The old Hollywood Canteen so fondly remembered by many City Harvesters is about to be demolished for redevelopment.
Contributed By Serina Perera
“Old-timers” of City Harvest Church will remember the “old Hollywood canteen” behind the former Hollywood Theatre, where CHC held its services between 1995 and 2001. The grubby coffee shop, tucked snugly in the corner of the car park along Haig Road, was where members of the congregation would hang out in between the six services the church used to hold over the weekends.
Hin Hollywood Canteen, as it is rightfully named, will be closing down in early September to make way for new developments in the area. The Lion City Hotel and the former Hollywood Theatre (now a supermarket) were acquired by the UOL Group in January this year. The company reportedly plans to redevelop the site as commercial-cum-residential development.
I popped by the canteen recently for a personal trip down memory lane, and it seemed to me that this worn and torn eatery that has been around for half a century, was lost in time. Everything was just as I remembered it. The same stall vendors (save one or two) were still there, selling the same dishes, presented in the same fashion. And the canteen was as crowded as ever.
The best part was, the vendors still recognized me.
In fact, many of them recognize almost every City Harvester who goes back there to eat. They remember the familiar faces of the youth that used to hang out at the canteen from dawn to dusk; who now return to eat once in a while, all grown-up, with spouse and children in tow.
Now that the canteen will soon be closing, I was curious to know if these “aunties and uncles” had any plans of moving their stall to another location. Apart from the chicken rice uncle who would be moving to Haig Road Food Centre, a stone’s throw away, and Lian Kee Duck Rice, which will be moving to Sims Place Market & Food Centre, the other stalls are still considering their options.
As I looked at the tired face of the kindly “ah mm” preparing the hand-made ban mian, my heart went out to her and to her fellow vendors. It’s not easy to uproot oneself from a place where many memories lie. Our increasingly progressive environment demands change; often we’re forced to get up and move on. Yet, may we never forget those who have once played a part in our lives, who have brought us comfort, whether through a smile or a delicious hot meal, at a time when we needed it most.
As City Harvest Church enters into its 22nd year, my thoughts are with the people who have helped build and support this church, in big ways and small. It’s the season to come together, reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and celebrate love and unity.
A PLACE WHERE FRIENDSHIPS WERE FORGED
Kelvin Goh You Lian, 36, sales personnel
When we served in church, we would reach early in the morning and leave late in the evening. So we ended up having our breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner there. Whenever we sat beyond the shelter, we often got “added ingredients” in our meals (fallen leaves, insects and bird poo) because we would sit there and the fellowship would just go on and on. We weren’t in a hurry or rushing off anywhere.
Raymond Lee, 35, systems engineer
The stall vendors were exceptionally nice to us. They remembered how we liked our food, our coffee, etc., and they would help us to find an available table. The char kway teow uncle would be so busy he’d forget to collect our money; we had to chase after him. They were almost like family to us.
XF Chen, 37, engineer
The uncle selling duck rice had a rhythm to chopping the duck meat. The ban mian aunty created a unique dish of dry ban mian just for City Harvesters. I have fond memories of that place where we would hang out after a long day of serving in ministry. It’s where long-lasting friendships were made. I also have poignant memories of that place because during that time, many of us were in the midst of tertiary education, and one of our friends had to make the hard decision of going overseas to study. I remember the weekend when we ended up at a table, weighing the options over a bowl of ban mian. My friend eventually moved overseas, but the friendship remains firm and strong.
Eugene Cornelius, 31, analyst
When the time for CHC to move to Jurong West drew near, I remember the sadness on the faces of the uncles and aunties, whom I would like to think of as an extended part of the CHC family. They kept saying how much they would miss us and how cold the canteen would be without all the City Harvesters hanging around.