Hong Kong Island

The population of Hong Kong when we arrived in 1966 was three million. By 2007 it was close to seven million. The downtown streets were crowded in the 60s but not oppressively so. As the population grew, so did the need for affordable housing. The new tenement buildings didn’t always have the amenities one might have liked; poles strung with wet laundry and poked out of windows were a common sight (left). In 1966, highrises were just beginning to clog the landscape; by 2007 they were the landscape! The Hong Kong-Kowloon ferry (above) that Marita routinely travelled to her dubbing job at Shaw Brothers Film Studios was the only means of crossing the harbor when we arrived. By 1969 excavation had begun on the underground tunnel that would link Hong Kong (also called Victoria Island) to the Kowloon side and mainland China.

Above) Marita, our amah (Ah Miu), and twins Marcus and Liisa enjoying a stroll; (right) sampan housing at the fishing port of Shek Pai Wan (Aberdeen), noted as a haunt of pirates at the time of the Mongol (Yuan) Dynasty. In 1966 when we arrived, thousands of Chinese still lived on and worked from their boats. Hong Kong was a crown colony of the United Kingdom from 1842 until 1997 when it became part of The People’s Republic of China (PRC) The agreement that gave sovreignty of Hong Kong back to China states that the island will remain independent until 2047 – that is, it will not be ruled by the communist government of mainland China, although the PRC is responsible for its defense. This policy is known as “one country, two systems”, and so far Hong Kong has grown and prospered under it.


Shopping In the Alleys

Shopping in Hong Kong’s alleys for groceries and anything else one might need was a challenge. In the 60s one could buy imported meat and staples from supermarkets, but on a lecturer’s salary a daily diet of imported goods was not feasible. Our amah Ah Miu did much of the grocery shopping, but on occasion Marita and I would venture out to steep ourselves in the sights and smells of the local markets. During our three year tour in Hong Kong we might have eaten fresh fruit and salad (imported) on all of three or four occasions. Ah Miu totally steamed or fried all veggies, and if we had dared to eat locally grown fresh fruit we would have had to thoroughly wash it in a chemical bath and we would still have felt uneasy about eating it. Why? Human waste fertilizer!!! Treated? Who knows?

The HKU Campus

Clockwise) Paul on the balcony of his HKU campus office; Marita, our amah Ah Miu, and our twins Liisa and Marcus (born in HK on Dec 3, 1967) on the balcony of our campus flat – note American warships in the harbor below; the bomb squad checking out a suspicious package outside our apartment building; (below) our Chinese chow “Little Pooh” enjoying her daily romp on the campus grounds. We had to keep a close eye on her – chow meat was considered a delicacy by some Chinese; the garage roof made a perfect garden - unfortunately its slats allowed critters to fall into the autos below. On an instinct Marita had our Sunbeam convertible checked out one day; there was a nest of baby cobras coiled up in its innards!!! (left) our Mary Poppins – Ah Miu!!