Sunday, December 01, 2013

Bang, bang!

Yesterday (Saturday), a group of friends stayed behind to chat after helping a couple to move to their "new" home.
It is generally considered a happy milestone for Asian immigrants to "own" (i.e. pay mortgage) for the roof over our heads. For around half-a-million, it was a nice 2-storied duplex with (IMHO) enough living space for 2 families.
Somewhere along the way, we talked about the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". ZS the neurologist amongst us had always been interested in memory -- how it functioned and how it was stored -- which lead him to specialize in neurology, albeit his current research is not related to the memory functions of the brain.


Anyway, combined with Friday's indoor shooting session, it made me think about the current assumptions on childhood amnesia and how it may possibly lead to under-treatment of childhood PTSD.


For decades, I have had a recurring dream whereby I was with my older sister (as toddlers) and an adult (possibly an aunt). For some reason, we were squatting in a small alcove created by the concrete sides of the letterbox-mount and metre-tall concrete fully-covered banister and balusters*. In the dream, there was a sense that we were hiding from "bad people" [坏人] who would make use of us toddlers in their evil plots if we were found. After waiting for a while, my aunt decided to check if her friend who lives a unit away was home, as my grandparents' unit was too far down the block. My aunt cautioned us to remain in our hideout and await for her return. My sister said something to me about keeping quiet, and I responded that I understood by making a gun (thumbs up, index finger pointing straight, with other fingers bent) with my hand and mouthed-silently, "Bang, bang!"

[2013 photo of Blk 178 and 177 Toa Payoh Central
*Those who have passed through the "tunnels" (painted with orange strips in the photo above) of Toa Payoh Central apartment blocks would probably understand what I'm talking about.
Sometimes I would wake up at this point in the dream with my heart thumping quickly. Sometimes I would continue to dream on and the "next episode" in the dream would appear. We were now in a "friend's home", i.e. a 2nd or 3rd floor unit of that apartment block. The adults were awaiting anxiously for news that "all's clear". In order to hide their fear and to calm the children down, the adults plied us with yummy sweet warm drinks and a choice delicious cookies. [IIRC, the drinks were Milo, Ovaltine or Horlicks and the cookies were the delicious Kjeldsens Danish butter cookies.] The adults did not even dared to open the windows for fear of attracting the attention of the "bad people" [坏人] and/or stray bullets flying through the window. We kids were also told to stay away from the windows and the door. Eventually, "all's clear" was declared and everyone seemed relieved -- everyone except me. While my heart was no longer thumping, the fear just did not go away.

"It's just a dream", I would coax myself upon waking up, "Everyone gets nightmares of being chased by bad people sometimes."


One interesting thing that I noticed (as a child) one Chinese New Year was that I had suddenly grown frightened by the loud thumping of the drums during the Lion Dance performances. I have vague memories of previously enjoying those festive performances, so I could not understand that new found fear. In fact, even other loud and sudden "bangs" like the bursting of balloons would make me jump.  I concluded that, too bad, I just grew up to be a Scaredy Cat and tried my best to hide my fears, especially in social settings to avoid being teased.


One day in 2006 after I got my driver's licence, I was speaking with my older sister on a long-distance call. I remarked how nice it was that, "Now that I have a driver's licence, I no longer have the dream* whereby I was chased by bad people and I found a car (escape vehicle) but I could not use it because I did not know how to drive."
[*Note: That is another recurring dream that I had.]
My elder sister went, "Oh, we were ever running away from robbers before."

I was totally surprised, "Is that so?"

My sister replied in affirmative. We were toddlers strolling around with our aunt at Toa Payoh "New Town" -- at that time it was a newly built satellite-town, when suddenly there was a robbery at a goldsmith shop nearby. Our aunt took us through a "staircase tunnel", crossed the carpark to hide in a "staircase tunnel" of the opposite apartment block. She followed with, "You even made a gun with your fingers and mouthed 'Bang, bang!' Don't you remember?"

I replied hesitantly, "No... Yes... I thought it was just a dream."

But then, my sister proceeded to tell me pretty much the contents of my recurring dream (see above). 

So I went to the public library and researched the newspaper archives. There were 2 goldsmith robbery in the early days of Toa Payoh New Town. [See appendix below.] Based on the dates given, I was only around 2 years-old when the events happened, yet the memories were seared into my brain and returned to me via my subconscious mind (i.e. in my dream state) through the decades. Up until our fateful conversation in year 2006, no one in my family mentioned about that scary event in my young life. Thanks to my older sister for solving this mystery, I no longer have that recurring dream anymore since.



Five armed men took only 3 minutes to grab $10K worth of jewellery from a goldsmith's shop in Toa Payoh Central this afternoon.

The robbers, 4 armed with parangs and one with an axe, walked into Ban Loong Goldsmiths in Blk 185 shortly after 3:30pm.

They herded 3 sisters of the owner and a male employee to the side of the shop and warned them not to make any noise.

While 4 of the men stood guard over them, the 5th with the axe smashed the showcases.

They were scooping jewellery into a paperbag, when the owner Mr Chia Kia Gin, 28, who heard the commotion from the rear, pressed the alarm bell.

The robbers panicked, ran out and escapted in a green car pared at the rear of the shop with a 6th man at the wheels.

Later tonight, police said they were uncertain whether the car was a Morris or Austin 1100. Its number plate was SK 8122. They appealed to those seeing a car with the number plate to contact them.

Mr Chia said he was at the rear when he heard the noise of smashing glass.

"I peeped out and saw the robbers holding up my sisters and employee."


$200,000 double by gangs
- Gerry de Silva, N.G. Kutty

Goldsmith shop and a factory robbed

Armed robbers got away with nearly $200,000 in cash and jewellery in 2 hold-ups just before lunchtime yesterday.

Some 300 girl workers of Atlas Electronics Co. Ltd., a flatted factory in Lower Delta Road, stood petrified as 2 armed men robbed the firm of $70K just after 11:15am.

The money was part of a $107K payroll which had been delivered under police escort only a few minutes earlier.

An arrest

An hour later, 4 armed men strode into Fu-Heng Goldsmiths in Toa Payoh Central and escaped with jewellery worth more than $120K.

The robbers spent only 10 minutes in the shop. But they thoroughly ransacked it of all expensive jewellery.

Late last night, a police party, led by acting Deputy Supt. Sidek Ismail, arrested a gang leader in connection with the robbery. 


Robbery no. 2: 4 robbers, 2 armed with revolvers and 2 with parangs, walked into the goldsmith's shop, 30 minutes after it opened for businesss at noon.

They held up one of the 4 partners, Mr Quek Ah Heng, 42, and 3 employees and ordered them into the rear office.

While 2 of them -- one with a revolver and the other with a parang -- stood guard over them, the others opened the show cases and scooped up all the jewellery.

An off-duty policeman, Constable Donald Soh, 25, of Kandang Kerbau Division saw the 4 men getting hurriedly into a car.

Mr Soh went after them, "thinking it was a gang clash." But they escaped in a red Colt Galant.

He got into his Morris Minor and followed, but lost them in Lorong 4.

Road-blocks were set up all over Singapore but there was no trace of the getaway car.

Police were struck by the cool way the robbery was carried out. Unlike the usual smash-and-grab raids, none of the glass cases were damaged by the robbers.

Police spokesman Mr Lawerence Loh last night appealed to people who saw the Colt Gallant to report immediately to the nearest police station.


$120,000 goldsmith hold-up suspect arrested

POLICE yesterday arrested a man believed to be the mastermind of the $120,000 Fu Heng Goldsmith robbery In Toa Payoh on Oct 4. The 26-year-old leader of the five-man gang was arrested at his home In Lim Teck 800 Road, off Faya Lebar Road, ... [Note: News article truncated.]


  1. The 5 teens who did the Fuck PAP gaffiti at Blk 85A - close by your childhood memory Blks 177, 178 which i see on streetdirectory is among the longest blk in sg. Long blks are a rarity as the regime are going vertical instead of horizontal. Less rubbish chutes so as to max town council funds.

    Is understandable for them as Toa Payoh is perhaps the worst hit among the heartlands by pawnshops & $$ lending shops. Those 17 year olds can see the decay in their neighbourhood as they grow up.

    1. Hi Xianlong,

      You're right, the graffiti was done close by my childhood area. I was quite familiar with blks 177, 178, 183, and similar such long blocks in Toa Payoh Central as it is an area that I hung out often at various stages of my life.

      Agree with your observation about "Less rubbish chutes so as to max town council funds" and also to maximize HDB returns on the limited land area.

      I am sorry to read that "Toa Payoh is perhaps the worst hit among the heartlands by pawnshops & $$ lending shops" nowadays. Growing up, it was a bustling town; and I recall that there was a period where the town centre had 3 money changers (foreign currency exchanges) -- 2 of them next door to each other -- which signified the middle-class regional travel demand from the town-residents of the time. If I recall correctly, there was only ONE pawn shop in one of the long blocks almost 40 years ago.

      That said, even back in the mid-/late-2000's the decay had already started to sip in. From 2006 to 2010, there were more and more homeless folks who slept on the brick-pavements and park-benches, people digging rubbish bins for recyclable stuff and occasionally fighting over their "recycling territories". I guess being a night-owl who roamed and observed the town centre over the years, I could not deny the effects of politics on the lives of those I see. I felt from the growth and then decay that I observed over the decades that the situation would likely worsen and thus I decided to leave.

      I feel sorry for those teens. Their situation would have been dealt with so differently here in Metro Vancouver. [Note: I'm not denying that there is prejudice against the poor and discrimination against some groups of people here in Metro Vancouver.] Here, the media is likely to be more even-handed and the judiciary more focused on rehabilitating on the youths.

      Cheers, WD.

  2. Some1 wrote to shit times after being horrified seeing the infestation of $$$lenders in Clementi - Moneylenders taking over HDB neighbourhoods. In the comments you can read that someone mentioned your childhood Toa Payoh which the 5 teens graffiti Fuck PAP for turning the place into a sorry state.

    I've first raised the alarm blogging about it in 2011 followed by more detailed posting & pics this year(jurong east & clementi)

    Since my writeup, the situation has gotten worse which i have not updated. You can see the discussion at Clementi Financial Hub.