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Another Sign of Old Shanghai Vanishing


Above:  My mother Liz Field and a heritage plaque on Wuding Xi Lu, proving that this was once Kinnear Road. 

This morning we were surprised to find blue skies instead of the usual rain.  My mother and I took advantage of the weather and headed out for a walk.  Our mission was to find the former address of an acquaintance of hers in the Boston area.  Her friend, a 70-something year old man named Rolf Wetzell, grew up in Shanghai.  He left in the late 1940s on the eve of the revolution, and never returned.  He wanted my mother to find his old house, which he said was located at lane 189 on Kinnear Road. 


Through a google search, I determined that Kinnear Road is now Wuding Road, so we headed there.  We started off on the wrong end of the road, but were rewarded with lunch at Mediterraneo, a posh Italian eatery housed in an old mansion built in the 1920s.  After that we walked outside again and were floored by the oppressive heat and humidity--summer has definitely arrived.  As we walked down the street, I shot this photo of an old man teaching his grandson how to get rid of those pesky Nationalists.


We took a cab to the other end of Wuding Road on the corner of Taixing Road, where we found the address.  Well, not quite.  The numbers jumped from 181 to 203, but we figured that the original address was in that block.  It turns out that the lanehouses at that location were all being demolished to make way, one assumes, for a new apartment or office complex.  My mother and I trudged through the rubble of bricks and bric-a-brac searching for her friend's house number 49, but couldn't pinpoint it.  But I did shoot a whole bunch of photos of the neighborhood in mid-demolition, backgrounded by soaring apartment buildings in all directions. 


I suppose we'll have to wait and see if Rolf recognizes the remnants of his boyhood neighborhood.  The apocalyptic scene reminded me of some of Greg Girard's photos contrasting the old destroyed homes against the backdrop of the high-rises of the '90s and '00s, although this was in midday and he usually photographs at night in order to see both the exteriors and the lit-up interiors.  I've posted more of them in my Streets of Shanghai Gallery.

Reader Comments (3)

This may seem a long shot, but ....

He may not remember me, but I'd be very interested to find out if the 70ish Rolf Wetzel who is your mother's friend in the Boston area is the same Rolf Wetzel who was a freshman in the Shanghai American School in 1948, the year I graduated there. (The following year, 1949, the school was shut down after the victory of the PROC.) He would indeed be in his early 70s by now.

I am doubly interested in contacting him because Shanghai American School alumni, mainly from those postWWII years, will be gathering for a reunion in Salem, Mass this Sept.8-12, and we would like very much to add another lost alumnus to our gatherings.

We assembled some 130 people (about 80 alumni and their families) for the last reunion in 2005 here in Bellingham WA, where I live, and they have about 100 people signed up so far for the forthcoming Salem reunion being organized by Carl Scovel, Marybell Brewster, Ben Gilson, and others. The deadline for registering is only a week or two away.

If it is the same Rolf, he may remember some of his classmates from those days who are now active in the Shanghai American School Association (SASA): Jimmy Toroughman, Betty Brewster, Mary Clark, Esther Ikenberry, Anne Lockwood, Pat Pickens, Betty Jean (BJ) Rugh, Dalic Snyder, Mark Thelin, Sarah Workman, and many others from other classes. David Angus now edits the thrice-yearly SAS NEWS letter, and Teddy Heinrichsohn, who lives in Germany but attends every reunion, is SASA president.

Since the reunions (held every three years) move around the country, this will be Rolf's best opportunity to see old schoolmates (after six decades!) without traveling far.

And even if he cannot make the reunion, I'd be interested to be in touch. My wife and I will be driving to the reunion and would be happy to try to rendezvous for coffee enroute.

Please check this out quickly, if you can, as it would be a pity for him to miss the opportunity if he is interested in joining us. I can provide him email & postal addresses and telephone numbers of the organizers, and a copy of the registration forms and information.

Meanwhile, your blog will interest all among us who once lived there, and many who have been back in search of our pasts.

Best regards, Ted Stannard, SAS'48
July 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTed Stannard SAS'48
name spelling corrections: Marybelle (adding e), now Mimi Brewster Hollister; Thoroughman (inserting h); Dalice (adding e)

And if it is NOT the same Rolf Wetzel, my apologies for your time. But it seems very probable to me.

Ted Stannard
July 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTed Stannard SAS'48
Hi Andy,

Please say Hi to your mom for me. I hope she's having a terrific visit. As for us back here in Massachusetts, we're experiencing a Florida summer. It rains torrentially every afternoon and our towels won't dry.

Best regards to you and your family,
Joyce Isen
July 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce Isen

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