A worn piece of paper with painstakingly inked gothic lettering and faded signatures. A pair of yearbooks with dark blue covers and golden lettering pressed into the leather, slightly worn at the edges. Many alumni have donated pieces of their own history back to the school, and in doing so, helped pass on their own memories of the school to others. Here are three alumni from the 1950s and 1960s who have recently shared their own donated items and memories with the TAS community of today.
Harry Fritz ’55 – Grade 9 Diploma from 1952
My father, Nelson Fritz, arrived in Taiwan in December 1950. The family – my mother, brother, and me – came in March 1951. People thought we were crazy – the Korean War was still raging, and the U.S. 7th Fleet patrolled the straits. My father graduated with a forestry degree from the University of Montana in 1929 and came here as a contractor for the U.S. Government's Mutual Security Administration for economic development. He determined sustainable timber yields and oversaw the construction of a creosote plant to treat railroad ties. He traveled all over the island, so I got to visit Sun Moon Lake and Alishan. In fact, I still have a picture he took of the God Tree at Alishan, with a railroad engine puffing by.
Edna Merritt was the Principal and founder of TAS. The school was located on Chung Shan N. Road, Section 3. The chairman at the time, Clarence Field, was the son of the poet Eugene Field. My brother and I were the only two Americans at TAS then. In 1951, I finished out Grade 8 at TAS and then attended Grade 9 from 1951 to 1952. My classmates included Leonard Davis, Paul Chang, George Liu, Peter Shek, and Irene Choi, almost all whom I have all corresponded and kept in touch with since I visited TAS in 2016. Since TAS did not then go beyond Grade 9, Leonard Davis and I attended the Diocesan Boy's School in Kowloon, Hong Kong. I left in February of 1953 because my family was returning to America. After our stay in Taiwan (then Formosa), the family moved to Missoula, where I graduated from high school in 1956. I ended up teaching history at the University of Montana for fifty years, from 1967 to 2017.
Since 1953, Taipei and Taiwan have changed beyond recognition. When I visited, I saw nothing familiar except the presidential palace downtown. Apparently, there were only about 100 Americans living in Taipei when I arrived, so you knew almost everyone. Things changed dramatically in the two and a half years I was there, with the arrival of military and other families. Still, you traveled by pedicab. Chiang Kai-Shek was in power. My mother played bridge with Madame Chiang, who had attended Wellesley College with my aunt. I took Mandarin language classes, and by the end could almost carry on a conversation. Since then I have forgotten 99.9 % of what I'd learned. People met at the Friends of China Club downtown. I won a carved water buffalo there in a bingo game – the only such prize I've ever won. This diploma now belongs to TAS, and if you frame it and hang it, I’ll have to come see it!
Sharon Buffington ’63 – TAS Yearbooks from 1956 and 1957
I was nine years old when we moved from Ohio to Taiwan in November 1955. I wrote in my diary, “We arrived in Formosa today.” We moved to Taiwan because my father was in the Army, attached to MAAG, a military advisory group. I remember pulling up to the island early in the morning when it was still dark. I even remember the name of the ship: the General AE Anderson. It took two weeks to get there on a ship. Our first house there burned down to the ground, so afterward we moved over to Xinyi Road. We never lived on the military post but in the neighborhood. We were told we shouldn’t go outside barefoot because we could get hookworms, which made a big impression on me. Even when our first house was on fire, I was afraid to go outside because I couldn’t find my shoes!
I attended Grades 5 and 6 at TAS. My mother was the leader of a Girl Scout troop I was a part of when I was here. I remember we barely had 20 girls in the troop, which was very different from Ohio. Living in Taipei was also very different then. I had to use a wooden clothespin to turn on the radio so I wouldn’t get shocked. It felt very primitive compared to now. I remember seeing mostly pedicabs and bicycles and not so many cars. I remember going to the Youth Center to see the sports games. I also remember the Grand Hotel, where my family went to a beautiful Chinese wedding when I lived there. My dad got mad because my brother and I asked for a hamburger at the reception. I remember seeing old women there who still had their feet bound. At an orphanage event I went to, I met Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, and she signed the program. It’s her actual signature.
All the people in high school in my TAS yearbooks were like movie stars to me. I knew all of their names, and I thought all the women were beautiful. There was one – Carol Wagner, who was in the superlatives, and I remembered her. When I later left Taiwan and went to college, I went to the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. I saw a young woman on campus, who looked familiar, and when I asked her name, it turned out she was Carol Wagner.
I was a flight attendant and flew for Eastern Airlines for over 20 years. These days, I do medical transcription and work from home. I haven’t been back to Taiwan since I left, but I would love to visit again.
Sharing Those Memories
Susan Keats ’61 hopes that more alumni, especially from those decades, will be interested in donating pieces of their personal history back to the school. Susan edits Tiger Tales, a newsletter for TAS alumni of the 1950s and 1960s, which features many stories contributed by alumni about their time in Taiwan and at TAS and their lives today. Here are some of her memories of living in Taiwan in the 1960s and why Tiger Tales was created:
When I lived in Taiwan, I was the ward of my sister and brother-in-law. As the years went by, I began to think about a TAS reunion and how to contact fellow alumni. My brother-in-law suggested that I put an ad in The Retired Army Officer magazine and I got responses from parents and students alike. I connected with Caroll Linn Williams ’61 and Stewart Lollis ‘60, and the three of us pulled it together to plan a three-day reunion in Virginia in 1988. The turnout was so successful, we realized we needed a newsletter and Caroll volunteered to edit Tiger Tales, a role she held for twenty years. I took over in 2009.
Back in the 1960s, Taiwan was an exotic destination for most Americans. As teenagers, we probably didn’t understand the political environment and the reasons for foreign military presence on the island. I think we were oblivious as to how much was going on around us. We simply continued along in our own little worlds waiting for new kids to arrive with the latest clothing styles and music.
I also remember the diverse teaching skills of teachers at TAS. Some were Fulbright scholars doing research, others were posted to the embassy and military, while still others were local scholars who agreed to teach their fields of expertise. We even had a Catholic priest who was our guidance counselor and taught German. It was not your ordinary education by any means as we gained a broad knowledge from this diversity. It was part of the reason I treasured my time at TAS.
It was a fascinating time and through Tiger Tales, we’ve had an opportunity to share our unique experiences and to look back and get some perspective on that time in history.
Contribute to the TAS Archives and Share Your Story
Do you have items and stories that you would like to contribute? Your contributions to the Alumni Archive help us share the rich history of the school and the alumni who have come before with the current TAS community. We are curating a rotating exhibit of items in the Upper School Information Commons. We are happy to receive both on loan and for permanent donation the following items:
- Printed and digital photos clearly labeled with dates and captions
- Printed and digital copies of school publications (including student newspapers, parent newsletters, event programs, literary magazines, etc.)
- Yearbooks (especially lower school and middle school yearbooks prior to 1980) - we are happy to scan and copy the pages, returning the originals to you
- Books and publications authored by alumni and former faculty
- Music, art, or films created by alumni and former faculty
- Other memorabilia including t-shirts, jackets, banners, ribbons, awards, diplomas, etc.
To donate your historical items to the TAS Alumni Office, please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.