12 months ago | Updated 12 months ago

8 Nostalgic Things In Your SG Neighbourhood That Will Hit You Right In The Feels

By Sherryl Cheong

Singapore has come a long way since its days as a fishing village. Industrialisation and modernity have changed Singaporeans’ lives and the neighbourhoods that we live in are so different from before.

There are sights that used to be rampant in Singapore but can no longer be easily found anymore. Here are eight nostalgic things that you may find in your neighbourhood that will hit you right in the feels. Sit tight and get ready for a blast from the past.

1. Concrete & Sand Playground

Dragon Playground at Toa Payoh Lorong 6

They don’t make playgrounds like this anymore. With a higher number of overprotective parents and playground accidents, it is no surprise that this is one of the few concrete and sand playgrounds left on our sunny island for they have been replaced by tamer playgrounds with rubber flooring.

Thrilling concrete and sand playgrounds represent childhood free-spiritedness, where a few scrapes didn’t matter to the children (and their parents) as long as everyone was having a whale of a time.

2. Ice Cream Man

I would always scramble downstairs from my block whenever I heard the ice cream man ringing his bell. The ice cream can be served in either a cone or a cup.

The crowd favourite is when the ice cream is sandwiched between two biscuits or a slice of rainbow bread, the Singaporean-style! Raspberry swirl, mint chocolate chip and durian are some of the favourite flavours enjoyed by customers.

In the past, the ice cream cart was commonly found in neighbourhoods but nowadays, you will probably only catch them at popular tourist spots because it is most profitable in those areas. Hands up if you wish that there were more ice cream carts in the heartlands like before.

3. Roadside Newspaper Seller

Roadside newspaper sellers can usually be found near an MRT station, hawker centre or bus stop. Unlike newspaper sellers in the early 20th century, they do not aggressively tout their wares. They do continue to pass newspapers to vehicles who are in a hurry.

Roadside newspaper sellers have expanded their merchandise and now even offer your favourite magazines. This trade has definitely suffered with the rise of technology as digital content is readily available at our fingertips. They now count on customers who still value possessing physical copies of the latest news.

4. Street Cobbler

Whenever the soles of my shoes fall out, I have no fear, for the street cobbler in my neighbourhood will save the day. He is a reliable uncle that is always by his spot under a HDB, be it rain or shine.

Street cobblers work swiftly as their customers usually return to retrieve their shoes after an hour or so. The fees may be low but the service is certainly top-notch. They usually work from morning to early afternoons so be sure to catch them before they retire for the day.

5. Mama Shop

The mama shop is the first place you think of when you’re at home and suddenly craving for ice cream or anything else, really. They are commonly situated at void decks and are stocked with household provisions as well as toys for children.

“Mama” is Tamil for uncle or elder and the reason for its name is because mama shops are traditionally owned and operated by Indians.

6. Street Barber

Way back when, people didn’t go to Golden Rule for a trendy haircut. Street barbers were the godfathers of hipsters back in the day. Settling each customer down before powdering them up, holding straight razors a certain way, and maintaining their tools in a timeless fashion.

In the past, most street barbers offered face cleansing and ear-cleaning services as well. There are still street barbers that continue to provide these extra services so if you dig it, it’s time to hit the streets.

7. Bird-Singing Corners

With new parks sprouting up every so often, there’s no lack of places for nature-junkies and hiking enthusiasts to explore next. Sadly, avian-lovers in Singapore can’t say the same as bird-singing corners are becoming a rare sight in our neighbourhoods.

Back in the day, uncles whistling endearingly along to the tunes of their feathery friends was something I came home to every evening but I guess this is yet another old school hobby that’s been lost in time.

8. Karung Guni

Credit | Karung Guni Woman

My grandmother’s favourite threat would be to sell me to the Karung Guni man when I was being too mischievous.

With their horns blaring and repeated calls for unwanted items in Hokkien, you’re bound to know when a Karung Guni is in the vicinity. “Karung Guni” means “gunny sack” in Malay and it was used to contain the newspapers collected by these rag-and-bone folk.

Continue to support the Karung Guni trade in Singapore by selling your old computers, television sets and newspapers to them.

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Let’s be careful not to romanticise the past while indulging in nostalgia. However, there is much beauty in our neighbourhoods that goes unnoticed because we’re either on our gadgets or too preoccupied to care.

These nostalgic things are definitely a part of that so keep a lookout for them before they disappear for good. Are there any other things in your neighbourhood that remind you of the past that our bustling global city has left behind? Let us know in the comments below!

Sherryl Cheong

"My dream is to walk around the world. A smallish backpack, all essentials neatly in place. A camera. A notebook. A traveling paint set. A hat. Good shoes. A nice pleated skirt for the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance." — Maira Kalman | @wildfxiry