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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Sixteen

We sailed from Hankow for Shanghai on the steamer Long Woo. Like all the river steamers she is well fitted up for first class passengers, and the food was all that could he desired. We had a very pleasant passage.

I noticed at Kuikiang that the gauge showed the water to he 40 feet above low water level, so it was encroaching upon the land that was not protected by dikes or levees.

At noon we arrived at Shaiquan (Nanking) and most of the passengers went by train to Shanghai. But I had writing to do so we stayed on the boat, arriving in Shanghai at 10:00 the next morning, so I got in nearly a full day's business.

July 1st we had a terrible tropical thunderstorm, accompanied with torrents of rain. I had a meeting with the Chinese head men of the village at our wharf at Pootung at which I offered to build and equip a schoolhouse and pay all expenses the first year, if they would provide the laud; they to take it over and run it themselves after the first year. We selected a suitable piece of land and they were satisfied and agreed to my proposal. I found there were about sixty children of school age. and that none of them attended school. This village is the result of our building a wharf, warehouses, lumber yard, etc. The village started after we commenced to build, and there is now profitable work for a great many men at one time. When we had three vessels in port we employed from 600 to 700 men.

Just a few words about our wharf. It fronts on the Wham-poo River and Pa Ling Ching creek, with a frontage of 1400 feet on the river, and can accommodate three large steamers at a time. The wharf is one of the strongest wooden wharves I have ever seen; a rail track on the front for a steam crane provides for handling heavy lifts up to thirty tons.

The buildings are all of reinforced concrete. We have two two-story warehouses, 80' x 300' and 100' x 400', respectively, with an aggregate storage capacity of 40,000 tons; customs


examination sheds 80' x 450'; a very good modern office,-"a power house that supplies the plant and vessels with water and electric light, houses for the managers and men, a lumber yard capable of storing six million feet of lumber, and plenty of ground for open storage of coal up to 50,000 tons, and any other commodities that don't require a roof over them. It is as complete a plant as one could wish for, and provides the means for the rapid handling of our ships, which is a great advantage. Our ferry steamer to Shanghai carries 23,000 passengers monthly.

A few days ago we had the privilege of attending the dedication of the Young Womens' Christian Association Building, which we erected to commemorate the death of our daughter-in-law, Mrs. A. Melville Dollar, which occurred in Shanghai, December 1918. It is a tine building. The lower part will be used for a reception hall, and the upper story for bedrooms for the girls. We were well pleased with what had been done. A Chinese lady delivered an excellent address in English.


I inspected our new Shanghai building, which is on Canton Road, near the Bund. It has a frontage on Canton Road of about 165 feet, with alleyways on three sides. It is a Class A building of reinforced concrete, seven stories high and 1S intended for a first-class office building; plenty of light is provided for each room. We will use part of the lower floor for a shipping office, the balance of the floor will be occupied by a bank. Our main offices will occupy the entire upper floor. It is centrally located and will make a good home for our Chinese business.

This makes me think back twenty years, when we sent to China our first steamer, the M. S. Dollar. The result of that voyage was a loss. This convinced me that if we hoped to' make a success of this trade we must have an organization on the ground. So I made a trip and carefully looked over the field, and opened an office in one small room on Szechuen Road. This was certainly starting in on a very small scale. This is my ideal—start on a small scale and work up from a sure foundation. We moved several times in order to get larger quarters, until we landed in our present offices, which we have completely outgrown. Hence, the necessity for moving into larger quarters in our new office building when it is completed in October.

Our Shanghai office was our first in the Far Fast. Now there are eleven of them, and each one seems to have plenty to do. The same progress has also been made in America. Twenty years ago we only had the San Francisco office; now we have five others. For all this I have absolutely no reason for self-glorification, but have to thank a good providence that has permitted such success.


After seeing the great progress that Shanghai was making I must say that I was very much disappointed in the looks of this city. It is certainly going backwards, and it does not resemble the busy, hustling, pre-war city. I was very sorry to see that they have never been able to recover from the effects of the expulsion of the Germans. It is to be hoped that this seaport, that once stood second of all the seaports in the world, in point of ships' tonnage entering and clearing, will soon be able to recover from the effects of the war. Kowloon appears to be about holding its own, but is very quiet compared with pre-war times.

I never saw so few ships in the harbor as at this time. I did not have time to go to Canton, so cannot report on Conditions there, but I imagine Hong Kong's dullness would be reflected in Canton, as to a great extent Hong Kong depends on the commerce of Canton and tributary rivers. Except for finishing up old work on hand, the shipyards appear to be on the eve of very dull times. When we take into consideration that one-third the ships of the world are laid up, it goes without saying that only one-third the repairs are necessary.


On arrival at this port, it certainly looked deserted, as only a very few ships were lying at anchor, and not one at any of


the docks. The Philippines, like all other countries, were hard hit by the slump after the war, and Manila, being the great commercial center, was hardest hit of all. But m addition to the commercial depression, came government financial troubles. The Philippine National Bank failure was disastrous; the stock is practically owned by the Government, and from accounts we hear on the streets, the capital has completely disappeared. Several of the high officials have been arrested for stealing, and if we would believe half the stories we hear, it has been systematically looted. Mr. E. W. Wilson has tackled a big job in trying to pull it through. It appears to have been run by politicians and their friends for their personal benefit. It is to be hoped that it will not turn out half as bad as is reported, though that will be bad enough.

The Government mismanagement during the last four years has put the country in debt; all public works have been suspended ; roads have gone out of repair, and an era of wreck and ruin has taken the place of Governer Forbes' energetic and good management. The management is now entirely in the hands of the Filipinos. During the former regime there was always a surplus in the treasury and great improvements were to be seen going on everywhere. Since then the taxes have been doubled, practically all work suspended; money is all gone and a big debt has accumulated. A proper question would be, "Where has all this money gone?" The only answer that can be made to that question is, that it must have gone into the pockets of hungry politicians. As an illustration: On entering the harbor I tried to locate the dock that the Pacific Mail was on the eve of starting eighteen months ago; also the great Government pier we have heard so much of, but neither was visible.

At that time, a year and a half ago, I looked at the rein forced piles they were making, and all the preparations under way. Now I find the conditions required by the Government prevented the Pacific Mail from going ahead, and that the Government pier was in the same condition as when I left— nothing really accomplished, expenses have been kept up all these eighteen months. The Jones' bridge was well advanced at that time; now they claim they need $260,000 to finish it. I only cite these conditions as otherwise it would he impossible to believe what I have written of the terrible financial straights. The leaders who have brought about this state of affairs are clamoring for independence. What they did when they had a free hand should he sufficient to convince the world that they are utterly incapable of managing their own affairs. It is to be hoped that when they get the money Congress has authorized, that it will be put in charge of someone who will see that it is expended in a proper manner.

The Chamber of Commerce gave me a complimentary luncheon at which every seat was taken, and when I spoke, all standing room was occupied. The president, Captain Heath, made some very complimentary remarks about what I had done. The following is what one of the papers had to say of my remarks.


"Robert Dollar, 'Grand Old Man' of the Pacific commerce, who spoke at the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon at noon, was introduced by Captain Heath, who made a few facetious remarks about business men liking to hear a Dollar talk, and spoke more seriously of the important role played by Captain Dollar for the last twenty or thirty years in developing Pacific commerce. He reminded the members that Captain Dollar was seventy-two years old.

"Captain Dollar spoke briefly on a number of topics. He said when he left the States that the finances of the country were on an absolutely sound basis. The only fly in the ointment he said was the attitude of the labor unions, which have decided to accept no reductions in war-time wages. So long as the unionists persist in that attitude, said Captain Dollar, effective competition with other nations is absolutely impossible.

"The speaker told of how astounded he was at the Fourth of July celebration at the American Consulate at Shanghai several weeks ago. lie said that there were three times as many Americans in Shanghai now as there were three years ago. This is very encouraging, he said, although they have


their troubles at present just as they have in the Philippines. The Dollar Company has a line of ships going 1600 miles up the Yangtse River now, opening up a country of 70,000,000 people. This means something to the Americans in the Philippines, claimed the Captain, for there is a community of interests among all the Americans in the Far Fast.

"Shipping all over the world is in a bad condition. There is a tonnage of 15,000,000 over and above the tonnage of the world at the beginning of the war, and business has decreased. About half the tonnage of the world is laid up. 'When there was lots of business and not enough shipping, we shipping men, said the Captain, 'could tell you where to get off," and could charge whatever rates we pleased. But now, as there are more ships than there are cargoes, you can tell us where to get off—and we are getting off too, I can tell you,' he said sadly. 'I do not expect much improvement in the world business situation until 1922/''-

"Captain Dollar criticised the Shipping Board, saying that there is not a shipping man on it; three are lawyers, one a newspaper man, and the rest are politicians.

'^Captain Dollar operates both British and American ships. He said he cannot use American ships on certain runs where he does use British ships because of certain harmful laws. No laws have been introduced in Congress to benefit shipping, but many to harm it. Things do not look very hopeful.

"'There is no use in stirring up animosity over the trade of the Far Fast,' said the Captain. 'The best friends I have are competitors of mine.'

"Captain Dollar believes that if independence were given to the Philippines that they would be in trouble several months afterwards. He wants America to adopt a fixed policy over here. He wants America to tell the world what it is going to do over here and then do it. He said he did not know what the Wood-Forbes report was going to be but that he-was sure it was going to be right, and that it was up to the United States to follow up the mission's recommendations, whatever they are to be.

"'The opportunities for American commence in the Far East are gigantic—inconceivable,' said Captain Dollar, 'but if we let the Philippines loose, I don't see how we are to retain our prestige in the Orient. America wants a share in the commerce of the Far East, a fair share. Perhaps I won't live to see it, but I hope I may. Captain Heath gave you my age. That was my age five years ago.'

"After Captain Dollar's speech and long applause. Captain Heath read an Associated Press cable from Iloilo in which General Wood is reported to have said, 'I am a soldier of the Republic, and 1 go where I am ordered. I am too old to change.' The reading of this dispatch was followed by continued cheering. When the tumult had somewhat died down. Captain Dollar rose and said, 'We all hope he will never change'."


It is ten years ago since I last visited this town. At that time the Government under Governor Forbes was improving the roads, the harbor, and the town generally; building a custom house; also a sea wall along the city side of the river from the custom house to the entrance of the river, to make the depth of water twenty-six feet at low tide. They went along with the work until ;t got into the hands of the Filipinos, when all work was stopped. The building is about half completed, and the depth of water is only eighteen feet. The custom house is in use but neither it nor the grounds have ever been finished; roads have become ruts; and automobile roads that were once the equal of those of any country, have been allowed to go to wreck and ruin. It is out of my line to write tales of woe like this, so I will stop, not that I have exhausted the subject, but it is displeasing to me.

July and August are bad months for big vessels to lie ia the outer harbor on account of wind squalls, rain and typhoons. This time we got our share of them and lay there waiting for four days, and for three days we could not get ashore. This place has every appearance of becoming a great sugar shipping port if the harbor is improved; if not, then various small ports w ill spring up.


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