Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How did we survive before the flush was invented?

There was an article in Today's paper that talks about those old Kampong Toilets.

The writer went on the describe how thankful she is for the modern toilets the HDB has put into every home.

Actually, it was the SIT who led the way when they installed modern toilets into Singapore's 1st public housing estate at Tiong Bahru.

It was probably a "
Heineken" moment when people saw those modern toilets.

And yes, I still think it was a
BIG DEAL back then.

Here's the article which I have reproduced here for everyone's benefit :

Aug 04, 2009
Elisabeth Lee
My Life: Then & Now photo contest entry. Submitted by Karen Young

Thank god for modern loos

TO LEAF through the submissions to Today's My Life: Then & Now photo contest is to take a stroll down Singapore's memory lane.

Some photos are a game of spot-the-difference.

Queenstown Bowl hasn't changed much, except for the fact that it isn't open for a game of 10-pin anymore.

But the library is still next door, and the popiah auntie still churns out her famous tissue-paper-thin skins - you just have to go down the road to Margaret Drive to find her.

Others are a stark reminder of what, and who, we've lost.

My great-granddad was buried at Bidadari Cemetery.

That multi-religious cemetery isn't there anymore, having been closed in 2001 to make way for a North-East line MRT station, and neither is my great-granddad.

But sifting through the pile of entries our readers submitted for the contest, this photo of a kampung toilet stood out.

Looking at it triggered neither fond nostalgia nor the ache of a keenly-felt loss, but a sense of sheer relief.

It made me want to fall on my knees and thank the good HDB for the indoor plumbing in my three-room flat.

Singapore has come a long way in 50 years of self-rule, and nothing has come further than the state of our loos.

Imagine waking up in the middle of a moonless night with a sudden urge to drop the kids off at the pool, so to speak, groping your way outside, fumbling for a kerosene lamp and a bunch of newspaper (yep, no four-ply Downy supersoft then, either), and then squatting.

Think of the horrors lurking in the shadows.

Notice the massive gap between wall and roof - this loo was definitely not python-proof.

It could have been worse, I guess, but not much.

Now, we've got indoor plumbing, electricity and our bathrooms are sometimes even en suite.

Imagine that. Yes, we still have our problems.

Sometimes you have to squat, and sometimes there's no soap in the dispenser - but at least we're indoors and well-lit.

So, if you're nosing around the display, sniffling a little and feeling a little sad or a little wistful, and Barbra Streisand is crooning The Way We Were in your head, take a look at the outhouse.

You can thank me later.

The writer, a Today sub-editor, is 30 years old.

The 50 best entries from the contest will be on display at Orchard Central from Aug 10 to 21.

Contest winners will be announced in a special National Day issue
of Today.


Lam Chun See said...

I really like that photo. You can still find places like this in P. Ubin, I heard; and of course in Malaysia.

Anyway, I have written something similar a few years back, but my emphasis was not so much on the toilets but the humble professionals called night soil carriers.

SGalf said...

Wow, article on the night soil carrier is so cool. Thanks.

Geotacs said...

yes thank goodness for the modern toilet system!

thanks for sharing!

Miz Young said...

Ah the night soil carrier....

Contrary to its name, the fella that came to clear the "deposits" did so during the day where I lived. I got wiser as the years went by and timed my visits to the loo so that it would not clash with the "night soil carrier's" timing lol... seriously. Coz there was one time, whilst concentrating hard on my business and "paperwork", there was a knock on the door and upon finding out that I was inside, the fella squatted outside with a cigarette dangling from the side of his lips....

I'm glad I sent in the entry even though it didn't win any prize. It sure brought back many memories for me and my family.