Bedok Corner Village where I grew up


Ronald Ho
Ronald Ho

I was born in 1947 at Bedok corner in an attap house behind Bedok Rest House. Right at the almost 90 degree corner, a lane led from the main road past the coffee shops on the left and the car park belonging to Bedok Rest House on the right to a village we called Bedok Village. Some houses or bungalows, including one which belonged to the Sultan of Pahang, had their front door facing the sea and their back door facing the lane. The Chinese occupied most of the houses near the main road but further inside next to the Bedok River which now is a canal was  a Malay kampong. Hence, it was natural for the villagers to speak each other's language. For me, it was the best days of my life living in Bedok Village. We were poor and we owned nothing of luxury but we led a most colourful childhood. From rummaging through the rubbish dump looking for toys which PWD had created while trying to cover the tributary of the Bedok River to climbing trees searching for fruits, and from swimming in the Bedok River to attempting to swim in the sand mines at Koh Sek Lim Road, our afternoons were never lonely or dull. But what I miss most, even today, is the Bedok Beach which was like 100 yards from my house. The beach stretched from Bedok to Changi Point to the left and to Tanjong Rhu to the right. It was a beach which provided us food during low tides and provided us fun during high tides. Right next to Bedok  Rest House on the right when facing the sea were two abandoned British built gun turret shelters which provided us a place we could  camp in, build camp fires and call it our headquarters. Between 1955 to 1965, it was the best ten years of my life. When the tide was low, the water would recede at least 100 yards out and we would walk barefoot with a sharp stick or spear to nab the crabs, dig out the clams and to pick the odd shellfish which made the beach its home. At the sand bank, we would use our feet to dig for yellow clams which the Malays call kepa gading. We had to watch our feet when walking in knee deep waters to avoid stepping on a fan like clam around 8 - 10 inches in length as they laid embedded within the sand with their sharp edge sticking out. Malays call them beliong. Clam shells came in various shapes and sizes and mostly are edible. In 1960, there was a unique harvest of cin-ting, a very thin flat clam shell with meat in between two plate like flat shells. We collected nearly 20 guni sacks of cin-ting and we spent two days removing the meat from the shell, and placed them in bottles. My mother put in uncooked rice to create the fermentation process. We called the product assam cin-ting. Being a peranakan, we knew how to harvest the sea for food. The assam cin-ting brought the family a good cash income. It was a bonus as we were very poor. During our beach combing, we would uncover many unspent bullets. The shells were mostly corroded but we could remove the plastic cords filled with gun-powder. When dried out, these could be lit like a fuse.  We used them to destroy ant nests. The bullet heads were removed and kept. We polished them, and the skin being nickel, they shone like silver bullets - like in the Lone Ranger movie. There were 0.303 bullets and machine gun bullets which were larger. The sea contained thousands of these WW2 collectibles. During high tide, the sea was our playground and although we had to remove jelly fish, puffer fish, star fish from the sea to enable us to swim with less danger, it was a period of fun. But in 1960, we saw lorries coming to dump red mud soil into the sea starting from the area which is now Bedok camp and after one year, they had not only created a huge reclaimed land in the sea measuring 1/4 of a mile into the sea and one mile in the direction of Upper East Road to the bungalow area in front of the Chinese cemetery on the hill which we called Pang Suah Kia. A year later, they took away the two gun turret shelters. The company doing the reclamation was  Obayashi-gumi from Japan. We learnt later the soil came from Chai Chee hills. They later built a conveyor belt transporting soil all the way from Chai Chee to East Coast Beach. The reclaimed land was left to settle down perhaps as an experimentation on reclamation. But for me, my low tide hunting ground was forever gone. By the time I moved to Lorong Marzuki on August 9, 1965, the day we became a nation, the reclamation had continued engulfing the beaches at Siglap, Katong and marching towards Tanjong Katong. Today, I can  daresay, no other beach, not even at Pulau Ubin or Kranji can match the beauty, the fun and the experience of Bedok Beach. If I can sum up our nation's progress, I would say the destruction of our East Coast Beach was a heavy price we paid.