Thursday, October 16, 2003

Farewell Ubin CC

Farewell Ubin CC:

By Helmi Yusof

The Straits Times | Thursday 16 October 2003

THE Pulau Ubin Community Centre (CC) closed on the first of this
month, after more than 40 years of serving the island's inhabitants
who numbered 4,500 in the 1960s.

If the word 'rustic' has been done to death in describing Ubin's
charms, the best word to describe one of Singapore's oldest
community centres is simply 'dead'.

The only community centre here to be built on a waterfront, it has
seen few visitors in recent years.

Fewer than 70 people, mostly in their 50s or older, live on the
island now.

'You don't expect us old folk to organise football games among
ourselves, do you?' asked Mr Ali Montail, 75, who chaired the
centre's management committee.

Built in 1960, it was a popular meeting point in the 1970s and
organised a wide range of sporting activities, from soccer and sepak
takraw to sea sports such as dragon-boat races.

It also organised traditional Malay events such as races for
miniature sailboats or jong, and competitions for enthusiasts of
gasing, or spinning tops.

The centre rarely conducted courses because they were not popular,
said Mr Ali.

But if there was one he would have liked to attend, it would be on
how to live in the city. 'I don't know how you city folk do it,' he
said. 'You come home, close the door and watch TV. Why don't you
talk to your neighbours more? I don't even like getting into those
tiny lifts with people I don't know.'

There was no clinic on the island. Nurses from the city would come
and conduct health checks for the children and old folks at the

'I vividly remember a nurse asking me to drop my trousers so she
could check me down there,' recalled chemist Herbert Tan with a
chuckle. Mr Tan, 34, grew up on the island but moved away to find
work, as many Ubin islanders did.

As the population shrank, so did the centre's popularity, though
army and police personnel began to use it for briefings.

In the mid-1990s, it bought a karaoke machine to attract more
visitors. At first, the karaoke room was booked nearly every night.
But even that gradually lost its appeal.

'Practically nobody goes there any more,' said the island's headman,
Mr Lim Chye Joo, 97, 'so I'm not sorry to see it close'.

The building has been turned over to the Singapore Land Authority