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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Navy E.M. Club in Kaohsiung - Where Sailor's Relaxed on Liberty

We recently received a couple of new photographs of the Kaohsiung EM club.
We were able make to contact with Roger Ramsey.  Roger was the Manager of the Kaohsiung EM club for a couple of years during the mid 1960s. 

50 years ago, in 1964, Roger arrived in Kaohsiung. 

No so many years ago for many Taiwan veterans.
I hope these photos and commentary stir your memories of Taiwan.

This March 1963 photograph courtesy of Don Smith a crew member on USS Princeton LPH-5

Spend a few moments looking over this photo. Click on photo for larger view.

On the right side of the photo, the large white sign with Chinese characters - that's a hotel, can't make out the name.

On the left , just up the street a few yards is the Happy Bar.

The Kaohsiung EM Club building can be seen 50-60 yards up the street on the left, we can see the 2d, 3d and roof area of the club building.

On both sides of the street  a number of US military are seen in uniform and civilian clothes. 

Roger's remarks in green, Roger begins.....  

I arrived in Kaohsiung in 1964 and worked in the small Navy Exchange store inside the Kaohsiung EM Club before being assigned to the Main Navy Exchange, which was located on Pier 19.

I took over management of the Kaohsiung E.M. Club as an SHSN (E-3) at the age of 19, in 1965.

The Ship’s Serviceman First Class SH1 (E-6) who managed the club before me had got in trouble while manager and was shipped out, virtually overnight, leaving me in charge. 

Fortunately I’d worked in service and retail jobs since age 13 and the club’s Taiwan National employees rose to the occasion as I took over management, they would not let me fail.  I had 63 Taiwan National employees in the club.

This March 1963 photograph courtesy of Don Smith a crew member on USS Princeton LPH-5
The club entrance. A couple is just entering the club. Looks like someone owned a 1955 or 56 Buick, parked in the front door area.

Another man, just stepping out of a petticab in front of the book store. 

The second floor window area seating looks busy. A nice area to have a cool one and watch the street traffic. 

 Imagine the noise from those open windows when a young lady walked by!

Roger Continues..

The first floor of the building housed the Shore Patrol offices just inside the front door area.

When I took over the club, there was a walk-in package liquor store on the first floor just inside the front door. The small Exchange retail store was located in a small room with counter service on the second floor.  There was also a currency exchange on the second floor.  We were the only source of NT$ for stationed personnel and fleet personnel. 

I combined these three functions into one room with a walk up service counter on the second floor.  This required less personnel and got the package store upstairs where I could see it. 

Stationed personnel had ration cards and could purchase 2 cartons of cigarettes, 2 cases of beer per week and 12 bottles of liquor per month.  Fleet folks could buy 2 packs of cigarettes per day and E-7 and above could buy 1 bottle of liquor per day not to exceed 12 bottles per month.

Further back on the first floor, we had warehouse rooms, walk-in freezers and coolers, a carpenter shop, paint shop and the electrician’s shop. 

The second floor housed the Club offices, a Retail store, a barber shop and shoe-shine stand, slot and pinball machines, and a Package store, explained above.  

We also had “Blue Room Bar” a small lounge for E6 and above from the fleet and all locally assigned personnel in civilian clothes. 

The Officer’s Lounge was on the secot floor adjacent to, but separate from, the Blue Room Bar. I also had a bedroom and bathroom off the office, on the 2nd floor.

The third floor was the dance floor and bandstand with a huge walk-up service bar.

On the fourth floor, we had our restaurant and another bar.

Photo courtesy of E. Putnam circa 1954.

It is my understanding that the club building was a Japanese Officer’s Club during their occupation of Taiwan.  This interesting story was told to me by some of my club employees

This is the earliest photo we have of the club. It looks to be in good shape.  Mr. Putman, who contributed the photo above, was a Naval Officer and said the rooftop of the EM Club was an Officer's Lounge when his ship pulled into Kaohsiung in 1954. 

The Japanese left Taiwan in 1945, who knows when they may have abandoned this building.  I'm afraid any history of this club in the (early 1950s) is probably lost

Roger Continues.... 

The rooftop Officers Lounge depicted in Mr. Putman's 1954 photo above,was not in existence in the 1960's.   
I was in Kaohsiung as Vietnam ramped up.  We saw the number of ships in-port increase from a rare 2, to as many as 13, including a large repair ship, on New Year's Eve in 1965.  When the ships were in, we were very busy.

New Year’s Eve in 1965 was a Friday.  The club remained open for 72 hours, straight throughout that 3 day holiday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  During those 3 days, we had as many as 6 floor shows each day. 

That weekend was one to remember.  13 US Naval ships in Kaohsiung, with everyone celebrating the New Year.  

All of our drinks, soft drinks, beer, and all hard liquor, up to “Crown Royal” were priced at 15 cents.  That 15 cent price was never raised during my entire tour as club manager

If the club was making money, we would, at my discretion, on occasion, have “Nickel Night.”  We dropped the price of all drinks from the normal 15 cents to 5 cents.

Once, after I had announced, “Nickel Night,” a Chief got up and started to leave.  He swore at me and said that he was at the club for the last “Nickel Night’ and he didn't remember the rest of the night, and best he could figure, he’d only spent 45 cents. 

In the 1990's I met a retired Master Chief in Vallejo, CA.  Someone told him I had been the EM Club Manager in Kaohsiung in the mid 1960's.  He looked at me and said, "I remember you, you're that SOB who used to announce “Nickel Night."

Kaohsiung MAAG NCO Open Mess circa 1967-1968 courtesy of Don Burkley via Tainan AB Facebook

I just saw a picture of the MAAG NCO Club in Kaohsiung.  I never saw that building during my tour in Kaohsiung.  The car in the photo appears to be an early 1960's model but I’m not familiar with the building or the club. 

Kaohsiung had three clubs that I was aware of.  The Sea Dragon, the Officer’s Club in Tsoying and the KRC.  The O’Club at Tsoying was about 12-15 miles northwest of downtown.  The Kaohsiung Recreation Center, or KRC as it was commonly called, was in fact, an Army NCO Club managed at that time by a Sergeant Thompson.  The KRC was about 7 miles northeast of downtown. 

This is thought to be the old MAAG Officer's Club in Kaohsiung. Photo courtesy Scott Ellinger.

We did experiment with an “Officers Lounge” on the third floor in 1965, but it was not successful.  It was set up as an "honor bar" with no bartender on duty.  All I can say, some of the folks who frequented the “Officers Lounge,” were not that, "honorable."

On occasion, some of the Officers would wander into other, ”more, fun areas of the club” and cause problems among the enlisted folks.  This included an incident of a fight between a Junior Officer and a Chief that nearly caused a riot.  It was the only time I had to close the club early and have Shore Patrol and The Foreign Affairs Police remove all patrons from the building.

The next day the “Officers Lounge” was gone.  The Junior Officer that was involved with the Chief learned that, turning a Chief's hat upside down and tossing it down the shuffleboard table was not a good idea, no matter how many drinks you have ingested.

The Army Security Agency, had a small facility at O-Lan-Pi in the area of the southern most point of Taiwan.  There was a hostel at the facility that housed the folks.  Within this hostel, we operated the dining room and a small bar that served the ASA facility. As a branch of our Kaohsiung facility.

Every two weeks or so, I would accompany one of our Navy Exchange drivers down to our O-Lan-Pi facility.  They would phone-in their food and bar requirements and we would deliver the goods in a carry-all van from the club in Kaohsiung. There were 2 Taiwan National Club employees taking care of the dining room and bar at O-Lan-Pi.

On our supply runs to O-Lan-Pi, I hand-carried our employee’s pay envelopes. During the short turn-around period at the hostel, I would inventory our supplies and audit the operation.  Cash receipts from our dining room and bar operation returned with me to Kaohsiung for deposit.

It was a horrible road trip in those days, but the beautiful countryside made the drive a little easier. I believe you can consider the O-Lan-Pi dining room and bar area another “Taiwan club” of sorts.

In 1965 we formed a Taiwan Club Manager’s Association.  Coming together as a group of clubs, we were able to book our entertainment (floor shows) 3 to 6 months in advance. Most entertainment agents brought acts out to Taiwan for 7-10 day periods during which they would perform 21-30 shows, if possible.  By forming the association we were able to block book these shows for the entire period and the small clubs paid the same price as large clubs.  Prior to this association, small clubs were never able to afford the prices agents tried to charge them. As I recall, this association had 12-13 member clubs at the time.

About 30 sailor's, including myself, assigned at Kaohsiung, decided to compete in the annual Dragon Boat Races in the spring of 1965.

We took first place in our division while wearing Navy White Uniform Pants with White T-shirts. The T-shirts had the Chinese Characters for "Sea Dragons" emblazoned on the back.

Additionally we wore coulee hats that had been painted dark blue and had gold spangles affixed to them.  

This was the event that changed the name of the club to the Sea Dragon, forever more. 

Used by permission of Navy Media Content Service, Navy Office of Information
 Click on the "All Hands" magazine article above to see a larger, readable copy.

1966 photo of the old Kaohsiung EM club showing new signage, "Sea Dragon," courtesy Scott Ellinger

1974-1975 photo courtesy Jim Babin (USS Richard S. Edwards DD950)

It was a very interesting time in my career and I loved every minute of it.

I left the club in Kaohsiung in 1966 as an SH2 E-5.  This was the only place where I ever took the fleet wide advancement exam with an open bar....


This photo lifted from Google Earth.  It is the same corner seen above in the black and whlte photo with the petticab.  Notice the telephone booth just to the  back of the white car.

In the black and white photo above, the the phone booth is in same position in front of the building.

What a change has transpired in 50 years.

Below, various business cards.  I received cards from John Quinn and Marvin.

I'm sure some of you "Old Hands" will recall some of these names.



That's all we have on the Kaohsiung EM/Sea Dragon Club today.

I want to acknowledge the time and efforts Roger Ramsey took in helping put this article together.  

Thank you Roger for sharing your story...

Perhaps you have something to add or correct or have something to say.

Leave a Comment below, or you can Email us at Taipei Air Station.

Tsi Gen 

UPDATE -  MORE Business Cards Emailed to us

Courtesy Doug Price
Courtesy Doug Price

Courtesy Doug Price
Courtesy Doug Price

Courtesy Doug Price


Anonymous said...

The problem I had with the Blue Room Bar . The sign on the door said E-6 and above , we were told we could go into bar in civilian clothes if we were station in Kaohsiung . Now the problem , some of the Navy E-6 and above off the ships did not know this so their were always trying to throw us out . I don't remember the nickle night at the EM Club But the 10 cent happy hour at the KRC was nice . Marvin

Gene Hirte said...

I remember Navy Enlisted had to wear their uniforms, Officers and maybe Senior Enlisted could wear civilian clothes. But us Air Force guys would always be in civilian clothes, but had to be careful because the navy guys did not like Air Force guy on their turf. Can anyone give me a GPS of what they remember of where the MAAG Club was in Kaohsiung? I believe it was on the left side on old Highway 1 going from Kaohsiung towards ping Tung.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to find the location of the MAAG Club or KRC club for years . The only thing I found on my trip to Taiwan in 1998 it was torn down from a older taxi driver . You should try being in the Army in Kaohsiung, we had to depend on the Navy for every thing .

Gene were you station in Kaohsiung or Tainan ? Marvin

Unknown said...

Would like info on the Happy Bar from anyone who was there 1968-1970. Pics inside and/or outside.

Taipei Air Station said...

Jim Babin.. Please email me I have some questions about photos. Thank you.