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Postcards From Asia, 1966 - 1967

Kellers Return from Formosa Several years ago, while cleaning out my grandfather's house, one of my sisters came across a box of old postcards. Several of them were from Asia, and, knowing my obsession with Indochina, they saved them for me.

Included with the postcards was a short clipping from a small-town newspaper: "The Kellers to Return from Formosa Soon."

Wayne Keller -- my great uncle -- had played a small role in a pivotal event in Asian history... or, more accurately, in world history.

In 1942, Dr. Wayne H. Keller supervised the purification of uranium in a laboratory at Iowa State College. This uranium became the core -- quite literally -- of the Manhattan Project. (For details, see The Ames Project.)

Years later, Keller accepted a Fulbright Lectureship, teaching physical chemistry in Taiwan. With his wife Irene, he traveled through Asia as time permitted. The messages on the postcards were written by Irene Keller, and were sent to her sister. There is nothing exceptional about them: they talk about the weather, the food, and family.

There is nothing about politics and nothing about war. (Not on the Keller's itinerary: Vietnam.) The itinerary included places that, far in the future, would become synonymous with war and despair: Cambodia, Afghanistan, Beirut. There are, perhaps, faint echoes of strife. This Six-Day War had shocked the Middle East in June, and travel in the region was still apparently somewhat restricted: "Mrs. Keller writes that they hope to go from Beirut to Jeruselem if they can arrange permits."

I am not sure what lessons are to be found in these postcards. Perhaps the lesson is that the line between ordinary and extraoardinary is sometimes thin and hard to detect. One moment a man is a Professor of Chemistry at a college in Iowa; the next he is working in secret on the most destructive weapon in the history of warfare. One moment a nation is a quiet backwater; the next, it is burning beneath two million tons of bombs, or locked in the embrace of fanaticism.




1. October 1966

Science Hall, Taipei. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "National Historical Museum & National Science Hall in the Botanical Garden, Taipei. Color and Plastichrome by Muc Ho Art Press, Taipei, Taiwan"



Dear Lillian,
Due to changes in time we arrived here in Taipei on Friday morning about 2:30. We decided to postpone our Hong Kong trip until later in the school year. We are at Hotel China here in this city but will go to Taichung tomorrow. One of the men from the Foundation will accompany us on the train. It will take about three hours; our cottage is ready for us on the campus. We spent yesterday meeting people and getting registered with the Foundation and U.S. Embassy. I went to a luncheon for Fulbright wives, the wife of the U.S. Ambassador, and the wives of officals in the Embassy. People here are very friendly. This is a busy city of over a million people - very different & very noisy. We are going to this art museum today.
Love, Irene

2. November 19, 1966

Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan. Color photo by K. C. Tan. Printed by China Art Printing Works, Division of Yu Tai Industrial Coporation, Ltd. 10, Kiling Road, Taipei, Taiwan"

POSTMARK: Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan, China


Dear Huffords,
We are spending the week-end at an excellent hostel overlooking this beautiful lake. It is about 42 miles from Taichung; it takes two hours to come by bus as the narrow mountain road is full of turns and tunnels. I had another sick spell the first of the week but feel better now. I surely was glad to get your letter and hope to get a chain letter off to you sisters this next week.
With much love, Irene
Hope you all will have a happy Thanksgiving.

3. December 14, 1966

Yangmingshan Park. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "The triumphal arch of colorful Chinese architecture marks the entrance to the flowery Yangmingshan Park. Visitors and cars are required to buy entrance and drive-in tickets at the booth. Printed by China Color Printing Co., Inc."

POSTMARK: Taichung, Taiwan, China


Dear Lillian,
We spent the week-end in Taipei and enjoyed the city even though I wasn't feeling quite up to par. We went by train and came back on Monday morning by plane. Hard to believe that Christmas is so near. Wish you could enjoy a bouquet of poinsettia blooms from our bushes.
Love to all, Irene

4. February 5, 1967

Pedicab. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "Pedicab, a vehicle for short distance transportation as well as for a joy ride. Color photo by James C. Wu."

POSTMARK: Taiwan, China


Dear Lillian,
We have taken two rides in these contraptions and both times I have suffered from hysteria! I fell in our kitchen in early January and my right ribs and right arm are just now getting back to normal. Since then I have developed an allery rash on my body and have been very uncomfortable. It is some better and I hope it will continue to improve as we are planning to go to Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year holiday. It begins on Wedesday (8th). (The New Year starts on the 9th. this year) as determined by the moon). We shall go by train to Taipei and then go on to Hong Kong by plane on Wednesday. We shall return here on the 13th. I thank you for your letter. We put your Xmas. money in our gifts fund & used it in buying an antique Chinese scroll.
Love, Irene

5. February 19, 1967

Des Voeux Road Central. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "Des Voeux Road Central, one of the main and Busy streets in the business center. Color Photograph by Cheng Ho-Choy. Printed by Sheck Wah Tong Hong Kong."

POSTMARK: Taichung, Taiwan, China


Enroute from Hong Kong to Taiwan - Feb. 13th.
Sunday - 19th.
Dear Lillian,
I didn't get this card written on the 13th. - now it's the 19th! It's been cold & windy since we got back home, but today has been warm enough to bring out the lizards! Wayne has a cold but is feeling better tonight. We had a wonderful time on our Hong Kong trip. We stayed in Kowloon but crossed Hong Kong harbor several times by ferry to Victoria City and Aberdeen. What interesting cities they are! Due to the Chinese New Year celebrations most of the shops were closed, but those that were opened were alive with beautiful things. We enjoyed a change in food and found several places that served good meals. We received a nice letter from Becky. Glad she is enjoying dormitory life.
Love, Irene

6. March 1967

Taichung Park. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "Taichung Park, in Taichung, a clean and quiet city having more than 300 sunny days in the year, its climate always mild and warm." (To which Irene added "except when it's cold & windy!!!") Color photo by James C. Wu

POSTMARK: Taichung, Taiwan, China


Happiness to you and your children and granchildren for the Easter season.
Lovingly, Irene                                                                                                                                                                                     

7. May 4, 1967

Presidential Palace. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "Presidential Palace viewed during Double Tent ceremony, anniversary of national foundation. Color photo by James C. Wu."

POSTMARK: Taichung, Taiwan, China


Dear Lillian,
We are having some work done on the inside of this house and are very busy. I hope to write you more soon, but this card is to let you know I did appreciate your thinking of me on my birthday and do thank you for the nice gift. I hope all of you are well. We are having hot weather here now.
Much love, Irene

8. June 4, 1967

Confucius Temple. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.


POSTMARK: Taichung, Taiwan, China


Dear Lillian,
It's hard to believe that it is June! We are in the rainy season now and we have had rain every day for two weeks. The humidity is very high. Clothes "sour" on the clothes line. There are many activities at school now. We just got back from a Chinese dinner party in Taichung. I sure have a hard time trying to eat with chop sticks! Hope you are all well. Love, Irene

9. July 27, 1967

Taipei Science Hall. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "Taipei Science Hall, an imposing architectural structure, located in Taipei Botanical Garden and patterned after the Temple of Heaven in Peiping. Color photo by James C. Wu."

POSTMARK: Taichung, Taiwan, China


Dearest Lillian,
A deep cold that I had developed into bronchitis so I have been sick for two weeks. I am still taking medicine but in general I feel some better. I doubt our leaving here before the last of August. My illness has put us behind with everything. It is very, very hot and humid here now. I hope all of you are well.
Love, Irene

10. August 10, 1967

Wang-Kong Fishery Port. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "Wang-Kong Fishery Port"

POSTMARK: Taichung, Taiwan, China


Dear Lillian,
I still feel weak but am up and about. I went to town for the first time since my illness this afternoon. I hope to feel well enough to go to Taipei by train on Sunday. We will stay until Monday night. Some sewing I have in a tailor's shop there has been pending for weeks and now there isn't much time left for the finishing. We are going to fly (economy class) so we can make more stops on the way. Our final schedule will be worked out while we are in Taipei. We shall close up this house on the 31st, stay in a Taichung hotel that night, go by train to Taipei on Sept. 1 & leave there for flights on the 2nd or 3rd. Our first stop will be in Japan for a few days. We are behind now due to my illness so have much work ahead of us. Glad the Tutts had a nice visit. Sorry Katie has been sick. She said the Hubers were coming to her house for homecoming.
Love, Irene

11. September 7, 1967

Confucian Temple, Taipei. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "The Confucian Temple, Taipei. External view of Confucian Temple, Taipei. Ceremonial celebration of Confucius' birthday on September 28."



We left Taipei on Sept. 5th by plane for Tokyo. I am writing this on the 7th, on a bus that is enroute to Mt. Fuji. Our schedule is as follows:
Tokyo - Spt. 5 - 9th
Bangkok, Thailand 9 - 11
Siem Reap, Cambodia 11 - 13
Phnom Penh, Cambodia 13 (4 hrs.)
Bangkok, Thailand 13 (7 1/2 hrs.)
Calcutta, India 13 - 14
Agra, India 14 - 15
New Delhi, India 14 - 15
Kabul (Afganistan) 16 - 22
(We are surely looking forward to our visit in Kabul with Virginia Stewart Prewitt.)
Beirut, Lebanon 22 - 25
(We shall spend a day in Jerusalem if we are permitted to go into the city at that time.)
Rome, Italy - 25 - 28
Paris, France - 28 - Oct 1st
London - Oct. 1 - 5th
New York - 5th - 6th
Lexington, Ky - Oct. 6th
Love, Irene

12. September 9, 1967

Hotel New Japan. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "Hotel New Japan, 2-chome, Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Cable Address:.....HOTEL NEW JAPAN, Telex:.....NEW JAPAN/TK 2499"



Sat - 9th (Sept. 15 I forgot to mail this on 9th!)
Dear Lillian,
We enjoyed our stay in Japan very much but the time was too short to see many of the things that we had planned to include in our sight-seeing. We thought of Shirley Ann while we were in Tokyo. We flew from there this morning and now have a short stop-over in Hong Kong before we re-board the plane for Bangkok where we will arrive this afternoon.
Love, Irene

13. September 11, 1967

Chakri Throne Hall. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.

CAPTION: "The Chakri Throne Hall on the grounds of the Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand."

POSTMARK: Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Monday - Sept. 11
Yesterday we enjoyed a tour of a number of very beautiful Buddha temples in Bangkok. Today we are on a plane going to Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Love, Irene

14. September 13, 1967

Bayon. Click to enlarge.

Back of postcard. Click to enlarge.




Wed. - 13th
We were happy to get to see the ruins of some of the ancient temples of Cambodia. Now we are on our way to India. We shall arrive in Calcutta about 8 P.M.
Love, Irene

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