Sporting icons, home temples and a little mamak shop: Pek Kio comes alive with new heritage trail
Former Pek Kio residents Alexandre Chin and Harry Loh share one common memory of the quiet neighbourhood: renting and reading comics at S.S. Mydeen, a hole-in-the-wall mamak shop.
The store in Truro Road at the junction of Dorset Road was started in 1958.
It was once well stocked with all kinds of publications, from comics to magazines to newspapers.
It was there that the two men, who hail from different generations, spent long afternoons in the magical world of superheroes and gongfu fighters.
“There were about six or seven other such shops in the estate previously. Today, this is the only one left,” said Mr Chin, 52. The librarian is now a Sengkang resident.
Mr Loh, a 74-year-old retired manager who now lives in Seletar, recalled: “For the children here, this was the world where you could get anything.” There were also snacks and drinks for sale to satisfy their cravings.
Holding a packet of sour plums that is among his nostalgic offerings, the store’s second-generation owner, Mr Mohamed Ishak, said: “I still sell many tidbits and drinks, but I don’t stock books and magazines any more as there is no demand now.”
His humble store is one of the highlights of a new heritage trail by My Community, a non-profit organisation (NGO) that champions community heritage.
Both Mr Loh and Mr Chin will be volunteer guides for the three-hour My Pek Kio Heritage Tour, the 15th trail offered by the NGO.
Mr Kwek Li Yong, 34, co-founder and president of My Community, told The Straits Times that each tour group can take up to 30 participants. There are about 30 tours each month, or around 900 participants – both locals and tourists.
“Every community has a story to tell,” he said. “Through guided walks in our heartland, we wish to celebrate the endearing story of the common man and connect people to the places and practices.”
Pek Kio literally translates to “white bridge” in Hokkien, referring to the two white bridges that used to span Kampong Java Canal.
The neighbourhood – which includes Farrer Park – was once the sports hub of Singapore.
The Singapore Sporting Club, formed in 1842 by horse racing enthusiasts, obtained permission to use the Farrer Park site for horse racing, leading to the establishment of the Singapore Race Course in 1843.
The Royal Singapore Golf Club was set up in 1891 at the Singapore Sporting Club.
Pek Kio also housed the Farrer Park Athletic Centre, which opened in 1956 and featured a stadium with a seven-lane running track, fields, tennis courts, and later, a swimming pool.
Many national sporting icons including swimmer Ang Peng Siong and footballer Quah Kim Song trained in Pek Kio.
The tour will follow in the footsteps of the English settlers who transformed the quiet neighbourhood into a “Little England”, with road names such as Norfolk, Durham and Owen.
Several home temples have also stood the test of time.
Mr Lam Peng Kay, 70, owns one such temple in Sing Joo Walk which hosts several Taoist deities. It was started in 1969 on the first level of his two-storey house.
“Pek Kio is very accessible,” he said. “Worshippers still come all the way from Jurong and Woodlands.”
“I was drinking coffee at the nearby coffee shop when I heard a loud rumble and saw the building collapse,” he said. “I dropped everything and fled.”
My Pek Kio Heritage Tour will be held every first Saturday and Sunday of the month, from 8.30am to 11.30am. Sign up for the free tours at www.mycommunity.org.sg