Kampong Potong Pasir


Singapore Memory
Chia, Josephine

I was born & bred in Kampong Potong Pasir. The name of the kampong was derived from the sand quarries that were there from 1910 to 1937. Hence the Malay name, “cut sand”. I was born in 1951 & lived in the kampong till 1970 when the development for HDB flats started.

During the kampong days, we did not have running water & electricity till the late 1960s (for some). As such, we depended a lot on hurricane lamp, carbide lamp & candles, which is why my eye-sight is bad. Only later, did we get use generator to provide us with electricity.

There were no flushing toilets but we had jambans or outhouses with buckets. You even had to plan your visits to toilets well in advance. We used to depend on newsprints as toilet-paper (When wet, it marks your bottom!)

There were plenty of vegetable farms & we normally catch python by baiting it with a goat. Potong Pasir used to experience floods due to the overflowing of the Kallang River & the poor drainage system.

Since young, I had always wanted to be a writer but as I was the first living daughter, my father did not want me to be educated. My mother said she will sell Nonya Kueh & take in neighbours washing to send me to school but I had to help. Some of the text books I used belong to my elder brothers, were so out-of-date! We used to collect books that were thrown out by the English family living at the top of the hill. My first writings involved making my own comics for village children, writing stories and own drawing. I sold comics for 0.5 cents each.I’m grateful to my mother hence wrote Frog Under A Coconut Shell. Without her, I would not be educated or be a writer.

I remembered that Toa Payoh used to have big swamps & mangrove trees before it was developed in 1964. By then, everybody wanted a HDB flat. One of my memorable moments was when I met Mr Lee Kuan Yew during a visit and rally in 1959 & still vivid in my mind was was when I was Mr Lee Kuan Yew weeping on television after separation from Malaysia 1965.

Josephine's story was captured by our Memory Corp during the 2009 Heritage Roadshow. Have a story to tell, share with us at