by Victor Chan
11 Oct 2022
The Chinese proverb says, “If there’s no country, there’s no home”. What does this mean? It means that the country must come first, it must be built first – before the Citizens of the country can build their homes in the country. Today, our country Singapore, is a modern cosmopolitan city built through the hardwork and perseverance of our forefathers. With foresight, planning and careful execution of those plans, modern Singapore was gradually built up from our independence in 1965 to 1980s. As a child, I had many fond memories of the places that my parents brought me to. As I grew older, I saw how our roads were gradually planted with trees along them, our housing estates were beginning to take shape, with flats sprouting like mushrooms and our parks had ponds and playgrounds. The world was soon to call us a Garden City.
When I was a just a boy attending primary school, I could remember that my grandparents and our family was staying next block to one another. This proximity of our two families staying close to each other allowed us to bond easily with our grandparents, aunts and uncles. We often go to grandpa’s home for lunch or dinner whenever we wanted to. My aunts and uncles dotted on us and would often buy story books for us or played chess with us. We were always looking forward to going to our grandparents’ home. Many of our happy memories and moments were lived through during this period of time in the 1970s to 1980s. Across the island of Singapore, the same scenes of families staying in close proximity to each other in the new housing estates, allowed for these families like ours to also bond easily and create lots of memorable moments. Indeed, this is our home where many memories were imprinted in our tender young minds.
At this time period of 1970s to 1980s, Singapore had already implemented her widescale public housing programme where the target was every family will have a roof over their heads. Toa Payoh was the first satellite housing town to be built followed by Ang Mo Kio and Bishan. Elsewhere, around the island other housing estates were also sprouting up in Whampoa, Boon Keng, Aljunied, Eunos, Geylang Serai and Bedok. Public housing flats were soon springing up all over Singapore like mushrooms that sprout up of nowhere after a heavy downpour. I could recall that in 1983, my parents and I shifted into our new HDB flat in Aljunied. We felt a sense of immense pride that we were able to purchase a 4-room HDB flat even though we were not well off. I had my own room and so did my sister. It was a far cry from a tiny 2 room flat where I grew up in during primary school days. Indeed, there is no place like having our own flat, our home.
Singapore was first called a Garden City during the same period of time in the 1970s to 1980s. The main roads in the new housing estates were planted with trees along the road dividers. The roadside pavements too had generous plots catered to planting grass, trees and shrubs. The same landscaping was duplicated across the island in every housing estate. Even in the city centre where the Commercial Business District (CBD) is, there are pockets of greenery splashed all around. The most pleasant journey to the eyes of any tourists that arrive Singapore would be the wide roads that are adorned with large bougainvilla trees on both sides leaving and arriving at Changi Airport. Indeed, it is such a warm welcoming sight not only to tourists but also Singaporeans who are returning home from overseas. In my travelling to so many places around the world, I cannot remember a magnificent scene when leaving or arriving at the airport that is comparable to Changi Airport. Indeed, there is no place like home.
In conclusion, the growth and development of Singapore during the 1970s to 1980s is one which I had personally witnessed and experienced. It was an economic miracle period for Singapore and continued through till the 1990s. The nation was growing up and so were we, those who were born in 1966, just a year after Singapore’s independence from Malaysia. Therefore, for me, it is very true that there is no place like my country, my home Singapore, where I grew up in.