Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Two

On my way home in February, I stopped off at Pittsburg, and addressed about 700 people at a banquet given by the Bankers' Association, mostly young men. Mr Herr, president of the Westinghouse Company, presided. I received a warm welcome, and spoke, about as follows:


The first matter that I wish to bring to your attention is Honesty. You may be surprised when I say to you that there are two kinds of honesty. One. the clean cut genuine article that is carried out in word, deed and action; the other kind permits a man to go right up to the prison doors, but being smart enough, he keeps out. The latter kind of honesty you should have nothing to do with. You must work in this world as no success can be obtained without work. The men that are looking for soft snaps, if they manage to get them, will never get any further along. The man that works and wants plenty of it is the fellow that gets up to the top. Work, to me, is one of the greatest pleasures I have; and if you follow this course to its logical conclusion your greatest pleasure will be in the work that you are doing and the satisfaction of seeing what you can accomplish. Life is short and you are all here for a purpose. That purpose is not to lie around doing nothing, but to work and accomplish results.

It is commonly reported among young men that there is not the opportunity now to progress that there was many years ago. This is a fallacy. There never was a time in the history of the world when young men were in such great demand, and there are more vacancies and places at the top than ever before. Our educational system of today has a great deal to do with giving young men this misconception. A young man coming out of a university gets the idea that the education he has obtained will earn for him a living.

To illustrate what I mean: A fine strapping young man came to see me and said he wanted a position. When a young man asks me for a position it is like showing a red flag to a bull. If he asks me for work it has exactly the reverse effect on me. I questioned him about his experience. He replied, that he was a university graduate. Finally to try him out,. I asked what wages he wanted, he promptly replied $2400 a year. I stated that there was only one job in our employ that would suit him and that I would not like to give it to him, as it was the position I held myself. He went away crestfallen when I gave him this advice: "The next place you go, ask for work, and tell them to let you work a week so as to show them what you can do." He thought that because he had a university training it would earn for him his living. This is not the case, a man must apply himself and work, to get up, otherwise he will fail.

It is a great thing to endeavor to be independent and the only way this can be accomplished is by strict economy and saving. There are more opportunities for such men than ever before. Ask any man who is at the head of a large company and he will immediately tell you of the great difficulty he has in getting men capable of taking charge of a business. It is of great advantage to a young man to study hard and learn the conditions that exist throughout the world. Especially is it beneficial to him to know the geography of the world, so that when the name of a place comes up he can immediately locate m his mind as to where it is.

To illustrate my meaning: In addressing a meeting of one of the large Chambers of Commerce some years ago, I stated that I was given a complimentary luncheon by the Chamber of Commerce at Hankow, and that a banker was present from a city with a population of three-quarters of a million people, the capital of Hupeli Province, which city is directly across the river from Hankow; and I asked that any in the audience who knew the name of this city to hold up their hands. There was not a single hand raised. Now what would you think of a man in a foreign country that did not know the name of Pittsburg. After I had finished my address a gentleman in the audience rose and said to the chairman that it would not be right to let me leave before telling them the name of that city, as there was not a man in the whole audience who knew the name of it. It was Wuchang.

Turning more particularly now to. banking. I would say to you that you are blessed in Iiving in a country that has the gold standard. In China we have the silver standard which is the bane of our existence, as every roaming the value may be different from the value of the night before. In this connection I would caution you to beware of fails. You recollect the first time that Mr. Bryan ran for the Presidency? He came very near going in on the free silver issue, which, if put into operation, would have so demoralized the banking system as to have practically put us out of business.

I would also call your attention to the importance of our having banks in foreign countries. Practically all our business has to be done through foreign banks; in fact it was only two years ago that national banks were permitted to engage in foreign banking. This has now been changed, and a few American branches are now being established in different parts of the world.

I then explained to them the working out of exchange as between different Chinese States, and also between China and this country.


Some time ago, on account of the drastic clauses in the La Follette Seamen's Bill, which of course we expected to be enforced (but which never has been), The Robert Dollar Company moved the terminus of its British Steamship Line from San Francisco to Vancouver, B. C., and in a recent visit I found that we had succeeded beyond our expectations, as our ships were running full of cargo to and from the Orient, and we were making preparations for an extension of the service. However, as we considered the price of ships too high we finally decided to await lower prices before buying more ships, and had to content ourselves with chartered steamers, with which to do the best we could to keep up our service until we could buy more steamers.


At this time we discussed a proposition to produce cargoes for our ships when hard times would come upon us, and after a thorough investigation decided that the only sure way to get lumber cargoes would be to build a saw mill of our own. So we bought 100 acres of land near Roache's Point on Burard Inlets six miles from Vancouver and built a modern, up-to-date saw mill, especially constructed to supply our China trade. We intended to buy our saw logs, but soon found out that we must buy and own our own forests and get out our own logs. In a very short time we found ourselves producing from two camps all the logs necessary to supply our mill, so our business was a gradual advance from one stage to another to meet necessities as they arose. Then we had to build a number of scows to carry the lumber; the next was a tug to tow them and a car barge to bring the empty cars to the mill, and return the loaded ones to the railroads. Then we had to lay out a village, and build houses for our employees; these we consider to be the best working men's houses to be found anywhere. Each house has a garden and the rent of §15.00 a month includes water, electricity and wood. A postoffice, with a daily mail service has been established, which is called Dollarton. Dollarton also has a church, the minister being on our pay roll, and a school. It is a very happy and contented community.

In April of this year Mrs. Dollar and I made another of our trips to China. I remember very well my first voyage, which ended very unsatisfactorily. When about six years old I got a large washtub and floated it on the Forth and Clyde Canal. I had a stick for an oar, but when 1 tried to propel the tub it only turned around and around. I drifted away from shore, and becomming frightened, made a great outcry for help. My father was in a lumber yard near by and hearing the S. O. S. call came to see what was the trouble. Seeing me adrift in a tub. he came out in a boat and rescued me. The reward I received was a first-class licking. This was my first and last voyage in a tub.

Had many important matters to attend to in Shanghai, one being that I had decided we must have a wharf, warehouses, and a terminal for our steamers. I examined the Whangpoo River ten miles from Woosung to above the arsenal on both sides of the river, and after much thought decided on a site at the mouth of Pai Lien Chien Creek, where I bought about twenty acres of land having 1000 feet of river frontage, but later we added to it, and now have about three tunes as much. The wharf which we built is the strongest and most substantial wooden wharf I ever saw, and our godowns are all reinforced concrete and perfectly fireproof. A good boiler and engine-house furnishes pumping facilities and electricity, so I feel safe in stating it is an ideal up-to-date plant, and should last without repairs for many years. There is no salt water in the river, but it requires filtering for drinking. We have a plant for this purpose.

I had no idea that business would grow to anywhere near the proportions it has reached, as I felt sure one-third of the land would be sufficient for all our requirements. Our wharf now can dock two of the largest steamers, and we have two-story godowns 500 feet long by 100 feet wide, besides examination sheds 800 feet long by 40 feet wide. We have also opened a lumber yard on this ground, and even with our very big capacity it is crowded to the limit. Besides, our tonnage has recently been doubled, and although it looks improbable at this writing, the growth has gone so completely beyond my highest expectations that I don't like to anticipate what will take place in the future.

We built a fine substantial office, as well as dwellings for our officials, and adjoining our land a large sized village has sprung up. On my last visit I arranged to build a school house to educate the sixty children of school age who are in the village, and also agreed to pay the teacher and all expenses connected with it for the first year. Our ferry steamer makes hourly trips and carries over 200 persons, we also carry many men from Shanghai. Last year we carried over one million passengers and, as is the custom, no fares were charged.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus