Uncle Sam's Stories
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The Early Years

narrated by Samuel Koh Teck Tiong
transcribed by Rupert Koh

"I come from a big family of 14.  My father, Koh Kim Han married his wife Chia Siew Lian, daughter of Chia Hood Thiam.  My mother bore 9 sons and 5 daughters.  My father the late Koh Kim Han was a staunch Buddhist until the late Rev. Chew Hock Hin converted him to Christianity.  Then the whole family became members of Paya Lebar Methodist Church (PLMC).  PLMC started in one school classroom and later we help build the church building of which the late Rev. Chew Hock Hin was our pastor. My sister Koh Bee Guat (3rd in the family among the sisters) married George Khoo Joo Chuan, who is  the brother-in-law of the Late Rev. Chew Hock Hin.  George Khoo was a government scholar who studied in the UK and who became a Director of the National Library of Singapore."

 

"My father after accepting Christ as his saviour was a very pious man who later became the Church treasurer for many years until his death at 66 years of age.  I remember usually after dinner we must have our vesper hour.  My father was a long-winded man and sometimes, after saying his prayers with his eyes closed, would find all the boys missing (myself included).  We would sneak out to see our girl friends."

 

"I will briefly tell you some of my experiences during the Japanese occupation in the year 1941.  When the Japanese invaded Singapore, part of our family moved to Mt. Sophia under the guidance of the Late Rev. Chew Hock Hin.  My father could not join them because he had to look after 87, Kovan Road.  I remember those terrible years when we all had to live under the Japanese.  I was only 17-years-old and did not have a driving license.  However, in those days, one could easily buy a second-hand car for only S$2.50.  I bought a Morris Oxford.  I filled it up with petrol, and carried some as spare.  I managed to drive the car home to Kovan Road and I had along with me my younger brother Donald Koh Teck Sin who was then only 8-years-old.  We even invited some girls who came along for the joy ride, but they got so excited that they spilled the spare petrol.  Along the way back home, we saw dead bodies lying on the road.  We had a friend by the name of Robert Cheong Bock Yam (CBY) who was taking shelter at 87, Kovan Road.  One day, Japanese soldiers came to our house and CBY and me who were young and could easily climb, hid in the attic.  My father could not hide in the attic and so my father got slapped by the Japanese soldier who wanted the wristwatch he was wearing.  He gladly gave the soldier his watch and the slapping stopped.  I read in the newspaper that the British were burning food at dumpsites and CBY and myself went looking for one.  We eventually found one and we had the car filled-up with cans of beans.  Those days people were starving and had nothing to eat.  On our way home, a Japanese soldier with a sword stopped us and he wanted me to drive him to Seletar.  If only the Japanese officer knew that we were looters he would not hesitate to have us shot.  But the Japanese soldier was a good man and no harm came to us.  While others had nothing to eat, we had baked beans to eat seven days a week.  Later CBY found me a job at the Naval Base and those days, the commander-in-chief of the Naval Base was Wee Kim Wee, who later became the President of Singapore.  He even gave CBY and myself accommodation on the Naval Base."


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