Typhoon Wendy 1957. | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Typhoon Wendy 1957.

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Typhoon  Wendy 1957.

The China Mail newspaper dated 17 July 1957.

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Wednesday, July 17, 1957


It is only thro this newspaper(now in fragile state) I have any recollection of Typhon Wendy, I wonder if our friend Peter(oldtimer) has any memories?. Guess I kept this paper because it was my first experience of a typhoon, as there was another one in september(Gloria) and monsoon rainfall during May of 57.an interesting year of weather. and quite disastrous for many people,reading this old paper.    Is anyone able to remember(Andrew Sudderby?) what 20 cents, the cost of this newspaper was in English pence in 1957.

Greetings and hello Bryan.  During my years in Hong Kong, there were several strong typhoons, but I don’t remember any specific details, so some general observations...

Since this typhoon happened in July 1957, schools were closed except some night classes attended by adults who worked during the day. Incidentally, I was attending night class about that time. Bus/tram service would be cut back, and ferry service shuts down when conditions exceed certain criteria.  Three years earlier, my uncle said that weather monitoring had advanced such that forecasters could “see” rain cloud movements (referring to radar no doubt). People had some advance warnings then, much more advance by now.

I remember the gusty wind, and raindrops that blew across your face and not falling downward. Pre-war shophouses were hit hard especially those without windows, and definitely in shanty towns. Broken shop signs would litter the streets. Before the storm arrived, people placed their potted plants on the ground.

When a typhoon brings significant rainfall, the runoff turns Boundary Street into a raging muddy river fortunately no deeper than one foot. To prevent water damage, some shop/factory owners (e.g. below my flat) placed a concrete barrier across the frontage. It turned out to be more of a nuisance so several years later they removed it. Shophouses built with concrete and reinforced steel are structurally safe, wind damage occurs when their add-on’s are not properly designed and constructed. Living in an urban area, I have no memory of erosion and landslide in the rural area.

This newspaper must be an evening publication, they covered the news that morning.  20 cents would have bought me (if shops still opened) a small pop or coffee, or a pound of fresh vegetables. 

Regards,  Peter

Hi Bryan

You have got me wondering about just when pill box 37 at Little Sai Wan was wrecked.  I didn't know that there had been an earlier typhoon, Wendy, in July 1957.  Was it a bigger one than Gloria in September?  Maybe it was the combination of two typhhons in fairly quick succession that destroyed the small promontory on which the pill box stood.

In 1957/8, and I believe for some years thereafter, there were HK$16 to the £1, so 20 cents would be about 1/80 of £1, or 3d (old pence, there being 240 old pence in £1).  After 40 or so year of decimilisation in the U.K., I had to work that one out on paper!  That doesn't sound much, but 3d would buy a mass circulation newspaper in the U.K., or a cup of tea in small cafes.  My letters home in late 1957 told how we thought prices were low compared with the U.K., and with a purchase tax of 45% (maybe 40%) on most consumer goods in the U.K., the duty free prices of Hong Kong were very attra\tive. On ordinary things a meal of ham and 4 eggs with chips and orange squash and coffee cost $4.30.  As servicemen we had half price tickets for cinemas and paid £1.20 or HK$2.40 in the circle.  A return ticket on the Peak tram cost HK$1.20, again that was maybe a special (half price?) price for service personnel.  We paid normal prices on the buses, trams and ferries.  Any distance on the trams cost 20 cents upstairs in 1st class or 10 cents downstairs.  We always rode upstars to enjoy the views along the streets, and the fares on the Star ferries were the same.  A single bus ticket from Tsim Sha Tsui to Yuen Long (then about 40miles) cost me HK$1.10, and the return ferry to Cheung Chau cost 80 cents.  On the other hand the sampan ride out to the Tai Pak restaurant in Aberdeen cost HK$2 which, rose to HK$3 when we went back to the land!  Those small spherical clay fireworks that came packed in sawdust filled boxes and exploded with a huge bang on being dropped into the street, cost HK$1 for 50.  I wonder whether they are now banned as being too dangerous?  My pay as a lowly Leading Aircraftsman was HK$56 per week in July 1958 and it rose to about HK$80 (all found) in my last 6 months of service, which was the pay of a regular 3 year man and it was perhaps an attempt to get us to sign on for another year.  Australian servicemen were paid MUCH more than that, and the American Navy guys seemed to have money flowing out of their pockets.  As I have commented previously, a bed in a dormitory at either the Cheero Club, the China Fleet Club or the Missions to Seamen building next door to trhe China Fleet Club cost only HK$1.  In 1958, I asked a sampan builder how much a new 14 foot sampan would cost - HK$300, but as I was shortly due to return to the U.K., I didn't go ahead. I guess that a local would have paid significantly less.  Anyway, for us, 20 cents was not very much, but it was certainly a reasonably significant sum for many of the poorer people. As always, it's very difficult to compare prices in historical terms, but we were certainly better off than the National Servicemen who served only in the U.K..  I hope that the above has been of interest.  Best wishes, Andrew

Hi Peter, thank you for your informative comments around Typhoon precautions etc. I envy your memory recalls. Thought you may be interested to know I have  now uploaded the 2 articles that appear alongside the newspaper photos in the China Mail reporting on the aftermath of Typhoon Wendy’s visit, the downside is that this newspaper is very fragile, and this is the clearest view I am able get.Hope it’s readable when zooming in. The Ice Cream vendor in Kowloon had a very lucky escape. Best Regards. Bryan.

Hi Andrew. —First the typhoons, both Wendy and Gloria were classed as force 6 storms ( I have viewed the storm signal cards you uploaded, interesting) as there had been record amounts of tropical rain in May of 57, see the newspaper report on page 6 of my photos, I speculate that with Typhoon Wendy arriving soon after, these two events would be the more likely reason for the collapse of land around pill box 37 at Little Sai Wan.Have now uploaded the 2 newspaper reports that appeared longside the photos in China Mail 17 July 1957,the text is not very clear owing to the fragile state of the print. Now know via internet that 16 people died during this typhoon, and only 3 as a result of Typhoon Gloria,so probably Wendy was the stronger of the two. wish I could remember but I cannot,sadly. Thank you for the most interesting HK$ -English equasions, I remember when in Sham Shu Po barracks the 20 of us in the hut would each pay our room boy HK$ 3 a week, now know that was only 3s 9d, to make our beds, keep the hut tidy and polish our boots etc.what a bargain. With your permission would like to take a print of your upload to put at the back of my album for future reference for my self and others. My pay was also £3 10s(HK$56) a week and would send 10s home each week to mother. Lots of the photos you have uploaded have refreshed my memory, such as Tai Po and Yuen Long markets,the Bus stop at Shek O,and Kowloon railway station etc. Hope you still have more to upload, thank you Andrew. Best Regards. Bryan.

Here is the captioned newspaper Inside one may view the equivalent sterling exchange rate.

Greetings, and thank you Bryan for your kind words. Your two articles are readable. Over time, memories can fade away and accuracy gets distorted. I have had my mistakes here, so your and other’s photos are therapeutic for the mind. Regards, Peter

Hello Bryan,

Thanks for the kind comments.  Your suggestion about Typhoon Wendy being the likely cause of the collapse of PB37 seems more likely.  When I arrived at  Little Sai Wan at the end of October 1957, there was no sign at all of any damage, so Gloria's aftermath would have been more obvious if it had been a really bad typhoon.

We had female amahs to keep us smatly dressed and the billets well swept and tidy.  We were fortunate to have just 4 or at the most 6 lads to each room and each amah would look after 3 rooms, with each of us paying $HK3 a week, so our amahs would receive about the same as your's did.

By all means make a copy of my price comparisons.  Interesting that you also kept a photograph album.  Every so often I look through mine - but the images are all on my computer so it's easier to access them via the latter.  As you will appreciate, I am uploading the 367 Association phjotographs in alphabetical order.  So far, I have probably done about a third or half of them, omitting many that just show us with our pals or are duplicates of the same places.  I was the historian for some years and, now it has ended, the members gave me permission to upload the archive that I have kept. If you haven't seen my own gallery on Gwulo, check it out for many photographs that will be familiar to you.  When I get to 'Suddaby', I believe that David intends to simply transfer all the images in my own gallery, currently in the 1950s gallery, into the 367 Association one.  I think that he wioll leave my 1981 and 1987 galleries were they are and then we'll have to decided how much of my annual visits between 2000 and 2007 is relevant to Gwulo.  I suspect that it will not be historical enough!

Do you live in the U.K.?  If so, are you thinking of going to David's talk in London on Saturday 30 March?  I went to his last one and it was very good.  All being well, I hope to get down there again from my home in Cumbria.

Best wishes, Andrew

Hi Andrew.

Yes I do live in the not very -United Kingdom-at present, have lived here in Leicestershire all my life. Had not viewed the details of David’s upcoming visit to London until you mentioned it, but will give it some serious thought, my first reaction is I would like to attend,  but tend not think  far ahead as am nearly 84. + the date is currently Day1- post Brexit- and a decision on that is needed A.S.A.P.    But not holding my breath!.

Guess from your very youthful looks in 1957 photos you were only 18 when conscripted, I was an indentured apprentice in Machine Tool Industry until the age of 21, left school in 1950, my first weeks basic pay was £1-8 shillings,  after 6 yrs. finally had 1 week at the full basic rate of £10 10s  then conscripted into Army, and back down to £1- 8 shillings a week!!- -we were 4 bob a day national servicemen, looking back the posting to Hong Kong was made it all worthwhile.

Have 2 albums of photos, cuttings, tickets etc,but like yourself many of them are of mates so have not uploaded those on this brilliant Gwulo site as they probably not of historical interest to the forum.

Best Regards.  Bryan.