Reminiscing about the good old days
Lam Chun See shares memories of what it was like growing up in a kampung in the 1950s and 1960s though his nostalgia blog.
BY: Joanne Tok
Lam Chun See (left) felt a disconnect between the young and the old. As a result, he started a nostalgia blog called “Good Morning Yesterday” to reminisce on the past and educate the youths of today about the good old times.
A freelance management consultant, 61-year-old Chun See shares with Ageless Online on his motivation in starting his blog, as well as maintaining his passion in sharing about the kampung days:
When did you start the blog? What is your main motivation for starting the blog and what keeps you going?
I started the blog, “Good Morning Yesterday”, in September 2005. I wanted to reminisce about the Singapore of old as well as to educate younger Singaporeans about life in the ‘good old days’. It has been immensely satisfying to receive many e-mails from readers expressing their appreciation for what I am doing. I enjoy blogging and I have made many new friends through my blog. I have also gained a bit of fame, being featured in newspaper articles and some TV documentaries. I even won a free trip to Macau last year when I took part in a blogging competition.
I find that it is important to educate younger Singaporeans of the past because I noticed that our children are very ignorant about life back in the old days; and about things of nature in general. Maybe life in modern Singapore is too fast-paced, and they have too many material distractions. Consequently, they miss out on many of the simple pleasures of life. I hoped to use my blog to interest them to learn more about our past.
Even our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has highlighted this need in his 2006 National Rally Speech, where he exhorted senior members of our society to share their stories with the young. “Keep alive the Singapore story,” he said. “Our young generation need to know the heart of the Singapore story and understand how we got here … Parents and grandparents play an important role. You provide the links to our past. Pass down the stories, emotions and values to your children and grandchildren.”
Share three interesting stories of back in the kampung days.
The first is titled, “The Humble ‘Punki’ – A Symbol of Toil and Fun”. This was a recollection of one of my favourite childhood activities – namely catching fighting fish from the ponds in my kampung.
The second is simply “Accidents”. It was about the various accidents that my siblings and I met with during our childhood days. I wanted young people to see how different life was in those days when families were big, life was tough, and children engaged, unsupervised, in a lot of comparatively dangerous activities parents today would never dream of allowing their kids to do.
The third is “Tribute to a Humble Profession”. Basically this article was to educate younger Singaporeans about the kind of toilets and sewerage system that we had during the kampung days. It was a reflection of how much life has improved in Singapore in just one generation.
What is the most memorable story on your blog?
The most memorable story is about a cycling trip that I made with an old friend in 1969. In, “Discovering Singapore on Wheels”, I recounted how we cycled from my house in Lorong Kinchir, off Lorong Chuan, all the way to Lim Chu Kang jetty and then to Nanyang University (this was a university in Singapore from 1956 to 1980, and was Singapore’s only Chinese language post-secondary institution) and back. It was indeed a memorable trip. We took a day to complete, starting at 8.30am and reaching back in the evening. We were pretty proud of our achievement.
Today, my friend has emigrated to Scotland but we still remember fondly that arduous bicycle trip that we took more than four decades ago. I miss the places we saw that day. The landscape was very, very different [from today]. I wish our children could enjoy such a bicycle ride and see the rural landscapes that once covered much of Singapore.
What are the lessons you have learned about starting the blog and how do you drive traffic to your blog?
Blogging introduced me to the world of social media. Through it, I’ve picked up some IT-related skills. It gave me many hours of pleasure and enabled me to make many new friends including young people. I understand them better as I interact with them via my blog and Facebook.
I faced a bit of difficulty initially in the technical areas such as how to insert photos and hyperlinks, how to set up my homepage, etc. At that time Blogger was not as user-friendly as it is today. Then my blog was highlighted in the meta blog, Tomorrow.sg and many young people visited my blog. After that I was invited to join Yesterday.sg which was initiated by the National Heritage Board. There I got to know some young bloggers, and they were very helpful and offered many useful tips whenever I had difficulty with matters related to IT. Calling ourselves, FOYers or Friends of Yesterday.sg, we still meet regularly today.
Subsequently, my blog was featured in an article in “Today” newspaper and the readership increased sharply. I was also interviewed on programmes like Passion People, Breakfast Show on 938live and also some newspapers like “New Paper”, “My Paper” and “Lianhe Zaobao” and thus more people got to know my blog. Recently, I have also appeared in some TV documentaries like “Foodage” and “On The Red Dot”.
Traffic was also driven to my blog from other bloggers’ websites as well as online forums where some of my articles generated much interest. One example is the article about Singapore’s first fast-food restaurant.
Another source of traffic was online searches. Due to the sheer volume of content on my blog, it is easily found when people do a search on a heritage-related topic. Hence, I regularly receive requests for interviews from students doing projects or the media.
How often do you and your team of guest contributors post?
To date, I have posted more than 700 articles. Of course not all of them were written by me. Many were contributed by my friends including some readers from the UK who spent part of their childhood in Singapore during the 1960s, when their fathers were serving in the British military forces here.
On the average, I post about two articles a week; but lately, owing to lack of time, the pace has slowed down to about once a week.
For now, I get less guest contributors in terms of written articles, but I still receive many photos from overseas readers, particularly those from the UK.
How do you source for your content? Do you find it difficult to maintain the blog while holding a job?
Sigh … I spend far too much time on blogging than I should. What to do, it has become an addiction for me. Fortunately, I am self-employed and I don’t have a boss to answer to. As a self-employed freelance management consultant, I enjoy flexibility and autonomy in the use of my time. Today, my blog has a regular following, and I feel obligated to my readers (you can call them ‘fans’ actually) to maintain my blog. I make sacrifices elsewhere, for instance, I rarely go to movies or shopping centres.
Also my children are now older. They are very busy with their own activities and so I have more time. Anyway, I love writing and I had hoped to hone my writing skills through blogging and switch to becoming a writer after I reach 60. Unfortunately, this plan hasn’t been going on very well. Mainly, it’s the financial considerations.
Firstly, owing to heightened interest in productivity in Singapore recently, the demand for my services as a productivity consultant has increased and hence the opportunity cost of switching to writing has risen accordingly. Secondly, I have found that the demand for books in Singapore has waned recently and so the motivation to embark on a writing career has also diminished.
Content-wise, I have no difficulty at all. I get plenty of ideas on what to blog about from the things around me, the places I see, things that I do and stuff I read about in the news, etc. For example, a friend who knew about my passion for nostalgia blogging, recently gave me some old photos of Jurong. I posted one of them on my blog and asked my readers to identify the place. The winner was rewarded with a free copy of my book which is the same name of my blog.
Do you have another blog besides this one?
I have another blog called, “My 5S Corner”. I post articles about productivity and use this blog to promote my professional services as a management consultant.
Understand that you have compiled the stories you’ve gotten from the blog into your book. How has the response for the book been like? Are you intending to publish any further books?
Yes, last year I published a book, also titled “Good Morning Yesterday”. It was about growing up in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s. It was reasonably well-received, considering that I was a first-time author and at the time, there was generally a declining trend in the books industry. I was surprised to receive a number of orders from overseas readers, mostly from the UK.
If time permits, I really would love to write another book. Possibly it could be about my National Service days; or it could be a similar book to “Good Morning Yesterday” and this time, it would be a compilation of other Singaporeans’ stories. I also have plans to write a book related to my professional expertise in the area of productivity.
Do you have any other plans moving forward for “Good Morning Yesterday” blog?
I will continue as long as I have stories to share; and yes, there are still many things about the Singapore that I grew up in that have not been told. And I continue to receive old photos by readers to share with other Singaporeans.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think older Singaporeans should make the effort to document their memories. If you find it too troublesome to start a blog, you can always post them to me and I will share them with a ready pool of readers in “Good Morning Yesterday” blog. Alternatively, you can contribute them to the Singapore Memory Project portal, which is hosted by the National Library Board.
SIDEBOX: My thoughts on the “Good Morning Yesterday” book
Titled the same as Chun See’s blog, “Good Morning Yesterday” was an engaging read especially for family bonding sessions. Reading the book from a youth’s perspective, it provided me with a different side of Singapore, differing from the hectic and heavily built-up area we see today. The book is categorised into different segments including kampung life, family, friends and neighbours, and education to name a few. The education chapter was particularly interesting, with very relatable stories such as the long-standing tradition of Fun-o-rama in Anglo-Chinese Junior College.
Different snippets of daily lives were captured in the book through pictorial representations and short write-ups in the first person form, giving life to the stories related. In a consise and engaging read of just 187 pages, it summarised the different aspects of life in the olden days.
It was particularly engaging as it created a talking point with colleagues as well as older members in the family who would fondly reminisce the past and share more stories of their own encounters, helping youths picture how it used to be like living in the ‘good old days’. – Joanne Tok