Shanghai, China

Thursday, September 12, 1929

Up at nine, darn it, and an hour later was chasing around downtown. Met the Gows at the Palace Hotel at eleven-thirty. Mr. C.C. Cayne, Director of the Central Fire Station, was also there. A Devonshire man, stout, red-headed, and full of fun and a good bit of the devil too. There isn’t a more generous person in Shanghai though. After a gin-vermouth and a peppermint, Mr. Gow went to the doctor’s to see about having the tonsils out. This seemed to be a further occasion for lubricants, so with a cheerio, we tossed another peppermint down, then went in to lunch when Mr. Gow returned. About this time I felt as though another drink would make me a bit dizzy so refused beer for water and coffee.

At three we rickshawed down through the French Concession to the south and landed on the edge of Chinatown. The way to stop is to say “ah” as if someone had hit you in a full stomach.

Mr. Cayne has lived in China sixteen years and acted as guide. Plunging into the narrow sign- and flag-hung streets we were immediately in real China, only this section seemed much cleaner and better kept than Canton and its filth. The shops were full of about everything under the sun. Ivories, silks, silvers, antiques, jades, brasses, woodcarvings, clothes, etc. At one intersection was a market for household goods. Nearby a bird section where hundreds of parrots, sparrows, canaries, etc. were kept in tiny wicker cages.

A few turns through narrow shady streets and we came to another market place. By it was a tank of water in which was a typically old Chinese building with its curved-up gables, etc. Zigzag walks lead to it from two opposite corners, zigzag because devils can only travel in straight lines. This is said to be the oldest tea house in Shanghai, which is a mouthful. It was full of Chinamen at small tables sipping their tea.

Presently we came to a joss house or temple. Jammed in among the buildings it seemed lost. One might never guess its existence from the street. Under a gateway half concealed by waving banners and stands of tin articles, etc. you pass into what is the courtyard. Now it serves as a market where you can buy practically anything and everything. But in the center rises a small sort of shrine, now almost overwhelmed by the wood stands of vendors. Here and there you can find old stone lions or dragons, but they too have been hidden by the stands. The joss house itself is certainly far from attractive and is probably pretty old. Pushing through the crowded entrance we entered into the dim interior. Near the entrance on either side stood three large demons, as in Canton. The joss, an image of an old emperor I think, sat clothed in red silk clothes under a canopy, old and dirty. A screen shielded this from the entrance, and in front of the screen burned joss sticks and candles. There were several lesser deities, etc. about. On a long narrow table before the joss were pots in which burnt candles, joss sticks, and in one a little flame, probably kerosene.

Mrs. Gow bought some tailles and the attendant burnt them for her good luck. A taille is about $1.25 Shanghai. Of course these were only paper with tin foil over them. They represented money and the Chinese burn great quantities of tailles for their dead ancestors. A passage led to another joss, the emperor’s wife, daughter and son.

We left by another route and presently, crossing a small canal, came up before a door which obediently opened to the sound of our knocks. A sign stated that no foreigners were allowed inside, but there were no objections, and the door was closed after us on the straggly crowd that curiously followed us here and there. This was a place where, evidently, the mandarins used to gather. It was much like a temple, perhaps was one, with a small court surrounded by Chinese buildings, a picturesque spot. The attendants showed us about.

Looked through a couple of shops and watched ivory cutters at work on the way back. Stopped to buy some goldfish and had a big time doing it, Mr. Cayne getting a particularly funny streak. Bargained some imitation ivory chopsticks down from $3 to $2 for ten pairs. I took five pairs and Mrs. Gow the other five. Also bargained down three carved ivory cigarette holders and I gave Mrs. Gow one.

Finally got back to the French Concession and rickshawed to the Central Fire Station where Mr. Cayne lives. There we had a whisky soda, then took a cab way out to the Welcome for tea. Caynes’ dog, Husky, went along. Returned to the Y at seven-thirty, made a rapid change from shorts to suit and appeared at the Gows’ shortly after eight for dinner. Mr. Cayne was there.

A little before nine we were to City Hall to see the boxing matches. McNeil was there and also a Mr. Suter, a tall awkwardly-build man with an overemphasized Will Rogers face. McNeil and Mr. Gow are both mates in the China Navigation Co. The seats were good and I sat next to Suter. He had imbibed to the extent of expressing his opinion concerning the real merits, if any, of  the contestants. The card was an excellent one and the place was well filled with smoke and people, including a few hundred U.S. Marines and sailors with a fair show of British, etc.

In the first fight Young Ambition had a let down at White’s hands and another marine KOed another Chinaman in a bloody second fight. A U.S. Marine won the third and Barling and his queer step knocked Gordon unexpectedly out of the Amateur Middleweight Championship. Pat O’Connor beat a U.S. Marine in a close decision match while in the sixth, Gover, a U.S.M. won by points over a Philippino in a fast fight. The latter was a crafty devil but missed too many blows to win. The last was to be the big event—Joe Hall, Buffalo, colored gent vs. Young Alde of Manila. However, the latter was sadly off and seemed afraid to mix it up. He so slowed things up by refusing to fight that the ref got sore and raised Cain in the eighth, stopping the fight, bawling them out, and making them do the round over again. It was still pitiful and Alde took a cruel beating in the 12 (stretched to 13) three-minute rounds. Snow Ball won on points.

Out at midnight, we taxied to the Welcome to find it closed. Nearby was a place called the Black Cat so in we went for a drink. A hot place it turned out to be. As in most all the Shanghai cafés, it has its girls there on the spot. These girls are Russian cabaret hot numbers whose duty it is to dance with you if requested, and try to make you consume more liquor. It is said the girls who lose out or lose beauty, form, etc. in the north gradually drift south. These Janes were a sightly lot, but they can really dance. Suter was getting well lit up. He took a shine to me and poured out lots of dope on what fine people the Yanks are but how they are all descended from the Scotch, he being a Scot. This over, he went on the dance floor and wobbled his big lanky frame through a few exhibition steps, finally picking out a hot number after making eyes at her for a minute. It was all funny as the deuce. I picked out the best looking one I could find and had a dance. That baby sure could step.

The others wanted to ditch Suter because he was so insistent upon dancing with Betty (Mrs. Gow). He wanted to stay and dance a while, so we left him to his fun after he had insisted I come to visit him some time. He is a river pilot and had an N.Y.K. boat to take up the river at ten that same morning. I’d hate to be on the boat, but from all I hear and have seen, the pilots do better when drunk than sober.

Back in town about two we next went to Ladow’s, another café, but a high class one. Had sandwiches, etc. here (I stuck to H2O this time), and danced till 3:30. Ladow’s had its troupe of Russian gals too, and some were wildly exotic looking, as a rule much more attractive than those of the Black Cat. These ones had war paint plastered on a foot thick. Boy! those black eyes and ruby lips!!! But the best part of the fun is the way they try to work you for dances with their smiles, winks, and flirtations in general. It is all very comical and I often have a hard time to keep from laughing in their faces.

However this time I limited my dances to Mrs. Gow. I hauled the night watchman down to let me in the Y at 3:30 and by 4 AM was in the hay—after I had washed some clothes for the morrow. A busy and successful day at that.

Comments are closed.