A Visit To My Childhood Home

Not too long ago, a friend and primary school classmate told me that the HDB block where I used to live in as a child will be torn down soon. It is part of the Selective En-Block Redevelopment Scheme (SERS), and by now most of the residents have moved out.

Not wanting to lose a piece of my childhood memory to the rapid development that Singapore is undergoing, I decided to make a trip down to take some photos of the place where I grew up in. I was feeling rather lazy so for this I’ve decided to use my trusty Panasonic LX-3 instead of my DLSR. The Panasonic also has the advantage of having a wide-angle 24mm at f/2.0 which my DSLR setup cannot provide.

Block 20, Upper Boon Keng Road is a L-shaped HDB block. Arriving at the carpark near the intersection of the “L”, I took a shot of it from the bottom. I had the fortune of having a nice blue sky today.

A view from the bottom corner where the 2 sides of the black meet.

Nearby is a now-disused and rusted bicycle racks.

Disused and rusted bicycle racks

Downstairs, at the void deck is a provision shop that I used to visit regularly to buy tidbits. It still looked the same as I remembered, with a public toilet next to it which visitors have to pay 10 cents to use.

The now-vacated old provision shop at the void deck where I used to buy titbits as a kid.

Moving over to the open field in front of the flat, I took a shot which shows the L-shape construction of the block.

View of the L-shaped Block 20, Upper Boon Keng Road, from the open field in front.

Interestingly, the playground (which wasn’t there when I was staying here) only has a rocking horse and nothing else. Kind of pathetic, isn’t it?

A lone rocking horse at the playground below the block.

Like many HDB flats of yesterday, Block 20 has sides made of a red brick wall where a sign indicating the block number is attached to.

View of the brick side-wall of the block with the Block 20 sign.
A close-up view of the Block 20 sign on the brick wall.
View of the block from the car park. Tone-mapping was done in Photomatix to bring out some details on the brick wall which was in a shaded area.

Typical of old HDB flats, some of the lift landings require climbing a short flight of stairs to get to. I believe that’s because they need some space below for the lift engine or other mechanics.

A small flight of stairs leads to the lift landing.

The lift here is of the old-school kind, with buttons and indicators lit by orange/yellow incandescent light bulbs instead of the newer LEDs. The door is also a single sliding door instead of the more common double doors you see today in newer HDB flats.

An old-style HDB lift. One needs to climb a small flight of stairs to reach this.
The incandescent-lit lift button.
An old-style lift-level indicator lit but incandescent bulbs. This is actually taken from another lift in the same block as I've forgotten to shoot the same one when I was taking this lift.

The control panel inside is just as old school. Typical of old lifts, this one does not stop at every level, only at specific levels.

The old-style lift control panel, complete with incandescent-lit buttons.

I took the lift to the 10th floor to see what it’s like. I can no longer remember how it looked like when I was still a child, but it’d still be interesting to see what it looks like now.

What greeted me was a panoramic view of the surroundings.

A panoramic view taken from the 10th floor towards the direction of Geylang. Click the image for a larger view.

Looking down the corridor, I was intrigued by the converging lines of the ceiling and the parapet wall leading towards the other part of the “L” shaped block.

A view down the corridor from the 10th storey showing the other part of the "L" shaped block.

Looking down, we see the open field where a playground and basketball court is. A tent has been setup for some religious event (probably the Hungry Ghost Festival).

View of the field in front from the 10th floor. There's a playground and a basket ball court. A tent has been setup for some religious activity.

I decided to go higher up to the 14th floor to see what I can get. I realised I did not have a shot of the corridor showing the residential units so I decided to take one.

A view down the corridor from the 14th storey, showing the residential units which are now vacant.

Walking along the corridor, I realised some of the units have missing windows, presenting an opportunity for the voyeur in me to snap a couple of photos of the interiors.

The evening sun streams into a decorated living room complete with Roman columns, now vacated and abandoned.

I also decided to take another panoramic view of the scene in front of me, this time from the 14th floor and a slightly different angle.

Panoramic view taken from the 14th floor. Part of the Aljunied MRT Station can be seen on the left. Click on the image to view a larger version.

High shots done, I decided to go to level 5 where I used to stay. The parapet wall has regular openings guarded by a steel grille. I remember peering through them to see the happenings below when I was still a child.

A little grille at regular intervals along the parapet wall which I used to peer through as a kid.

Approaching my old home, I realised the unit which my ex-neighbour used to stay has large splats of black and red paint on the door – a sign that the debt collectors from the loan sharks has come. The current owners must have owed them money.

A vandalised front door - the work of the runners of loan sharks performed on units where the owners owed them money.

And this is the unit where I used to live in. #05-1142.

The unit which I stayed as a kid before we moved out to a bigger place later. A notice of possession can be seen posted on the door.
A view down the 5th floor corridor outside the unit where I lived.

Mission accomplished, I took my leave and walked past a residents’ corner. This must have been a new addition as it wasn’t there by the time we moved out.

This wasn't there when I still lived here. It was added later as a place for senior citizens to sit back, relax and chat.

And before I go, one last shot of the block.

Another view of the block from the car park. This is the side facing Block 19.

Farewell, Block 20. Thanks for the memories.


  1. Hi CK, I have recently been doing a video of HDB lifts and was delighted to find the translucent glass button on your site. I am unable to find anymore lifts with such buttons.
    Do u happen to have taken any video? Of not, it is possible for me to use your pictures on this site.

    For your info, I am doing this as an interest and like u on a journey to revisit the past.

    1. Blk 321 -323 Clementi has some. All blocks are expected to be vacated and locked by July 2018.

    2. Now only blk 712 Ang Mo Kio is the only HDB lift left to have such buttons (up and down), though the buttons inside the lift has been replaced. Those buttons are made up of plastic btw, not glass. Those sorts of lifts used to be extremely common about 15 years ago but the government is very fast and ruthless in getting rid of old lifts. Most of them were wiped out by the early 2010s under the Lift Upgrading Programme.

  2. This is really great.
    I’m also doing a project on my childhood home “Project I Lived Here”
    I’m collecting pictures and sounds from peoples old childhood homes, either old photos or if they’ve gone back to revisit the home and photograph it again like you did.
    If you’d like to get involved, please email me at geneabailey@hotmail.co.uk it’d be really great if you could!
    You can find out more about the project here – http://geneabailey.wordpress.com/project-i-lived-here/


  3. Hi, chanced upon your site…. I used to stay at the same block too! #04-1162. Missed the neighbourliness and the void lift landing where kids used to play, adults cook etc. Even had my hair cut by my dad there! Also missing the simple but wonderful playground that’s now the roads and entrance to KPE.

    1. Good times. There was also some ghost story round that area too. Pity the block will be torn down soon.

  4. Hi CK, I used to stay this block since 1974-1990 #03-1148, when i used to stayed with my Grand parent. Lots of my childhood memories that I can’t forget till today. Still keeping few old days photo place. So sad that block need to be demolished for new development.
    johan Isa

    1. Ah, which means you are my “downstairs neighbour” 🙂 Yeah, sad that it’s gone now. I remember there was even ghost sightings near the banyan tree when I was still staying there.

  5. I stayed at this block since 70s until 1991 if not mistaken. My house was #04-1152. A lot of memories during my childhood days.

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