Taipei Air Station - 1966 - - - " What you have in the end are memories"......... Photo Courtesy of Richard Reesh.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Life and Adventure - Taipei - Early 1950s - Part 2

Alice's CAT Airline flight from Tokyo arrived in Taipei on Sunday, 24 February 1952. 
Alice continues her thoughts as she begins a new and exciting time in her life, Taipei:

        "I see from my notes that I arrived Sunday 24 February 1952 at 6:15 a.m. 

           I was picked up at the airport and driven to my new home.

         I shared a rather large residence in the western style home of Harry and Pat Reynolds.  The Reynolds were British; Harry was an Engineer employed by Taiwan Trading Corporation.  I had a large upstairs bedroom and sitting room with bath.

        That same day I was taken by Pat and Harry to lunch at the home of an Australian friend.  After lunch we drove up the long winding road to Grass Mountain.  

         There were a number of military cottages in the area and I was told that the "Gimo" (Chiang Kai-shek) had his home on the Mountain. 

        As we approached our destination I noticed a stream of gray water tumbling down the sides of the road.  The strong smell of sulphur was unmistakable.  Up above were the "sulphur pits" with steam rising from the smelly water.

        Many of the homes up there have a separate room with a stone tub into which the hot sulphur water pours. Guests are often asked if they'd like a sulphur bath and shower before drinks and dining.  I found it a very refreshing experience.

       That was a busy first day.  The ensuing days, apart from work in the office, were filled with meeting new, interesting people of all backgrounds, dinners, evenings and dancing, often at the "Friends of China Club", affectionately referred to as the Frenzied China Club. We'd bring our own bottle and pay a corkage fee.
It seemed to me that at the slightest suggestion, there would be a dinner given for some reason.

 Friends of China Club in Taipei - photo courtesy Bruce Rayle Family 

        The floors were covered with tatami,  The odor of camphor was pervasive, as there were small blocks of camphor in the closets and dresser drawers.  An electric light was kept burning in the clothes closet, and there was a mosquito netting over the bed.   

         All this was to discourage unwanted insects, cockroaches, huge spiders, etc.  I learned to appreciate the little geckos that one saw frequently crawling on the wall, another deterrent.

       There were three household servants -- Wong, the Number One Boy (excellent cook, and person-in-charge), the Amah, who took care of the laundry, and a young man known simply as “Boy”. 

       I think the latter might have been a frustrated artist; for example, when I had left any jewelry on the dresser, I would come in to find a necklace arranged in a heart shape, and other items appropriately placed in a decorative manner.  I was told the Asians have sparse facial hair, so Boy was extremely proud of 2 or 3 very long hairs that grew almost to his waist from a mole near his chin.

       Our home address was 30 Ai Kuo West Road, a few blocks south of the Ministry of National Defense (1952), today, the Presidential Office Building..  

       The Liberty House Chinese Military Hostel was directly across the road from our home.  Many American Military Officers resided in the Liberty House Hostel.   

       Almost every morning at about 6 a.m. a line of soldiers would march to drum beats, along the road in front of the Liberty House,   A bit disquieting at that time of morning, but it served to compete with the other sounds of the day.

The "Liberty House" Hostel, just across the street from Alice's home
Photo courtesy Alice Winans



       In the mix of noise outside my window, were "hawkers" of all descriptions and sounds (many crippled) tapping along the street with a bamboo stick, ringing a bell or calling out a particular chant that advertised their wares.

      Then there was the elderly blind man, who could be hired as a masseur.  He was led along by a young man.  The work he advertised was considered appropriate because of his sightlessness.  I assume he nonetheless had a fine sense of touch. I was fascinated by the concert of sounds and activity early in the morning.

       One annoying sound in the morning was produced by pigeons right under my bedroom window. I learned that they were kept there by Wong.  I finally complained about it to Wong, whereupon the 'cooing' ceased completely for a period of time,  Blessed relief!..... but then gradually, bit by bit, the pigeons were slowly returned until I went through the whole procedure again.

Alice standing outside her home at 30 Ai Kuo West Road in Taipei.

       Breakfast was usually preceded with delicious pineapple, or even more delicious, large pomelos, called oranges by Wong.  Soon, Chang,  our young driver would arrive in an ancient Ford to drive Harry and me to the office.  Chang's driving was somewhat erratic and Harry would call to him something that sounded like, "dong-i-dong" and Chang would slow down a bit.  The company had a rebuilt bus to pickup employees and deliver them to the office.

       Traffic included a variety of vehicles.  Apart from the autos, there were pedicabs of questionable age and condition, coolies pushing and pulling large loads of long "Hanoki" logs, wagons piled high with straw, thousands of bicycles, etc.

       In the busier part of town, someone would suddenly saunter across in front of the car seemingly oblivious to the approaching auto.  We would lean on the horn, beat the outside of the door, yell at them to no avail.  We would have to almost come to a stop while they were succeeding in cutting off the devils following them. Interesting custom!

       There were some stop lights in the city, with police perched atop the high platform waving arms and blowing whistles with each change of the light. 

       At off-times I'd drive the old Ford.  When stopped, one had to keep their foot on the brake or it rolled.  One day, several of us were going somewhere.  The town traffic was heavy, and we had to stop at one of the cross streets.  A cop was up high on a platform under the traffic light, and after I'd stopped, I momentarily took my foot off the brake.  The cop threw up his hands, clambered down the ladder steps and came over to me, screaming something in Taiwanese.  When he saw me, however, a Caucasian, he stopped, stared and quickly climbed up the steps again and went back to work.  Was afraid I'd land in the local jail.

       Chang would take us home for our lunch break which was, I think, 2 hours.  Wong would prepare delicious "Chinese chow" at least once a week.  We often entertained a guest or two on those occasions.  Following our return from the office in the afternoon, we relaxed in the living room with tea (remember, I shared a British household!) and following dinner, it was  drinks and conversation, or quite often, preparation for an evening out.

Chang our Driver standing beside Taiwan Trading Corporation Ford.

       On transferring from Northwest Air Lines to CAT for my flight to Taipei from Tokyo, my large steamer trunk went to Hong Kong instead and took several weeks to finally reach me.  I'd been in Hawaii enroute, so wasn't entirely prepared for February weather.  In the meantime, Harry Reynolds loaned me one of his warm robes.  This was a big help; however, we were amused to note that each day when they made up the rooms, the robe would disappear back in the Reynolds bedroom, and each evening Harry would return the robe to me.  To question the situation would cause the servants to lose face and we decided to play the game and say nothing."

Continued tomorrow....



新聞老鳥 said...

Ai Kuo West Road is 「愛國西路」in Chinese.


「國」means 「country or nation」.

「西」means 「west」.


The road is still there in Taipei now. Presidential palace where President Ma lives is just a couple of hundred meters away from where Mrs. Winans resided 60 years ago. Next to Presidential palace stands headquarters of Ministry of Finance(財政部).

Liberty House(自由之家)was deserted in late 1980's and stayed in a ruined status for several years and then was demolished to build a high-rise.

I still remember, in summer of 1984, I attended a news release conference held by Minister of Finance there. After the conference, a bunch of reporters and I listened to radio live broadcast of a baseball game. For the first time, Taiwan sent athletes to L.A. Olympic Game in the name of ''Chinese Taipei" after being kicked out of Olympic Game for almost ten years.

We missed 1976 Montreal and denied 1980 Moscow, finally we rejoined the Game in 1984 L.A.

That morning, at the backyard of Liberty House, a groups of reporters joyfully listened to the radio for Olympic baseball game, Chinese Taipei Vs. some country I can't recall now. It was really a fantastic memory.

As for "dong-i-dong" , I really can't catch the meaning of it. It souds like 「動一動」which means 「make a move」. I'm not sure of it, though. Maybe Mr. Reynolds was telling the driver to make a move on the brake. Just a wild guess of mine.

Wang Chun

Wg said...

"dong-i-dong" sounds familiar to me, a 10 year old American then. Maybe "dung i dung"? Someone help us here!

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