— Pre-War Hong Kong ~ Nov 1937-Dec 1941

The Battle of Shanghai, also known as the Battle of Songhu, started on August 13, 1937 and lasted over 3 months, pitting the Chinese National Republican Army against the Imperial Japanese one.  For the past five years the Japanese had been gaining more and more territory in China and the Chinese knew they were no match against the Japanese but they had to hold fast and not allow them from taking Shanghai.  They were also hoping that, because there were so many foreigners in the city, the Western powers would help them by sending in reinforcements.  Alas that was not to be 🙁

I’m sure that was the catalyst for George and Lila to leave Shanghai for the safety of Hong Kong, as no doubt they were convinced that the Japanese would never try to poke a stick in the eye of the great British lion!

This was my father’s travel document, front and back …

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Daddy on the "Chak Shan", going to HK

Daddy on the “Chak Shan”, going to HK

George and Lila travelled from Shanghai to Hong Kong on the Indo-China Navigation Co‘s steamer, the “Chak Sang”, in November 1937, arriving in Hong Kong around the 18th of the month.

George got a job working with his orchestra at all the main hotels – the Hongkong Hotel, playing at the Gripps Restaurant, as well as the Gloucester, Peninsula and Repulse Bay Hotels.

Silhouette of Edgar Dowell and his orchestra, popular in both the UK and US during the 1920s. Date: c.1925

In those days those hotels were owned by the Hongkong Hotel Co Ltd, which later became the Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels group.

 

 

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I had to giggle when I realised that the cartoon pianist on the ad on the right was my father!  Took years for the penny to drop!  Duh me 😀

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He certainly would have been a very busy man, travelling out to Repulse Bay for tea dances and I guess some weekends, while other weekends he would have been playing at the HK Hotel, the Gloucester or Peninsula, as well as night concerts!

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I think those years were happy for both of them, judging from their smiling faces on all the photos taken at that time.

I *think* Lila had been employed by Whiteaways, a large department store, in Shanghai and she started work with the Linen Chest in 1940 as their manageress.

1939 July 15 at Deep Water Bay (Click to enlarge)

1939 July 15 at Deep Water Bay (Click to enlarge)

 

It must have been such a relief to come from war-torn Shanghai to a peaceful town with gorgeous scenery, lovely beaches and a cosmopolitan crowd. Too bad that the peace would be shattered just four short years later 🙁

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I found an old receipt which my father kept for furniture he bought for their flat and from this I/D document of my father’s, dated September 8, 1938, they must have been living at 6B Hankow Road in Tsimshatsui (TST).

The photo on the right looks like a dinner with friends at that particular flat 🙂

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dad friends

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It seems that my father got his mother and step-father out of China in October 1939 – I found a document for Baba Manya which was issued on the 25th and so they would have arrived in HK within a month of getting that fixed up.

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It was interesting to see that a Mrs Krassova was Baba Manya’s witness on her form.  Daddy had a Russian musician who played in his orchestra for many year and this guy’s name was A Krassoff.

I wonder if Mrs Krassova was his mother, who lived in Tientsin?!  I somehow can’t imagine a young woman who would have been his wife living in Tientsin while her husband was working in Hong Kong.

Knowing how sociable my parents were when I was young, I would imagine they have a pretty active social life – probably with other Russians there but also with the other expats.

And, of course, dad would have had late working hours with his orchestra so I reckon their lives must have been busy!

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A group of friends at the Peninsula Hotel – dad is at the far end (Click to enlarge)

 

Lindy was born at the Matilda Hospital in October 1939. I remember George telling me that when he was there visiting his wife and their newly born baby, the weather was dreadful.

Apparently it was like a typhoon had hit, with strong winds and heavy rain. The matron took pity on him having to get back to Kowloon in conditions like that so she said that if he liked, he could spend the night there but the only place he could lie down was in the mortuary! He accepted gratefully 😀

 

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As the war clouds darkened, Lila and George used to play piano duets on Radio Hong Kong for the war effort and also played a two-piano solo at the Band Concert in aid of the Bomber Fund which was held in the Peninsula Hotel Lounge on Sunday, March 2, 1941.

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Pre-War Hong Kong

Photos of George and Lila when they got to HK after leaving Shanghai for good in November 1937, and also Lindy when she was small, Life was sweet until the Japanese invasion in December 1941!
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*NB – when you click on the album, the screen will show the top of this page. Please just scroll down to see the pictures.

 

 

A couple of video clips of Pre-War Hong Kong so you can see what it was like when George & Lila were there …

 

 

 

 

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