I found this account in the scrapbook of a US Marine while researching my doctoral dissertation on Shanghai nightlife back in the 1990s. There is a ton of material in the collection of the US Navy Yard left by Marines in their scrapbooks. They provide a fascinating window into the nightlife of the city in its heyday. I actually used relatively little of this material for my dissertation and first book Shanghai's Dancing World, which was far more focused on the Chinese experience with nightlife than on rowdy, carousing westerners and their nighttime ambles. But obviously that's what most people are interested in! This account is unusually detailed and provides the reader with a sense of what a wild night on the town was like back then. Ironically it was written on January 1 1932--not long after that, the Japanese would provoke an incident with the Chinese and launch a devastating attack on the northern Chapei (Zhabei) district of Shanghai, the so-called "January 28th Incident". Note that the club referred to as the Cha Lob was the popular Chinese dance hall 绝绿 established in 1928 in a hotel on Tibet Road (Xizang Lu). The athletic energetic dancing described in the account strikes me as the Lindy Hop or some near equivalent.
Isabelle and I began the New Year by “drinking it in” with a particularly vile brand of Skotch (?) at “Black Eyes” a gypsy cabaret located on Ave. Joffre, Shanghai. Our party included Capt. And Mrs. Skinner, Capt. And Mrs. Knighton, Lt. Roberts, Lt. and Mrs. Crist, Connie and Gus Cockrell, and Tommy Marx.
From Black Eyes we went to a Russian cabaret “Tip Top” which we soon became tired of so we adjourned to the depths and visited “Cha Lob” which might properly be called Hdq. 1stBn. 4th Marines after dark.
Any record of our tour in Shanghai at this time would be incomplete without a description of Cha Lob.
Located on Tibbet Road opposite the race course, the entrance is commonplace but the sight which greets one on entrance will long be remembered. An orchestra, playing surprisingly well for Shanghai, produced piece after piece at such a breakneck speed that only the “dancing partners” and regular habitués knew when one piece ended and another began.
The “dancing partners” were garbed in pajamas of every hue imaginable with bottoms which ranged in size from that of a very full skirt to the point where the dignified appellation, pajamas, had to be discarded and they became just plain pants.
For the most part the girls were Chinese but a few broken-down Russians completed the dancing staff. Some of the Chinese girls were very pretty and attractive looking in their Oriental way.
As in all of these places the girls sat in chairs around the floor waiting for someone to dance with. The choosing male walked down the side looking at each hopeful face that gazed expectantly into his and finally held out his hand to the lady of his choice.
One dollar Mex busy four dance tickets at Cha Lob’s and the dancing girls certainly earn their money.
Athletic is a mild term to use in describing this dancing for the girls are whirled, dipped to the point where their heads come to within a foot of the floor, pushed away from their partners then jerked back with such force that they bound away from each other like rubber balls.
The funny part is – they seem to like it. Well, Marines must keep in condition.
Some of the girls who had no luck in being chosen as partners danced together and the less said of their dancing the better but we wanted to go slumming – and this was it!
More because we felt that we were putting a damper on the enlisted men’s good time than because we wanted to go, we left Cha Lob and after a long drive out N. Szechuan road we arrived at the “Blue Bird” which we found filled with drunken Japanese. The dancing partners were in fancy dress costume, that is, I think they were, but a great many of the girls seemed to think that a very abbreviated bathing suit was a fancy dress.
After one drink of beer the party broke up and we declared dividends. The party had cost us $7.50 Mex with one U.S. dollar equal to 4.15 Mex. We slept until noon and then I went to the dog races where I seemed to be unable to pick anything but winners and I won $307.50. Happy New Year!