licensing from

Thanks to the alert from -

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