And our favorite movies … yes, you’ve guessed it – the Wong Fei Hong series starring the Kwan Tak Hing as Wong Fei Hong, Shek Kin as the villain, Cho Tat Wah as one of Wong’s disciples, Leong Foon and the beloved Sai Kwa Pau, the guy with the buck teeth and stammering speech as Ngar Chat So..
The story invariably ends with the villain’s defeat and repentance; but not before having to endure a long sermon from the Master. The early episodes were in black and white of course; but I recall that some of the later episodes had the last segments in colour. I suppose it was due to budget constraint. But nevertheless, my brothers and I had a great time watching these movies.
Our favorite theatre was the South Country Theatre, or Lam Kok （南国), located in Kampong San Teng (Bishan) along Braddell Road near to the new Raffles Junior College. It was an open-air theatre, meaning that if it rains, you need to carry an umbrella. If the rain has stopped, you need to bring your own newspapers to place on the wet wooden benches . I remember the multi-coloured fluorescent tubes bordering the screen, and the occasional lizard crawling across our hero’s face.
I don’t know why, but the songs they played left a deep impression on me. Often the songs were English pop songs sung in dialect. There was one particular song which was simply hilarious. Try to picture it sung in Hokkien to the tune of a popular Harry Belafonte tune.
“Teh-O, Teh-O. Sing Kar Por lang lang ai lim teh-O”
(Translated: All Singaporeans love to drink teh-O)
Another one goes:
“Hey mambo, mambo rock, Chief minister, Lim Yew Hock”
Another theatre that our father liked to bring us to was the Bright Cinema (光明) at Paya Lebar Road. After the show, we would adjourn to Lorong Tai Seng for the delicious herbal mutton soup. To this day, my brother David cannot resist this delightful dish in spite of the high cholesterol content. Sometimes, we would tar-pow the fried hor fun from a stall along Paya Lebar Rd. I remember this fat chef who liked to clean his wok with some kind of bamboo brush. To this day, whenever I smell the aroma of fried hor fun, I think of him and his big round ladle. Ah; the glorious food – this topic deserves a separate blog.
Other theatres we frequented, though less often were the Imperial Cinema at Thomson Road, near to the present community club near to the SPC petrol station; and one at Macpherson Road. I cannot remember the name but we saw the Walt Disney cartoon, The Sleeping Beauty there.
Later, during our secondary school days, my brother David and I liked to go from our school at ACS Barker Road to Hoover Cinema at Balestier Road. We saw countless Shaw Brothers kung fu movies there. Then there was the Paramount Theatre in Seranggoon Gardens, where we watched many Hercules movies starring Steve Reeves. Once we brought our cousin from Johor Bahru, Meng to watch this incredibly boring movie (supposed to be Japanese samurai movie with lots of action; you know, the type where the hero defeats 5 or 6 baddies by wildly swing his samurai sword, and at the end of the fight scene, everyone remains frozen for a few seconds before the bad guys drop dead one by one.). The title was, The Purple Hood. Years later when I visited our cousin in Kuala Lumpur, he could still recall with fondness this horrible movie.
The advent of television brought a whole new world of entertainment for us kampong kids. I remember this rich and generous family in our kampong who bought the first tv set. They actually placed the tv outside their house for the neighbours to enjoy. Every night, we brought along stools to watch from their front yard right until the Majullah Singapura. My favorite programme was Everglades. Other shows we loved were Rin Tin Tin and Lassie.