TL;DR – Everything changes, Everything stays the same.
There has been an increase in interest in one of our oldest estates, Queenstown, and this can be partly, if not mostly, attributed to the tireless effort of the people behind ground-up community group, My Queenstown.
In recent weeks, the interest in this lovely old estate has heightened as some 60 rain trees will be chopped down to make way for a wider road for better access. These majestic rain trees have lined Margaret Drive in Queenstown for half a decade.
Queenstown has always held special meaning to me, particularly Margaret Drive.
That’s where I grew up when I was really little, and some of my earliest and most wonderful memories were from Queenstown. Over the years, even as I grew up and grew older and moved away, my feelings for Queenstown have never changed. It will, forever, remain a very special place to me.
Over the years, in the name of development, I have seen the HDB block that I used to live in being demolished, I have seen the hawker centre gone and slowly, more will go. I can understand it, that the old must make way for the new. After all, Queenstown is the oldest HDB estate in Singapore and it is important to for our Government to work out renewal and rejuvenation plans. Especially since we’re such a land-scarce country, and Queenstown is such prime land.
But even if I can understand it, I still feel some mixed feelings inside as I see the old familiar sights gone, and more will be going away.
Before all my old memories fade away, I decided to make a trip down to Queenstown. You know, a little like taking an adventure on the Heritage Trail of Queenstown.
Here’s my story.
It was a long journey travelling from my place down to Margaret Drive and Queenstown. However, it was a journey worth taking as this place meant the world to me in my early years.
Welcome to Queenstown.
So much has changed.
This morning, I visited the swimming pool that my mum used to bring us to without fail every Saturday afternoon. Those were fun days and my siblings and I used to really look forward to paddling and playing in the water.
Here, the swimming pool where the four of us had our swimming lessons and even swimming tests. When was that, you asked? Well, must have been between the years 1983 – 1987.
Ah ha! I saw the familiar steps leading to the pool. Next up, I saw the familiar 50-meter pool where my then coach would always get us to swim 20 laps for a start.
I also saw the canteen that my mum would bring us to for Mee Siam occasionally.
In my memory, the Mee Siam was simply delicious. We were not very well-off in the early 80s and hence I know it was a struggle for mum to agree to pay for three plates of Mee Siam. But each time we kids asked for Mee Siam, my mum would try really hard. Even when purse-strings were really tight, she’d scrimp and save a little, to make us happy with the Mee Siam treat treat once a month. She is simply my fantastic mum.
I walked past the cinemas that used to be popular with patrons in the 70s and 80s. Back in the day, famous Taiwanese actors and actresses turned up too during the ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
One of the cinemas was the one that I cried and cried when my mum brought me for my first movie when I was four. She was so apologetic of my bawls that she dragged me out of the cinema, all the while apologising to the other people in the cinema along the way.
I located the exact site of the Hawker Centre where a famous gunfight occurred in the 1970s. I was still a baby then but my neighbours recounted the story to me when I was in my Primary School days in the 1980s.
This was also the hawker centre that I last saw an iceball in Singapore. After that, iceballs just completely disappeared to be replaced by ice kachang in a bowl.
I stepped into the only childhood structure that is still serving its original purpose till today – the Queenstown Library.
This was the Library that my mum would bring the four of us to every Friday evening.
This was where I began my journey towards becoming an avid writer. I salute the foresight and diligence of my mum. I would also like to thank the efforts of our Government in building libraries in new towns in the early days of our nation-building.
Finally, I located the famous heritage site of Queenstown – the Coffin Market.
This was the market where I spent most of my Primary One and Three mornings, with my grandmother, for her marketing trips.
This was also the market where I was grabbed by a deranged woman in 1981 while my grandmother was chatting with the fishmonger. I will never forget the scene of my Kinmen grandmother running towards “the abductor” in her bound feet, screaming at the top of her voice to get the woman to let go of me. The fishmonger was running behind her with a cleaver as well.
I escaped unscathed and the bond between Grandmother and Grandson strengthened tremendously. Unfortunately, she died a few months later of Pneumonia.
This is the story of my childhood, my Queenstown and Margaret Drive.