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

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Life and Adventure - Taipei - Early 1950s

This story has been in the works four years.

Let me introduce you to Alice Aleta Winans. 

We begin --  it's February 1952,  in San Mateo, California.

Alice is working in a San Mateo firm owned by Anker Henningsen.

Mr. Henningsen had extensive holdings in Shanghai prior to the Japanese invasion 

He and his wife had suffered in a Japanese military prison in the Philippines during World War II.  I'm not sure the circumstances surrounding how they were caught-up in Manila.

Following their release from Japanese custody, they returned to the United States, where Mr Henningsen re-established the firm's headquarters from Shanghai to Hong Kong, with satellite offices in Tokyo, Taipei and San Mateo.

Alice begins telling her story, her writings....

     At the time I was employed in the San Mateo office, I was single and my name was Alice Baillard.

     Early in 1952 I was asked to move to our Taipei office, "Taipei Trading Corporation" to help in its organization and to work with the personnel there.

     I accepted the offer and thus began a wonderful adventure in my life.

     Arrangements were made, trunks were packed and soon, our Pan American Stratocruiser lifted off from San Francisco and over the Pacific.

   Notice how many passengers this plane carried compared today’s aircraft.   

     It was all very comfortable and the luxurious cocktail lounge below stairs, in the belly of the ship, provided an opportunity to move about easily and meet and chat with other passengers while enjoying a beverage of choice.

     Our first stop was Honolulu where I spent about 3 days in Waikiki meeting with and being wonderfully entertained by company clients.

     I was soon on another Pan Am Stratocruiser headed for Tokyo.  When we touched down on Wake Island for refueling I recall seeing the remains of a destroyed aircraft, probably left over from the fighting that took place during World War II.
     On the flight from Wake Island to Tokyo I was invited into the cockpit of the aircraft where I could look out the Plexiglas nose of the plane. I wasn’t aware of any sound of the engine, just that It was indescribably awesome to be soaring as if one were something free and apart from all else, seeing nothing but ocean in every direction

     After a long flight we arrived in Tokyo.  I stayed in a Hotel for a few days, meeting other company personnel and their families.  

     My initial impression of the Far East, was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  It was bitter cold and the noise of the city was deafening.  The traffic was wild.  Moving vehicles of all kinds weaving in and out frantically, blowing horns nonstop, while the streets were crowded with people scurrying along.  Many were dressed in native garb, cotton masks pulled over their lower faces, many wearing awkward looking wooden clogs that gave off  a staccato sound.   Bombed out areas were all over….. one right next to my hotel.

     I left Tokyo the evening of February 23, 1952 on a Northwest Airlines DC-4 heading for Taiwan.  There were only a few  passengers on the plane and we had a double flight crew on board. About an hour or two out over the sea I noticed one of the crew members peering out a front window with a big flashlight.  Next, orders were issued to remove our shoes and don our life jackets… we had lost one of the engines and were turning back to Tokyo.  The Asians on board didn’t seem overly bothered.  One of the crew members came back and sat with me for awhile. It was black outside and I was terrified!  Incidentally, Northwest was known at that time for having a bad maintenance record.

We arrived back in Tokyo and they announced we’d be put on another plane.  Not for me! 

      They put me up somewhere close by the airport, and I flew out the next morning on dear old CAT Airlines.  We were loaded with passengers, many had caged chickens or birds on their laps and anything else you could imagine.

CAT C-46 Passenger Aircraft - Used with Permission

 We landed at Iwakuni Air Base,  approximately 600 miles southwest of Tokyo.     Our stop probably was for refueling and cargo but the passengers were more interested in finding the rest rooms.  Forget that!  The airport was like a huge  dark dungeon and the line led only to a large sign “Latrine.”  That was my  introduction to the Far East co-ed bathroom!  

     We soon departed Iwakuni.  The flight was great and I have sung the praises of CAT ever since.

     Flying into Taiwan over the beautiful rice paddies on our approach to Taipei was thrilling.  The beautiful contours of the terraced landscape stretched below, and the rich green colors of the growing rice, and the mountains were breathtaking.   The Tamsui River could be seen beyond.


    My memory of the excitement surrounding the landing, passing through customs, meeting and greeting new people and being shown to my residence is something of a blur at this point."  

Alice has made her way to Taipei.  What a trip she experienced....

In our next post, we'll explore her new home and office in Taipei.

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