Shanghai, China

Wednesday, September 11, 1929

Up at five to find we were already well up the river and were passing shores lined with miles of go-downs (warehouses and wharves) and dozens of vessels anchored in mid-stream. The country was flat in all directions. Ahead tall chimneys belched forth clouds of black smoke that seemed to envelop everything. However, once past this I saw a fine “billion dollar skyline” stand forth along the riverfront. Fine buildings, modern as any in Europe or America. There was the busy Bund along the waterfront, a host of native small craft plying their trade up and down the river, warships and gunboats anchored in mid-stream opposite the Bund; and everywhere boats, boats, boats. We passed that Dutch boat on which Jean’s mother came to Shanghai.

The Linan docked just above the Bund on the opposite shore. Immediately the ship was smothered by small craft seeking passengers or carrying cargo to be loaded on. Hatches were opened and cargo hoisted out by derricks. Lines of blue-clad coolies carried heavy boxes on their shoulders down board gangways from the holds to the go-downs. No time to lose for the Linan was sailing early the next day for Darien, etc.

A Q[-class motor] launch came alongside and everybody got in, bag and baggage. A man told me to wait on the boat for Mr. Gow. After everybody left, it was a let-down to be alone again. It was interesting to watch the coolies at work. One boat load of bananas seemed to typify what the officers had told me about stealing. Right under the ship’s side they took up the floorboards of the junk and filled up the empty space with some 15 large bunches of bananas. All the coolies steal what they can and the superintendents are worse often. Sometimes they will string a coolie up by his thumbs for stealing.

At breakfast a customs supervisor was present. Was telling about the opium smuggling and said he had to OK shipments coming in that he knew contained opium or he would lose his job.

Mr. Gow came after 9:30 and we went across in a sampan to town where he got a taxi home. Mrs. Gow and Elsbeth (Scotch for Elizabeth) were there waiting. Had a lemonade and sat around talking till after lunch when we rode to town. I stopped for mail and got four letters, one from U.S.S.B. giving me permission to go back on a S.B. boat.

A gin-vermouth, and we went to meet a Mr. McNeil, thereafter walking about the racecourse in the center of town. It is a huge recreation center. The walk had to end by rickshawing down to the Palace Hotel for a couple of Manhattans (I had been there earlier for drinks), then out to the boarding house for dinner. At nine a taxi whirled us out through the French Concession and finally to the stadium, a large greyhound racetrack. There we watched the races till midnight. Mr. Gow bet $8 and won $13.10. Another lemonade and we got a car out to the Welcome Café for coffee and sandwiches, getting me back to my room in the Navy Y at 1:30 AM. Spent an hour writing, then turned in.

Shanghai was a surprise. It is very large, about 2,000,000 people, and has a fine business section. Back from the Bund you follow Nanking Road, the main drag, for blocks and blocks, just down a deep canyon walled by European business houses, etc., then past the Chinese stores. It is busy by day and more so by night. A regular bright light district full of life and hum—hundreds of large Chinese signs hung over sidewalks, all colors, floating in the breeze. Hundreds of rickshaws and autos. Traffic signals help but still there is much congestion. At night several tall buildings having spire-like towers are all lighted up. Rows of lights are around the level of each storey. All in all, from a distance it looks like a Coney Island.

Nanking Road goes past the racecourse, on out past clubs, to the Bubbling Well, a well, now in a square in the middle of the street, that demons were said to inhabit because it always bubbles. Girls are not desired when a baby is to be born and many were thrown in here. Farther out you pass some fine residential sections and finally pass the Welcome and, I think, soon the Settlement Boundary.

Seems as though all you do is drink, drink, drink. If I didn’t let discretion replace valor and insist on occasional lemonades instead of whiskeys, I’d be half tipsy all day long.

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