A Pre-World War II Trip from Shanghai to Oz



Wizard of Oz Movie poster Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


We lived in Shanghai before World War II during my early years. My father worked for the Standard Oil which allowed we expats to enjoy soon-to-vanish colonial lifestyle. We had eight servants: boy, cook, laundress, chauffeur — I can’t think who the others were. The servants wore long nightgowns with frog buttons. The men wore black, the women light blue.

The most important servant was my amah. She pulled her hair back so tightly behind her head that her forehead appeared to be bald. Mother told me that was the style for amahs.

The chauffeurs would drive us with our amahs to children’s birthday parties. In the old photos, the amahs stood behind us. I listened to them chatter chatter in Chinese — their sing-song voices rising and falling as they laughed. Some displayed a gold tooth as a sign of prosperity.

we spent far more time with our amahs than with our parents. While our fathers worked, our mothers enjoyed bridge luncheons, tiffins, and teas. At night or parents dined and danced at the French Club or the various western hotels.

The Wizard of Oz finally made it over from the U.S. on one of the ocean liners, followed shortly by Snow White. I guess my amah took me to these movies. I was terrified. For two months my parents moved my bed to the sleeping porch outside their bedroom.

Weaned ont TVs violent cartoons, these classic tales no longer faze many preschoolers.




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