Friday, March 21, 2014

Van Nuys Ranch 2014

The history of the Jue Joe Van Nuys Ranch has fascinated many people including residents of the local community, and fellow online bloggers and I have received many comments , emails and pictures sent by people who have discovered my family history blog and who are interested in the history of the property. Part of the old property has been developed as a public tennis facility and the other part of the ranch including the main property that includes the historic barns and older buildings built by my late great grandfather Jue Joe, and the main house and swimming pool built by my late grandfather San Tong have been preserved intact. The buildings are not part of the tennis facility and the only part of the old residence being used by the public is one bathroom. Here are some recent pictures of the ranch property taken from the public areas of the property that were forwarded to me for my blog. I will include some of the pictures of the property from the old days for comparison sake. Here is an aerial view of the property surrounded by farmland circa 1947.
Here is a view of the front of the main house circa 1949.
And here is a view of the main house in the early days after an unusual winter snowstorm . Snow is unusual for the San Fernando Valley !
Here are some recent pictures of the property . Part of the property is being used as a public tennis facility.
Here are some views of the main house and side house that are not part of the tennis facility but can be seen from inside the tennis facility.
Looks like a lot of clean up or other work has been done to the main house or is in progress. Here are some views of the back of the property.
I remember the back of the house from my childhood. There was a large solarium with multiple windows that could be opened to let the breeze in . You can see the windows in the current picture above as well as in this family photo of my mom and dad's enagement party at the ranch circa 1950.
The big pool was a central area for family gatherings in the old days. I had a lot of fun swimming in it as a child . Here are my Aunties Soo-Yin and Pingy as hula girls by the pool when they were kids.
Here is a view of the pool in 2014.
The inside of the house which I remember as quite grand as a young boy is not open to the public and the only part of the main house open is a small bathroom .
Here is a picture from the interior of the house in the old days. On the couch are my Dad's stepmom , my mom and my Dad's grandmother and sisters.
Recently the "San Fernando Valley Blog " did a nice piece on the Jue Joe Van Nuys Ranch . The blog has some additional current pictures of the property including this nice picture of the historic redwood barn which I think is one of the last such barns left in the San Fernando Valley.
Here is video of our family during the Van Nuys Ranch days Here is a hand drawn plan of the Jue Joe Ranch Property circa 1947 courtesy of Auntie Soo-Yin Here is a hand drawn plan of the Jue Joe Main Ranch House circa 1949 courtesy of Auntie Soo-Yin

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rev. Wai Shing Kwok and the Locke United Christian Center

My maternal grandfather's history has been documented in a previous post.  Rev. Wai Shing Kwok was the pastor at the Chinese Christian Church in Sacramento and head teacher at the Kwai Wah Chinese language school after emigrating to the USA with his wife and son in 1920.  In the  late 1920's through the 1930's  and until the early 1940's he was also a visiting minister at the United Christian Center in  the town of Locke in the Delta south of Sacramento.  During this time the Locke Christian Center did not have a regular minister of Chinese descent and my grandfather often travelled to Locke to officiate at marriages at the Locke Christian Center as well as perform other pastoral services at the request of the Locke center.  Here is a favorite picture of mine of my grandfather Kwok and I after he retired from his ministry.

The history of Locke and of it's Christian center is fascinating .  The town  has been preserved as a historic landmark as has it's buildings including the building housing the Locke Christian center and is well worth a visit .

Here is a brief history of the town from the Locke Town website  :

"Locke was founded in 1915 after a fire broke out in the Chinese section of nearby Walnut Grove. The Chinese who lived in that area decided that it was time to establish a town of their own. A committee of Chinese merchants, led by Lee Bing, Chan Hing Sai, Tom Wai, Chan Dai Kee, Ng So Hat, Chan Wai Lum, Chow Hou Bun, and Suen Dat Suin was formed. They approached land owner George Locke and inquired if they could build on his land. An agreement was reached. The town was laid out by Chinese architects and industrious building ensued. The founding of Lockeport, later 'Locke', was a reality. By 1920 Locke stood essentially as you see it now. Levee construction originally brought the Chinese to this area, but by the time Locke was built most of the work was in farm labor. Locke had many businesses that catered to the farm workers and residents of this region. In the 1940's restaurants, bakeries, herb shops, fish markets, gambling halls, boarding houses, brothels, grocery stores, a school, clothing stores, and the Star Theatre lined the bustling streets of Locke. At its peak 600 residents, and as many as 1500 people occupied the town of Locke. On August 2, 1970, Locke was added to the registry of national historical places, by the Sacramento County Historical Society, because of its unique status as the only town in the United States built exclusively by the Chinese for the Chinese.Locke is no tourist trap, nor is it a ghost town. Its unusual, out-of-the-way charm is genuine. Perhaps it is this authenticity, without any hypocritical overtones, which brings so many out of town visitors to its doors. "

 The Locke Unit of the United Christian Center  was established in 1920 by Dr . Charles Shepherd who had been a baptist missionary in Canton China.
Here is some information about the Christian center movement taken from the United Christian Center web site :

" The Christian Center movement, of which we are a direct descendant of, had it’s beginning over 100 years ago, when various church related centers came into existence to meet some human needs. The early Baptist Christian Centers had their inception in the efforts of the American Baptists to minister to the waves of immigrants just prior to, and following, the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. This work was known as Christian Americanization and was carried on in bi-lingual churches. As the workers became more aware of the many needs of the new comers, the programs expanded, and many of these churches became known as Christian Centers and some still exist in the Christian Center program. (United Christian Centers has continued this tradition to this day, assisting specifically with the resettlement of Hispanic and Slavic immigrants that were arriving in West Sacramento and the Sacramento area in general.) A decision was made in 1918 that they be planned along the line of social settlement houses such as Chicago’s famous Hull House.

Miss Helen Banks, Locke Christian Center staff, reading with children.
The first two Baptist Settlement centers were founded in 1919 in Hammond Indiana. Over the ensuing 50 years many different types of center programs developed, but all represented the same Christian Center philosophy of acceptance of people on the level which they live and approaching individuals and families through meeting their felt needs, and then moving to their deeper needs. This philosophy led the centers to the use of group work methods, extended weekday activities, and became involved in community organization with a focus on community growth and development. The United Christian Centers of Greater Sacramento in it’s current corporate form, was formed in 1958 after a merger of three separate Centers operating in the Sacramento area. The oldest of these centers was the Chinese Christian Center in Locke California. The Locke Christian Center was organized in 1920 under the leadership of Dr. Charles Shepherd to serve the Chinese Community. This Center continued operation until 1966."

 This history of the Locke Christian Center is from  the following PDF document
Historic American Buildings Survey Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service Department of the Interior Washington, D.C. 20243

"On the east side of Key Street stands the original Chinese Baptist Center, established in 1919 by the Reverend Charles R. Shepherd, a former Baptist missionary to China. Shepherd had worked for the Baptist Foreign Missions in Canton where he was a professor of Church History at Canton Baptist College, and an English teacher at the Canton Baptist Boy's Academy. At the time he was asked to visit Chinatowns in the Delta, Shepherd was director of Chinese Missions of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, based in SanFrancisco. His and other Christian missionaries' motivating objective in working with Chinese people was to bring them out of ignorant "paganism." By the early 1890s eleven Christian denominations were involved in converting the Chinese in America. The initial result of Shepherd's efforts in Locke in 1919 was the founding of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society.
 The first religious services for adults and classes for children were conducted in a laundry. In a few years, efforts to raise money for a mission building began. Ironically, the "bulk of the funds were solicited from Main Street gambling house owners. By 1922 the Locke Christian Center on Key Street was completed and occupied for Sunday services.

Sunday school classes and weekly clubs were attended predominately by young girls who were instructed in music, sewing and cleanliness.

 In the summers, a joint program with Walnut Grove's Japanese Methodist mission was created. The Reverend Shepherd wrote that during the first summer
"50 (were) enrolled, 23 boys and 27 girls, and an average attendance of 38; 182 articles were made, and the little folks did splendidly in the Bible and song work The collection amounted to $ll. The girls made sewing-baskets, jointed paper dolls, rag dolls, aprons, wallpaper beads, purses, etc. The boys made small tables, broom holders, wagons, toy animals, flower stands."
The impact of the mission upon Locke1 s Chinese community was never as great as Shepherd had originally hoped. The Baptist mission saw its plight in terms of an uphill battle that could only be successful with the leadership of a Chinese pastor. The Baptist mission1 s inability to retain a Chinese pastor in Locke resulted in minimal support among the local people.
(note :In the 1940's Rev. Edward S. Yook did serve as a resident pastor .  I am not sure how long he was retained as pastor. He is pictured below with his wife and three of his children in front of the Locke Christian Center)

 General lack of interest in the mission and the declining population in the Chinese community contributed to the mission's slow decline. In 1934 thirty-five boys participated in mission activities. By 1965 the school had been closed, and the building was given to Walnut Grove Church. "

Pictures above were obtained from :
Library of Congress 
and a wonderful  new book in the Images of America  Series
Locke  and the Sacramento Delta Chinatowns  by  Lawrence Tom , Brian Tom and the Chinese American Museum of Northern California

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jack L. Jue- Remembering my Father

I had the great honor to spend the last 10 days of my father Jack's life constantly at his bedside. In those 10 days my father continued to teach me how to live life , how to care for others, and how to face adversity as he has throughout my life. One evening at the hospital when we were alone , it was my task to tell him that his doctors had determined that there was nothing more they could do to treat his invasive bladder cancer and that his life was most likely to be numbered in days rather then weeks, months or years. He calmly asked me the particulars about what was most likely to come and then fell asleep. He slept straight through the night like a baby. It was the first night in the hospital that he had a good nights sleep . When he awoke he told me that he thought that it was pretty bad and scary story that I had told him the night before but that he was very comfortable that I was sleeping by his side in the recliner chair and joked with me that if I wanted I was welcome to sleep by his side every night , although he was quite concerned about how uncomfortable I looked in that chair !
 After that evening , we spent very little time talking about that bad and scary story and instead shared other stories of my Dad's full and eventful and exciting life and of the many people he had known . My Dad had a gift for what the Hawaians call “talking story”. and he did that for the next 10 days when we were together . I will share just a little bit of that story . Dad was born to a Chinese immigrant family that had a sucessful asparagus farming business in the San Fernando valley. He went to UCLA and then finished his education at UC Davis. He met and married the love of his life ,my mother , Alice starting a family that would ultimately grow to 5 children , 10 grandchildren and 2 great granchildern. After college he joined his father in Asparagus farming for a number of years. . Later due to forces beyond their control , my father and his father lost their Asparagus farming business and were forced to remake themselves completely from scratch . My father tried a number of jobs including gardening running a toy store( I liked that one) , selling Christmas trees and other odd jobs . Eventually he settled on Real Estate as a career, taking classes and becoming a salesmen and broker. Later he began working for the County of Los Angeles and was trained as a Real Estate Appraiser by the county . He worked for many years in the Capital Projects department . After retiring from the County he started his own successful Real Estate appraisal business which he operated until his retirement . In 1982 he and others formed Standard Savings Bank which became very successful serving the Chinese community . Later in life my Father discovered Christ and the Church and the Church community became a large part of his life.
Those are the bare outlines of my Dad's story . But the bigger story is the story of how he lived his life. He was always a humble , and unassuming man , who cared deeply about his family , and friends . He was a good listener and always wanted to hear your story and what you were doing . He was funny , and was endearing to all who knew him making you feel comfortable in his true warmth . But the secret was that he was not just this way with family and friends but with everyone . The nursing assistants who cared for him in the hospital during the last days of his life would come out of his room laughing and amazed at how my Dad had joked with them in Spanish . Woken up at 430 in the morning by a nursing assistant to bathe him and change his bedding ..he complimented her profusely on her skill at getting the job done all by herself without him even getting out of bed .. Although in dire straits and very ill , he did not dwell on his condition but  instead wanted to know all the details about how she had learned how to do her job so well! That is the way Dad was ... He was every one's good friend .. even strangers, waitresses at restuarants , car mechanics... nurses and nursing assistants who cared for him , new parishioners in his church ... It didn't matter who you were or what your station was in life , he wanted to connect with you and hear your story.  In the last 10 days of his life although very weak he pulled himself together to share time and stories with his large extended family and many friends who came to visit , holding forth from his hospital bed in the living room of his home.
 . ... He is gone now and we all , family and friends, miss him terribly. But I will speak for my father .. He would say , please go on with those family celebrations to come , the small group Church meetings to come , the cruises to foreign lands, the parties with friends, and those noodle lunches he so loved to share with you . He is very sorry he will not be there but will be there with you in spirit , sharing together with you the good times. But he would also say , that he will be with you as well through the difficult and not so good times, his spirit will be with you always comforting you when you are in need.

Jack Jue Jr.

Friday, January 18, 2013

1928 Baby Book -Jack L. Jue.

My grandmother Rose kept a beautiful little book during my father, Jack's first year of life. I discovered this treasure tucked away in the pages of one of my Dad's scrapbooks. Dad was born on June 10, 1928.  If you look at his weight records , he actually weighed less at 2 months of age then at birth . He had a condition called pyloric stenosis that causes narrowing of the outlet of the stomach. This condition gets progressively worse in the first few months of life and can cause the little baby to starve to death.  It is easily corrected by sugery, but in 1928 operating on infants was certainly touch and go . My father's grandfather strongly opposed any medical intervention but as my Dad looked weaker and weaker , finally relented to pressure from my grandfather , San Tong.  The operation was done and a success and my father rapidly gained weight and became a healthy baby. In the book are pictures of my Dad growing up and his mother Rose , as well as the list of presents for his first birthday party !

Spring Farm and Asparagus Farming 1953

Here are some photos of our family farming businesses in 1953.My father, Jack and my uncle, Richard and my grandfather, San Tong, and his cousin, Loon  had a roadside produce market in the San Fernando Valley called Spring Farm. They sold some of their own produce as well as produce from other farmers. Auntie Soo-Jan writes: "In the Spring Farm Interior photo that has a large tomato sign, that's Chan Lum (Loon) by the sign and Jack in the background. I remember the evening in the family room (big house) at the Vanowen Ranch when the topic of conversation was about what to name the new produce market that was to open soon. San Tong, Jack, Richard and Loon were all there. Many names were bantered about, and they became more and more elaborate. Finally, Loon said, "Just name it Spring Farm." Everyone agreed that it was the perfect and simply stated name. So the name, Spring Farm came from Chan Lum. This gathering is very vivid in my mind......As a footnote to the story of Spring Farm... Richard was reminiscing about the early days at the Ranch and the topic of Spring Farm came up. He said that the store was doing exceedingly well, pulling in $800.00 per day in produce sales. This success did not escape the notice of the big chain supermarkets. The muscles of the supermarket unions was the force that closed Spring Farm prematurely."

 Here is my Dad, Jack, standing on the roadside sign.

Here is the interior of the produce market. Loon is  in the foreground and my Dad, Jack in the background.

The family was also farming asparagus in Saugus at the time. Here are some pictures of farming equipment and workers at the Saugus farm.

San Tong tends his garden

My grandfather, San Tong, spent the last days of his life living with my Auntie Soo-Jan's family.
Auntie Soo- Jan writes :

"His most happy and contented days began when Seal Beach placed a Community Garden right along the river at the beginning of our tract (2 long blocks from our house beyond the park). He cleared and planted 2 plots with various vegetables such as zuchinni, eggplant, strawberries, green onions, carrots. He built his own trellis and strung up string beans, Chinese bittermelons (fu gua), Chinese okra (sing gua). He hauled his tool chest down there along with a lawn chair. After a hard days work on the land, he often lingered and I would have to drive down there to tell him dinner was ready. I'd find him sitting in the chair at sunset just enjoying the vista of all the vegetables in his prolific garden. I have some photos that I took of him in that garden, but like your father, I would have to sift through boxes of photos to look for them. He and I would walk among the other people's garden plots and he would point out tell-tale signs of yellow leaves, curled edges on leaves, insect infestations, etc. and instruct what the remedy was, ie. that plant needs more nitrogen, or that's a symptom of lack of potassium, or overwatering, etc. He was always a teacher and he also always loved the land. He even grew some asparagus in a large pot in our front yard as a testament to the past."

Recently, I have been sifting through some of my father's old photos and came across these photos of my grandfather tending his plants in the Seal Beach Community Garden.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Young Couples in Love 1949

These are pictures from  my Father's  picture scrapbook  from 1949 when he was attending UC Davis. He was courting my mother Alice and Dad's sister was being courted by her husband to be Richard at the same time .
Here are the two young couples at Santa Monica beach in the summer of '49 .  My Dad had the caption "The Lovers" beneath the photo.
My Dad, Jack and Mom, Alice at William Land Park in Sacramento in the Fall of 1949.
and my Uncle Richard and Auntie Joan in front of the Hall of Justice .