TAIPEI AIR STATION
Gene Page, a young man who accompanied his family to Taiwan in 1978 writes:
In past years my brother Roby Page and I looked online to see what we could find about some of our old places we lived as children traveling with my step-father, Len Dahlvik, and mother Suzanne Robson Dahlvik and with the exception of the Morrison Academy school site we could not find much – but I checked today for this first time in years and quickly found and enjoyed your site – including sections on Tsoying where we lived and AFNT.
‘We came to Taiwan, ROC in 1978 from California as my step-father’s Honeywell work had him working with the ROC Navy.
We lived in the old US Navy section of Tsoying Naval Base and we went to school on Tainan Air Base at the newly created Tainan International Dependant’s School with principal Marshall Blaufarb and family.
Although the US Navy had vacated Tsoying and left a unique “ghost” town for us to explore, the US Air Force was still present at Tainan for about half of our stay in country before US President Carter ended relations with the ROC and all of our US military friends left us and then the US portion of Tainan AB also became sort of a ghost town – deserted area.
After my first year at the school in Tainan I then started my second (11th grade) year at Morrison in Taichung. We left in December and headed back to the good old USA after a stop-over in Hong Kong and then Hawaii.
I could write many memories here about our days in Taiwan as school kids but I’ll just put a quick handful:
Feeling the heat and humidity (and smells) of summer on Taiwan as we arrived and I say that as a native Floridian.
Going to see a Chinese kung fu film in a theater in Kaohsiung and wondering why people were flicking lit matches on the floor only to realize a short time later that packs of rats were running over the bare concrete floor of the theater. I told my brother to keep his feet up on the seat in front of him – which we did for the remainder of the film. When we left the theater I saw people spitting out red liquid from their mouths on the streets. My first thought was that there was a lot of fist fighting going on but I soon learned that it was just beetle nut juice! (I also learned that day about “benjo ditches.”)
Another movie theater memory is of seeing “Saturday Night Live” in the base theater in Tsoying and at one point I thought someone was kicking my seat from behind. I then saw that the exit signs in the theater were moving and I realized that we were having an earthquake! It soon stopped and we got back to watching the film as if nothing had happened.
I also remember walking down the streets of Kaohsiung and having people feel our blond hair as we walked by.
We also felt compelled to “liberate” pirated records and cassettes of US and UK musicians. As an adult I now call it stealing but they were wrong too to pirate the albums….
We were all underage and in junior high or high school but we would go out to various clubs – like the Rolling Stones or Superstar club to sit at a table, request popular US songs, drink alcohol and make out with our fellow female students. Ah, those were the days….
One time at Tainan Ed Lee, a fellow student from Hong Kong, and I went on a borrowed Vespa to take a tour of the base and the next thing we knew we were in the restricted tabvee military plane area and a ROC air force vehicle came up full of armed personnel pointing their rifles at us. We were escorted back to the USAF security police HQ as they were still there and our parents were called in. After a stern talking to and being told that the Chinese guards that let us through were now likely having a very bad day, we were released. To this day I feel bad about this especially for the ROC air force gate guards that waved us through.
After the US air force left we would sometimes go into the now empty buildings – like the gym – and miss our fellow US school chums. However, the air force left a lot behind and to this day I still have some LPs that came from the gym area.
I remember bamboo boys and butterfly knives and long bus rides around the island.
I remember having to use the restroom at a Mongolian BBQ place and seeing what looked like a canine in the cooler in the back. In addition to that, at a restaurant in Kaohsiung my mother asked for rabbit for dinner. Half way through the meal my mother asked, “Do rabbits have knuckles?” We then realized that my mother had been served cat and I asked to taste it.
One time we were at The President department store in Kaohsiung and my brother and I were outside waiting for our parents when we saw a lot of Chinese start to gather around and talk, put posters up and look at us. When we got back to the base we learned that Carter had announced the treaty with ROC terminated and we were told to stay on base for “our own safety.” The very next day my brother Roby and I rode our bikes to the local Tsoying soccer field just off base where we often played soccer with the locals. One Chinese boy came up and said, “Carter pu how,” to which I replied yes, “Carter pu how.” All was okay after that with us and the Chinese kids there.
I could go on with other stories but I guess that’s enough for now. These are all events that happened while we were living in Taiwan as US civilians in 1978 and ‘79.
My mother is now deceased but my brother and I still often talk about our experiences while living overseas in Taiwan as well as other places, (Germany and Italy prior to going to ROC). I would not trade it for anything!
Any other then-dependents now adults want to weigh-in on some of these teen-age Taiwan memories?
Micanopy, Florida USA
www.afn.org/~afn32018/ (My Website)