Margaret Drive July 5, 2006Posted by kentneo in Memories.
Text by Kay Kok Chung Oi
Margaret Drive estate was developed in the early 1960s. However, the entire estate was demolished and all that is left now is a green piece of land. My family and I used to live there till we moved to Dover Road in the mid 1970s. Some may feel that Margaret Drive estate cannot be considered as a heritage but I think otherwise. For me, heritage does not equate solely to historical buildings and architectures, but it should include traditions as well. Therefore my memory concerns the traditions that were practiced by the people who once lived in Margaret Drive estate.
The traditions that I am about to share are namely festivals and children activities at the central green field which is the venue for most of the activities in the estate, and the common exchange of food among neighbours during the festive seasons of the various ethnic groups. I personally believe that the architecture and environment fostered these practices among the neighbourhood. By and large the estate consisted of a group of 4 storey low-rise buildings. Each building comprised of 8 rented units. The central staircase demarcated each unit on both sides of the building. A huge verandah was found in every unit and it faced the central green field, which became the main focus of events at Margaret Drive. The buildings were constructed with brown bricks with timber louvered windows. During festive seasons such as the hungry ghost festival, big tentages and Chinese Opera stage were erected at the green central field to observe the occasion. Many Chinese, young and old, offered incense and joss sticks to deities. After the festival, the green field was often spotted black from the left over soot. Grandparents would take their grandchildren to enjoy the live Chinese opera performances. Unlicensed hawkers were also commonly found during such festivals and they sold food such as steam peanuts, steam colourful buns accompanied with shredded coconut and yellow sugar, cotton candy, peanuts, and Malay delicatessen. Such occasions were good moneymaking opportunities for these hawkers. The central field would become extremely noisy with children running around and shouting at the top of their voices, and the community conversing with one another. During non-festive seasons, particularly the “Layang” season, children made colourful kites which adorned the blue cloudless sky. Kite fighting was a game where children learned to be competitive. On other occasions, children would form groups to play hide and seek on the estate. When it was the rainy season, children would fold paper boats and line them along the perimeter drain. Ethnic celebrations such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali, usually saw neighbours exchanging and sharing food with one another. I can never forget the delicious Malay cakes such as warm green steam spring roll with coconut, colourful-layered steam cake, and peanut cookies. The fried glutinous rice cake, which symbolized prosperity, was a rather common dish to be given to neighbours. From my Indian neighbours, I remember receiving murukus and colourful home made candies.
Margaret Drive estate was always sizzling with excitement. People were friendly and considerate. The community spirit was self-driven without any sort of community driven programmes. Whenever I pass by the empty green field, I would pause to turn back the clock and reminisce those days that I missed dearly.