Thursday, December 12, 2013

Walt Disney Family Museum: New Tyrus Wong artwork discovered in a Chinatown church

New Tyrus Wong artwork discovered in a Chinatown church

December 12, 2013, San Francisco, CA — Midway through an exhibition showcasing ones life-retrospective, it is rare to uncover artwork done by the celebrated artist. The Walt Disney Family Museum is excited to announce the discovery of a larger-than-life-sized painting, formally titled Jesus, hidden away—and assumed forgotten—in a church in San Francisco’s Chinatown until now.

After reducing the surface dirt, supporting the frame, and preparing it for exhibition, The Walt Disney Family Museum has decided to add Wong’s Jesus to our current special exhibition—Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong—a life-retrospective of the art of 103 year old artist and Disney Legend Tyrus Wong.

Prior to its discovery, Wong had painted Jesus on request from Reverend T. T. Taam for the Chinese Congregational Church in Los Angeles, circa 1935. According to Wong, the church’s caretaker did not like the painting and asked for it to be removed as he felt Jesus should be depicted in a more traditional manner; in Wong’s Jesus, the subject’s hair and beard are painted red, with archetypical Asian facial features. The painting shows some of the influences of Stanton MacDonald-Wright, whose paintings and color styles were beginning to influence Wong and other Los Angeles artists at that time.

How the painting made its way to San Francisco is still a bit of a mystery, but it is believed to have traveled with the Reverend when he moved to the city around 1939. It is at the Chinese United Methodist Church in San Francisco where Jesus stayed for 75 years, collecting dust and miraculously avoiding further damage by the constant movement of patrons and choir children running to and fro.

Wong’s Jesus will be on view in time for this holiday season, starting Saturday, December 21 until the exhibition closes on February 3, 2014.

Now through February 3, 2014, The Walt Disney Family Museum presents the exhibition Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong. Organized byMichal Labrie, the museum’s director of collections, the exhibition focuses on the life and work of Chinese-American artist Tyrus Wong—a celebrated painter, muralist, kite maker, lithographer, Hollywood sketch artist, calligrapher, ceramicist, and Disney Legend. At age 103, Wong is still a practicing artist today.
                  This retrospective features more than 150 works including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, painted scarves, kites, and more. Although he never met Walt Disney, it was the ethereal beauty of Wong’s Eastern influenced paintings that caught Walt’s eye and became the inspiration for the animated feature Bambi, which changed the way animation art was presented, and continues to be an inspiration to contemporary artists.
              The exhibition also includes paintings, hand painted ceramics and silk scarves, original greeting cards, works on paper, and his latest work including handmade and hand-painted kites, which range in size from six inches to 150 feet.
Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong is organized by The Walt Disney Family Museum.

# # #
The Walt Disney Family Museum presents the fascinating story and achievements of Walt Disney, the man who raised animation to an art, transformed the film industry, tirelessly pursued innovation, and created a global and distinctively American legacy. Opened in October 2009, the 40,000 square foot facility features the newest technology and historic materials and artifacts to bring Disney’s achievements to life, with interactive galleries that include early drawings and animation, movies, music, listening stations, a spectacular model of Disneyland and much more.

Hours:                       10am to 6pm, Wednesdays through Monday; closed on Tuesdays and the following public holidays: New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Tickets:                     $20 adults, $15 seniors and students, and $12 children ages 6 to 17.
Admission is free for members.

Where:                     The Presidio of San Francisco, 104 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94129
Contact:                    415.345.6800 | |                            
Twitter | Instagram: @WDFMuseum

Monday, February 4, 2013

Jack Lee Jue

June 10, 1928 - January 2, 2013
Jack Lee Jue, 84, of Pasadena, died peacefully on January 2, 2013 surrounded by his loving family. Jack attended UCLA and UC Davis. Jack and his father specialized in asparagus farming. Later, Jack worked for the County of Los Angeles and was a licensed real estate broker and appraiser. He became President and co-owner of National Appraisal Corporation and President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Appraisal Institute. Among one of Jack's greatest career accomplishments, was being one of the founders of Standard Savings Bank. His greatest personal accomplishment was his family, his faith in God and his work with his church family. Jack is survived by his wife of 62 years, Alice, their 5 children; Jack Jr (Elizabeth), Arlene (Steve), Richard (Terri), Adrienne (William) and Leslie (Brian), 10 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren; Robert (Kelly, Jackson, Riley), Leah, Jordan, Nicklaus, Kelle, Brian, Kevin, Jacqueline, Matthew, Emily, 3 sisters; Soo-Jan (Mel), Pingeleen, Soo-Yin (Ed), sister-in-law Estelle (Miles), his brother Guy deceased and his sister Joan (Richard) who preceded his passing by just days.
Memorial Service: 12:00 pm, Tuesday, January 15, 2013 Visitation: 7-8 pm, Monday, January 14, 2013 The Old North Church, Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068 Donations may be made in memory of Jack Jue to the San Gabriel Presbyterian Church 200 West Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, CA 91776.

Jack L. Jue- Remembering my Father

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Land of Shadows

 jason francisco                                 photoworks    writings    about    contact
A Land of Shadows (2005-ongoing) is an inquiry into immigrant Chinese life in rural 19th century California—a communal life that was itinerant, vulnerable, preyed upon, resilient, and centrally important in the state’s and the nation’s history.  Taking its title from a traditional Chinese metaphor for the domain of the ancestors, the project integrates my own photographs of the remnants of Chinese settlement in the Sierra Nevada foothills and the Sacramento Delta areas into a forgotten compendium of government mug shots of Chinese immigrants, made by D.D. Beatty in Downieville, circa 1890.  The result is a remade book, part document, part poetic archaeology.  By asking historic and contemporary pictures alternately to intervene on and slip away from one another, the new book addresses disjunctions and silences within the historical experience of the Chinese American community, and the difficulty of their formation as memory.  


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nancy Kwan Exhibit at MPK Library 2011

Last year, Cindy Cosales presented Actress Nancy Kwan exhibit at the MP Bruggemeyer Library.. Curated by resident Cindy Yee, the exhibit highlights and pays tribute to Ms. Kwan who starred in films such as The World of Suzie Wong and Flower Drum Song. In this video, Cindy Yee discusses her personal history with Ms. Kwan as well as her experience organizing a recent tribute to the film star.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chinese American Banks

Chinese-American banks provide financial support for San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles

By Lauren Gold, SGVN
Updated:   11/28/2012 10:14:32 AM PST

A woman enters New Omni Bank at Garfield Avenue and Valley Boulevard in Alhambra Friday, November 23, 2012. The two-year-old bank is located in what is considered the "new Chinatown" in the San Gabriel Valley. (SGVN/Staff File Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)
Cathay Bank located at 250 South Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park Monday, November 19, 2012. The San Gabriel Valley has become the New Chinatown, not only for the plethora of Asian Restaurants that have popped up along Valley Boulevard, but the area is also home to a large volume of Chinese banks, earning it the nickname of "Asian Wall Street". (SGVN/Photo by Walt Mancini)

Gallery: San Gabriel Valley has become the New Chinatown, nicknamed "Asian Wall Street"
When Cathay Bank, under the leadership of the late Wilbur Woo, opened a small storefront in Los Angeles' Chinatown in 1962, it offered financial services to a Chinese-American community that couldn't find them anywhere else.
Woo died last week in his Monterey Park home at 96, but his role as a founder of the first Chinese-American bank lives on in the flourishing "Asian Wall Street" of Los Angeles County.
"I think it gave him a great deal of satisfaction to know that he could play a role in obtaining a loan for someone who otherwise would lack the money to be a success on their own," said Woo's son Michael Woo, a former Los Angeles city councilman and dean at Cal Poly Pomona. "In the early days, many of the Chinese-American customers were skeptical if they could get a loan from an American bank."
Fifty years later, Cathay Bank has become one of the most prominent financial institutions in Los Angeles County, Woo said.
But now it has a lot more company.
The National Association of Chinese American Bankers, with the majority of its 80 members located in Southern California, just celebrated its 25th anniversary, and the California Department of Financial

Institutions listed 28 Asian or Pacific Islander banks in California at the end of 2011.
Many of those banks - including EastWest Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Chinatrust Bank and American Plus Bank - can be found in Los Angeles' Chinatown and the so-called "New Chinatown" in Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park, as well as further east to the Cathay Bank headquarters in El Monte and Rowland Heights.
Henry Li, marketing director for Cathay Bank, said Chinese-American banks help attract new, often wealthy, immigrants from China who feel more comfortable using a bank where staff members speak several dialects of the Chinese language.
Many parents also send their students to schools in the area, Li said, because they can easily transfer money to their children's bank accounts.
"I think Los Angeles is still a booming town because the influx of all the new immigrants," Li said. "We are seeing a lot of new immigrants from China who are pretty well-off. ... We notice some of the new immigrants from Asia, before they even come to the U.S., they do their homework and ... open accounts with us even prior to coming to Los Angeles."
And, said Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-Alhambra, even for Chinese-American residents that have settled and established businesses, the banks often help ease the cultural transition from east to west.
"The Chinese banks have really provided options to the Asian businesses," Eng said. "It allowed them to have more access to community banks that spoke their own language, that sent representatives into their community who (they) probably attended church with, or were in the Rotary Club with."
It's not just the Chinese community that feels at home in Chinese-American banks.
Many cities see them as part of the local community, and most banks are registered American companies. Alhambra's former redevelopment agency, for example, had a line of credit with a local Chinese bank.
"Typically the decision-makers are local as opposed to having to deal with someone in an ivory tower in their national headquarters," Alhambra Chamber of Commerce President Mark Paulson said. "You are dealing with a local institution and they know better the local economy, and it's much easier to deal with. When you say `Chinese bank,' you're not dealing with someone in China or Taiwan. Typically, the local directors, they are all right here."
The banks' presence in the Los Angeles region is not an accident, nor is it limited to the local banking needs of a minority community, said Baizhu Chen, a professor at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.
The banks, he said, are essential to the local and nationwide economy because they help facilitate the large volume of trade flowing in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
"Los Angeles is the gateway for America to do business with Asia. It is also a gateway for Asia into North America as well. ... The community banks are the natural bridge between this community in Los Angeles doing business with China," Chen said. "The banks provide liquidity, it's like the blood of the body, without the blood the body will not function. ... You have the finance coming from the banks to facility the buy and sell."
The banks and their employees have also helped bring Chinese money into the region through the federal government's EB-5 Immigration Investor visa program, which grants permanent residency to foreign investors, said Jordan Levine, director of economic research for Beacon Economics.
Many developments in Los Angeles County have been built with these foreign funds.
"They are basically all new money coming into the U.S. that wouldn't otherwise have come here in the absence of EB-5," Levine said.
Chinese banks also drive Chinese tourism to the Los Angeles area, he said, giving visitors easy access to their money.
"I know Chinese tourism through the airports here in California has been going up remarkably," Levine said. "It's not just business travelers scoping out investments but also folks coming out here for holidays."
These "new money" sources, along with the banks' other financial roles in the community, have helped the local economy weather the 2008 recession, said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for the Kyser Center for Economic Research.
"I think that's an important source of capital for those communities right now," Kleinhenz said. "Many of them fared better during the recession than other parts of L.A. County. I think there was something unusual that helped those communities and that certainly could be the capital coming from China."
From the "New Chinatown" to "Asian Wall Street," the Chinese-American community that surrounded Wilbur Woo when he died this month is a world away from the San Gabriel Valley he entered as one of the first Chinese immigrants to move to Monterey Park.
"He led a long rich life for 96 years and came a really long way from being a boy who immigrated here at age 5," Michael Woo said. "I think there were challenges in the beginning, I think there may have been some skepticism that a bank owned by Chinese Americans would have a large enough potential audience. But it turned out to be a good bet."
Funeral services for Woo will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 1 at Rose Hills Memorial Park, 3888 Workman Mill Road, Whittier.

Monday, November 19, 2012

From China to Ventura

Chinese pioneers of Ventura County subjects of new museum exhibit
From China to Ventura
For pictures and more information see 

Ventura County Star

These men from a Chinese fire brigade are shown in a parade in this photo taken in the late 1800s by John Calvin Brewster, a chronicler of late 19th century and early 20th century life in Ventura County. The Chinatowns in Ventura and Oxnard both established their own fire brigades, and some said it was because of slow response times from local fire departments to blazes in those areas.

Photo by Museum of Ventura County, Contributed photo
These men from a Chinese fire brigade are shown in a parade in this photo taken in the late 1800s by John Calvin Brewster, a chronicler of late 19th century and early 20th century life in Ventura County. The Chinatowns in Ventura and Oxnard both established their own fire brigades, and some said it was because of slow response times from local fire departments to blazes in those areas.

Chinese exhibit

What: The exhibit "Hidden Voices: The Chinese of Ventura County" opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 25 at the Museum of Ventura County, 100 E. Main St. in Ventura. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and $1 for kids 6 to 17. Kids under 6 and museum members get in free. Admission also is free for all on the first Sunday of every month. General museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. For more information, call 653-0323 or visit
Festival: In lieu of an opening night reception, the museum will host a Chinese Cultural Heritage Festival on Sept. 8 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Highlights of that will include a Chinese lion dance; a dance troupe and calligraphy and brush painting shows from the Ventura County Chinese American Association; and a papermaking demonstration from the Conejo Chinese Cultural Association. Admission is $5; children under 12 and museum members get in free.
Other exhibit-related events and dates at the museum include:
Oct. 7: A 2 p.m. screening of the documentary film "Courage & Contribution: The Chinese in Ventura County." The film deals with 19th century Chinese immigration to California and the evolution of Chinatown communities in Ventura and Oxnard. It highlights contributions of Chinese agricultural workers and merchants, Chinese fire companies and the story of Bill Soo Hoo of Oxnard, the first Chinese mayor elected in California history. Free.
Oct. 27: A 1 p.m. book talk by William Gow, co-author (with Linda Bentz) of "Hidden Lives: A Century of Chinese American History in Ventura County." Gow is the great-grandson of Wong Ah Gow and Lou Oy Gow, who owned Gow Markets in Oxnard in the early 1900s. He will talk about the role of Chinese immigrants in the evolution of Ventura County. $5.
Nov. 18: A 2 p.m. lecture from local artist BiJian Fan on the history of paper and various paper arts in China. He will also talk about modern techniques and materials he uses in his kinetic sculptures. $5.
People interested in the Cultural Heritage Festival and the other events are asked to RSVP at 653-0323 ext. 7.
The Chinatowns that sprang up in Ventura and Oxnard in the late 19th and early 20th centuries held together a tiny and hardscrabble community of gritty people who had left their homeland to escape hardships only to find a new slate of them here.
Almost all these people came from the Guangdong (formerly Canton) province of southeast China, an area wracked by rebellions and opium wars, as well as widespread hunger, poverty and death. In Ventura County and elsewhere in the U.S., they suffered racial discrimination and were subjects of exclusion laws — the first immigrant group ever targeted that way in U.S. history — that made it impossible for most to bring their families here.
They eked out a largely mundane life. Many — alone, not speaking English nor understanding our culture — got jobs as farm laborers, ranch cooks, construction workers, fishermen, domestic servants and laundry cleaners. In the local Chinatowns, they lived in crude wooden buildings in tight quarters.
"It must have been a really tough existence," said historian Linda Bentz of the Ventura County Chinese American Historical Society, who wrote a 47-page journal last year about the early Chinese here. Then, almost as quickly as they emerged, the local Chinatowns faded away, vanished in the annals of time. They were a secretive people and left behind little in the way of records, diaries, keepsakes or photos.
But bit by bit, a clearer though still fragmented picture of these local Chinese pioneers is emerging — cobbled together from a historical olio that includes ceramic shards excavated in present-day downtown Ventura, a few family heirlooms still floating around here and there, the discovery of Chinese fish camps at the Channel Islands, and traces and hints in rare old interviews and newspaper articles.
Much of this, and Bentz's journal work, is included in the new exhibit "Hidden Voices: The Chinese of Ventura County" that opens Saturday and continues through Nov. 25 at the Museum of Ventura County in Ventura.
Bentz's work, which took 10 years to complete, was published last year under the museum's auspices in the Journal of Ventura County History.
It was a reminder to the staff "that we hadn't featured that part of our local history in a long time," said the museum's Ariane Karakalos, who co-curated the exhibit with Bentz.
"A lot of people will be surprised that the city (as well as Oxnard) had a Chinatown," Karakalos said. "A lot of people aren't aware of that piece of local history."
It is "super interesting," she added, "to see how these people came here and were so very different."
The museum sports pieces of these people and their culture. A case will house what Bentz called "brownware" — fragments of ceramic soy sauce jars, dishes and the like, along with old coins.
"It has a lot of meaning, realizing that someone used these things 150 years ago," Karakalos noted.
Bentz dug up a circa 1900 goods inventory from a Ventura Chinatown store as part of a display on the importance role merchants played in those days. Among its items: rice, brown sugar, pork, dried fish, vegetables, flour, black tea, cigars and herbal medicines.
One centerpiece figures to be the 1910 wedding dress of Nellie Yee Chung, who was born in Ventura in 1888 and was an early resident of its Chinatown.
The hand-embroidered silk gown, adorned with decorative flowers and birds and featuring a mix of pink, purple, green and charcoal black colors, is the thing that will draw eyeballs in the exhibit room, Bentz predicted.
"It's fantastic," she said. "It's the original thing. It's just gorgeous."
The dress is on loan from family descendants, Karakalos said, adding, "It's a rare find."
Also part of the exhibit is an abacus — Chinese shopkeepers didn't have cash registers then. This one has wooden counting balls fashioned to resemble pearls, Karakalos said.
Another unique item on view is a Chinese queue, a plait or ribbon of hair worn hanging from the back of the head. Most Chinese men, the curators noted, cut their queues after 1911 in the dying days of the old dynasties and the coming of the Republic of China.
More cultural flavor will come from a contemporary lion costume on loan from Irene Sy, the principal of a Chinese language school in Camarillo and vice president of the Ventura County Chinese American Association.
The costume, Sy explained, is used when people perform the lion dance at events such as weddings, the opening of a business and, of course, the biggest celebration, the Chinese New Year.
The lion, she said, is an auspicious animal in Chinese culture and its meaning is to bring peace, happiness and prosperity to the community.
Both her group and a companion organization, the Conejo Chinese Cultural Association, are part of the museum exhibit and also will participate in a Sept. 8 Chinese Cultural Heritage Festival there.
The exhibit is an opportunity to "share our culture and our history" with the community, Sy said.
"It's very impressive, and it's important to recognize the minorities of Ventura County and the contributions of immigrants to our society through history," said Yingchun Wu, a Newbury Park resident and president of the Conejo Chinese group.
The late 1840s Gold Rush brought many thousands of Chinese to California, which they called Gum Saan, translated as "Gold Mountain." Chinese miners were robbed, driven from claims and subject to an 1852 foreign miners' tax that eventually was imposed only on them, Bentz wrote in her 2011 journal.
Around the mid-19th century, the Chinese also came to Ventura. The Chinatown there initially was along Figueroa Street between Main and Santa Clara streets.
As in California and the nation, the Chinese presence drew opposition. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act that barred Chinese laborers from entering the United States. Ultimately, the law was extended all the way into the 1940s.
Elsewhere, the first wave of Chinese Americans were hanged and banished; there were lynchings in Los Angeles, and Chinatowns across the West were burned to the ground, according to Jean Pfaelzer's 2007 book "Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans."
Ventura County largely avoided such large-scales skirmishes and tragedies, Bentz said.
But a countywide Anti-Chinese League did form, and held weekly protest meetings at a local hall. They thought the Chinese were "filthy" and at one point tried to establish an American laundry because they didn't like the Chinese doing that work, Bentz noted.
Local papers joined the chorus. The Ventura Free Press, an ancestor of this paper, stated in its Feb. 26, 1886 issue that "We are nothing these days if not anti-Chinese." Another article on April 2 that year began bluntly: "The Chinese must go."
But things here generally didn't turn violent, though an 1893 protest march through the Chinatown on Figueroa Street reportedly was scary enough that the Chinese thought they were going to be deported; they scattered into their homes, barred the doors and turned off lights.
In another incident, an early local merchant named Ung Hing had to drive away a mob beating on his door by threatening to shoot them with a pistol. But that, Bentz said, "was about as rough as it got."
Through all this, the local Chinese persevered. By the 1890s, Bentz wrote in the journal, Figueroa Street "was filled with the sights and sounds of a bustling ethnic community." The Chinatown population was thought to be around 200.
There, one could find mercantile businesses, employment firms, a barbershop, residences, a kitchen and other buildings. Nellie Yee Chung, in a later interview, described simple two-room houses in Chinatown that were connected in the back. Residents there raised chickens and pigeons, and some gardened. They built a shed to dry clothes.
After land around the San Buenaventura Mission was sold and developed in 1905, the Chinese were driven from their homes. They relocated to a second Chinatown on the north side of Main Street from west of the mission to Ventura Avenue that lasted until about 1920.
Oxnard's Chinatown rose almost as quickly as did the town, which incorporated as a city in 1903, a mere five years after a sugar beet factory was built there by the four brothers for whom the city would be named. Many Chinese laborers moved to Oxnard to work in the beet fields.
An 1899 article in the Oxnard Courier noted that the area did not have a Chinatown as in Ventura and Los Angeles — but such an ethnic enclave soon took hold.
Oxnard's Chinatown initially was located on Saviers Road (now Oxnard Boulevard) between Fifth and Sixth streets, and later shifted to Saviers between Seventh and Eighth streets, bounded by A Street.
Like the Ventura version, the Oxnard one had a China alley through the middle and its own fire brigade; some said the latter were established after slow response times from existing local departments to blazes in the Chinatowns.
They were also home to shadier activities. Both local Chinatowns had gambling halls and opium establishments, and the Oxnard one also had a saloon and "houses of ill repute." In the journal, Bentz related an incident where Bartley Soo Hoo, of Oxnard's famed Soo Hoo family, roller-skated in front of one of the brothels once during his childhood and was admonished by one of the madams to keep quiet as "my girls are asleep."
In a way, that type of behavior was understandable, Bentz said. Many of the Chinese were far away from home living in a hostile society that disliked them and tried to pass laws against them. So they turned to such things.
"And maybe sometimes they needed to smoke a little opium to make them feel better — kind of like happy hour now," she said.
Both local Chinatowns also were home to the Bing Kong tong, Bentz wrote. Tongs were fraternal groups in the tight-knit Chinatowns everywhere. Some were benevolent, helping people there find housing and jobs, but others were involved in protection rackets and criminal activities; the Bing Kong tong was suspected of the latter.
"We don't have any evidence it was happening in these communities (Ventura and Oxnard), but that's what they were known for," Bentz said.
The exhibit touches on the five people profiled in Bentz's journal. In addition to Nellie Yee Chung, they include early Ventura Chinatown residents Minnie Soo Hoo and merchant Tom Lim Yan.
Yan's wide influence there lasted more than 30 years. In 1881, the Ventura Signal dubbed him the "Boss Chinaman."
Merchants tended to wield power in Chinatowns because they were often the most educated and financially well off people there. They often spoke English and assisted others with language translations, writing letters and getting them sent home.
Thus, their stores were gathering places and "a central element in the community," Karakalos said. "They were pretty much the anchors of the social fabric."
Merchants also were exempt from exclusion laws, meaning they could travel to China and return with family members.
The exhibit also touches on latter-day local Chinese residents such as Walton Jue, whose Jue's Market was a Main Street mainstay in Ventura for years until the family gave it up recently, and Bill Soo Hoo, who was elected mayor of Oxnard in 1966, thus becoming the first mayor of Chinese descent in California history.
Soo Hoo's run for City Council and to make changes in Oxnard reportedly came after he bought a lot on Deodar Street but was told he couldn't live there, that it was for "Caucasians only." The exhibit is to include one of Soo Hoo's gavels from a council meeting.
The exhibit is augmented by photographs. Many of the early Chinese here are the work of John Calvin Brewster, a chronicler of life in Ventura County from his arrival in Ventura in the mid-1870s to his death in 1909.
Bentz's work is hardly done. She co-authored a book with William Gow titled "Hidden Lives: A Century of Chinese American History in Ventura County" that they hope to have out during the exhibit's run.
She also just returned from Santa Rosa Island, where she saw evidence of 14 Chinese camps where the men would spend three months at a time harvesting abalone and the like.
Today, the Chinese population in Ventura County has shifted to the east. Census numbers cited by Bentz show almost 10,400 people of Chinese descent living in the county, up considerably from both the 2000 and 1990 censuses.
The biggest concentration of them, some several thousand, is in Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Valley, Wu said. Only a few thousand live "below the grade," Sy noted.
The Chinese today are more likely to be doctors and health care professionals than laborers. They are attracted by employers such as Amgen and Baxter Healthcare Corp., Wu said. She'd know; she's a product quality coordinator at Baxter.
The Chinese school in Thousand Oaks, Wu added, now has an enrollment of 650; some 30 years ago, she said, they started with 15.
Today's Chinese community leaders say they are grateful for and indebted to the early pioneers who came here and endured hardships.
Or as Bentz said: "They were an amazing people."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wilbur K. Woo dies at 96; a leader of L.A.'s Chinese community

The banker and produce merchant worked to strengthen trade relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.

Wilbur K. Woo

Wilbur K. Woo - 1915 to 2012

Wilbur K. Woo, a banker and produce merchant who first immigrated to Los Angeles in 1921, when he was 5, and decades later became an influential leader of the city's Chinese-American community, has died. He was 96.
By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times November 15, 2012 
Wilbur K. Woo, a banker and produce merchant who first immigrated to Los Angeles in 1921, when he was 5, and decades later became an influential leader of the city's Chinese American community, has died. He was 96.
Woo, who also worked to strengthen trade relations between the U.S. and Taiwan, died Monday at his home in Monterey Park of complications from a stroke and pneumonia, his family said.
His son, Michael Woo, was the first Asian American elected to the Los Angeles City Council, in 1985. The Democrat's largest campaign contribution, nearly $200,000, had come from a Republican – the elder Woo.
"I find myself moving more toward the center because of Michael," Wilbur Woo told The Times on election night and said his son probably could not have won without his generosity.
"If I didn't give him that money, I'm not sure he would have had a chance in this kind of race," Woo said, referring to the hard-fought campaign. "I also think that is what a father is for."
Woo's political clout in Chinatown "afforded his son front-row seats at an ongoing performance that included the major actors in Los Angeles city politics" over a period of more than 30 years, Tritia Toyota wrote in her 2009 book "Envisioning America: New Chinese Americans and the Politics of Belonging."
A longtime political fundraiser, Woo had been in charge of raising money for President Richard Nixon in the city's Chinese community in 1972.
In 1978, The Times called Woo "one of the leading citizens of Chinatown."
At the time, he owned Chungking Produce Co., a family business founded by his father that endured for 40 years; served as chairman of the board of the Chinese Times, a local newspaper with a national voice; sat on the board of the Summit Western Corp., which developed the Mandarin Plaza Shopping Center in Chinatown; and was president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
He also was a vice president of Cathay Bank of Los Angeles, the first bank in the United States owned by Chinese Americans. Tired of rising early to work in the produce business, Woo turned toward banking and joined the institution soon after friends founded it in 1962, The Times reported in 1985.
"With a knack for community outreach, he played a central role in the bank's growth over the next decade," according to a biography by the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Woo and his wife, Beth, endowed the school's Wilbur K. Woo Greater China Business Conference, which is held annually to discuss China's role in the global economy.
"I've always felt I've been a sort of catalyst between the young and the old, the traditional and the nontraditional. I've seen a lot of changes in the Chinese community, and I think a lot of them have been for the good," Woo said in 1978 in a Times article with the headline "The Chinatown Tourists Don't See."
Wilbur Kuotung Woo was born Dec. 12, 1915, in a village near Guangzhou in China's southern Guangdong province. He arrived in Los Angeles as a 5-year-old with his parents, David Kitman Woo and Gim Nuey Dea. His father, who worked for a relative who owned an asparagus farm in the San Fernando Valley, moved the family back to China during the Depression.
When Woo returned to Los Angeles in 1940, he was a refugee from the Japanese soldiers who had invaded his homeland. He had left behind his wife, Beth, and two young daughters, Patricia and Janice.
During World War II, Woo worked as a translator in the Office of Postal Censorship. After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration at UCLA. He had spent his first two undergraduate years in China at Lingnan College.
Life as a Chinese immigrant and foreign student was not easy, Woo later recalled.
"At UCLA, which is in Westwood, at that time I could not rent a room because of the color of my skin," Woo said in 1996 in AsianWeek. "I had to live in downtown Los Angeles and commuted to school every day."
He was not reunited with his wife until 1946, when the couple rebuilt their marriage after a lengthy separation that "wasn't easy," Woo said.
The couple had three more children, Michael, who would spend eight years as a councilman before giving up his seat to run for mayor, losing to Richard Riordan in a runoff in 1993; Elaine, who is a Times staff writer; and Pamela, whom the couple refused to institutionalize when she was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
With his wife, children and parents, Woo moved into a home in Monterey Park in 1962 and started receiving anonymous phone calls threatening death if his Chinese American family did not leave the neighborhood.
After Woo called the police, officers were briefly stationed at his home and neighborhood patrols were strengthened. The harassment of the Woo family led to the formation of Monterey Park's first Community Relations Commission, Woo said in a 1999 interview for the book "Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in America."

"I've always felt I've been a sort of catalyst between the young and the old, the traditional and the nontraditional"  --Wilbur K. Woo

His wide range of business, political and cultural interests included serving as founder and chairman of the California-Taiwan Trade and Investment Council and president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance.
He also was an overseas Chinese representative to the Taiwan Legislature and a member of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, the California World Trade Commission and the California Commission for Economic Development.
In 1996, Woo became the first Asian American to receive the Neil H. Jacoby International Award, given by UCLA's International Student Center to an individual who has endeavored to enhance relations with other nations and their respective cultures.
Charles Young, then UCLA's chancellor, said in a statement in 1996: "I cannot think of anyone more deserving and who better represents what this award is all about than Wilbur Woo."
Woo's daughter Janice died in 2008.
He is survived by Beth, his wife of nearly 75 years; three daughters, Pat, Elaine and Pam; son Mike; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
A public memorial service is planned.