Yafaridah Mohammed, who has worked with the US embassy in Singapore for 26 years, recently took a walk down memory lane on social media as she gave an eye-opening account about her family’s long and close ties with the embassy since the ’50s.
The Singaporean’s life with the US embassy began when her father started working as the US ambassador’s chauffeur in 1955, which allowed the family to live in the staff quarters back when it was still at Grange Road.
“My sister was born in the Deputy Chief of Mission’s Residence in Swettenham Road. My five siblings and I grew up in the staff quarters of the then-Ambassador’s Residence, which is now the Spring Grove condominium complex along Grange Road,” she wrote.
The family stayed together with the ambassador’s butler, chef, and maid, like “one big family, four races living under one roof,” she added.
Her father died after 17 years of service and was soon replaced by Yafaridah’s uncle Yahya Rahmat, who went on to become the embassy’s longest-serving driver, only retiring after 43 years.
Yahya also reportedly drove 15 ambassadors while serving as a driver, counting former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden, among his passengers.
Following her father’s death, Yafaridah’s family was afraid that they would be forced to move out of the quarters. Fortunately, the then-US ambassador to Singapore Charles T. Cross told them to “stay put,” Yafaridah said in the post, adding that she was only four years old when her father died.
Despite financial support from her uncle, Yafaridah’s mother began working by selling textiles she had gotten from the shops in Arab Street. As Yafaridah was the youngest, she had to tag along with her mother as they went from door to door seeking customers.
It was also then that Yafaridah discovered the joys of finance and eventually worked in the embassy’s finance management office when she grew up.
“My mother was uneducated, but she taught me basic math and accounting principles like debit and credit. Perhaps that’s why I’ve chosen finance as my path,” she wrote.
“It was Uncle Yahya who told me that the Embassy was hiring. I worked in the Consular Section initially, then transferred to the Financial Management Office as an Assistant Cashier,” added Yafaridah, who is now the embassy’s accountant.
Eventually, Yafaridah and her siblings got married and began moving out of the staff quarters, together with the butler, chef, and the maid who lived there.
By the early ’90s, all the staff had to be moved out as the site was converted to Spring Grove condominium. The ambassador’s residence has been moved to Leedon Park.
“I returned to Spring Grove recently on a tour of the premises. I got so emotional just seeing the signboard for the condominium. The staff quarters are now gone, the land has been leveled out, and the big lawn where we played soccer with ambassadors’ children is no more,” she wrote.
“It’s a pity the many fruit trees are no longer there – we had mangoes, guavas, bananas, jackfruits, figs, even durians!”
The condominium did, however, retain the structure of the main building of the ambassador’s residence, which can be seen in the photos she took. Now that she is older, she says the building looks much smaller than she remembered.
“It’s different seeing it through adult eyes,” she wrote.
More news from the Little Red Dot at Coconuts.co/Singapore.