Review: Singapore in the 60s by James Suresh and Syed Ismail

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Singapore in the 60s is a picture book on how life was like during the rapid urbanisation during the 1950s, right after World War II. The pictures are charming cartoon illustrations drawn by Syed Ismail, and recollection of stories were written by James Suresh.

I was born in 1981. Many of places and practices were already gone or being phased out when I was kid.

Despite the book’s light hearted tone, this is an important book. If you are born in the 90s, you probably won’t experience any of what’s shown in the book, and you probably won’t learn about all these trivial aspects of life from history books in school. Yet, these are the stories that people will remember because they actually grew up in them.

You can only see traces of old Singapore today, mostly in the form of preserved colonial buildings, shophouses or other buildings with significance. This book will show you so much more. A wave of nostalgia swept through me as I when through the stories, the history even though I’ve not personally experience them myself. I can only imagine what life was like back then, and this book provided a nice window back into the past.

The book’s a 220-page paperback published by Asiapac Books in 2015. This book can actually be considered a prequel to On a Street in Singapore (2010) which features a more modern Singapore with the newer tourist attractions. Both are great books and should be read together to really get a real sense of Singapore.

There are six chapters in this book, namely:

  1. My Neighbourhood – The High-rise Kampong
  2. Traveling Hawkers and Tradersmen
  3. Recreation in the 60s
  4. Significant Events and Memorable Experiences
  5. Public Services and Amenities
  6. Icons of the 60s – Past and Present

If you’re experienced any of what’s written in this book, I’m sure you’ll relive those memories fondly. I remembered my parents bringing me to the traveling amusement parks even though we weren’t rich enough to play any of the games there, and had to look at others play or just admire the flashing bright neon lights. I could also remember stepping on wooden planks placed on the grass to prevent people’s feet from getting wet from the muddy ground after a rain. By the 90s, these traveling amusement parks were gone.

Reading and looking at the different forms of recreation kids had actually made me feel a bit sad. Almost all forms of old recreation have disappear and being replaced with gaming on the phone, checking social media. Nowadays you probably can’t even climb a tree without infringing some laws or have people take videos of you and sharing that online just to earn a few likes that have no meaning at all.

This is a great book I can recommend to anyone living in Singapore It’s priced at SGD 18 so it’s really worth the money. This book and the earlier one are available in the library too so even if you don’t want to buy them, at least borrow them from the library. If you’re born in Singapore, you deserve to know more about Singapore than just the shopping centres and generic HDB flats that we see everyday.

5 out of 5 stars.

You can get the book from Asiapac Books at
https://asiapacbooks.com/products/singapore-in-the-60s

Do check out the other books I’ve reviewed from Asiapac at https://www.parkablogs.com/tags/asiapac

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Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.

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Source: parkablogs.com

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