A one-of-its kind provision shop has just opened at Everton Road! Tucked away in a corner shophouse at the fringe of a busy financial district, nonchalant to large supermarkets and convenient stores, its towkay neo and her hardworking team run their little provision shop literally ’round the clock’. Here, you can buy traditional dried food stuffs, sundries, kitchenware and even freshly-sawed ice, all at unbeatable prices too! Can you spot and identify all the goods they sell? Bring your parents and grannies along when visiting the shop and hear their stories and experiences that come with each of the items displayed in the shop. Also, bring your own mug, container or carrier for the shop will only wrap your purchases in newspapers. They don’t have any plastic bags!
Welcome to my latest mural – the Provision Shop.
I felt very happy to be able to paint at Everton Road again. This time round, a house owner invited and commissioned me to paint on his house gable wall. The theme was based on the house owner’s verbal description of the place as he remembered it during his childhood days in the 50s and 60s. There was a provision shop near the junction which also sold ice. In those days, not every home had a refrigerator. Every evening, a rather plump and almost botak uncle in a silky white shirt would pedal his soya beancurd stall to the junction. Little kids would have a chance to eat beancurd or drink soya milk for free if they win a Tikam game by picking sticks from a tin can and getting two consecutive sticks with the same colour painted on their bases. The house owner also described his dad’s Vespa scooter on which he and his sibling took turns riding pillion around the area. As the owner described the scene, we also attempted to search the web for archived images of the scenes and objects to match his memories. In addition, I refreshed my own Chinatown childhood memories of how provision shops used to look like in the 70s and 80s. I further consulted my mother, my aunt, friends and even passers-by who looked elderly enough, to jog their memories of those scenes. The final outcome of the mural looks a bit like something out of the 60s to 70s, but actually spans across a good 3 decades. For example, while the sale of ice in provision shops was more common in the 50s to 60s, the biscuit tins with transparent plastic (so as to see the biscuits inside) and the coconut grating machines probably appear in the 70s, or even 80s. Coconuts were grated by hand in the 50s. Today, fresh grating of coconut can be seen in just a few wet markets or very old shops. We mostly buy ready made goods in fancy packaging from supermarkets.
The provision shop’s signboard reads “Hui An” (惠安), which is the name of a county in China’s Fujian Province, where the house owner’s ancestry roots can be traced. The bamboo blind reads “Sin Chew brand soy sauce”, representing our forefathers’ migration from China and settlement in Sin Chew (星洲) which means ‘Singapore’. The word “Kelapa” on the coconut grating machine is the Malay word for coconut. A passer-by contributed this idea and I think it represents our pre-independence Malaya era and multi-racial society very well. My mum visited me when I was painting and corrected me about placing the gunny sacks of dried goods directly on the cement floor – they were usually placed on wooden planks to prevent moisture, hence I added the planks.
On the extreme right, a curious-looking fat grey English cat poses for your photo. If you are lucky, you may see the real cat roaming around the neighbourhood. It aptly represents the present day, our young generation and our cosmopolitan city. Lastly, don’t miss my signature way of signing off – on a uniquely Singapore red letter box.
Visiting the Mural
The mural is on the gable wall of No. 8 Spottiswoode Park Road, at the cross junction of Spottiswoode Park Road, Everton Road and Blair Road.
By MRT : It is about 7-minute walk from Outram Park MRT Station, Exit G. Upon exit, turn right and walk along the front porch/perimeter of the Cantonment Police Complex. Pass by an overhead bridge, grass field and bus stop. Cross the traffic light, turn left into Spottiswoode Park Road and pass by a kopitiam and noodle shop until you reach the cross junction.
Carpark : You can park at any available white parking lot along the roads, or at the Everton Park carpark.
Please take care and watch out for vehicles when viewing the mural. You can get a panoramic view of it by standing on the shaded five-foot way opposite the mural. As the mural faces both the morning and afternoon sun diagonally, it will look parched and white-out under the strong sunlight, so the best time to visit is in the early morning and evening, when the diagonal sunrise and sundown gives it a soft, surrreal feel.
Surrounding Area of Interests
1. House No. 66 Spottiswoode Park Road has a beautiful century old facade painted in porcelaine blue and brown, believed to be the oldest shophouse facade mural still visible in Singapore. It was discovered about 10 years ago during renovation and restoration of the shophouse.
2. Visit my other two murals along Everton Road – “Amah” and “Barber” at the Choa Kim Keat Garage.
3. Everton Park (HDB flats) and the row of old shophouses along Kampong Bahru Road – there, you will find hip cafes and creameries alongside traditional shops selling Ang Ku Kueh, Antiques and Korean Cakes.
4. Blair Road and Neil Road Peranakan Conservation Houses – Besides the beautiful Peranakan motif tiles on the walls and floors of almost every house, pay attention to house No. 147 Neil Road which was owned by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s grandfather and when Mr Lee once lived during his childhood. Also, you don’t want to miss the beautifully restored Baba House (No. 157 Neil Road), now a Baba Nonya Museum showcasing Baba history, culture and architecture.
5. Spottiswoode Park Heritage Trees – Take a walk around the little forest to discover the three Heritage Trees (2 Rain trees and a century old Binjai tree). A rare site so close to the city centre that remains wild and green.