From page 2 to 3, the transcript of the oral history is Mr Koh Leong Kwan's experiences of his working life and how he managed his hunger during the Japanese Occupation. He was only 7 years old when the Japanese arrived in Singapore. Before the Japanese Occupation, Leong Kwan's family quite well off as his father worked in the Dutch-based Java Sea Insurance Company. However, their lives took on a drastic turn during the occupation, his family was (presumably) stripped of their wealth and only earned a meager income like the rest of the people in Singapore back then. They often led their days in hunger as food was scarce at that time and most people survived on the bare minimum. His father would sell ration cigarettes to the blackmarket while his mum did all she could to scrounge for food. Eventually, to help support the family, he and his elder sister were able to secure jobs at a Japanese Rope Factory where they would get paid 5 katis of rice monthly for helping out in menial labour. This shows the steep increase in the number of people working during the occupation period than the pre-war times, and this amount is largely contributed by teenagers. Before the war, many people were still financially stable and most children and teenagers did not have to start work at such an early age as the British took care of the people by paying them relatively good money. However, during the Japanese Occupation, they Japanese did not spare a thought for the people, and left them to fend for themselves, making them work many times harder than before, yet not giving them fair wages and necessarities.
This is a book written in 2007 by Rudy Mosbergen about his teenage years in Singapore during the Japanese Occupation. In the book, he talks about his personal background, such as what jobs he and his family members took up during the Japanese Occupation. During the war, Rudy's family owned a bakery and he assisted his parents in their work by serving as his father's errand boy. At that time it was very common for children and teenagers to go out and work to help support the family, for example, Rudy had a friend named Adrian, who was a runner for his father who was active in the black market. Other than that, many families grew crops for additional food, Rudy's family was no exception. They grew vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, brinjals and chillies in their small garden. This shows that in spite of their young age and not being accustomed to work life, many teenagers were willing to help their parents out, whether in work or gardening. This would have been a huge change for them as most of the time, during the pre-war period, it was their parents who took care of being the breadwinners while they would only have to be concern about school and homework, and now for those that are still schooling, they have to shoulder an additional burden.
This is an article written about wartime hunger in 20 December 2016 by Joshua Lee. The source talked about how food was scarce throughout the nation, leading to food prices soaring. Prices for necessitites back then were controlled by the Japanese Military Adminstration Department, which set maximum prices for these goods in the market. Furthermore, the Japanese also printed money whenever they need it, resulting in the Banana Notes(Japanese currency) becoming worthless. Food rationing did'nt help much either. Mr Ngui Jim Chiang, a teacher back in the Japanese Occupation, said in an interview that he was only paid a few hundred banana notes, which was hardly enough to buy a kati of good fresh pork. Many people consequently had to turn to the black market to get the food they needed. From this source, I can infer that the black market was very active during the Japanese Occupation, with many people relying on it. This is a great difference as compared to the time before the war. In the pre-war times, many people could rely on the pay they earned from their jobs to provide for themselves and their family. However, during the occupation, they could not depend solely on what the Japanese payed them to survive and had to rely on other means, such as black market activities, to obtain essential items like food.
This is an audio from an interview conducted on 18 Jun 1983 with Aziz bin Rahim Khan Surattee as the interviewee. In the interview, Aziz talks about his experiences and the 3 jobs he had during the Japanese Occupation. In the first job he got, he was picked up by the Japanese and sent to work in Jurong, they made him dig holes and he spent 3 hard nights there, he was also not given much food. Upon getting sent back home, he suffered from malaria and took 2 months to recover. The second being a labourer and the third being a nissan motors employee. The pays he got was extremely little. He also mentioned that once, he passed a POW (prisoner of war) the remains of his cigarette for him to smoke because he thought no one was watching him. Apparently he was wrong, when the Japanese soldier saw that, he slapped him and hammered him very hard on the head with his rifle partner. This resulted in Aziz feeling terrified of going to work the next day. This shows that many people like teenagers were very scared of the Japanese soldiers as they found them fierce and intimidating, and some like Aziz may be stressed at just the thought of going to work. However, most of them still went to work to help support the family. I also can infer that working for the Japanese was extremely tough, they did not take care of their employees and made them work in bad conditions. This certainly would have taught teenagers how to overcome their fears and endure hardship.