Monday, March 22, 2010

From dirty kampung to clean HDB flats

WHEN Bedok resident Betty Wong, 59, moved into the housing estate some 30 years ago, she was wowed by the project's orderliness and convenience.

'At that time we were very poor, so we were very excited to move into government flats,' Madam Wong said, describing how her family had to draw water from a well, burn firewood, and even go through other people's used charcoal for usable lumps.

'It was so clean - not like the kampung we used to live in, which was dirty and always had a lot of mosquitoes,' Madam Wong, an office tea lady, marvelled.

Previously, she and her nine siblings lived in a Changi kampung, then moved to a village in Bedok Road near the present-day Bedok Food Centre.

Their father was a cook for British colonial residents, while their mother did laundry and ironing.
Built in 1971, the Bedok housing estate gets its name from the bedoh, the slit-drum used to call Muslims to mosques for prayers.

The fishing village that was once there, as well as a coconut plantation at Siglap, were cleared in 1965 to make way for the government housing project.

Today, Bedok is one of Singapore's largest housing estates, covering more than 2,000ha.

Its 59,000 flats are home to some 200,000 residents, many of whom were at a Housing Board exhibition next to Eunos MRT station yesterday to mark the housing agency's 50th anniversary.

Madam Wong, her sister Wong Cheng Hee, 71, and her brother-in-law Yeo Sim Poh, 76, were among them.
They listened as the guest of honour, Senior Minister S. Jayakumar (East Coast GRC), spoke of the history of Eunos, Bedok and Marine Parade.

And they took a quiz on the history of the East Coast area, with questions like 'Which is the first housing estate to be built on reclaimed land?' (The answer: Marine Parade).

Today, most of the Wong sisters' family members still live in the Bedok area.

'When we moved in, my mother lived on the 14th floor, my brother was on the 17th floor, and my sister was on the 12th floor - the whole family was living under one roof,' the older Madam Wong, a housewife, said.
She and her husband have lived in the same 10th-floor, three-room flat in Bedok North for three decades, while her married daughter lives near Tanah Merah.

Both the Wong sisters said they worried about the rising cost of housing affecting their children's ability to buy flats.

But they like the facilities and amenities for the housing estate's elderly population, such as wheelchair ramps at kerbs.

The HDB's travelling exhibition to mark its 50th anniversary will be on display opposite Bishan MRT station from April 16-18, Choa Chu Kang MRT station from May 21-23, Woodlands MRT station from June 18-20, and opposite Tampines MRT station from July 23-25.

Source, Straits Times 23 March 2010

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