Getting Lit in the 80s

Although my mother was never a hoarder, she did collect items that had sentimental value. Growing up, the cabinets in my house were peppered with old sport trophies and handmade mother’s day gifts. Unique amongst the antique trinkets and memorabilia of her youth, was her collection of old matchboxes. These originated from the height of the disco craze in the ‘80s and early 90s, when matchboxes were not only useful to keep around, but also served as miniature advertisements for the clubs. For my mother, these became keepsakes and a capsule of memories to remember. Every time she went to a new disco club, she would make it a point to collect their matchboxes.

While spring-cleaning late last year, we stumbled upon her matchbox collection, slightly discoloured and dusty. In an effort to find out more about life in Singapore during her youth, I convinced my mother against throwing them out, and encouraged her to share the stories behind these tiny boxes. With them came a glimpse into Singapore’s past, and a snapshot of memories that seemed almost a lifetime ago.

Although this is just a small fraction of my mom’s collection, I would like to share 3 of the most interesting matchboxes amongst her treasures.


1. Zouk

Zouk is definitely a familiar name for many Singaporeans but I’m sure many of us are not aware that it opened in 1991 and is Singapore’s oldest club. My mom speaks fondly of their ‘Thank God it’s Wed” event that has since evolved into the popular Mambo Jambo.

fire disco.jpg

2. Fire

According to my mom, Fire used to be the hottest and biggest disco in Singapore in the early 90s. It would be tough to find a 90s party goer that did not recognise the name of this three-floor disco burning in the heart of Orchard Plaza.


3. Atlantis

An underwater-themed disco off Grange Road, Atlantis was one of Singapore’s first themed disco. It’s elaborate interior was the brainchild of a Disneyland designer that helped materialise the vision of the club’s owner.  However, despite its extraordinary interior, the club was forced to close its doors when the recession of 1985 rolled around.

Have you been to any of these clubs?