Good Old Kampong Days at Plaza Singapura’s 40th

Chapteh, five stones, zero-point and other old-school games took centre-stage at the mall’s birthday celebrations, much to the delight of both young and old

Issue: Sep 2014

PS 40: Shaping Our Memories sought to celebrate family ties and friendships through recreating good old fun
PS 40: Shaping Our Memories sought to celebrate family ties and friendships through recreating good old fun

After visiting the history galleries of the nearby museum, Gary Wong and his son walked to Plaza Singapura, not knowing that their history excursion would continue – this time, in the form of a carnival.

Wong, in his forties, had a pleasant surprise when he discovered that the mall’s atrium had been transformed into a wonderland of old-school local games. “It brings back fond memories!” he said as he eagerly slapped the table in a game of Snap.

The traditional games bonanza was the highlight of PS 40: Shaping Our Memories, a festival held in June to celebrate the mall’s anniversary. Plaza Singapura turns forty this year.

Although that would be middle aged for people, the mall remains both young and young at heart through continual asset enhancement and new retailers to appeal to shoppers. And for the carnival, she wowed the crowd with up to 10 game booths including chapteh, pick-up sticks, five stones and zero-point that pulled all young and old into a time capsule of sixties’ Singapore.

The fastest hand wins in the game of Snap
The fastest hand wins in the game of Snap

When We Were Young

Dan Cho, 60, walked into the chapteh booth confidently, for he had hoped to relive his past glories as a “chapteh king,” he joked.

Cho revealed that back in the days when he was living in his Whampoa kampung, he played chapteh from dawn to dusk. “I think I hit it 50 to 100 times each day. You see, there wasn’t much to do back then,” he explained.

Today’s fast-paced, high-tech society has its drawbacks. “Now, we don’t have such activities anymore,” he lamented, so he was pleased to relive his idyllic days at Plaza Singapura.

For Lina Manan, 52, what began as a shopping trip turned into an educational tour for her nephew, Ilhan, 5. She took him to explore each booth, explaining to him how “these were the games of her days in her kampung.”

School of Sticks and Stones

For the younger generation, the games reminded them of the times they got into trouble in primary and secondary school.

10 game booths including chapteh, pick-up sticks, five stones and bola tin pulled crowds both young and old into a time capsule of sixties' Singapore
10 game booths including chapteh, pick-up sticks, five stones and bola tin pulled crowds both young and old into a time capsule of sixties’ Singapore

The country eraser game was the most popular among youths. To win the game, one had to get his eraser above his opponent. Because of their tiny size, the erasers were easy to bring to class and be played secretly.

“We loved playing with country erasers during lessons,” said Grace Tan, 20. “In fact, we also got into trouble for buying too many erasers,” Tan Lien Chew, 20, said with a laugh.

Theodore Low, 24, recounted how the country eraser game was all about power play. Low was at the carnival because his friend, Gareth Tan, 25, had taken him there.

Tan had also been at the festival a day earlier. He found that the carnival not only offered free and good fun, but a meaningful time for friends to reminisce about the past, so he invited his friend to join him the next day. The duo’s favourite booth was pick-up sticks.

The pick-up sticks game challenges a person's nimbleness and concentration
The pick-up sticks game challenges a person’s nimbleness and concentration — each player must remove a stick from the pile without shifting the others

Playing five stones and zero-point brought back memories of social bonds for Tan Shi Li, 22. She was at Plaza Singapura with her parents, sister and nephew.

Tan said, “I used to play these games at the childcare centre I was enrolled in. I don’t remember much about the school but now, I’m reminded of the friends I made there.”

The mamak shop carried a wide array of nostalgic goodies; Tan Shi Li and her three-generation family joined in the fun too at carnival
The mamak shop carried a wide array of nostalgic goodies such as gem biscuits and drew many yearning to collect a piece of their past; Tan Shi Li and her three-generation family joined in the fun too at carnival

The colourful and lively mamak shop attracted Sharon Tan and her daughter Inez. In the past, the mamak shop — a traditional, hole-in-the-wall convenience store located in kampungs and older flats — was the go-to place to get one’s daily necessities.

For children, a visit to the mamak shop usually means snack time. It was no different here at Plaza Singapura. The pop-up mamak store carried a wide array of nostalgic goodies such as gem biscuits, Kurkure, Choki-choki, animal biscuits, Ding Dang chocolate balls and Pop Rock. Tan was thrilled to find a snack she used to enjoy: the colourful and tastefully light wafer biscuits. “I haven’t eaten these in such a long time!” she exclaimed.

Walking Down Memory Lane

In a photo contest with attractive prizes, shoppers sent in old photographs of their visits to Plaza Singapura, such as this one
In a photo contest with attractive prizes, shoppers sent in old photographs of their visits to Plaza Singapura, such as this one

As part of the celebrations, Plaza Singapura also invited the public to send in old photos of the mall taken from 1974 to 1994. The top five winners of the photo contest walked away with a total of $1,000 worth of CapitaVouchers and gift vouchers from Howards Storage World.

Indeed, Plaza Singapura has come a long way. When the mall opened in 1974, it had nine storeys, and was the country's first multi-storey shopping mall. Forty years later, and after a major renovation in 2012, it now boasts a new extension, and is directly connected to one of Singapore’s largest MRT interchanges, Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, which serves three main train lines.

An Inventive, Unique Experience

That history can be an entertaining encounter was one of the intentions of PS 40: Shaping Our Memories. History should be fun, and all the more so if it is relived with friends and family.

(Left) Pop Rocks, Rabbit candy and fizzy drinks were on sale at the mamak shop; (Right) Visitors also learnt about the old-school games through information boards
(Left) Pop Rocks, Rabbit candy and fizzy drinks were on sale at the mamak shop; (Right) Visitors also learnt about the old-school games through information boards

“We hope the carnival would help young people get a glimpse of their parents’ growing-up years and help families bond,” said Melissa Ang, General Manager of Plaza Singapura.

What impressed shopper Kwan Kok Hoe, 32, was the idea that he could relive his past in a mall. “The pop-up carnival of old-games is very inventive. Better still, it offers a unique experience one seldom encounters in a shopping centre,” he said.

Indeed, Plaza Singapura’s birthday carnival was an unexpected and priceless gift for many. Who knew that the sweet yonder years of the past could make their return – right in the heart of a modern shopping mall along Orchard Road!

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