Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Trip Down Memory Lane

I have some catching up to do so I think I'll begin with a note that I received from Sarj Bloom recently. He was on one of those mental strolls down memory lane that we all make from time to time and he describes what he saw:

OK, here's a trip down Chung Shan Pae Lu that I have been taking in my mind. I'm headed south past the compound where the PX is located. On the left, the next place I see is the Linkou Club. As usual, there is a line of pedicabs waiting for GIs to transport.

I go on farther down the street and now on the left is a Tailor Shop. this is where I got a sports jacket made and a dozen white shirts. I was still into Ivy League stuff and still prefer short sleeve white shirts with button down collars. Now these shirts, if you remember, had a button in the back also. I think the shirts cost like $2 each? Maybe it was less; I just know it was cheap.

OK, now past the tailor shop and down the street some and there on the right is the Datsun "Blue Bird" factory. It was sort of a secret that Datsun was the company, maybe because it was still too soon after WWll. Now these cars were the number one choice for taxis and I tell you they drove those things like kamikazes flying up and down the streets. At night, like the city buses, they drove without their lights. I was told they did so to save electricity. I only rode in one taxi while I was there. I had a car and if I didn't want to drive I took a pedicab. I never did have enough nerve to take a city bus. I wonder if anyone reading this ever took a city bus in those days?

OK, now we are at the alley on the right side of the street again that goes back to the Navy Club and across the street on the left I see the bake shop where I used to buy cakes. This bakery had sacks of flour on the with a picture of two hands shaking and the words, "From the people of the USA."

I'm not certain that this is geographically correct but that is how I remember it and I believe it was all within a mile of two at the most. I wonder if anyone agrees with this.


I believe the street is called Sung Shan North Road today. But I know for sure that back in the 70s I could tell any taxi driver in the city to take me to "Shung Shan Pae Lu," as you said, and he'd take me straight to the compound area. Of course the fact that I was an American, and obviously military, probably helped him figure out where I wanted to go. If I'd told him to take me to San Francisco, he'd probably have nodded his head and gone straight to the compound.

As you went south from the compound, you came to an intersection. On the northeast corner to your left was the Roma Hotel. That building is still there today, as far as I can determine from photos that Kent has sent. Across the street from the Roma and slightly to the left was the Linkou Club; I think it was called the Linkou Club Annex in 73-74. Kent tells me that the club used to be located on Sung Shan Road, and farther south away from the compound. If you looked over at the southwest corner of that same intersection, there was a bookstore where you could buy the usual pirated books, records and tapes. That building is also still there.

I don't think there were any pedicabs still around when I was there. Taxis were the primary mode of travel, though several of my friends took buses from time to time. As inexpensive as taxis were (to us) the buses were far cheaper -- just a few NT, as I recall.

I remember taxi drivers turning off their headlights (and sometimes their engines) whenever they had to stop at an intersection. I figured it was to extend the life of the headlights but always wondered if turning them on and off all the time didn't actually reduce it.

I sure remember the ivy league style shirts, and many of my shirts still have buttons on the tabs. I don't think any of them still have the button in the back though. We used to call them "Dobie Gillis shirts" when I was a teenager.

I was never at the Navy Club, nor do I recall any of the navy guys mentioning it when I was in Taipei. The R&R flights had ended by 1973 so local military guys would probably have been about their only customers, assuming they were still in business at that location. Does anyone have a photo of the exterior of the Navy Club? If so, send it to me and I'll be happy to post it.


Anonymous said...

Don (& Sarj),

I took that same walk south on Chung Shan Peu Lu quite a few times, but I only remember the Linkou Club and the record shop. Besides the rug shops, jewelry stores, and tailor shops, I seem to remember a back alley market area???

Once, my wife & I took the bus from HSA compound to TienMou, it was very cheap, but crowded - and the diesel fumes were overwhelming.

During my first few months in Taiwan - before the wife arrived, us GI's always took a cab from Taipei Air Station to the HSA compound. The rate was 40NT one way. We'd often ride 3 to a cab and split the cost! No one drove as crazy as those taxi drivers! We were in a hurry one night, and did not know the Chinese word for hurry. So we made up a word - 'speedo-speedo' which must have meant something to our driver, as he took off like a bat out of hell - ran a few red lights, we were in a panic. About all I can remember is when we got to the downtown area, we remembered how to say stop (ting) and gave him 100 NT - mostly because we were still alive!!!!

Anonymous said...

PS - forgot to sign the previous post!!


John Hurst

Anonymous said...

The back alley market is still there. There was a terrible fire not so long ago so it is not as small and cramped as it was. They used to sell a lot of pets in cages and there was always a lot of people selling chops (not the kind you eat!).

Round the corner is Florida Bakery which was established in 1952(?). It's been at or near that location as long as I can remember and that goes back to the '70s.

It's great that you remember 'ting' as the word for stop. It was a very Taiwan specific pronounciation and nowadays Westerners tend to pronounce it differently.

Anonymous said...


By early 1965 everything was just as you stated....hadn't changed much at all, Linkou Annex on the left, Datsun on the right, Navy Club on the right, Florida Bakery on the left. Florida Bakery, now there is something I remember.


titojohn said...

Back in 63-64 I used to buy those small little cakes covered with white coconut frosting and topped with strawberry jam at the Florida bakery. I would bring them to work on the mid-watch and have them for a snack with coffee. Florida Bakery was also a good place to buy that spicy dried beef that went so good with the Taiwan Beer. Remember those snazzy jackets with the dragons on the sleeves you could get tailor-made at the Tailor Woo's or Linkou Annex tailor shops.
John Quinn