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Rex Panorama No.21 (Set 2) - The Grand Theatre And Jubilee Cabaret, Ipoh - Part Of The First Jubilee Park Complex
This panoramic photograph by Rex Photo Studio, shows the Grand Theatre, part of the first Jubilee Park complex, at the corner of Brewster Road and Cowan Street. During the early 1950s it was replaced by a new Jubilee Park on the same plot, which for convenience we call the second Jubilee Park. The building remains standing today (2008), but is a mere shadow of its former self.
The first open-air entertainment in this area (in 1931) was on an open piece of land used as an entertainment space to raise money for the China 1931 flood victims. These floods in central China, brought about by seven separate cyclones, bringing many inches of rain, caused the the Yangtze, Yellow, and Huai rivers to burst their banks and bring about a death toll of almost 4 million people. Chinese the world over raised funds for their home country and Ipoh was no exception. This land is often incorrectly linked to the Jubilee Park site.
Ipoh Remembered advises:
"The open piece of land used in 1931 as "an entertainment space" on behalf of the Flood Relief Fund was the ornate garden that surrounded Harima Hall. It was not the piece of land that Archie Russell leased to the Shaws which they then turned into Jubilee Park.
To raise relief funds in Ipoh, in addition to many individual efforts there was a Charity Ball at the Town Hall. This was late in the year, around Christmas time (one went from a Christmas party at the Ipoh Club directly to the Town Hall).
In that same week there was a Charity Fair. The venue was Harima Hall and its beautiful garden, on Anderson Road between Clare Street and Brewster Road. If you know that Harima was Japanese then perhaps you can imagine how elegant the garden was. Admission was only a few cents but one was expected to help further by buying imported Chinese goods that had been donated by merchants in Ipoh, Penang, KL, and Singapore.
Together, the Ball and the Fair raised more than ten thousand dollars for the China Flood Relief Fund. It is edifying to recall that in 1931 the tin industry was in bad shape and the rubber industry was, if anything, in even worse shape. In economic terms, 1931 was a tough year for Ipoh, perhaps the most difficult year up to that point, and yet a great deal of money was raised."
Archie Russell's company, owner of a major part of Ipoh New Town, leased the land we know today as Jubilee Park to the Shaw Brothers on 30 April 1935, initially on a 5-year term. At the time it was called "Ipoh Amusement Park". The Shaw Brothers then built their new park, based on some of the existing buildings, over the next few moths, and renamed it "Jubilee Park" in honour of the Silver Jubilee of King George V. The lease was renewed in 1939 for a further 10 years. However, we understand that in December 1941 the Jubilee Park land was sold to Runme Shaw of the Shaw Brothers. As far as we know that land still belongs to the Shaws' Singapore company.
Jubilee Park was Ipoh's foremost entertainment centre. It originally comprised a four-acre amusement park, partly in the open air, but with some wooden buildings. The Grand Theatre, the Chinese Concert Hall (an open area) and the Jubilee Cabaret were the main attractions for the general public. An afternoon show at the Grand Theatre cost 25 cents (front rows). The seats were backless benches and on a windy day the black cloth that formed one side of the hall would blow about, letting in the light and effectively blanking out the screen. Male patrons, particularly the British Forces, frequented the Ronggeng Kiosk (also in the open) for thrills with 'Taxi Dancers', who were mostly middle-aged women. Bangsawan stars employed to perform under contract in these amusement parks were later engaged by Shaw Brothers to act in the movies.
In this photograph, The Odeon Theatre can be seen further down the Brewster Road.
On the corner of the Park building there is a set of 4 billboards showing what is on at some of the other Shaw Theatres - Sun Cinema, Capitol Theatre, Grand and Rex. Other billboards advertise, The Law of the Wild, That Wonderful Urge and Down to the Sea in Ships.
On Brewster Road the Jubilee Cabaret sign stands out and there are what appear to be Black and White Amahs (Chinese Maids) walking under their umbrellas. There are also two cyclists on Cowan Street. Not too much traffic in Ipoh in 1950!
The second Jubilee Park on the same site was designed by Danish architect Berthel Michael Iversen and continued with a range of similar entertainment including cinemas, a concert hall and a large wooden Carousel in the centre of the ground floor. For the children there was also Ferris wheels, Dodgem Cars and Bicycle Rides. Later, in the Gaming Corner, electronic games were brought in at 20 cents per game and adults played these as well as the more traditional darts, tin shy and rolling the ball.
In the 50's and 60's the Jubilee Park was the main entertainment centre in Ipoh and probably the only place that provided entertainment for all the family. Entrance fee was 20cents.
Upstairs in the Jubilee Cabaret, designed for the wealthier patrons, the 'Taxi Dancers' were well supported by the Commonwealth troops and Chinese businessmen during the Malayan Emergency and thereafter. Dancing was to a live band of mostly Goanese musicians and for 42 cents (in 1965) one could dance the Ronggeng, Samba, Rhumba, Waltz, Quickstep and Jive. Booklets, containing five tickets were sold on the basis of one ticket - one dance. Once a week afternoon dance sessions were also held for students.
It was here also that the famous Rose Chan entertained the troops and local males with her various acts and exciting regular boxing matches would be held. Variety was the spice of life.
To see a publicity photograph of Rose Chan, click here
To read more about the Odeon Theatre click here.
To read more about the Capitol Theatre click here.
To read about Archinald Russell, click here.
To see a photograph of the Second Jubilee Park click here.
To read more about Black and White Amahs, click here.
To read more about the Rex Theatre click here.
To see a scan of a Taxi Dance Ticket, click here.
To read more about the Sun Cinema click here.
To go to the next panorama, click here.
To read more about Berthel Michael Iversen, click here