Excerpts of letters from Ruth Kunkel and friends:

“THE WHITE ELEPHANT SHOP” IN WEIHSIEN

It was found that some people had taken to camp articles which they didn’t need. So Helen Burton of “The Camel Bell” in Peking, got permission to use a small shed as headquarters for exchange. To pave the mud floor, we scrounged bricks when the guards weren’t looking. No goods were displayed except shoes. Notices were posted and contacts were made. This exchange became so important and helpful that, after Helen left, a committee was set up to take charge of her wonderful idea. (writer unknown).

Oct 15, 1948
“Yes, Helen sailed from Shanghai on the eleventh. You should have seen her leave here. She had all the baggage two people could carry even after she had checked a lot of overweight. Well they wouldn’t let her on the plane with so much so she had to check more at the field and pay ten ($10) US more. One thing which she took was a canary, cage and all. She had a fancy cover made for the cage a la Burton style. She is the darnedest woman when it comes to travel. I could not have been hired to start out with such an assortment. She wired back three or four times for things she forgot. Well she must be off now and will have a long voyage before she reaches Honolulu. The Kyska (Watermann line) goes to Hong Kong, Manila, Yokohama and then Honolulu.”
Ruth

Oct 30, 1948
“Ma Yu Kuei has a second child , a girl, Oct. 27. (Helen Burton’s adopted daughter).” Ruth

Dec 19, 1948
“After the guests left an embroidery boy and Tzu Ju Burton arrived. The latter is very worried because she lives so close to the new airfield. She said that she has a suitcase packed against an emergency. She stayed behind locked doors all morning as people kept knocking at her door to be let in. She expects to move any moment and is worried about Helen Burton’s things. Ruth offered her the two spare rooms in the back for her and the child. Tzu Ju’s husband has been called on already to work on the Tung Tan blinding.”
Lillian Li

Dec 22, 1948
“Tzu Ju and child have moved in with Ruth and Alice (Moore). Last night’s gunfire at Kuang An Men was too frightening.”
Lillian Li

Dec 24, 1948
“No gunfire for so long! Cocktails and Christmas presents at Ruth and Alice’s. Came back loaded with presents from R&A (Ruth and Alice) and Tzu Ju. Rewrapped the mittens from Tzu Ju for my sister-in-law because my hands are too big for them. Kept the “beanie” for myself though.
Lillian Li

Dec 27, 1948
“No question of water shortage any more. Dropped in on Ruth to see if papers had arrived safely. They had come. The news was that Fu (General Fu) had retreated. Tzu Ju has heard that the Reds have given us grain which we are lacking in exchange for cloth which they are lacking. Two truckloads of wounded soldiers have moved into Yu Ying.”
Lillian Li

Dec 28, 1948
“Grand Central Station was very crowded today but there was little or no news to be gleaned. (The Moore-Kunkel’s ménage is so called because it is a sort of central gathering place). Press and mail censorship, along with constant arrests of evildoers has certainly cut down our crops of rumors. Tzu Ju and Robert (Robert Wu) are both looking for houses. Miss Moore will start classes in her private school next week – 23 South Compound PUMC. (Peking Union Medical College)
Lillian Li

Jan 4, 1949
“The nicest part about this Christmas was that it snowed during the night. Thanks to our refugee guest, Tzu Ju Burton Lu, we had a nice tree. She had ordered it ahead and we were glad, because just before the 25th it was impossible to bring trees in and many people had a treeless Christmas.”
Ruth

Jan 20, 1949
“Luxuries are cheap now before the Christmas New Year and I have bought some lovely tribute silks for Helen Burton. Only hope I can get them to you Hel. “
Ruth

Jan, (no day) 1949
“Tzu Ju Burton was just here and told us the latest so far as her family is concerned. Her husband has been taken for a six-month training after which he may be given a professor’s job in the Hua Pei University. No provision has been made for the maintenance of his family while he is at the training school.”
Ruth

March 13, 1949
“There are so many lovely things to be had these days for almost nothing. The best tribute silk is now selling for 2 dollars a yard. It is cheaper than cotton. I have bought quite a lot for Helen Burton. Just had a letter from Hell (Helen). Tzu Ju has a little shop at her house and is working hard. She’s a dear. Ma’s baby is darling. Husband doing nothing I believe.”
Ruth

April 17, 1949
“Helen Burton’s Tzu Ju sent us the cutest Easter basket – pansies with two tin foil wrapped eggs at the side and all wrapped in orchid paper and tied with the same shade string. Helen trained those gals to know how to do the nice things.”
Ruth

July 24, 1949
“It was rumored at Helen Burton’s birthday breakfast this morning that a ship may be leaving Tientsin tomorrow or Tuesday and so there is an incentive to write. One of our friends is going down tomorrow and it may be that he can get this into the boat and it can be remailed from Hong Kong. Yep, the Burton girls, Bertha Lun Lois Chen, Dorothy St. Clair, and we (Alice and I) had a good time at Dorothy’s in memory of similar parties we have had on this date.”
Ruth

Aug 23, 1949
“I am afraid there is no good news of Ma Yu Kuei; in fact there is no news. There was a rumor some time ago, apparently, that she had been allowed out and had gone with her husband to Manchuria, but unfortunately there is nothing to it. At least Catherine saw Tzu Ju yesterday and she says there is no change; Ma’s husband, however, is allowed to send food and clothing to her on certain days. “Tzu Ju seems to be managing well, and Tzu Yi’s husband apparently has a good job, so they are perfectly all right. This includes Mei Li.”
To Helen Burton from Peter Lum Crowe

Aug (no day), 1949
“I read Helen’s round robin (letter) when it was in the rough but did not see the completed copy. It gave such a good picture of her summer which she considers the perfect one. As usual she was lucky. Wonder if the purchase of the public toilet property will turn out as good a deal as most of Helen’s gambles?”
Ruth

Sept 2, 1949
This will doubtless be the last gasp from behind the curtain. Alice and I are booked to leave Tientsin on or abut the 22nd on the “Hunan” for Hong Kong. Wish I knew what all of you would like to have me stick into the trunks. Have oodles of silks for Helen B. and am praying that they will pass the inspectors. Those in power are on the watch to get hold of all the US currency they can. They hate us but like our cash.”
Ruth

Ruth and Alice Moore made it to Singapore in Sept 1949 and stayed there for a few weeks selling various goods they were able to get out of mainland China. They eventually went to Istanbul where both were hired as teachers at colleges for American girls and new adventures began for both of them.


 

 

 

Letter: by Ruth H. Kunkel
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