Bio: Gemmeke, Edward (Letter from China - 1930)


Surnames: Decker, Gemmeke

----Source: Greenwood Gleaner (Greenwood, Clark Co., Wis.) (03 Apr 1930)

Gemmeke, Edward (Letter from China - 16 FEB 1930)

Otto Decker received the following letter from his nephew, who is stationed in China.

Peking, China, Feb. 16, 1930

Dear Uncle,

I suppose you will be kind of surprised to hear from me. Well I am getting along fine and like it very well here. I am a long ways from home. It is about ten thousand miles across to the west coast. I suppose father told you that I joined the United States Marines.

It sure was a long and tiresome voyage across. We were about 42 days on the water. For days at a time we didn't see nothing but land and water. We ran into an awful typhoon, that is a storm at sea like a cyclone on land. It tossed the ship around like a cork and there sure was a bunch of us seasick. A wave would raise the ship up about 40 feet and then it would come down suddenly and that was some feeling. We stopped at Honolulu for a couple of days and I sure enjoyed the sights there. The city of Honolulu is just like any city in the states. They sure have a nice climate there the year round. They raise all kinds of fruit and coconuts. I suppose you have ate some of them. Prohibition is enforced there also. It is just like in the united States, they have to bootleg it there. I suppose you have read about those Hula Hula girls of Honolulu with grass skirts. They sure can dance and they are real pretty too. This island is well protected. They have around 20,000 army troops and about 500 Marines. The native people just about live in the water, they are always swimming and they sure can swim and dive. Whe we were docked there in the harbor, these native boys would come aboard ship and we would throw nickels and dimes in the water and they would dive off from the ship and get those coins out of the water, and believe me they got them every time too.

They have one of the nicest Y.M.C.A. buildings her in the world (that is a club for the servicemen most and for civilians too), and one of the nicest and best hotels, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I suppose you have read about it and seen it in books.

We stopped at Guam for about 12 hours, but I didn't go ashore there. That is just a little island. They have quite a few Marines there too, and it is very hot there and rains quite often. The island itself is only about 15 miles long and 25 wide, but it is very thickly populated.

Out next top was a little island named Wake Island. It is not inhabited at all, but is an old Spanish custom that every ship that goes by there to stop and go ashore. Only a few went ashore, the Captain of the ship and the rest of the officers.

Our next stop was the Philippine Islands, or Manila, as they call it. It is a big island and there are a lot of people on it, including Americans, Chinese, Japanese and all kinds of people. There are quite a few Marines stationed there also. That is where the whiskey and beer flows freely and there is plenty of it to drink too. Ships from all over the world dock there and all the sailors go to the saloons and get liquored up. Most of the saloons are fun by Americans. The money exchange is different from ours. Our dollar is worth about two of theirs. To haul people around they have one horse carts. They have their little mules and haul a person all over for about a dime.

Our next stop was Hong Kong, China. We stopped there only about 8 hours, so we didn't get a chance to go ashore there, and the next stop was Shanghai, China. We went ashore there a while. That city is pretty near as big as Chicago. It has more people than Chicago, but the city itself isn't as big. They have fine hotels and everything else like in the states. There are about 400 Marines stationed there also. There are troops from every country in the world stationed there. Our next stop was the last stop we made with the ship and that was Chingwongtas. There we boarded a train to Peiking, where I am stationed now for two and a half years. I have been here about 3 months. This isn't such a nice place. It is quite a big city and there are troops from England, Japan, Russia, France. Germany did have troops here, but they took them out. They still have a Minister here, he takes care of the German affairs. There are quite a few German people living here, though Chine is very backward and old fashioned. They are always fighting among themselves. There are millions of people her dying of starvation and exposure, and still there are more people here than can be taken care of. Every inch of soil is put under cultivation to raise enough grain for the people. There are about 400 of us Marines stationed here, but if the Chinamen ever take a notion to invade on us, there sure would be some battle. We never can tell when there will be something breaking loose. We are pretty well fortified and have a lot of ammunition, and we could hold them for a while, till more help would come. There is plenty of good beer and whiskey here, it is just like it used to be in the states. The old German beer sure does taste good. There aren't so many cars her, mostly what they call a richasha. I suppose you have read about them. A man pulls you wherever you want to go. Most all the hauling and work is done with manpower.

The money exchange here is different again. $1.00 in gold is worth, on the average of about $2.50 in their money, and sometimes gets as high as $3.00. Their money is called Mex. They have different kinds of money, small money and big money, and a person gets mixed up sometimes too if he don't watch out. There is a lot of bad money going around, and it is custom to drop every piece of money you get onto something solid to see if it rings properly. The weather isn't so cold here, about the coldest it has been here is 1 below zero. It snows a little once in a while, but it doesn't stay long. In the summer it gets very hot here. They have some awful dirt storms here. The air gets so yellow with dirt that a person can't hardly see ahead of your nose. I suppose you have read about the Great Wall of China. It is about forty miles from Peiking, we are going out there this summer to see it and there is what they call the Forbidden City, The Temple of Passion and the Temple of Heaven, and all those ancient places. Just as soon as the weather warms up we will go on a sightseeing trip. A person sure does learn a lot by traveling around.

The Chinese celebrate their New Year on the 29th of January. They shoot firecrackers and have a great time. They go to the different temples and worship their gods. They celebrate for about 5 days.

About all we do here is guard duty, we have one day on and about 5 off. We have to keep a continuous watch.

Well I guess this will be all for this time, will write more next time. I hav ea lot more to write, but am getting tired. If you answer this letter, you will have to put a 10 cent stamp on the letter. The address is:

Private Edward Gemmeke
American Legation,
Peiking, China



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