Many of the lorongs in Geylang, including Lorong 32, have back alleys. House No 53, the ground floor unit, had a door and a collapsible gate at the back that gave access to the alley. In the case of House No 53A (the upper storey), the spiral staircase led (up) to a sort of sun-deck which we covered with a zinc roof, as well as (down, after the back door) to a large wooden door that also gave access to the back alley. I suppose such access served as fire escape.
On my recent bus ride back, as I turn the corner of the Casa Emerald condo, this is what the back alley looks like now:
The back alley still has rubbish strewn about but at least it is paved now. Back then, the concrete surface was broken here and there and hence uneven. But this alley was where the two girls learnt to ride their bicycles... first with trainer wheels, then with me running alongside, and finally, with the girls going "solo"! (Lynn loved to ride her little bike up and down the alley so much in the late afternoon/early evening that Angie had to order her home for dinner.)
I then looked around and at the back portion of Casa Emerald. This is what I saw...
Spiral staircase! Not only that, it is an actual Sixties-era staircase left intact, and sticking out amid the more contemporary condos it is sandwiched between.
Ah so, I believe it is the back of House No 49 (and 49A), identical to mine...
I am transported back to the old days. We kept two terrapin turtles, Finky and Finko, in basins up on the deck. The girls, when not in school, would accompany me as I opened the back door to climb up the stairs and wash/clean the basins (we had a tap up there) and feed the turtles with long beans which they (the terrapins, not the girls) gobbled up quickly.
Back to the alley... we could walk to Lorong 34 from there:
At the corner of Lorong 34 (Guillemard Road end) was our favourite seafood stall located in a coffeeshop. It is still there, but it opens only in the evening:
Looking towards Guillemard Road from Lorong 34, one can see Kong Hwa School, one of the primary schools run by the Hokkien clan association:
We nearly put Liane in that school, which had just started a pre-primary programme then. I think her life would have taken a different turn if she had not gone to our church's kindergarten and then to Methodist Girls' School instead but that's another story, perhaps for another time.
At Lorong 34 still, and looking towards Geylang Road, one can see the former Maha Bodhi School, now used for another purpose:
The school was so close to our house that its daily routine became familiar to us, ad nauseam: morning assembly, singing of the national anthem, teachers shouting out instructions over the PA system, chatter of the kids, the shrill ringing of the school bell ever so often, etc...
Maha Bodhi School was also a polling station during general elections. I first cast my vote there.
Final stop... the playground at Lorong 38 where, come evening time on my days off, I would take the girls to play on the swings and the see-saw. This is what I now spied:
It is still there! Some of the facilities have changed and the swings which the girls loved so much have disappeared. Also, there appears to be some contractor work being done there...
So, is the playground being torn down? Or is it being upgraded further? I guess I will know if I should make a future "Down Memory Lorong" trip.