New World Park



New World Park was the first of three renowned amusement parks (or the three “worlds”) that wooed Singapore night crowds from the 1920s to the ’60s.1 Opened on 1 August 1923, the park was located at Jalan Besar.2 In its heyday, New World Park had open-air cinemas, opera halls, shops and restaurants.3 It closed in 1987, and sitting on its site today are City Square Mall and City Square Residences, developments by City Developments Limited. The mall features an urban park, City Green, which incorporates the New World Gate, which was reconstructed from New World Park’s original main gate.4

Development
In 1923, Ong Boon Tat and his younger brother, Ong Peng Hock, set up New World Park,the first of the three famous amusement parks that coloured Singapore’s night life from the 1920s to the ’60s. New World Park was located at Jalan Besar, bounded by Serangoon Road, Kitchener Road and Whampoa River. Shaw Brothers owned a 50-percent share of the Park at first, then subsequently bought out their partners. 

Description
New World Park was famous for its cabarets, Chinese and Malay opera halls, shops, restaurants, open-air cinemas, boxing arenas, and shooting galleries.7 On the first day of opening, it featured attractively decorated kiosks, a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel and a football ground.8 Within three months, the park had hosted 16 first-class boxing contests, wrestling matches, variety shows and operas. Within two years, the New World’s City Opera was hailed the best in Malaya by a local newspaper.9


Singapore’s first public cabaret opened at New World Park with vaudeville artists and 30 dancing partners who were “the cream of Manila” and personally recruited by Ong Peng Hock.10 The park also boasted Singapore’s first open-air talkie (theatre screening movies with soundtrack, as opposed to silent movies) in 1930. Two years later, the Ghost Train ride, which was a replica of the one at Margate’s Dreamland in Kent, England, was opened and in 1935, a Dodgem (bumper car) building was erected.11

New World Park’s cabarets were so raved about that they were said to have occasionally wooed the late Sultan Ibrahim of Johor and his large entourage.12 A dollar would buy patrons three foxtrots or waltzes with cheongsam-clad taxi-dancers.13 The cabarets remained popular until the 1950s and due to its large dance floor, 500 couples could dance comfortably at a time.14

The lovers of joget (modern Malay dance) were drawn to New World Park by the Bunga Tanjong dance hall.15 Patrons could buy a dance with a taxi-dancer for 50 cents for one joget or opt to dance the ronggeng (traditional Malay dance), cha-cha or rumba accompanied by a band of Malay musicians. Early birds would secure seats nearest to the dancing girls.16 On some nights, Bunga Tanjong could pack up to 500 people. The popularity of the dance hall also inspired acclaimed playwright A. Samad Said to write a well-received play on the life of a cabaret girl, entitled Lantai T. Pinkie (T. Pinkie’s Floor).17

New World Park had a number of venues for performances. For Chinese opera alone, it had two locations for Peking opera, one for Fujian opera and another for Chaozhou opera. It also had a Cantonese opera which performed at the Sunshine Stage – said to be its biggest theatre.18

Performances at New World featured famed personalities. Wrestling matches, for example, starred the famous Hungarian wrestler, King Kong.19 Rose Chan, known as the “undisputed Queen of Strip”, performed Singapore’s first striptease show at New World’s Fong Fong Café in 1949.20 She also wrestled pythons and bent iron bars with her neck during her shows.21 New World was also the place where Sakura Teng, a well-known 1970s Malaysian songbird, launched her music career at age 17.22

The restaurants at New World Park served Cantonese and Western cuisines.23 Other than serving the usual dinner, the restaurants were popular locations where matchmakers introduced prospective marriage partners, and favourite venues for wedding banquets.24

Apart from profit-making businesses, the Park was also involved in charitable acts. It supported the victims of the Rangoon Road fire and was the venue for the Tiong Bahru Fire Relief Fund in 1934.25 The Twilight Hall was the venue for Baba plays performed for charity.26

During the Japanese Occupation, New World Park was renamed Shin Segai and turned into a gambling farm opened only to civilians and not Japanese soldiers.27 

Closure
New World Park faded from the night scene after the 1960s, a fate that also affected the other two “worlds” – Great World and Gay World. The decline of the “worlds” was possibly due to the availability of alternative entertainment options like cheap radios, which only the rich could afford earlier in the 20th century, the increased accessibility to television sets, shopping centres, discos and nightclubs.28

In April 1987, New World Park closed its doors.29 Its four-hectare land site was bought by City Developments Limited (CDL), a subsidiary of the Hong Leong group.30 City Square Mall and City Square Residences, developments by CDL, occupy the site today.31



Author
Marsita Omar




References
1. New World Park’s original gate to front new park. (2005, April 14). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
2. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 200. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Jeman Sulaiman. (1988, August 3). Bunga Tanjong: Once the fun seekers’ haven. The Straits Times, p. 4; Lee, K. L. (2004, February 6). New World has colourful history. The Business Times, p. 14; New entertainment centre. (1923, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 10; Development of the New World. (1935, October 8). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Holden, P. (2004). At home in the worlds. In R. Bishop, et al. (Eds.), Beyond description: Singapore space historicity. London: Routledge, p. 87. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 BEY)
3. Lee, K. L. (2004, February 6). New World has colourful history. The Business Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. National Parks. (2011). People and places – City green: Family fun at a unique eco-park, 10(3) Retrieved 2017, February 6 from My Green Space website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/mygreenspace/issue-10-vol-3-2011/lifestyle/people-and-places/city-green-family-fun-at-a-unique-eco-park; Rashiwala, K. (2004, January 29). CityDev’s Kitchener project to start in Q4. The Business Times, p. 8; New World Park’s original gate to front new park. (2005, April 14). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
5. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 200. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Lee, K. L. (2004, February 6). New World has colourful history. The Business Times, p. 14; Jeman Sulaiman. (1988, August 3). Bunga Tanjong: Once the fun seekers’ haven. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO)
6. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 200. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Shaw Organisation. (2007). Amusement parks: Great World and New World. Retrieved 2017, February 6 from Shaw Theatres website: http://www.shaw.sg/sw_abouthistory.aspx?id=179%2087%2031%20147%2038%2038%2012%20236%2071%2085%2031%2059%2020%2092%20122%2069
7. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 200. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Jeman Sulaiman. (1988, August 3). Bunga Tanjong: Once the fun seekers’ haven. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. New entertainment centre. (1923, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Development of the New World. (1935, October 8). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Development of the New World. (1935, October 8). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO); Holden, P. (2004). At home in the worlds. In R. Bishop, et al. (Eds.), Beyond description: Singapore space historicity. London: Routledge, p. 88. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 BEY)
12. Phan, M. Y. (1995, June 9). Three Worlds and a time when life was a cabaret. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Holden, P. (2004). At home in the worlds. In R. Bishop, et al. (Eds.), Beyond description: Singapore space historicity. London: Routledge, p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 BEY)
13. Lee, K. L. (2004, February 6). New World has colourful history. The Business Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO); Shaw Organisation. (2007). Amusement parks: Great World and New World. Retrieved 2017, February 6 from Shaw Theatres website: http://www.shaw.sg/sw_abouthistory.aspx?id=179%2087%2031%20147%2038%2038%2012%20236%2071%2085%2031%2059%2020%2092%20122%2069
14. Phan, M. Y. (1995, June 9). Three Worlds and a time when life was a cabaret. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, p. 25. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO)
15. Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO); Shaw Organisation. (2007). Amusement parks: Great World and New World. Retrieved 2017, February 6 from Shaw Theatres website: http://www.shaw.sg/sw_abouthistory.aspx?id=179%2087%2031%20147%2038%2038%2012%20236%2071%2085%2031%2059%2020%2092%20122%2069
16. Jeman Sulaiman. (1988, August 3). Bunga Tanjong: Once the fun seekers’ haven. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Sew, J. W. (1996, June 13). Drama jaya papar tragedy cinta. Berita Harian, p. 7; Marliana Abu Bakar. (1996, May 6). A new woman dances into Samad Said’s world. The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Lee, T. S. (2009). Chinese street opera in Singapore. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, pp. 33–34. (Call no.: RSING 782.1095957 LEE); Chan, K. S. (2000, June 12). Worlds of fun and games. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Pete. (1938, December 10). Wrestling at the New World to-night. Malaya Tribune, p. 14; Chairs, stones for Kong. (1951, April 23). Singapore Standard, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, pp. 28–29. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO)
21. When three parks ruled Singapore’s night life. (1990, March 25). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Feng, C. (2005, February 9). Whatever happened to... Sakura Teng? The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Parks. (2011). People and places – City green: Family fun at a unique eco-park, 10(3) Retrieved 2017, February 6 from My Green Space website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/mygreenspace/issue-10-vol-3-2011/lifestyle/people-and-places/city-green-family-fun-at-a-unique-eco-park
23. Shaw Organisation. (2007). Amusement parks: Great World and New World. Retrieved 2017, February 6 from Shaw Theatres website: http://www.shaw.sg/sw_abouthistory.aspx?id=179%2087%2031%20147%2038%2038%2012%20236%2071%2085%2031%2059%2020%2092%20122%2069
24. Holden, P. (2004). At home in the worlds. In R. Bishop, et al. (Eds.), Beyond description: Singapore space historicity. London: Routledge, p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 BEY); Restaurant no longer a matchmaking venue. (1996, January 19). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. New World Cabaret: Gala “charity” ball. (1934, August 25). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884—1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, p. 29. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO)
26. Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO); Development of the New World. (1935, October 8). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Lee, K. L. (2004, February 6). New World has colourful history. The Business Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, pp. 29–30. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO); Chan, K. S. (2000, June 12). Worlds of fun and games. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Rudolph, J. (1996). Amusement in the three “worlds”. In S. Krishnan, et al. (Eds.), Looking at culture (pp. 21–33). Singapore: Artres Design & Communications, pp. 30–31. (Call no.: RSING 306.095957 LOO); When three parks ruled Singapore’s night life. (1990, March 25). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. New World Park’s original gate to front new park. (2005, April 14). The Straits Times, p. 3; Phan, M. Y. (1995, June 9). Three Worlds and a time when life was a cabaret. The Straits Times, p.  8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Church loses bid to buy New World land. (1987, May 22). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. National Parks. (2011). People and places – City green: Family fun at a unique eco-park, 10(3). Retrieved 2017, February 6 from My Green Space website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/mygreenspace/issue-10-vol-3-2011/lifestyle/people-and-places/city-green-family-fun-at-a-unique-eco-park/; Rashiwala, K. (2004, January 29). CityDev’s Kitchener project to start in Q4. The Business Times, p. 8; New World Park’s original gate to front new park. (2005, April 14). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 



The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Places of interest
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Leisure and entertainment
Recreation>>Places of Interest
Amusement parks--Singapore--History--20th century