I’ve devoted a lot of time in the strip so far to research, trying to figure out how people dressed back in the 1940s, taking a look at streets & vehicles, etc. Whilst Googling, I came across these fantastic pictures by Clyde Waddell, an American military photographer who was in Calcutta around 1945-1946. He took pictures, at the behest of his friends, and added some fantastic commentary.
Click on a photo to open up a nice carousel viewer.
Aerial view of Calcutta downtown. In upper left background is Hindusthan building, U.S. Army HQ. The oldest part of the city starts at the esplanade and extends upwards. The city was founded in the early 1700’s. Hindu wife prays to the God Siva for blessing of fertility. Phallic symbol is obscured by iron grating at base of a type cactus tree which is believed to have power to endow worshipper with productive powers. Woman whose face barely shows behind tree has prayed in vain for days and has been seen there day after day
by Red Cross girls who take GI tours to the temple. In case there’s any doubt in our mind as to your dhobie’s intentions with your best shirt, the expression on the face of the fiendish laundry-wallaih battering the garment in this picture should remove it. In closing this album of Calcutta, the writer feels justified in observing that the reasons for the dhobie’s methods remain, in spite of much research, among the greater mysteries of India. Calcutta’s traffic is usually snarled. And the reasons are clearly shown. Shuffling coolies and padestrians with little regard for their lives seem completely oblivious to the perils of automitive traffic. Chowringhee Street—Calcutta’s main throughfare, an amazing parade of fascinating sights and sounds. Every soldier who has trod its length retains memories of one of the most colorful and interesting streets. A little snooping in Chinatown will turn up the little opium dens stuck down an alley (not recommended without police escort). Actually, the smokers shown in this picture do it legally. Each den is licensed for so many pipes. Each pipe costs a rupee, a phial of opium five rupees. Average smoker consumes a phial a day and there are about 186 pipes licensed in Calcutta. “Patty-cake Annie” is the nickname tagged to the makers of India’s most plentiful fuel by American Soldiers who must indulge their sense of humor. The sun-baked cow-dung patties are used by the poorer classes who cannot afford scarce wood for fuel to heat their homes and cook their food. Brassware and Gurkha knives are two of the most popular souvenir purchases made by soldiers. Bargaining is the rule and only the sucker pays the fist price asked. The New Market is alive with stalls like this. The American Red Cross Burra Club, leave center for GI’s and recreation spot for all enlisted men. The unpretentious facade belies an interior complete with dormitory, snack bar, restaurant, music room games room, lounge, barber and tailor shops, wrapping service department and post exchange. Juni with the Tooth Fairy from ‘Rise of the Guardians’. Corner bookstalls, specializing in lurid novels, sec treatises, are fascinationg spots for British and
American soldiers alike. Typical titles, “The Escapades of Erotic Edna”, “Kama Sutra, The Hindu Art of Love”.” Highlight of the out-of-bounds visit is of course, a look-in on the lassies. These dusky ladies of the night ask from $3.00 to $6.00 for the dubious pleasure they offer. The GI seems to find making choice hard. The GI tourist here ponders the purchase of a ‘rare gem’—a typical camera study of life on Chowringheeduring the war. Firpo’s famous restaurant is in the background, and dhoti-clad Indians and a British officer in shorts lend a bit of atmosphere. An Indian family sweat out a train. Cooking vessels, clothes and beggin are surrounded by this groupwhich is distinguished by the presence of one of India’s wandering holy men, (at right with painted brow). The Hooghly river is lined with bathing ghats likke the one shown here. The troop transports in the back-ground seem out of place in the old-world atmosphere created by the temple at left and the sampans at anchor. Indian movie actresses. Dressed in Sarees, 19-year old Binota Bose, left, and Mrs. Rekha Mullick, right,are right at home before the camera and lights. Miss Bose earns $360.00 per month and Mrs. Mullick $210.00. Both are well educated and prefer American books, pictures. Brahmins worhips in the Kalighat temple Spoon-shaped brass container holds Ganges waer. Brahmins arethe highest caste of Hindus, their mark of distinction being the piece of string seen in hand of gray-haired senior Brahmin. Sidewalk tonsorial parlor. India probably has a greater proportion of barbers than any nation, for in addition to the many salons which cater to the European and higher type Indian trade, these sidewalk shavers seem to ply their trade in every other block. Chowringhee Square. The Mohammddan mosque, Juma Masjid, is shown at left. This is actually one of thequiet moments when GI trucks, taxis, bicycles and other modes of transport can move with comparative freedom. Indicative of the resumption of an age-old struggle for decent conditions is this immediate post-warpicture of tram-workers on strike. The strike lasted nine days but employeess won par of their demands. Early morning in many calcutta street finds natives huddled around a breakfast teapot, having risen from their sidewalk abode. The milkman makes a regular stop at this community gathering on busy Park street. The Calcutta counterpart of the American railroad magazine stand. Available are canes, suitcases, sodawater, shopping bags, cigaretes and a hundred other items peculiar to the Indian taste. This cocoanut market on Cornwallis stret is a sample of the haphazard way in which many basars are opperated.The popular pauses for refresment is indulged by Indian in central foreground drinking cocoanut milk. Learning about latex prosthetics from someone who’s been on ‘Face Off’. GI dock workers of the Port comapanies created order out of cahos at Calcutta’s great docks and thousandsof tons of vital war supplies flowed through to china, Burma and India. The MP is on hand to see that the coolies do not pilfer from the rations they are carrying. A bewildering mass of billboards at the corner of Harrison Street (Burra Bazar) and Strand Road. One of the oldest secions of Calcutta, at the foot of Howrah Bridge, it is a fine vantage point for photo-graphing the passing parade of oddly dressed natives and curious vehicles. Crowd gathers round a sidewalk performer at bus stop while GI’s take temporary advantage of an overheadview from steps of a camp bus. This is a good spost for hawkers, beggars, shoe shine boys, showmen to work on the bankroll of the ‘rich American soldier’. Hooghly river and part of Calcutta’s east bank. but for this [giant] stream Calcutta would likely never have been built—and for that matter, many of us [would] just as soon it hadn’t. Nevertheless the river affords many spectacles and has accomodated millions of tons of supplies necessary to the war effort. Hindusthan building, one of the most modern in Calcutta, was built for an insurance company but occupiedupon its completion by the U.S. Army. Locate in the heart of the city, it is the nerve center of all military business, containing post office, finance office, Base Section offices, air, rail booking offices, a radio staiton, giant post oxchange, officers mess and living quarters, signal offices and others. The noon snack is taken by many at a fruit vendor such as this one. Verboten to troops by Millitaryorder, sanitation isn’t even considered and peels litter the streets. Greatest menace of this dealer is the threat of Cholera, carried by flies from open garbage bins to sliced fruit. The indifference of the passerby on this downtown Calcutta street to the plight of the dying woman inthe foreground is considered commonplae. During the famine of 1943, cases like this were to be seen in most every block, and though less frequent now, the hardened public reaction seems to have endured. In case there’s any doubt in our mind as to your dhobie’s intentions with your best shirt, the expression on the face of the fiendish laundry-wallaih battering the garment in this picture should remove it. In closing this album of Calcutta, the writer feels justified in observing that the reasons for the dhobie’s methods remain, in spite of much research, among the greater mysteries of India. Nightfall in Calcutta stirs the imagination and curiosity as to waht goes on down dimly-lit alleys oftenleads an occasional soldier into the out-of-bounds areas. If you don’t know the way, five rupees will buy a trip to the few still existent brothels in one of the garies shown here. (Warning: MP’s take a poor view). Calcutta boasts the third largest cantielver bridge in the world. Its real importance, however, lies inthe fact that it serves as Calcutta’s gateway to the wese, being the city’s only bridge spanning the Hooghly. Taking 7 years to build, it cost $10,000,000. It towers 310 feet as the city’s highes structure, is 2,150 feet long with a center span of 1,500 feet. It was completed in 1942, opened in February, 1943. Sacred cattle and coolies push and pull great carts to the loading platform of the Howrah railroad station in background, on of the city’s two stations. Howrah is on the west bank of the river, and Sealdah, the other station, is in another section of Calcutta on the east side. Indians seem to be great travelers. Wartime transportation priorities have forced many wary travelersto remain in stations waiting for long periods. Because of no other means, many must set up house-keeping during the long vigil, cooking their food on the spot and sleeping on the bare floor. The most original cosplay – post-apocalyptic muppet hunters! Native madman is allowed to roam the streets naked, accosting cars, sitting down in middle of the streetor anything else that takes his fancy. How he escapes being run down or run in by the law is one of India’s mysteries. In contrast to the magnificent palace in background, two sweating coolies strain at a load of preciousfirewood. The building is known as the Marble palace, contains a rich collections of paintings, lavishly furnished. it belongs to a Bengali family who are alleged to feed hundreds of poor daily. Calcutta’s traffic is usually snarled. And the reasons are clearly shown. Shuffling coolies and padestrians with little regard for their lives seem completely oblivious to the perils of automotive traffic. Karnani Estates, mammoth apartment hotel for U.S. Army officers. Known to the many thousands of transientand locally based officers as a social center, it has been provided with one of the most elaborately decorated bars of any officers club in the CBI theater. A strong contrast to the splendor of the Jain temple is the Kalighat temple, built in the 1600’s, worshipplace of Hindus. It is famous for the practice of sacrificing goats, as many as 1500 having been slaughtered in one day. On the bank of a canal cut from the original Ganges bed, it is the temple of the Goddess kali. Early morning in many calcutta street finds natives huddled around a breakfast teapot, having risen from their sidewalk abode. The milkman makes a regular stop at this community gathering on busy Park street. Most any block in the slum areas will find natives sleeping huddled together under any shelter they canfind, frequently none at all. How the thousands of homeless can survive under such conditions is beyond the understanding of many Western visitors. After a couple of years in India, the bizarre aspects of street life become commonplae to the averagesoldier, as evidenced by the scant notice given the passing snake-walla by the GI at right bargaining for a shine from one of he city’s hundreds of bootblacks. The New American Kitchen is a popular Chinese restaurant, owned by a Portuguese, and serves up a steak of chop suey before you can say “Teek hai”. Probably the largest market in the East is the New Market. Convering several blocks in the downtown area,the 2,000 stalls offer most anything you could ask for, wartime shortages excepted. In addition to all the items appealing to the local and tourist trade, the market contains giant food departments. Nimtolla burning ghat where Hindus burn the bodies of their dead and commit the remains to the Hooghlyriver. Several funeral pyres still burn while abandoned baby in foreground awaits burning. “The Jain temple, Parashnath Mandir, is Calcutta’s gaudiest and most elaborate temple. The Jains are asect of the Hindus, a great many of whom belong to the money-lending class, are shrewed and frequently wealthy. Jains do not believe in taking a life, often even wear a nostril veil to prevent inhaling of insects. One of the commonest street vendors is the Paan wallah, or betel nut vendor. One tenth of the worldchews the mixture of leaf, spices, nut and other variable ingridients. Chief by-product of the habit is a reddish splatter of stain, indiscriminately spat upon walls and sidewalks in Calcutta by carefree chewers. This buffalo herd’s movements seem to be guided by whim alone and are typical of the complete indifferenceto traffic control by man and animal alike. this is Old Court House street, one of Calcutta’s busiest. In left background is Great Eastern Hotel, Calcutta’s best, used by U.S. Officers as a billet. The noon snack is taken by many at a fruit vendor such as this one. Verboten to troops by Millitary order, sanitation isn’t even considered and peels litter the streets. Greatest menace of this dealer is the threat of Cholera, carried by flies from open garbage bins to sliced fruit. The Nimtolla Mosque, largest Mohammedan mosque in Calcutta. Its prayer hall will accomodate 10,000worshippers. A modern specimen of Indo-Sarascenic architecture, its Minarets (towers) are 151 feet high. GI truck at entrace is waiting for a load of soldiers on American Red Cross tour. India has thousands of child bries. The unfortunate young waman shown here feeding the infant from thegiant coconat in foreground has been seen on Calcutta’s streets day after day with he child. Her misery is more than typical thousands of India’s unfortunates. Calcutta’s poor from a line to buy keresene at 6 a.m. Each little cubicle may contain a shop and livingquarters for a family ranging possibly from 6 to 12. Sanitary facilities consist of an open street drain. Believe it or not, this man has just bitten the head from a live Krait snake. He is professor Sher Mohammed and his feats include drinking acid, eating glass, fire-walkig. He is a legitimate performer and has spent the war years touring for the entertainment of Indian troops rather than poach on sidewalk tourists. Signs notwithstanding, you can’t buy cameras, binoculars, photo goods or accessories here, but the stock does include anything from a Legion of Merit ribbon to an ivory necklace, brass ashtray, ladies evening bag, shoestrings or napkin rings. Typical shoppers ponder the situation. Down one alley you might see a shop such as this one, packed with shoemakers sewing and cutting orpulling on a hookah such as the one at right. Combined with the shoemaking enterprise is a laundry (dhobie). During monsoon, dhobie must contrive to dry clothes inside, tho hampered by shortage of sheltered spaces. This weird-looking snake charmer is doing his best to coax a balcony audience to toss down enough baksheesh to get his cobra nad mongoose in the mood to stage a fight to the finish. Actually the combatants always seem a bit bored with the act and after a few fierce snorts and lunges, decide it is better to live. Most any block in the slum areas will find natives sleeping huddled together under any shelter they can find, frequently none at all. How the thousands of homeless can survive under such conditions is beyond the understanding of many Western visitors. Of Calcutta’s assortment of colorful and intriguing characters, the sikh taxi-driver and his co-pilot rank high. The co-pilot was added in 1944 following an affray in which a soldier knifed a driver. The two GI’s shown here are doing their best to convey their destination to the driver of the ancient jalopy. These Sikh lads have chosen an auspicious stand for their business of selling ‘precious’ stone to GI’s.No more than 12 years old, these boys are shrewd and ‘malum’ English well enough to trim a sucker every time. Sidewalk tonsorial parlor. India probably has a greater proportion of barbers than any nation, for in addition to the many salons which cater to the European and higher type Indian trade, these sidewalk shavers seem to ply their trade in every other block. A group of GI’s take a close look at the snake-wallah’s hooded cobra. Both the snake and his master aregood specimens. The fangs, of course, have been removed so the reptile can strike at will, scaring no one. Ragged urchins roam he streets begin GI audiences to let their mangy monkeys dance the ‘americanJitterbug’ dance. This unfortunate young showman has offended the long arm of the law and is prodded along. The Monk seems to realize the position. Street scene outside the Calcutta stock exchange. The noise is similar to the bedlam in all wordexchange and many transactions (unofficial) take place in the street as shown here. The American Red Cross Burra Club, leave center for GI’s and recreation spot for all enlisted men. The unpretentious facade belies an interior complete with dormitory, snack bar, restaurant, music room games room, lounge, barber and tailor shops, wrapping service department and post exchange.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.
www.OldIndianPhotos.in & Wikimedia