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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Six


As an illustration of the care one should take in attempting to help others of whom we know nothing, I cite a recent experience of mine. At the request of a man who was offered parole if I would promise to employ him, I went to San Ouentin Prison to see him. The warden said he could not recommend me to help him. hut he had a real bright prisoner about to be released, who had charge of the office, and whom he could recommend me to help. I went to see this man on two different occasions, and found all the warden said of him to be correct, there being no question as to the possibility of Ins becoming a fit member of society.

On Ins release I sent him to China so as to give him every opportunity of starting life a new, and did not let any one know where he came from. He arrived in Shanghai, but instead of reporting at our office he turned up in what is known as the "tenderloin," got on a drunk, signed my son's name to a check for $50, which he attempted to cash. As the check was drawn on a bank with which we had no account, payment was refused and he was arrested.

While awaiting his trial, he got so well in the graces of the jailer that he obtained possession of the keys and late one evening headed the other jail-birds to the tenderloin resorts. A policeman became suspicious of him and on general principles arrested him and delivered him to the jailer; this was the first intimation the latter had that his prisoners had fled. Finally he was tried and sentenced to San Ouentin for five years. A deputy marshal was sent with him to Nagasaki with instructions to put him on a transport. Just before the arrival of the transport at Nagasaki, he got the marshal so drunk that he had to go to bed. Then he got a Norwegian sailor so drunk he did not know what he was doing, and, taking the commitment papers out of the marshal's pocket, and incidentally his money, took the Norwegian on board the transport, produced the court order and reported, "here is your man," got the paper receipted by the captain for the correct delivery of the prisoner, who was promptly locked up aboard the transport and sailed for San Francisco.

He returned to the marshal, and put the receipt in his pocket. When the latter awoke from his drunken sleep and found the receipt, he thought he had put the prisoner on board the transport, but had no recollection of it. On arrival of the transport in San Francisco the Norwegian was promptly turned over to the warden at San Quentin. The man protested that he was innocent, but that is so common in prisons, no one took it seriously.

On return to our friend. He left Nagasaki for Yokohama, where he put up at the Grand Hotel. But the marshal's money did not last long, and he again got into the hands of the police, was tried and sentenced to two months in a Japanese jail. When he got out a deputy sheriff was waiting to escort him to Shangha; where he was placed in the same cell with the deputy marshal whom he had last seen in Nagasaki. The marshal had been arrested on complaint from San Quentin that he had delivered the wrong man to the transport, as the Norwegian finally convinced his consul that he had committed no crime, and he was released. The marshal got a term in prison, and our friend was sentenced this time to Bilibib prison, Manila.

A short time ago in looking over the books of a bank in Manila, I saw where he had borrowed $5000 and had gone into business. I wanted to give him another opportunity and did not tell the bank manager that I had been acquainted with him, but cautioned him to get the money back as soon as he could. I have not heard from him since, but I feel sure he is busy doing something, whether it is good or bad remains to be seen. What a pity it is, that a fellow with such ability should not turn it to good instead of to bad account.

In August I received an urgent appeal to address a meeting of merchants and manufacturers in Calgary, Alberta Province, B. C., on Foreign Trade, a subject that they did not know much about, situated as they are in the interior of Canada.

About six hundred listened to my talk. From Calgary I went to Edmonton where I addressed a crowded house. They were much impressed with the necessity for foreign trade, as most of them had thought, before hearing me, since they were in the interior of the country it was immaterial to them whether they bad foreign trade or not; but, when it was explained to them that they were producing more than they could consume and that the surplus must be sold foreign or their product would be a glut om the market and lower prices would prevail, they became fully aware of its importance, and inquiries came from all directions as to what they must do to get more of it. While there, I was the guest of the Government and the Canadian Pacific Railway. I had a very enthusiastic reception at all of the meetings, and although it was considerable of a tax on my time, I was well repaid by the results.

COMMENTS OF TI1E CALGARY PRESS

"One of the most forceful addresses came from Captain Robert Dollar, president of the Dollar Steamship Lines, on 'The Necessity of Foreign Trade and Canada's Opportunity in the Far East.' He spoke out of a ripe experience regarding trade in the Orient, especially in China, and gave Canada some very splendid advice. Then with the naturalness of a pulpit orator he said:

"II believe there is better opportunity for trade in China than in any other part of the globe. We business men deserve no credit in securing this foreign trade. It is the missionaries who deserve the credit. They preceded us and made it possible for us to trade in China and other foreign countries.' It was a deserving tribute to the efforts of the Christian Church, that this large audience of business men loudly applauded the statement.

"It is only of recent years, since means of travel have become so rapid and comfortable. that business men touring the world in search of foreign trade, have come to see the wonderful work of the church in its missionary propaganda. They have met it on every hand and marvelled at the religious, educational and social work done by the representatives of the church in foreign lands. They have come to admire the courage, faith and self-sacrifice of men and women who did real pioneer work, facing hostile peoples, persecuting governments, alien religions, tropical diseases and untold hardships. They have been compelled to admit that the heroes of the battlefield have never excelled the heroes of the mission field; that the missionaries have been the pathfinders in the dark places of the earth, to be followed by the trader, the capitalist, and the organizer, who have explored and developed the countries.'"

On the first of September the American Fleet came into San Francisco Bay. It was a holiday and we went to Sausalito, but the crowd of automobiles was so great we could not get near the town so we went to Fort Barry near Point Bonita from which we had a good view. It was an inspiring sight and convinced us, who had so long been advocating the importance of the commerce of the Pacific Ocean, that at last, after so long a wait, our Government had its eyes opened to the fact that in a very few years the center of the world's commerce would be on this ocean. But even yet it is impossible for Europeans and our people living in Eastern States to realize that this is rapidly coming to pass. When you consider that only eighty years ago the Pacific Coast had only a scattered population of white men; less than fifty years ago the first steamship crossed the ocean from America to China; that the entrances and clearances at Pacific Coast ports, twenty years ago were 5,825,293 tons; ten years ago 6,384,800 tons; and for the year 1920 amounted to 12,127,886 gross tons. If the same ratio of increase continues, you can see how soon the Pacific will exceed in tonnage that of the Atlantic; but we cannot hope for this rapid growth to continue.

But, with the development of China going on as rapidly as it is, we can see clearly whence the great increase is to come. The Philippine Islands have made remarkable progress as evidenced by their trade returns of last year, 467,587,387 as compared with five years ago 206,250,375, and ten years ago 180,695,648. The tonnage of the ships has changed very much. Twenty years ago the lumber to China was all carried in small sailing vessels, eighteen years ago the first of our steamers carried a full cargo of lumber at rates much lower than sailing vessels were getting; in fact we had great difficulty in persuading anyone to give us a steamer cargo, so I came to the conclusion that if we were to stay hi the business we must furnish our own lumber cargoes. It was fortunate for us that we were compelled to do this as we now have a permanent business for our steamers.

The size and speed of steamers have increased very much as the years have gone on. A 6000-ton deadweight steamer was a big one twenty years ago, and an eight or nine knot speed was considered satisfactory. Now we think of 10,000 or 12,000 tons deadweight as about the right size, and about a twelve knot speed. The last steamer we bought, the Robert Dollar, could carry 16,000 tons and steam twelve knots. In former days 3,000,000 feet of lumber was a good cargo. This last addition will carry nearly 10,000,000 feet. As far as carrying lumber to the Far Fast goes, the sailing vessels are completely out of. It looks as if we had reached the maximum size of steamers, but in these years of progressive improvements it is not safe to prophesy.

Within my recollection the first Atlantic cable was laid; the telephone was introduced; wireless has been developed; improvements in the use of steam have been very great; the propellor has been introduced, since I was a boy, and superseded the paddle steamer. In those days every steamer was fitted with sails and depended to a great extent on them for propulsion. Now we do not see a sail on a steamer. Internal combustion engines are gradually being introduced, but on account of their complicated machinery the progress has been slow. There must be many improvements made, however, before they will be in general use. I believe, however, this class of engine has come to stay, as the saving in fuel is so great that if it only can be made more practical it will supersede the steam engine.

I had occasion to visit Ottawa, Canada, on business, and had a very pleasant time meeting the few- men who are alive, whom I knew when I was a boy working there. I was especially pleased to have a long talk with the grand old lumberman, I. R. Booth, who has passed his ninety-third birthday. I worked for him more than sixty years ago. I also had a very pleasant time with W. C. Edwards and chatted with Hiram Robinson, who is near his ninetieth birthday. It is sad, however, to think how few there are left. Mr. Robinson and Sir James Grant have died since my visit. I always have a very kindly feeling for the place where I started work, even though it was under very adverse and the most difficult conditions, and with hardships and under working conditions that are unknown to the working men of today; but I look back at those times with the feeling that it was those conditions that developed the man in me that perhaps never would have shown up if I had not been brought up in that hard school of practical experience.

Before leaving New York for home I made an offer for about twenty acres of land at Hunt's Point, fronting on the East River in the Borough of Bronx. On arrival at Omaha I received a telegram that my bid had been accepted. On this land we will erect warehouses and wharves so that our ships will get the best despatch possible and at a minimum of cost. The present cost of handling ships in New York is out of all reason, hence our determination to build a terminal and keep our expenses down to a minimum. It will also be necessary for us to build a mile of railroad as soon as we get a franchise; but, as we have secured a right of way, we hope to have as good a terminal in the City of New York as we have in Shanghai.


OFFICE BUILDING AND WAREHOUSE AT OUR TERMINUS, SHANGHAI


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