All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

The Shanghai Badlands on Christmas Day, 1940…

Posted: January 1st, 2022 | No Comments »

A but late with htis but anyway, a little rememberance of a Badlands Christmas from 1940 from City of Devils….

‘Christmas Eve 1940. Snow’s still whipping round the city, slushy in the Settlement, settling on the red-tiled rooftops of Frenchtown, leaking in through the jerry-built ceilings of the Badlands. Cast iron buckets on the dancefloor of Farren’s catch the seepage during the day. On any previous Christmas Eve, from the roof of the Park Hotel on Bubbling Well Road, say, or the top of the Observatory at Siccawei, you’d see a skyline full of thin smoke trails from 5000 chimneys. Now the telltale wisps are few and far between. Little Tokyo’s still warm thanks to preferential treatment, but even the take-what-it-wants Badlands is cold. The night sky shows nothing but stars. It’s the fourth winter since the Japanese invasion.

Early hours of Christmas morning, snow falling still, the party rolls on, the raids don’t come. Farren’s, Eventail, the Argentina, Elly Widler’s Six Nations, Perpetuo’s 37427, the St George’s Garden, Bothelo’s Silver Palace . . . the Badlands stays open.

As dawn approaches the band continues to play – the Manilamen musicians figure it’s better to stay on the stage in the warm than head home through the cold to their garret flops. Joe insists on festive jolliness: Wally Lunzer roams the joint as a rock-solid Father Christmas, red suit covering his Red 9, fake beard and a suspiciously German sounding ‘Ho ho, meine leibchen’. The waitresses are dressed as elves with mistletoe pinned to their caps, cheek-pecking the swells. Joe Farren passes the punch bowl, as much the host as ever. He eyes the chorus girls dancing to jazzed-up carols and the Hartnells spinning to a high-speed ‘Jingle Bells’ as the aerialist soars over the diners in a Jack Frost costume.’

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