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Working Class Girl in Singapore in the Late 1960s

Updated on November 19, 2018

Our Adventure Begins

My husband in his Tropical Uniform
My husband in his Tropical Uniform | Source
I am on the right as you look at the photo just 20 years old at the beginning of my adventure
I am on the right as you look at the photo just 20 years old at the beginning of my adventure | Source

The adventure begins

In March1967 I got married to my husband who was a Petty Officer in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. Three and a half months after we got married we flew out to Singapore on a married accompanied posting.


When my fiancee told me he had been posted to Singapore and that it was a married accompanied post I was so happy. Happy because I was not going to be separated from my new husband so soon after we got married.


But, I wasn’t particularly excited because although I had heard of Singapore I hadn’t got a clue where it was. Nor did I have any idea of how different my life would be when I went to live there.


My husband had to show me where Singapore was on a map. I don't know where I thought that it was but I didn’t think that it was in the Far East. Nor did I think that it would be so far away and so exotic.


I was 20 years old and I had only been out of the UK once before. That time was a two week European package holiday. This was a bus tour taking in seven countries in fourteen days..

Up to this point I had never been anywhere in an aeroplane. Now here I was preparing to fly more than 9000 miles in a plane that was going to be in the air for a total of twenty seven hours.


This journey was to result in my life changing in ways that I could have never dreamed of. Of course, this meant that I changed along with it.

Our New Home

I am standing outside our first house which is on Jalan Labu Ayer roughly translated I think means Water Melon Road
I am standing outside our first house which is on Jalan Labu Ayer roughly translated I think means Water Melon Road | Source

Met at the Airport

We landed at Paya Lebar Airport in the early hours of the morning. It was still dark as we walked down the steps off the plane. I cannot tell you how glad to have my feet planted firmly back on solid ground at last.


Considering that this was my first experience of flying it turned out to be a real baptism of fire. It was a horrendous journey that included engine failures and electrical storms.


The doors of the aeroplane opened and we exited the plane. I stood at the top of the step and breathed the warm moist air of Singapore for the first time. There was a rich smell of damp vegetation and the sound of insects, both very strange and foreign to me.


The man my husband was here to replace met us at the airport. He drove us to his home where we stayed until his family left for the UK a few weeks later. My husband not only took over his position at Kranji Wireless Station but we took on their home as our own.


Our first house was on Jalan Labu Ayer. This was a road of privately owned houses not a Naval letting. So most of the residents on our road were Singaporean residents.


Only the house opposite had another service family in it. They were to become firm friends and were very helpful and supportive to us.

Jahor Bahru and our new home

The causeway linking Jahor Bahru and Singapore
The causeway linking Jahor Bahru and Singapore
Our new home aon the Dragon Garden Estate just off the Jalan Pasir Plengi in Jahor Bahru
Our new home aon the Dragon Garden Estate just off the Jalan Pasir Plengi in Jahor Bahru | Source

A Move to Dragon Gardens Estate

After living at Jalan Labu Ayer for a few months our friends and neighbours from across the road moved. They found a newly built house fully furnished. and at only two-thirds the cost of the rent in their present house. They decided to save money and move.


Their new place was in Jahor Bahru in Malaysia, which is joined to the Island of Singapore via the Causeway. They told us that there was a vacant house a few doors down from theirs on the new estate. Because this house was much cheaper and nicer than the ours on Jalan Labu Ayer, we decided to move too.


The new estate was called DragonGardens. The building of these new homes was a work in progress when we moved in. We were the first people to occupy this newly built house and we loved it. The building of this estate was on going and continued even after we completed our tour of duty in 1969.


Most of the people on the Estate were British servicemen and their families. In fact I cannot think of anyone on the estate that was not British. There were only about twenty-five houses on the estate at that time.


Because this was a brand new estate most people were like us and had only just moved in. It was not long before everyone pretty much got to know everyone and our social lives were full and rich.

The place and life I left behind

My brother standing on the street outside the house where I grew up
My brother standing on the street outside the house where I grew up | Source
Me standing outside the back of the home I grew up in the window to the left is ours the one to the right belongs to next door.
Me standing outside the back of the home I grew up in the window to the left is ours the one to the right belongs to next door. | Source

From the old life

Living out in the Far East was so different from the way I lived back in England in 1967. Nothing I had done in the past prepared me for those differences.


In England I was an ordinary working class girl with a nine to five clerical job. Where I worked I earned a wage not a salary.


I left this job at the age of twenty to go to Singapore when I left I was earning about £10 a week before stoppages.


As you can imagine the princely sum of £10 a week didn't leave much over once we had paid the bills.


This sum of £10 was the adult wage for a female office clerk at that time. So even if I had stayed on there were no more wage increases for me to look forward to.


In 1967 where I worked we got an increases in pay on our birthday until we reached the age of 21. from then on your wage was pretty much fixed.


My life varied very little, each day was pretty much the same. I went to work, came home, cooked my tea, ate it, washed up, watched TV then went bed. Then did the same all over again the next day.


Boring and repetitive as this sounds I was content with my life at that time. It was already better than I expected it to be and I loved my job.


Little did I know that Singapore was to change everything and in ways that I could not have begun to imagine.

My New House

This is me out side of my house
This is me out side of my house | Source

My New Life

The house I left in the UK was a small terraced house that had no bathroom and an outside toilet.

The house I moved into in Jahore was a large semi detached house with two bedrooms, and a bathroom. Down stairs there was a room for the servant to sleep in that had its own entrance and its own shower and toilet. It was a different world, with indoor plumbing and servant’s quarters.


At the age of 20 I was living the life of a lady of leisure. Not only that but I was living it in another country with a servant to do all my washing ironing and cleaning.

To say this was a culture shock is an understatement and that I suppose is where I should have started this hub.

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    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR

      maggs224 

      7 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi Prasanna I lived just off Jalan Pasir Plengi on the Dragon Gardens Estate, but I can't find it marked on the map now, I think they changed its name to something else.

      Before that we lived in Singapore on Jalan Labu Ayer which was not far from Serangoon.

      I have been to your blog and I am enjoying it very much thank you for the link :D

      regards

      Maggie

    • profile image

      siva prasanna krishnan 

      7 years ago

      Hi

      i stumbled upon your blog and i am glad that i did. My father was a civilian in the British army and he worked in Kranji and later in Alexandria. I lived in Johore Bahru and my neighbours were all British servicemen and their families.

      some time ago i started writing about my memories of those days. we kept in touch with some of them for a while and then lost contact.

      That was an era that was exciting for us as i am sure it was for the foreigners who were posted there.

      http://prasannakrishnanspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/12...

      You stated that you lived in Johore Bahru. Where in JB did you live?

      regards

      prasanna

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR

      maggs224 

      7 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi NSP, I am so pleased that someone local to Singapore has enjoyed reading this hub. It seemed a young vibrant country when I was there with a young Lee Kuan Yew as its Prime Minister.

      He was such a dynamic and charasmatic man who had big visions for making Singapore a modern society and an ecnomic force to be reckoned with.

      Looking at Singapore today it looks like he exceeded even his hopes and expectations.

      Living in Singapore and later Johore Bahru was a wonderful experience. Memories of that time wonderful time still give me pleasure today.

      It was a totally different culture to the one I grew up in and being out there enriched my life tremendously I am so grateful that I had that time in Singapore.

      When it was time for us to return to the UK neither my husband nor I wanted to go back, if we had been given a choice we would have stayed in Singapore lol...

      Thank you so much for your very kind comments they made my day :)

    • NotSoPerfect profile image

      NotSoPerfect 

      7 years ago from United States

      I'm really glad I stumbled upon your hub (I'd written a hub on my home, Singapore and I saw your hub on the side of the page and decided to click on it). This was such a fun read! Singapore must have been so different in the 70s! We've grown so much as a nation. Thanks for writing this! Voting up and interesting!

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR

      maggs224 

      8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi Gladys, thanks for your lovely comments they are much appreciated. It is really good to know what are the areas that people find interesting. I have not given much thought to the period between leaving school and getting married. Your comments have given me something to reflect upon. Who knows this maybe the theme of my next working class based hub. Maggs

    • profile image

      Gladys Buttle 

      8 years ago

      Thanks Maggs224 I have really enjoyed reading your hubs.

      You don't realise what you thought you had forgotten till you go down memory lane. We have a lot in common, I was born a northern girl in 1946 in the city of Hull, East Yorkshire.

      The one hub I was hopping you had done was the time from leaving school till getting married. Keep up the good work.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR

      maggs224 

      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi Christi, it is my pleasure to share these memories with you, and I am glad that you enjoyed reading them. Thank you for your kind comments I really appreciate them.

    • profile image

      Christi 

      9 years ago

      I have read all your hubs......I think they are awesome. I find it facinating to see how life was like in the early years. Thanks for taking the time and effort to

      share all these wonderful experiences with us.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR

      maggs224 

      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi Caseworker, yes you are right we called them chit chats. We first arrived in June 1967 we lived just outside Serangoon and my husband was stationed at Kranji Wireless Station. It was a wonderful time for us as newly weds, we had a marvelous two years there and I didn't really want to go back home to the UK.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 

      9 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      Hi i went to Singapore in Aug 67, wernt they called "chit chats" ( the lizards) and I think my mum must have felt the same when she had an amah- we live near Choeng Pang and then in the base- happy days growing up in a totally different world of plenty

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR

      maggs224 

      10 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Wow Candie I am honoured that you have taken the time out to read something that I have written. Thank you for your kind words and for your visit both are a great encouragement to me.

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 

      10 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      OMG..that was great!! Swatting a monitor lizard on the nose.. I am a fan!

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