National Geographic : 1953 Feb
228 Chopsticks Fly as Chinese Workers Finish Lunch in a Singapore Rubber Warehouse Southeast Asia produces 95 percent of the world's natural rubber. Singapore, acting as middleman, collects most of it for transshipment. Workers sort, grade, and bale the smoked sheets; they scrub and resmoke the low-grade product from small plantations. These women work an 8-hour day. working for the East India Company, ob tained almost uninhabited Singapore Island from the Sultan of Johore. Its magnificent harbor and strategic location soon boomed his settlement into a world port. Today Singapore still lives by its vast, far flung maritime trade. In 1951 some 6,000 ships, flying the flags of 20 nations, moved a whopping 9.000,000 long tons of cargo in and out of its harbor. "Singapore's the warehouse of Southeast Asia," a Government trade expert told me. "We're middlemen. We collect, distribute, break bulk, sort, grade, ship, and reship. Into this tax-free port pours the wealth of the Orient-tin, rubber, spices, palm oil, pine apples, copra, rattan, timber-to be sent to world markets. In exchange from Europe and America come manufactured goods. "And Singapore's prosperity depends on the mainland." he added. "The lion's share of the Federation's trade, about three-quarters of its imports and two-thirds of its exports, passes through this port." In two busy weeks we toured swarming docks and huge rubber godowns, saw tin ore smelted into silvery ingots, inspected blocks of recently built workers' flats (page 199), and visited new streamlined factories. Hunting local color, we wandered the teem ing, wash-draped streets of Chinatown (page 198). In "Thieves Market" and in narrow Change Alley, where every stall advertises a "grand cheap sale," we mingled with bargain hunting crowds. Malaya Clinches Badminton Title Evenings we strolled through Happy World, Great World, and New World, the city's sprawling catchpenny amusement parks. In the jam-packed auditorium of one we watched teams representing Malaya and the United States battle for the Thomas Cup, symbol of world supremacy in badminton. The local team, defending champions, trounced their American visitors, seven matches to two. Checking out of our hotel, I overheard a conversation between two planters who chanced to meet after a lapse of many months. As they parted one asked, as an afterthought, "I say, what are you doing in Singapore?" "Short holiday," his friend replied. "Seeing the city lights. And now it's back to the Emergency. Cheerio!"