Thursday, July 29, 2010

Grandfather , Father , and Son - "Being where luck will find you "

"Luck comes to a man who puts himself in the way of it. You went where something might be found and you found something, simple as that."
— Louis L'Amour
To the Far Blue Mountains

How much does luck contribute to success ? How much is related to foresight , hard work , inventiveness, courage , and smarts ? Well , I think the successful man is one who goes searching for where luck will find him , and has the courage , toughness , and the smarts to figure out where to be at the right time and then stick it out until luck finds him out .

Jue Joe was such a man . As we have followed his story in the early years , we can see that he was continually moving on , trying to put himself in the face of luck .
Finally , he was lucky enough to become friends with Otto Brant , and enter the vegetable farming business just at a time when it was taking off and very profitable for Chinese farmers, later he was able to buy land in the Valley with the help of his friend Otto , in a time when Chinese were not allowed to buy land . He also switched to asparagus as a crop , just as asparagus prices were skyrocketing in the 1920's. Luck ? Well , yes , but luck will not find you unless you do the hard work to put yourself in it's way and Jue Joe did just that.

His son , San Tong Jue was also such a man . What is often forgotten in our family history is that the Asparagus market crashed in the late 1930's during the depression and before WWII. It was very tough times for asparagus farms in the San Fernando Valley . Sam Chang , San Tong's neighbor and fellow asparagus farmer seriously thinks of giving it up .
"The economic depression spreads throughout the world. My asparagus farm is not doing well. The business and life of the entire Chinese community here is experiencing hard times.... Unemployed Chinese are everywhere ....The asparagus price is lower than any year before. In July it was seven cents a pound. Now it is six. The crop of the old farm sold for less than six hundred dollars, yet the labor and other costs are 2,500 dollars. We must sell that farm. All Chinese asparagus farmers have suffered losses this year since each case of asparagus sells five cents less than last year. I want to switch to herbal medicine, as asparagus farming cannot make a profit and family expenses are heavy"

My Dad tells me that when Jue Joe died and San Tong took over complete responsibility for the family business , it was tough and rocky times. San Tong had a mother to support , a growing family that was to include six children , a wife , and two sisters in college. But again , San Tong , had the guts , determination , and smarts to know what to do . He would stick it out until luck found it's way to him and it did in a big way . During the war years , the bracero program supplied cheap labor and the prices for asparagus rebounded . San Tong expanded farming operations from Van Nuys to Saugus and turned a struggling family business into a very successful and lucrative asparagus farming operation . As we have discussed , luck took a hike from San Tong with the family law suit and he lost everything . For me the remainder of my grandfather's life story was the chronicle of a proud , resiliant , smart and inventive man who was constantly looking to put himself in luck's way again . Any of his business endeavors could have succeeded big time , and it certainly was not for want of determination that they did not succeed. Sometimes no matter how hard you look for luck , it is not to be found .

My Dad , Jack Jue, was destined to have life handed to him on a silver platter. He was the son of a wealthy and successful Chinese asparagus farmer with extensive land holdings. He was educated at UCLA and UC Davis in agriculture and was being groomed to take over the family business. He worked side by side with his Dad learning the ropes of the family asparagus business. He didn't have to work too hard , luck was right in front of him , right in his way ! The family law suit , as it did for my grandfather , caused luck to take a hike for Dad . Without the support of San Tong and without the farm , he had to remake himself . He was thrown on his own for the first time in his life. He struggled in the early years as his family kept growing . He tried a number of business ventures, some not too successful . (I did very much like when he owned a toy store, as I got an endless supply of fancy new toys as a young boy , but unfortunately my good fortune did not last too long !)

Ultimately , he took classes and trained himself as a real estate salesmen and broker , later getting a job at the county , and then starting his own real estate appraisal business. In his job as an appraiser , he often dealt with the local Chinese American banks and got to know John Lee , a local banker. In 1979 John Lee , my Dad and his brother -in -law ,Dan Louie Jr. , got the harebrained idea of starting a new Chinese -American ethnic bank . This was certainly a bit of a stretch as there were already very successful Chinese banks in Los Angeles including Cathay Bank and East West Bank . Lots of folks , including yours truly ,thought the idea was pretty risky and getting investors was a bit of a struggle . But these guys knew that in order to have luck find you , you sometimes need to take risks and put yourself out on a limb.

So the guys decided to put themselves way out on the limb with a small number of other investors . "In 1979, Dan Louie, Jr., John Lee and Jack Jue applied for a savings and loan bank charter which was approved in 1981. Standard Savings Bank opened for business in 1982 in Los Angeles Chinatown with the goal of serving new Chinese American immigrants and businesses. "

Just so happens , luck found Dad and his partners big time ! The success of the ethnic Chinese banks in the 1980 and 1990's is now the subject of scholarly study .

"Asia in Los Angeles -Ethnic Chinese Banking in the age of globilization, Maria W.L.Chee, Gary A, Dymski, and Wei Li " pages 203-231 in Chinese Enterprise, Transnationalism and Identity Routledge, 2003 .

"Chinese-American Banking and Community Development in Los Angeles County," Wei Li, Gary Dymski , Yu Zhou , Maria Chee, and Carolyn Aldana , Annals of the Association of American Geographers 92(4)2002 pp 777-796.

Luck arrived to Dad and his partners in the form of what these authors call the "diasporic convergence " in the 1980's and 1990's : the development of the "ethnoburb" of the San Gabriel Valley and the development of "ethnobanks" to service this new ethnoburb . Changes in immigration laws resulted in a large number of wealthy and professional Chinese , many from Taiwan and later Hong Kong , to choose to immigrate to Los Angeles County . "When newly arrived immigrants from Taiwan attempted to launch businesses in Chinatown , it's old timers resisted the newcomer's efforts . These Tawiwanese subsequently found opportunities for real estate and commercial development in the nearby city of Monterey Park... Monterey park , in fact ,began to surpass Chinatown as the population and commercial hub for ethnic Chinese. It was being promoted as a destination of choice for Chinese immigrants, hailing Monterey Park as the "Chinese Beverly Hills". Attracted by the suburban life style, active real estate promotion, and chain migration , the more affluent immigrants began leapfrogging over Chinatown to Monterey Park. The "Chinese Beverly Hills" catered to the new Taiwanese and Hong Kong immigrants, offering restaurants, markets, and stores attending to Asian tastes. In a chain reaction , this increased population stimulated the growth of more businesses serving co-ethnics, and more businesses provided additional convenience for local residents. This , in turn , attracted more home-buyers and renters and encouraged Chinese American banks to expand in this area. " It has been called the " First Suburban Chinatown". Ethnic Chinese banks, such as Standard Bank, originally headquarted in Chinatown began to open numerous branch offices in Monterey Park and the surrounding San Gabriel valley.

"Some of the new immigrants had language difficulties and /or lacked prior credit histories, this made it difficult for many to use mainstream banks . Chinese -American banks understood this problem well and took opportunities created by their shared language and cultural /business backgrounds. These banks provided the financing these new Chinese imigrants needed to purchase real estate and establish enterprises. The imigrants created the critical mass of customers needed for Chinese-American banks' own expansion . As a result the 1980's were also a boom period for Chinese-American banks. The inflow of financial wealth and the high concentration of Chinese residents and businesses provided a ready deposit base for banks in the San Gabriel Valley , as well as infusions of capital enabling banks to increase their asset size and expand their loan base. Chinese ethnoburb and Chinese-American bank development have thus been closely interrelated. . According to one estimate at least $1.5 billion were deposited with Chinese American banks in Monterey park in 1985. According to the 1990 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report issued by the Monterey Park Management Services Department , by 1989 the combined deposits in Monterey Park .. had swelled to over $1.9 billion .. roughly $30,000 for every man , woman and child in town ."

Besides the inflow of imigrants and their capital , the authors also relate the success of the Chinese American banks to their human capital . "The Chinese American banking sector has become far more robust than the Korean and Latino banking sectors. Light (1984) proposes a way of accomodating this discrepancy, via his resource theory... their different levels of access to resources. These resources include skills and education , social capital, financial capital , and cultural traditions; in sum the class and ethnic resources which Borjas has referred to as constituting ethnic capital (1999)."

Part of this human ethnic capital are the skills and resources of the founders. In the case of Standard Bank the authors state " A former executive of East-West Savings and Loan Association ( the predecessor of East West Bank ) started Standard Savings. Fluent in English and Chinese dialects including Cantonese, he is a Chinatown community old-timer and ethnic Chinese from the Phillipines educated in the United States several decades ago . To start this formal financial institution , he gathered two friends and associates and four more were introduced to him via friends. They were all old-timer Chinese professionals and businessmen associated with the Chinatown community." John Lee was of course the founder of Standard Savings Bank, his two friends were Dan Louie Jr. , my uncle( my mother's brother in law ) , and Jack Jue , my father . My uncle Dan was well known in the Chinese community as a very successful produce farmer and merchant , who was also a community activist and fundraiser.
"Dan Louie, Jr. was born and raised in Los Angeles. After obtaining his B.S. in agriculture, he helped manage his family's farms and wholesale produce business. He later obtained a plant physiology from UCLA. He grew over 30 kinds of Asian vegetables in California and Mexico. He imported other vegetables from Hong Kong, Fiji, and Japan; and shipped them all over the United States. -Chinese Historical Society of Southern California- Banking Pioneers "

My father had his own real estate appraisal company headquartered in Chinatown and supplied important knowledge concerning the real estate market and proper valuation of real estate loans.

"Jack Jue and his father specialized in asparagus farming. They expanded their operation from Van Nuys to Saugus and Newhall and to a wholesale market produce in Los Angeles. Jack Jue graduated from UC Davis in 1950. He was president and co-owner of National Appraisal Corporation. He was also an Associate Professor for the Los Angeles Community College District for twenty years. -Chinese Historical Society of Southern California- Banking Pioneers "

Banking knowledge, community organizing /fund raising knowledge and real estate knowledge .. . certainly a lot of human resources and capital to give Standard Bank a head start when luck got in it's way !

What are other secrets to success?
"From the song Out the Back by Fort Minor

Listen, it's like poker, you can play your best
But you gotta know when to fold your cards and take a rest"

"With twenty four years of outstanding performance and a strong capital base, Standard Bank was merged with East West Bank in 2006. At the time of the merger Standard Bank had six branches, in Monterey Park, Diamond Bar, Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles Chinatown, San Gabriel and San Marino, with $923 million in assets. "

Yes , quite a story of three men , Grandfather, father , and son working to put themselves in luck's way ! What about the next guy in line ? Hey , that's me ! Sorry , Jue Joe , your great grandson is no risk taker or entrepreneur . He has spent his whole life working for others as a service industry worker, albeit a rather high paid one ( medical doctor ) :)! I hope you are not too displeased !

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Details: Jue Joe , Potato Farmer

Auntie Soo-Yin writes :
POTATO FARMING IN VAN NUYS AND CHATSWORTH: Jue Joe probably started to farm on his own around 1896. He had time to save up money to lease land by then. He also had time to gain experience in dry farming, etc., in order to know what he was doing. Otto Brant's land syndicate had gained considerable control by then, affording Jue Joe access to choice plots.

"I.N. Van Nuys Ranch: Grub time on the I.N. Van Nuys Ranch, 1895. In Jue Joe's time this is how the south portion of the San Fernando Valley looked, all wheat farms. Later, Jue Joe purchased 300 acres of this land and that portion became the Jue Joe Asparagus Ranch. (Title Insurance and Trust Company.) "

Jue Joe, with help from Otto, tried to lease 20-acres in Van Nuys, then successfully leased 40-acres in Chatsworth, and later 60-acres in Reseda at today's Balboa and Roscoe Blvds. He farmed potatoes. That was his main crop. He probably added a few other minor crops. Then he drove a team of horses hitched to a buckwagon ladened with produce over Cahuenga Pass to the L.A. Plaza, which served as an early produce market. Later, when the Produce Exchange on San Pedro Street was built, Jue Joe leased a warehouse there. It was to Joe's neighbor at the Produce Exchange that Jue Shee sold his brother's business, after Jue Joe had returned to China in 1902 to marry. In that year Jue Joe was 42-years old."

"Cahuenga Pass, 1897: This is what the wagon trail looked like for Jue Joe. He drove a team of four horses hitched to a buck wagon filled with crates of potatoes. And it took him three hours each way to drive his wagon from the San Fernando Valley and over the Cahuenga Pass to the Los Angeles produce market. The Pass is now the Hollywood Freeway. (Title Insurance and Trust Company.) "

The Los Angeles Times has always been known for fine investigative reporting . In January 1, 1896 the Times published a very long over 5000 word article on what was at the time called "Chinese Vegetable Gardening". They sent a reporter to investigate the Chinese vegetable industry with a letter of introduction written by a Chinese interpreter in Chinese characters:
"To whom it may concern: This white man come for the purpose to examine the production of the land, maybe in each place or the whole county: how the production going on during the year,so he publish it to the public. Therefore Chinamen must receive him the same as gentleman for that purpose; whether he asks about how much during the year in producing , and how much profit you make, and then you can inform him without fear; or whether he wish to take a picture of your land, or of your loaded wagon you let him do so. I am yours,
"Law Ark Fawn"
The article is invaluable in giving us a snapshot of Chinese farming just as Jue Joe was getting started in the business. Unfortunately , the Chinese farmers were very shy about having their photos taken , so the reporter had to illustrate his article with drawings ! I have transcribed some of the most interesting material from the article.

"There is possibly no separate rural industry in Los Angeles city or county which is productive of more annual wealth or is of more general importance than is the Chinese vegetable industry. It might be said in a general way that the production of vegetables in this county is given over wholly to the Chinese. There are in some spots a few white persons engaged in raising vegetables along with fruits and other products, but these are for the wholesale market. In the field of vegetable production for the retail market the Chinese obtain exclusively. "

Some Chinese farmers grow and haul their own produce to market and have their own wagons , whereas others hire wagons to carry their product to the vegetable exchange . Here produce is exchanged between farmers to retailers and wholesalers.

"One of the most interesting sights to be witnessed is to be found every week day morning at the corner of Main and Jefferson streets , which is the sort of exchange point for Chinese vegetable wagons , as many as thirty congregating there some mornings. This scene takes place very early in the morning-usually about 530or 6 o clock. There the several retail wagons from the farms exchange vegetables with retail wagons from other farms, while wholesale wagons from farms which do not run retail wagons, and from those which do , sell to retail wagons belonging to vendors wholly, and which have no connection with any farm. This business is dispatched with great directness and celerity and in half an hour after the first wagon heaves in sight , the ground is cleared of every vestige of a Chinese, for they have all started out on their several routes and the wholesale wagons have gone back to the farms .

The most democratic equality appears to exist on a Chinese ranch. You may closely scrutinize every Chinaman on the place in search of some exterior evidence that would suggest which of several individuals bears the distinction of boss and you will find absolutely none. A Chinaman is a Chinaman and everybody works; they all , in some way to the eye of the Caucasian look much alike; they certainly are all of one complexion and of the same hue of hair; and their faces are all smoothly shaven, and whether in the clouts of a laborer or in the fatigue attire of a holiday, they all dress about alike. On the farm each man appears to know his duties, and they work with a steadiness and persistency ,from daylight to dark , which would be unedurable to a farmer of the Anglo-Saxon stock.

Chinese do not own land ; they all rent . They are particular about the grade and character of the soil, the presence of water and the locality of the land in point of contiguity to the city. All these points being favorably resolved , the Chinaman is ready to pay the highest rent for the land and when he has possession of it he puts it to the best use. On a Chinese ranch there are no idle acres; even areas of sand and alkali are turned to some sort of account . The Chinese farmer raises nothing but vegetables; he does not raise cereals nor live stock nor fruit; potatoes and onions are his stables, with cauliflower and cabbage; many of them raising nothing but these. Land owners complain that the Chinese will rent a piece of land for a few years and then move off after they have exhausted the soil so it is not possible to grow crop on it .

The philosopher says " We cannot all be doctors and dentists and lawyers, and editors , but we can all be farmers" It is through the fact that we can " all be farmers" that the Chinaman is a farmer. He does not assume the role out of mere choice ; he does it from necessity; many of them do not know, when they first commence , the first principles of farming ; but it is so easy to learn , and the secret of success is hard animal work .

The Chinese operate their farms upon two systems; either as an individual, who hires his own hands and pays them wages , the same as any other employer, or in the form of companies. The wages paid Chinese farm laborers by Chinese employers are the same as paid to them by any other employer. These average about $25 a month with board . (For comparison a Chinese cook gets $40 a month)

The Chinese as a whole are poor farmers. It appears mainly due to their inability to properly apply water for irrigation. They water the land too much . A Chinese farm is almost always soaked with water , and the result is that vegetables are watery and too frequently flat in flavor. The vegetables , owing to the excess of water in their composition do not keep well and will rot oftener than they will dry.

As cultivators of the soil, however, the Chinese are diligent , untiring . A Chinese farm is a model area of well stirred ground. Its long rows of growing vegetation run straight in their furrows as surveyors lines , their tops of various shades of green showing strongly against the black earth. When you look toward the farm buildings , however, you are shocked...
The Chinese ranch houses are worse than "shacks"... They are merely heaps of old wood debris nailed together to make some kind of an inclosure with a roof and four sides. Pieces of oil boxes,of tin cans here and there a shingle, here a rotten board, one door and frequently no windows and you have a Chinese ranch house. The stable is the same , and these two buildings constitute the entire structures on a Chinese farm.

Long strings of red pods of the chile pepper hang outside the outside of the house, certain flitches of dried fish strung on sticks and stretching between two poles with some slabs of jerked beef shriveled in the density of its hardness, tell of the foods on which the toilers of the farm subsist. The chief item of the Chinese fare , on the farm as elsewhere is rice. They are also great consumers of pork both fresh and dried; these substances , with an abundance of vegetables from their own lands, constitute their daily diet. They are not fastidious over the number of dishes with which they are served. In fact , they eat about the same dish during the entire day . In the morning some one of their number, anyone-there is no special cook on the ranch-prepares a quantity of fresh or dried pork, chopped fine with green peas or beans, and fried like a saute; this and boiled rice is the food for all hands for the entire day, taking a swallow of tea after each meal , and at night a glass of red wine. On this fare they work six and a half days of each week , from daylight to dark, quitting at noon on Sunday and spending the balance of that day lolling around or in an excursion to the city and a visit to their friends in Chinatown.

The domestic life of the Chinese is a very humdrum, animal one. There are no females on any of the ranches. Most of the Chinese, however , are married, but their wives are in China. Thither Chang or Sing ultimately hopes to return . His remaining in this country is a period spent in prison , save that it is endured not for penance or punishment but for the reward. He can earn far better wages here than in his native country and he lays up his savings against the day when he shall start for China , never to return. There, with the few hundred dollars he has accumulated here, he can live almost as a nabob , measurably free from the drudgery of his American existence.

Where a ranch is operated by a company , the partners have equal shares. These companies comprise from four to six individuals. Usually the holder of one or more shares is some merchant in Chinatown. When such is the case , the merchant supplies a man , whose wages he pays to work in his place.

Farms run all the way in size from twenty to 189 acres. The average farm is about 100 acres and employs four men. The gross annual income to Chinese farmers as shown from the wagon receipts and the railroad estimates of the wholesale sales is about $85 dollars to the acre. The expenses per acre might be estimated as follows ; labor $18 , food for man and beasts $1, rent $10, water $1, total $30 . This leaves a net balance of $55. A certain margin , must be deduced , however, for interest on investment which when it is borrowed is invariably high ; for loss of crops by too much water or too little water, and for losses attendant on the ravages of insects; also a slight deduction for bad debts as before related. All of these items it might be reasonably said would cut the net profits of farming to the Chinese to $50 dollar per acre, and this is about what the Chinese themselves account it to be.

The accumulated property of the Chinese farmer is in money. He makes no investments in property of any kind. He can leave the country almost on a day's notice and take with him all his possessions . Their checks being few, they become valued customers of the banks , for they leave their money untouched on deposit for long periods. They have full confidence in the banks which are all of the American sort, and it is notable that during the financial panic which closed so many banks in this city two years ago , very few Chinese disturbed their deposits. "

Since the Chinese are doing so well , the author wonders why Americans do not chose to emulate the Chinese in vegetable farming . "There are certain elements in connection with this kind of farming that do not appeal to the American and chief among these is the fact that he does not like to go upon leased land. The Chinaman knows no better; he has been a serf of the land in his own country and it is but natural that he should not take umbrage at becoming such here. But the American who has come down from an ancestry of tillers upon their own lands, does not like the idea of taking a yearly lease from someone upon a bare tract of land with the feeling that his tenure may not last later than the end of the year and therefore he is precluded from planting a tree or driving a nail , for the law will say that his improvements belong to the owner of the land . He cannot buy land, for the price asked is too high . It would seem wiser for the out- of -work man to rent a piece of land , if he can find a landlord who will forego collecting rent in advance-and get to work on the land after the Chinese fashion . He can work better than they do, though he may not work so hard, and he can make a good living and clear $50 per acre per year, which if he has ten acres of land , will give him more money at the end of the year than is possessed by most men "

Jue Joe's annual income :
Marysville and St . Helena Wineries at 50 cents a day 6 1/2 days a week : $168 dollars a year
Southern Pacific Railroad at $1 a day 6 1/2 days a week : $336
Houseboy at $40 dollars a month : $480
Farming 40 acres of potatoes in Chatsworth : pay self $25 dollar a month because he works himself , plus profit of 50 dollars an acre a year x 40 acres
=$300 +$2000= $2300

As we can see , Jue Joe is our first successful family entrepreneur and it is no wonder that by 1902 , at the age of 42 , he feels it is time to reap the rewards of a life of hard work and go back to China forever, get married, have children , and build a house . He is secure in the knowledge that he has given the business to his younger brother Jue Shee who has a PHD from Pomona college and who will run the farming/produce business and send money back to Jue Joe and the rest of the family in China. Unfortunately , that was not to be., and Jue Joe had to leave his family in China and come back to America again in 1906 to rebuild his family's fortunes .

Details: Jue Joe and the "Dog-Tag" Law

One of the dark chapters in American history is the racist Chinese Exclusion acts . These US government acts excluded new immigration of Chinese laborers, and required certificate of identities of Chinese already in the United States , initially to prove their right to travel to and from the United States back to China and later to prove that they were here legally . Ultimately , Chinese unable to produce these certificates would be faced with the possibility of deportation.
Some Asian American scholars have called these the " Dog-Tag" Laws .

Here is a summary of this period of history

"From 1882 to 1943 the United States Government severely curtailed immigration from China to the United States. This Federal policy resulted from concern over the large numbers of Chinese who had come to the United States in response to the need for inexpensive labor, especially for construction of the transcontinental railroad. Competition with American workers and a growing nativism brought pressure for restrictive action, which began with the Act of May 6, 1882 (22 Stat. 58). Passed by the 47th Congress, this law suspended immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years; permitted those Chinese in the United States as of November 17, 1880, to stay, travel abroad, and return; prohibited the naturalization of Chinese; and created the Section 6 exempt status for teachers, students, merchants, and travelers. These exempt classes would be admitted upon presentation of a certificate from the Chinese government.

The next significant exclusionary legislation was the Act to Prohibit the Coming of Chinese Persons into the United States of May 1892 (27 Stat. 25). Referred to as the Geary Act, it allowed Chinese laborers to travel to China and reenter the United States but its provisions were otherwise more restrictive than preceding immigration laws. This Act required Chinese to register and secure a certificate as proof of their right to be in the United States. Imprisonment or deportation were the penalties for those who failed to have the required papers or witnesses. Other restrictive immigration acts affecting citizens of Chinese ancestry followed. During World War II, when China and the United States were allies, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an Act to Repeal the Chinese Exclusion Acts, to Establish Quotas, and for Other Purposes (57 Stat. 600-1). This Act of December 13, 1943, also lifted restrictions on naturalization

After the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, laborers such as Jue Joe who were present lawfully in the United States before the passage of the act , could obtain certificates of identity that would allow them to travel to and from China as one of the exempt classes and prove they were legal immigrants. . These certificates would have name, date of birth , and identifying physical marks but did not require photographs. "... such certificate shall contain a statement of the name, age, occupation, last place of residence, personal description, and fact of identification of the Chinese laborer to whom the certificate is issued" - Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

The Geary Act passed in 1892 and amended in 1893 required for the first time photographs on certificates of identity

"In 1892, with a presidential election fast approaching, Democratic congressman Thomas Geary of Sonoma County California, had seized on anti-Chinese sentiment.
He wrote an identification bill that easily passed the House of Representatives, 178-43, and the Senate, 30-15. The Geary Act gave a Chinese laborer one year to register for a certificate or face immediate deportation.
The identity card was to contain two duplicate photographs that were “securely affixed to the papers by strongly adhesive paste of sufficient size and distinctness to plainly and accurately represent the entire face of the applicant, the head to be not less than 1.5 inches from base of hair to base of chin.”

"In support of the statutory photograph requirement , the primary sponsor of the 1892 and 1893 legislation, Representative Thomas Geary (Calif.) argued that "all Chinamen look alike, all dress alike, all have the same kind of eyes, all are beardless, all wear their hair in the same manner."12 Verbal descriptions alone are insufficient, he maintained, and therefore photographs are required to provide a more detailed form of description"

Obtaining a certificate of identity between 1882 and 1892 was optional for Chinese laborers residing in the United States and only required if they were trying to return to the USA after travelling to China . Many laborers obtained these certificates during this time period as anti -Chinese sentiment rose in the West , to prove they were here legally and also in preparation for travel to and from China . It would be reasonable to assume that Jue Joe might have obtained one of these certificates during this time frame . These certificates would not have photos. In 1892 /1893 all Chinese in the United States had to obtain certificates of identity with photos or face deportation and we can asssume that Jue Joe would obtain a certificate with photo at that time .

Jue Joe's sworn deposition before immigration officials on his return to the USA in 1906 is very interesting concerning his certificates of identity and some of the inconsistencies in his deposition coupled with the historical information I have provided help us to improve our understanding of Jue Joe's travels in the early years.

Q In what year, month and day did you register?
A I was 38 years old , in 1892 or '93
Q Did the certificate that you first got in 1892 or '93 have a picture on it?
A No , no picture; the first one no picture, but that no good I no keep , throw it away.
Q When did you register the second time ?
A K.S. 18 or 19 ; got a picture that time .
Q What became of that certificate?
A I left it in the custom house when I went to China
Q Where at ?
A San Francisco. I go home to China they keep my certificate and give me another ticket and if I come back ,everything they keep down there
Q Are you sure you left your certificate with the Chinese Bureau at San Francisco?
A Yes, sir.
Q In what year was that ?
A I was 47 years old when I went home , coming 48 K. S. 28, 1st day, 4th Moon (May 8,1902)
Q When did you return from that trip to China?
A This year
Q What month and day?
A Chinese January 3, K.S. 31, I come to San Francisco, and I come to land on the 13th ; I stay on the boat ten days .
Q What boat?
A "Mongolia"
Q And you are sure you never registered but one time?
A One , that's all
Q Where were you living at the time you registered?
A St. Helena, Napa County
Q Where were you living when you threw the first certificate away?
A In Napa county. Time have to register second time every people say first one no account and I no keep, I throw it away .

Jue Joe's says he registered for the first time in St. Helena in 1892 or 1893 and the first certificate had no picture. This has to be an incorrect date as pictures were required in 1892 and 1893 . Later he says he gets a second certificate this time with a picture in K.S 18 or 19 ( 1892 or 1893 in the English calendar) . The immigration official ,probably confused about the Chinese dates ,did not catch that Jue Joe quotes the same years for his first and second certificates ! Jue Joe says he throws away the first certificate when he has to register a second time . Most family oral history puts Jue Joe in Los Angeles in 1890 to 1893 . The comment in his testimony about registering for the first time in St. Helena in 1892 or 1893 bothered me until I realized that the dates HAVE to be incorrect. Jue Joe probably obtained a certificate of identity without a picture in St Helena , sometime after the passage of the original Exclusion Act of 1882 and before he went to work on the Southern Pacific railway and then ended up in Los Angeles. He got his 2nd certificate with photo almost certainly in 1892 or 1893 when all Chinese residing in the United States were mandated by law to get a photo certificate of identity . I assume that rather than getting this in Napa he got a duplicate identity card with photo in Los Angeles. Remember this immigration interrogation , had to have been a very high stress interview for Jue Joe . He had just returned from China trying to start over in America without having the proper certificate of identity with him . Earlier in this interview he says he left it at the custom house in San Francisco in 1902 when he departed for China and no longer had it . Without the proper identification Jue Joe faced deportation proceedings against him and spoke broken English . . It is no wonder that there are some errors in his testimony . Laborers returning without proper certificates were scrutinized closely by immmigration officials and often had to have sworn testimony from Caucasians verifying their identity if they did not produce the proper identity certificates. I wonder if there are some other documents somewhere of Otto Brant verifying Jue Joe's identity to immigration officials.

All of this detective work about certificate of identities , allows us to say that it is possible that Jue Joe arrives in Los Angeles in 1890 as told by Uncle Guy to Auntie Soo -Yin . There is some confirmatory data from Southern Pacific Railway history that also helps to put Jue Joe in Los Angeles around 1890. Active work on the north end of the Southern Pacific costal railway was underway between the years 1886 and 1889 with over 1000 Chinese laborers involved in laying track . In 1889 the line reached Santa Margarita where the line reached the Coastal mountains near San Luis Obispo . There was a 2 year hiatus in the rail work before condemnation proceedings allowed the construction of railroad to resume along the Cuesta grade with the difficult task of construction of railway tunnels through the mountains to come .
The southern portion of the coastal route was already completed through Santa Barbara to Goleta by 1889. My revised theory is that Jue Joe got his first certificate of identity in St Helena sometime after 1882 and then left St . Helena around 1887 to 1888 and worked on the Southern Pacific until work was halted on the line in 1889 . Out of work in 1889 when railway work was suspended , he probably travelled by stage or horse to Goleta/Santa Barbara and then bought a train ticket all the way to the end of the line in downtown Los Angeles . Looking for work , he probably applied for and received employment by the Brants around 1890 just after David Brant was born and in time to assume his role as the Chinese man referred to by Mrs. Brant when she tells her son he had a Chinese man nurse him as a baby . David Brant has no memory of any Chinese man in his home . David does remember a trip to the World's fair at age 4 in 1893 , the year his father starts the Title Insurance and Trust Company. (Adults often have no personal memory of events in their life before age 4 or 5 or so ) . David Brant is born in 1889 and the family home is in Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. . I assume that Jue Joe was a houseboy in the Brant household between the years of 1890 and 1892 or so . This may have been his first job in Southern California after travelling to Los Angeles after working on the railroad. He turns up in Jue family oral history as a houseboy on a Chatsworth ranch in 1893 and also starts farming potatoes in the Chatsworth area later. . My theory is that Jue Joe perhaps in buying produce for the Brant household and discussing the future of the San Fernando Valley as a agriculture paradise with Otto Brant , sensed the opportunity to start his own business as a farmer in the Valley . He may have had Brant introduce him to the Johnson family and started working there as a houseboy on their wheat ranch , saving enough money to start leasing land and farming potatoes in the area. I think family oral history and historical dates are all starting to come together to allow us to weave a very plausible story of Jue Joe's early years in Los Angeles.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Details: Jue Joe, Saloon Keeper

One of the fascinating things about Jue Joe's life story is the variety of occupations and businesses he had . I was quite surprised to learn from Auntie Soo-Yin that in addition to picking grapes and pressing grapes with his feet, working on a railroad, being a houseboy, growing and selling potatoes and later asparagus , he also was a saloon keeper !!

Here is map locating Jue Joe's saloon in downtown Los Angeles which he started sometime after returning to California in 1906 .

Here is some comments from Auntie Soo Yin about the Saloon years .

SALOON YEARS: It would have been not long after Jue Joe's return in 1906. He lost his "merchant" status and would have had to acquire a business that did not require time to build up, in order to regain "merchant" status. Jue Joe had reconnected more closely with Brant. My father San Tong told me that Brant introduced Thompson to Jue Joe and Thompson had been Brant's enforcer whenever things got rough in the title business. The saloon was in full swing by 1918 when San Tong arrived in Los Angeles. He remembers that Jue Joe took him to the saloon to see it and that the saloon looked just like in a Western movie. It had a long counter with a brass bar to rest your boot on when taking a swig. He said when he and Jue Joe walked in, his father said to everyone, "Drinks on the house--meet my sons!" Then Jue Joe got behind the counter, poured beer from a tap and swirled each glass around, then he slid each glass down the counter to his customers. There was a back alley that served as a drunk tank for those who got out of hand. Thompson did the honors of escorting those folks out there. The saloon was probably ongoing while Jue Joe continued his farming ventures. I say this because when we were moving to the Northridge house, after Dorothy's eviction notice, San Tong and Guy found an unopened bill for 2 kegs of beer for the saloon. The date of the bill was 1920, I think. It probably lay unopened by Jue Joe because he most likely asked Thompson to buy him out in 1919, so he could use the money to buy the Van Nuys ranch. The 300-acre Van Nuys ranch on Vanowen Street was purchased in 1920, according to what Guy told me some years later. Auntie Soo-Yin.

Here is a picture of the corner of 2nd and Broadway taken from old post cards of the era . At the corner is the American National Bank at 2nd St and Broadway which is the Victorian building . Adjacent to it is the Merchant's Trust Bldg, and then there are a row of store fronts with awnings. Jue Joe's saloon is one of those store fronts.

Here is a detail of a line of store fronts on the raised Broadway street level that can be seen across from the cleared ruins of the bombed out 1910 LA Times building .
Thank you Auntie Soo Yin for sharing this picture with me . Click on the picture to enlarge
and look for these details:
"There is a Chinese-English doorway shown in the upper right corner of the raised street. You can enlarge the image. It's a round awning, second opening from the right corner, and is diagonal to the rear of the Times building. Your Gung Gung (San Tong) had said that the saloon's entrance was narrow, a small saloon and not fancy. But Jue Joe was the only Chinese on the block and his business was the only saloon on the street. Auntie Soo-Yin "

As Auntie Soo-Yin says : "The American National Bank was also located at 2nd St and Broadway. It was within walking distance from Jue Joe's saloon, so no wonder he found it convenient to bank there. "

Here is a photo of the American National Bank on the corner of 2nd and Broadway

Later the Victorian type building was torn down and replaced with the California building around 1910 to 1915 . I am not sure which building was on the corner at the time Jue Joe was running his Saloon . Here is a picture of the same corner after the American National Bank building was replaced. The California Building is the grey building in the center.

The LA Times building was only a block away at 1st and Broadway . It had the office of General Otis and Harry Chandler just a short walk from Jue Joe's saloon. The 1918 picture of Jue Joe and his sons was taken at the top of the Times building near the eagles in the photo.

"The photo was taken 1 month after San Tong and his brother arrived in L.A., Harry Chandler, one of Jue Joe's best friends , took the 3 up to the rooftop of the old L.A. Times building. There he posed the 3 against the brick wall of the rooftop's elevator shafts. Harry Chandler instructed his reporter to write the article. Jue Joe owned a saloon at 2nd and Broadway, which was diagonal from the Times building and General Harrison Gray Otis, original publisher of the LA times and also friends with Jue Joe,  always frequented the saloon. Auntie Soo-Yin. "

And not far away were the offices of Otto Brant in the Title Insurance Company Building on
New High and Franklin , also within walking distance of his friend's saloon.

I can imagine great grandfather holding court in his saloon as the movers and shakers of Los Angeles moseyed up to the bar !

ps you can take a wonderful virtual walking tour through old los angeles circa 1900-1920 including old LAChinatown illustrated with photos and post cards on this page

ps in later years another famous bar opened in that area called the Redwood , JFK and Nixon were reputed to have had drinks there . It has been reopened as the Redwood bar and grill.

Once a famous, and infamous, hangout for LA Times reporters (the office is just across the street, and the bar is famously equipped with a direct phone line to the news desk) the Redwood recently experienced something of a revival. A new generation of owners reopened in 2006 and have upgraded the menu, jukebox, and sound system, but left the inexplicably pirate-themed d├ęcor and thick layer of noirish history fully in tact.

I think it may be on the other side of 2nd street from great grandfather's old saloon but perhaps a field trip is in order to have a few drinks and celebrate the history of Jue Joe's saloon . This field trip is only for family members of legal drinking age !

Details: Jue Joe , A Most Unusual Houseboy !

"Chinese Domestic on the Front Porch of an unidentified Seattle Home 1888"

Delving into Jue Joe's early history, reading historical documents and correllating those documents with Auntie Soo-Yin's invaluable oral history has been fascinating . San Tong's oral history is the clearest information we have about this era in Jue Joe's life and the history he told to his youngest daughter is really the starting point for understanding this period.
Historical research is sometimes conjecture . Those who are living closest to the event are gone and we are left with clues . I am going to weave those clues now into a theory of Jue Joe's early years in Southern California . Whether what I am proposing is fact or fiction may be lost in the mists of time , but it COULD be true and perhaps that is the most important thing . I think my theory weaves together enough of the documented clues and family oral history into a plausible story that helps solve some mysteries and MIGHT be close to the truth.!
After Jue Joe worked on the Southern Pacific Railroad he ended up as a houseboy on a Chatsworth wheat ranch . Either before or after that time he met and became friends with Otto Brant who was married with children and into buying and selling real estate . My theory is that Jue Joe may have met Otto Brant by being employed as a houseboy by Otto Brant's wife. David Brant in his interview says that his mother told him he had a Chinese man who used to nurse him as a baby who spoke to him in Chinese. David Brant was born in 1889 and was a baby and young child during the years his father was in the real estate business. Jue Joe's immigration documents say that he was living in St Helena in 1892 or 1893 when he applied for his certificate of identity , but it was possible that those dates are wrong and he actually left St Helena earlier and arrived in Southern California between 1890 and 1893 . In any event , I propose that Jue Joe was employed in the early years in Southern California by the Brants as a houseboy and that was how Otto Brant met him . Immediately on meeting him , Otto would have sensed a fellow traveler , a self made man like him , of the same age , who had alot of spunk and wit . I think employer and employee sooned morphed into friends and associates. Like Auntie Soo Yin says , class distinctions were less important in frontier Los Angeles. and these men from vastly different backgrounds would have instantly realized a lot of common ground . Jue Joe was most certainly not your usual houseboy , but someone quite special . He was older and with more life experience then most houseboys and had been saving money and sending it back home to China for many years. San Tong reports that Otto Brant actually borrowed from Jue Joe for some of his real estate deals . David Brant's interview reports that in the early years Otto's real estate deals were very shaky and he and his partners were buying and selling land where title to the land was very obscure , some of the land did not even exist and was under water ! Meanwhile , Jue Joe was essentially saving all his money and probably would be eager to put up some of his money in Otto Brant's business ventures while he was learning about business and heard from Otto all about what was coming in the San Fernando Valley and all of Otto's grand plans. When Otto heard that Jue Joe was coming back from China , my theory is that he offered to help Jue Joe get back on his feet. Brant family history puts Otto's older brother Byron K. Brant as a big citrus grower in the Ontario/Upland area in 1906 when Jue Joe is coming back from China . Jue Joe arrives in January of 1906 and in March of 1906 during a sworn immigration interview he lists his place of residence as El Monte ( which is in the Ontario/Upland area ) and his occupation as a farmer. San Tong reports that Jue Joe worked again as a houseboy on his return from China . My theory is that Otto arranged for Jue Joe to work for a time on his return from China as a domestic with his brother Byron and arranged for Byron to allow Jue Joe to start farming on some of Byron's land in El Monte . Later , of course, we know that Otto helped Jue Joe with acquiring land in the San Fernando Valley .
In the late nineteenth century in the frontier American west , many middle class families employed Chinese males as domestic servants because of the lack of females to serve in these roles. An excellent resource concerning this aspect of the Chinese experience around the turn of the century is the paper I discuss below. It is also very interesting in detailing how domestic service for many Chinese was a stepping stone to empowerment and later success in other businesses.

Stepping Stones to Empowerment: Chinese Servants in the American West
A paper prepared for the Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian American Studies, April 19, 1997, Seattle, Washington.

and expanded here :

Some quotes from these papers are very helpful in understanding Jue Joe's houseboy period ..
"While much of the late Victorian era social life existed only in the magazines and other taste-arbiters (how much attention do we pay to Vogue or even Harper's, today), it did seem that every home must have its Chinese servant. Not just in the provincial capitals but even in remote mining towns in Idaho, and inland communities such as Boise, Walla Walla, and Lewiston. One woman remembered of Boise, "nearly everyone whom I knew had a Chinese cook, and usually he was not only the cook but generally house boy -- washing, ironing, and doing all of the heavy work. "

"In the late 19th century ,Domestic service involved cooking, cleaning, waiting table, laundry, child care, and the hundreds of other tasks that the primary caregiver in each home provided. Many households required servants simply because the amount of work was too much for any one person

The demand for domestic labor eventually met the supply of Chinese workers, resulting in male Chinese laborers assuming the usually female role of domestic servant on the West Coast of the United States and Canada, despite efforts to recruit from traditional sources in the eastern and southern states.

Into this economic niche resulting from overwhelming demographic, social, and political factors stepped the Chinese laborer. The Chinese were no more suited for domestic service in the West than were the Basque fishermen who became sheepherders there; this was just an artificial economic niche that circumstances made it possible for them to fill. Yet, they filled it in ways uniquely Chinese and -- as well -- uniquely western.

With that in mind, let us sketch in the experiences of a "typical" Chinese servant. Usually teen agers or younger when they arrived, most knew no English and had little idea of what to expect; many suffered extreme homesickness. Often labor contractors assigned them to specific jobs, and both the contractor and the employer expected them to learn on the job. If successful, they learned to cook and clean, acquired some English, and found a good home. Any surplus funds were mailed back to China to support the family remaining there or saved for a triumphant return to the ancestral village. Over time, and through careful management of their money, they moved on into other occupations such as restaurateur or laundryman. A successful servant could do well. Hang, cook for the Roe household in Montana, returned to China with the immense sum of $1200 in savings.(Roe, Frances. Army letters from an officer's wife, 1871-1888. New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1909. 311.) "

Wages were around $40 per month and room and board which was probably better than what Jue Joe could make on the railroad.

"The Chinese filled an economic niche that few others were willing or able to fill. Of particular importance, is that, although male instead of female, the Chinese were permitted to assume the jobs of domestic service including child-care..."

Domestic service provided a number of learning opportunities for the Chinese who chose this route. They learned how to cook "American-style," accomplished the rigors of house-cleaning and laundry, and even coped with child care. In addition, servants were in an excellent position to "get inside" the dominant culture. Unlike the railroad or cannery worker who was insulated from the Caucasians by the contractor, the servant was thrown into the midst of a "white" milieu. Learning some English was a requirement, since the lady of the house was certainly not going to learn Chinese.

In addition to domestic duties, many cooks were also the shoppers. They would go to market, interact with the shopkeepers, and select and pay for the food supplies. As butlers and while waiting table they interacted with the social and political elite of the community. A Lewiston, Idaho, resident recalled having a U.S. Senator as a houseguest. During dinner, the Chinese servant asked to be introduced to the assembled company and went around the table shaking hands. (Pfafflin, Grace. Pioneer Chinamen of Idaho. Seeing Idaho, 1:9(February 1938) p. 24.)

Others took advantage of their situation to learn business skills. Gee Sing asked his employer how to read the exchange rates in the newspaper; every night he would study the price of silver in Hong Kong. When it reached his target, he was off to the bank to buy or sell, in order to increase his stake being held for him in China. (Blythe, Samuel G. "Chinese cooks." Saturday Evening Post, 205:44(April 29, 1933) p. 67.)
While there were many Chinese who found the rigors of domestic service (always on duty, managing the household and the household's relationships, dealing with the continual patronizing) so onerous that even work in the canneries might have been preferable; there were those who found great satisfaction in the job and were well treated by their employers
Wing Yee, another example, began in California as a houseboy, then became a cook. He remained with the same family for many years, assuming greater responsibilities as general farm manager. He was encouraged to bring a wife from China, who became housekeeper in his place; and his employers built a home for his growing family next to the main house. (Wong, H.K. Gum Sahn Yun: Gold Mountain Men. n.p., n.p., 1987. 125-130.)

Domestic service as a stepping stone to entrepreneurship has not, and perhaps can not, be proven. However there are numerous examples in the literature of Chinese men who began their American life as servants and moved out to establish businesses and other ventures.

Entrepreneurship is the ability to see value where others do not. It is also the ability to "make lemonade when life hands you lemons." Living on the margins of the culture attunes one to the imbalance of goods and services. Domestic service provided the Chinese with an experience at the heart of the culture, within the Caucasian home, in the bosom of the family; an experience that offered glimpses of needs that could be fulfilled from the margin. Many seized the entrepreneurial moment and made a successful life for themselves in a strange land among a strange people.

The result for the Chinese, as it has been for other domestics, was that there was no escape from the roles assigned to them except when they stopped being domestics. Nevertheless, many Chinese immigrants could rightfully be proud of their accomplishments as servants in Euroamerican households. Some,, owed their later successes in the wider community to the skills they had perfected while adapting to an unfamiliar role within an alien culture. "

Friday, July 23, 2010

Details- Jue Family in the LA Times 1941

The Jue family is mentioned 3 times in 1941 in the LA Times .
Jue Joe passes away in 1941 and the family gathers for his memorial service.
LA Times March 2nd, 1941.

My great aunt Corrine is one of the contestants in a Chinatown beauty contest to select a " Moon Goddess" to help the China war relief efforts. LA Times July 21, 1941

Great aunt Dorothy is attending USC majoring in biological sciences and is elected president of the Chinese Student's Club. LA Times Oct , 16, 1941

ps. In my search of LA Times archives I was able to locate a newspaper article about my grandfather, San Tong Jue, asparagus farming during the war dated March 31, 1944. I have edited a previous post to include the newspaper copy that accompanies a picture I shared earlier .

Details: Jue Joe Farming- LA Times News Clips 1924-1925

A search of the Los Angeles Times newspaper archives reveals some interesting news clippings concerning Jue Joe's farming activities in 1924 and 1925 .

The first clipping is from March 16, 1924 and reveals that Jue Joe has a sixty acre asparagus farm in West Van Nuys and reports receiving as much as $1.50 a pound for his first shipments! That is an amazing price for aspragus at that time . For comparison ,while working in the Marysville and St. Helena wineries Jue Joe made a salary of 50 cents a day and while working on the railroad he made $1 a day .

The second clipping is from September 13, 1925 . It shows that Jue Joe also is leasing land in Fillmore along the Santa Clara river and is farming potatoes and tomatoes .

The third clipping is from October 12, 1925 and is interesting in that it lists Jue Joe as a director of the San Fernando Valley Asparagus Marketing Association .
The secretary of the organization at that time is listed as Thomas D. Chung whom I think is my grand uncle on my Dad's mother's side.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Details: "Jue Joe -Asparagus King "

John Steven McGroarty (1862-1944) was named poet laureate by the State of California legislature in 1933 , he was also a Los Angeles Times columnist . Here is a wonderful piece he wrote for the LA Times June 3, 1934 while prowling around the Los Angeles City Market at night . In this article he pays homage to my great grandfather , "Jue Joe-Asparagus King". It is a most fitting tribute to a great and humble self made man .

"It is the Synagougue of the farm, the orchard and the truck garden. " Synagogue" is a word taken from the Greek ,meaning " a bringing together." The Los Angeles City Market is just that-it brings together in one place the products of the soil, the harvests of the good earth...
The City Market is entirely a truck terminal . All its deliveries are made by trucks and not by rail .. The place at all times is as clean as the proverbial new pin. It is fragrant with delighting odors of fruits and edible spoils of the clean earth ... Trucks were pointed out to me that were bound for Utah , Idaho, Montana, Wyoming , El Paso , Phoenix, Reno and Las Vegas... It dawned upon me then that Los Angeles has come to be one of the greatest distribution centers of the world .

Jue Joe-Asparagus King

I was intensely interested in everything I saw and in the people I met , but especially so , I think , in the vast asparagus caravansary of Jue Joe, the asparagus king. Not that I am more inclined to asparagus for eating than I am to rutabagas or other vegetables that are inviting and good for one's health .

It was the story of Jue Joe that absorbed me- the story of the man .

Jue Joe came to California many years ago with little or no money, but with the heritage of native China back of him. He brought with him not only the traditional industry of his race but also the heritage of Chinese brains developed in the race through 6000 years of education and culture.

Slowly but surely he established himself in the confidence of the community. He came to be trusted. His mere word was the same as another man's bond. He bought land on long time payments , meeting the conditions of the sale with religious punctuality. Again he bought more land, running true to Chinese form , and knowing that land-the good earth-is man's surest dependence.

Jue Joe surveyed the market possibilities for truck gardening and finally decided to specialize in asparagus. It was a decision that required not only foresight but courage and patience. Four years are required to bring an asparagus bed to production. Not every man is willing to wait so long for returns. Most people want quick action , quick returns for their labor. That's why so many workers attach themselves to weekly pay envelopes in factories and mines and counting houses.

Jue Joe was different . He could wait four years, and he did . Now he operates and owns 700 acres of producing asparagus which he disposes of at top prices not only in his own local market but broadcast through the country. He has sold asparagus as high as a dollar a pound. He is the only man in America who grows that vegetable every month in the year.

It was a long , hard struggle that this man went through, and now he is grown to be a little old .
Being a newspaperman has its advantages sometimes. My night in the great City Market was one of those times."

(Click photo to enlarge)

John Nix & Company: This Company was one of the largest wholesale distributors of produce on the East Coast. John Nix did business with Jue Joe Asparagus for more than thirty years.

Details-Otto F. Brant

One of the fascinating stories in the Jue Joe saga is his friendship with Otto Brant. We have followed Jue Joe's story up to Los Angeles where he is employed as a house boy on a wheat ranch in Chatsworth in 1893. In that same year Otto Brant and his friend O.P. clark founded the Title Insurance and Trust Company in Los Angeles which is destined to become the largest Title insurance company in the United States. How does a poor Chinaman who is a houseboy on a wheat ranch , meet up with and become fast friends with a wealthy Title insurance president ? I do not have the answers , but I do have Otto Brant's life story which makes their association even more difficult to understand . Family oral history has Otto and Jue Joe becoming friends when they are both poor and both on the way to Los Angeles. If we follow Otto Brant's life story during the same years as Jue Joe this becomes very difficult to believe . There is ample documentation in real estate deeds and family oral history that Otto and Jue Joe were associates and friends but why or how that friendship developed is something I do not understand.

The following information is from a fascinating 1968 interview with Otto Brant's son , David, published in the California Historical Society Quarterly , Vol. 47, no 1, 2 and 3, 1968 .

Otto Freeman Brant was born in the same year as Jue Joe . They were exactly the same age . Otto was born in Hamilton Ohio on July 5th 1860. His father died when he was 14 . He had to go to work to support his mother and his mother's family. He started out as a boot maker , then became a railroad telegraph messenger. He worked his way up the ladder as a telegraph operator , and then station agent and then station manager and moved to Indiana. He married Susan E. Thomas in 1888 and left with his brother Byron Brant for California .
On the way to California Otto and Byron stopped in Midland Texas and got involved in building a big irrigation project. It did well and they sold it for $500,000 and made their way to Southern California . Otto's brother Byron became a big citrus grower in the Upland /Ontario area while Otto made his way into the Los Angeles area and began buying and selling real estate. He and his friend O. P. Clark initially struggled in the real estate business, but then a real estate boom in the area allowed them to make enough money to cash out and buy controlling interest in the Los Angeles Abstract Company . Otto had to mortgage his home to help with the purchase. Later they merged with the Abstract and Title Insurance Company of Los Angeles to form the Title Insurance and Trust Company on Dec 20 , 1893. This company was Southern California's oldest trust company and quickly became the largest title insurance company in the nation . Otto along with business associates and friends General Harrison Gray Otis , owner of the L A Times, General M. H Sherman ( for whom Sherman Oaks is named), Harry Chandler , editor and publisher of the LA Times , and Frank Pfafinger, Treasurer of the LA Times formed a business association which was called the Big Five.
The Big Five bought extensive land and owned land from Kings County to the Mexican Border . Their holdings included the Calfornia Mexico Land and Cattle Company , the Tejon Ranch , the Los Angeles Shipbuilding company ,as well as most of the San Fernando Valley, which they bought anticipating the arrival of water to the valley from the Owens Valley water project .
According to his son , Otto was a reserved man who would not let his company name anything after him , not even a street. He was according to his son a retiring kind of guy who was the power behind the throne of the Big Five.
The only mention of Otto or his family interacting with Chinese in David Brant's interview is an interesting comment from David. David studied foreign language while in college in Berkeley and one of the languages he studied was Chinese . He was surprised that it came so easy to him . He mentioned that to his mother who told him ;"Well you had a chinese man nurse you when you were a baby and he used to talk Chinese to you " .
Otto Brant died suddenly at age 62 of a heart attack in 1922. Apparently , Otto's car which was being driven by his chauffeur was hit by another car on the Ridge route and the man who originally admitted it was his fault ,probably realizing that Otto was a wealthy man, decided to sue Otto for damages in court , claiming that Otto's chauffeur was at fault . After testifying in court that the man was a "beautiful liar" , Otto apparently was so incensed and upset that he had a massive heart attack , fell over and died in the courtroom !

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Details -Jue Joe on the Southern Pacific Railroad

Ok this portion of the Jue Joe story involves a little history detective work !
But first I would like to start this post with a few images of the Chinese railroad experience and a nice video tribute to pioneer Chinese immigrants like my great grandfather.

After leaving St . Helena , Jue Joe went to Oakland and was hired to work on the Southern Pacific Railroad . Chinese workers gathered at Oakland's long wharf and were transported by rail to job sites.

According to Jue Joe's sworn affadavit to the immigration officials his home was St . Helena in 1892 or 1893 . Auntie Soo-Yin reports that Jue Joe arrives in Chatsworth in 1893 to work as houseboy on a large wheat ranch . So we can assume that between 1892 to 1893 Jue Joe worked on the railroad laying tracks and then left his labor camp and ended up in Los Angeles. I at first assumed that Jue Joe worked on the San Joaquin section of the Southern Pacific that went over the Tehachipi mountains through Saugus and down into the San Fernando Valley and on to Los Angeles. But some research on railroad history reveals that that entire Sacramento to Los Angeles line was completed in 1876 . It does not seem possible that Jue Joe worked on this portion of the line as he arrived in San Francisco in 1874 and was in Marysville when the railroad was completed. Railroad history is quite complete and we are able to determine the exact time when different portions of the railway lines were completed and when Chinese were employed there . I think the answer to the puzzle is that Jue Joe must have been employed on the coastal portion of the Southern Pacific Line . Sections of this line were being built from the South and from the North . In 1892 the most difficult portion of the line was being built on the Cuesta grade in San Luis Obispo and large Chinese crews were employed between 1892 and 1893 to complete that section . This last difficult section was necessary to connect the already built northern and southern sections of the Southern Pacific Coastal route. The line ultimately stretched from San Francisco down the coast , through San Luis Obispo , then down to Oxnard , then inland through the Simi Valley through Santa Paula , Fillmore , and then ending up in Saugus/Newhall and then down into the San Fernando Valley through Burbank and on to Los Angeles , with a branch line from Burbank out to Chatsworth .
Later , a more direct line was created through the Santa Susana mountains via tunnels directly to Chatsworth bypassing the Simi Valley /Saugus connection .

Here is a picture of the Chatsworth Train Depot in 1893 . Sign reads Los Angeles to San Francisco 497 miles .
My theory is that Jue Joe actually worked on the Coastal route of the Southern Pacific and then ended up in Chatsworth in 1893 . He could have been transported by rail with other Chinese laborers from Oakland to the railroad work sites near the Cuesta grade. If he worked the Cuesta grade section around San Luis Obispo in 1893 , he could have left the labor camps there , traveled a short distance by horse , or stage to Goleta where the Southern section of the railroad was already completed and could have bought a ticket on the train and taken it all the way through the Simi Valley , to Saugus and then on to the Chatsworth depot.

So we have followed Jue Joe's history to Los Angeles. What happens next ?
The Los Angeles portion of his history is full of loose ends . Maybe Auntie Soo-Yin can clear some of them up , so we can create a time line of Jue Joe's travels . How long did he work as a houseboy on the Chatsworth wheat ranch ? What were his businesses before he returned to China in 1902? In his 1906 immigration statement on return to America he states his US home town as El Monte . When did he live in El Monte? , was he farming there before going back to China ? What years did he own his saloon in Los Angeles ? When did he start potato farming in Van Nuys and Chatsworth ? before or after he went back to China ? When did he start his Van Nuys Asparagus farm ?

By the way 1893 is also the year that Jue Joe's friend Otto Brant starts his Title Insurance Company in Los Angeles . So both Jue Joe and Otto do show up in Los Angeles about the same time .

ps. 8/10/2010 :: Further research has caused me to change this original theory of the time line of Jue Joe's work on the coastal route of the southern pacific railroad. I now think that Jue Joe worked on this railroad sometime between 1886 and 1889. In 1889 the railroad reached Santa Margarita just before the Cuesta Grade portion of the route. Chinese laborers were discharged and no work on the railroad was done for 2 years while condemnation proceedings were under way in the San Luis Obispo mountains to allow work to resume . I think that after work was suspended in 1889 , Jue Joe was discharged with other Chinese laborers and he found his way to downtown Los Angeles and found work as a houseboy for Otto Brant around 1889 to 1890 . After working for the Brant's for 3 years he went to work in Chatsworth as a houseboy with the Johnsons in 1893 . More information on this new theory is explained in this post.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Details: Jue Joe in Marysville

My research in St. Helena has got me interested in trying to follow Jue Joe's early years from Northern to Southern California . Auntie Soo - Yin mentions that after arriving in San Francisco in 1874 at the age of 14 Jue Joe is sent to work in the vineyards of Marysville in the central valley . I didn't even know there were vineyards there but some more internet sleuthing reveals that there were a number of wineries in the area and that Chinese laborers were used to pick and press wine , just as they were used in the St. Helena area .
Here is a young Chinese laborer working in the vineyards around Marysville circa 1870 to 1880 when Jue Joe was there .

A fascinating 1879 history of Yuba County is available on the internet . This history is very important as it gives us a snapshot of the Marysville area in exactly the time frame that Jue Joe was in the area .
Here are some interesting information from the book

History of Yuba County 1879 by Thompson and West
"The Chinese found abundant employment in the mines in the early days. Soon after their first appearance, a prejudice against them began to gain ground among the miners, although with a few exceptions, they were allowed to work peaceably on their claims. After claims were deserted by white miners, the economical Chinese located them again, and by diligent toil managed to make them pay handsomely

Wine was made in Marysville, by J.M. Ramirez, as early as 1855, though none was made for the market prior to 1859, when Charles Covillaud, who had been making small quantities for several years, commenced its manufacture on a larger scale. A great deal of wine is now throughout the county, by a number of persons who have vineyards. The largest vineyard and winery near Marysville is that of Grass Bros. They commenced the manufacture as early as 1863, and now have twenty-five acres of vineyard. This, at an average of one thousand vines to the acre, makes a total of twenty-five thousand vines, which are of forty-three varieties. They have made as high as seventeen thousand gallons of seven varieties of wine in one year. Last year their manufacture was, however, but four thousand five hundred gallons. Some of the wine made here is shipped direct to the East, but the larger portion is sold in San Francisco. Two of the finest varieties of grapes, cultivated here, were imported from South America, by J. M. Ramirez; they are the Rose of Peru, and the Chile Rose.

Celestial Valley

This locality, on Oregon Creek, two miles from Middle Yuba, was so named because of the number of Chinamen here. At one time there were thirty or forty men here and one hotel. At present half that number are engaged in mining and farming."

Marysville had a large Chinese population during Jue Joe's time. A nice summary of the city's Chinese history is provided on the Bok Kai Temple web site.

"Marysville Chinatown

Marysville had a fairly large Chinese population between 1850 and 1900 in comparison to other towns in the Northern Sacramento Valley. In businesses, it was ranked among the busiest and largest in the Northern Sacramento Valley and, at times, ranked second only to San Francisco.

Marysville's Chinatown, which is one of the oldest in the United States still in existence, was ideally located, offering merchandising services to mining camps to the north and east. It was regularly supplied with goods and materials by river boats via the Sacramento and Feather Rivers and stage coaches.

According to a business directory of Wells Fargo Bank in 1878, Marysville's Chinatown boasted some two dozen Chinese firms.
By 1882, according to the Wells Fargo directory, Chinese businesses had nearly doubled in number.

Marysville's Chinatown was a place for rest and entertainment to thousands of Chinese miners and laborers. It was a bustling and lively community on weekends and during holidays, drawing between 500 and 2,000 Chinese at times.

In addition to serving as a shopping center for those Chinese coming from the mines and other outlying labor camps, it provided varied entertainment and a place for worship, the Bok Kai Temple. Marysville's Chinatown also included the Suey Sing and Hop Sing Lodges, which are still in existence; a Masonic Lodge, Gee Kong Tong (a Chinese school), and two opera houses.

The Gee Kong Tong Opera House was in the Masonic building at the corner of Elm and First Streets and the Low Yee Opera House was located on the east side of C Street between First and Front Streets. Both regularly scheduled top entertainers form San Francisco and China.

When the railroad construction and mining activities diminished, many of the Chinese moved out Marysville and the surrounding areas, working at various occupations. They worked as gardeners, toiled in clearing some of the present-day irrigation canals, labored on hop and other farms, cooked and laundered clothes.

Gardening was one of the big industries for the Chinese here at the turn of the century and up through the 1950s. The Richland Housing Center area near the Sutter County Airport in Yuba City and the area which is now East Marysville were two of the large produce areas here that supplied Chinese restaurants and markets throughout the West for about half a century.

Bok Kai Temple
When the Chinese came to Marysville during the Gold Rush days, they brought their myths, idols, customs and religion with them. By 1854, about five years after the first contingent of Chinese arrived in California from the Orient to work the mines, they erected here a Temple, the Bok Kai Mui, where they could house their Gods and go to worship.

There are several Gods placed in the Temple. This is the reason one of the Temple's standards bears in Chinese writing: “Palace of Several Saints.”
Bok I (or Eye) is the central Deity in this place of worship. Of the five Gods in the main altar, Bok Eye is situated in the center, flanked by the others.
Bok Eye is believed to possess powers controlling floods, waters of irrigation and the rains. He is also call Hsuan-Tien Shang-Ti, Lord of the Black (Pavilions of) Heaven Chen We, and Peichi Yusheng Chen-chun. Bok Eye, according to the Chinese, means Northern or Dark North (Bok) and God (I or Eye).

The first Bok Kai Temple was built nearly two blocks upstream on the Yuba River from the present structure. It was appropriately named the Bok Kai Mui, which means Temple (Mui) of the North (Bok) side of the stream (Kai). (This particular site is now part of the area where the Marysville Levee Commission building and the Yuba River Sand Company are located, near the corner of First and B Streets). When the original Temple was destroyed, the present one was built on a property which was once site of a bathhouse near the river. It was dedicated in March 1880.

The present structure, a charming edifice filled with treasured items, has been the focal point of a restoration project initiated in 1947 by the entire Marysville community. The Temple's restoration project since then has involved thousands of dollars and yet there is more work to be done to complete the task. Dr. Edwin Chew and Dr. Albert Attwell are currently heading the restoration program. Both work closely with the Chinese Community."

Here is a picture of the Bok Kai temple circa 1880 . Perhaps Jue Joe worshipped there.

Here is an interior view .

Unfortunately the 1870's were a period of severe anti Chinese agitation in the Marysville area.
Just as Jue Joe arrived in Marysville the area was undergoing an economic downturn with many Caucasians out of work . The Chinese were natural scapegoats . In Chico just north of Marysville. , the Supreme Order of Caucasians was formed and began harassing the Chinese and employers who continued to hire Chinese .
Just 3 years after Jue Joe's arrival in Marysville , the infamous Lemm Ranch Murders occured in Chico . On the night of March 14, 1877 six Chinese farm workers were in their bunk house. Six caucasian men burst in , drew their revolvers shot the farm workers point blank, drenched the farm workers clothes in oil and then set fire to the oil drenched clothes torching the cabin and fled . Four of the Chinese men died and only two survived the night . The two that survived did so by playing dead.
The Marysville Daily Appeal declared : "It is a war of the races here . "

see Driven Out, The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, Jean Pfaelzer, University of California Press ,2008

With all the agitation going on , I wonder how long Jue Joe stayed there before moving on to St . Helena?

Marysville's Chinatown unlike St . Helena prospered during the Exclusion era and had a vibrant Chinatown in the 1920's and 1930's , although it is much smaller now .
Here is a fascinating series of You tube videos in which Marysville Chinatown old timers discuss their history .