#45 Hong Kong 1980

Last October, I attended my first annual convention organized by the Classical Mandolin Society of America. It was the 22nd or 23rd convention, held in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. I had to arrive late, as I had to finish my teaching in the morning. The drive was 11 hours long, and it took me through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. It was nostalgic driving through Indiana, as I spent a good 5 years in Bloomington, IN. I was stopped by a female cop in IN, because my license plate light was out. She was super nice though, and even suggested me where to find a motel. I tried my best to finish the 11-hour drive, but a bad headache and a heavy rainstorm prevented me from completing the drive. I ended up spending the night only 40 minutes away from Bloomington, IL, finishing the drive early Thursday morning.

The convention was an eye opening experience: bought a few old CDs and mandolin scores, saw a few spetacular performances by virtuosos Sebastiaan de Grebber and Fabio Giudice, and played in the En Masse mandolin orchestra with 100+ mandolinists/guitarists packed on stage. Of course I met a lot of mandolin enthusiaists from all over the country. Quite a few of them know about and have purchased instruments from Rochester’s own Bernunzio Uptown Music (quite proud to tell them I frequent the store to talk to John and try out their instruments), and a few of the teenagers could really play!

It was at the sectional rehearsal of the second mandolins where I met Kay, from Arkansas, also attending the CMSA convention for the first time. Not having much experience playing in a big group (guitarists are our own conductors, never have to look at one…), we kind of struggle through the sectional rehearsals. We were assigned to sit in the back row of the orchestra, and it was easy to chat. It turned out Kay is a photographer, and went to Hong Kong in 1980. Being an 80s kid from Hong Kong, I was so curious of what she saw and thoguht of . She was interested in my status and life in the States, and how Hong Kong is like now. She told me she had taken many pictures in Hong Kong, which she was willing to send me when the convention was over. We exchanged emails, she sent me a selection of the pictures, and we have kept in touch ever since.

It’s been on my mind to share her snapshots of Hong Kong, and I thought the blog would be a good way to do so. The actual pictures look much better than what you see on the screen now. If you are in Rochacha, I will gladly show you the actual prints. I have selected my favorite shots from what Kay sent me, and she kindly wrote a preface and provided captions for the pictures. Below are her amazing pictures and descriptions. I have added remarks in parentheses to help explain a few things.


While living in Midland, Michigan I joined the local photo club and met a host of talented, skilled, photographers from whom I learned so much. One of those people was an Australian woman who befriended me and when her husband got a job in Hong Kong I was invited to visit them. I gratefully accepted the offer in 1980 and made the long flight from the midwest to Hong Kong, staying for two weeks. Almost every day I was in the streets or exploring other areas of the island without benefit of language, and pretty much free to photograph at will. These images are a few of the 1,600 images I took.    

Kay Danielson


I couldn’t resist this old gentleman and his cat napping.

Of course, the B&W didn’t show the wonderful mix of colors in the display jars.

(This is a Chinese medicine store, where one would see a Chinese doctor, buy herbal medicine and make herbal tea/soup. I had my fair share of these medicinal soup. They didn’t taste good.)


I had no idea what this boy was doing in his boat but the composition was pleasing and he did not object to being photographed.

The screen in the doorway provided some privacy from the street but the window signs indicated what was happening in the shop.

The sights, sounds and smells of the markets were unknown to me and most of the food entirely novel or unidentifiable.

The double deck buses were new to me and quite colorful.

(The double deck bus is actually hidden here – the transportation with the Sony ad is the tram – only to be found on Hong Kong Island. It is a slow but cheap way to get you across the Island. It is electric – you can kind of see the wires hanging in the air, and it has its own tracks. During traffic jam, it might actually run faster than other public transportations, except for the subway/MTR. I took the tram a lot as a student, and now I would take them when I visit home, just for old time’s sake.)


Hong Kong was so new to me, I found interest in recording much of everyday life in this teaming city, even the traffic and tall buildings. 

I saw these examples of everyday life in Hong Kong as something new to my experience and well worth the piece of film it took to record it. 

(If you can zoom into the picture, at front center is a yonug Chow Yun Fat on one of the covers.)


Riding to the top of the island on the Peak Tram. It was a strange feeling being hauled to the top at such a great angle but the ticket taker was obviously used to it.

The shape of this tree made me think it looked similar to the wonderful Chinese characters I saw everywhere and had absolutely no idea what any of them meant.  

I was told this doll maker created the Betty Boop doll but I found his face to be far more interesting. 

The woman made paper models for funerals. The grieving friends and family would offer these for the journey to the afterlife.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s