... in the room on the first floor where girls in our Lower
School Dormitory (LSD) lived. Our Chefoo teachers cooked scrambled eggs for
us on a small stove they had built in the center of the room. Before we left
the dormitory in the morning, they spooned ground eggshells into our mouths
--- pure calcium, the doctors said. But it tasted like gravel. We would try
to blow and cough it off our tongues.
... we girls ground peanuts into peanut butter, using a hand-crank
grinder. Marjorie Harrison ground the tip of her finger into the grinder. Our
teacher bought the peanuts with Comfort money.
... summer evenings when the men played softball -Tientsin Tigers,
Peking Panthers, and the Priests Padres. The only woman allowed to play was
Mary Scott --- but only as a substitute when a man dropped out from exhaustion.
I remember: ... the Chinese honey pot men coming with their buckets to empty
the night soil from the latrines and cesspools next to the ladies toilet. Didn’t
a little boy fall into one of those cesspools?
... roll calls. Standing in pairs, we Chefoo children always
numbered off in Japanese --- ichi, nee, san, shee, guo, rogo, shichi, hatchi,
koo, joo. Waiting for the Japanese guards to come to count us. Sometimes we
played leap frog. Sometimes practiced semaphore and Morse Code for our Brownie
and Girl Guide badges. I remember that awful evening when Brian Thompson touched
the electric wire during roll call --- a grown up beating the wire with a deck
chair to dislodge Brian’s hand clutching the wire. Brian died.
... I hated the dogs. You could play with the Japanese guards,
but never their dogs. The dogs were trained to kill. I wondered, how did a guard
get to be friends with a killer dog? I remember the screaming terror of the
night the Alsatian dog killed Miss Broomhall’s kitten,
Victoria Snowball. Tucked under my mosquito net, I heard a terrified, yowling,
shriek rip the stillness, clashing with a guttural barking muffled by the tiny
ball of fur between those bloody teeth. I buried my head in terror and stuffed
the pillow around my ears. They cleaned the mess by morning --- perhaps our
teachers, perhaps our brothers. Miss Broomhall, always sensible and very proper,
walked a little slower after that. In all my days in Weihsien, that is the only
time I remember being afraid.
... writing our letters to Daddy and Mummy --- 100 words printed
in block capitals to make reading easy for the Japanese censor. Few of those
letters reached home until after we arrived home.
... when we Chefoo girls made a game of carrying coal buckets
from the Japanese quarters --- girl, bucket, girl, bucket, girl, bucket, girl
--- we hauled the coal dust from the Japanese quarters back to the dormitory
in the hospital, chanting all the way, many hands make light work.
Then, in the biting cold, with frost cracked fingers, we shaped coal balls out
of coal dust and clay. Grown-ups swapped coal ball recipes. Winter sunshine
baked the coal balls dry enough for burning.
I remember: ... each of us 13 girls in the
hospital’s Lower School Dormitory (LSD) scrubbed her patch of floor
each day. I remember playing two songs on a hand crank gramophone ---Roamin
in the Gloamin Harry Lauder and Go to Sleep My Dusky Baby.
I remember: ... the Battle of the Bedbugs ever Saturday in the summer. With
knife or thumb nails we children squished bedbugs or bedbug eggs in every crack
and cranny of the steamer trunks we slept on and in every seam of our poogai
... we girls would throw our ball over the wall on purpose then
signal desperately to the Japanese guard in the tower that we HAD to get over
the wall to find the ball. (Balls were VERY scarce.) The guard would hoist us
up and drop us over the wall for delicious moments of freedom while we searched
for the ball. Someone tattled. When our Chefoo teachers found out, they stopped
our ball-over-the-wall escapades.
... our two-girl teams of stokers lighting the fire in our
little stove that warmed our Chefoo Schools' Lower School Dormitory. Marjorie
Harrison and I won the daily rivalry of who stoked the fire to turn the sides
of our stove red hot most often. With coal dust and coal balls for fuel, this
didn't happen often.
... our Chefoo
teachers lining us up for inspection every day: Were
we clean? Were we neat? Did we have our mending done? On weekdays, our
teachers scheduled us for "session" -- a time for mending holes in
our socks or clothes. Where did they get the thread to mend our clothes? For sure,
even in internment camp, our patches were always proud. No Chefoo student was
allowed to look like a ragamuffin.
... September 10, the day six of us Chefoo children were flown out of the camp from the air
strip beyond the walls -- Raymond Moore, David Allen, and four Taylors -- Kathleen,
Jamie, John, and me. We were only the second planeload out. For how many weeks
the B-24s and the B-29s had been dropping food and clothing into the camp. It
seemed so easy. So onto the plane I carried my own tiny relief and memory package
to drop to the girls who for almost three years had been my dorm mates in the
Lower School Dormitory. Sorrow of sorrows! When the plane got into the air,
Weihsien shrank to a tiny, unreachable target beneath us and I don't think the
airplane windows opened. I curled up and went to sleep on a heap of used parachutes
piled on the floor of the plan. When the plane touched down in Sian, the men
at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) base served us ice cream and cake and showed us a Humphrey
Bogart movie I think it was "Casablanca." Kathleen and I slept that
night in an officer's tent -- unaccompanied by bedbugs. The next night -- 9/11
-- we were home. We hadn't seen our parents for 5 1/2 years.