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Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore

Euco and Eupoc

One of the more interesting projects I had was developing a complete graphic program for the family business of Charles Eu, one of sons of Eu Tong Sen, who married the second daughter Mary Jane of T V Soong.  First I visited him in Kula Lumpur when he was there without his family.  EUCO was the name of the holding company.  Later, after Charles moved his whole family to Singapore from Harrison, New York, he was ready to start the Eupoc Paper Company with a foreign investor – Paper Operation Company -- as a pioneering industry under the Economic Development Board of Singapore headed by I F Tan.  I was acting as its consultant in brand development, a term hardly used at that time.  In other words, I was creating a brand name for all its paper products and to do all the graphic designs from company logo to the exterior of their delivery trucks.  The brand name was Clean-Plus.  Kimberly Clark which owned the name of Kleenex later took legal action against Eupoc for using that name because it sounded too close to Kleenex.  They lost the case.  

I took several trips to Singapore for the project.  The Company went public after a year and was very well received.  Unfortunately, the market in Singapore for such products was limited, export was difficult especially for a new brand.  So, it was not really a viable business to be based in Singapore.  Eventually, it was taken over by the Government and the Charles and family moved to Hong Kong staying at EUSTON, the town mansion of the EU family.

Two summer lectures in Hong Kong

On one of my early visit to Hong Kong, I was interviewed by the South China Morning Post with my picture on the front page.  I was quoted as saying that the Industry Design Profession in Hong Kong was at least twenty years behind that in the US.  Actually, there wasn’t anybody practicing industry design, only in house designers.

So, the Federation of Hong Kong Industry approached me to conduct a two-week summer course in Hong Kong on that subject.  Susan Yuen, the executive secretary of the Federation representing its chairman Sir S N Chau 周錫年爵士 was assigned to negotiate with me on timing and compensation.  She was a tough negotiator.  It took some time to agree on all the details.  The seminar was in 1966, it attracted many people from the local industry.  At the end of the two weeks, I received many requests from participants to help them improving their designs.  Among them were Sonca, which was a subsidiary of Union Carbide, manufacturer of flashlights and batteries.  Sir S Y Chung was the managing director.  I did a packaging design and a one page ad for their latest product – water-proof floating flashlight – my design theme was to express the unique features of the product through graphics rather than depending on wording.  The one page ad was so successful; it is still being used in 2008!  It probably is eligible for entering the Guinness Book of Records.  The other well-known company I was engaged with was Vitasoy, founded by Dr K S Lo in 1940.

The first seminar was well attended and received.  Susan Yuen approached me again the next year for a repeat, which I did.  I was given an office at the Federation’s building on Queen’s Road Central.  Next to my office, was Mr K T Wu who had just been appointed as representative of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council in New York, so I got to know him and later Lucy and I became constant guests at many of his parties on Park Avenue in New York.

Calling Cards

One of the participants made an appointment after the seminar to see me.  When we met the first thing to do was to exchange calling cards as a customarily gesture.  After we discussed how I could be of help to him and his company, he looked at my calling cards and said there were eleven initials after the name on his calling card and he found there was not a thing after my name on my card so why should he believe that I am qualified to be his consultant.  I told him no reason if he didn’t think I could be of help.  He said he would try his best to convince his boss with just my name on the card.   A few days later I called him up and said I wanted to meet his boss and set up another meeting.  In the meantime, I went to a fast printer and had new calling cards printed with no less than thirteen initials after my name including BFA, MFA, IDI, IDSA, ICSID etc.  At the second meeting, I handed over my new cards to him and his boss.  They looked at it and seemed to be impressed by the number of initials I put after my name and we began our discussions as equals this time.  This was one of the culture differences, which I had overlooked on my visit to the Far East.

Home Visits to Taipei

In 1970, the China Productivity Center in Taipei in conjunction with Chiao Tung University sponsored a seminar inviting prominent oversea Chinese to come to Taipei to give lectures on different subjects, mostly in the field of engineering and design.  I was one of the two invited to lecture on Industry Design.  The other one was a girl from Raymond Loewy’s office whose family lived in Taipei.  Many of the leading industrialists and government officials attended the lecturers.  I had the feeling most of them wanted to find out how they or their organizations could participate in the development of more advanced technologies.

In the 1971, Helen and I went back to Taipei to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of my parents as well as my father’s 80th Birthday.  That was our last family reunion before both of parents passed away in the following three years.  My mother died in August 14, 1973 at an age of 74 and my father on September 28, 1974 when he was 83.

In Taiwan at that time the mayor would send a gift to any elder person on his or her birthday who was over 70 years old and he would pay a personal visit to persons who was over 80.  A custom which was discontinued because the elder population had grown so much to make the practice impossible.

Also, any residents in Taiwan who is over 65 could buy a burial plot at the Yangmingshan First Cemetery 陽明山第一公墓 which I believe was conceived and developed under Elephant Chow when President Chiang appointed him as the administrator of Yangmingshan.

So when mother passed away, I immediately applied and got a plot at the cemetery consisted of four burial lots one each for my mother, my father, my seventh aunt and my ninth aunt.  My ninth aunt who was my godmother had already passed away and was buried at one of the Christian cemetery, so her remains were moved to the new lots.  I believe the only person today who can find the way to our family plot at that cemetery is the former driver for my cousin May Tong.  The annual maintenance of the cemetery has been and still is paid by Ms Shu-Hwa Liaw 廖素花 of GRTW out of the petty cash I left with her. 

Mr Fu Wu-Chau 傅伍僑 who was running the G R Coleman & Co in Taiwan and Mr T Y Chu the managing director of G R Coleman Co Ltd in Hong Kong both reached retirement age and wishes to find suitable successors.  In Taiwan, a friend of my cousin Henry Mr Nei Chi-Shu 倪麒時 who was a director of GRTW had no success in finding anybody to take over so along with Mr Howe Yuh Hua 侯彧華 another director decided to promote the engineer Mr Kuo C Y 郭正義 as the general manager.  For the Hong Kong Operation, Mr C T Yuk on a rare trip he took with his wife to New York to ask me if I could consider moving back to Hong Kong and take over Mr Chu’s position.  After due consideration, I agreed to dissolved my design practice in New York since my partner George Gardner, after he got married had just been offered a job as the head designer of the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Since I had been away from home for so many years, I always made a point of visiting my relatives living around the world on my business travels.  Whenever I was in England, I always spent some time with cousin Fei Chungwu and his wife Chang Chingying.  In Canada, I usually saw cousin Cornelia and her family.  And in U S, I had been in constant touch with cousin Vivienne and her whole clan ever since they first come to the U S from South America.

After my parents, sisters and aunt Cordelia settled in Taiwan, because my father spent many years before in the hand woven carpet business, he started to experiment making carpets using Taiwan locally grown ramie.  It was quite successful, so through CPTC, a new company Liberty Carpet Manufacturing Company, Limited was setup in Chung Li, in the rural area of Taipei to produce ramie carpets aiming at the export market.  Local showroom also opened for the tourist business at CPTC office in the city.

At the same time, a Taiwan Handicraft Center was formed to help build up a local home handicraft industry.  My father was made a director.  A few designer friends of mine including Russell Wright were sent by the United Nations as advisors to Taiwan and other developing countries under a so called “point four program”
Around the World in Thirty Years

It was 1976 when I moved back to Hong Kong.  Lucy joined me two years later.  I lived in hotels when I was by myself.  After Lucy joined me we were lucky to find a rental apartment in White Jade which was a 12-story building developed by Lambart Kwok whose late father-in-law built a stand alone house called White Jade and had his daughter Nancy promised never to redevelop it.  Unfortunately, Nancy was killed in a plane crash between Taipei and Hong Kong.  After that, Lambart inherited the house and redeveloped into a multi-story building to be sold to his own siblings and the most of new individual owners used that as a rental property.  The units were in high demand because its excellent location, it was rare to find a vacancy.

We settled down there and lived for more than fifteen years.  My good friend H T Liu bought a unit on the 9th floor which came on the market just after we signed the lease on the 7th floor. Otherwise, we would have bought the unit.  I helped him to find an architect to redo the entire interior.  He seldom lived there himself; usually it was used by one of his daughters who came to visit Hong Kong from abroad.  He later sold the unit after we moved out.  It was quiet a coincident that before Pearl Harbor we lived in the same building with his brother, and then on coming back to Hong Kong he picked the same apartment building as we were living in.

Mental Telepathic 他心通

One of my good friends whom I first met at my father’s office in Chungking was F S Cheng 程福禧.  He was introduced to my father by a mutual friend to seek some advice on studying textile but as it turned out my father knew his family as well.

Later when both F S and I were in New England, H T Liu and I got him to join our fraternity Alpha Lambda.  At the time, he was dating Kit Li from the Li Yau Kee 李耀記 family of Hong Kong.  With much encouragement from all our friends, they got married after she returned home.  My father who knew both the family of the bride and the groom served as the “introducer” 介紹人 and I became the Godfather of their first born, Philip Cheng.

After F S went back to Hong Kong, he started the Unitex Limited, a knitting mill with the factory located inside of H T Liu’s South Textile Limited.  Later Unitex expanded to become one of the biggest knitting mills in Hong Kong.  Those were the golden days of textile industry developed by people from Shanghai.  Unitex was once considered going public jointly with South Textile but the deal fell through and each went IPO on its own.

During those days, I was still in US and F S had another boy.  He sent the two boys to US for schooling and asked us to take care of them.  Of course I knew the first name of the elder boy but had no idea of the younger one.  Out of my hat, I just pull out the name David to fill out the required forms.  As it turned out, David WAS the name given him!  In Chinese, we call this 他心通, mental telepathy is the closest in English. 

Tea with Madame

On one of my trips to Taipei, my father arranged a meeting for me to visit Madame Chiang.  She invited my father and I for tea at her official residence in ShiLin 士林. Chinese Dim Sums were served at the outdoor patio and we had a very pleasant afternoon.  After the tea, she took us through a corridor which was lined on both side with her own Chinese paintings under the tutoring of the famous Chinese painter Q B Huang 黃君璧.

Then she brought us to the formal dining room and showed us the only framed painting of an abstract watercolour she just completed.  She asked me what I saw in the painting.  What an awkward moment that was!  I certainly didn’t want to be embarrassed by guessing it wrong.  After looking at it for a few seconds, I thought it looked like an animal and since we just entered the Chinese year of Pig, I decided to make a guess and said it must be a PIG  and it was correct!  What a great relief for me!   Actually it was a very well done abstract watercolour combining Chinese and Western techniques.




             next CHAPTER 8