World War II and The Shanghai American School

U.Mich Peony Garden

Mysterious Builder of Seattle Landmarks at the University of Michigan Peony Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Mike and I traveled  to the impressive University of Michigan in early May to join a reunion of the Shanghai American School (SAS) —  part of the conference, “China Between Two Worlds.”

Hans Pederson died when I was one month old. My mother remarried when I was two. We left Seattle, and so the mystery of the noted builder who was my father grew for the next 70 years. My new “Dad” took us to China where he was an agent for the Standard Oil Company.  As well as Seattle history, the “Mysterious Builder” describes my Far Eastern early childhood in Shanghai, Honolulu, and Manila, along with Dad’s attempts to do business there during the turmoil of the pre and post-war World War II years.

The Michigan conference described “China Between Two Worlds” partly through the memories and photographs of American expatriate families —the missionaries, doctors, and businessmen in China between 1927 and 1949; years that bridged the Chiang Kai Sheck and  Mao Tse Tung regimes withWorld War II in between.  We, the children of these families, had all lived in China. We had lived those photos. We had felt that sense of straddling two cultures.

Such freedom we had. Missionaries upcountry had put their children on the train for Shanghai to board at the Shanghai American School sometimes at the tender age of nine. My husband, a day student at seven, roamed freely around Shanghai with his older brother, jumping over sampans on the Whangpo River. I, however, a five-year old girl, stayed with my amah. Conscious of her bound feet, I never ran away from her, because she never could have caught me.

Most business families were evacuated from Shanghai as we were in 1939, and most expatriates as well by the time the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on  December 7, 1941. The Shanghai American School closed from 1941 to 1946. It was another story for the missionary families in smaller cities upcountry. Some of them were interred in Japanese Prison Camps.

Japanese cruelty towards the Chinese was legendary. Brutality, in fact, was a part of Japanese military training. But one or two people at our reunion had filtered out the cruelty and remembered basically happy childhoods in prison camp, even though they were always hungry.

European and American prisoners organized their camps into rotating teams with specific jobs. With plenty of teachers around, the children had good schooling. They fielded sports teams and put on plays. They always invited their captors to sit in the front row. A few western camps run by Japanese consular officials, were seemingly able to maintain discipline without excessive cruelty.

And so we learned, sometimes there is light within the darkness.

World War II Car Travel

 

 

1941_nash_ambassador_black_sedan_%22a%22_ration_sticker

1941 Nash Ambassador courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my World War II childhood in New York, my mother, my sister, and I escaped the city and went to Maine every summer. We left the car in the garage all winter, took  buses and subways, and saved our gas rationing coupons for the summer trip.

It took two full days to drive the 350 miles to Maine since the wartime speed limit was thirty-five miles an hour. We watched the cows in the fields and read the Burma Shave shaving cream signs along the sides of the two-lane roads.

                      “His cheek was rough                                  His chick vamoose

                       And now she won’t                                     Come home to roost

                                                                                                                            Burma Shave”

The first night we stopped at a tourist home in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Someone told my father about this new kind of place out West called a motel. You’d just drive your car right up to the door of your room and carry in your own suitcases. “Keep your eyes peeled for a motel,” Dad told us, but we never saw any. All we saw were cows and Burma Shave signs.

The next day we drove to Maine through all these little town on Route 1—York, Ogunquit, Kennebunk. More Burma Shave signs entertained us.

                   “To kiss a mug                                                 That’s like a cactus

                    Takes more nerve                                          Than it does practice

                                                                                                                         Burma Shave”

We stayed a couple of days in Portland with our aunts and uncle. Whenever our uncle had fun somewhere, he’d say, “Gorry, it was a real whiz-bang.”

They saved their meat coupons for our visits. Aunt Edith cooked huge roasts. If we stayed over a Saturday night, she made baked beans and brown bread. Aunt Edith knew a good bean baker. She took her bean pot over in the morning, he baked it all day, and then she picked it up that night. I loved the spicy smell and the soft dark bread.

We  stayed in Portland long enough to get gold fillings from Dr. Woods, Dad’s dentist. He never used Novocain. “If I hit a nerve I want to know it,” he’d say. Boy, did I know it. He drilled awhile, squirted cold air on the tooth when it got hot, then swabbed the cavity with iodine or something before he filled it. It was awful, but it was only once a year.

Next we drove up the coast to the camp. Dad stayed a few days before he took the train back to New York. In August he’d take the train back up to get us and we’d drive back to New York in time for school.

We were so  lucky we could spend summers in Maine away from hot New York City with its danger of polio.

Ukrainian Immigrants to Canada

Come_To_Stay

Canadian Illustrated News Courtesy Wikimedia Commons,

My great-grandfather. Stephan Tokaruk, served for twenty years as a horse attendant for a rich landlord in the Ukrainian  municipality of Rohizna. In 1898  his landlord offered Tokaruk, his wife Sanxira and their family  a passage  to North America. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean and boarded a transcontinental train to Alberta as part of a wave of immigrants lured by the opportunity of free land on the Western Canadian plains.

I’m glad they left when they did. I’m glad they brought their daughter and her husband Wasyl Huchulak who started our clan. Their generous landlord probably should have come too.

In their revolutionary drive to collective farming under Communism, the Russians in Eastern Ukraine exterminated the Kulak class of successful Ukrainian farmers. Russian soldiers emptied Kulak kitchens, burned their crops, and left them to starve. The Austrians in the  West continued to keep the Ukrainians, or Ruthenians as serfs. At the start of World War I, they rounded up those who had supported Russia and ordered them massacred by their forces at Talerhof.

Descendants of Ukrainians who survived these purges faced further disaster in World War II. Nazis killed or conscripted the Kulak descendants as Russian sympathizers. In reality they had been Russian slaves. Those who survived World War II were then faced with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Ukrainians continue to face hardship. Russia annexed Crimea in March of 2015.

Still, Ukrainians today do not face the genocide or uprooting that is  taking place in the Middle East.

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