Our family traveled to Seattle in 1939 on the first boatload of evacuees from Shanghai. World War II had reached the Far East—Japan had invaded Peking (Beijing) and would soon bomb Shanghai. Had we stayed, we would have shared the same World War II prison camp fate as the characters in the Stephen Spielberg movie, Empire Of The Sun.
Shipboard travel didn’t faze me when I was six after our frequent moves between Shanghai, Honolulu, and Manila. Still, what I remember most about the 1939 trip was that Mother decided I should wear my hair in ringlets—Shirley Temple style.
By the time the ship docked in Seattle, Mother had spent hours pulling my shampooed hair tightly into rags that would form corkscrew curls when dry. Since I usually wore braids, she finally parted my hair down the back and tied my ringlets with two ribbons.
As we prepared to embark, Mother dressed us in our gray lambs wool coats, with matching Cossack hats, and fur muffs. She brightened her black lambs wool coat and hat with a silk scarf.
She handed me my big Chinese doll, but held two-year-old Allie’s doll herself. We descended the gangplank to a burst of flashing lights. Reporters on hand to photograph the first boatload of evacuees from Shanghai picked our family—a photogenic pod with our fur coats, big Chinese dolls, beautiful mother, and my Shirley-Temple ringlets tied with two bright ribbons.
The photographers’ flashbulbs terrified me. I thought they were shooting us.