Sembawang Village Life

 

SEMBAWANG VILLAGE - SINGAPORE

 

Melbourne Bar Singapore

Those of you who remember, the Melbourne Bar was the place many headed for in 'The 'Wang' when they first hit Singapore. Mr and Mrs Cheong who owned the Melbourne Bar spared no expense on refrigeration and the beers would often be frozen solid. Mr. Cheong was an accomplished racing car driver and the bar was adorned with his many spectacular trophies. He hardly ever visited the bar himself and left it up to his wife Sandra to run. The Melbourne Bar was perhaps the most modern of the bars in the 'Sembawang Strip' and boasted a live and quite heavy band belting out covers from Deep Purple and Santana. The Melbourne Bar's toilets were never upgraded from two filthy holes in the ground in the 17 or so years I frequented the place and was one of the few things that let it down apart from when Sandra used to crack the shits.

 

Dry Cleaners.  There were a number of 'Dry Cleaners' who serviced the sailors stationed in Sembawang.  The Melbourne Dry Cleaners, TTs and Peanuts being the main contenders.  Depending on the CO/XOs Policy on traders etc., most of the time they were allowed to come aboard and wander freely around the Messdecks soliciting business.

 

"Peanut" Himself was very similar to the well known, fat, Chinese Buddha, both in appearance and jocularity.  As the years of visiting and conducting lengthy self maintenance periods in Sembawang many of us developed very close relationships with the Sembawang locals.  Peanut had his shop in the next Village, Cheong Pang where I would regulary visit him for a drink and a feed.

 

Birthday Party Melbourne Bar

 

Inside the Melbourne Bar for Christine's 18th Birthday 1974. On the left you will see a young Leading Seaman Gunner, Paul Rowan, with his arm around Sandra Cheong.

Melbourne Bar November 1973

 

With LSWM Glen Chandler Melbourne Bar November 1973. In front is 'Kiwi' - why so named? Because Kiwi used to be the local shoe shine boy and of course only used Kiwi nugget. Kiwi had a hair lip and was hard to understand even when he wasn't pissed. i became his friend over the years and regarded him as a pretty decent, if not crazy, sort of a bloke. He was a champion arm wrestler and I have personally watched him knock off some big boys including very large maoris and black americans. Knowing the situation I would always put my money on Kiwi, which was easy to do with the yanks for there was never any shortage of willing punters who thought he was just a crazy 'easy beat'.. One of the reasons I would always shout him a beer when I saw him. After Kiwi was shot in the left shoulder by a Singapore Copper during a bungled robbery I never had any trouble beating him left handed.

Navy's Bar Sembawang

 

The Navy's Bar was always a popular favourite. We changed watering holes mainly because of the girls, when your girlfriends changed their jobs from one bar to another so did you change. However the strip of bars in the 'Wang was just a nightly 'pub' crawl. There was a band and dancing in the Melbourne Bar, Darts in the Nelson Bar, Crown and Anchor in the Upstairs Nelson, The Gutter Club at the Navy's Bar, quiet country and western at the Ship Inn Bar and so on. Each and every bar in The 'Wang had souvenirs, ships plaques, crests, photos and trinkets donated by passing parade of drunken appreciative sailors covering their walls. All accumulated over the decades from thousands of ships from scores of navies.

Ocker & Russ Tending in The Navy's Bar

 

ABUW 'Ocker' Collins and Myself behind the jump at the Navy's Bar. Considering I was sharing free accomodation with Rose and Lily upstairs it was the only decent thing I could do to pay my way. No free beers here! The bearded bloke at the bar buying is LSUC Alex 'Stilts' Sherrin.

Midnight, Closing time in The Wang!

 

Closing time in 'The Wang'. All bars closed promptly at midnight. Having bought a couple of 'gashies' they gather outside the bar for some revelry and belt out a few well known sea shanties. NAMET Tim Belcher, Al Simpson, Stokesy, Gus Ridley, Ocker Collins among others.

A night in the Navy's Bar

 

A typical night in. On the chair in front is 'Black' Allen Nair an old friend of mine introduced to me in 1972 by a newly re-promoted LSFC Norm Evans. Allen was a former leader of one of the gangs in The Wang and went on to become a pretty handy motor mechanic he was also one of Mr Cheong's Pits Crew. From Black Allen clockwise are Rose, Gus, Me, Lily, Dave Knox, Tony Newlands (on stoppage of civvies) and Stephen Mitchell.

Melbourne Bar - Sembawang

Melbourne Bar Derwent 1975.ABWM 'Shorty' Mackintosh. Shorty was something of an occupational hazard for us 'Bar Hoppers' for he was proun to flaking early. We then had to physically carry him with us wherever we went after that. Unlike other navies this was not considered an offence and as long as his mates were looking after him our patrols left the 'flakers' alone. If they were asleep in a bar alone then they would be taken into protective custody.  I have seen the US Armed Forces Police actually belt sleeping sailors with night sticks, they got very dark on sailors who caught a few zzzs slumped over a bar table. It was also considered taboo to leave a sleeping mate behind if you all left the bar. If you couldn't get him to move or carry him then you would have to stay put

William The 'Photy Man'

 

 ABQMG Rodney Ross and girlfriend in the Kangaroo Bar. (Stuart 1974) The man on the right is my long time mate and whom I helped make rich, William Tan Wah Eu, 'The Wang's Photy Man'. William used to roll up to the 'strip' every afternoon and go to work with his Polaroid. He captured alot of wierd and wonderful happenings in his time some of which cannot be shown here. He would also do 'trick' photography such as double exposing to have you pouring yourself a beer or head swaps etc. He was a talented man and also very astute at business. Blessed with a sense of humour and gift of the gab he was hard to refuse. His camera was sacred and no-one was ever allowed to touch it. I felt very privileged when he allowed me to take this photo of him. Which, by the way I had to pay $S3.00 for.

Golden Hind Bar - Sembawang Nov 1973

Kiwi ordering another round on my cheque in the Golden Hind Bar, Sembawang, (Stuart 1973). The Golden Hind was a quieter style of bar where one could get a feed plus the heads were clean, with proper toilet bowls and paper! The Malay boy named Paul, sitting in the corner on the right, was the leader of the local Malay Gang. His gang, were at that time, constantly at 'war' with the local 'Chokey' (as they called them) Chinese Gang. They would also give the odd Pongo or Matelot a 'bamboo massage' too if they thought he deserved it. They carried out their own protection scheme and vigilante duties for the bars, taxi drivers and girls etc. Paul and his 'boys' did come to my assistance on a few occasions when things got ugly, especially with the Kiwi Pongos who went beserk on the piss after coming back from a month or so at Kota Tingii, the jungle training location in the middle of the rotting, festering, Malay jungle. We were around the same age and became firm friends. He stepped up a cog, when he got involved with the wrong crowd and ended up in Changi Prison for his part in the armed robbery of the Cold Storage Milk Bar located over the road from the bars, inside the gate on the right.

 

Nelson Bar Sembawang July 1974

 

The Nelson Bar, Sembawang. (Stuart 1974) The Nelson Bar was actually two bars combined, one upstairs and one on ground level. Well known for it's darts competitions and illegal 'Crown and Anchor' games held upstairs. (Hasler and Cunningham, a couple of enterprising Leading Gunners used to run a pretty good game). The grey headed bloke with the Lychee nut skin on his nose is CPOFC 'Growler' Grimmond a well known RAN Character whose name became synonomous with being niggardly and 'one way'. Growler would carry two packets of smokes with him at all times, one visible, with one smoke in it and one full packet hidden! So he wouldn't have to give anybody his last one. He was able to peel an orange or unwrap a sweet packet in his pocket and surrepticiously eat every piece, slyly, without anyone noticing. Also here is my old mate Tony Newlands, still on stoppage of civvies!