Occasionally, traveling down the memory lane can be fun.
For those growing up in Danshui in the early 1950s, the daily routine was of course going to school, boys to Danshui Elementary School and girls to 文化Wen-Hua ES. Either way, it meant going uphill for many from 中正路Chung Cheng Road, starting from a small triangular area, known to the locals as 三角窗 - with the back of Dr Mackay's head pointing straight up to DES. The photo here looks into 老街the Old Street. Where this huge bust of Dr George Leslie Mackay now sits used to be a concrete machine gun nest. Going in the opposite direction of the side street (i.e., Dr Mackay's right-hand side) is where the Mackay Clinic and the Danshui Presbyterian Church are located; it continued up to WHES.
This Clinic was where 200 wounded Qing soldiers were treated in 1884. In latter days, it was also where Romanized Hoklo alphabet was taught - so kids could read the Bible in Taiwanese (not all kids were so diligent as to complete the lessons, though). Next to the Clinic is one of the the best known landmarks in Danshui, the Presbyterian Church, originally established by Dr Mackay. The brick building on site now is, however, a more recent construction (1932). On its ground level, there was a kindergarten for children from the immediate neighborhood. It is still in operation today.
For older kids, it was a long trek uphill. One of Bill Cosby's comic routines mentioned his dad's going to school in deep snow, trudging uphill - both ways. This never fails to evoke a big smile as it always reminds us of our days in the unpredictable Danshui weather.
This is the infamous hill (right), then a narrow cobblestone passage which all boys must travel. It now looks more like a slope; although it certainly felt differently when you had shorter legs. And when it rained, which was quite frequent, one either went bare-footed holding on to one's snickers or was forced to wear smelly black rubber boots that leaked all the time, even when brand new. It was a wet mess either way by the time one reached the top of the slope. Worse, now one must wade in a river of red mud, known as 中山路Chung Shan Road, to enter the school ground.
Actually, girls might have had harder time going to school, because the slope there was even steeper (see photo below). Wen-Hua ES was next to 淡江中學Tam-Kang High School across from the Little White House. The latter was in a forbidden zone in the 1950s. Farther along the narrow street were the 純德 Girls' High and finally the always gated British Consulate (now 真理大學). Fort San Domingo was also in a nearby forbidden area. Now the whole area is open to tourists. For NT$40, one can peruse the past in both the Fort and the residence of the Customs Chief.
Back to kids going to Danshui ES: At the top of the hill, an original brick house still stands (below left; Chung Shan Road is in the foreground). This was where it got interesting. A flock of red-faced aboriginal ducks (called 番鴨, might have been the black muscovy) congregated here. Their mission in life was to attack little boys on their way to school.
In the 1956 movie, Friendly Persuasion, starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, and Anthony Perkins, Little Jesse was harassed by his mother's pet goose, Samantha. Again, this evoked a sense of familiarity except the aboriginal ducks in Danshui were quite mean-spirited and they seemed to have armed with teeth. One such flock (on a farm, but you get the idea) is shown below on the right.
In later years, the much gentler and most definitely lovelier white Peking ducks were introduced into Taiwan. Too bad they did not arrive soon enough for little boys going to school in Danshui.
All the "hardship" paled in comparison with that of kids who must travel daily by rowboats (the sampans) from Bali and still others who walked miles from 紅樹林 and 關渡 to attend Danshui ES. In the wintertime or whenever a typhoon hit, it became dangerous at times. These days, children of course go to school in air-conditioned vehicles.
So this is what Danshui ES looks like now (left), absolutely no resemblance to the past. As Mr ChoSan has lamented in a recent personal message (we are sure he does not mind our quoting from it):
"Our old charming Tamsui is gone forever; they even built a new road across Tamsui Elementary School, cut directly into the lovely spot and my play ground called 杉塊庭."