Memoirs of an Army Brat in Singapore
Once upon a time there was a young beautiful maori princess... well I was young and beautiful, who wasn't at the tender age of 3!
Sadly I don't personally remember anything during those tender years, much of the memories of 2 years living in Singapore between 1971 to 1973 come from looking back at photos. And wouldn't you know it but this little maori girl was becoming a princess. They say pictures never lie so it must be true? A typical picture... actually many pictures seem to be of me in frilly two piece togs , plastic paddling pool with matching water wings and round ring and the pretty lady beside me is my amah, life in Singapore seemed a magical and happy place. Now, let's fast forward the time clock to 1979 to 1981 where the story really begins.
My dad was in the NZ Army and we were based in Burnham, I was 11 years old and I remember the night my dad came home from work, we were having our usual family dinner at the table, my dad was telling my mother that he was going to being posted to Singapore and we would all be leaving in a couples weeks/months. Looking back on that night, anyone would have thought we had won the Lotto my mother was hysterical with excitement. I have since found out it was nearly every army soldiers wish to get on that Singapore posting list.
Before you could blink the removalists were coming to pack up our household belongings and at school you knew the kids that were going to Singapore 'cause we would all be showing off where we had got our 'jabs', especially the big one with the plaster covering it!
Arriving in Singapore was a bit of a blurr, except for the Air New Zealand travellers log book... you know the one it's blue, has a hard cover with Air New Zealand in gold print on the front. On the inside there is page for each trip you take. Mine says on this day in May 1979 "I was on a DC-10 and passed the equator" and it was signed by the pilot of the plane. Over the next 2 years life in Singapore would be forever etched in my memory, where does one start to share the experience...
I lived in Nee Soon, not inside the Nee Soon Army camp but just on the outside in a civvy house, at 6 Meng Suan Road. It was a modest 3 bedroom, single level cement house with the spare room for our aarmah. Its tiled floors throughout made it cool from the heat and humidity, likewise the ceiling fans that were in every room. The unforgettable feature was the bars that were on all our windows, just picture prison cell bars, this is exactly what these looked like and served as the home security system to keep out burglars. It was just a house to us, but to the locals it was quite stylish way to live. Oh, because I forgot to mention, we had our own home delivery grocer who would pick up the shopping list in the morning and deliver everything later that afternoon.
Then there was the gardener who mowed the lawns and raked the leaves. And if that wasn't enough the bom-brush man, the peanut man and the ice-cream man all who would yell down the street or ring their bike bells to let us know they were outside.
Before our first day at the New Zealand Services School, Woodlands it was a visit to the local dressmaker for our uniforms where everything was hand measured and made. For the girls it was that hideous all in one white with green polka dot dress, or the blue dress depending whether you were primary or intermediate/senior. Then it was next door to shoemaker to get our foot traced for our brown leather roman sandals. We were to come back in two days to pick everything up.
Who could forget the big white elephant buses that would do its round to pick all us kiwi and aussie kids up like clockwork every morning from outside our houses. If I remember rightly each bus was numbered we were Bus No.6.
Dropped off at school and I remember writing my lunch order and putting in a basket, my lunch special was always nasi goring which would be wrapped up like an envelope packet and delivered to the classroom.
I have to admit that going to School in Singapore was never something I dreaded, we learnt so much more than just maths and English. There were the school trips to different cultural temples, learning the different languages or at least the basics of Malay, Cantonese and Mandarin. Who could ever forget the midday Muslim ritual of 'ahhhhh white bum' Ok, that's not the words but that's what all us kids would say (no disrespect intended, I'm just keeping it real). Day trips to Singapore Zoo and I could never forget my school camp, it wasn't just a camp to the a local camping ground or reserve park either we were off to Malacca across Jahor Baru causeway into Malaysia.
Then there were our sports activities, I don't know about anyone else but I'm sure there were hidden agendas to train all us kids as army reserves, there wasn't a sport I wasn't involved with Dolphins Swimming Club where we would have training at Nee Soon pool, wearing my white toweling jacket with all my distance swimming badges sewn on it. Then there's playing basketball at the navy gym down at Navy Base, then later to the Plunge Pool to cool off. I don't know what I was thinking but, I also tried my skills at hockey and this was at the grounds at Dieppe Camp and for us army kids this was where our dads went to work each day.
When it came to kicking back with friends, you couldn't go wrong with being a Brownie or Girl Guide sadly I can't erase myself from these photos. Then there were the invites for a sleepover at someone's house or a birthday party but the best social gathering was always had at the Fern Leaf watching a movie while still in the pool, eating a frozen mars bar or having hot chips with vinegar and tomato sauce. A special mention about the turtles that were in the small water feature pond... they were so cute!
There are so many more memories I have of living and growing up in Singapore, but not enough time to write. However one thing's for sure I will forever be an "Army Brat" once an Army Brat always an Army Brat and to top it off an ANZ Military Brat of Singapore!
And the maori princess lived happily ever after,
1971 - 1973 and 1979 - 1981