My Larkin Gardens

Peggy in front of our brand new house
in Larkin Gardens, 1961
When someone asks me, “Where do you live?” I tell them, “Larkin Gardens.”  If they are not from Johor Bahru, I usually elaborate by saying that it’s located near the football stadium.  To stress how close I live to the stadium, I will say that when they shout, “Goal!” I can hear it from my house.

My parents, now retired from Government service, moved our family from the Jalan Dato’ Wilson hospital quarters to Larkin Gardens in 1961. 

When we first moved in, these houses were so new that gates were not installed yet and the grass was struggling to grow in our gravelly garden. 

My sisters and I [Left] in our front porch
From old photos, I saw that the original layout had the gate located directly in front of the main door but we decided to shift the gate and aligned it with the driveway and garage.  At that time, there were no street lights along Jalan Dato’ Jaffar which links Larkin Gardens to Jalan Larkin.  While there was also no bus service into Larkin Gardens, it was still safe for mum to walk home in the dark from where the bus dropped her in front of the Fire Station when she returned late after hospital shifts.

Living in an area with retired Government officers and several Dato’s and Datin’s, Larkin Gardens has the enviable reputation of being a peaceful place to call home.  Indeed, taxi drivers today, still fondly refer to Taman Dato Onn as “Laaken” because this housing development was originally made up of Larkin Gardens created close to Jalan Dato’ Jaffar, Larkin Lama built around Jalan Sentosa and Larkin Jaya located after the stadium.  More recently, apartment and condo developments known as Larkin Perdana, Larkin Residences and Larkin Aman have sprouted around the older residential areas.

Peggy [Third from Left] with family members
Christmas party in Larkin Gardens, 1962
My siblings and I made many fond memories, playing “masak-masak” and training our dogs in the garden and we each have several scars from wounds that resulted from cycling and roller-skating accidents in the front yard. 

We celebrated many birthdays and hosted crazy Christmas parties, best remembered for fancy dressing in different themes. 

While Larkin used to be somewhat like a retirement village for former Government servants, the resident mix has changed with the demise of retirees and new buyers moving in.  Not only has the landscape and residents changed, security has also taken a turn for the worse.  While it used to be safe to leave good shoes outside, it’s not done now because we may never see our shoes again.  If gates could be left unlocked before, today it’s not safe to sit outside our own gates anymore.

Our once safe neighbourhood was traumatized by several untoward incidents like break-ins and robberies at gun-point in the dead of night.  In separate incidents, families were tied-up and gagged while robbers ransacked their homes.  A family whose members returned from abroad to attend their father’s funeral was further bereaved when the robbers took their wallets, hand-phones and cameras that still stored the last precious photos of their late father. 

More recently, a neighbour was attacked by a motorcyclist-robber while she was putting a bag of rubbish into her dustbin outside.  He chased her into her driveway and pushed her down while snatching her gold necklace.  When she fell heavily on the same hip which was just repaired by surgery, she suffered serious damage and had to undergo months of painful therapy before she could walk again.  

One evening, another neighbour who is a deaf-mute, was sitting outside his gates waiting for friends to drop by.  Suddenly 2 motorcyclists with pillions stopped near him and before he realized that they were not his friends, they started to punch him.  When his sister saw what was happening, she shouted for help but one of the robbers boldly rushed into the porch and snatched her necklace before speeding off.

Peggy [Centre] with my sisters,
being silly on the swing in
our front porch!

Just before Hari Raya, a neighbour who usually parked his little Kancil outside woke up to the shocking discovery that it was gone.  This incident rocked the neighbourhood because now it was no longer safe to park our cars outside.  While everyone was still speculating why the carjackers chose a humble Kancil instead of more sophisticated cars, we had another rude shock a few days later when the Kancil was returned to that very spot but stripped of its road tax and other stickers. 

Larkin Gardens, one of Johor Bahru’s earliest residential areas, clearly needs more Police patrols and protection and the City Council to review and revamp common areas like roads, drains and the sewerage system.  Since August 2009 a neighbouring family has been suffering the inconvenience of problems with their toilets.  They did the neighbourly thing and called the authorities who came to inspect each house on the road and trace its cause. 

They wrote to the relevant City Council authorities but despite follow-ups, are still waiting for them to do something to rectify this problem.  The system is linked and if sewage problems have occurred in one home, it’s only a matter of time before it happens in other houses in the neighbourhood.  And if Larkin Gardens should retain its reputation as a comfortable place to live in, it will be prudent to nip this problem in the bud before it blows up into a stinking situation.  

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 23 October 2009


  1. nice to read old stories about your life and JB in that day..
    pls continue your writing


  2. You must have lived near us! We were in Larkin Gardens, a semi just like that 1963-1964. The campong behind. It is sad that it is no longer a safe area. I have replied to Peggy Lo's e mail this morning describing our life there. Will send some photos soon! Happy days!

  3. We lived at 16 Larkin Gardens 63-65 when it was a naval hiring; there were at least 4 or 5 others hirings in the road with Navy or Marine occupants. We had a lovely Malay family next door who were very kind to us. A great posting for a young service family. We had a fantastic Amah named Teo Kok Eng. Wonderful memories.

  4. Anonymous8/10/2022

    I lived at 10 Jalan Pedanan, Larkin Gardens in late 1965, my husband was in the navy

  5. Michael Stone9/16/2022

    We also lived in Larkin Gardens, 1963-1965, at no. 4. I was 8 years old. There was a Malay family on the corner, I remember making friends with the son. I think we called him Tom. Mt Dad was in the Navy at Kranji. We went to the Royal Nay School in Singapore. We too had an Amah called Eng!