Superhero (Part 2)

As mentioned in Part 1,  my dad worked at Bank of America (BOA) in Singapore in 1970s. He started as a storekeeper for their 2 large godowns (warehouses) which were huge structures overlooking the Kallang River. The BOA was already advertising their presence as they painted huge words in front of each godown with “Bank of America Godown 1” and the other Godown 2, of course. You could see it clearly from afar when going along the stretch of road or if you were at the river area. Perhaps BOA did not intend to advertise but make it obvious for the delivery trucks to have no excuse of locating them.

As a storekeeper, my dad had to ensure the goods were placed systematically in the godown (which I will refer to as the warehouse from now on). It was just a large empty space like several basketball courts with a very high ceiling. I believe he would decide where the gunny sacks of spices would go and where the bales of cloth should be positioned and there were other goods as well. He would also need to know when the trucks would deliver or collect the goods so that the organisation would make it efficient for storage and removal of these goods.

You may wonder how I would be able to perceive this when my dad never really shared with me about his work. I was also too young for him to tell me such stuff. Well, my dad had to look after me during the school holidays and to keep me out of trouble (i guess) he brought me along to his work place which was the warehouse.

Some of you may squeal hearing this as why would anyone bring a little girl to a huge warehouse filled with heavy stuff and there would be trucks moving heavy stuff in and out as well. I never thought there was any danger at all and in fact, I considered the warehouse as one of my favourite playgrounds at par with my kampung (village). I recalled jumping from one stack of gunny sack to another and when I found any that had a tear causing the contents to come out, I would quickly scoop up spices such as cloves of garlic, dried chilli, star anise, cinnamon, etc, put them in a bag to bring it back to the kampung to share. My dad allowed me to do that as it would help clear up the mess from these `leaking’ sacks. I would load it in his favourite car (volkswagon beetle seen with him in the photo below) which he had for many good years.

Dad with Beetle (2)

My Dad with his trusty Volkwagon Beetle

As I mentioned earlier, there were bales of cloth too and my dad would bring back some that were left behind. Most of these cloths were for furniture upholstery or curtains and if there were any that was actually good for human attire, it did not make it to my wardrobe. My mom was not one who would waste these cloths so she would get a seamstress to make cushion covers, curtains and of course the good cloths would be for dresses for her or my sister. I refused to wear one so my mom decided to let the leftover tougher cloths meant for curtains to be my pants or blouse! You can see a specimen of this in the following photo where I was wearing one of such pants and it seemed that I was not too happy too 🙂

Parents and 2 girls

It is pretty obvious who is the Peanut fan.

So my dad allowed me to do whatever with the spices which brought delight to my grandma and my neighbours who all loved to cook and he would please my mom with the bales of cloth for her to go to the seamstress to come up with the latest trends for that season but little did she know that she had set a trend for me to have quite a weird taste for colors and clothes in my later years too… but maybe not. My dad chose lime green as the color of the volkswagon and it made quite a stir at the kampung and on the roads at that time. It attracted lots of attention whenever he drives it around and I think there were no other car like his in Singapore then 🙂

I was and still am proud of my dad for giving me such an interesting and amazing childhood that was filled with so much fun and adventure. When you read any posts on my childhood adventures or my growing up years, you need to remember who my superhero was and always will be.

Dad's 60th BD2 (2)

Dad’s 60th Birthday (1987)

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Superhero (Part 1)

In 1970s,  my dad was working for Bank of America which had its foothold in Singapore at that time. No he was not a big time banker or officer. He was given a job at the warehouse which they called a godown and he was a storekeeper. It sounded like a humble position for a man who had served in the British Army based in Singapore post World War 2 (WWII). In the army he was a Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) and had a colorful career which included being a champion batam weight boxer in the region’s army.

Dad as boxer

My dad as a boxer

Dad in Army

My dad was also a mechanic in the British army

Let’s take a step further back and you will see my dad as an errand boy for the Japanese soldiers occupying Singapore during WWII. Those were really cruel and hard times in Singapore where people of my parents era (born in the 1920s and 1930s) were dealt a cruel blow in life. In order to survive, my dad was made to do errands like cooking, cleaning and playing the piano for the Japanese officers at their residence.

Yes, you heard it, play the piano and my dad had no formal training on piano or any musical instrument as he was around 12 to 14 years old and was not able to continue school due to the war. The Japanese seemed desperate to hear their local music or songs and there were pianos around, so they had a Japanese music teacher summoned to teach my dad to play their songs on the piano. I cannot fully imagine what my dad went through then but the little he shared with me, I was stumped. He was asked to look at how the teacher played and then follow his fingering over the piano and the tune that he played.  It was not a single handed kind of piano playing but what I heard and saw my dad’s playing the piano while I was growing up, it was no different from the professionals. He mentioned that the teacher would turn off the lights and asked him to play the tune. If he faltered, he would be hit on the hands with what I believe was their kendo stick (a kind of wooden sword).

During my childhood days, my dad would play these tunes which were absolutely foreign to all of us but my family and our kampung (village) had the privilege of hearing him play the piano in the evenings when he comes home from work. I believe the tunes were famous Japanese love or classic songs of that time and they were lovely and soothing to our ears. I can imagine how frequent he had to play for that two to three years as the errand boy due to the comfort his piano playing brought to the soldiers. He must have been good to survive that period.

Although he could not read music notes, my dad was able to improvise playing other songs purely by hearing. I think I must have inherited his hearing skills which I will share in future posts 🙂 but more about my superhero to be continued.