Singapore

Remembering Rochor Centre (sea view and all...)

While almost all of the residents have moved out, those left have until the end of this week to hand over the keys. TNP speaks to one resident, Mr Tan Chai Hock, who had lived there since it was built. He recalls how much it has changed in 40 years...

It was a very different world 40 years ago.

From only the seventh storey of the Rochor Centre, you could have a clear view of the sea. Hard to believe these days.

Back in the 70s, Mr Tan Chai Hock never thought that he could own a flat, let alone one in a prime area like the Rochor Centre.

At the time he was a Housing Development Board inspector, and he was content with paying rent and living in a one-room flat in Bukit Ho Swee.

Sprightly and animated, 79-year-old Mr Tan explains that it was a colleague that encouraged him to ballot for a place of his own.

After all, he and his wife Madam Ong Li Ji, really needed more space to raise their family of two girls and two boys.

His initial attempts at balloting only netted him options in new towns such as Sembawang and Jurong.

But after living in a mature estate, new towns did not afford him the same convenience and close proximity to town.

A passerby taking snapshots of the iconic colourful blocks at Rochor Centre. These colourful blocks will be slated for demolition at the start of 2017.
A passerby taking snapshots of the iconic colourful blocks at Rochor Centre. These colourful blocks will be slated for demolition at the start of 2017.TNP PHOTO: GARY GOH

Just when he was about to give up on the idea, another colleague told him about the new Rochor Centre development.

This new opportunity hit the bullseye and in 1977, he netted his dream three-room flat in Block 1.

(This was long before the centre was painted into the iconic green, blue, red and yellow. The colours came in 1994).

 reminiscing the older times living at his old flat in Rochor Centre
Mr Tan Chai Hock reminiscing the older times living at his old flat in Rochor Centre together with his granddaughter Ms Claire Lee, 24 and Mr Tan's wife Madam Ong Li Jin. TNP PHOTO: GARY GOH

Says Mr Tan: "Back then, down payment was just $500, but that was a lot of money for me. My pay was just $25 a month!"

One aspect of the flat starkly highlights the difference in the area back then.

In 1977, from their seventh storey flat, the young Tan family had an unobstructed sea view from Block 1.

Reminiscing about the views from his corridor at his old Rochor Centre. When he first moved in, he had an unobstructed sea view.
Mr Tan Chai Hock, reminiscing about the views from his corridor at his old Rochor Centre. When he first moved in, he had an unobstructed sea view. TNP PHOTO: GARY GOH

Standing in his corridor, Mr Tan can still remember vividly the sea view.

Gesturing excitedly, Mr Tan says: "Back then this block had one of the best sea views of the lot.

"On a clear day, I could even see Indonesian islands right from my doorstep."

A woman who was there taking photos of Rochor Centre being overwhelmed by a flock of flying pigeons.
A woman who was there taking photos of Rochor Centre being overwhelmed by a flock of flying pigeons.TNP PHOTO: GARY GOH

That view was enjoyed for about a decade as in the 80s, developments blocked the view, and structures such as The Gateway, Raffles Hospital, and Bugis Junction took its place.

The view is not the only thing that changed through the years.

Back then, Rochor Centre was not set among a busy shopping district as it is today, surrounded by retail shopping malls.

A coffee shop assistant chasing a flock of pigeons at the central concourse in Rochor Centre
A coffee shop assistant chasing a flock of pigeons at the central concourse in Rochor CentreTNP PHOTO: GARY GOH

"Bugis Junction was just rows of shophouses back in the 70s and 80s. When I first moved in, there wasn't even Fu Lu Shou and the Albert Complex," he says.

In the four decades of staying at Rochor Centre, Mr Tan raised two generations with his youngest granddaughter spending her formative years growing up in that unit.

Ms Claire Lee, 24, remembers the Sundays where more than 10 members of her family happily squeezed in to have dinner in their living room.

Recalling her favourite memories, Ms Lee who works in the advertising sector says, "That was the only place where I blew out birthday candles every year until I went primary school."

Laughing and pointing to a faint scar on her forehead.

Rochor Centre Most shops at the ground floor had moved out by the end of October after being there for the few decades.
Most shops at the ground floor had moved out by the end of October after being there for the few decades.TNP PHOTO: GARY GOH

"Not only heart-warming family moments, I got this scar after bumping my head here as a toddler."

The Tans moved out of their beloved flat at the end of October, into another allocated unit at Kallang Trivista.

Although the new place is still well placed, Mr Tan feels it just doesn't have the flavour of the Rochor Centre.

 Mr Tan Chai Hock, with his grand daughter Ms Claire Lee and his wife Madam Ong Li Jin at the door of his old flat in Block 1 of the iconic Rochor Centre.
Mr Tan Chai Hock, with his grand daughter Ms Claire Lee and his wife Madam Ong Li Jin at the door of his old flat in Block 1 of the iconic Rochor Centre. TNP PHOTO: GARY GOH

Missing the hustle and bustle and the food around his former home, Mr Tan knows Rochor Centre will always hold a special place in his heart.

When asked what would have happened if he did not get that Block 1 unit, Mr Tan chuckles .

"I'll probably never have owned a flat. I would have been hoping to strike the lottery before I could own a flat comparable to the one in Rochor Centre."

Rochor Centre With most shops shuttered, it was time for whatever that is left to be shifted out of place.
With most shops shuttered, it was time for whatever that is left to be moved out.TNP PHOTO: GARY GOH
Rochor Centre With most shops shuttered, it was time for whatever that is left to be shifted out of place.
While most shops have already shifted out by the end of October, there are still some individuals conducting business towards the end of the iconic center.TNP PHOTO: GARY GOH

 

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