YMCA along Stamford Road

30 years ago in 1978, the song “Y.M.C.A.” was sung by a motley group known as Village People. It became a hit in January 1979 and topped the U.S. and U.K. charts shortly afterwards. As the acronym goes, it stands for “Young Men’s Christian Association”. Till today, this long time disco classic continues to provide a catchy and upbeat tune to listeners.

Producer Henri Belolo recalls that he saw the YMCA sign while walking down the street with composer Jacques Morali, who seemed to know the institution fairly well: “Henri, let me tell you something. This is a place where a lot of people go when they are in town. And they get good friends and they go out.” And Henri got the idea: “Why don’t we write a song about it?”

The song became a number one hit in many places (notably not in the United States where it lost to Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”). It has remained popular at parties, events, and functions ever since.

Read a bit about the origin of the YMCA song.

But a delve into the past history of this building situated along Stamford Road drew up some interesting information which the present younger generation of Singaporeans may not know about.

The YMCA building situated along Stamford Road was once the headquarters of the much feared and dreaded Japanese Kempeitai East District Branch during the Japanese Occupation of SIngapore (1942-1945). Here’s two old file pictures of the YMCA building. Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore.

YMCA building (undated).

YMCA building (circa 1955).

The Japanese Kempeitai was the military police force under the Japanese military command in the occupied territories. Its role was to crush all forms of resistance against the Japanese military rule by sheer fear. Operating much akin to that of a secret police force, it has the power to detain, arrest, interrogate, torture and even kill anyone who goes against Japanese rule. A notable figure who suffered under the Japanese Occupation of Singapore was the late Elizabeth Choy (1910-2006) dubbed the War Heroine of Singapore. Civilians and military personnel from the Allied forces who became prisoners-of-war that were interrogated and tortured at YMCA building for information were sometimes not seen nor ever heard of again.

YMCA building (2008).

Today, the YMCA building takes on a whole new look and purpose. Managed by YMCA Singapore (a Christian voluntary welfare organisation), it is dedicated to give assistance to enrich the lives of the less privillege in our community. For those who had painful memories of the past of YMCA building and the atrocities committed during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, we hope that you will look upon this building like a phoenix rising out from the ashes…a much feared and dreaded place but now has become a centre for building the lives of our community. Hope you will jingle to the beat of YMCA.

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5 Responses to “YMCA along Stamford Road”

  1. Lam Chun See Says:

    When I was in Secondary school, which was in the 60’s, indoor badminton courts were difficult to come by. My friends and I played at the indoor court at this YMCA once. I recall that the ceiling was rather low. When we served too high, the shuttlecock would hit one of the beams. Also the hall was quite cramped. The one at the Chinese YMCA in Palmer Road was better.

  2. ordinary guy Says:

    Hi Lam,

    Thanks for sharing your link to the Chinese YMCA in Palmer Road.

    Ordinary Guy

  3. Olukayode Ogunyemi Says:

    Hello,
    I am a Staff of YMCA of Lagos, Nigeria. I became interested in your YMCA after going through your site. I would like that a partnership of exchange programmes be established between your YMCA and ours.

    If this is okay by you, we would exchange proposals that will assist us to about ourselves better.

    I expect to hear from you soon.

    Thank you.

    Yours in service,

    Olukayode Ogunyemi
    Snr. Programme Officer
    YMCA of Lagos
    77 Awolowo Road
    Ikoyi S/W
    Lagos
    Nigeria
    +234 7028400917 or 234 8063330919
    lagosymca@yahoo.com
    http://www.ymcaoflagos.org

  4. ordinary guy Says:

    Hello Olukayode Ogunyemi,

    Thanks for visiting this site. Here’s the link for you to contact YMCA Singapore. Fill in your details in the “Contact Us” column: http://www.ymca.org.sg/Web/main.aspx?ID=4e492bca-af83-4f42-97db-e9fc99c978d4,,&TargetPageID=

    Wish you a fruitful outcome in your exchange programes with YMCA Singapore.

  5. Deborah Akpan Says:

    Truly an Exchange programme would be rewarding and upgrading as participants would have the opportunity to relate with and respect cross cultural and divers human relations

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