Grew up during the 90’s? I read a thread about the 90s in Singapore..and decided to compile a list of things that I remember from my childhood. I’m sure you can identify with some of them. I had fun looking up forums and threads for ideas and pictures, and I hope you have as much fun reading the list.
In a time where there were only browser-based games (think Neopets) and it took 5mins to load a webpage, time was much better spent watching the tube. It provided a common topic of discussion since everyone pretty much watched the same stuff from SBC/TCS aka MediaCorp. Only a handful had cable TV.
1. Power Rangers
Kids used to pretend they were one of the rangers and hop around screaming and whacking each other. My favourite was the blue ranger, and because of this, my favourite dinosaur was the triceratops. (Every boy had a favourite dinosaur back then)
2. Saving the Earth was cool because of Captain Planet.
I vaguely remember this show. ‘Vaguely’ meaning remembering these two sentences:
“Earth! Fire! Wind! Water! Heart!”
“By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!”
I wonder what happened to the dude now though. Probably died of global warming. And the haze.
3. Most of the kids (me included) would wake up at 9am every Sunday to watch the Digimon show on Channel 8, and it will be the topic of discussion the next day when school started.
Yea, I remember this damn well. I watched every season of Digimon, except season 5. My favourite was Patamon (bottom left corner). I wanted to be different because everyone either liked Agumon or Gabumon (centre two, right to left). The least popular was Palmon (the weirdo plant-looking thing with a pink flower on the head). No wonder kids don’t like their veggies.
Oh, and, I thought Yamato’s hair (blondie in green, wearing gloves) was cool. I always wondered how long Tai (goggle boy) took to style his hair before each episode.
4. Everyone knew the Guiness Stout advertisement where 林子祥 George Lam appeared and asked, “你怕黑吗?”
I didn’t really get the meaning of the advertisement, but it still stuck anyway.
5. Everyone also knew Aaron Kwok and his awesome song with the awesome trademark hand action and the awesome phrase “对你爱爱爱不完”.
He made every boy want a centre-parting I think. Here’s a youtube video I found of the MV. (look at those dance moves!)
6. Monday blues were made slightly better because of 搞笑行动. There was 梁婆婆, 梁细妹 and “真的是伤脑筋”. There was also the 神经一法 segment, a spoof of 绳之以法.
Yes, I used to like watching it..until it got lamer..and lamer..and lamer..
7. 城人杂志 was hosted by 王禄江，钟琴，黄素芳，欧菁仙. There was Miss Tan and 阿好好介绍.
We loved to imitate them, saying “下一位” and “我–什么–都会”. Sadly, I couldn’t find any pictures of the show or its characters, so here’s a youtube vid of MediaCorp’s anniversary show where they got some of the previous hosts back. 钟琴 is awesome because she was really into it! The other few just stood around like dead flies. Probably too old to shake their booty. I liked 欧菁仙 last time. Watch from 4:55 onwards if you want to skip to the 城人杂志 part. The first part is 搞笑行动.
I hated taking buses because they took ages to arrive (they still do) and you were all hot and bothered by the time they did. What’s worse? They were all old and cranky, non-airconditioned, and the engine made a thunderous farting noise every time the bus came to a stop. But they were still important to our lives, just as they are now.
1. SBS buses used to be non-airconditioned only. The bus seats were made of wood and the cushion was red. The big red bell gave a loud BEEEP when pressed, probably so that everyone would wake up and no one would miss their stop.
I used to like pushing the windows damn wide and feel the wind on my face. It was horrible when it rained, coz you had to shut the windows (or face the wrath of the drenched person sitting behind you) and the bus would become really humid and warm.
2. Farecards! Every bus came equipped with this farecard machine and you had to insert your card at the top, press the fare you are paying, then the machine would make lots of weird noises before your card came out with a ticket from the bottom.
I remember every now and then new designs of farecards would be released and some people liked to collect them. The adult farecards had a blue back, children’s ones had a red back and the back of senior citizens’ cards were purple.
3. For those who bought monthly concession stamps, you pasted them on your student pass and flashed it to the bus driver when you boarded.
Some people would just paste the new one over the old stamp, and accumulate so many stamps on the card that the stamps were thicker than the card itself.
Being a child was just about schooling, eating, playing, sleeping, and eating some more. You could buy a shitload of junk food with $2 then.
1. The rainbow-coloured Paddle Pops. All the colours made it look like you would die from all the artificial colourings, but tasted too nice for you to care. Who could forget those?
2. Ring pops, then came push pops.
Or was it push pops first? Push pops were the best because you could eat a bit and pocket it for later. Anyway I remembered conservative Singaporeans complaining about them being obscene looking =/
3. There was this sweet which was a lollipop but came with some crystals in the packet. You would dip the lollipop in the crystals, and let it pop and spark all over your mouth.
4. The ding dang chocolate balls+cheapo toy which sold for 50 cents.
The toy inside would change every week I think. They were all cheapo-looking toys which spoilt easily, but we were still happy with them anyway. Modern version=Kinder surprise, or whatever it’s called.
5. After a tiring session of block catching, getting your hands on an ice pop at the grocery store for 10 cents each was heavenly.
They were just frozen ice with colourings actually, but still tasted good. NTUC still sells them, but I don’t see anyone eating it now.
6. Itchy mouth? Nibble on these:
1. There was Oriental Emporium and Yaohan. And Sogo.
I can’t find a picture of Emporium. But I remember it was a NTUC-wannabe and I used to go to the one in Pasir Ris and drool over all the toy samples.
2. A&W restaurant!
The awesome root beer and onion rings!
There was not much technology to speak of then. I had my first computer in P4, and was devastated when it broke down for the first time. Somehow, I got the hang of the tech stuff faster than my parents, and it stayed that way ever since. (They never did try, anyway.)
1. Almost every working adult had a pager.
I remember there was some nifty trick. You (the caller) would wait for 2 beeps, then press any numbers you wanted. The recipient (the person being paged) would then be able to see the numbers you pressed, and we were always amazed that the recipient could see the numbers you wanted them to see. (Hey, we were not desperate ok. That was cool until SMS came along.)
2. Cool teens used ICQ, and IRC.
3. To get online you had to start the nasty dialup connection. You would hear the ISP’s server number being dialled, then a bunch of extremely loud and weird noises which made it sound like your computer was going to explode. Only then could you establish an awesome 56kbps connection.
I HATED the noises but never figured out how to make it softer. I hated it mainly because my mom would be alerted everytime I went on the net, and I only had 1 miserable hour of playtime.
4. Everything (gameboy emulators, ROMs) you wanted to transfer MUST be below 1.44 MB. Otherwise it wouldn’t fit into these things called floppy biscuits diskettes.
5. Every student was working part-time. After school, they tended to their shop in Neopets.
Who could forget the browser-based multiplayer game Neopets? Neopets took the world by storm. Suddenly I went to school one day and found out that the whole class except me had a shop. My favourite Neopet was the Kacheek. It was very creatively named Petball88. I wonder if it’s still alive. And I (willingly) got scammed into buying a Kacheek plushie at one of their local events. I still have it now.
We were in the pre-Facebook and post-Marbles era. There was so much fun things to do, both indoors and outdoors, away from the computer.
1. If you’re with a bunch of friends, feeling bored and happen to be in a maze of HDB flats, never fear, coz there’s block-catching!
Yes I remember this. Void decks had a much more useful purpose back then, before they were primarily used by students for kissing, hugging and making out. Anyway, another version involved lifts. Basically you played catching within one block only. You formed a number of groups (depending on the number of lifts available, usually only 2) and hope to catch the other group by taking the lift to the same level, or something like that. Don’t try this now. The only people who will be doing any catching is the guys from the town council.
2. Another version of catching was “Iceman” or “ice-and-fire” or whatever you call it.
If anyone was caught by the “catcher”. they would not become the catcher, but be “frozen” instead, and had to stand on the spot striking some weird pose. Then other people would try to come and “unfreeze” you by touching, without being frozen by the “catcher” themselves. I preferred this to catching because whenever I was tired of running I could get frozen on purpose and rest a while.
3. Adults carried pagers. We carried beeping devices too, affectionately known as Tamagotchi.
I remember having one too, and treasured it a lot, since I hardly had any toys back then. After that, Tamagotchi was considered “girly”, because…
4. I was always getting into fights with other children I didn’t know–on my Digivice.
Yes, the Digivice was much more popular than the Tamagotchi. It was much cooler and your Digimon could fight and evolve, which beats staring at a chicken until it died. I got a white Digivice as a gift from my neighbour. The lazy kids would do some “code” and try to get an Ultimate stage Digimon without raising it from scratch. People used to cut the plastic farecards into a small strip for this purpose.
5. Playgrounds were filled with SAND, not rubber.
Yes, playgrounds were awesome then. I could spend hours there playing for free. My favourite was the swing because I loved feeling the wind on my face. Most swings were made of really huge black tyres or something like that.
Next was the slide. I remember this slide made of some marble-like material which was very “seasoned”. Children’s butts slid down it thousands of times every day, so it was really really really smooth. Which meant it attracted more children’s butts. Those slides which were less “seasoned” were less fun to play with, since you’ll probably get stuck halfway down and it takes the fun out of it.
There were different ways of playing the slide–you could play it the traditional ‘ass way’. If you were a bit more adventurous, you could lie on your tummy and slide down head-first. That basically meant sliding face-down on a surface seasoned by thousands of butts (and pampers) but it was much too fun to pass up. We used to queue at the top of the slide and every kid would slide down one-by-one, then go up to queue for another round. Some kids just sat at the top, torn apart by the fear of sliding down and yet wanting to have a go because it looked like tremendous fun. So they started crying, jamming up the queue and their parents would carry them away. Either that or he would be given a shove by the evil kid waiting behind and end up crying anyway, from both shock and excitement.
The sand was great for making sandcastles, without going to the beach. Kids would bring their own spades and shovels down to play. Otherwise you could just dig around for spades and shovels that other children left behind. But after that parents became concerned about the hygiene of sand at the playgrounds. There would be pee or poo in the sand, thanks to dogs and cats (and children themselves) who visit the playground. Today, only very little of such playgrounds exist, and the very famous dragon design playground can still be seen at Toa Payoh.
6. Who can forget Mimi, Sam Seng, Fat Ani, Smarty, and the rest of the Bookworm Gang?
Although the short stories were too short for my liking, I still enjoyed them anyway. Never could explain why..I remember the books were damn expensive and damn thin…only a few pages. I always suspected the author of Bookworm stories was anti-teachers. Why else would he/she name the form teacher Ms. Goon?
And every year the Bookworm company would come down to my school to sell books and coerce us into joining the “Bookworm Club”. (I remember there was even a member card)
And everytime the Bookworm auntie will read us a story from the latest Bookworm book. But she won’t tell us the ending, and asked us to buy it. KNS.
This is what your bookworm book would probably look like if you had one today:
And talking about school…it took up a large part of our time every day, it was horrible and fun at the same time, because everyone went through pretty much the same things. I put this the last because there’s just so much to reminisce about!
1. There was this Aces Day which was horrid because it was not a holiday, and you got a fugly cap and had to do this corny thing called The Great Singapore Workout.
Who would have fogotten the scissors kick? And the flushing and pooing action which got everyone giggling, coupled with self-added sound effects from the boys. In case you want to try this at home, here’s a super high-quality youtube video just so you can observe every action.
Cool bright yellow outfit coupled with superb shorts! (and matching socks!!)
2. For some time, trolley-schoolbags were the in-thing. Until you realised your classroom was on the 4th floor.
Yeah well..that fad lasted a while. I got one too. but it was utterly pointless. The wheels were so noisy that our school said we couldn’t wheel them around the school..
3. It was called the tuckshop, not canteen.
4. (Whenever teachers were not around) Class monitors liked to say, “You talk some more, I write your name on the board ah!”
Classic line..I wonder if they still use this today.
5. English was fun because of PETS coursebooks!
PETS coursebooks were all the rage. There was a different animal each year, and they would be hidden in many of the pages. English lessons were never boring because you could always challenge those sitting around you to find the animal on each page first. After I bought my new textbooks during the holidays, the first book I would read was my PETS coursebook…to spot all the animals in it. Haha. The animals were: squirrel, rat, tortoise, rabbit, bird and monkey, from P1-P6. Sadly I couldn’t find pictures of the P1 and P2 coursebooks.
But the worksheets were weird. They were held together using some poor quality gum, such that when you tore out many pages of worksheets at once, large chunks of gum were left on the worksheets. But I hated the penmanship sections, especially the cursive writing!
And there was some poem in the PETS textbook about momo monster drinking hot tea. Cool!
6. The worst punishment for not bringing your textbook is having to go to the neighbouring class to borrow a copy. And everyone would stare at you. Or even worse, being asked to borrow the OHP from them. But at least you share the embarassment with another unfortunate friend, and both of you would carry the friggin’ huge thing back to your class. And then back again, to return it.
7. Sharity elephant anyone?
8. “Everyone in class would tremble in fear when someone with a gauze stuck in the mouth came to your class and called out a name to go visit the school dentist.”
This was quoted from one of the websites I visited..it was simply too aptly phrased!
9. Everyone played the music recorder during music lessons.
Yeah, I hated it. I always pretended to blow when the whole class was supposed to play. I was afraid of blowing the wrong note, then having the people around you stare at you. And we were always asked to wash our recorders at home after the lesson. Not bringing your recorder on Music lesson day was like 2012, because you either had to borrow from the next class (ew.) or you had to use one from the filthy music cupboard (EWW).
10. “You grew up brushing your teeth with a mug in primary school during recess time. You would squat by a drain with all your classmates beside you, and brush your teeth with a colored mug. The teachers said you must brush each side ten times. Not forgetting the silly red tablet which you know not the purpose for.”
Yeah, the dentist told me too. In the end it was counterproductive because so many classes had to brush their teeth, that we were always in a rush. We either ended up leaving before rinsing our mouths properly, or brushing before we ate for recess.
11. The most vulgar thing you said was ‘asshole’ or ‘idiot’. You just couldn’t bring yourself to say the hokkien relative.
Yeah well..not really true. When I just learnt ‘fuck’ and ‘nabei’ I kept using it until I got bored of it. I remember people kept trying to get others to say ‘chicken white’ though.
12. “You brought every single book to school, even though there was one thing called the timetable, written on the inside cover of your little blue notebook.”
Yes, I was one of those. Later on, it was cool to bring ‘book bands’ or whatever they’re called. Basically a strip of velcro that you wrap around a few books and carry in your hand. Usually bright-coloured.
13. Waterbottles, with your favourite cartoon character pasted on it, were a must everywhere you went, slung around your neck.
14. Boys loved to play soccer with ping pong balls at the basketball courts.
Well for my school at least. Hey, they were cheap and kickable. (For a period of time the bookshop enjoyed great sales of ping-pong balls) I think anything that could be kicked was used. Like pong pong fruits for example. But they banned that, coz it was poisonous or something. Probably the school was afraid the boys would get hungry halfway during soccer and pick up the fruit to eat it.
15. English was fun coz of PETS coursebook, but Science had the angsana and balsam plant.
Yeah, and the lallang. Oh, and Cupid’s shaving brush. Never got over that one.
16. Remember the blue “Young Scientist” cards? And the small badges you got for being a Young Zoologist/
My first badge was the Ornithologist. I’m so proud that I know what that means. Had to collect collect a bunch of feathers for that one. I highly suspect they were all from crows (that was all I could got my hands on) but my teacher closed an eye and let me pass. People said the Young Zoologist and Physicist were free frags coz you could just buy the book that was always sold at the bookfair and copied everything inside. Oh, and Ecologist.
17. You never got bored of going to the Science Centre.
18. Every Children’s Day and National Day you got cheap quality pens and pencils that were bound to spoil before the next Children’s Day/National Day. (so that you could use the new ones the following year) Either that or lame files printed with “Happy Children’s Day 1998”.
Look! I still have mine from before I transferred schools!
19. You had to play buddy for the Primary Ones when you got older.
I remember this! I played buddy in P3 and we were supposed to bring them to buy food. Then my P1 buddy was my friend’s sister, and I happened to know her P1 buddy. So we cheated and swapped buddies and felt really good about it.
20. Whenever it rained, you went to school in a raincoat and slippers, then you found a dry spot in school to sit down and wipe your feet dry, before putting on your socks and shoes.
Raincoats! Nobody wears them nowadays though.
21. You freak out when your teacher told you to line up in two rows according to height and gender, then hold hands with the boy/girl beside you before walking off to the music room/computer lab/hall.
Yeah, those were the days. Now they can’t wait to kiss.
22. The worksheets were made of brownish, rough and poor quality paper.
I hated those. So much so that I always completed those of normal paper first and those of brownish paper last. I remember it was really hard to write on that kind of paper..the writing in pencil doesn’t show up well or something. Not to mention that they smelled awful.
23. The bookshop was always filled with people. To buy fancy notebooks, erasers, rulers, pencils…everything except books. It was cool to collect those stuff.
24. Talking about fanciful stationery, there were those fancy magnetic pencilboxes. At the push of some buttons, you had all the nifty gadgets like a thermometer and compass, tiny drawers or a sharpener. Basically everything you probably don’t need for school could be found inside.
25. The Shaker was the coolest mechanical pencil ever made. You were cool if you had one.
26. The only thing with pages that you bought from the bookshop was Young Generation magazine.
It was a monthly magazine at..$2 I think. I always tried to save up to buy it every month. There was Vinny the little Vampire, Suzy and of course Constable Acai. I loved sending mails to take part in the contests, but never won anything =/ Pity I couldn’t find a picture of an old issue. But it’s still being published now.
27. The school football field was hardly ever used for football. And the basketball hoops never had nets attached. Even if it did, the nets never lasted more than 1 week.
Don’t ask me what happened to the nets. But we didn’t play football at the field because firstly the school banned us from using it apart from PE and secondly we were using ping pong balls, remember? (can’t kick them in the grass)
28. Teacher’s Day was the day which we all did our best to show our love for our teachers, e.g. by making cards, gifts, etc. We would flood to the staff rooms and hand it to them personally. Children’s day was awesome because it would be the other way round.
I remember trying to come up with different designs of cards every year..And on children’s day we actually came to expect teachers to give us something. This included Yakult, sweets, chocolates etc. It was the only day we could eat in class. The most anticipated was my Maths teacher who always said she went to 牛车水 to buy us those sweets with a plum in centre. Either she was lying or she didn’t know NTUC sold them too. Anyway, we would compare to see which teacher gave the ‘best’ presents.
29. The telephone was our only source of communication after school. If we wanted to talk to our classmates at home, we had to pick up the phone and call. Which meant we could memorise the phone numbers of all our best friends.
I enjoyed chatting for hours with friends on the phone, only to get scolded by my parents later. And there were always long queues at the only coin phone in school, to tell your parents there was remedial that day, or ask them to bring the texttbook that you had left at home, to avoid the drastic consequences. (refer no. 6)
30. At lower primary, the boys’ shorts were actually open (no zip!) in the front.
I totally forgot this until I came across it in one of the forums. I think that was only for P1/P2 though. Hahaha.
31. You either used a purse or a velcro wallet.
I hated those velcro wallets. You had to rip it open to get your money and the whole canteen would know you’re opening your wallet because of the noise. And for a while it was cool to have your wallet chained to your pants, using something that looked like a telephone cord with a hook at the end. It was usually bright coloured..to tell pickpockets where your wallet was, I suppose.
32. Teachers would paste coloured duct tapes around the corner of your workbook and that would be your group color for that year.
33. The longest queue is not found in the canteen but the classroom: we would queue up at the front to let the teacher mark our corrections before going back to our seats.
If your corrections were wrong you had to re-queue. I remember praying that my corrections would be correct so that I could go back to my seat ASAP to talk to my friends study on my own since the teacher was occupied with marking.
34. Everyone exchanged autograph books before we graduated. You wrote every little detail about yourself, including all your best friends and your ‘favourites’ list. The books were also were loaded with “Best Wishes”, “Forget Me Not”, “Friends Forever” and little poems like “Birds fly high, hard to catch. Friends like you, hard to find”.
This was why it was absolutely important to have a favourite TV show character, favourite Digimon, favourite drink..the list goes on and on. There was one more about “Roses are red, violets are blue.” Usually you started with your personal bio, then a favuorites list, a best friends list (people usually quarrelled about being included in the list or not) and concluded with some touching personal message to the owner of the book. You were cool if you could decorate your entry nicely. And even the relief teachers or teachers from NIE were made to write in our autograph books before they left. That’s for all the extra homework they gave us during their visit.
35. Well the last one..I thought it was particularly meaningful. I quote from one of the boards I’ve visited:
The 80s was when we see some classmates, during some course of our primary school lives (6-8 years), have black / blue patches of cloth pinned to their sleeves.
And, even back then, before days of National Education, we knew. We shared their sorrow.
We let them win in One Leg. We tried to avoid hitting them during Bola Rembat / Hentam Bola.
Although by the 90s we were seeing less of this..but it was still in practice. (the cloth) For those who don’t know, this meant that one of the person’s close kins had just passed away. I guess this was what true friendship meant back then. It was our way of showing care for our friends, our concern for them.
In the best way we could think of with our little innocent minds.
I miss growing up in the 90’s. Don’t you?