Sometimes – Childhood in Cuppage Road


I am currently reading Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence and there is this chapter where all the sentences start with the word ‘Sometimes’, to describe what the protagonist had experienced when he is in this particular house.

As a would be writer, I thought I would try this as well and shall write what I remember from my childhood living in my Grandma’s terrace at 33, Cuppage Road until I was seven. Hope you enjoy reading this.

Ice Kachang- photo from hesheloves.blogspot.com

Sometimes I ran out as soon as I heard the ice-cream man’s bell, with the ten-cent coin clasped in my tiny palm, given by Granny, to buy the ice stick in my favourite orange flavour. Sometimes we moved the green wooden bench to the front gate to wait for him. Sometimes we squatted by the drain to eat our ice-creams so that the drips did not dirty the pavement where we ran barefooted. Sometimes I chose instead to buy kachang puteh from the Indian man, dressed in his white sarong, who carried his goods atop his head. Sometimes we compete to see who can jump over the big longkang (drain). Sometimes it rained and the water from the drain in front of the house would rise and suddenly we had a stream of muddy water instead of a road. Sometimes we walked a long distance to the kopitiam to buy roti prata from a man in a window. Sometimes we brought our own eggs to save cost.  Sometimes I played with the neighbours’ kids in the back lane, below bamboos of hanging laundry. Sometimes we were told not to play below bamboos of hanging laundry if we want to grow tall. Sometimes I wondered what is inside that big formidable row of walls and windows behind the our row of terrace house the adults called ‘Cold’s Storage’. Sometimes I got to stay up late and saw my grandfather close and bolt the twin windows after the final telecast of Radiffusion. Sometimes I sat patiently in front of the TV at 2.55pm to watch the hands on clock face on TV inched slowly towards 3pm for the start of the day’s telecast. Sometimes an adult brought me to the Magnolia Bar for ice-cream where I love the smell of the creamery. Sometimes, I tried very hard to hold back a cough after eating ice-kachang in case the adult wouldn’t let me finish the rest. Sometimes my aunt G agreed after much cajoling to play masak masak with us which she would play the grandmother, sick in bed and not do anything while we served her. Sometimes I went to the market where my grandfather and uncle ran a chicken stall and watched in horror as my uncle slit a chicken’s throat before throwing the still moving chicken into a bin. Sometimes during the tour of the market, I would be pinched and cuddled by strangers I did not know. Sometimes I played Hopscotch barefoot in the back lane, only to be warned by my aunt that my parents, who did not like me to be barefooted, were here. Sometimes I thought she was teasing and ignored her, only to be scolded by my father later. Sometimes I would be given a toy and my aunt S and I would fight over it. Sometimes that angered my Grandma who would then take the toy and throw it away. Sometimes I was made to sit with my mother and do homework, which I hated. Sometimes Grandma put tonic from a dark blue-bottle on my long hair which cooled my scalp before she braided it. Sometimes I sat on my Grandma’s dressing table to try all her creams and powders on my face. Sometimes I tried unsuccessfully to open my uncle’s Old Spice bottle. Sometimes we played cards with money, sometimes with melon seeds. Sometimes I wished my parents didn’t bring me home every Friday night. Sometimes my uncle would swing me in the air when he caught sight of me. Sometimes we would go for a drive in my uncle’s red Mini Cooper. Sometimes we wandered to the end of the road to view the desserted Coconut Grove Bar with awe. Sometimes we walked from the first house to the last and wondered why the moon was following us. Sometimes there was a stage in front of our house and we played under the stilts. Sometimes we watched the actresses paint their faces behind the curtains. Sometimes one would put on a lipstick for me. Sometimes, I requested that my neighbour show me the peek hole from her second floor bedroom floor where we could view who was at the front door downstairs. Sometimes I wished Grandma has a peek hole on her second storey flooring. Sometimes I put my head in between the stairs banister and it got stuck. Sometimes my grandfather napped on his rattan lounger after he returned from the market, where at the foot of the lounger, he could close up the two bars to rest his legs. Sometimes I sat on the rattan lounger and used the bars as my oars for my imaginary boat. Sometime Grandfather and Uncle returned from the market with blood splattered shirt. Sometimes I listened in with my aunt as she recorded the American Top 40  hosted by Kasey Kasem on Raddifusion. Sometimes we watched chinese variety show花月良宵 on Friday nights. Sometimes I heard the adults gossip about how singer Ai Li became mad from straightening her front teeth. Sometimes the opposite neighbour lighted up strings of fire-crackers at midnight during Chinese New Year and the cracks and booms excited me. Sometimes Grandma returned from the hairdresser in a bad mood and complained loudly about her bad hairdo. Sometimes I played with the dialing phone and talked to the stranger at the other end. Sometimes a stranger would come in the back door and requested to use our toilet. Sometimes a large spider appeared on the wall and scared everyone. Sometimes my aunt E played teacher to us and used a chalk to write on the black cupboard in the dining room. Sometimes I wished I could take out Grandma’s collection of porcelain dolls and dogs from the display cupboard to play. Sometimes I heard the antique table clock in the hall chimed the hour but most times I didn’t. Sometimes we ate our meals on the marble round table by the window and rarely did we eat on the sky-blue stripped formica table. Sometimes my mother’s boss from Mobil Mr and Mrs Michaels visited my grandparents. Sometimes my aunt asked me who I love more, my father or my mother and I didn’t know how to answer her. Sometimes I sat at the desk by the window to play with my grandfather’s abacus. Sometimes I heard Grandma scolding my aunts for buying rojak, which she considered toxic. Sometimes Uncle bought mussels hokkien noddles for late night supper and it was delicious.

Sometimes it’s the little things in my childhood that sticks and only now do I realise how much fun I had.

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About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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6 Responses to Sometimes – Childhood in Cuppage Road

  1. Jinhee Kim says:

    I like this. With your wonderful story and the word, ‘sometimes’, I can keep traveling back to your childhood, none of which is actually close to mine. I happen to find your blog here while searching ‘accomodation in furano’. To me, it’s an interesting coincidence as I start travelling from Singapore to Hokkaido and more interestingly I am also a would be writer. Good luck for your dream ! Enjoyed reading your article on Korean Drama. (I’m Korean ^^)

    • vickychong says:

      Thank you for your kind comment. I hope you have a good time in Furano. Try my hotel, Natulux Hotel. I love all things Korean and hope to go to Korea again.

  2. Wah! Paragraph so long ah! 一下子喘不过气来!

  3. P.T. Wong says:

    Hi, Ms Vicky Chong
    Warmest greetings !
    I am delighted to have chanced upon this piece of very lovely writing of yours “Sometimes –
    Childhood in Cuppage Road”, not only because I think you wrote it really beautifully and have amply manifested that you are a fine writer, not a would-be one as you humbly described yourself but also because I hailed from and grew up in the same area near Cuppage Road and can relate to the places you mentioned in your writing.

    You have rekindled my fond memories
    I was born in Cavenagh Road, which was off Orchard Road and very near to Cuppage Road and Koek Road, and spent my childhood and teenage years there. Cuppage Road and its vicinity were part of the “territory” where my play-pals and I roamed about and pursued our boyish interests.
    The Orchard Road market, where your grandfather and uncle ran a chicken stall, was one of the prominent landmarks in the area, as well as the Cold Storage and the Magnolia Milk Bar next to it. We would fantasise about the day when we might treat a girl friend to the expensive ice-cream and milk-shake at the Magnolia Bar where the passers-bar or some envious friends could see us through its glass façade.
    Probably I had seen your grandfather in the market, for I was often asked by my mother to buy foodstuff from the stalls inside the Orchard Road market and I knew virtually every corner inside the market. I remembered there was a large weighing scale and next to it were stalls selling chickens and where chickens were slaughtered; probably one of them was your grandfather’s.

    I guess you know the family members of Chun Kee, the wealthiest fish merchant operating in the Orchard Road Market, at No. 38 Cuppage Road. I played for the basketball team sponsored by it during my teenage years and the place where we practised and played matches was Chao Yang School, which was a stone’s throw away from Cuppage Road at Clemenceau Avenue.

    One of my team-mates lived at No. 21 or No. 24 of Cuppage Road. Probably you know some of his family members (the Gohs, who are Teochew). The children, like my team-mate, were well brought up and became teachers, banker, industrialist and the like.

    I believe you remember the mid-wife who lived in Cuppage Road and who delivered many of the babies in the area. She would often be seen carrying with her an iron basin – on the way to deliver another baby or back from bathing a new-born. One of her sons Mr Choo was an English teacher in my secondary schoo,l the Chinese High School. Another son of hers liked to play the guitar and could be seen on most days outside his house strumming on one and singing with his friends – free entertainment for the passers-by and the neighbours and probably a nuisance to some others.

    As kids and teenagers, my pals and I did not wander into the huge compound of The Coconut Grove Bar, even though we went past the place several times a day on the way to play basketball at Chao Yang School. We knew it was a place mainly for the “red-haired ghosts” (Westerners). A classmate of mine in primary school by the surname of Choo lived inside the compound. His elder sister also attended the same school. It seemed that their parents were somehow associated with the business. I wonder whether you know or remember them.

    As the lyrics of Mary Hopkin’s signature song go, “Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end….”, my heart is filled with nostalgia. Thank you.

    All the best.
    P. Wong

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