This unit at the junction of Circular Road and Canton Street used to be where my mum grew up in and was the home of my uncle for many years.
Right now it houses a restaurant and a yoga gym at the premises but in those days in the seventies, it was home to my uncle and 2 other families.
It was a 3 storey building. On the ground floor was a provision shop and the owner and his family stayed there as well. I don’t really remember much about the shop though.
Entrance to the upstair was via a side door. On the 2nd floor was a man who keeps rice there. Rumours has it that he keeps a python at the premises to eat the rats. Whether that is true or not I really don’t know since I never seen him or the python.
My uncle and his family stayed on the 3rd floor. The interesting thing about his place was that the main door was a trap door type of door and not the usual vertical door. So upon reaching the top of the stairs, one has to push the door which was about 6 feet long and 2 feet wide and it was no small feat for us kids! My uncle had also build an extension to make up the 4th floor which was where he and my aunt and their 7 children sleep. My maternal grandmother sleeps on the 3rd floor. I remember she had a giant of a wooden platform bed and we kids loves to climb on top to play on.
When we visits, we were sleep on the 3rd floor with the younger cousins of our age. For this purpose, my aunt had a stack of mattress just for us. The highlight of our trip to my uncle’s house was of course their television and we spent many happy hours watching the black and white cantonese movies.
Even though my Uncle stayed near to the Singapore River, we were not allowed to go there on our own. In those days, the river was a bustling place with tongkangs and a lot of coolies loading and unloading cargoes. From time to time, we were hear of bodies being discovered floating in the water which was pitch black most of the time. My uncle used to tell us that these people were mostly opium addicts who either killed themselves or were so high they fell into the water and drown.
My greatest memory of the place though was the Robinson fire. At that time, Robinson department store was the biggest department store in Singapore and located at Raffles Place where the current OUB Plaza was. We were at my Uncle’s house the night of the fire and we could smell the flame from where we were. There was even talk among the adults whether we should evacuate just in case the fire spreads over. Fortunately for my Uncle, the firemen managed to contain the fire.
Unfortunately, with the repeal of the Rent Control Act, my uncle was forced to move but by then he had in his foresight already prepared for it by buying a house in another part of town.