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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Environmental and Morale Leave - A Round Trip to Hong Kong!

  Environmental and Morale Leave (EML) ..

Within U.S. MAAG, Republic of China, Regulations, was a "perk" that many of us looked forward to using..

A round-trip flight on a MAAG Aircraft to Hong Kong! 

I don't have hard copies of the regulation, so we can't post it to read, but, it authorized assigned personnel who had resided in Taiwan for a certain period of time, to apply for inclusion in the program.

Once approved, you and your spouse, or,  yourself, would be issued "Written Orders" from MAAG Headquarters authorizing your flight on or about a certain date, specified in the MAAG orders.

Frank does not have copies of his orders, so I am substituting orders issued to me in 1968, when my wife and I flew aboard a MAAG Taiwan C-47, on our Hong Kong journey. 

 Frank also mentioned, Tokyo, a destination included in the EML Program, during 1962-1963 while he was assigned to Taipei.

There was probably more to the preparation of your paperwork, but suffice to say, once your application was received at MAAG and approved, your hard copy orders were sent over, a week or two ahead of time, and you were booked onto a flight departing from Sung Shan AFB in Taipei.  As I recall everything went smooth.

Tainan Air Base also participated in the program, flying to Hong Kong aboard military aircraft out of Tainan Air Base.

Photo courtesy Ed Wexler

Above, Mrs. Ed Wexler, wife of Captain Ed Wexler, 1969-1972, Tainan AB, boarding a US Navy C-47 Aircraft at Tainan Air Base. 

Captain Wexler and his wife were flying to Hong Kong under the
Environmental and Morale Leave (EML) program.

Today, we're accompanying Frank Smith, on his adventure in Hong Kong, under the EML program during March of 1963.  Frank mentioned that he was in Hong Kong on his 23d birthday.

Frank was assigned to Taipei Air Station, April 1962 - July 1963.

All photos are courtesy of Frank Smith unless noted otherwise.

Frank arriving at Sung Shan on flight day to Hong Kong.

On the tarmac at Sung Shan....
Stand around, wait, talk story...  
Passengers have belted-up their safety equipment.
Frank must have cracked a joke, a couple of smiles in the crowd...

Looks like one of the Crew of the C-47 is walking toward the door.
Is it time to board the aircraft?

Frank on left and his roommate Nick Colangelo, both resided at Hostel 7, 
and are aboard the flight to Hong Kong.

Hostel 7, pictured below, all "Prettied-Up" for a holiday of some sort. 

Hostel 7 was located at 27 Chang Chung Road.

Hostel 7 - circa 1962-1963
 A crisp and clear view of Hostel 7 entrance.
  Wonderful colors for a 57 year old slide. 

 (We'll have a story about Hostel 7, typhoon damage, and more (some time later this summer)

Today, Chung Hwa Telephone Company, the largest telecom company in Taiwan, has a large office on this alley way (blue bus) and Chang Chung Road, street corner, where this old Hostel once sat.

Time to board, lifting off from Taipei soon. Circa 1963.

Boarding their aircraft, a Douglas Skytrain C-47, which had a top speed of about 250 mph.  

I seem to remember it took about 3 or more hours to get to Hong Kong and land.  The air distance from Taipei to Hong Kong is 504 miles.

You would not have been flying 250 mph all the day, so 3 hours sounds about right.

Landing at the old Kai Tak Airport was a ride you will never forget.  On final approach to the airport your aircraft flew just above and virtually right over apartment buildings in downtown Kowloon, so low, you could see inside the apartment buildings as they pasted your window, before taking a sharp decent angle toward the runway and landing safely.

I flew to Hong Kong the first time, on a C-47 out of Taipei.  As we approached Kai Tak airport on Kowloon, the clouds were too low for us to land. 

Our old C-47 had no instruments to guide us through the clouds and above the structures, our pilot and the Control Tower had no choice but to call-off our landing.  

The weather forecast was not favorable for clearer weather.  We did fly around in circles for maybe an hour, hoping the low clouds would lift, before heading back to Taipei.

Of course everyone on the plane, including the crew were disappointed, but, it was impossible to land, so we smiled  and enjoyed our 6 or 7 hour flight.
 up, up and away for the day......  Landing back in Taipei before dark.  

We, my wife and I were re-scheduled, and flew to Hong Kong,a few weeks later. 

Frank landed safely in Hong Kong, and the Hotel Bus took everyone to the 
International Hotel on Cameron Road.

I believe the Hotel kept a number of rooms available for the Taipei folks who arrived from Taiwan, just about every week. That would have been guaranteed business for the hotel.

I tried to find the International Hotel, on Cameron Road, nothing, but I did find the 
HP International Hotel, on Austin Road.  Same general area of Kowloon.

While we are talking about Hotels in Kowloon, I want to show you the hotel where my EML flight was booked, when we arrived in Hong Kong during the Spring of 1968.

The Empress Hotel, Kowloon, circa 1968.
#17, Chatham Road, Kowloon.

The Empress Hotel Bus took us from the Airport to their hotel.
Our room was on the left side, we had large windows.

Notice in the writing below, the hotel had a "Royal Hawaiian Room and Outrigger Bar"

This post card was a souvenir I kept from our visit in 1968.

If you walked outside the Empress Hotel's front door, seen in photo above, and looked across the street, there were railroad tracks that ran slopping down the hill,off to the right, toward the railroad station seen in photo below.

 Photo courtesy of - website.

Also in the area of the railroad station and it's clock tower, in photo above, was the Star Ferry Landing, just off to the right, under the awning, where buses are lined up.  

But, before we proceed in our visit to Hong Kong, let's look back at the film
that "brought Hong Kong to life" and you could say, it could very well have been
any day in your visit to Hong Kong in the 1960's

In the opening to this film, you see a group of tourists walking from their ship to the Star Ferry, in the Star Ferry building seen in the top right of the photo above.  You will notice 2 entrances, to the ferry, and a wee bit more, in Aberdeen boating to the famous fish floating restaurant, great scenery. 

Here's the 7 minute YouTube clip, beautiful color of Hong Kong and Kowloon. 

Click below to watch.

Makes me want to watch the complete World of Suzi Wong film again...

 The Star Ferry, making it's way between Honk Kong and Kowloon or visa versa... Circa 1963.

There were 2 classes of seats, the Top Floor, more expensive than the lower floor.

There were 2 entrances and exits at the ferry landings, one for each class. 

Lots of fun. My first ride was kind of confusing, all the walkways...

This vessel, the Northern Star (Name on left, photo above)  was built in 1959.
 It was relatively new when Frank took this photo.

An older, "Northern Star" was constructed in 1900 and served until 1959.

Looks like the seating is taken-up on this run.  Circa 1963.

The ferry's windows above, identify this as the upper floor of this ferry boat. If you look at the photo of the ferry passing in the photo, you'll notice the first floor has NO WINDOWS..

Take a peek at the sign in upper right of this photo..

Take a look at Kowloon and Hong Kong on today's Google Earth, what changes! 

Many of the original shoreline areas have been filled-in to make "new ground", for new construction. These "new" areas are already congested.

Perhaps you visited the Peninsula Hotel, the legendary 'Grande Dame of the Far East', 
 to enjoy their "Afternoon Tea."

Hot tea, with milk, British Style and pastries, relaxing music from a small orchestra playing from the 2d floor balcony.  

Here is a look at the Lobby area where we had Afternoon Tea.

Go to Google Earth and have a look on Street View.  

Search for Peninsula Hotel, then click "Street View" in upper right of the page. 

You won't believe how far the Peninsula Hotel now sits, from the harbor's waters edge..

 Frank took this photo from the Star Ferry, departing Hong Kong Island to Kowloon, camera is looking back at Hong Kong Island, circa 1963.

Have a look at the signage on the tall beige colored building in center of picture.

Enlarge this photo (hold down Ctrl key, then tap the + key) to see the signage on Catholic Centre Building, sign just below Rolex signage.

Anyone have an idea what this, just bones, wooden structure just to the front could be?
Maybe it just happened to be floating past...

On Hong Kong island circa 1963.

Frank said, he and Nick had just visited Tiger Balm Garden, when he took this photo.

Here is a video about Hong Kong.  
The narration is quite interesting, and the video opens in the Peninsula Hotel, while having tea.  

Worth you time to watch, double click on the underlined link below....

On Hong Kong Island circa 1963.
This is an interesting "street scene" photo, blow it up and look around at the goings-on, much easier to see the details way up the street.

Returning from Tiger Balm Gardens. Circa 1963.

Below, just above the Ship Photo, is a short video presentation around the -> Tiger Balm Gardens in Hong Kong.

In the film, I noticed two scenes that were interesting!

1.  The KMT (Kuomintang, Circular Blue Star with points) symbol
is displayed on a building. 

2.  The Double 10 symbols ( ++ )  are built into a building.

The large Pagoda in the film is apparently one of the main attractions of the Gardens.

After noticing the KMT Symbol and the Pagoda, it reminded me of the Pagoda on the far side of Sun Moon Lake, in central Taiwan.

President Chiang ki Shek constructed the Pagoda at Sun Moon Lake in remembrance of his Mother, as I recall, the signage at the Sun Moon Lake Pagoda talks about it's construction.

Look for the KMT and Double Ten symbols, perhaps I missed some others, the film is very short.  Double click the link just below to watch film.

All sorts of vessels anchored in Victoria Harbor.

One of the favorite, 
"Must Visit" stops, for many  US Military folks visiting Hong Kong was,
China Fleet Club.

 Here's a 1963 photo of the building, right next to the water.

The club goes way back in British History -

Here's an extensive link to the history of China Fleet Club

After reading the first page, the link continues with more history of the facility.

  In the above photo, the 3rd and/or 4th Floor(s), were operated by the US Navy.

Frank said he and Nick visited the club and purchased a few items.

Frank was looking at the men's watches and saw a large heavy Rolex with a number of dials on both sides of the watch.  It had a price tag of around $100.00 US.  Not being familiar with Rolex watches, he continued to look at the extensive inventory on display and found the newest Bulova for less than $50.00 US.  He got the Bulova.  Talking with Frank recently, we laughed, had be purchased the Rolex.......

My wife and I had lunch there, and purchased a number of things that we carried back to Taipei.

Some of the most wanted items to purchase for stateside families were -- 

Noritake China.
 Japanese Mikimoto Pearls, necklaces, rings and bracelets.

Of course, all of the must have, favorite brands were available inside the many shops at China Fleet Club, or it's successor, Fleet Arcade.  

 Circa 1995.

Here's Fenwick Pier, where our US Navy folks arrived at and departed from Hong Kong Island while on "Port Call".

The USS Nimitz was visiting Hong Kong.  Here, a group of sailors were lined-up on the barge, in front of Fenwick Pier, heading back to their ship.

There were "Hired Vessels" tied-up to the barge that would take USS Nimitz Sailors back and forth, to this pier on Liberty.

This was 1995, the China Fleet Club is now called the Fleet Arcade, which is visible just to the right in this photo. The chairs and tables were an outdoor seating area of the McDonald's restaurant.    

  In 1995, the Fleet Arcade sat right on the water

Map above was put together by a good friend, as well as most of the information about the China Fleet Club and it's successors. Thank you Les.   

Look at how much land has been added to Hong Kong Island since the 1950s. 

Notice where the China Fleet Club was originally located.  Once at water's edge, today blocks from the water.

Look where the China Fleet Club was located back-in-the-day, right on the water.

The government continues filling-in the harbor.

If you're interested, here is a link to old photos that show how the harbor has moved.

Old Hong Kong Photos 

 The China Fleet Club Royal Navy, circa 1970's

Notice the "White colored Guard Shack" on the corner of the wall, next door to the Club.  Who's inside the walls? Are they keeping people inside or protecting the inside from outside influence?

  And, in this photo, it is no longer on the water's edge.

Here's the same area, a few years later, the bushes are large and deep green.
No much has changed.  The wall with the Guard Posts, the wall looks a bit higher, it looks like it may have been completely reconstructed.  

But, we can't see, off to the left side, where new land has formed.

Hong Kong was returned to China 1 July 1997.

Changes were afoot long before that date.

The US Navy's in the China Fleet Club building closed in 1982, and was moved to a new facility called Fleet Arcade, a much smaller building with fewer facilities.

The Fleet Arcade, circa 1982.

  Here's a 2011 photo of the "Fleet Arcade" 
 The US still had offices and shops in the building.
Looks like the US and Hong Kong Flags are on the flag pole.

Here's an 2017 photo of the Fleet Arcade.
Notice how far it sits from the water.  It was once next to the bay.

A very good friend, detailed this map, to show how much land has been claimed from Victoria Harbor .

Remember, both the China Fleet Club and the Fleet Arcade, 
once were just off the shoreline of Victoria Harbor.

Here's a more recent photo of the Servicemen's Fleet Arcade.
Notice only the Hong Kong flag displayed on the pole.
But, now, a number of flags are hung on the fence, including the US Flag.

  Some time in 2017, the US closed up whatever was left in their Fleet Arcade shop and moved to the US Consulate.

Now that the US Navy is gone from Hong Kong and US ship visits have been declining (and some are refused by Beijing), the Servicemen's Fleet Arcade is emphasizing it's support for ALL visiting navies, which helps explain all those flags on the fence above.

But, how much longer the Servicemen's Fleet Arcade remain open?

Like history, the old places we visited and remember, fade from our memories and disappear to support the new. 

For many, it's Only Now that we begin to more fully understand what being OLD is.

So many relatives and friends, places and buildings, pass on.

I can now see more light on that road I'm traveling on, the end is in the distance.....

That 5th day of Frank's Hong Kong visit, comes around quickly.

You're just becoming used to how things work and run in Hong Kong.

You know how to get on and off the Ferry.
You have a favorite restaurant for Breakfast Buffet, probably in your Hotel,  another for Lunch and Dinner.

You visited the Horse Race Track.

You rode the Double Deck street cars on Hong Kong Island.

You road the old Tram up to the Mountain Top on HK Island.

You're happy with your made-to-order Suit and the shirts and tie the Tailor Shop gave you.

Your day's were filled with laughter and joy.

You probably remember more that me..

But, I'd venture to say, just about everyone visiting Hong Kong on the EML program,
 came away with a warm heart and a BIG SMILE on their face.... 

Ahh, if we could live those days again, what joy it would bring.

We're in the Hotel Bus, on our way, a short trip back to the airport.

This was taken at Kai Tak Airport on Kowloon, some time back in the day.
One of the best photos of our MAAG Taiwan C-47 aircraft I have.

Just off to the right side center of the photo, is a building with a sign above the door, which I believe is the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company.

 The MAAG Taiwan Shield.  just under U.S. AIR FORCE, identifies our aircraft.

Looks like our C-47 is about ready to board.

 The flight back to Sungshan will be long, but it gives us time to talk with other travelers, we all have tall tales about our 5 days in Hong Kong.

I hope your EML trip to Hong Kong was as fun as ours.,

What sweet days they were.....