Friday, March 22, 2019

Robert Yen's Poem " The Ranch"

Recently my cousin Robert Yen shared a moving poem he wrote long ago about the Van Nuys ranch.

 "I came upon this poem in my old files. It’s one I wrote 30 years ago based on stories my mom told me about her growing up with your dad at the ranch. You’ll recognize that it actually combines her stories with some of my memories of the ranch house which didn’t exist during their childhood, e.g., the moss by the front door, the steps and the door mat on the side of the house. (Remember that closet next to the door where Ah Gung kept his hats?)"

- for my mother and uncle

With a walnut branch
we coax a black horse to the fence.
Together, we climb on its wide back
and watch the sun fall
beyond the far eucalyptus.

The slivers of beef
and asparagus from father's fields
are on the stove, and as we make our way home
we leave low-hanging motes of dust
then climb three steps
and pause before entering, to rattle
our shoes on the steel mat beside the door.

The table is set in grey.
We set ourselves in the black chairs
and cool our throats with milk
from a silver pitcher.

At night the house is silent
except for father
coughing into a bag in the kitchen.

we pinch the light from stars
and watch the moon rise in the east
out of Asia.

From the door of a packing shed
Mexican songs and lantern light scatter
across the glimmering fields.

I step through the cold and tender moss
by our front door.

a good woman-our grandmother-
draws me near and whispers good night
before I climb on the moon's yellow light
into feather comforters where I cry
and try to remember
the face of our mother.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Auntie Soo Yin's Talk at Daniel Pearl Magnet School

Recently my Auntie Soo Yin was invited by Franky Ortega, a teacher at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, to give a talk about the history of the Joe Joe Ranch to his classes."Daniel Pearl Magnet High School is a magnet school within the Los Angeles Unified School District in Lake Balboa, Los Angeles, near Van Nuys, in the San Fernando Valley. It is the smallest comprehensive high school in LAUSD  ".  It is located adjacent to Birmingham high school of which Auntie Soo Yin is an alumnus herself. The site of the Jue Joe Van Nuys ranch is located very close to the school within walking distance.

Here is Auntie Soo Yin's description of her talk.
"It was an honor to bring the Jue Joe story to Franky's students.  I spoke to two different history classes of Franky's, the third and fourth periods, and each time the kids were very engaged and asked me good questions.  They found our family's transnational story fascinating.  The talk addressed birthright citizenship, exclusion laws, emigration and separation of families, culture clash, colorful characters and historical figures that graced the ranch, and the San Fernando Valley's historical ranch culture.  They loved your Saugus video!!  It made the points that I covered come alive for them because they could see how asparagus farming was actually done!  When the video showed women sorting and grading asparagus shoots on a moving conveyor belt in the Packinghouse, one student exclaimed it was just like watching "I Love Lucy," in which Lucy is working in a chocolate factory!  Students commented that our family's past legal and social challenges were very relevant to important issues that this country is embroiled in today.  Also, they were delighted to learn that Ritchie Valens had lived briefly on the Jue Joe Ranch!  When I asked for a show of hands if anyone knew of Ritchie who'd died before their time.  All the students raised their hands!  They knew every song that he had recorded too.  Moreover, the kids were excited to learn that I was an alumnus of Birmingham.  They asked me what was it like attending the School back then, and were the teachers good or bad, lol!"

As part of her presentation she showed an edited video I made of the film of the Jue family Saugus farming operation that was created by my late father, Jack Sr.  and late Uncle Harry.

Here is her powerpoint presentation.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Rose Jue's Grave site

After locating Jue Joe's grave site, my Auntie Soo Yin also visited Rosemary Jue's grave site at Rosedale cemetery. Rose was the first wife of San Tong Jue and the mother of my late father, Jack  and my auntie Joan.

Here  are my Auntie Soo Yin's photos of the grave site and the headstone. Rosemary's headstone is the fourth large upright headstone to the right of the tree.

Here is a picture of Rose with my father when he was a baby.

Here is a picture of  her two children Jack and Joan.
Here is a picture of my Grandfather San Tong, Rose and my father.
Here is a closeup of her dressed up for a costume party.
Here is the last photo she took of her children , Jack and Joan , before she tragically died at the very young age of 27  from post operative complications after surgery.

I am very sorry I never met my grandmother.

We sometimes forget she was a thoroughly modern young Chinese American woman born and raised in the United States. Here is an excerpt of her letter to San Tong who was farming with his father in the Imperial valley  while she was pregnant with my dad who she calls "Ah Yit"

Los Angeles, Nov 25, '27

Dearest Husband,
Am writing a few lines to know how you are getting along . Are you working hard, and do you miss me very much? I sure miss you , Honey Boy!! We thought perhaps you were coming back for Thanksgiving Day . Sam phoned the nite before saying that he would bring a turkey and a couple of chickens out the following day. So we did have Turkey, dressing , potatoes, chicken, Birds nest soup and Roast pork. It was good ! Oh, how I wished you were here to eat it with us !! It didn't taste near as good as it would have if you were with us too.!

Gee, I'd like to bring you folks some Turkey, cause I'd know you'd like it! But just think of the distance, 150 miles to go and 150 miles back. I'd like to take the train but the distance I'd have to walk !!! Oh Baby! when are you coming back to " Ah Yit" and me ? You've been gone five whole days already!! Sometimes I get so lonesome I cry.

I went up town and got myself a hat. I hope you like it . I got it down at Bullock's . I got Ma a hat for her birthday. I told her " I'm going to spend $5 on you anyway ,so you might as well choose what you  like, before I buy something you don't care for !! So she chose a hat. I bought Dad a wool shirt for $4.  I brought the clock to fix and they're going to charge me $1.50 for fixing it . I'm going to buy $5 of yarn to knit a blanket. After I buy that , I'll sure be broke!
Isn't it funny how fast money goes?

Mother wants to know how Father is and if he is any better. Please give him my regards.
Mother hasn't been so well either, backache, headache , heartache and etc. I told her to let me bring her to the doctors' but she says the doctor doesn't do much good anyway. Sometimes she's alright but at other times she doesn't feel good at all. Just like me! Sometimes I'm alright but gee, sometimes my back hurts me terrible, also my tummy feels so heavy. I guess it's " Ah Yit". Gee! I'd be glad if I was all through with him !! Wouldn't that be nice? Close now and please write soon ! How much longer are you going to stay , Honey? Here are all my love and kisses.
Your darling wife,

My late Auntie Joan created this beautiful tribute to her mother , Rose . 

My cousin Bob wrote a moving poem about Rose that I will include below:

Coming to This Life-after reading letters from my grandmother, Rose Evelyn Chung (1908-1935)

I dreamed that you lived 'til now.

In my garden, I see you
thumbing dark soil into your palm,
the sandiness of your life transforming
......into this shared dream of nasturtiums, and
......hollyhocks,and delphinium; a garden

bright with dreams you deferred to your daughter,
......and she to me,
..............and me to my daughter.

In your time , you smelled a breeze
.......just like this,
tasted the fruit of dates from Indio and hungered
for sugar cane as sweet as these. And yet,

how strange it is to be alive.
beneath this elm. Purple finches chattering above
like school children-like my children -who in
their love for books

can only glimpse the lives to come.

But we have come to our lives-mine,
a single history in an archipelago of poems;

an archive of letters to your husband, bringing
back to you .........and you...

to us.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Visit to Jue Joe's Grave site

Recently my Auntie Soo-Yin visited Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles to revisit Jue Joe's gravesite.  Angelus Rosedale Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles and was the first to allow multi racial burials.
From the Rosedale Cemetery website:
"It was founded as Rosedale Cemetery in 1884, when Los Angeles was a small city of around 28,285 people, on 65 acres of land running from Washington to Venice Boulevard (then 16th Street) between Normandie Avenue and Walton and Catalina Streets, and often used by California politicians, notably former Mayors of the City of Los Angeles. The interments include pioneers and members of leading families who had a conspicuous place in Los Angeles institutions and the state. Rosedale was the first cemetery in Los Angeles open to all races and creeds, and was the first to adopt the concept of the new approach of design called lawn cemeteries, where the grounds are enhanced to surround the burial places of the dead with beautiful and decorative trees, shrubs, flowers, natural scenery and works of monumental art. Among the more traditional structures, headstones and mausoleums, the cemetery also has several pyramid crypts."

Here are some pictures from Auntie Soo Yin of her trip :

Jue Joe's gravesite is just across the street from ">"Mausoleum/Columberiam, ( the large white building) and  the small "Doll house mauseoleum" near the original entrance of the Cemetery in the picture above.  Jue Joe's grave is directly behind the Newhall family Obelisk in this picture below . 

His grave site is just behind the Obelisk and next to the Dodge family large headstone. 

Here is Jue Joe's very simple plaque which is in excellent condition.
Jue Joe always used the Chinese version of his name with last name first but the plaque is written in the American style with the family name last .

You might wonder why Jue Joe's plaque is so simple while his grave site is in a very prominent section of the cemetery and surrounded by large monuments.  I will let my Auntie Soo-Yin explain.

"In 1941 the family was still struggling to recover from the Depression.  So Ah Gung didn't have money for a fancier marker for Jue Joe.  It was Ah Gung's intent that in the future, he would replace Jue Joe's plain marker with a nicer one that would have dates and a few loving words.  But the opportunity never arose.  So the plaque bears only Jue Joe's name, and in retrospect, it reflects the way that Jue Joe liked to live, simple and minimal.

Ah Gung paid a lot of money for Jue Joe's resting place.  This area is where distinguished folks are interred.  Hattie McDaniel, who played Scarlett O'Hara's "Mammy" in Gone with the Wind is buried nearby.  And Jue Joe is resting between the Dodge and Newhall families.  This section is the most well cared for in the Cemetery, which explains why the "Joe Jue" headstone is in such good condition.    
Seems that Ah Gung went for location as foremost in honoring Jue Joe.  He wanted his father in good company.  He intended to replace Jue Joe's headstone with a better one in the future, but the Depression hit him hard, he became the sole breadwinner for our extended families in America and in China, so he was struggling to keep us all afloat.  Then came the trouble with Dorothy and he never had the money to order a new headstone. "

Auntie's visit to my great grandfather's grave site got me thinking about maybe creating a virtual headstone for him on this blog site.  The story of our family in America began with Jue Joe's decision to leave China as a young man in 1874 and take the long journey to America. His story and the early story of our family is chronicled in the pages of this blog . It is important , I think, as my late Auntie Joan used to say, to pause in our busy lives to take a moment to thank those from whom we inherit our life stories.

Here is the virtual headstone I created for my great grandfather. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Saugus 1940s

Asparagus farming is a complex affair.  It often takes a couple of years after planting asparagus before spears are ready for harvest and then a given piece of land has a limited productive life before the asparagus yields become less productive because of over cutting and disease. As the Van Nuys asparagus farm became less productive, my grandfather San Tong began farming in the Saugus/Newhall area in the 1940s. By the 1950's the farm was in full operation and my father even made a movie of the Saugus farming operation.  Here are some photos from my father's childhood album of the Saugus ranch in the 1940's. My dad was about 12-14 when he took these pictures.  I will add his captions where they are available.

"Loon, Saugus, April 1942"
Loon's story is here.

"Dad at Newhall Ranch 1941"

"The fields at Saugus our ranch 1941"

"New Building, Saugus April 1942"

"Florene Boss, Saugus 1942"

"Norma Chan, Saugus, April 1942"

"Ann L. hiking at Saugus, 1941"
"Donald, Saugus 1940"
"My grandmother, Saugus, 1941"

"Ann L. Joan, Grandmother, picknicking near Cascade, 1941"
I think "Cascade" refers to the California water aqueduct cascade near Sylmar.

Here are some other pictures of Norma Chan a family friend back at the main ranch in Van Nuys.

"Norma Chan, Van Nuys Ranch, April 1942"

"Norma Chan and Shek Lewis, Van Nuys, April 1942"

Friday, September 11, 2015

Jue Family Steamship Voyages 1874 to 1918

In this post  I will discuss the transpacific steamships which carried Jue Joe and later his family from China to the United States.  Jue Joe emigrated to America in 1874 securing a position as a cabin boy onboard a steamship. He was 18 years old . At the time the Pacific Mail Steamship Company had regular bimonthly trips between San Francisco and Hong Kong with a stop in Yokohama Japan. The voyage took about five weeks.Crews were composed of a majority of Chinese men with American ship officers.   At the time Jue Joe emigrated to America he would have travelled on one of four trans oceanic wooden side paddlewheel steamships that were operating that year. The ships were the  sister ships the Great Republic , the China , and Japan  and  another similar paddlewheeler , the Alaska.  Another sister ship , the America  been lost in a maritime accident in 1872.

Great Republic18671878 sold to P.B. Cornwall not renamed, 1879 wrecked on Sand Island, Columbia River Bar.

Here is some details of the Steamship "Great Republic".
"The vessel measured a massive 360 feet (109.73 meters) in length and 48 feet 6 inches (14.78 meters) in breadth. The two enormous paddle wheels spanned a full 40 feet (12.19) Great Republic’s engines had a single cylinder that was 105 inches (2.67 meters) in diameter with the piston reaching a twelvefoot (3.66 meters) stroke. Horatio Allen, the president of the Novelty Iron Works, actually held a luncheon party for twenty-two individuals within one of the cylinders as it lay on its side! Steam was fed into the cylinder via four horizontal tubular boilers which in turn were heated by four furnaces each, making a total of sixteen furnaces. Each furnace had a grate surface area of 560 square feet (170.69 meters), making the total heating surface area 15,100 square feet (4602.48 meters).106meters) in diameter.
The massive engines powered the equally enormous paddlewheels which measured 40 feet (12.19 meters) in diameter and carried thirty-four buckets.107 In addition to the powerful engine, all of the China liners carried a full complement of sails. Great Republic, as well as the rest of its sister ships, were bark-rigged, three-masted vessels. Though the ships were intended to rely upon their engines, steam engineering had not been fully refined to the point where complete trust could be placed in the engines. This was proven during a voyage when the Great Republic broke its paddle shaft and had to complete the rest of the voyage solely on sail power.

The ship was capable of carrying 250 cabin passengers and 1,500 passengers in steerage.118 Cabin passengers likened their furnishings to those of drawing rooms ashore and claimed that they were only surpassed by the finest accommodations found on Hudson River and Long Island Sound steamers. Chinese passengers remained below deck in steerage and never ventured on to the deck.

"You never see one of them on deck.”... wrote one first class passenger Hubner.
 Later in his journey, Hubner ventured below decks with the captain into the steerage area. "The Chinese quarter is on the lower deck. We have about 800 on board. They are all in their berths, smoking and talking and enjoying the rare pleasure in their lives of being able to spend five weeks in complete idleness. In spite of the great number of men penned into so comparatively small a space, the ventilation is so well managed that there is is neither closeness nor bad smells. The captain inspects every hole and corner-literally everything- and everywhere we found the same extraordinary cleanliness. One small space is reserved for the opium-eaters or smokers, and we saw these victims of a fatal habit, some eagerly inhaling the poison, others already feeling its effects.

William H. Seward, an American traveler who ventured across the Pacific aboard China in 1870, recorded a similar observation."In steerage there are five hundred Chinese returning home. They pay less than half price, and are fed with the simple fare of their country.Knowing no use of beds, they sleep on the floor. In the middle of the cabin they have made, with canvas, a dark room for opium-smoking.When on deck, they appear neatly clad, and amuse themselves with unintelligible and apparently interminable games of chance "

Despite being colored by the dominant racism of the time, both of these accounts relate interesting facts concerning life in Chinese steerage. Though not luxurious, accommodation in steerage quarters was simple and apparently not unpleasant"

Alaska18681879 used as a hulk and store ship, 1885 ?

Chinese Emigration to America—Sketch on Board the Pacific Mail Steamship Alaska

"White steerage passengers paid higher fares than the Chinese, in part to cover the cost of more expensive American food. Wealthy Chinese merchants were free to cross the Pacific in first class, but most of them traveled in steerage where familiar food was available on the long voyage."

Auntie Soo Yin: "Jue Joe worked in First-Class, but I think he slept in "Steerage" with the Chinese at night. Although the ship may have had special quarters for service workers, I recall Ah Gung saying that Jue Joe "...slept on the wooden floor of the ship with lots of other Chinese." I can imagine how awed an 18-year old like Jue Joe must have felt as he stepped aboard this huge state-of-the-art ship to work as a cabin boy. What an opportunity for a kid from rural Sum Gong Village! And landing in SF, he had acquired the necessary skills that employers in America were looking for: An ability to interact with westerners and a resume with proven skills. His mother Lee Shee gave him 16-lbs. of rice for his long and arduous transpacific journey, and when he landed, he had less than a pound of rice left. Maybe there were no dining facilities for steerage folks and you had to supply your own food. I would think, however, that Jue Joe was able to supplement his diet as he had access to the kitchen pantry as a cabin boy. I wonder how he got the job? Who in Sum Gong had such connections to recommend him?"

 Here is a photo of the Steamship Alaska after it ran aground in Hong Kong during a typhoon in December 1874. It really gives a sense of the massive size of these wooden paddle steamers.  You can see two men standing on the deck at the stern of the ship.

Jue Joe returned to China in 1902. His immigration documents show that he departed San Francisco on the SS Nippon Maru.  This was a steam ship operated by a Japanese company,Toyo Kisen Kabushiki Kaisha (TKK)  The ship was built for TKK in Great Britain  in 1898 and was operated on the transpacific route - Hongkong-Amoy-Shanghai-Nagasaki-Kobe-Yokohama-Honolulu-San Francisco.
Here is a picture of the ship.

After making his fortune in America, Jue Joe returned to China in 1902 married and had two sons before returning to America in 1906 leaving his family in China.  Immigration documents reveal that he travelled back to America aboard the newly launched grand steamship  S.S. Mongolia which had had been put into service in 1904 only two years before Jue Joe booked passage.
Here is a postcard of the ship and below that a photo of the ship . 

“The S.S. Mongolia, recently completed by the New York Shipbuilding Co., of Camden, N.J., for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, made her trial trip successfully January 27, 1904. The ship is the largest yet completed in America. “The Mongolia, and her sister ship, the Manchuria, were originally contracted for by the Atlantic Transport Line, but were subsequently taken over by the Pacific Mail Company and modified slightly for their trade on the Pacific, between San Francisco and the ports in Japan and China … The speed attained at trial was 16 knots. Provision is made for 350 first-class passengers. The crew will consist of 200 people. Chinese steerage accommodations on the upper deck provide for 1,300; this space is available for cargo when not so occupied.” – Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, Volume 16, by L.D. Lovekin, Esq., February 1904

From the wiki: “SS Mongolia was a 13,369-ton passenger-and-cargo liner originally built for Pacific Mail Steamship Company in 1904. She later sailed as USS Mongolia (ID-1615) for the U.S. Navy during World War I, as SS President Fillmore for the Dollar Line (1921-1938), and as SS Panamanian for Cia Transatlantica Centroamericano (1940-1946).

Mongolia19041929 renamed President Fillmore for Dollar Line, 1938 transferred from Dollar Line to American President Line same name, 1940 sold to Wallem & Co., Panama renamed Panamanian, 1947 scrapped at Shanghai.

The "Columbia" was one of three sister ships that were purchased from another shipping line by the Pacific Mail Steamship line and were repurposed to transpacific oceanic ships after serving as coastal pacific steamers serving South and Central America and the west coast of the United States. In 1918, Jue Joe finally arranged passage for his wife Leong Shee and his sons, San Tong , and San You aboard the "Columbia" from Hong Kong to San Francisco. After arriving in San Francisco the family was detained at Angel Island and interrogated before being admitted to the United States.

Auntie Soo Yin:  "Posie (Leong Shee), San Tong and his brother traveled "First Class" aboard their ship to San Francisco. Jue Joe wanted his family to enjoy the luxury of a first-class cabin, and have the best in food and service. Ah Gung(San Tong) told me about an incident he had in the privileged dining room. After ordering his first American breakfast of bacon and eggs, the Chinese waiter asked him if he wanted "toashee" with his eggs. Ah Gung didn't know what "toashee" meant. And the waiter repeated himself many times. Finally, the waiter became so frustrated that he motioned to a table that had a piece of "toast" on a plate, and he said, "You don't know 'toashee?' Beats me!" The conversation between Ah Gung and the waiter had all been in Cantonese, except for the waiter's Anglo-slang word, "toashee." Ah Gung enjoyed telling this story!"

Attached is  a copy of the ships manifest for cabin 10 on the SS Columbia during the Jue Family voyage in 1918. The cabin had four people. Since each stateroom had enough room to contain "two lower beds" , This room must have had two bunk beds. The Jue family shared their cabin with a woman named Quai Ying Lee who was as far as we know was not a family member or friend .
Click the image to inspect in more detail. Interestingly,  further research reveals that the name Quai Ying Lee was used on multiple other occasions by women immigrating to San Francisco from Hong Kong and there is no further evidence of the name in any census records thereafter leading us to assume this was a paper identity.  More on paper identities here.

Colombia (2)1915ex- Colombia built for Koninklijke West Indische Maildienst, 1915 purchased not renamed, 1925 to Panama Mail SS Co., 1931 stranded on Margarita Island, Baja California and lost.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Jack's Photos at the Golden Gate International Exposition 1940

The Jue family went to the Golden Gate Expo in 1940 in San Francisco. The fair ran during 1939 and 1940 and the Jue family made the visit in the last year of the fair. This was an ambitious world fair that showcased new technology and the cultures and countries of the Pacific.  My Auntie Joan said she saw her first television at this fair.  My father Jack who was 11 at the time brought along his camera and shot these pictures at the fair.  My dad wrote about the pictures on the back and I have put his comments in captions. My Dad throughout his life loved taking pictures and movies. He most enjoyed taking pictures of friends and family rather then scenery. It was often said that he was friends with everyone. He had a funny,  easygoing way about him and really had a way of putting folks at ease and seemed genuinely interested in everyone's stories.  It seems that being a "people" person started pretty early. Just a few scenery shots in his album and lots of pictures of family and friends!

"Jack and Joan at Expo"

"Joan 9 years old, Expo, June 9, 1940"

"Fair, San Francisco, 1940"

"Sun Tower , Treasure Island"

"Fair, 1940"
(This is a picture of the "Gay Way" which was the Midway amusement section of the fair, probably tons of fun for my aunt Joan and my Dad who were 9 and 11 at the time)

"Chinatown , fair 1940"
( A group of Chinese merchants in San Francisco donated toward the construction of a "Chinese Village"  on the fair grounds complete with this pagoda.  Besides the Chinese section at the fair , there was a Japanese section. Little did folks realize at the time that war with Japan was only a short 1  year in the future and that Treasure Island would change from fairgrounds to a busy military base.)

Here is some postcards from the era illustrating the Chinese section of the fair.

Here are some other photos of family and friends at the fair. Looks like a big group went to San Francisco for the trip. Unfortunately, I don't know who all the folks were but I will let you know when I can.  Maybe other family members can identify the folks.

"Joan J, and Donald Z. at Expo "
(Joan J is my Dad's sister Joan and Don Z. a  good childhood friend.)

"Corrine, Treasure Island"
(Corrine was my Dad's aunt.)

"Irene, Clarice, Peewee .. Expo"

"Irene, Joan,   Expo"

"Bobby, Clarice at Exposition"
 (Auntie Soo-Jan: "I recognized and can identify Bobby and Clarice, but don't know who PeeWee is.  She could be a member of the same large family.  Bobby and Clarice are siblings from the Wong family.  They lived in the same neighborhood as our Los Angeles home.  Their parents, especially their Mother, known to me as Wong Mu, were close friends to my parents.  In fact, I have pictures of some of the Wong children (including Clarice) celebrating my first birthday.  I run into Clarice occasionally.  She lives in Orange County and we even go to the same hairdresser! ")

"Victor Y., Dorothy J.,  Harry J. , Lucie at Expo Park 6/9/1940"
(Dorothy J , is my father's aunt Dorothy )

Here is a newsreel of the time about the fair.