Oscar Jorge CollaçoClick on the SEARCH Icon and enter his ID number (40097) to be taken to his personal page

I was born on a cold clear Monday on March 21, 1938, at St. Mary's Hospital in Shanghai, China at 5.30am weighing 5½ pounds and measuring 14 inches in length. I was not born prematurely: my mother HildaClick on the SEARCH icon and enter her ID number (40096) to be taken to her personal page, was afraid to have a big baby, because her cousins who had given birth earlier had difficult times with big babies; so she ate very frugally and included more fruits and vegetables in her diet.

I was baptized at St. Peter's Church in Shanghai by Rev. Père R. de Chalain with godfather uncle GilbertoClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his number (10508) to be taken to his page and godmother aunty MaryClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his number (34603) to be taken to her page. At age 3 I was taken to Day Care at a Portuguese lady's home at Park Apts. Grandpa AdolfoClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his number (20019) to be taken to his page used to accompany me by rickshaw or pedicab every morning for almost a year.

We lived at Tai Shan Court at 622 Avenue Joffre between Cathay Theatre and Paris Theatre. The gated Court had six large 4-storey apartments, three on either side with a roof garden atop each apartment, and a very spacious compound at the center of the six apartments. Each apartment had eight units starting with the ground floor up to the fourth floor. Each unit per floor had the front door facing each other and a winding staircase two flights up to the next apartments.

The exit from compound (which we called the Lane) was also the entry way to the famous girl's school, Convent of the Sacred Heart, run mostly by American nuns, founded by Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini (MSC) an Italian-American nun, a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, where I was enrolled in kindergarten for Mandarin and English lessons for about 1 month. I was not too happy there because the entire class was comprised of girls, so my father George enrolled me at St. Michael's Russian Orthodox school to study Russian and English. One of my teachers was Hermenegildo (Gildo) CollaçoClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his number (39958) to be taken to his page, a distant cousin, who later married my aunt LucillaClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his number (39959) to be taken to her page.

At age 5, I was enrolled with the Marist Brothers at Ste. Jeanne d'Arc School (SJA) in the first grade and was there till 1950. I remember going to school at SJA each morning, taking the tram car from Tai Shan Court for 4 blocks up Avenue Joffre, getting on at Rue Massenet and alighting at Rue Doumer. Sometimes, my older cousin CarlosClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his ID number (40122) to be taken to his personal page , and a distant relative Lorenzo GomesClick on the SEARCH Icon and enter his ID number (22993) to be taken to his personal page known as 'Snooky', and Ray AldeguerClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his ID number (31925) to be taken to his personal page , who lived at Bearn's Apartment complex with Carlos, would ride their bicycles to school past by the apartment complex; occasionally Carlos would offer me a 'pillion' ride on his bike. Despite the bumpy ride sitting behind him on the hard, unpadded pillion seat I looked forward to these rides because it was 'big stuff' to be seen with the older boys by your peers at school. The only catch was, that once we got to the school area where the students parked and locked their bikes, I had to go with Carlos to Johnny the tuck-man's shop at a corner of our school yard, to use my tram fare to buy him 'tucks' (Chinese fruit preserves) or some other item of fancy in return for the ride.

When I was older I would carry my own bicycle every morning from the 4th floor where my family lived, down to the ground floor, ride out of the compound unto Avenue Joffre, make a right turn and ride five blocks to Rue Doumer where Ste. Jeanne d'Arc (SJA) School was situated on the corner. At the gated school entry I would call on Johnny the tuck-man. My first choice was the red dried mango, then the dark juicy plums, and lastly the kopi-kelei the cracked sweet laam (olives).

Class started at 8.15am sharp. We had two recess periods in the morning when we played soccer in the playground. When the recess bell rang we had five minutes to use the toilet, then we all lined up to return to the classrooms. School ended at 12.30pm. We went home for lunch do our homework; many returned to school when the gate was re-opened at 2 pm for afternoon softball, badminton, handball, bobbies-and-thieves, and other playground games till 5 pm. This also gave the Brothers time to have their lunch and take a nap. Some came down to the playground to engage in soccer games with the students and some ex-students who joined in the pick-up games.

Those students who chose to stay indoors in one of the large classrooms, converted to a play area, enjoyed ping-pong, checkers, chess, and other board games, or read books using materials laid out on a coffee table. The school was a great place to meet on weekday afternoons and on Saturdays. On Sunday the school grounds were normally closed unless there was a scheduled inter-class competition.

In 1945 I received Religious Education from Sister Mary Lawrence of Santa Sofia School, an Irish-American nun, and made my first Holy Communion at the Church of Christ the King on the Feast of Corpus Christi. I was confirmed at Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces on May 31, choosing the confirmation name of Michael, after the archangel. Uncle RonnieClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his ID number (2041) to be taken to his personal page was my Confirmation godfather.

I went on to the upper classes at St Francis Xavier's College (SFXC), which was closed soon after the Communists took over Shanghai in May of 1949. SJA stayed open and there were only a few upper classes. Many Brothers were sent to Hong Kong, Japan, and the Philippines. A few remained until mid-1952, when they were deported.

The nuns at the Convent brewed their own beer, and we brought our own bottles to be filled. The donations they received helped supplement their day-to-day survival during the Communist occupation until they were all deported. My uncles raved about the beer, saying it was as good as IWO, Tiger, Sapporo, and San Miguel.

The Brothers allowed the students, parents, and the Filipino Musicians Union to play softball in the playground. Then Richard Singh Bal organized the Indian community in Shanghai to come and introduced field-hockey which soon became as popular as soccer. Some members of the Italian Catholic Federation also came to play softball, so many a game was played by the Filipinos, the Italians, and the students. The adults all brought enough food and refreshments for all who participated. It was a fun time after the school closed until the gradual exodus from Shanghai to Hong Kong and other places.

I recall a roving salesman in old Shanghai on a three-wheeler cart who had a steel steamer with boiled hotdogs that he placed inside a warm miniature crusty French bun, like a baguette. On one side he would generously spread peanut butter and on the other honey, and hand it to you folded in butcher paper. On a cold autumn late afternoon day after playing soccer in the school grounds and walking home about 4 blocks, I would sometimes encounter this guy with his treat. It was so tasty it satisfied my immediate tummy pangs until dinner time 3 to 4 hours later.

I have since tried making this several times at home, at a whim; the result was passable, but did not quite have the taste and aroma that I remembered. It could be that the hotdog was of some unknown processed meat, which I would rather not think about. (In China many food stalls and street vendors have delicious hot impromptu means of satisfying one's hunger, and no one questions what they are serving.)

I never got sick from consuming any of these; nor from tucks, sugared-flour candies; nor from freshly cut and peeled sugar cane with the old knife dipped in a pail of grey water; nor from peeled and diced dee-li (water chestnuts) in a bowl with several pieces of chopped ice; nor from eating fresh corn on the cob from a steaming basket filled with red, yellow, and white corn. The wet grey towel that they used to wipe everything from counter top to sweaty face and body, to swatting flies, are distant recollections, yet so vivid when I look back.

The sharp trusty knife, that they used to cut and peel an apple or a pear from start to finish in short twists without breaking the skin, was the same knife they used to clean their finger- and toe-nails and the long nails grown on each last small pinky finger which are used deftly to clean ears and pick nose. Imagine our living through all that without a second thought, a slight grimace or a wince.

As a teenager, when not engaged during my summer holidays in some athletic sport organized by SJA or SFXC, I spent most of my time at my grandfather's villa at Kiangwan, just north of Shanghai, about 12 miles from SFXC school and 6 miles from the Hongkew Swimming Pool. Across the street were the train tracks from North Szechuen Road to the Kiangwan Airport and beyond, just alongside, a creek with small fish and tadpoles that spanned for miles as far as I can recall. I used to ride my bicycle for several hours along the tarred paved road heading north.

My grandfather's large and spacious bungalow-type structure had five spacious bedrooms and one extra-large master bedroom, three complete bathrooms and a convenient toilet and sink enclosure just outside the main structure. The front lawn was well mowed, surrounded by low trimmed bush on all four sides with an opening next to the main pathway.

Along the fenced property area, my uncles had built a miniature nine-hole golf course with all the cute mini-bridges, indirect slanted walls and curves, and nicely painted structures of wood and tin to simulate those in professional parks. Fruit trees and varieties of willow, acacia, bamboo, and Brazilian nut trees surrounded the inner fenced area. Many colorful blossoms were nicely planted along different parts of the compound.

We had four guard dogs, chickens, ducks, geese who thought that they were guarding the property, rabbits, caged singing birds, and even a donkey. We planted tomatoes, corn, and a variety of vegetables. It was a grand summer home with many family members and guests coming to visit on weekends and play mini-golf. Every one brought a pot-luck dish.

On the front lawn we erected a volley-ball net and used a clothes line to mark the borders; adults and children all participated during the daylight hours. At dusk, we lit mosquito coils as we sat around the lawn to chit-chat, eating watermelons or sipping iced tea and eating sun-flower seeds and a bunch of tucks, or erected a screen with a large bed sheet so that my uncles could project a recent movie loaned from an uncle who worked for the movie industry in Shanghai.

Pedicabs (seh-ling-tso) would arrive at an appointed time to take the guests home. The younger children would fall asleep on straw mats laid out on the lawn and be carried to bed. I was privileged to stay up late until the show was over, and eagerly helped to put away lawn and rattan chairs, canvas cots and straw mats. Next morning I would help with cleaning up all the trash from the lawn that missed the waste baskets. I was also assigned to draw bucket after bucket of water from the well that was near the lawn into which we placed watermelons, soda, beer, and other items to stay cool. I had a special pump that was placed in the bucket, and would spray a shower over the lawn as evenly as if I had a water hose with a sprinkler head.

When the Communists took over Shanghai in 1949 all foreign residents over 12 years of age were issued a red book with their photo; younger children were included in their mother's book. As foreigners we could be stopped at any time in the streets and be asked to show our red book and declare where we were going. Before leaving the house, we had to phone our district station to notify the authorities where we intended to go and when. Our district station would then be able to phone the station of our intended visit who might send a policeman to our destination to check if we were actually there.

Every household was given a ration book showing the number of persons staying there. Once a week a household member or a servant had to stand in line in our own district distribution center to pay to obtain ration scripts to purchase food from a grocery store or open market.

Our loyal servant volunteered to help. On the day of the sale of the ration scripts for our district location she had to be in line by 5 am. The windows were opened at 7 am sharp and closed at noon sharp. Any family missing out when the window slammed shut would have to go and stand in line at a neighboring district location about 12 square blocks away, with a special letter of explanation, in order to buy their week's ration allowance scripts there.

Fearing Government reprisal and loss of their business, grocers and street merchants would refuse our offers to to pay cash for a few extra food items over and above the ration scripts allotted. The exceptions were a couple of mama-papa grocery stores just outside our lane entrance, from whom we had bought provisions for years. These people were staunch Chinese Catholics who attended daily or Sunday Masses at the chapel of the Sacred Heart Convent and Girls School; they would secretly pack the extra items we requested and money and packet(s) would be exchanged furtively at their back door.

Despite these unpleasant restrictions we had to adjust to, our wonderful Chinese neighbours considered us old Shanghai residents and treated us with friendship and respect.

When my parents finally applied to leave Shanghai in July 1953, my Dad was given 10 days to finalize everything. We had no chance to sell any furniture or household items. We tried to give all to our most loyal servant, but the authorities knew of our departure and took note of all our property, stating that, as we were abandoning them, they would be confiscated by the Government. Our poor servant had no chance to remove anything substantial. Despite the heavy scrutiny of the watchmen in our lane she managed to sneak out some small packets of cutlery and other inconspicuous items.

My own family relocated to Hong Kong by steamer in 1953. There were at least two other Portuguese families that I knew still in Shanghai after we left. One was Hernando ConceiçãoClick on the SEARCH icon and enter hisID number (51728) to be taken to his personal page and his Dad CarlosClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his ID number (40543) to be taken to his personal page who left for Macau about a year after we departed. The other was Guilherme Leitão who left a month after we did, to join his family in Macau where the Leitãos had a huge property next to the military barracks. Others were made wards of the Macau Government who put them in at least three refugee camps distributed around the small enclave. Families were crowded together in large dormitories, partitioned only by bed sheets, so there was little privacy. They received three barely sustaining meals daily. Most of the able-bodied men and boys joined the military or police. Some lucky ones who could speak or write Portuguese found Civil or Government jobs.

In Hong Kong, I attended St. Martin's English College (which was later renamed St. Francis Xavier's College).

In April 1957, my family emigrated to the United States under the Refugee Act, with the assistance of the Catholic Relief Services in Hong Kong. My father George, my mother Hilda, brother Larry, sister Marcy and I sailed on the President Cleveland of the American President lines to San Francisco.

I applied to the University of California, Berkeley, and attended night school at their San Francisco Extension for about a year. My first part-time job was a Senior Lifeguard at the Fleishhacker Pool adjacent to the San Francisco Zoo. I also volunteered my time at the Downtown YMCA as a lifeguard and as a counselor at the Boy's Department overseeing the 10- to 12-year-olds, on Wednesday evenings and on alternate Saturdays.

In May 1957, I went to work full-time at the Bank of California in the International Department with Letters of Credit and Foreign Collection Documentation for about 19 years as Department Supervisor.


I also served two years (1962-1964) of active duty in the U.S. Naval Air Reserve, followed by two years of Reserve duty and two years of Standby duty. I worked a crew member, in Flight Division Squadron VR-7 (Navy Transport Squadron) as a Loadmaster, out of Naval Air Station, Moffett Field, near Mountain View, California. There were 6 or 8 C-121 and 5 C-130 transport planes that we used to fly three times a month on WESTPAC missions to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, then on to Tachikawa Air Base in Japan. Sometimes we stopped at Midway Island, Agana Guam, and on to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, sometimes to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, and sometimes to Kaoshiung Air Base Taiwan. Other assignments were to Thailand and Hong Kong.

Once, during the Cuban crisis, we were sent on a mission to Naval Air Station Rota, Spain via Lajes Air Base at the Azores but when the crisis was de-escalated we were re-directed from the Azores to Miami Florida for a week's layover before returning to Moffett Field via Travis Air Force Base at Fairfield California.

On one of my missions to Thailand, we were programmed to fly low over the klongs (rice paddy fields) along the Vietnam border. As our plane ascended from the runway, shots came from snipers hidden near the klongs. After landing at Tachikawa Air Base in Japan, a routine post-flight check around and under the plane revealed seven bullet holes in the fuselage of the plane. Luckily none of the bullets hit any internal wiring or fuel tanks. Our crew of nine were all awarded the Vietnam Service Medal. That was the only incident I encountered and thank God I was honorably discharged just before the Vietnam War escalated.

I married Evelyn CottonClick on the SEARCH icon and enter her ID number (40098) to be taken to her personal page on June 5, 1964, at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Hong Kong. Three lovely and healthy children were born in San Francisco: NicoleClick on the SEARCH Icon and enter her ID number (40099) to be taken to her personal page, Gregory PhilipClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his ID number (40100) to be taken to his personal page and Andrea MarieClick on the SEARCH icon and enter her ID number (40101) to be taken to her personal page.

I worked for Connell Bros. Co. Ltd, an Import and Export Co., for about 12 years as the Manager of the Billing Dept. Then in 1995 I worked as a Special Education Teacher, with pre-schoolers (3 to 5) for 13 years. From 1996 till 2001 I attended night school in San Francisco at City College and State College to obtain my certification on Early Childhood Education.

I excelled in just about any athletic and sport activities. In Shanghai I played soccer, field hockey, and badminton. In Hong Kong I continued with soccer and field hockey, and added swimming, tennis, and hiking. In the USA I played soccer for Mercury Athletic Club (a Russian team comprised of Russian and Portuguese boys from Shanghai) from 1957 till 1960 and also soft ball, hand and racquet ball. In 1972, I formed UMA's soccer team with players of Portuguese origin. In 1972 and 1973, the UMA team came in second place by losing 1 point and 2 points respectively. Then in 1974, UMA was unbeaten and became the North Bay Area champions. In 1992 I found the game of lawn bowling and concentrated most of my efforts on this gentlemen's sport. In 2003 my younger brother Larry and I came in fourth in the United States Pairs Championships at North Carolina.


I retired in June of 2008. I can now devote more time to my four lovely grandchildren: JordanClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his ID number (51712) to be taken to his personal page and ErikaClick on the SEARCH icon and enter her ID number (51714) to be taken to her personal page from my daughter Nicole and AlyssaClick on the SEARCH icon and enter her ID number (51716) to be taken to her personal page and SabrinaClick on the SEARCH icon and enter her ID number (51717) to be taken to her personal page from my son Greg. My younger daughter, AndreaClick on the SEARCH icon and enter her ID number (40101) to be taken to her personal page has a girlClick on the SEARCH icon and enter her ID number (51720) to be taken to her personal page and a boyClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his number (51721) to be taken to his page, plus two dogs that keep me pretty fit with occasional walks and beach runs.