Dentist in East Coast or District 15
Singpost changed the postal codes in the 1990s, so nowadays most people don’t call it District 15. East Coast area was District 15, and still is, in the classifieds for real estate. It is a prosperous area.
There were not many dentists practicing along East Coast Road, and lots of prosperous residents, so we served many people in the East Coast Road area. It’s the entire gamut of associated roads and places: Katong Shopping Centre, Roxy Square, Amber Gardens, Haig Road, Meyer Road, Mountbatten Road, etc…
The best way to get to us from East Coast road, is to take Bus No. 40 going west, and get off at the first stop after turning into Geylang Road.
Or if you’re getting on at St. Patrick’s School or anywhere further east, you could take Bus No. 155 going west, and drop off when you see the Geylang Fire Station.
For drivers, just drive along East Coast Road, turn right into Tanjong Katong Road, then left into Geylang Road.
The East Coast has changed so much in the history of Katong Dental. A lot of our old patients used to live here, but they have moved. The majestic houses that used to line this road are now lofts and apartment blocks. Some sold their landed property for millions in early examples of en bloc sales for adjoining terrace houses, and the houses were replaced with residences for 30, 50, even 200 units.
But although the former property owners got millions of dollars, these could never replace their old homes.
Many of the houses along East Coast Road used to have sea views. There was even a hotel nearby called Seaview Hotel. Nowadays you can’t see any sea from East Coast Road, because 2-4km of land reclamation has taken place along the East Coast area and lots of tall buildings sprung up to block the sea views.
Katong Shopping Centre used to be THE happening place. It was really busy back then. The single-lane narrow escalators were crowded, and these were the only escalators around for many kilometres. If you lived in the area, you did everything there.
No dentist would set up his clinic there because the rent was too much and the spaces too small for traditional clinics which preferred operating in shophouses. Back then it was unthinkable for a dentist or doctor to practice in a shopping centre; it was too commercial and not professional enough. Everyone had their own proper spaces in a shophouse, whether traditional five foot way shophouse or a HDB shophouse. Dental clinics were expected (by the public) to be stolid, solid, long-term looking, confidence inducing, individually owned and personally responsible, etc. The public didn’t like Group Practices (who is responsible?) and they were turned off at the idea of a dentist registering his clinic as a Limited Private Company. Practitioners had to be Sole Proprietors with unlimited liability, because that was how the public believed a dentist should be – completely responsible with his heart and soul.
That culture is something that young dentists nowadays find very foreign. Because young dentists nowadays are starting practice in an established culture. Western-styled dentists in Singapore no longer need to fight for credibility for a public that wasn’t used to them.
Remember, all that was taking place during a time when the public was transiting from traditional dentistry (Division II dentistry) to modern Western dentistry (Division I). A lot of the old folks were still used to treating the TCM doctor as their family doctor. Very few grandmothers would bring their children to an English speaking Modern Western Doctor. The same went for dentists. A lot of people did not like the idea of a polisher in their mouths, spinning and grinding away in a manner that reminded them of machines and factories. All these attachments you see in the dental clinic reminded one of little spears and halberds. (I actually once asked if I could have them for my Playmobil Toys, since I had a Cowboys and Indians set and didn’t have medieval weapons to play with, and Mrs. Goh told me they were very expensive.)
Back then, the government had only started the program to brush your teeth in school. It wasn’t common. Dr. Goh had to teach many of his patients to brush their teeth, and bought new models of teeth quite often to demonstrate to his patients.
But I digress.
Katong Shopping Centre was for the hi tech stuff. It was ‘civilization’ as I knew it, because you had camera shops and Dr. Goh visited them and bought things from them. (I’m talking about analog cameras, which were pretty much cutting edge technology back then.) There were also TV shops, and I was totally obsessed with the sight of that ‘big colour ball’ on all the TV screens.
(Picture is of a Colour Test. Many kids nowadays have never seen such an image, but they were everywhere and always on in my childhood since there was no such thing as a 24-hour channel back then. The English language channel ran for less than 8 hours a day, and most programming was in Mandarin.)
Now, what can you find in Katong Shopping Centre? Traditional, inexpensive stuff like school uniforms and cloth. Or you can do photocopying. Or… you can engage an exorcist (picture is of a feng shui master who is still operating there today).
There is this building we used to call the Pipes Building. Why? Because it had this modern architecture full of exposed pipes and gigantic pipes that were part of the architecture and had no real use.
Pipes Building was built in the early 1980s. Dr. Goh seriously considered buying a clinic and moving here, but the prices were astronomical back then. There was talk in the million dollar range, at a time when a million dollars still meant something. (Nowadays a million dollars is something you or just about any aspiring middle class Singaporean owes the bank on your 30 year housing loan.)
There was talk about this area becoming the new Orchard Road.
Then the market collasped. It turns out all the buyers were investors, and nobody actually wanted to set up shop inside the Pipes Building.
It stood there, practically abandoned. It was literally a ghost building. One time I went there and there were only 3 establishments. The rest were totally empty. The ghost buster photo that I attached above, could have been set up here. An exorcist working here would totally fit the ambience, especially in a building lined with white marble with many weird corners, unexpected dead ends, reflections from glass walls here and there that were not blocked by people and goods in more trafficked buildings, etc.
They later renovated the Pipes Building very thoroughly, and turned it into 112 Katong Mall, and bizarrely, the Feng Shui changed. An utterly deserted building is now thriving. Reportedly, the Pipes Building had Pipe outlets facing out, which meant the good business flowed out or something under feng shui considerations.
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