I was browsing a photo collection of Art Deco buildings in Shanghai when I stumbled across two pictures of my childhood home. The building was probably built by the French in the early 1940s. My family moved in in 1952, shortly after the Communist takeover, when things weren't too bad for "evil" capitalists like my grandfather. The building had seven units, two on each floor with a penthouse on top. We occupied the apartment on the left side on the third floor. It is obscured by leaves in this picture.
The spiral staircase! How I remember it well. It is this that caught my attention. Our building was unique in that it had a back spiral staircase to go to the garage for the occupants. The garage was converted into a warehouse later on as nobody owned any cars after the political purges and the Cultural Revolution. The column in the middle of the spiral staircase is actually a trash chute. Legend has it, while the Red Guards were rushing up the front staircase to ransack our home, my grandmother threw her jewelries down the trash chute in the back since wearing jewelries was considered capitalist and indulgent. But alas, my aunt got a good beating from the Red Guards nevertheless.
Both photos courtesy of Meckleychina at http://www.flickr.com/photos/meckleychina/sets/72157600002461054/