Chic's Early Memories of Hong Kong
EARLY MEMORIES OF HONG KONG
My early months with Cathay Pacific Airway's equality favoured Roy Farrell and Syd deKantzow. I logged 94 flying hours in eight days. During the moments they forgot me I kept out of sight by taking the ferry to the Island.
My first impression of Victoria was one of disappointment. It was just a big town, exciting, but still a town. Apart from the Hong Kong Bank, the only lofty buildings were two hotels -the Gloucester and the Hong Kong.
From the Hong Kong Hotel's foyer an imposing staircase led to the Gripp's ballroom, with Bessie's Bar just off it. For many expatriates the bar and the ballroom formed the hub of their existence. I preferred the Gloucester - George Parks and his Dance Orchestra played my kind of music.
My favourite eating haunt on the Island was Jimmy's Kitchen. I met Jimmy Landau through his son Leo. I recall Jimmy as a frail man broken in body but not in spirit with contorted hands' courtesy of the Japanese Kempeti Tai. Leo then courted Betty (Joan) Giblett, albeit from afar, the daughter of a friend in Sydney. I was their romantic courier.
On the mainland a rural air prevailed with life radiating from the Peninsula Hotel. Moving north along Nathan Road brick houses lined both sides to Prince Edward Road. Continuing north where Nathan Road and Boundary Street intersected houses became fewer with farmers' huts the main dwellings.
Along Nathan Road parking presented no problem while banyan trees delineated the carriage-way. Those trees were the preserve of thousands of raucous birds.
One day I walked with Roy Farrell beneath those magical trees when a large deposit landed on his scalp. Roy scooping it off insisted it was a sign of good luck! He pushed me through a door and went off to a wash room. The luck proved to be mine - by accident I met the redoubtable Gingle.
A retired American sailor he was unlike many in the trade for he ate the same food he served his customers. The vittles were ambrosia, and I still salivate over his sizzling steaks. They, like he, were of leviathan size, just the horns were missing. His restaurant was in lower Nathan Road about a five minute walk from the Peninsula.
Gingle's was not big on decor. The tables and chairs were of rough deal with red-checked table-cloths that soon became the worse for stains. On the wall was a large print of a ship of the American President Line. Under the print nestled a juke box that provided the musical atmosphere. The floor was flagstone.
I was a frequent customer yet Gingle was never absent from his premises. He ran his business as a fiefdom. He sat at a strategically placed table with the wall at his back. From there he beamed like a benevolent deity, but his benevolent was a sham, for the foolish trouble maker got short shrift. It was a lesson only given once for although he never banned the disturber, that disturber, never disturbed the tranquillity of Gingle's again! He chose his personal company with care; when Earthquake McGoon was in town he took precedence over all Gingle's other table pals.
The term restaurant was probably stretching the imagination - hash-house would be more appropriate, yet, he catered to many influential clients and most of the flying fraternity. It was there I first met the leather-faced Claire Chennault. There I listened to stories of the Colony's early aviators from Papa Moss, the Director of Civil Aviation.
Captain J.B. McGovern, the McGoon, died during CAT 's daring air supply to the French defenders of Dien Bien Phu. Another pilot saw his C-119 Flying Box-car in a screeching dive trailing flames and crash into a nearby river. Dien Bien Phu fell to the Viet Minh on May 7, 1954, after a siege lasting 55 days. A small parallel is the siege of Peking during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. That also lasted 55 days!