Online project shines spotlight on 50 days in Singapore history

Online project shines spotlight on 50 days in Singapore history
Top left: An A&W outlet serving its signature Root Beer in the 1970s; Bottom: Mr Lee Kuan Yew at a 1965 press conference announcing Singapore's separation from Malaysia; Right: The first MRT pulling into Yio Chu Kang station in 1987.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

American fast-food chain A&W may have pulled out of Singapore, but this brand famed for its root beer has a significant place in local history.

On Sept 17, 1968, it opened Singapore's first fast-food outlet at the former Malaysia-Singapore Airlines building in Robinson Road, the site of today's Robinson 77 office building.

It brought "a whole new way of eating to Singapore (and) whet appetites for an even larger array of tastes", said a report in an online project titled Days That Changed Singapore, which aims to feature 50 days of interest since Singapore's independence in 1965.

KFC and McDonald's, both ubiquitous names today, followed in A&W's footsteps only in 1977 and 1979. This nugget of information is included in the project, which seeks to identify the historical days in politics, economics and culture.

The project is led by publishing firm Editions Didier Millet (EDM), backed by former president S R Nathan and supported by the SG50 Celebration Fund.

EDM editorial director Martin Cross told The Straits Times on Monday that the team wanted to look at Singapore's history in a "novel way".

And highlighting specific days was an "interesting way of doing it", he said. "With Mr Nathan's long history in public service, he could think of many of the key days that should be included in the project."

Other historic dates include June 12, 1967, when the Singapore dollar was born; Nov 7, 1971 - the first Tree-Planting Day; Nov 7, 1987, when the first 6km of the MRT network was launched; and Aug 9, 2002, when Newater was launched.

A total of 24 articles - written by experienced writers or journalists - have been published on the website, which went live in September. Eight more have been commissioned and are scheduled to be published by the end of the year.

Mr Cross said members of the public will be invited to vote early next year on the remaining days to be selected.

The project is due to be completed before Singapore's next National Day, he added. All 50 articles will be published in a book.

Mr Nathan wrote in a message on the website: "As I look back after a lifetime in public life, I sometimes wonder how we did it. We defied the odds."

He cautioned young Singaporeans not to take the country's future for granted, and to build on the foundations laid by former and current leaders. "I hope that today's Singaporeans can read about the past and take on board the lessons they need to learn if they are to enjoy a secure future," he added.

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This article was first published on December 23 2015.
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