Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Monday, June 30, 2008

Keelung River Sights

Stev Pitchford took these shots along the Keelung River. The first is one of the boats that could be rented at the Taipei Park and Zoo. The rest were taken just across the road from the US Taiwan Defense Command building.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More Floating Restaurant

A few weeks ago, Sarj Bloom provided photos of the floating restaurant that was once docked close to USTDC. Those photos showed the restaurant floating away with the help of Typhoon Gloria in 1963.

Long-time contributor Les Duffin just sent two photographs of the restaurant as it was before it became a typhoon victim.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Club 63

Les Duffin sent in this photo showing the back of the Club 63, probably sometime in the mid-sixties. The view is from the hill just below the Grand Hotel.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Chinese Opera

Sarj Bloom sent in these night photos from 1962 that were taken in his old neighborhood on Min Sin E. Road.

This Chinese Street Opera took place at the intersection where my building was located. I lived on the far side of the building from the sounds, but that didn't help much. I decided I might as well go down and check it out since sleeping was out of the question. On the right side of the photo you can see the corner of the building I lived in.

Hanging Out at the Store

Here's another one from Sarj Bloom:

Here's an available light photo (no flash) that I took near where I lived for a while on Min Sin E. Rd. I believe that this was in the summer of 1962.

This local hang-out was a convenience store, down the street from where I lived. You can tell it was a time exposure because if you look on the right you will see a ghost image of someone moving. Actually all you see of the person is their feet and some straw above the feet. I can't really explain how this happened, but it's cool.

Rainy Morning Reflections

I'm in a reflective mood on this gray and rainy morning, so I hope that you'll excuse my meanderings for a few moments.

I was thinking that history is really just life, recorded one day at a time. We often have no idea how important some of it will become to us later on. I think about that every time I write something for this blog, whether I'm presenting my own words or someone else's.

Who of us would have guessed that we might look back so fondly on something like a hot dog vendor in the HSA compound or an evening stroll through a park during Moon Festival in a city several thousand miles from home? These were just day-to-day kinds of things of no great significance at the time, and yet just thinking about them brings a smile to my face more than thirty years later.

At the same time, I am surprised by the number of "critical" events, at USTDC and elsewhere over the years, that now seem relatively unimportant to me. Every adolescent thinks that every issue is a crisis. But if we live long enough, we begin to understand that almost nothing is a crisis, despite what many politicians and journalism majors would have us believe. It's really just another line on the page.

So today I plan to pay attention to those little things that just might bring a smile to my face twenty years from now (if God decides to keep me around that long) and I'll try to keep all of today's "crises" in their proper perspective.

Feel free to join me if you like.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chinese Home

Sarj Bloom took this photo of his 1957 Chevy in front of the home of his in-laws.
This photo shows my good old '57 Chevy - that served me well - outside of my wife's parents' house. I went there often and always had a good time as part of the family.

My wife had four sisters and three brothers so the house was always busy. The oldest daughter was married and one other daughter got married about the same time. So with one of the boys in the army, there were only the two younger boys and two younger girls at home. That was still a lot for this small house, but they were a happy, healthy family.

The inside was very comfortable with Tatami floors, as was the style in a lot of these homes. Everyone would gather in the one room for eating and conversation. The kitchen was outside under a roof and very large with plenty of room. They kept everything here, even a few chickens. The toilet was of course outside too. There was no refrigerator; not many had one in those days. I imagine it was only a few years later that people started being able to buy them and TVs too. I often compared Taiwan in those days to stories I had heard growing up about what life was like back in the '20s and '30s in America.

It was a good time to be alive with not many distractions like TV, computers, cell phones, beepers and iPods. We had friends and family and conversations and travel to keep us a good way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

View From The Zoo

Sarj Bloom took these photographs from the Taipei Zoo. It's quite a different skyline today!

Here's three photos I took from the Taipei Zoo in 1962. The pictures were taken from the following directions:
  • The first is looking west.
  • The second is looking north and very slightly west.
  • The third is looking north and slightly east.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Typhoon Gloria - 1963

Sarj Bloom has provided photos of Typhoon Gloria on two previous occasions. He's recently been digging through some old negatives and has come up with a few more. As I wrote earlier, Gloria was the largest typhoon ever recorded on Taiwan by 1963, though there have been larger ones since then. He writes:
[In this first shot] my wife and I walked from where we lived up Canal Rd. to see what happened to TDC. Canal Rd. starts at Chung Shan N. Rd. and follows the river down, then bends to the south and joins Nan King E. Rd. We lived right off Canal and a block north of Nan King. As Canal heads North it turns northwest to meet the river. This shot is looking back SW toward Nan King E. Rd. because in the background you can see the back of First Hotel. I'm very sure of this and it makes sense the way the road goes. This is the first day after the typhoon that anyone could get out. On our way we also saw AF General Sanborn walking in civvies, heading the other way. You couldn't miss him; he was a big man.

I really got excited when I scanned this last negative, because at once I said, "Man that is Club 63!" I'm very sure of that because I remember they had just built a pool enclosure of sorts which you can see on the ground. It's been a long time and some things don't register with me, but this one sure did.

Eisenhower Visit

Stev Pitchford submitted these photos, along with a few comments:

During my year in Taiwan, Chiang Kai Shek was visited by foreign dignitaries three or four time. I remember one of the visits was by President Diem of South Viet Nam.

Of course, from my point of view, the most significant was the June, 1960, visit by President Eisenhower. I believe our Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, with with him, but I don't have any pictures of the Secretary.

Above, we see Chiang and the President inspecting the troops.
Here is the square in front of the MND building where the President addressed the crowd.
And here we have the President addressing a crowd that, if my memory is right, the local press reported as being about a million people.
Most of us old timers will recognize President Eisenhower, Madame Chiang, and Chiang. I believe the couple behind them is the American Ambassador to Taiwan, Everett Drumright and his wife.

Big Buddah

Sarj Bloom sent in these photos from 1962 of the "Big Buddah" that is located about 30 miles south of Taichung. He suggested this website to see what the area looks like today.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Miles of Noodles

I recently posted a photo from Sarj Bloom of a woman drying noodles alongside the road. Here's another shot at the same location but it shows how long that line of noodles was. Sarj says that he used to see these quite often as he traveled down-island back in 1962.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Stag Bar Revisited

Back in July 2007, I wrote about the stag bar at the Club 63. I described the atmosphere as a cross between Cheers, from the TV series of the same name, and Monks, the diner in Seinfeld. Alcohol was served -- it was a bar, after all -- but folks gathered there mostly just to relax and unwind with a few friends.

I understand that the stag bar was once located inside the main club. By the time I arrived in 1973, it was located in a relatively small, one-story building across the parking lot from the main entrance. I've looked at the area in Google Earth, but I can't tell if it's still there today.

I may be the world's worst illustrator, but this is more or less how I remember the layout of the place. The scale isn't exactly right, but I think it's fairly close.

So if Jim Snowden, John Cranford, Wayne Morris, Larry Driscoll, Larry Sherman, Pop, Royal Mason, Don Ligon, John the Civilian, or any of the other folks who dropped by the stag bar happen to read this, feel free to correct me. Maybe we can wager a quarter on a game of shuffleboard sometime.

Taipei Temple

These came from Stev Pitchford:

Here are some pictures of another temple in Taipei. I don't have a name for this one, but if my memory is right, it was near the downtown area and not far from the Far East Theater.

As you can see, the workmanship was exquisite. Just imagine the skill, talent and effort it took to create this.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pedicab Drivers

Sarj writes about the hard-working men who drove the pedicabs that were common in Taipei when he was there during the early 1960s. (Photo courtesy of Stev Pitchford)
I woke up this morning thinking that I had to make amends for the term I used, as others did, calling these hard working men "pedicab boys." They certainly were not boys; they were indeed very hard working men. These men in their prime would make Lance Armstrong finish last in a race. They pedaled their cabs for hours and hours all day, up hills and down busy streets, sometimes as many as two adults and two children as passengers.

There was not an ounce of fat on their bodies and their calves were large and extremely well-defined. They ate raw garlic like some folks would take a chew of tobacco. Only once did I try to drive a pedicab. My friend and I thought we would show the driver that we could do his job and asked him to sit in the back while we pedaled. He was very apprehensive about doing this. Well, we took turns trying to pedal the cab and it took great effort to get it started. After my turn, my legs were burning. I understood now why he was so apprehensive; this was his livelihood and if anything would happen he was out of a job and a life. We were young and insensitive, I regret to say.

Some of the pedicabs were very nice. They had fender skirts and chrome and were very polished. If there was a middle class in Taiwan, these are the people who had their own pedicab and driver at their disposal. You could see the pedicab drivers in front of the houses always cleaning and polishing their machines, waiting for their employer to take their next trip. It certainly was a show of class to have your own driver taking you around town and shopping. Everyone recognized you were not an ordinary person, but a person of means.

These poor men took abuse in all kinds of ways. Not only being called pedicab boys, but being disrespected by the police and customers alike. No one wanted to pay them what they asked. You would always argue about the price. It was the thing to do. I wish now that I would have shown more kindness and tipped a lot more than I did.

Pedicabs were such a way of life during my days in Taiwan. I hardly ever took a taxi, but of course I had a car too. When it came time for me to leave Taiwan I thought about what kind of present I could take home to impress my older sister's two children. They were five and six years old and ready to ride bikes so I thought, what better present than a pedicab?

I found a place that sold half-size pedicabs and they were really nice. It was maroon and tan and complete in every way like a full-size one. I really can't remember how much I paid for it but I think it was $100 or maybe $125. The Navy shipped it home for me with my household goods. My sister, her kids, and the whole family thought it was really great. My sister drove it with the two kids as passengers in the 1963 Annual Christmas Parade in my home town of Tiffin, Ohio, and it was the biggest hit.

So in conclusion, I just want to pay my respect to all those hard-working men that for probably generations supplied transportation for people at a low cost and at the expense of their health. Every time I think I have it rough I should think back to those men and others like them that pedaled pedicabs and carts up and down streets and alleys for such little pay and respect.

On The Beach

Sarj Bloom submitted these photos of a beach that he used to visit. It probably wasn't on the "approved" list of beaches for US military personnel, which no doubt made it a whole lot more fun. If you know the name of this beach, or its exact location, please post a comment below.
As I remember, the beach was due west of Taipei, maybe a half-hour or 45 minutes. The first photo is facing north. To the left and up the hill was the ROC Army barracks. I parked my car beside the building and we used their bath and shower facilities. We also could buy a soft drink there and play ping-pong. All the guys were very friendly , even though I don't think we were supposed to be in the area. I suspect that this may even be a popular beach area now with hotels, etc. I hope someone can recognize the area.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Botanical Gardens - 50s and 60s

These shots were provided by Sarj Bloom (first photo) and Stev Pitchford (second and third photos). Stev writes:

At least part of the building was used as an art museum at that time. I remember a couple of National Taiwan University students practicing their English by explaining some of the paintings to me. I was glad to hear their explanations and they were happy to get the chance to practice English.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Formosa (Beautiful) 3

Today Sarj concludes his lyric poem that describes some of his experiences in Taiwan:

(Beautiful) 3
Living in the city

Life was interesting so say the least
At night I would sit on my balcony
Up and down the streets the vendors strolled
Singing the words that told of their wares

Noodles, dumplings, knife sharpeners
Pots and pans repaired and for sale
Hard working folks pushing heavy carts
Even masseuses that, by the way, were blind

Daylight brings about more people and my neighbors
A family across the street with children interest me
The boy like many others wears pants with the crotch open
I see why, when he relieves himself in the open ditch

I see a different way to discipline the children
I learn what it means to “save face”
People work hard yet don’t seem upset
The country is changing and I can see it

Living Taiwan

The Cuban Missile Crisis extends my tour
I get married and now have a large Chinese family
My wife and I honeymoon in Kao Shung in the south
We sight-see and stay in a hotel on the “Love River”

On the road we see many things
We see a mile of noodles drying along the road
Mourners marching along in funeral dress
Women and men hard at work in the fields

Kids in small villages rush to the car to see us
I imagine some have never seen an American
Big Nose, and foreign devil they shout
I learn to say these words first to surprise them

In my neighborhood there is a big funeral
The ceremony goes on for days
A lot of shrill singing and gongs and such
It must have been a rich man to have such a big event

Leaving Taiwan

I know that my time is short and I want to see more
Going to places where not many Americans have been
Learning the language or at least trying to
Maybe I could get a job here and stay for.....?

We go to beaches and places even now my wife cannot remember
I love driving in the country and seeing the houses and terraced fields
There are mountains and plants just as you would see in paintings
Every where the people are gracious and accommodating

I drive my wife’s Uncle and Aunt to tour their stores
They own general stores in a few southern towns
I get to see more areas that are not on a tour map
The people impress me the way they bow and honor others

I have to leave there is no chance to stay
I now wish I would’ve taken more photographs
If I only would have gone to more places
Now sadly we wave goodbye from the ship to My Beautiful Formosa

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Water Buffalo

Here's a photo of Sarj, offering a cool drink to a couple of water buffalo in the early 1960s. He says that this was taken just north of the city, on the way up to Grass Mountain.
These very calm beasts of burden were often controlled by little boys. They were more common than cows or horses are in the States. I don't know if anyone remembers, but it also seemed like every family had ducks wandering around near their homes.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Sarj says this shot was taken behind TDC, next to the warehouse building, probably around October, 1961. That's him in the photo.

The van was used by USTDC personnel for various things. I remember driving a TDC van up to Grass Mountain -- I think to the radio station -- in a typhoon during 1973-1974. I didn't have a car in Taipei and that was my first and only experience with city traffic. I remember the driving rain and high winds as I maneuvered that big old van through traffic. I don't recall why I was sent up there, but I managed to avoid running into anything on the way up or back, so I guess I accomplished the mission, whatever it was.

Also, note the classy mid-fifties Pontiac convertible parked next to the van. Very nice!

Taipei Street Scene

Sarj Bloom provided this Taipei street scene from the early 1960s. He mentioned that he had to do a lot of retouching because the original slide had deteriorated so badly over the past 40 years. I've run into the same issue with many of my own slides and photos from the 50s and 60s.

If it's been a few years since you've dug back through those old photo albums or boxes of slides, I'd strongly recommend that you do it soon. Those precious images of places, friends and family may be lost forever if you don't take corrective action, such as digitizing them and using photo editing software to touch them up.

With my own family photos, I scanned them, touched them up, and then made copies for other family members. None of this is terribly expensive, though it does require a time commitment. But the satisfaction in knowing that you've preserved some important historical images is hard to put a price on.

Nice job on this one, Sarj!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

There's a Mister Ramen on Line One

I just received this gem from Sarj Bloom, who has been scanning some of his old slides with his new scanner:

So you say you liked the taste of noodles in Taiwan? You've heard of "road kill?" Well, these are "road noodles." These are actual noodles hanging out alongside the road to dry. Ah...ramen and flies and road dust!

I took this shot on the way to Kao Shung on Highway One, which was the main north-south route in 1962-1963, though there wasn't much car and truck traffic on it in those days.
Sarj, I don't think I ever saw noodles drying in the sun during the seventies, but then I didn't get out much either...unless you count the Club 63 stag bar or the bowling alley.

For detailed instructions on how to prepare these delicious noodles -- the primary diet of college students all over the world -- check out this YouTube presentation.