Writing from China, Gregg tells his wife of his experiences and impressions of communism.
Item is handwritten.
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1946-06-22 (June 22, 1946)
From the personal collection of Michael Gregg.
Reproduced with permission of Michael B. Gregg.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Postwar Work and Retirement, 1945-1956
2 Sau Tiao Hutung
Saturday June 22 1946 and Sunday.
Dearest: Yesterday morning we flew back from Kalgan in a plane sent by the Army for our use and 40 minutes flew high over
these romantic mountains, over the Great Wall and in the time it takes to commute to New York from Scarsdale came a distance
that would measure 100 miles by he creaking wheels of Chinese carts. We flew to Kalgan last Tuesday to see Chinese Communism
at home, so to speak, and so that we would hear and see for ourselves. Well we did and it certainly was worth it. I could
write 20 pages but I've got too many appointments this morning to be as leisurely as 20 pages call for. Kalgan is the
capital (or was) of Inner Mongolia. It has the dryness of Western Texas, crystal clear air, marvellous[sic] mountains and
a pastoral life that is almost the same as the film GRASS showed. And it is dusty beyond belief. The old houses are mud--walls
and roof--and everywhere the gates, the towers, the narrow layers, the heavy doors, the look-outs and peep holes remind you
of barbaric raids, invasions, and a pastoral, nomadic, feast or famine frontier. Oh dear I can't possibly convey all
the pictures I shall remember. Wednesday night in Kalgan after going to a Communist theatre to hear two choruses which were
not remarkable and two short plays which were interesting but of course not understandable in point of dialect we came back
to the hotel slept an hour and a half and then took a 12:30 AM train to a place called SHEN HWA where we got into or rather
onto a rough cart and joggled two hours in the moonlight arriving at a [. . .] village at dawn. First we had tea--hot water
poured over some 15th rate tea(?) leaves while two sleepy boys killed 0.2% of the flies in the room. Then to get 2 hours
sleep on a big brick bed in a peasant's hut. Then breakfast with millet and bean paste as the main course. I think that
if you had been present your choice would have lain between starvation and morning sickness--the
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dishes were so strange. They give you two bits of paper to wipe off the chopsticks before starting to use them. Then we
spent the day visiting the sick in innumerable peasants houses and it was hot and dirty and fly ridden. Just the Middle Ages
so far as animal life goes. And yet when we walked 10 li (3 1/3 miles) along the hard mud dikes between rice fields or bean
patches there could not be more beautiful mountains to look at.
It was simply delightful to return to find your letter of June 3rd awaiting me here. I was sort of low about Sandy's
disappointment and his illness: I hope the next word will be good. Charl's letter was characteristic. If she and Louis
could find some staple farm product that would head off the next Chinese baby they would render a great service. But as long
as infant mortality stays high large families will actually have a positive raison d'etre. Thanks to you and Peter for
fixing the ventilators in the pigeon house. And wasn't it nice to see Tommy Milue! He sounds like a perfect extrovert.
And the news of the upstairs garage brought sweat to my brow and I decided to lie down for the rest of the letter. How can
you love me now? Why do you? Mater Misericordiae! Last Monday I bought just a little bit of jewelry for your and Nancy--not
much but honest I didn't know you had done the upstairs garage when I bought it! And one of the nurses here had a Chinese
seal made for Nancy which I think you will see I don't know quite how to work it yet but she will catch on to very quickly.
The right hand character is GUH that stands for Gregg. The upper left hand character is NAN and means Blessed and the lower
one TSEE means crystal or jade so her name is Blessed Crystal Guh. This is what will be
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called her "chop." I hope she will like it and the other thing or two. I am going to practice with it before I send
her a letter for my first efforts herewith are pretty dim.
The three cornered efforts to stop the border warfare between the Kuomintang (the one-party controlling the National Govt)
the Chinese Communists are sadly ineffective and terribly complicated. The PUMC buildings house the representatives of all
three parties. Since the PUMC is their landlords--no to speak--we get nice treatment from all three. We shall have an Army
plane to take us to Chengtu and Chungking and Nanking. Probably we shall be starting by the 5th or 6th. We don't yet
know what we can do in point of getting from Shanghai to San Francisco. Probably the best address for you to use from now
on is Cathay Mansions Shanghai and mark it Hold for Arrival and also Rockefeller Medical Commission so it will be treated
with a little more care than might otherwise be the case. It is sweaty hot this PM and I've just finished with the fourth
Chinese visitor and interruption. God I shall be glad to see you again! Whenever there is something interesting or beautiful
I miss you in waves and cataracts.
And then came another Chinese followed by another and then out to dinner and a rather tiresome evening on the roof of the
Peking Hotel at
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the Officers Club looking at a lot of American officers and the weird range of Americans, Russians, Eurasians and Chinese
girls they had there. It is now Sunday AM and already the first Chinese visitor has taken 3/4 of an hour after breakfast.
Perhaps I can describe the dinner night before last that the Communist General Yeh gave us at the King Hwa Restaurant. Passing
through a number of court yards we came to a big room where the host and his friends were standing. Handshakes and introductions
and then sitting down around a circular table to have a cup of jasmine tea and a cigarette. Polite thanks through interpreter
to our host for invitation. After about 20 minutes of tea (they fill up your cup as soon as it gets low) we moved over to
another round table and were rather ceremoniously seated the host opposite me and the interpreter on my left. Table piled
high in the center with a mountainous opening salvo of salad. Yellow Chinese wine (hot) in tiny cups all ready. Host picks
up his and looking hard at me says what sounds like Yo wealth, Oh Hell Oh Well You well but not Your Health as it obviously
tried to be. He adds "GAMBAY" which means "bottoms up." And you and he both show the empty cup to each other
as proof that you have taken all. Then unsheath chopsticks and the host waving his sticks towards and over the meal signals
the beginning of the attack. Soon five or six waiters begin bringing in the dishes. Some soups, some vegetables, some chopped
meat and vegetables, some fish, some prawns,--I suppose we had fifteen to twenty separate dishes. No water, no tea, just
hot wine from a China tea pot and all too frequent invitations to GAMBEI with one or another of the hosts
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Finally came the blessed bowl of rice that marks the end of the meal. Then back to the other table for desert chilled cooked
apricots under a blanket of whipped cream. And after a ten or fifteen minute interval another round of jasmine tea and then
with a pretty speech of gratitude on my part which the interpreter cut in half we rose and departed with handshakes all around.
Oh and I forgot to say that on this particular occasion the general ordered a photograph made of the party which we posed
for in the courtyard. The promptness with which you can leave a Chinese dinner gets you home between 10 and 11 always. The
chopstick technique I am much better at than formerly and the Chinese are so agreeable and socially alert and accessible that
I have enjoyed what might sound like a pretty awful round of food and drink. I would need eight pages to describe the food--if
I could remember it--but the principle is choice tidbits in a mountain at the center of the table and a new mountain about
every five or ten minutes.
Recalls the New Yorker picture ([. . .]) of barkeeper peering over the bar at a customer passed out flat on the floor and
say "Will that be all son?"
If G.E.R. sends you a copy of the diary perhaps Nanny and Sandy might read a page or two to get a reason why Poppa passes
the post box with such a sense of shame for not having written more often home and to them, and also so that they'll see
with their maturing eyes what kind of work I'm at. I'm not too sure they will understand but--and here come two more
visitors and please forgive so punk a letter. Lord I look forward to YOU and California of all places! Love unbounded and
soon to be unbound.