Things I Will Cherish Forever #10forkeeps

Update: Giveaway extended to 2 April 2014, 2359hrs

I count myself one of the lucky people in this constantly changing country. I had a mother who was a relentless hoarder of things. She kept everything.

I discovered a tonne of things she kept that I thought she would’ve thrown away. After all, she did throw away my ACSOBA (ACS Old Boys’ Association) rugby jersey that had been retired and given to me when I played a game back in the late 80s. That the school and its Old Boys’ Association retired their jerseys only once every five years did not move her. She had disapproved of my playing rugby, even after I had left school, because rugby boys were a bad bunch.

When she passed away three years ago, my sister went through her belongings and passed me a box of things which turned out to be a treasure trove. In the box was a plastic folder she had neatly kept her own “Leaving School Certificate” from ACS Seremban (Malaya) in 1955, her driving licence from Melbourne, her first pay slip from the same city, and a rejection letter from the PUB in Singapore in 1965 when she applied for a job upon settling in the newly independent republic of our country.

That same year, my mother and father had returned to the newly federated union of Malaysia and Singapore by ship from Melbourne, planning to marry in Malaysia and settle in the city of Singapore to live and work. It seems it wasn’t long after they disembarked at Clifford Pier that that whole episode known as The Separation happened.

She made an amazing effort to keep my stuff too. There are about 10 copies of my birth certificate, my citizenship certificate (I had not been a citizen at birth even though I was born in Singapore – constitutional lawyers would know why), my first IC, passport photos through the years, Army mugshots, old bankbooks, cleared and returned cheques and dozens of other paraphernalia worthy of a museum display.

I am forever grateful that she kept these things in such great condition, given that everything else in our country seems to be getting erased and built over so relentlessly and rapidly. I can hardly remember what Marina Bay looked like when it was a real bay.

Where I lived from birth till I was about 6 is also almost a mere memory. I remember my first address: 412 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore 5. Yes, a single digit postcode.

Across the road there used to be a police station (not an NPP), where policemen in their shorts used to be summoned across by my mother to scare the crap out of me when I misbehaved. Behind the police station was the beach, and a jetty where fishing boats docked, unloading their catch to be sold at the fishmonger’s (Ah Heng’s) on the corner of Pasir Panjang and Clementi Roads.

I must be one of the lucky, lucky few who can still find his house of birth after 45 years. The original stones that make up the gate’s pillars are still there in its 70s kitschy glory. I drove past it last year and reminded myself to go and take a picture of the gate. Or maybe chip off a piece for keepsake. After all, the police station is no longer across the road.

From this magical box my mother left with me, there are four items I want to share with you:

From the magical box of belongings
From the magical box of belongings

My First Pink IC
My first Pink IC: This was essentially a piece of pink paper with printed fields and a handwritten signature of a civil servant authorised to issue IC on behalf of the Commissioner of National Registration. We always wondered who this person was. Every one had the same signature, and it always looked like it read “Mdm Sam”. So, Madam Sam, if you’re still around, reveal yourself and let the world know who you are.

OCBC Cheque, 1970:
OCBC Cheque, 1970: In the age of paper, non digitised currency, a cheque would take 3-5 working days to clear. Once cleared, it was returned to the drawer, because it had served it’s purpose as an instruction to the bank to pay the payee whatever amounts of money was written on it. 45 years later, a cheque still takes about 2-3 working days to clear, and it was only this week that interbank electronic transfers were sped up to 1 working day.
Diphteria Vaccination Certificate, 1969:
Diphteria Vaccination Certificate, 1969: I don’t even know what diphtheria is now. But what about that fancy penmanship of the clerk huh?
Army ROD Clearance Form
Army ROD Clearance Form: Does anyone even know what a cyclostyled sheet is or how poor Army clerks used to get ink on their hands making cyclostyle copies of Routine Orders?

And not from the box my mother left me, this is a picture of the gate’s pillars at 412 Pasir Panjang Road:

The gate pillar of my first home

I played within these gates, on the driveway, on my toy cars and bicycles. I hope my son will remember his playgrounds and other places he spends with his Mama and Papa the same way I try to remember mine. It is important to have that sense of belonging and continuity.

I strongly urge everyone to take stock of the things around you, record them and the stories attached to them, for posterity, and for the prosperity of our collective memories.

As part of the Singapore Memory Project’s “10 for Keeps” campaign, a fabulous memory kit worth over $100 will be given away to 2 of you, and it comes complete with an Instax camera, a guide book on how to record your favourite memories, two packs of film and a pamphlet to submit some of the photos to SMP.

Some of your photos may be selected for a Memory Showcase exhibition at the lobby of the National Library Building from 11 Apr – 26 May. Come and check out if yours have been chosen.

Details on the project can be found on or on FB at

Before you leave this page, leave a comment below to share what items you cherish the most, and the memory that comes with it by 31 March 2014. Best two entries (I choose) will win this Memory Kit.

The fabulous Singapore Memory Kit
The fabulous Singapore Memory Kit
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10 responses to “Things I Will Cherish Forever #10forkeeps”

  1. Claire Avatar

    This is a beautiful moving post Ben! I do not have much from my own childhood but I have kept so many stuffs from my children…. I might soon need a storage unit! I am curious to know what tips they give in the guide book ” how to record your favourite mem­o­ries”… At this point I need to get better organized or even declutter all their memories..but which ones are more valuable than others? Hard to decide!

    1. Mr Miyagi Avatar

      Ah, I’ll share some of those tips in the guide book soon.

  2. XM Avatar

    I used to pester my grandma to bring me to my aunt’s place because that is the only chance to take a non-aircon double decker bus!

  3. Lee Ser Chim Avatar
    Lee Ser Chim

    One of the items which I cherish is my father Rolex watch. He passed away suddenly almost 8 years ago. He is the typical Chinese father which is strict towards his children yet cared about his family a lot. If I have the chance to “meet” him again, I will not hesitate to tell him that he has brought me up well to be the man I am now and I am proud to be his son!

  4. Jenny Avatar

    Still have my first passport, the blue restricted passport for travel to Malaysia only. Got it for my first “overseas” holiday with the extended family including my granny, parents, sis, god-parents, god-bro, god-sis, uncles, aunties & cousins. We did a road trip to Malaysia – K.L. & Genting if I remember correctly. Took almost 8 hours to reach Genting as it was before the North-South Highway was built. Enjoyed the food and company. Everyone had a blast!

    1. Mr Miyagi Avatar

      Yes, my family used to make epic road trips, well at least in those days they were epic, because there was no NS Highway.

  5. hk Avatar

    My childhood memories seemed to revolve around candy – the forbidden fruit of our youth, doled out only on occasion. In a child’s mind there were different hierachies for candy – there was candy, and then there was “special” candy. The ones pictured are the fizzy types which pop in your mouth, and were a treat seen only during occasions such as birthdays or Children’s Day.

    Another type of this “special” candy was Warheads – fruit flavoured candy coated with a sour powder. School excursions used to be filled with contests of who could bear with the sourness of the outer coating the longest without making a face. And the prize? More Warheads 😉 [Pity they don’t seem to sell these anymore…]


    Other childhood memories from primary school:

    ??, or penmenship. We were usually allowed to finish these assignments during free periods, and I remember classmates devising ways to finish this quickly – homework being the nasty bugger that stood between us and playtime!

    I’m sure many of us remember playing the eraser game, where you attempt to flip your eraser onto your opponent’s and the strongest eraser “wins”. Size did not always equate to might, as many of us learnt – it was usually the tactical flick of one’s wrist at the right moment which made for the decisive win.

    Another game we used to play was creating our own vehicles – abacus sets were the “wheels” of our tanks, and pens cool extensions to our ruler or stapler “planes”. Often the most impressive were those which incorporated multiple features, but all were welcome in imaginary battles and adventures to faraway lands.

    What I miss from this period of time was the simplicity of such games; that we were able to derive joy not from flashy or expensive toys but through innovation and being resourceful.

  6. Melissa Avatar

    I know it sounds cliched, but coming from a generation that witnessed how film cameras started turning digital with its digital auto focus, to the current digital age where we now have cameras on our phones, I’ve come to cherish tangible photographs. Nowadays, we take our photographs for granted, capturing and deleting them at will, and leave them tucked away in the corner of our hard drives, never to be seen or remembered. But the physical photographs of yesteryear, they are such great reminders of precious memories. In recent years I’ve been reacquainted with analogue photography and it brings back so many memories! I’m reminded of a time when pressing the shutter meant an important memory to be captured, and not just for the sake of “being seen” on social media. Makes sense?

    1. Mr Miyagi Avatar

      Makes absolute sense.

  7. Mfull Chan Avatar
    Mfull Chan

    Hi Mr Miyagi!! Many happy to know that I have a hoarder sister in Heaven!!
    When I join her we can both look down and see all of you going gaga over your treasures!!!!

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