Friday, August 12 2022

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Khaw Boon Wan once said that he now reads books via Kindle. I never went to his house. I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t have a large library of physical books or magazines. Everything the former Minister of Transport needs to read for fun, knowledge or work is obviously online – on phone, tablet, laptop or PC. But I urge her to spend some time visiting as many bookstores as possible as they disappear quite quickly. The intellectual liveliness of a great world metropolis is measured, among other things, by the number of places where a curious mind is constantly surprised and nourished by the nuggets found by the simple pleasure of strolling.

In recent weeks, two news seem to sound the death knell for an important part of our childhood memories.

A while ago, we learned that an institution on Tanjong Katong Road was closing. The Katong News Agency, which opened in 1955, is closing its doors after 67 years in business. I quote Tabla! “Those familiar with Tanjong Katong will recall that the shop at 350 Tanjong Katong Road was once popular with parents and students for its wide range of textbooks, assessment books, novels, magazines and stationery.

“The iconic store had been home to generations of students from nearby schools, including Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, Tanjong Katong Technical School, Dunman High School and Chung Cheng High School (Main), in the 1960s at 1990.

“Business took a dive when three of the schools left Tanjong Katong Road in the late 1990s.”

I would add to this: the students of the convent of Katong will surely also remember the store, as will Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong who studied at Tanjong Katong Secondary School (the new coeducational school) and at Haig Road primary nearby.

Earlier this month, we learned that Knowledge Book Store, a second-hand bookstore in the Bras Basah complex, will close by the end of the month. And Singaporeans learned about it from a TikTok video, not any of our outrageously overfunded mainstream media.

The mothership reported:

“The news was met with disappointment and a heated discussion ensued in the comments section of the video, with many commenters suggesting ways to preserve the business, such as taking it online.

“Many of those who commented also sought to know the exact reasons for the closure of the third floor bookstore, since it is an institution in Bras Basah that caters to the needs of many students who go there for buy cheap used textbooks.”

Sad.

Nothing can replace the journey and the thrill of discovery browsing bookstores or spending time at a place like Borders, MPH, Popular – or one of the disappearing magazine agencies as well.

I dedicate this column to two sets of experiences that helped shape my early years.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my time in second-hand Saints bookstores – from the Dhoby Ghaut area to the outskirts – as well as the store at the junction of Porchester Avenue and Kensington Park Road, where many books, newspapers and magazines (taken from the ANZUK soldiers’ temporary homes at Serangoon Garden) were sold at promotional prices. I was introduced to world politics, western culture and tons of subjects for less.

Then when I was working as a journalist I went so far as to order aerial copies of The Sunday Times of London from a number of news agencies selling foreign newspapers just to be unique and also to take advantage of the six or seven magazines. which came with the edition. Whenever I was at each outlet, I was flipping through a huge range of magazines, whether it was Siglap Centre, The Arcade, Tanglin Shopping Mall or Holland Village. The first three are long gone. The last one standing is the iconic Thambi Magazine Store, a family business with over 80 years of history.

CNA published a nice article about the store. He quoted Periathambi Senthilmurugan, aka Sam, the three-generation business owner, as saying, “My whole life is magazines, magazines, magazines. There was an article that said: Spread Kino, look at Thambi. But I haven’t been to the Kino. I haven’t been to Borders. I just focus on what I’m doing. This is what keeps me going. »

Well, Border has come and gone. Kino (kuniya) is still there. Evernew, the other iconic second-hand bookstore in the Bras Basa complex, survives, just opposite the TISG office on North Bridge Road.

Kino, Evernew and Thambi – for how long? So maybe don’t just do what Khaw Boon Wan does. The late DPM S Rajaratnam, a voracious reader, frequented the now defunct MPH bookshop along Stamford Road. Do the Raja. Browse. Don’t settle for Kindle.

Tan Bah Bah is a former editor of the Straits Times. He was also the editor of a magazine publishing company.

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