ENG  |  中文



From Tientsin to Hong Kong香港

Shanghai 1937 -1939

After our family moved from Tientsin 天津 to Shanghai because of the 7/7 七七盧溝橋事變 incident, we stayed at our home in Ching Yuan 靖園 Lane 668 Yui Yuan Road 愚園路.  I remembered one day my father accidentally ran into his old friend T V Soong 宋子文on the street and he invited him to our house for a chat.  I believe that was the time T V  then Chairman of Bank of China decided to recruit my father to work for him.

Following that, T V had a meeting with my father and his partner at Elbrook, Inc 海京洋行, later known as G R Coleman & Co, Mr George Coleman to inform him about drafting my father away from his present business.  T V jokingly told Coleman that if he had any reservation, he might be drafted too.

That was why our family moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong before Pearl Harbor.

My First Exposure to Espionage

It was after 7/7 when we were back in Shanghai and the Japanese had occupied the coastal provinces.  Because the International Settlement was isolated from the Japanese, it became the battleground of underground forces from both the Japanese and the Chinese.  Chinese collaborators with Japanese were murdered and assassinated daily.  One day we got the news that an uncle of my cousin Tongs named Sarcey Chan 陳才 who was a partner of Mr Wilfred Wong of the firm American Engineering 北極公司 distributor of Frigidaire refrigerators, was snatched by the Japanese from the famous “No 76”, name after the address of the Japanese secret service headquarter.  He was charged with the crime of plotting to assassinate Wang Chin Wei 汪精衛 the head of the Chinese puppet government under the Japanese.  It was then revealed that Sarcey had been organizing underground forces to sabotage the Japanese and later after a meeting in Hong Kong with Tai Li 戴笠, the head of Chinese intelligence service, he was recruited as part of the Chinese underground resistance force in Shanghai under Chungking’s command.

Through this connection, my cousin May who was an attractive young lady and Sarcey’s confidant was approached to join the underground force.  My father objected strongly and May declined the recruitment.

It is really hard to believe that the man we called Uncle Ou Sheng 耦生叔叔 and who was like a real family member turned out to be one of the most powerful members of the underground force.

Nobody we knew had ever suspected his role in the war against the Japanese which meant he was a good underground operator but unfortunately was sold out by a double agent.  He was caught by the Japanese and was bought to Nanking where the puppet government was and went through a trial and was eventually sentenced to death and executed.

Sarcey was a graduate of Tsinghua University 清華大學 ten years after my father and then like my father, went on to Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  Tsinghua later honored Sarcey Chan as one of the Tsinghua martyrs who gave his life to his country.

Hong Kong 1939 - 1941

My father decided to take my mother, me and Victoria to Hong Kong in 1939 to run a principal subsidiary of Bank of China under T V Soong.  My sisters Rose, Jane and Helen would remain in Shanghai.  The company was China Products Trading Company Ltd 中國物產股份有限公司, CPTC for short.  My father was made a director and general manager with T V as its chairman.  I went with my parents in 1939 to make a survey trip first staying at the Peninsula Hotel for a week.  We then went back to Shanghai and moved formerly to Hong Kong in early 1940.  My other three sisters, Rose, Jane and Helen were left behind to stay at the big family house.  Our home in Hong Kong was on the second floor of Gray Apartment, 76 Village Road 山村道 which CPTC rented for us.  The brother of Mr Liu Han Tang 劉漢棟, Liu Han Kun 劉漢堃 was above us on the third floor of the same building.   My sister Victoria and I then enrolled at LingYing College 嶺英中學 at Li Yuan Shan 利園山.  The principal was 洪高煌.  Besides the apartment, the CPTC also provided us a car, a black Chevrolet four door sedan.  At that time the total number of private cars in Hong Kong was less than ten thousand so the license plate had only four digits.  I learned to drive with that car and got my driver’s license which was like a hard cover passport.

CPTC’s minority shareholders included Bank of Canton and other national Banks.  Shanghai Commercial Bank also held a 3% interest.  Its office was located at the Bank of Canton Building, 9 Des Voeux Road Central.  One of my father’s best friends Elephant Chow 周象賢 was made vice general manager sharing an office with my father.  Since Mr Chow also lived at Fung Fai Terrace 鳳輝臺 in Happy Valley, the two of them often walked home from office together.

Union Pharmaceutical Company Ltd

Another venture T V Soong started was Union Pharmaceutical Company Ltd 協和藥廠 with CPTC as a major shareholder and Dr Jui Heng Liu 劉瑞恆, , former head of the Peking Union Medical College and once the Minister of Health of the KMT government as its Managing Director.

My Cousin Cornelia

The confidential secretary of T V Soong at that time was Mrs Lee.  Her maiden name was Chow Yut Mei 周月梅 and she had one son and a brother called Michael who were all friends of one of my cousins in Hong Kong, Cornelia.

Because of this social relationship as well as my father’s closeness to T V, many friends of ours thought we must be getting many inside ‘news’ through the grapevine, but my father was a man of high principle and never wanted to take advantage of anything not on the ‘need to know’ basis.

After graduating from Ginlin College for Women 金陵女子大學 in Nanking, Cornelia joined CNAC as one of the first batch of air stewardess against the strong objection from her parents.  I still remembered that every time before she was to fly, my grandmother would give her a tall glass of carrot juice, which was supposed to prevent air sickness.  Because of her job flying between Shanghai and Hong Kong in a DC3, we saw her frequently.  Later after she resigned from CNAC, she came to live in Hong Kong and met her future husband David Lam whose sister is the wife of then gentleman jockey Ng Poi.  Cornelia’s mother was not in favor of the match; she even took a trip to Hong Kong trying to stop the marriage but did not achieve her purpose. Rose came with her for a visit.  When she went back to Shanghai, my father asked her to take Victoria and Rose with her because the spread of the Sino-Japanese War might affect Hong Kong soon.

Cornelia and David against the objection of her parents got married right after Pearl Harbor.  On the record they were the last couple married under the British administration before Japanese occupation.  The newlywed couple rented the basement of Ng Poi’s house in Kowloon as their honeymoon home.  I remembered visiting them there and meeting David’s sister holding in her arm a young girl who could well be the future Governor General of Canada.

Mr Ng Poi 伍培 and his family immigrated to Canada after Pearl Harbor and his given name was made the last name so his granddaughter Adrienne became Ms Poi who later married to a Canadian with the last name of Clarkson and Adrienne Clarkson was later appointed as Governor General of Canada representing the Queen of England in Ottawa while Ng Poi was still alive.

Pearl Harbor 1941

It was in the early morning of December 8th, the siren sounded.  All we saw was black smoke in the direction of Kai Tak Airport.  People realized that it was not a drill, it was the real thing.  The Japanese had begun bombing Kai Tak.  The war is on!

The first thought of my parents as well as everyone else was to go stocking up on food and supplies so we all went to the general stores on Shing Wo Road 成和道.  At that moment there was no time to choose what we wanted, we just grabbed what were on the shelf.  I remember the two items, which we bought the most, were canned sardine and toilet paper!  Rumors were flying all over; radio broadcast was the only source to confirm the actual fighting had started.  The British Royal Air Force – RAF – nicknamed Run Away Fast – was no match to the Japanese counterpart.  On the ground there was a group volunteer called ARP – Air Raid Police – who were there to help the civilians during air raid.  The air raid shelter, we called it dugout nearest us was at the end of Village Road crossing Shing Wo Road.

Because our apartment was the tallest structure in Happy Valley at that time and there was a vacant lot behind it, the British made use it by putting guns on the lot using our building as a shield, so we instantly became one of the prime targets of Japanese’s battery.

Before the Japanese troops could cross the harbor, they first had to start to shell all the  gun position in Hong Kong.  One night when we heard the shelling became louder and louder, we knew they had our building as one of the targets.  All the residents in the building began to leave for the air raid shelter.  Because there was no electricity or any kind of lighting, we all went down the stairs holding each other’s hand.  While we did this in an orderly fashion, each one of us tried to take something, food, candle etc.  My mother took with her all the toilet paper she could hold.  I remember the Liu family was right behind us hand in hand.

When we reached the air raid shelter, the ARP at the entrance told everyone to lay down low once inside and do not talk or say anything in order to conserve the limited oxygen in the dug-out.  He shouted “If you said one word too much, you die one minute earlier 多說一句話, 早死一分鐘”.

The longest moment was when we got inside and tried to make sure that the rest of our family were all there.  After all our family was counted for then the only thing to do was to lie down and wait for dawn to come.

When dawn finally arrived and shelling subsided, we slowly climbed on the floor to the exit.  We immediately noticed that Gray Apartment received more than one direct hit and several balconies were destroyed but the entrance staircase looked untouched.  So we all went back and tried to see how bad was our floor.  When we reached the staircase, everyone was shocked to see that there were on the wall blood and part of human face including teeth stuck on side of the stair wall.  Later we found out, those were the remains of one of our neighbor, or neighbor’s friend who was with us when we left the building but he broke formation before reaching the air raid shelter to go back to fetch his winning at the mahjong game which was going on when the shelling started.  That was the only casualty we knew of. 

After this we knew that even if the apartment were still tenable, the Japanese would probably continue the shelling aiming at the British gun position, so we decided to move the family to live with my father’s friend Elephant Chow.  We had to share rooms with members of Chow family.  Luckily they lived in a colonial townhouse with large rooms and tall ceiling.  My mother and I had to share one bedroom with Mrs Chow and her daughter Mabel. 

Unexploded Bomb

The Japanese shelling continued.  We could hear the whistling sound of the coming shell then a loud explosion.  One day the sound became louder and louder which meant they were getting closer and closer.  So all the people in the house got together in one room farthest away from the outside wall of the building.  Then all of sudden we heard a whistling sound followed by no explosion but a pounding noise in the back yard of where we lived.

The shelling stopped after a while.  During the intermission, we all rushed out to the back yard and saw a round metal item buried in the ground.  It was the back end of a shell, unexploded.  If it had been a live one, certainly the whole kitchen facing the back yard would have been wiped out and possibly our part of the building would have been collapsed.

While my parents and Elephant Chow and his wife were worrying about the eventual surrender of the British and the occupation by the Japanese force, we the children – Paul, Mabel, Peter Chow and me were thinking of ways of protecting us from further shelling.  We went to the sitting room and turned all the sofas sideway, with the top of the back touching each other so to form a tunnel like an air raid shelter, which we all could climb in.  At the next shelling spell, we tried that out bringing snacks and canned drinks with us and had a party!

The Fall of Hong Kong

The Japanese troops crossed the harbor and landed near North Point after the continuous shelling of several days.  They first occupied the left hilltop of Happy Valley while the British still held on the left hill.  So the two sides began shooting at each other across the Race Course.  We could clearly see the bullet tracers at night.  This did not last long.  So on Christmas Day December 25th 1941, the Japanese troop came in and occupied the whole Happy Valley.  That night we could hear all the crying and screaming from men being killed and women being raped from our open window. 

The Japanese confiscated all the private vehicles and they were all towed to the Race Course, when we took a last look at the Hong Kong Royal Jockey Club, what we saw was a sea of broken cars in the center mall of the race course.

Under the Japanese Occupation

After the dust had settled from the fighting, my father decided to make a move to live with my uncle who live on Shan Kwong Road 山光道 opposite the then Shan Kwong Hotel 山光飯店 nickname 吃光; 用光; 賭光.  This uncle was the eldest brother of my father and Cornelia Yang was his daughter.

My uncle’s flat was on the top floor of a three story walk up, I had to share a room facing the street with my cousin, Evan Yang 楊彥岐 who later became a famous director -易文.

Evan at that time was writing short stories in Chinese and I did a few illustrations for his novels.  Because his connection with the Chinese underground, we used to get confidential news through different ways everyday, sometimes on a piece of paper hardly more than two inches square with ten handwritten news headlines would be found under the front door, some times it would come in with milk bottles.  After the first two or three weeks, there would be only nine news headlines, the tenth one became a question.  A typical one would be to ask what was the insignia on the Japanese troop’s station at Happy Valley.  I don’t know how my cousin responded to the questions; he had his means to deliver the replies.

Escape from Hong Kong

One day in the earlier part of 1942, my uncle invited a friend for dinner.  This person was 吳家源, 號季玉.  Before dinner was served, we received an anonymous phone call from a lady who just asked if we had this guest in our flat, if so don’t let him leave our place under any circumstances and wait for further instruction.  In the meantime, do not open the front door for anybody to come in.  A while later, another anonymous phone call came only to ask us to describe in detail what our guest is wearing.  What color Chinese gown, what kind of shoes etc. and told us that at midnight there would be someone knock on our front door and we should open it.  The person on the other end of the phone then told us that the Japanese just passed out the picture of this person to the troops with the instruction of shooting him at sight.  The Japanese had identify him as one of the top Chinese underground leaders who was responsible for smuggling many important Chinese officials living in Hong Kong out to Chungking 重慶.  Our flat could be surrounded by Japanese secret service already, so all the members of our family should find a way to escape from the roof in case it was discovered that this person was at our place.

We shut off all the lights after getting dark and waited for midnight.  At midnight on the dot, there was a knock on the front door, we acted according to instruction to open it and found that standing in front was a person looking like an exact double of our guest.

This double then told us that he was to take our guest with him and walk out of the building to catch the last tram leaving Happy Valley for Star Ferry taking 50/50 chance of being shot on the way.  He also asked someone from our household to join them in order to report back if anything happens on the way.  My cousin Evan volunteered.  After the three of them boarded the tram, the real Mr Wu sat at one end of the tram, his double at other end with my cousin sitting in the middle so he could watch both end. 

As soon as the tram reached Star Ferry which at that time was way back at the shoreline along Des Voeux Road.  What my cousin saw was four men jumped on the tram and two grabbed Mr Wu, while the other two grabbed the double.  All were rushed to the Ferry for Kowloon.  My cousin was not sure at all whether these four men were friend of foe, so when he came back and told us what happened we agreed all of us had to leave Hong Kong as soon as possible.  Should the Japanese find out that we had provided shelter for the wanted man; all of us would have been arrested.

Later we found out the men who grabbed Mr Wu off the train were our own who after getting him to a safe house in Kowloon overnight, he was put on a rickshaw next morning going down Nathan Road to New Territory….  The reason he was able to escape was due to the man collaborating with the Japanese was actually a double agent 李威法 and he misled the Japanese saying Mr Wu was in Kowloon that night visiting Elephant Chow who had moved there from 鳳輝臺 after the shelling incident.  In fact, when Mr Wu was going down Nathan Road in a rickshaw, Mabel Chow happened to be on the balcony of their flat.  She actually saw him and waved.  To avoid being recognized, there was no reaction from Mr Wu.

After the decision was made that we had to leave, my father because of his business would find a way to go to Chungking 重慶 with my mother and I being a boy who was liable to be drafted by the Japanese should go with them.

Later I learned that my uncle, his third wife and children left Hong Kong with the help of our underground network and went to Guilin then Chungking.  My Cousin Henry went to Rangoon working for the National Resources Commission before moving to Chungking.  My Cousin Charles traveled to Kunming working for the Yunnan-Burma Railroad and later also moved to Chungking.  In was in Kuming where Charles met his future wife at a church choir.  He was playing violin and she was in the chorus.  Cousin Evan also made his way to Chungking.  Most of male members of our family got to the war-time capital of China which was appropriately called GREAT BACKYARD OF CHINA while the women member remained in Shanghai under the Japanese puppet government.

Luckily, CPTC still had an office in Vietnam known as Indochina at that time at the border town of 廣州灣 headed by a Mr C T Yuk 郁照庭.  If we could get there, we then would be able to re-enter China finding ways to Chungking 重慶.

So, again through the help of the staff of CPTC in Hong Kong, we were able to get a room on board a ship leaving Hong Kong for Haiphong 海防 two days later.
The day before sailing, my parents, our maid and I had to pack and leave the house by tram to stay overnight at a third class hotel in Central.  It was one of those places, which rented by the hour and we had no choice.

Next morning we all went to board at the pier each one carrying something, food or drinks in case the ship was overcrowded.  I was carrying a thermos bottle filled with hot water.  When we were at the pier all of sudden we heard an explosion and several Japanese guards immediately pulled out their guns looking for the source.  Everyone was looking at my direction and I was the only one who knew where the explosion came from.  My thermos bottle.  It had dropped to the floor and exploded when my shoulder strap snapped.

Luckily the Japanese guards saw what happened and did not react further.  Otherwise they could round up everybody at the pier.

After two days of sailing we arrived at Haiphong and on to Honai and Guan Chow Wan 廣州灣.  CPTC had people there who help us with our luggage and local transportation.


From Hong Kong to Chungking重慶

A Six Months Journey

Our first stop from Guan Chow Wan was Yui Ling in GuangSi 廣西, there was an unpaved road but due to the war, it had been destroyed by the KMT troops to prevent the Japanese Tanks from making use of it.  So the trip was on foot, in sedan chairs, or horse pulled carts.  I believe it took us several days to reach Yui Ling where there were guesthouses we could rent and stay. 

Besides us, there were other people from Hong Kong taking the same route to interior China.  One of them were the family of K C Lee 李光昭 whose wife Virginia was the niece of Mrs Elephant Chow.  They have three sons and two daughters, one of them was Maimi Lee, the runner-up of the Miss Hong Kong sponsored by T F Lee 李威法 after the war.  I remember one incident when we got together one day to take a walk in the countryside.  Because there were bulls running around the rice fields, we were forewarned not to wear red color dresses.  But Maimi did not listen and she was in a red blouse, so true enough bulls came out of nowhere and chased after Maimi.  We all had to run to save our lives.

Since we knew this family quite well and we were all heading for Guilin, K C Lee talked to my father and we agreed to jointly hire a bus.  All sounded fine until the morning we were to start, the Lee’s appeared with so many luggages – junks like water filters, bicycles etc.  Even pile all the heavy items on bus top.  That left us with no room for our stuff.  That was the time I saw father really got upset and he decided to call it off and let the Lee’s go on their own.  We would find other means to make our way to Guilin 桂林.

I don’t quite remember just how did we finally get to Guilin where CPTC had an office and rented a house for us to stay.  The first thing we saw after getting into town which moved me to the point of tears coming out of my eyes was our own fighter planes flying between the famous mountains of Guilin 桂林.

As Guilin 桂林 was the front base of our air force, it was naturally the prime target of Japanese bombers.  So we were subject to constant air-raids.  The yard of our rented house had trenches where we went during raids.  We could look up and see the enemy planes.

The most famous air-raid shelter in the city was the natural cave at “Seven Star Mountain”.  It is a big cave and there were teahouses, shops, even cinema inside.  So, the months we were there, I often dashed to the cave during daylight raids and used our own trench when night raid came.

Seventy-two Hairpins七十二彎

We stayed at Guilin 桂林 about six months.  My father decided we should get to Chungking 重慶 because Guilin was too close to the front line.  Because CPTC was a subsidiary of Bank of China, arrangement was made for us to travel with the truck caravan carrying bank notes from Guilin to GuiYang 貴陽 in GuiZhow 貴州 Province.  Since these trucks were fully loaded, we had to separate and my parents rode in one truck sitting with the driver and I travel with another truck sitting on top of the truck body along with a few others.  We had to strap us together and onto the truck body to prevent us from falling.  Years before the car seat belt were invented.  The trip would take a few days and had to pass the famous Seventy-two hairpin curves along the unpaved mountain road.  When our truck reached the spot, because I was sitting high on top of the cargo I could clearly see the remains of crashed trucks which were unable to negotiate the sharp curve and went straight down the valley with human bodies still inside.  There was just no way to make any rescue and nobody would because one had to take care of himself.  The truck my parents were in was ahead of the one I was on and we lost contact with it as well as the one behind. 

On one of the straight stretch between hairpin curves, all of the sudden we discovered another faster going truck without any cargo catching up us and over took us without any warning.  After they were in front, the truck swung and blocked us to go any further.  Our truck had to stop and blocks had to be put behind the rear wheels to prevent it from going backward.  Four jumped out of the other truck with guns in hand, it was no doubt of their intention to go after our cargo – banknotes.  Little did they know that we had in our truck four of five arm guards who immediately confronted them with rifles.

It was a standoff.  I believe these people knew each other because they started negotiation and the matter was settled without any bloodshed.  This took hours and in the meantime the truck my parents were in had already reached the next overnight stop.  They waited for us for dinner but not seeing any signs of us coming, you can imagine how worried they were.  When we finally appeared, you could see how relieved they were. 

These trucks we were traveling on were started on gasoline and ran on charcoal burning fumes.  They had no horn; warning signal was the banging on the hood by the assistant to the driver.  Because of possible air raid, the truck never turned on headlight when it was getting dark.   Again depended on human eyes.

The driver of truck was regarded as the captain of a ship.  Whatever he said would go.  Even meals he usually chose the restaurant and ordered the food for all of us.

After the highway incident, we were happy to reach GuiYang 貴陽 unharmed.  Our stay at GuiYang was short; we proceeded to Chungking 重慶 by bus.  Since CPTC had moved its head office from Hong Kong to Chungking.  The company had already arranged a stand-alone house for us at South Shore town of Wang Kou Yard 黃角鴨.  It is among the rice fields, without electricity or running water.  Light was supplied by oil lamp and water from the well in the yard.  How lucky we had our maid with us, a big help in getting food and preparing meals.

The reason CPTC put us there was first of all less likely subject to direct bombing and secondly the top official of Bank of China all resided at Wang Mountain 汪山, which is within walking distance.

To go to the city, we had to either go down the hill on foot, by donkey, or by “slippery sticks滑杆”, sedan chair carried by two persons one at each end of two bamboo poles.  At night we had to first buy a dry wood torch to light the way.  After reaching the bottom of the hill there was a ferry service to cross the Yangtze River to the other side where the City was.  My father’s office was in a building near the water where you have to climb a long stretch of stairs to get to.

Chungking Days

Since I was in my last year of high school when Pearl Harbor came, I had to join a specially created class at Chiao Tung University accommodating those who were short of graduating from high school.  That was a one-year course for pre-university students.  Chiao Tung University was just moved from Shanghai to Chungking 重慶, it had to be built from the ground up at “nine dragon slope 九龍坡” up the Yangtze River and near Generalissimo’s retreat.  The dormitory was built with bamboo and clay instead of steel rod and cement.  Windows were covered with paper instead of glass.  There were more than thirty students in one room with bunker type wooden beds.  We had to bring our own mattress, sheets and mosquito nets.  The beds were usually full of bed bugs and the air was full of mosquitoes.  We called the former tanks and the latter airplanes.  Nightly we were subject to their attack.  There was no electricity or running water.  In the morning we had to get the water from the well, put in Alum 明礬 to purify it then did washing in cold water.  There is no flushing water in the toilet, just holes in the outhouse, we could see down all the worms clawing over the waste down the hole.  That was the time I started smoking cigarette in order to counter the smell.  Cigarette was sold not by package but by single pieces.  It was a treat if you offered one cigarette to somebody.

Because Chiao Tung University was a national institution, we were subject to strict military training.  There were no chairs in the dining room, so we had our meals standing up.  Once a week, meat was served which we called it “Tooth Worship” 打牙祭.  There were a few restaurants and teahouse across the main street.  Students usually spent hours in the teahouse on one order of local tea.  There we did our studying and chatting.

On weekend, most of students went home, we had to take the bus to the city and for me I had to cross the river and climb the hill.  It was a long journey but always glad to be home.

One of my best friends Tony Tseng, whose father was the head of International News Agency under the Foreign Ministry, had ways of getting some movies from the foreign correspondences.  One weekend we decided to get one called “Fighting Lady” and put on a pay to see show at the University auditorium.  Somebody got hold of a generator so to provide electricity.  I was assigned to do some posters to promote the movie.  Of course behind called “Fighting Lady” the most appropriate theme for the posters were half dress women fighting the evils.  This attraction worked so well even the president 吳保豐 and dean of the school 李諆謀 all bought tickets.  What happened was that the “Fighting Lady” was all about a battle ship, no women at all.  Since my posters had misled the audience, can you imagine the uproar?


In our leisure time we were always looking for ways of making some pocket money.  Tony and I came upon the idea of making a Chungking version of the most popular game of that time – Monopoly.  This was because we could enlist my cousin Fei Chungwu who was teaching art at the National Central University 國立中央大學 to do the graphic design and ask one of our schoolmate Luk Fei Ming Chun 陸費明鐘 to get Chung Hua Book Company 中華書局 to do the printing at cost because his father was one of the founders of the company.  All sounded perfect.  I went to visit cousin Fei and stayed overnight in his room at the University and we got the design finalized.  Chung Hua Book Company took the prototype and produced a limited number of sets for us to test the market.  Then came the difficult part.  How to sell it.  Tony and I decided to approach the hostels and hotels first (this was no such thing as TV in the rooms then).  The first hotel we went to was the one at Bai Pay 北碚溫泉 a suburban hot spring resort upstream from Sa Ping Pa 沙坪壩.  We made our sales pitch to put one set in each of its rooms.  No sale but the manager of the hotel accepted our demo set as payment for our stay!  Following that ‘sales’ trip, we tried several others but nobody appreciated our effort and we decided to call it quit.  We had to dispose the remaining sets free to friends.  If somebody had a set today it would definitely be a collector’s item with the names of building and property of wartime Chungking and a chance of what you bought being bombed out.

Dancing in the Dark

After my father went to join T V Soong in Washington, DC, we moved from the house on top of the hill at South Shore to another house at mid-level.  It was also an old one without electricity, running water or modern plumbing.  Cousin Charles, his wife and the newborn kid were staying with us in one room.  Unfortunately, the child passed away when only a few months old.

On one weekend, several of my friends including Mabel Chow thought it would be fun to have a dancing party somewhere.  It just happened one of us found an old deserted house, which we could use, but we had to bring candles for lighting and use hand-wound gramophone for music.  Nobody else knew the location of the house, so we agreed all to meet at a place in downtown Chungking before dark and follow this person to the house.  We did just that and the house turned out to be on the South Shore and after a long trek in the dark we finally got there.  We started the party with the food we brought and the music with some discs.  The party went into early morning and everyone enjoyed it because it was a rare R and R during the war.  All went to sleep on the floor.  When the dawn came, I got a big surprise when looking out of the window.  What I saw was our house!  It was just about a hundred meters away.  If I had known earlier, I could have saved the four hours trip going to downtown Chungking and back to the South Shore.

Ink Pistol

During the war, Chungking being the capital, the Japanese used to send bombers, three or four only, around the clock to disturb the live in the city, so our government decided not to sound any air-raid siren if there were less then four enemy planes ahead.  To take precaution against any signaling from the ground, people were prohibited from wearing white dresses or shirts in the daytime.  The police were all carrying water pistol loaded with black ink, when they saw anybody wear white, they just shot the black ink all over the white dress or shirt. 


From Chungking to Calcutta

Lend-Lease Act

T V Soong was the Foreign Minister at that time,. He spent most of his time in Washington DC because US was our most important ally. Chiang Kai-shek made T V his personal representative to secure up to US$500,000,000 worth of war material under the Lend-Lease Act passed by the U S Congress. He was to set up a China Defense Supply Inc, CDS for short, in Washington.  On one of his trip home he asked my father to join CDS to take charge of a fleet of Liberty ships being built by Henry Kaiser in his Richmond, California shipyard and to be lent to China.  My father accepted and flew to Washington with T V spending the next two years there.

The Fleet of Liberty ships were to be used to ship material from the U S to Rangoon, Burma where the only land road, the Burma Road, connected with China. The first ship was launched at Fort Mason, San Francisco.  The wife of the Chinese Consul General in San Francisco Mr Fung 馮執政 was invited to do the commissioning. Thereafter the fleet received a lot of press coverage because my father asked the captain of each ship to put on a fresh coat of paint before entering any U S port like New York. This made the ship stand out among all the war torn veterans! With the Chinese flag flying high, it made every Chinese proud.

After Pearl Harbor, the International Settlement in Shanghai was taken over by the Japanese and Elbrook was considered enemy property and confiscated by the Japanese. 

During the War in 1944, Mr Huggins was ready to retire so he turned over the company to George R Coleman, William Merrill Hunt of the New York office and my father.  Thus Elbrook became G R Coleman & Co to this date. 

China was under marshal law all during the war and for a student to go studying abroad was extremely difficult.  Since my father was working in Washington D C, I thought there might be a chance I could find a way to get a visa to USA.  One of my very good friends Hsing Chang who later married Mabel Chow was also looking for ways of getting to the US.  So I thought it might be helpful if two of us applied together as trainees instead of students.

Over the Hump

It was in September 1945, The Japanese surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.  I remember when the news arrived.  Not from the radio or the newspaper but with the lights in the city suddenly lit up while the air-raid all-clear siren blasting continually.  Celebration was in order and that made my dream of going to the States a step closer to reality.

After submitting our applications and informing my father, he went to T V Soong to tell him my intention.  T V responded by contacting the State Department and the result was that then Secretary of State sent a wire to the US Embassy in Chungking 重慶 to approve our applications.  That was the easy step.  Hsing Chang and I started to work on our exit visa, which was the difficult part.  Hsing got his visa before I did so he went ahead of me. 

In order to get an exit visa, one had to get the approval of as many as 11 or 12 Government Department or Agencies.  With an application form for exit visa in hand I went to each one and luckily obtained the approval from 11 Departments each one put a seal on a single piece of paper.  When I got to the visa issuing office for the final approval, the man behind the counter surprisingly just counted the number of seals and said you were one seal short.  At that time I had run out of my patience, so I just went out and added one of my own personal seal to complete the required number – a different seal from the one used under my name as applicant.  When I went back to see the person, he just counted again and without further questioning accepted it.  A few days later I was notified that my exit visa was approved.

The next step was to get passage to fly over the hump to Calcutta.

At that time my father was still in the US. The manager of Bank of China Branch in Calcutta Ling Feng Pao was a good friend of his.  So he asked Mr Ling to arrange accommodation for me on my arrival.  My father also suggested the possibility of my waiting to get onboard one the Liberty Ships under his management at CDS which was to sail from Calcutta back to the US after offload the lend-lease cargo.  This was to be the last voyage for the ship because it was after VJ day and the WWII had ended.  Later I found out that it was my luck that I did not wait for that ship because she on the way back hit a mine in Indian Ocean and sunk.

It was in September 1945 when I boarded a CNAC DC3 plane at Chungking 重慶’s airport located on an island San Woo Bao 珊瑚坡 in the Yangtze not too far away from the city.  The plane was unpressurized.  To go over the hump she needed to fly above 9000 feet, so I found out what headache meant.  We could see the Burma Road from the air and plane had to zig zag among mountains.  We landed at a place called Ting Chiang at a military airport on a strip of metal runway.  There the plane was refueled and passengers got their lunch.  From Ting Chiang to Calcutta was a short flight.  Somebody from the Bank of China was at the airport to meet me and the Lings were nice enough to put me up at their flat sharing a room with their younger son.  It was a world apart from the housing in Chungking 重慶.  The building even had lifts.




Autograph Album
click each photo to enlarge
















                next CHAPTER 4