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Interview with Howard Woo




Howard Woo was born in 1905 in San Francisco and came to Minnesota with his adoptive parents in 1906. His father, Yee Sing Woo (Woo Yee Sing, in Chinese name order), arrived in Minneapolis in 1882. He was a pioneer settler, successful businessman, and early leader in the Chinese community. The elder Woo married May Seen Liang (Liang May Seen) in San Francisco and brought her to Minneapolis in 1893. Both were active in the Chinese Sunday School at Westminster Presbyterian Church, a Sunday afternoon meeting place for early Chinese immigrants and their families attending religious services and English classes. Howard Woo attended Emerson School in Minneapolis during his elementary years and graduated from West High School in 1922. He entered the University of Minnesota in 1923 and received a bachelor of arts degree in 1927. He returned to the university to study architecture (which was then available only at the undergraduate level) and received a bachelor of architecture degree in 1931. Also in 1931 Woo married Lolita Young, a Chinese American from Portland, Oregon. Few jobs were available for architects during the Depression, and Woo turned to the family restaurant, known as John's Place, for employment. With the onset of World War II Woo found a job at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant, as a gauge engineer, and later in the war years he worked as a draftsman for the Maico Corporation, which had a government contract to develop a metal detector for shrapnel. It was not until after the war that Woo was able to use his architectural training. In the early 1950s Woo became a partner in a newly formed industrial design company, Harold Darr Associates. The firm was quite successful but was dissolved in the early 1960s when Harold Darr joined the Char Lynn Company. Woo again returned to John's Place, which had become one of the Twin Cities' most popular Chinese restaurants. He remained at the family restaurant until it was closed in 1967 because the owner of the property wanted to build a parking lot in its place--a great loss to the Twin Cities community. After John's Place was closed, Woo retired to pursue a number of personal interests, including book collecting, particularly first editions and works of fine presses in which the craftwork is of special interest. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Parents' background - his father's many businesses, including the Hand Laundry, Canton Cafe, Yee Sing and Co., and Yuen Faung Low (John's Place) - his mother's curio shop - his early life in Minneapolis - his years at the University of Minnesota - discrimination against Chinese in the Twin Cities during the early years of settlement - and intermarriage among the third generation. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: No oral history collection on the Chinese community in Minnesota would be complete without the testimony of Howard Woo. He was probably the first Chinese child to live in the state, and his father was an important leader of the Chinese community in Minneapolis.





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Howard Woo Narrator Sarah Mason Interviewer October 9, 1981 Minnesota Historical Society Saint Paul, Minnesota

Sarah Mason Howard Woo


SM: I’m talking to Howard Woo at the Minnesota Historical Society on October 9, 1981. The interviewer is Sarah Mason. Could we begin maybe with talking about your father a little? Since he was a pioneer settler here. HW: Well he came here in 1883. And I don’t know why he picked Minnesota. [Chuckles] SM: I was going to ask you, why did he? [Laughter] HW: And then I guess he was looking for a bride, and so he got some assistance from the Presbyterian Home, which is a part of the home missions in San Francisco, California. SM: Oh. I was wondering if that was Cameron House. HW: That is. SM: Oh, it was. HW: Donaldina Cameron was a very good friend of mine. SM: Oh, really! HW: Yes. [Chuckles] SM: Ah . . . HW: We . . . every time we’d go to San Francisco we’d have to stop in and see her. 1

SM: Oh, is she still living? HW: No, she died when she was about ninety-two or ninety-three or something like that. SM: Oh. HW: And she was the driving force in that community as far as the Presbyterian missionary movement. And, of course, her activity was more to protect these gals that . . . these Chinese girls that were imported for immoral purposes. [Chuckles] SM: Yes. When I was in San Francisco I got a little history of that house. Have you seen that of Cameron House? HW: Oh no, but I have her book. SM: Oh, you have the whole thing! HW: Yes. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, that’s more detailed then. HW: Yes, I imagine, because some newspaperman wrote a whole big book about Miss Cameron. SM: Oh, I see. HW: And she’s an Australian originally, you know. SM: Oh, really? HW: Yes. [Chuckles] SM: I didn’t know that. Well, she gave your father some help in finding a bride then? HW: I think she . . . I think my mother came from her home. SM: I see. I was wondering if that was the case. HW: Yes. I think so. SM: Yes. HW: And we have since contacted many other Chinese ladies that have the same origin. [Chuckles] 2

SM: Oh, you have. Oh, do any others live in Minnesota? HW: No, I know of one that lives . . . still lives . . . she lived in Minneapolis for a while. SM: Oh. HW: He was the . . . happened to be the steward at the Nankin. SM: Oh. HW: A Mr. Chen and Mrs. Chen came from the home. SM: Really. Well, your mother seemed to be a really outstanding woman. HW: Oh, she’s a . . . [chuckles] SM: The pictures of her are beautiful. HW: All of the . . . my father was also a very good enterprising businessman, you might say. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, yes. He certainly seemed to be an unusual person. Yes. HW: Yes, because he brought his relatives over. There were a couple brothers that he brought over, and a cousin. And anybody that wanted to come to the United States, he tried to get over here. SM: Oh. HW: And so he had to open a lot of businesses in order to keep them occupied. [Chuckles] SM: And they’re all from the same district then? HW: All from the village district in China down in the South. I think it’s called . . . I don’t know what that district name is. SM: Was that [unclear – sounds like Hai Ping] or is that the village? HW: Hai Ping[sp?], yes. SM: Oh, I don’t think it’s a district. HW: [Unclear], yes. SM: Oh, [unclear] is the village? 3

HW: [Unclear] is the general area, like a county or something like that. SM: Oh. I see. HW: And it’s a village back there. SM: Oh, and Hai Ping was the . . . well, did you say Hai Ping or [unclear]? HW: Hai Ping is probably the generalized smaller place. SM: I see. Okay. HW: [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: Because I’ve looked at maps of Guangdong Province and [unclear] seems to be a little bit larger than Hai Ping, and I don’t know where it is. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: So that’s probably the village then where . . . Mr. Chin, you know, during the war, he went back there after VJ Day [Victory over Japan Day] and he went in to the village and visited. SM: Oh. HW: He was stationed in Shanghai and he had the opportunity of traveling around South China. So he looked up a lot of the old relatives of his. SM: Oh. HW: Besides our relatives, his relatives. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, that’s Howard Chin? HW: That’s Howard Chin. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, my goodness. Oh, I should talk to him about that. HW: Yes. SM: Well, this Mr. Chen whose Mrs. Chen was also from Cameron, what is the rest of his name? HW: Hmmm, oh gosh. 4

SM: Well, maybe it will come to you later. HW: Yes. SM: We can add it in. HW: [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] Do you remember her name? The wife’s name? HW: Jun is her name, first name. SM: Jun? HW: JUN. SM: M? HW: No. SM: Oh, N. HW: N. SM: N. Yes. Okay. Well, did your mother know her at the House? HW: Yes. Yes. SM: Oh. So they were friends. HW: Yes. SM: I see. HW: And she came here . . . my mother came here and . . . let’s see. And I don’t know when. Probably in the early 1900s. SM: Yes. HW: Yes. SM: I think Margaret thought they married in 1893, because they went to the Columbian Exhibition. 5

HW: Oh, that’s right. They went to that Columbia . . . SM: Yes. HW: That’s right. They went to the Columbian Exposition on a honeymoon or something. [Chuckles] SM: Yes. That’s really quite something [unclear]. HW: [Chuckles] SM: Yes. That’s quite American. [Chuckles] HW: Oh, yes. SM: To go on a honeymoon and . . . HW: Well, among his enterprises was a laundry. SM: Yes. HW: That was on the . . . say about Thirteenth Street and Nicollet Avenue. SM: What was the name of it? HW: You’ve got me. [Chuckles] SM: Maybe Yee Sing’s Laundry. HW: Or just Hand Laundry. [Chuckles] SM: Hand Laundry. HW: [Laughter] SM: So that was his first . . .? HW: And several of the relatives worked there. SM: Oh. HW: And I hung out there for a while, and then opened a restaurant called the Canton Restaurant. SM: Oh, yes. 6

HW: That’s down on the . . . I think it is 231 First Avenue South, which is now Marquette. SM: What was it called? And First Avenue? HW: First Avenue South. SM: First. HW: They didn’t put Marquette in until much later. SM: Ah ha. HW: You see, First Avenue after Grant Street, it be reversed back to First Avenue again. SM: Oh. Oh, I see. Yes. HW: [Chuckles] SM: I see. So that was his second enterprise then. HW: Yes. And then my mother had a curio shop. That was between the Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets. There used to be a . . . we were, because of the connection to them, the Presbyterian Church, why we were very much interested in . . . affiliated with the Westminster Presbyterian Church on Twelfth and Nicollet. SM: I see. Oh. HW: And next door to that was a hotel called the Saint Angelo Hotel. SM: Ah ha. HW: And the first door from the church, my mother had a curio shop where they sold all kinds of imported Chinese artifacts and vases and whatnot. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, well I knew there was a curio shop. I didn’t know it was your mother’s though. HW: Yes. My mother ran it. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, she took care of that. I see. Well, was that called Yee Sing and Company? Or was that a different . . .? HW: No, that was later. SM: Ah. That’s a different one. 7

HW: I don’t what that they called this one, but he . . . SM: Oh. He really did have a lot of . . . HW: He told me a lot of things about it. He said that on the Fourth of July, why he would climb the telegraph pole in front of the place and he put a big long string of firecrackers on it. [Chuckles] Just lit it. [Chuckles] SM: Really. [Chuckles] HW: And made all the big racket. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. Well, I hadn’t heard about this shop before. HW: [Chuckles] SM: But you don’t know what it was called, do you? HW: No, I don’t have the slightest . . . I don’t know whether I even have a picture of the thing. I knew where there’s somewhere in the house I have a picture of that Canton Café. SM: Oh. Oh, that would be nice to see that if you ever find it. HW: Yes. And then on the laundry part of it, why he was very enterprising because he got himself a horse and buggy. And he went around Lowry Hill soliciting business from these big mansions and so on. And in so doing he met a lot of the civic leaders in Minneapolis. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. And didn’t your mother meet their wives, too, of the leaders? HW: No . . . SM: Oh, she didn’t? HW: I don’t know. SM: Oh. HW: After all, the Chinese were a peculiar sort of breed in those days in Minnesota. And I don’t know, you come into racial differences again, you know. SM: Yes, right. HW: And as a matter of fact, we had a lot of that. 8

SM: Oh, did you? HW: More or less. And then it seems to me that he got acquainted with a fellow, the name of . . . a Jewish fellow by the name of Isaac Weil, W-E-I-L. SM: Oh. HW: And Mr. Weil had a liquor store, a retail and wholesale liquor store on Fourth Street. SM: Oh. HW: And he wanted my dad to open the restaurant in one of his new buildings up on Sixth Street because that was the patrol limits, you know. SM: Oh. HW: [Chuckles] Where the line to sell liquor is North of Sixth Street and across the street is nothing doing, you see. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I see. And which side did he want him to be on? [Chuckles] HW: Well, he . . . we were on the side that the liquor was legal. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: But Mr. Weil built the building as a sort of a safety measure in case he had to move from Fourth Street. SM: Oh, I see. HW: And so he wanted a tenant. So he inveigled my dad into quitting the Canton Restaurant or folding it up or something and opened a new restaurant on the second floor of this, of his building, his new building. SM: I see. HW: And then . . . SM: So that was the beginning of John’s Place. HW: That was the beginning of John’s Place. And shortly after they opened the place, of course we had downstairs . . . we had the longest bar in Minneapolis. SM: Oh, really? [Chuckles] 9

HW: Linker’s Saloon. L-I-N-K-E-R. [Chuckles] SM: Linker’s Saloon. HW: Linker’s Saloon. SM: This was underneath his building? HW: That was right underneath the restaurant; we had a door connecting to the stairway going up. [Chuckles] And it was one of these old-time bars that extended all the way from Sixth Street down all the way to the alley. SM: [Chuckles] HW: And of course it was . . . I never . . . all I had to do was peek in there. I was only about five, six years old then. [Chuckles] And you’d see the sawdust on the floor and all that sort of thing back in the old days you know. SM: I see. So then did he close up the Canton Restaurant? HW: He closed up the Canton and everybody went up there. SM: Oh. I see. HW: And shortly after he . . . of course, he had a lot of influential friends. He had Mr. George Doerr, for instance. D-O-E-R-R. Of Winneke and Doerr. He was a good friend of my father’s. And he sold wholesale cigars in those days. And he said, “Well, that’s a good idea. Go up there and we’ll put a cigar case in,” You know, and all that. [Chuckles] Of course, Mr. Doerr became . . . or his family owned . . . I think McKesson Robbins bought them out. SM: Oh. HW: And he was a . . . he became a big shot in McKesson Robbins. That was before the scandal of this fellow [Phillip] Musica, you know. [Chuckles] Embezzling a lot of . . . SM: He owned a part in McKesson Robbins? HW: No, Winneke and Doerr became a subsidiary. SM: I see. HW: And became the Minneapolis branch of McKesson Robbins. SM: I see. 10

HW: And they branched out into wholesale liquor besides cigars and other chemicals and things. And I guess he encouraged my dad to go open up. And a couple years later, I remember that very vividly, that somebody planted a bomb in the . . . SM: [Gasps] HW: So terrorism isn’t anything new around here, or racism isn’t either. [Chuckles] SM: [Unclear.] HW: And I remember looking down the . . . they’d just damaged the front and the stairway and everything was just piled down. And it didn’t hurt the kitchen or the back end or anything like that, but . . . [Chuckles] SM: They planted a bomb underneath where the ceiling was? HW: It must have been in the stairwell. SM: Oh. Well, was that a racist attack, do you think? HW: I wouldn’t be surprised. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. Because it was really aimed at your restaurant then? HW: Yes. Yes. SM: Oh. HW: I remember that very well. SM: What year about would that have been? HW: Oh . . . I’d say about 1912, somewhere around in there. SM: Oh. HW: See, I grew up in the . . . in the downtown area, you might say, of Minneapolis. SM: Yes. HW: Because they brought me here when I was about a year old, I imagine. SM: Oh, I see. HW: It would be about 1906. 11

SM: 1906, they brought you. HW: Because we went back, my mother took me back to San Francisco to establish my birth. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I see. HW: In Superior Court there. And we had to . . . SM: What year was that? HW: That was in 1926. And we had to do it because of the . . . oh, to clear everything up and get . . . and [while] any possible witnesses were still alive. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: And Miss Cameron was one of the witnesses. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, yes. I see. HW: And we got that straightened out, so now I can get a passport and things like that. [Chuckles] SM: Good. [Chuckles] Well, did Miss Cameron have anything to do with the adoption, too, or just . . .? HW: I imagine she did. SM: Oh, yes. HW: I wouldn’t be surprised at all. SM: Oh, and she was a witness for that? HW: Or she suggested it, probably. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, yes. So she really was a close friend then of your family. HW: Oh, yes. SM: Yes. Well, I was wondering how your father got involved with the Presbyterian Church. Was he involved . . .?


HW: Well, one of the things is that this Westminster became interested in the Chinese community. And they had a Chinese Sunday School, to teach all these newcomers English. SM: I see. HW: That was the first point. And then it sort of branched out into a general social gathering besides, and it was quite a deal. SM: Hmmm. HW: I was very sad that they discontinued it because they said that would show favoritism to one ethnic group. [Chuckles] SM: That’s ridiculous. HW: They wanted to take in the . . . they wanted to sort of spread themselves out to all ethnic groups like Indian and [unclear]. SM: Oh, I see. HW: [Chuckles] Everybody else. SM: Well, you can’t always do everything. HW: No. [Chuckles] Well, they tried because it was a downtown church, you see. SM: Oh yes, sure. HW: Yes. SM: Was that in the 1960s about, that they stopped having the . . .? HW: Yes, I think so. Yes. SM: Oh, that’s too bad. It seemed that in the early days it really played an important role in a circle setter kind of way. HW: It did. It did, yes. Once a week, you know, why the Chinese community would more or less meet there with their children and everybody, you know. [Chuckles] SM: Yes. Well, and did it include most all the Chinese or just a certain segment? HW: Most all that were resident in Minneapolis. SM: Ah. 13

HW: Yes. SM: I see. And then there was another church in Saint Paul, I suppose. HW: I haven’t the slightest idea what happened out in Saint Paul. SM: So most of the Chinese in Minneapolis would come there and see each other and . . .? HW: The only other early family was a family called . . . his name was Wong Gee. G-E-E. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I think I’ve heard that name. HW: Yes. SM: Yes. That was the only other family there? HW: That was about the only other family when we were here for [chuckles] at the same time. And he had a laundry up on Fourth Avenue between Franklin and Twenty-Second Streets. SM: Oh. Hmmm. HW: And he had a couple boys and we used to play around, you know. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. Would you say they were the only other family in Minneapolis or in the Twin Cities? HW: No, there was another one. There was a Shanghai Restaurant on Marquette right in the . . . right near the alley where the . . . across from the Metropolitan Theatre. SM: Oh. HW: Upstairs, and there was a Moy family there. SM: Ah ha. HW: And his father came here because he was supposed to be learned in English and Chinese and he became an immigration interpreter. SM: I see. HW: And he had shares in the place at that location. SM: It was the Shanghai Restaurant? 14

HW: Shanghai Restaurant. SM: Oh. And he had some children, too? HW: [Coughs] And he had two boys that we used to go visit every Sunday. [Chuckles] SM: Ah. Well, was there a mother there, too? Or just the sons? HW: Yes, the mother was here also. SM: Oh, I see. HW: Yes. SM: So that’s three families in Minneapolis then. HW: Yes. Yes. SM: Were there any intermarried families at that point or [unclear]? HW: You mean with American whites? SM: Yes. HW: No. SM: None that you know of? HW: Not that I know of, no. SM: What about in Saint Paul? Do you think there were any Chinese families? HW: I doubt it very much. SM: Yes. HW: Oh, you mean over . . . there’s of course the Moy family that ran the . . . what is now known as Port Arthur, you know. SM: Oh, yes. HW: And there was another family that ran a restaurant on Wabasha. It’s between Seventh . . . Sixth and Seventh, the upstairs. SM: Oh, yes. 15

HW: There used to be a family. And called the Oriental Café, I think they called it. [Chuckles] SM: Ah. HW: That was another family. SM: You don’t know their names though? HW: No, I’ve forgotten what the heck their names . . . [Chuckles] SM: Wabasha, between Sixth and Seventh, you say? HW: Yes, upstairs. SM: Oh. HW: And then there was a Chin family in Saint Paul that . . . in fact, I think . . . I don’t know whether Harry Chin is still living or not. He used to be an interpreter in Saint Paul for anybody that got into trouble with Uncle Sam or anybody else. [Chuckles] SM: I see. So that’s about three families in Saint Paul and three in Minneapolis. This would be really early in the like early . . . the 1910s. HW: Oh, the 1920s. SM: The 1920s. HW: 1920s. And we used to go visiting. We’d take the train ride over to Saint Paul. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, really, to see these other families? Or just to travel around? HW: Just to visit, just to visit the families. SM: Oh. How long did it take to ride over to Saint Paul? [Chuckles] HW: Oh, about . . . if we took the streetcar it would be one hour. If we took the train it would be a half hour. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. HW: But the train, of course, you had to wait around for it to get started or you get the . . . have to go down early or something. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I see. 16

HW: From station to station, you see. SM: So all the Chinese families knew each other then, pretty well. HW: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. SM: I see. So was your father one of the early members of the Westminster Chinese Sunday School or was he [unclear] there? HW: Oh, yes. Yes. He and his brother, who was Margaret’s father. SM: Yes. HW: The two of them. SM: Was he active in the church, too? HW: He was not so much. SM: No, not so much. HW: My father was sort of a front man for all the enterprises. SM: I see. HW: So he had to mingle with the [chuckles] white people, you see. [Chuckles] SM: Ah, I see. So this was part of becoming American. HW: Right. SM: To go to that. HW: Right. Right. SM: Ah ha. HW: And my uncle, he was more or less the back door man. He took care of all the detail of running the restaurant. SM: Oh. HW: And seeing that the kitchen was going good and all that sort of thing, you see. 17

SM: I see. HW: So and that . . . that’s what I became also, more or less the front man of the restaurant. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, you did. Ah ha. HW: Head waiter and all that stuff, you know. SM: Oh. HW: And keeping books and so on. SM: You became head waiter at the . . .? HW: No. [Chuckles] I was the . . . SM: That sounds more like the back man. HW: [Chuckles] More like . . . SM: You were like Yee Sing’s girl then? HW: More like . . . oh, greeter. [Chuckles] SM: Ah ha. I see. HW: And mingling with the guests, you know. SM: I see. And did your mother work at all at the restaurant? HW: Oh, not too much. SM: Well, she had her curio shop anyway. HW: She was up there . . . well, the curio shop, I think they closed that. And when they opened the restaurant on Sixth Street, my father thought perhaps it would be a wise thing to open an import/export deal. SM: Oh. HW: Because he had some connections, I guess, in Hong Kong. Some more relatives, I suppose. SM: [Chuckles] 18

HW: And so he bought a building on 2224 Glenwood Avenue. It used to be called Western Avenue in those days. SM: Oh, yes. HW: 2224 Glenwood Avenue. He bought that building and put in . . . and he . . . that’s where Yee Sing and Company, Importer-Exporters, Etcetera. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: He thought he would do that and import a lot of the food supplies that had to come in for the restaurants, you see. SM: Sure. Is that where the Chinese building is [unclear]. HW: That’s . . . right now the Chinese are still living there. [Chuckles] SM: Ah, yes. There’s a grocery store there. HW: The long association up on top and there’s a Chinese grocery store there and something else there, I don’t know what. SM: Yes. HW: But we owned that until the Depression days. SM: Oh. HW: And the Depression days, it got into the hands of . . . of a bunch of guys that turned it into a red light house. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, really? [Chuckles] Oh, [unclear]. HW: And it was threatened with padlocking and everything else. And the funny thing is the property was in a . . . we created a family . . . a trust with the Northwestern Bank. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I see. HW: And the trust was managing the building, you see. And they didn’t know what was going on. SM: Oh, no! HW: And we didn’t know what was going on, all that. [Chuckles] All they were concerned with was the physical . . . 19

SM: Money. HW: . . . wellbeing of the building and [chuckles] and the money that comes in. SM: Yes. HW: And so the guy says, “I wonder how come everything was running for so little and here you get so much money every month.” [Chuckles] SM: These were Caucasians that ran it then? HW: Yes. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, yes. Oh, funny. HW: So right away they said, “Oh, we don’t want to be bothered with that.” So we sold it. SM: I see. HW: So we sold it to a group of Chinese and they were . . . we sold it first to a fellow . . . oh, to a fellow that was a wholesaler of . . . A Weisman, you know, the tobacco wholesalers. SM: Oh. HW: He’s got a big place now on . . . near Minnehaha Avenue and Lake Street. SM: Ah ha. HW: Wholesaling tobaccos and stuff. And we sold it to him, and then he in turn sold it to these Chinese people. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I see. HW: And we got out of it. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] Entirely. Oh, I see. So your mother then didn’t keep the curio shop, but she . . .? HW: No. She became a housewife. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: And then my father died in 1925, so that was quite a burden on my uncle. SM: Oh, yes. 20

HW: And that’s . . . and then I didn’t . . . SM: How old were you? HW: And then his son ran it for a while. That’s Margaret’s brother. SM: I see. Which one? Charles? HW: Charles. SM: Oh. HW: Yes, Charles and a couple other cousins were there. SM: I see. HW: And I didn’t become active until I got married. I got out of school about 1927 at the U [University of Minnesota]. And there wasn’t much to do, so I went back to school again. [Chuckles] SM: That was a smart idea. Yes, there weren’t many jobs then, were there? HW: No. Oh, it wasn’t bad until I finished the second time. I took up architecture. SM: Yes. HW: And I graduated with a bachelor of architecture in 1931. [Chuckles] SM: A bachelor of architecture? HW: Architecture from the U in 1931. And that . . . that was a bad year for architects. [Chuckles] SM: I can imagine. HW: The only project in Minneapolis was the new post office. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. Oh. HW: So I went . . . I got married in 1931. SM: Ah ha.


HW: And then I went back. When we made a circle tour of the United States afterwards, why I went back to the restaurant and started to work there, and I stayed there for almost forty years. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, really? But you did work as an architect, too, later or . . .? HW: No, I was an industrial designer. SM: Oh, I see. HW: That’s what . . . this World War II got me into that because that was around . . . oh, World War II I’d be about . . . pretty . . . I would be pushing late thirties, pushing forties, and Uncle Sam didn’t want me for the armed forces. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: I was too young for World War I and too old for . . . SM: Well, you were lucky! [Chuckles] HW: [Chuckles] Yes, I think so, because I got a job at Twin City Ordinance Plant. SM: Ah ha. HW: And I think Charlie Horn, you know, said, “Well, you’re a graduate architect, so you should know something about the mathematics of engineering and so on. So we’ll put you in the product engineering division.” SM: Ah ha. HW: So I became a product engineer, whatever that was. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] I see. HW: And then finally they made me the gauge engineer of the Twin City Ordinance Plant, which I held for about . . . oh, nine months or so. And then they made so many bullets that they didn’t feel that they needed full production anymore, so they just laid off a whole bunch of people. SM: Oh, no. HW: And shut off some of the plant. So I got a job with the Maico Corporation who make hearing aids and they had a contract with the government to develop a metal detector for hospitals, to detect the shrapnels, you know, in the people’s bodies. 22

SM: Oh, yes. HW: [Chuckles] And so I went down there as a draftsman. SM: Ah ha. HW: And there I met one of my old high school schoolmates and he was . . . happened to be the chief designer. SM: Oh! HW: He was a chief designer there by the name of Harold Darr, D-A-R-R. And after a while . . . things like in all of manufacturing businesses, there was all kinds of office politics. SM: [Chuckles] HW: And all sorts of things. So he and I decided to open an office to practice industrial design. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: And that was around in 1956, 1957, somewhere around in there. And then we did that until . . . oh, in the late 1960s. And it was pretty successful. He bought me out. And I went back full time to the restaurant. All this time I was keeping the restaurant books and working nights at the restaurant. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. So then you went back full time. HW: Moonlighting. [Chuckles] SM: Sounds strenuous. HW: So . . . oh, we had a lot of fun with that industrial design deal. A lot of our clients were like [unclear] Company. SM: Oh. HW: The old . . . Minneapolis Moline. SM: Ah. HW: And we did some work for Shopper, the guy that made the [unclear] game, you know. SM: Oh. [Chuckles] 23

HW: And we did a lot of designing of plastic molds for various things. SM: I see. HW: And cases and articles of that sort. So we had a lot of . . . I learned a lot. SM: Yes. HW: But I’m not doing anything with it. [Chuckles] SM: Why did you sell out your part? HW: Well, he was offered a job with [unclear] Company. SM: Oh, I see. HW: So I said, “Oh, go ahead and take it.” [Chuckles] And he was there. And he designed that building in Eden Prairie, and he was an architect. He was the closest thing I’ve . . . I’ve been associated with two geniuses, I would say. And was like one of the closest ones. SM: Oh. HW: In fact, one of his old designs . . . he was an artist, an engineer, he knew his mechanical processes, and he went to the Pennsylvania School of Design. And one of his boxes, the design is still used. And that’s the Whitman Sampler. SM: Oh, really! HW: He designed that box. [Chuckles] SM: Of candy? HW: Of candy. [Chuckles] And it’s still being used. SM: Boy, it sure has been around. HW: Yes. And he worked for Curtis Publishing when he got out of art school. SM: Oh, my goodness. HW: And then he came back home because his father was a teacher in the Minneapolis school system teaching art commerce, you know. SM: Oh, yes. 24

HW: Commercial . . . whatchamacallit . . . I don’t know what they call it. Business or something, or bookkeeping or something like that at the West High School. SM: Oh, I see. HW: And he sold life insurance on the side. [Chuckles] So he came back here. As a matter of fact, he . . . when he graduated from West High School he went to Carling for one year. SM: Oh, did he? HW: And that’s where I lost track of him. SM: Oh, yes. I see. HW: And then he went East. SM: Maybe we should get sort of a little survey of your life. [Chuckles] Where you went to school and so on? HW: Oh, I went to school at good old Emerson School. SM: Oh, Emerson School. HW: Yes, we lived in a house on . . . oh, this was back in 1911, 1912. We lived in a house on Mary Place and Twelfth Street. SM: Mary Place and Twelfth Street. HW: You see, there’s three streets. There’s Vine Place, Mary Place, and Harmon Place. They’re parallel, practically. SM: Oh, yes. HW: And Mary Place goes right into Loring Park. And Vine Place became LaSalle Avenue. SM: I see. HW: [Chuckles] SM: And just your family lived there then? HW: Yes. And this was before . . . in about 1912 or 1913, around there. And this house was owned by the Day brothers, D-A-Y. And they owned the . . . along . . . around the corner on Harmon Place, they had a big factory that made dust collectors and things like that. And the Day 25

name is still around because of some big . . . some other outfit joined with them and they’re still making dust collectors. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: Big tin things, you know, that go around in a circle like this, you know, like a snail. SM: Oh, yes. Yes. HW: And sort of a big tin structure. And they’d store them in the backyard of our . . . over the fence of our house. SM: [Chuckles] HW: We had a fence along the house and then we could go into the yard of the factory. And when I was a kid, why, we used to crawl in those darn things and play in there. [Chuckles] When we’d come out we were dirty and black . . . SM: I’m sure your mother loved that. HW: [Chuckles] SM: Well, this was pretty much downtown then, wasn’t it? HW: Yes, we’ve never lived out. We never lived out. SM: Ah, I see. Yes. HW: And I went to Emerson School from there. SM: I see. And then where did you go to high school? HW: High school was West. SM: West High School. HW: In 1920 we moved to where I . . . you called me. [Chuckles] SM: Oh . . . in 1920. HW: Twenty-fifth and Aldrich. SM: Oh. HW: And we’ve lived there ever since. [Chuckles] 26

SM: Really. HW: My dad bought that house. And the reason that . . . he thought that Margaret’s family would come and join us to live there. It’s a duplex, you see. SM: I see. HW: But like all other plans, why, it doesn’t work. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, so they lived somewhere else then? HW: They lived on Sixteenth and Clinton. They bought a house over there. They wanted to be . . . SM: By themselves? HW: By themselves. That happens all the time with families. SM: Yes. Sure. HW: [Chuckles] You think you’re going to regiment somebody into doing something that they don’t want to do, why, you’re stuck. SM: So did you have someone else live in the other part of house then? HW: Yes, we rented it out. SM: Oh, I see. HW: And now we have Margaret and Howard living there. SM: Oh, yes. Yes. HW: [Chuckles] So we’re all one family, you might say, in one house. SM: Sure. Is it upstairs and downstairs? HW: Upstairs, yes. SM: Oh, I see. Well, in high school did you take part in all the extracurricular . . .? HW: No, not too much. Not too much because I was kind of young. SM: Oh, for your grade? 27

HW: I went to . . . when I started the university I was sixteen. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, good night. HW: Didn’t know what I was going to do, so . . . so with . . . SM: How did you get so far ahead? HW: I don’t know. I think I skipped two grades in grade school. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I see. I see why they didn’t always think that was a good idea, but they used to do it. HW: Well, when you got to . . . it was . . . let’s see. 1922, was it? No. No. No, later than that. 1923, I went to the University of Minnesota. SM: Oh. HW: And I was sixteen, but my seventeenth birthday was in November. November 27th was my birthday, you see. SM: Oh, yes. HW: So I got there and didn’t know what the heck to do, so I . . . I said, “Well, I’ll be a chemical engineer.” [Chuckles] Because the chemistry was one of my pet subjects in high school. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, really. Ah. I see. HW: So finally I realized that it was pretty tough. [Chuckles] SM: Yes. HW: But I went through three years of it. I went through organic chemistry. They have inorganic and something else in the second year and then organic in the third year. And I was just beginning to get going good and then my father died. SM: Oh. HW: He died in 1925. SM: How old was he when he died? HW: Sixty-three. 28

SM: Oh. HW: So I told my advisor, “I’d better change it to something easier.” And so I went over to sciences, SL & A, you know. SM: SL & A . . . HW: Science, literature and arts. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, yes. HW: And went . . . graduated from there in 1927. Then when I came . . . then my cousin was holding on to the restaurant pretty good, so I didn’t want to disturb that, so I said, “Well, I’ll go back to school.” So I went back and took up architecture. Then I find out that I had to go through the whole four years because of the drawing. SM: Oh, I see. It wasn’t a graduate school then? HW: No, it wasn’t. SM: It was starting over again. HW: It was starting over again. SM: Oh. HW: So I got out of there in 1931. SM: I see. HW: They didn’t have a graduate school in architecture. SM: Oh. Yes. HW: We had to . . . if you had to go to anywhere else, why they would have to go to MIT or . . . SM: Yes. HW: Or Harvard. Harvard, we had very close connections with Harvard. SM: Oh, really. HW: Because the architectural school here, the head of the architectural school at that time was a very good friend of George Edgell who was the dean of the architectural school at Harvard. [Chuckles] 29

SM: I see. HW: And so they worked together and they offered a scholarship to the most qualified from the standpoint of grades of the outstanding architect graduate here. I came in second. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, really! HW: But all they could offer me was tuition. And that didn’t amount to too much. SM: Oh. HW: The living expenses were around a couple thousand a year. Imagine that compared with prices nowadays. SM: Yes. HW: And the tuition was four hundred dollars for the year. [Chuckles] SM: So you didn’t go then. Oh, that’s too bad. HW: So I didn’t go. I got married instead. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] Well, where did you meet your wife? HW: My wife came here, her aunt . . . well, now we come to another facet. We have . . . one of our influential Chinese in those days, and beside our family, was a fellow by the name of Walter James. SM: Oh, yes. Oh, and the aunt was his sister, is that right? HW: No. SM: Oh. HW: His sister was there and the aunt was also associated with the sister. SM: Oh, that’s what it was. HW: Yes. And this art shop that Mr. James financed. SM: Downtown. HW: And that was located in the Steiner Building on Ninth across from the old Minnesota Theatre. On Ninth Street between LaSalle and Nicollet. 30

SM: What was the name of that shop? HW: Kim Wah Company. K-I-M, W-A-H. SM: Oh, yes. HW: That was Mr. James’ Chinese name spelled phonetically. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, yes. Ah ha. Oh, I see. HW: See, Kim . . . the closest to that that he could think of was James! [Chuckles] SM: Not very close but . . . So Lolita came to work at that shop. HW: Yes. She . . . but she graduated from business college. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, here in the Twin Cities? HW: No, in Portland, Oregon. SM: What was her last name? Lolita . . . before she married . . . HW: Young. Y-O-U-N-G. SM: Ah. From Portland. HW: Yes. SM: And she graduated from . . . what was it? HW: Oh, some business college. SM: Oh, yes. HW: I’ve forgotten the name of the darn thing. SM: [Chuckles] HW: But she used to be able to type so many words a minute and all that sort of thing. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: So he brought her here to keep books and do the correspondence for this art shop. 31

SM: I see. HW: And do all the Girl Friday stuff, you know. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: That’s where I met her, in Minneapolis. SM: Oh, I see. Well, your two families were friends then, the James family and the Woo family? HW: Oh, yes. Yes. SM: Ah ha. And so that’s where you met her then. HW: Oh, yes. SM: Well, was there quite a lot of pressure on your . . . by your family to marry another Chinese? Or didn’t they talk about that much? There weren’t too many to choose from, I would imagine. HW: No. I think in the old days there was pressure. I know you’d be looked down upon very much if you married somebody else outside of your race. SM: Yes. HW: They even looked down on Japanese girls.... [Recording interruption] HW: ...no, a cousin. SM: Oh, a cousin. Okay. HW: And it took them about a year, year and a half, and after the first grandchildren came, before they would . . . the Japanese side would come visiting. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, really. So this was a local Japanese family? HW: No, this was in Fresno, California. SM: Oh. Ah ha. HW: So there is quite a lot of feeling. But not . . . I don’t think there is anymore because of the difficulty in finding compatible people of the same nationalities. 32

SM: Yes. Especially in a small . . . HW: For instance, if you were a young fellow, you know, looking to establish a family here, where would you turn? Because where . . .? [Chuckles] SM: Right, in a small community. HW: And no Chinese girls around here. SM: Right. If you lived in San Francisco, then it would be a little different. HW: Well, even in San Francisco. We met a lot of boys; they were going up to Vancouver looking for . . . SM: [Chuckles] HW: They were looking for a crop of girls! [Laughter] SM: Oh, that’s funny. Oh. Well, what about the third generation then? Your children and Margaret’s children, did they marry Caucasians or Chinese or . . .? HW: Well, Margaret’s daughter is married to an American, a white fellow. So and they met at the Illinois Institute of Technology [IIT]. SM: Oh. HW: And they both work for Procter and Gamble. SM: Oh. HW: That’s why Cincinnati. [Chuckles] SM: Ah. I see. HW: And they’re both in very . . . in good responsible positions. He’s the technician on the papermaking end of the business and she is the . . . oh, I don’t know what her full occupation is. She was a safety engineer for a while. SM: Oh, was she? Well, she went to IIT, she must be pretty good. HW: Yes. Well, she got into IIT on a merit scholarship. SM: Oh! She must be pretty smart. [Chuckles] 33

HW: From West High School. [Chuckles] SM: Oh . . . HW: Yes, she had her choice. SM: She could go anywhere she wanted, really? HW: Yes. Yes. SM: Oh, boy. HW: She’s still isn’t . . . hasn’t lived down the fact that she didn’t go to the University of Chicago. [Chuckles] Because her high school advisor came from the University of Chicago and he wanted her to go there badly because she was such a whiz in mathematics. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. Why didn’t she? She didn’t want to go there? HW: No, she went there and she saw all the hippies. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, what . . . was that in the 1960s then? HW: That turned her off. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. Yes, that must have been in the 1960s then. HW: That’s in the 1960s, yes. SM: Yes. She didn’t like that then. HW: Yes. SM: It was a little straighter at IIT? HW: [Chuckles] Yes, they were more business-like. [Chuckles] SM: Well, does Margaret have other children, too, besides that daughter? HW: A boy. SM: Oh. HW: Yes, a son. And he’s now working for IBM. And he’s down in Des Moines, Iowa, right now. 34

SM: Oh, they both are . . . HW: And he’s still single. I don’t know whether he’s looking or not. I don’t know. SM: [Chuckles] HW: You’ve got me. [Chuckles] But he graduated from the University of Minnesota in advertising, sort of like a . . . offshoot of journalism. SM: Oh, I see. Yes. HW: Because he’s very . . . he’s one of the first, I would think . . . one of the things during my college years was the . . . you couldn’t get into a fraternity or any of these social . . . so-called social organizations in those days. SM: [Chuckles] Yes. HW: But Margaret’s son became a Kappa Sigma. SM: Oh. HW: So he joined a social fraternity. The first [chuckles] Chinese that I’ve known that broke the ... SM: Oh, they didn’t allow Chinese at the U of M to join? HW: They never invited anybody. SM: [Exasperated Sigh] HW: Even when I was patently more American than Chinese, you know. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, that’s terrible. HW: The West and so on. No . . . SM: But now it’s changed. HW: I suppose. Yes, because they sort of recognize that there are Chinese Americans [Chuckles] that don’t know anything about the old country, you know. [Chuckles] SM: Well, really, yes. You think he was . . . and that generation was the first time that was . . . the line was broken then? HW: Well, I think . . . pretty darn close. 35

SM: Yes. HW: Pretty close. SM: Unbelievable. HW: Even the . . . the professional organizations didn’t have anyone that I know of. SM: You mean like architects association or something? HW: Well, no, they had some so-called professional fraternities over there. SM: Oh, I see, like [unclear]. HW: You know, like Alpha Chi Sigma for chemistry and the doctors have . . . my son-in-law belongs to a doctor’s fraternity, but he says, “Oh, well, just a place to go for lunch or something.” [Chuckles] SM: He doesn’t live there? HW: No. My son-in-law is . . . he broke the ice pretty good. But the main factor in regular living, the fellow that really broke the ice was Walter James. SM: Oh, did he? Oh. HW: He tried his darndest. Because he said it was about time that the Chinese got interested in civic affairs, you know. SM: I see. HW: So he got them . . . for some reason or other he got invited to join the downtown Minneapolis Rotary Club. And he was the first one. SM: I see. HW: And he became a real dyed-in-the-wool Rotarian. SM: [Chuckles] Really! HW: Oh, he went to everything. He supported everything. And another organization he supported very much was the YMCA. SM: Ah. 36

HW: So and then he . . . SM: Was he on the board of that or anything? HW: Yes, I think so. SM: Ah. HW: And he was also on the board of the Salvation Army. And he, of course, made a lot of money in his day, so he had a lot of . . . supported a lot of these things that came to his mind, because the YMCA . . . because that’s where he first stayed when he came to Minneapolis, see. SM: Oh. HW: [Chuckles] And he liked the way they treated him, so he . . . ever since, he . . . and then he got associated with all the, you know, big wheels in Minneapolis business [chuckles] that were interested in the YMCA and the Rotary Club and so on. So he was alright. SM: I see. HW: And he got me into the Auto Club. SM: Oh, he did? HW: Back in the old days, you know, you couldn’t get into the Auto Club. SM: Oh . . . Oh, I have heard that, yes. HW: Because the Minneapolis Automobile Club of Minneapolis was a social deal out near Savage on the Minnesota River. [Chuckles] And it was a . . . there was a clubhouse with a lot of . . . with a beautiful dining room and then you had golf privileges over at Minnesota Valley Golf Club. And they had all kinds of goings on there. So finally we made it, we joined the club and said, “What in the Sam Hill? It’s supposed to be a service organization. It’s not supposed to be a social organization.” [Chuckles] SM: [Laughter] HW: You know. SM: So no Chinese had been in it before that then? HW: No. SM: Boy. Well, what about when you were in school as a little kid? Did you get called names? 37

HW: Oh . . . oh, we got the usual name calling, which is always like . . . like all these Italians and kids were subjected to, you know, and all the rest of them. SM: Yes. Yes. HW: [Chuckles] SM: Oh, was that in high school? Was it bad? HW: Well, it wasn’t too bad. High school wasn’t too bad because I had a lot of fine friends in high school. SM: Oh. HW: And we were . . . did a lot of things together. And I was pretty active at the Y, too, at the . . . we went down after school, we’d go down to the Y and go through physical training stuff. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. HW: Saturdays we’d go swimming, you know, had a regular youth program at the Y. SM: Oh. HW: And we had . . . a whole bunch of us were down there and we had a lot of fun. We’d go to camp every summer, you know. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, the Y camp. Where was that located? HW: Hmmm? SM: Where was that located? HW: Chisago City. SM: Oh, Chisago City. Is that still there? HW: No, it isn’t. It’s called Camp Icaghowan. [Laughter] SM: Oh, I’ve heard of that. Where is that now? HW: I don’t know. I think it’s up Lake Independence or someplace like that. SM: Oh. 38

HW: I don’t know where they put it. And then one year just after I graduated from high school, why the guy says, “You ought to take a canoe trip.” So we went up . . . SM: [Chuckles] HW: The Y had a camp up in . . . called Camp Menogyn up in East Bearskin Lake. SM: Menogyn. HW: Or was it West Bearskin Lake? I’ve forgotten which! [Chuckles] And so my dad, of course, was terrific. He wanted me to try everything, you know. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, so they wanted you to take part in those kinds of things. HW: So he . . . yes. He footed the bill for everything. SM: Oh. HW: All I had to do was mention it and, boy . . . So and I was palling around with a fellow by the name of Chuck Bardwell. B-A-R-D-W-E-L-L. SM: Yes. HW: And his father was a district judge in Minneapolis. W.W. Bardwell. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. W.W. Bardwell. HW: Winfield W. Bardwell, his father was. SM: He was a Superior Court judge? HW: He was a District Court judge. SM: District Court judge. HW: Yes, District Court judge. And for years and years we’d go through . . . we went through high school together and we kept track of each other. He wasn’t much of a school man. SM: Oh. [Chuckles] HW: He went to the U for one year and then couldn’t take it any longer or something. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] 39

HW: Well, he got there and he . . . he got into a fraternity and all that stuff. SM: He made it socially. HW: He made it socially, but because of his standing, I suppose. He came from a family that lived in Lyndhurst, you know. That’s supposed to be quite a deal. SM: [Chuckles] HW: Up on Forty-Sixth Street, you know, where they . . . where they were talking about this building that was going to . . . some Unity Church or something like that. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, yes. Oh. HW: Around Lake Harriet and Forty-Sixth Street around there. SM: Yes. HW: Why, that’s where all this gang of guys that went to West hung out, and I was among them. [Chuckles] SM: I see, so you were with the rich. HW: [Chuckles] Oh, we went to . . . we had all kinds of . . . and the rich, they’re . . . I don’t know. SM: [Chuckles] HW: They were more daring. They lived it up. [Chuckles] They didn’t care. SM: Well, they could afford it. HW: [Chuckles] But we used to . . . SM: So you were pretty accepted then in high school? HW: Yes. SM: Yes. HW: We went to . . . we’d go up there after school, you know, and then in summertime we’d go down to the Minnehaha Creek and go swimming in the raw. [Chuckles] SM: I don’t know . . . 40

HW: Yes, one guy, the watchdog looking for [laughing] looking out for girls and the rest of us would be splashing around in that narrow creek. SM: Oh, it sounds like you had a good time. [Chuckles] Well, at the university. Other than the fraternities and the social life . . . HW: Oh, we had a good time. I had a good time in university. SM: You felt pretty accepted there? HW: Ah . . . well, in the last couple years, when I transferred over to liberal arts there, why I got interested in public speaking. SM: Oh? HW: In fact, one of my favorite professors was the . . . oh, what the heck . . . the fellow that they named the theater after. SM: The theater? HW: The new theater. SM: Oh, the new theater. HW: He used to be in a lot of . . . we used to put on our plays at Scott Hall all the time. SM: Oh, the new theater at Saint Paul campus? Do you know? HW: No, Minneapolis. SM: Oh, in Minneapolis. HW: You know, the West Bank, there’s a new . . . SM: Oh. HW: They call it after his . . . this fellow’s name. SM: And not Willey Hall? No . . . HW: No. No. SM: That’s just a little, tiny theater. HW: No, this is the . . . this is the theater complex. Remember? 41

SM: Oh . . . Rarig? No. HW: Yes. SM: Oh, Rarig? HW: Yes. Frank Rarig. SM: Oh . . . oh. HW: He was a professor in interpretive speaking at the . . . for . . . I took a course under him for a whole darn year. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I see. HW: And had a very enjoyable time. And he would criticize my . . . I joined the Masquers [the Masquers Dramatic Club], you know, and he criticized my acting in various roles. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, so you really got into dramatics then. Oh. HW: [Laughter] Oh, sure. And we still remember those old days, because every once in a while our Rolf Fosseen, the district judge in Minneapolis, he’s the dean of the judges now. He was my attorney when he . . . SM: Oh . . . HW: When he first went out of law school. And he was president of the Masquers in those days. SM: Oh, I see. You had some distinguished friends. HW: [Chuckles] The law school, of course, they frowned more or less on attorneys being actors because it took up too much time. SM: [Laughter] Couldn’t study enough. HW: [Chuckles] But he did it anyhow because he said, “What the heck, you go up in front of the jury, you have to act a little.” [Chuckles] SM: Well, that’s true. You certainly have to speak dramatically. [Chuckles] Oh, that’s interesting. HW: So I had a lot of fun there doing all the scenic design, painting, designing costumes . . . SM: Oh, you really got into it. 42

HW: And [chuckles] and even in the summertime we’d put on shows for the summer session, you know, and all the teachers got there. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. Oh, I see. Well, it sounds like you were pretty much in the midst of everything. HW: Yes, we had a lot of fun in college. SM: You didn’t find, generally, discrimination, did you there except in the fraternities? HW: No. No. No, nothing general. SM: What about . . . do you have children, too? HW: I have one daughter. SM: One daughter. Yes. HW: And she is knocking down the walls of discrimination in Tacoma, Washington. SM: Oh, she is. [Chuckles] HW: [Chuckles] SM: Is she finding quite a bit to knock down or . . .? HW: Oh, yes. You know, you read the early history of Tacoma. SM: Oh, yes, that was very bad. HW: Yes, they had a forced exodus of all the Chinese in the community at one time back in the . . . I don’t know how far back. SM: Oh, but is it bad now, too? HW: Well . . . SM: Not the same, of course, but . . . HW: I don’t like the West Coast because the Chinese don’t try to mingle. SM: Oh, because there are more of them or something . . .


HW: They just stick to themselves because they know that they’re . . . more or less generally unfriendly, so . . . but in Tacoma, my son-in-law happens to have a high professional position because he’s a radiation oncologist, how’s that? [Chuckles] SM: Oh. Sounds like cancer to me. [Chuckles] Is he of Chinese heritage? HW: He’s Chinese. His father used to own a restaurant in Minneapolis. SM: Oh. HW: He comes from a family of ten children. SM: Oh, which restaurant is that? HW: Kin Chu. SM: Oh, the Kin Chu. HW: Yes. [Chuckles] SM: Well, wasn’t that the Wongs or . . .? HW: Yes. SM: Wongs. Oh, yes. HW: His name is Howard Wong [chuckles] and his father’s was Wong Wen. SM: Oh, yes. HW: Big, great big fellow, you know. Very . . . SM: Yes, I think I talked to his daughter. Does his daughter [unclear]? HW: Yes, he has a daughter here. Mrs. Hum. SM: Oh, yes. HW: [Mrs.] Albert Hum, I think her name is. SM: Yes. Yes. HW: And that’s one of the sisters. [Chuckles] And then he has a daughter living in Milwaukee with Thompson. I mean, another sister living in Milwaukee. 44

SM: Hmmm. Well, in the generation of your children then, do many of them marry other Chinese of third generation here in the Twin Cities? Or there’s much intermarriage now, I suppose, too. HW: Well, it’s the next generation that . . . SM: [Chuckles] HW: But my daughter’s children will have difficulty, and they’re more or less committed to white gals. [Chuckles] They’re going around with them all the time in, you know, college, high school, and whatnot. SM: Yes, I see. HW: In fact, my second oldest grandson is now married to an Estonian girl. SM: Oh. HW: [Chuckles] We were out for their marriage ceremony, and the Estonians put on a real humdinger of an event. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, so your grandchildren are intermarrying more? HW: Yes, that’s right. SM: Ah. But is there still any big worry? I mean, do you feel badly about it or . . .? HW: No, not . . . SM: You’re just resigned? HW: You can’t do anything about it anyhow! [Chuckles] SM: So it’s sort of reluctant. HW: [Chuckles] SM: I mean, would you rather they marry . . .? HW: And I would like . . . I would like to see at least one of them [chuckles] marry a Chinese girl. SM: Yes.


HW: Or an Oriental girl of any kind. But it’s pretty rough because they’re raised in a different atmosphere, you know, the rock and roll and all that stuff. And the Oriental girls don’t do that. They’re more or less sequestered at home, you know. SM: Yes. Right. HW: And it’s . . . SM: It’s harder to meet them, I suppose. HW: Yes, right. [Chuckles] SM: But it’s not quite the same pain for the family that it used to be if they intermarried? HW: No, no. They’re resigned, you might say. If you’re going to get anybody, why . . . SM: [Chuckles] But you still would like it some married Chinese? HW: Well, yes, oh, sure. [Chuckles] Take it as it comes. SM: Yes. You can’t sit around worrying about that forever, I guess. HW: Yes. And so my daughter and my son in law, they were the first Chinese that I know of on the West Coast to join a private golf club. SM: Oh. Gee. HW: So they’re full-fledged members of Fircrest Golf Club in Tacoma, Washington. And they enjoy it very much. SM: Fir . . . what was it called? HW: F-I-R-C-R-E-S-T. SM: Oh, Fircrest. Well, so it’s still hard to join a golf club on the West Coast if you’re Chinese? HW: Oh, nobody tries, for one thing. SM: Oh. [Unclear.] HW: And they’re content to go out five o’clock in the morning and join the ranks of the public links deals. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, yes. Well, I can see them thinking, why worry about this? 46

HW: And it’s quite expensive, you know. Private clubs are generally expensive. SM: Yes. HW: And I was the first one here to join a private golf club. I joined in the . . . oh, I think I took advantage of them, because I joined when they were looking for members desperately to keep the place going. SM: [Chuckles] What club was that? HW: Golden Valley Country Club. [Chuckles] SM: Ah. HW: And I’ve been a member ever since. [Chuckles] SM: Well, do you know of any recent discrimination in housing for Chinese buying houses? HW: Not that I know of. SM: Not lately. HW: I’ve never . . . I haven’t been out buying. [Chuckles] SM: You haven’t been looking. HW: [Laughing] I haven’t bought one. But I imagine that . . . I don’t think there would be, because I know that these new young Chinese families are scattered all over. SM: They’re living all over. HW: Yes. SM: Yes, I had heard that there were a few of the suburbs that in the 1960s still were . . . HW: Oh, well, when my father died, why we came into a little hunk of money so we thought we might go into a smaller place, you know. SM: Oh, yes. HW: So we went out house hunting for about a couple months. And we found that the biggest discriminators [chuckles] were the Scandinavians. SM: Really? 47

HW: Oh, we were . . . we tried . . . we were looking at a house at Twelfth Avenue South and around Thirty-some Street, you know, where there’s a big . . . in those days there were a lot of Scandinavians living there. SM: Yes. HW: They discouraged it. [Chuckles] SM: No kidding, and there were a lot of Scandinavians around you. [Chuckles] HW: [Chuckles] Well . . . I don’t know. They . . . a lot of them were pretty . . . they were straight-laced and they stick to themselves, just like the Chinese stick to themselves. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, it happens in every group, I guess. HW: [Chuckles] But, all in all, it has improved about a hundred percent. SM: Oh, yes. It certainly is nothing like it used to be. HW: No. SM: Well, let me make sure I have all the important dates. Like, let’s see, what year were you born? HW: 1905. SM: 1905. And was that in San Francisco? HW: Yes. That fact has been established by the Superior Court. [Chuckles] SM: That we absolutely know. And . . . let’s see. And we know when your father came here and when he married. Let’s see, do I have all your graduating dates? HW: Oh . . . SM: You went to high school . . . HW: High School and graduated in the class of 1922. SM: 1922, you graduated. HW: Then I celebrated both fifty year reunions of the class of 1927 and 1931. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, at the U that was then. Right. 48

HW: At the U. SM: 1927 and 1931. HW: Yes. SM: Yes. First was in . . . chemistry, was it, your first degree? HW: No, 1927 was in liberal arts. SM: Oh, liberal arts. HW: And 1931 was in architecture. SM: So you have two B.A. degrees. HW: I have two bachelor’s degrees. SM: Yes. HW: I liked that architecture. That’s a very fine course for general culture. SM: Oh, yes. Sure. HW: Especially if you like to travel, you know. SM: Oh yes, and look at the different styles. HW: Look at the buildings and whatnot. And you can detect what style it is and just about when it was built and so on. SM: Oh, yes. So you really enjoyed that. HW: Oh, I liked it. SM: Even if you didn’t work forever in it. [Chuckles] HW: But we . . . when I was a freshman in the architectural school we had a hundred and eighty entrance. SM: Oh. HW: Freshmen. And by the time the sophomore year rolled around, we were cut to ninety. [Chuckles] 49

SM: Half. HW: And when I graduated in the full four years, the people that made the four years amounted to fifteen. SM: Oh, no! HW: [Laughter] SM: Out of a hundred and eighty! Well, that’s really a stiff course, I would say. HW: Yes. Well, it’s not too stiff. It was . . . you had to have artistic ability, shall we say. SM: Yes. HW: Because one of the courses was freehand drawing. Another course is watercolor painting. SM: Ah. Really. HW: Besides, what killed the most of them, when you were a student, a freshman, you’d come around to a class in drawing. SM: Yes. HW: The guy takes some squares, wooden squares. Cone-shaped wooden cones. SM: Yes. HW: Triangular shapes. And he piled the whole thing on the floor in front of you and he says, “Draw it.” [Laughter] Half the people couldn’t do it. SM: Yes. HW: And those were the guys that dropped out immediately. SM: Ah. HW: [Chuckles] SM: Well, did you draw a lot all your life then? HW: Oh, one of my favorite subjects in high school was mechanical drawing. SM: Oh, well that would have helped a lot then. 50

HW: Yes, that helped a lot. SM: Yes. HW: Besides, I had a wonderful teacher there. And he said, “One of the greatest things to do is to be very meticulous.” SM: Yes. HW: Because every time you start to draw on a drawing sheet, wash your hands. SM: Oh. HW: Wash your triangles, wash your rulers. SM: Oh, he was meticulous. Oh, yes. HW: [Chuckles] And that . . . that kept on all the way down the line. SM: Well, that served you well then. HW: Oh, it was terrific. SM: That was a pretty good high school then? HW: Oh, I think it was. SM: Yes. HW: I remember I was looking at the news the other night and here’s Jenny [unclear], remember that one . . . she was one hundred years old? SM: Oh, yes. HW: And she went to all these symphony concerts and so on, all the way up. And she was at the opening symphony. SM: Oh, yes. HW: And that’s why she had her picture in the news. SM: Yes. HW: TV news. And she was a teacher of French at West High School. [Chuckles] 51

SM: Oh, really! HW: She was a French teacher. SM: Did you take any languages? HW: I didn’t take it. I took Latin. [Chuckles] And then I wasn’t very good at languages because I wasn’t very interested. [Chuckles] SM: Well, you had two languages already. But did you ever go to China, by the way? HW: Ah, not until . . . no, I’ve never been to China. SM: Oh. HW: The closest thing was in 1977, for the first time in my life, we went to the Far East. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. HW: We went on the Shrine trip. SM: Ah. HW: And it was really interesting, very nice. SM: So you’re a Shriner then? HW: Yes. Oh, that’s another . . . I sort of cracked the . . . SM: Oh, you cracked that nut, too. HW: That one, too. [Chuckles] SM: You were the first Chinese? HW: First Chinese in Minneapolis anyway—I don’t know about the rest of the state—to join a Masonic Lodge. SM: Well, you certainly broke down a lot of barriers. HW: [Laughter] SM: [Unclear.] It must have been a struggle. 52

HW: Well . . . and then I had a heck of a time trying to crack that Scottish Rite. SM: Oh, yes. HW: Yes, I was . . . accepted immediately in the York Rite. SM: Oh. HW: But it took me . . . let’s see. I got into the York Rite about 1937. SM: Oh, quite a long time ago. HW: 1937. And I didn’t get into the Scottish Rite until 1962. SM: Oh. HW: And one of my Jewish friends was the one that got me into Scottish Rite. In fact, he got me into the Shrine in 1939. SM: 1939, you joined. HW: Yes, because he was a purveyor of ice cream for our place of business. SM: You have to be invited to join, I take it. HW: In the Blue Lodge, the . . . the Masonic Lodge. SM: Oh. HW: The first three degrees, yes, it’s very particular. SM: Oh, I see. HW: And then they . . . after that, why, it’s more or less perfunctory except that the Scottish Rite was kind of fuddy-duddy in those days. SM: I guess. HW: Because . . . I don’t know why. Because of the . . . make up, or the powers that be, or what. SM: [Chuckles] HW: I don’t know. But then now, why it’s absolutely no problem. SM: Oh, I see. 53

HW: Because I got my cousin . . . Lolita’s cousin has a place called International House on Nicollet Island. SM: Oh, yes. [Unclear] Chongs. HW: Yes. SM: Yes. HW: The Chongs. SM: Yes. HW: I got him into the Scottish Rite and the Shrine. SM: Oh, you did. HW: After twenty-five years of being in the Blue Lodge. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: And no problem because the [unclear] general of the Scottish Rite now is a former . . . he’s a past master of my lodge, my blue lodge. And he was a good friend in the First National Bank. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I see. HW: Where we one time did business. Now we’re doing business with Northwest. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: And so there’s no problem there anymore, except that there’s still sort of an inner circle governing that organization, and they are particular. SM: This is in the Shrine? HW: Yes, in the Shrine. Now the Shriners, but . . . boy, you get a position and they’ll take you. [Chuckles] They’re so . . . they want people to join. Oh, they’re . . . they’re after the . . . the . . . both the monetary and the numerical. [Chuckles] Because that’s quite a nut they’ve got over there on Park Avenue, besides they have their upkeep, this Shrine Hospital and all that. SM: Oh, yes. Right. HW: So they . . . 54

SM: They need people. HW: Anxious to get as many people as they can because the average age is so bad, so high. SM: Oh, yes. HW: That they’re . . . they get . . . they’re decimated every year. And they lose numbers every year to deaths. But it’s quite an organization. SM: I see. So in 1939 you joined that. HW: Yes. SM: Let’s see. Did I get your marriage date? HW: 1931. [Chuckles] SM: 1931. And then which years did you work at John’s Place? I should get that info. HW: I started in 1931. SM: Oh yes, after you married. HW: Yes, after I married. SM: And then you kept on part time for quite a long time. HW: Yes, a lot of it doing two things at once during the war and a little after. SM: Yes. HW: [Chuckles] SM: So World War II it was part time . . . or did you work there at all during World War II? HW: In the evening, at night. SM: Ah ha. HW: I kept the books all the way through. [Chuckles] SM: Ah. Okay. HW: And counted the money. [Chuckles] 55

SM: That’s an important job. HW: [Chuckles] SM: And up until it closed then, right? HW: Yes, all the way until it closed. SM: In 1967 or something like that or . . .? HW: 1967, right. SM: 1967. HW: 1967. Yes. SM: Okay. And well, see, I think that’s the main things. Let’s see if there was anything I was planning to ask you that I didn’t . . . Oh, I was going to ask you about your mother, a little more about your mother. Because she’s . . . in the pictures I saw, she seemed quite Westernized. HW: Yes. SM: And I wondered if she was an influence on the children both in your family and Du Sing’s family in becoming, you know, pretty American. I mean, did she encourage that? HW: I suppose. I think you could say that. SM: I mean, Du Sing’s wife was much more traditional Chinese, wasn’t she? HW: Yes. She was . . . didn’t have much to do with traditional stuff. [Chuckles] She’s a . . . first of all . . . SM: Oh, your mother didn’t. HW: Yes. SM: Oh. HW: She didn’t know too much about it anyway. SM: [Chuckles] HW: And, you know, a lot of Chinese life in the old days there was a lot of superstition and things like that. 56

SM: Yes. Was she a Christian from being in that home? HW: Yes. I think so. SM: Oh, before she met your father then. So they both were active in that church then? HW: Yes. SM: I see. Her name was May Sing, was it? HW: May Seen. S-E-E-N, I guess. SM: N as in no? HW: Yes. SM: I see. HW: And her family name is Liang, L-I-A-N-G. SM: Oh, okay. HW: Or L-E-O-N-G or in some way of spelling it, it’s “liang.” SM: Ah, Leong. HW: That’s the family name. SM: I see. Does she know where her family came from at all? HW: I don’t know. I doubt it very much. She never told me anything about it. SM: Yes. HW: But I imagine that these are all Southerners because they all spoke Cantonese. SM: Oh yes, probably all Southerners. Yes. Oh, she spoke Cantonese? HW: Yes. SM: Oh, then she must have been Southern. HW: Yes. 57

SM: I remember Margaret told me that she bought her American dresses to wear to Easter Sunday and all that kind of thing. HW: [Chuckles] SM: And so she said she was quite an influence on her, that made her comfortable in both cultures, Chinese and [unclear]. HW: Well, I think my mother was very forward looking sort of an individual. SM: Oh, was she? HW: She . . . SM: In terms of bringing up the children, you mean? HW: Just general living. [Chuckles] SM: Just in general. [Chuckles] Well, you mean the . . . oh, she was just a really progressive kind of person. HW: Yes. Yes. She wasn’t bound by any of the old time, straight-laced way of doing things. SM: Did that have an impact on your father then, do you think? HW: I don’t know, because . . . SM: He was rather progressive, too, maybe. HW: I was too young to see the . . . [Chuckles] SM: Yes, it’s hard to . . . hard to know. HW: To see the interrelations, except that she was quite devoted to him, I know. SM: Oh. Yes. She was buried here, too, in the Twin Cities? Or has she died? HW: She died here, yes. Yes. SM: When did she die? HW: 19 . . . oh, what the heck? 1946. SM: Oh. Quite a long time after your father then. 58

HW: Oh, it . . . time flies. SM: [Chuckles] HW: Yes, she had a heart condition for about a year and a half before she died. SM: Oh. Hmmm. Well, the picture I saw of her that Margaret showed me, she seemed to be quite a handsome woman. And she was dressed . . . HW: Yes, and very small. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, was she very small? HW: Yes. SM: Oh. Well, she was dressed in very fashionable American clothes. HW: Oh, yes. SM: Well, there was one picture of her in Chinese clothes and one in . . . I think that was a marriage picture, maybe. HW: Could be. SM: Yes. HW: Yes. SM: Have you seen those photos? HW: No. [Chuckles] SM: Margaret brought them and we duplicated them and we gave them back to her. But do you have family photos, too? Or of the businesses? HW: You’ve got me. I haven’t looked very hard. [Chuckles] SM: Well, if it’s the same house, probably Margaret found whatever you had there. [Laughter] HW: Yes. SM: Yes. HW: My attic is a shambles! [Chuckles] 59

SM: Yes, she said it was hard to find them. But she did find some very nice . . . oh, one very nice one of you in your baby buggy. HW: [Laughter] Yes. That wicker buggy. SM: [Chuckles] With the little fat cheeks! HW: Yes. Yes, that wicker buggy. And then afterwards why I had one that was sort of a long Chinese robe, you know, with a little jacket. SM: Oh, you did? Oh. HW: And one of those regular Chinese caps with the little knob on top. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, I don’t know if we saw that picture or not. HW: I’d like to find that one. [Chuckles] SM: If you find that [unclear] we can make a new negative, you know. HW: Okay. SM: I don’t know if she told you, we’re having this exhibit next spring. Or it’s this coming spring. HW: Oh. SM: Of Asians in Minnesota, along with a Chinese American exhibit that’s coming from San Francisco. HW: Oh. SM: So we’re looking for pictures of Chinese in the local community. And if you see any good ones, let us know. [Chuckles] Because we…we just need to borrow them very briefly and then we can give them back. HW: Well, I’ll have to look. Because I’d like to find some myself. SM: You may see yourself in the exhibit. [Laughter] Yes, that would be nice. Is there anything you want to add to this? HW: I don’t… SM: Is there anything you want to add to this interview? 60

HW: Not that I know of. [Chuckles] If it comes later . . . SM: Okay. HW: If it comes to me later, I’ll give you a ring. Or I’ll write it. I’ll write you a letter. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, sure. Or you can come back and visit again. Thank you really very much for your patience in giving us all this information. HW: Well [unclear]. [Chuckles] SM: It was very interesting to hear about. HW: Well, it is interesting to talk about the old days, especially when you’re up in years. [Chuckles] SM: Well, it’s a good way to preserve it for your children and grandchildren. HW: Well, I suppose. SM: And other people that are interested. HW: They probably don’t know anything about it because they pursue their own life, you know. SM: Yes. HW: We took our . . . well, this last summer we . . . my son-in-law and daughter gave us a present for our fiftieth anniversary. SM: Oh. HW: And it was a trip to Hawaii. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. HW: For two weeks. SM: I remember, I think I was trying to get in touch with you. HW: [Chuckles] For two weeks. SM: How nice. HW: And we stayed at the Ilikai in Honolulu. 61

SM: Oh. HW: We stayed at the [unclear] up in . . . I don’t know what . . . up in the Northern part of Oahu for a couple days. And then we moved over to Maui. And he . . .

SM: They went with you then? HW: Yes. SM: How nice. HW: And the youngest grandson. SM: Oh. HW: Because it was . . . we planned it so that he could come along because he was out still on vacation from high school. SM: I see. Well, that was a really nice family trip then. HW: Yes. And we played three golf courses on Maui. SM: [Chuckles] HW: We visited with a schoolmate of my wife’s that she hadn’t seen for about twenty years. SM: Really. HW: In Honolulu. SM: Oh. HW: And they were old time residents of Hawaii, and she lived on the thirty-second floor of a high-rise condominium. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, was this someone she knew at Cameron House or at school? HW: No, something she . . . oh, my wife has nothing to do with Cameron House. SM: Yes. HW: This was . . . SM: Oh, your wife! Right. It’s your mother, I’m sorry. 62

HW: No, my wife. SM: I’m sorry I got those mixed up. HW: And she went to school with this gal in Portland. Portland, Oregon. SM: I see, yes. We’ve been jumping generations here, I guess. HW: And she married a physician in Hawaii. SM: Ah ha. HW: And he has since retired. And they’re enjoying life by just living up there [chuckles] with a magnificent view of Diamondhead and so on. SM: Oh. HW: They’re right across the street from the Rainbow Hilton Hotel. [Chuckles] SM: Must be hard, hmmm. HW: [Chuckles] And they own the land that this condominium is on. SM: Oh [unclear]. HW: [Chuckles] And then we went into the capitol and here is Senator . . . the lady Senator. Senator Pat Saiki. SM: Oh, yes. HW: And she’s the second ranking Republican in . . . SM: Pat Saiki? HW: S-A-I-K-I. And her husband is a physician. And her husband and my son-in-law were . . . he was a resident and my son-in-law was the intern in Toledo, Ohio. SM: Oh, of all things! HW: [Chuckles] Way back around the 1950s. And then she became a politician returning to the islands. SM: Oh. 63

HW: And he practiced in the islands and she became a politician. She was a schoolteacher to start with. SM: Oh. HW: And so we saw her at the capitol. And she graciously told her secretary to give us a tour of the capitol building and explained all the architectural features and all that. SM: Oh, that would be of interest to you. Yes, especially. HW: Yes, because the capitol is absolutely unusual. SM: Oh. HW: Because it’s supposed to be a symbolic replica of a Hawaiian volcano. [Chuckles] SM: Oh, really! HW: Yes. [Chuckles] SM: It must be quite an unusual capitol. HW: Yes. It has an open square about . . . you know, open air square right there. And in the middle there’s a green spot that’s supposed to be the spot under the crater. SM: I see. HW: And then on top is open. And there’s a crown up there and there’s little spikes going around. That’s supposed to be the lava [chuckles] flowing out like that, you know. SM: Oh. HW: And then on each end are the two, you know, legislative chambers. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: And then along the walls are the offices for the various people like the governor, lieutenant governor, and so on. And all the senators and legislators all have their offices around this open area and you can walk all the way around. SM: How interesting. HW: In open air. SM: But does the outside look like a volcano? [Chuckles] 64

HW: No, the outside is straight up and down. [Chuckles] It’s just . . . SM: I see. HW: It’s just top that’s . . . SM: Symbolic [unclear]. HW: Yes. [Chuckles] SM: I see. HW: And it’s very unusual. I mean the architect did a good job in interpreting. And then on one end, on one side is a walking mall and the other side is something else. And on this side there’s a statue of Father Damien, you know, the leprosy father of the . . . SM: Oh. Oh, yes. Leprosy. HW: And on this side if you look down you see the Iolani Palace. That the King Kamehameha . . . SM: Oh, I see. HW: And he’s got a big . . . they’ve got a big golden statue of him on the side like that. SM: Ah. HW: And then in front here is a replica of the Liberty Bell. SM: Oh. HW: That somebody in Pennsylvania had presented to the state of Hawaii upon their being entered into statehood and all that sort of thing. And really, really impressive. Very nice. SM: I see. HW: And so we met her and she was quite a lady. Boy, she….