Memoires 7

Freshman year

 

 

MY FUTURE BEST FRIEND SANDY: (in photo: top row, second from left)

Our next door neighbor in the Stover Hall dormitory was a 6’ 2” Chinese lad, born in Shanghai and reared in Lima, Peru after his family fled the Chinese communist government. Sandy was also young and immature. At 17 he and I were the youngest freshmen in the dorm, except for Marlow, a 16 year-old genius from Canada. Sandy and I were both flakes, both slobs, and both clearly not a part of the Mormon establishment. We became fast friends and have stayed so to this day more than half a century later. But during these days of trying to fit in we had no idea that our lives would stay intertwined and we'd remain friends through wives, children, grandchildren, the deaths of our parents, heartbreaks of our children, affairs, careers, and a world that would change as we changed with it. No, at 17, we were just a couple of immature kids neither of whom was ready for college.

Sandy was also as bright as he was irresponsible. He would sign up for a full load of classes and spend his days shooting pool, partying, or otherwise not attend class, thereby earning an “F” average, followed by and being placed on academic probation. The following semester he would repeat the classes and earn an “A” average, thereby being removed from probation. He was the most amazing academic specimen I’ve ever known – before or since. Sandy left BYU with a BS in Political Science and a marginal grade point average. Somehow he was admitted to a graduate program at the University of Utah and took that time to buckle down, study well, and complete a Master’s degree in Communications. He pursued the field of Advertising, starting with what was then the largest ad agency in the world – Young and Rubicam in New York.  Besides being bright he had a knack for languages. He opened offices for the agency and worked in Rio, Paris, Brussels, Montreal, and was doing his second tour in Brussels when he wrote and told me he was expecting a move soon and anticipated returning to America. When I next heard from him he was in Kuala Lumpur!

 

While in Kuala Lumpur he became recognized as a star player in the business and left Y&R for another agency. He eventually was placed in charge of all the accounts in the Far East of Pepsico. That included Taco Bell, KFC, and others. During his career he acquired property in Hilton Head, Washington, Canada, and other locations. When Sandy retired he bought a home in Bangkok and a condo in Maui, sold it, and bought a home in a San Diego suburb. He retains his US citizenship and travels frequently between the homes and enjoys golf at both places.

 

Sandy father was English and Chinese and his mother was Chinese. He was born in Shanghai during the Second World War. The family owned a textile factory and his father was the Chinese Tennis Champion player in 1949. That was the year Mao Zedong became the first leader of the Peoples Republic of China, a post he held until his death in 1976. Mao’s socio-political programs such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution would dramatically change the social landscape of China and have a direct effect on Sandy and his family.

 

A tennis match at an exclusive club had been organized by Marshal Chen Li, one of Mao’s Grand Military Marshals. Sandy’s father was one of the participants and after the match was approached by Yi, who was the equivalent of the Mayor of Shanghai. Yi had served with Mao on the Long March, an 8,000 mile year-long trek through some of the most difficult terrain in Western China. The Long March had been the turning point from near annihilation by the army of Chiang Kai-shek and vaulted Mao into political prominence. Yi later served as Vice Premier and Foreign Minister. He was purged but not officially dismissed from the Mao régime in 1967.

 

Sandy’s father, who had been China’s National Tennis Champion in 1949 had been asked play in the tournament. The Mayor, Chen Yi, approached Sandy’s father and asked, “Why are you here?” Sandy’s father, still in his tennis outfit and perspiring from the match he’d just completed, identified himself. The Governor said, “You don’t belong here,” took out a paper and told Sandy’s father to list everybody in his family who he would like to take with him IF he was permitted to leave the country. Yi made it clear that the family was no longer welcome in the new China as their textile mill had already been confiscated. The father completed the papers, and, while still standing in his tennis garb, watched the official take the paper, review it, and stamp it with his official seal. Shortly thereafter the family was permitted to leave and take with them a sum of cash as well as about 300 ounces of gold bullion and a few of their possessions. They packed the allotted items and left the factory and most of their possessions behind, and were ushered aboard a train to Hong Kong, where they remained as refugees for the next 18 months. They stayed at the old Kowloon Hotel, located across the street from the famous Peninsula Hotel and spent their time applying for visas to gain entry to another country. They made repeated requests for entry visas to the USA, Peru, and several European countries where they had friends or contacts from the early days. Every application was rejected. They continued to reapply. After a year and a half waiting Peru was the first and only country to offer them a visa. 

Peru was an excellent choice to relocate. Sandy’s grandfather had been the Ambassador to Peru two decades earlier and the family had contacts there. Upon their arrival in Lima, Peru they used their remaining cash to set up a decorating and furniture business. Sandy’s grandfather found the "club" set and resumed his life of tennis as well as working his business.

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