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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Seven


The middle of December, 1919, found me again in Shanghai, where I had to attend a number of functions given in my honor. I had fifty of our employees to lunch with me as a get-together party, at which we had a very enjoyable time.

It was also at this time we decided to erect an office budding on Canton Road near the Bund. The building will be over 150 feet on Canton Road by 65 feet to an alley way. It will be as high as the regulations will permit (7 or 8 stories).

On New Year's day, 1920, we were passing through the Straits of Formosa on the Gracc Dollar, en route to Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore. I calculated that during the year 1919 we had traveled 36,700 miles, while attending to our business affairs. While in Hong Kong I spent a few days looking over various sites for a wharf, having in mind the purchase of land and the erection of a wharf and warehouse, so as to facilitate the handling of our cargoes. While at Manila I was called on to address the merchants at a luncheon at the Manila Hotel.

I looked closely into the affairs of a bank in which I was interested, and found it to be in a very prosperous condition, which promises well for its future as it has only been in existence a short time. Our stay was much too short, only two days, but I made the very best use of the time.

As communication with Singapore was uncertain I had to make the trip on the Grace Dollar so as not to lose too much time. Time with me is an all important factor, and I find it impossible to accomplish all I desire, no matter how hard I try. So I have to be content with doing all I possibly can, working from early morning until night.

I was fortunate in having eight days in Singapore, which enabled me to get around and see everyone in the business. I. found our business to be well organized and in good shape, as we were getting our share of what was offering. The Grace Dollar took out a part cargo, valued at over $4,000,000. We have hopes of a permanent business for the future, as I decided to carry freight from Singapore via ports through Suez to New York; besides running our smaller vessels by way of Vancouver and Panama, also to New York. For the Suez service which is around the world, we have purchased four large vessels. The Robert Dollar, 16,000 tons deadweight. M. S. Dollar, 13,700 tons, Esther Dollar, 11.544 tons, and the Grace Dollar, 10,760 tonsó52,000 tons in all. It will take some hustling to keep them all full of cargo, but we hope that our excellent organization will be able to do it, although in these hard times with hundreds of steamers laid up all over the world I appreciate that it's a man's job.

On the return trip we spent two days at Hong Kong, called on all the lumbermen, and had them to lunch. We are getting much more than our share of the lumber sales. Business at Hong Kong has never reached the top-notch of former years when the Germans were doing so much of it, whereas Shanghai has gained very much during the war, and appears to be able to keep up the rapid gait it struck during the boom. I remained only two days in Shanghai and left for our northern offices.

First I visited Tientsin and called on all our customers, which took two full days. Business there has been satisfactory and successful: starting with a small capital it has grow in financially to be quite a factor in our lumber business. While in Tientsin I had the pleasure of dining privately at the house of the ex-president of China, General Li Yuen Hing. Had a very interesting talk with him, as he is one of the big men of China. He has dropped politics and is intensely interested in commercial affairs. The general is a good man for his country, but far too honest to succeed in Chinese politics. He is what Pope called the noblest work of God, "An honest man."

Our office in Peking is not as old as some of our other branches, but I found them making headway. I gave them some plans which have developed satisfactorily, and they are now paying their own way. Many Chinese officials called to see me and I called on as many as my time permitted. I gave a luncheon to a large party in the hotel, and Admiral Sail gave me a complimentary banquet at which representatives of the Government were present. It was altogether a governmental affair and while somewhat formal it passed off very well. After a very pleasant and profitable visit to Peking we left for Hankow in a special car, but it broke down on the way, and we had to be switched into a shop for repairs, so we lost a day, not a very unusual occurrence when traveling in China. Remained only two days in Hankow when we left for Changsha. We had a special car on the line, which was badly disrupted by soldiers, as the seat of war was centering around Changsha. Our consul was very kind, as he invited us to be the guests of himself and wife, for which we were more than thankful, as there was no European hotel in Giangsha.

We started on a tug to the landing where the manganese ore was loaded and walked ten miles to the mine and the same distance back besides walking all over the mine. It was hard traveling as there was snow on the ground and it was dark-when we returned to the landing, and late at night before we landed at Changsha. We had to walk across the walled city, which was a very risky undertaking as the city was overrun with soldiers. However, after a great deal of trouble, we got to our car which had been commandeered by soldiers, but we obtained possession of it. We were glad to get to bed that night, as it had been a most strenuous day, alternately raining and snowing and the weather cold. There is a big deposit of ore, although it is rather too low a grade for the American market, but it will turn out all right later on. At Wuchang I was tendered a great reception by the Chinese at the home of Dr. Yen. and at the Y. M. C. A. Building. Hankow has made great progress during recent years and promises to be what a number of us have predicted, the second city in China as well as the railroad center. For this time of the year the water was good, being seventeen feet at the lowest shallows.

On arrival at Shanghai I looked over the town as I had at Hankow, and was amazed at the progress that had taken place in the past ten or twelve years. I think I am safe in saying that it has doubled in that time and the improvements that have been made are all good and permanent. This survey gave me courage to go ahead, and to have not only faith in the future, but to plan for bigger things. The estimated population now is 1,700,000.

On such an urgent request that I could not refuse, I preached from Joshua, chapter I, verses 8 and 9. The hall was crowded, with many standing. It appeared to be well received, which was a wonder, as preaching is entirely out of my line as I had never tried it before.

In March I was twenty days in Shanghai before leaving for home. Every day and sometimes into the night I was meeting innumerable parties, discussing future business, so that every minute of my time, except Sunday, was fully occupied, and I certainly made the very best use of the time that I could. All of this hard work was a great pleasure to me.

On arrival at Vancouver I found that the boys had bought the Port Moody Timber Limits and railroad, including all equipment. This turned out to be a good purchase. At Vancouver I inspected the logging camp, mill at Dollarton and our steamers that were in the harbor.


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