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Interview with Michael Hong Wong


Michael Hong Wong was born in Austin, Minnesota, in 1948. His grandfather emigrated from Guangdong Province in southern China to Albert Lea, Minnesota, in 1927, by way of Canada and Seattle, Washington. At the time of Michael Wong's birth, his grandfather, father, and uncle were partners in a Chinese restaurant in Austin, but a few years later the family moved to Fargo, North Dakota. Because this city was a crossroad in the movement of military personnel during and after World War II, business opportunities were good, and the elder Wongs worked at the Pheasant Cafe, one of five Chinese restaurants in Fargo during the 1940s and early 1950s. When Wong was about five years old, the family moved back to Minnesota, where they established the Wong Cafe in Rochester. Wong attended public elementary schools in the city and graduated from John Marshall High School in 1966. He entered the University of Minnesota the following fall and graduated in 1970 with a bachelor of fine arts degree, majoring in painting. Later he returned to the university for graduate study and received a master of fine arts degree, with a major in photography, in 1975. During his undergraduate years at the university, Wong was actively involved in the Asian American Alliance, organized on the campus during the 1960s. In 1976 Wong returned to Rochester and worked in the family restaurant, while his wife, Isabel Joe, completed an internship in dietetics at Methodist Hospital. In 1977 they returned to the Twin Cities, and Wong taught for two years at the Minnetonka Art Center (now the Art Center of Minnesota). He also engaged in freelance photography and was one of the early members of the Minnesota Asian American Project, a pan-Asian organization in the Twin Cities area. In 1980 and 1981 Wong was employed by Weigen Graphic Center in Minneapolis and also continued his work as a freelance photographer. He has frequently photographed special events in the Asian community, including those of the most recent arrivals, the Indochinese. He also participated in the collection of photographs for an exhibit entitled Asians in Minnesota" that opened in the spring of 1982 at the Minnesota Historical Society and was sponsored by the Society





World Region



Michael Hong Wong Narrator Sarah Mason Interviewer June 7, 1979 July 3, 1979 Minnesota Historical Society Saint Paul, Minnesota

Sarah Mason Michael Hong Wong


SM: I’m talking to Michael Hong Wong on June 7, 1979 at the Minnesota Historical Society. The interviewer is Sarah Mason. Could we begin with your . . . your parents, I guess? What province in China they came from and if you know what village or . . .? MW: I know my father came from Canton, I’m not sure the exact name of the village. And my mother’s family, she came from the Philippines. She is Chinese but she was raised in the Philippines. SM: Oh, I see. She lived all her life . . . where did they meet? [Chuckles] MW: Well, it was one of those arranged weddings. SM: I see. Yes. MW: And so that . . . see, my father is about eight years older than my mother. And my father had arrived in the United States and was living at Austin, Minnesota at the time, working in my grandfather’s restaurant in Austin. And then when it was time . . . they thought it was time for him to be married, they made arrangements and he went back to China and met my mother then. SM: And this had been arranged before he went? MW: Right. SM: Yes. I see. So they make arrangements with Chinese overseas, too. MW: Sure. SM: Yes. 1

MW: And they’re still doing it now. SM: Yes, maybe it’s more feasible to [chuckles] do that. MW: Yes. SM: At this point, well, maybe you should say something about your grandfather to start off. MW: Well, my grandfather was an elementary school principal in Canada. I’m not sure to . . . exactly what town. I’ll . . . I can find out for you. But then he . . . SM: Was this for a Chinese school or a public school or . . .? MW: Ah, I’m not sure about that. SM: I see. MW: And then he got into the restaurant business. I think originally like in Silver Springs in Mexico. SM: Oh. MW: And then somehow they got up to Austin, Minnesota. I’m not sure exactly how they got from the Southwest United States to Southern Minnesota, but he . . . SM: Didn’t Fargo [North Dakota] enter in somewhere or . . .? [Chuckles] MW: That was . . . that comes a little later. SM: [Chuckles] Oh, I see. First he went to Canada and then to Mexico. MW: Then yes, to New Mexico. SM: Oh, to New Mexico. MW: Right. SM: I see. Okay. And then Austin is next? MW: It’s Austin. Yes, then Austin, Minnesota. SM: I see. MW: Yes. 2

SM: Do you know anything about his reason for immigrating or . . .? MW: No, I don’t. I don’t. But I know that when he came over, my grandmother stayed behind. SM: Oh. MW: And so this would . . . oh, roughly be . . . in the early forties that my grandfather might have come a little earlier, but this is when my . . . SM: The 1840s? MW: No, this would be like 1940s when my . . . or late 1930s, early 1940s when my . . . my father and his younger brother came to the United States. SM: I see. Do you know what year your grandfather came at all? MW: No, but I could find out. SM: Yes. Okay. MW: But I don’t know exactly. SM: So he brought them over as his sons. MW: Yes. SM: Yes, I see. MW: So it wasn’t until about . . . 1958 that my grandmother finally came over. SM: Oh, she did come. MW: Yes. SM: Yes. So that was . . . they only had two sons, is that right? MW: There were . . . there are, let’s see . . . two older sons. SM: That remained in China? MW: That were . . . one was here earlier and the other did not come over until . . . oh, must have been the early . . . late 1950s, early 1960s that his family came over. So the oldest son, Joseph, was here already. Then second son in that family, Kee, he came much later. He was the one that arrived in the late 1950s, early 1960s. Then the third son in the family is my father Neil. N-E-I-L. 3

And then the youngest son was . . . is Ben. Then they have a . . . a sister. I’m not sure of her name. But she remains in China. SM: I see. Do they have any contact with her? MW: Yes, they still write her occasionally. So it was my . . . eventually it was my father Neil and my uncle Ben that . . . who now own Wong’s Café in Rochester. SM: I see. When did they establish that? Or do you know? MW: So what is it? Twenty . . . it’s either twenty-six or twenty-eight years that they’ve been in Rochester now. SM: I see. It would be really interesting to know why your father went to those . . . or grandfather, I mean, went to those . . . MW: Yes, went . . . yes. SM: You haven’t heard the [unclear]? MW: Well, I know it’s strange. Like in New Mexico - I’ve been to Albuquerque a couple of times—that there are in that city that . . . oh, I’m not sure of the exact population. But there were like . . . about a dozen Chinese restaurants in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which . . . seems pretty strange. SM: Oh. MW: But there’s a lot of ethnic restaurants down there. SM: A dozen, did you say? MW: Yes. About a dozen. SM: Oh. And that’s recently. MW: Yes, that’s within the past six years. SM: That is rather interesting. Were laborers taken there for railroad construction at all? They were in Texas, I think. MW: Yes, I don’t know. Well, yes, that’s . . . SM: Hmmm. That would be something to look into. [Chuckles] MW: I will investigate that. Yes. I’ll find out. 4

SM: Yes. Oh, so he might have gone there hearing there was work or . . . MW: Yes. SM: But he wasn’t a laborer, was he? MW: No. No, he wasn’t. SM: Oh. Unless he went to set up a restaurant where there were other Chinese. MW: Yes. That could be. SM: I don’t know. Hmmm. That’s interesting. And then how he happened to come all the way north to Minnesota. MW: Yes . . . it’s [chuckles] yes, that’s a big . . . that’s quite a distance between those two. And quite a difference in climate as well. SM: Yes. Well, what about social climate? Do you think there [chuckle] was a difference there? MW: Yes, there . . . well, my dad recalls when . . . see, when he was, you know, working in Austin at the Canton Café, then . . . SM: Oh, he worked there first. MW: Yes, first. So it was . . . well, it’s my grandfather and my uncle Joe who were actually more or less running the restaurant. And then my . . . SM: Grandfather and Joe, the oldest one. MW: Oldest, right. SM: I see. Oh, they were running the Canton Café then. MW: Right. SM: I see. MW: So that my father and my uncle Ben were working there as well as a couple of other Chinese. SM: Yes.


MW: And I’m sure that’s probably the only [chuckles] minority families in Austin, Minnesota at that time. And my dad, he tells us of the times when it was that the . . . either the chief of police or the sheriff taught him how to drive a car back then. SM: Oh. Well, that’s interesting. So they were probably the first Chinese there, do you think? MW: I think so. SM: Yes. At least, you haven’t heard of any others prior to that. MW: No. And then my . . . I don’t know the exact timeframe, but it could be referred to in, you know, my . . . in that tape that my sister-in-law, Lynn, did with my father. SM: Oh. MW: Some of that information could be found in there also, because my dad did work on the Trans-Alaskan Highway. SM: Oh. MW: At one time. SM: I see. So he did a variety of . . . kind of . . . work. MW: Oh yes, he did. Yes. And my uncle Ben, he’s quite a bit younger. I don’t know, maybe like about ten years or so. That when he first came over, he went to high school. SM: Your father? MW: My uncle Ben, he went to high school. And I’m not sure if it was in Austin or Albert Lea, this is sort of that connection, again, with the people in Albert Lea. SM: Yes. MW: But when I was in high school, my biology teacher was the biology teacher for my uncle when he was younger. SM: Oh. MW: And so he remembers my uncle volunteering to catch frogs for his biology class [unclear]. SM: Is he still there? [Chuckles] MW: But see, he’s retired now. Yes. 6

SM: Oh. If he’s an old timer there, he might know whether any Chinese had been there before them. MW: Yes, because it was . . . it was Wendell McKibben. SM: Hmmm. Wendell McKibben? MW: Yes. M-C-K-I-B-B-E-N, I think. SM: Oh. B-B-I-N, did you say? MW: I think it’s E-N. SM: E-N. MW: Yes. He was a coach at one time. SM: Was this at the Mayo High School or the [unclear]? MW: This is at . . . well, he taught at John Marshall. SM: John Marshall. MW: That’s where I went to high school in Rochester. SM: I see. So Lynn Wong is your sister-in-law? MW: That’s right. SM: I see. And she did a tape with . . . of your father? MW: Yes, for that MAAP’s [Minnesota Asian American Project] oral history program. SM: Oh, that would be interesting to hear. MW: I think Joyce Yu should have the tapes for that. SM: Yes. Okay. I’ll ask her for it. That should yield some interesting things. MW: Yes. I guess my dad was in a real talkative mood. SM: Was he? MW: Yes. 7

SM: Oh. Hmmm. That’s really good that she did that. MW: Yes. SM: Did she interview any of your uncles? MW: I think she just interviewed my father. SM: Yes. MW: Because it would be interesting to interview . . . to have maybe someone interview my uncle Ben as well. SM: Yes. MW: Because . . . he has an interesting background from the fact that he came over as an immigrant and then went to high school here, was in the service and . . . SM: Oh, yes. Yes, that would be pretty interesting [unclear]. Your father was enough older that he didn’t study after he came here? MW: Right. He didn’t. Yes. SM: Yes. I see. MW: And he was in a position where he . . . well, I guess, you’re more or less forced to learn English if you want to succeed in a business. SM: Yes. [Chuckles] MW: And so that both of my . . . my uncle Ben has the advantage of, you know, having an education here. SM: Oh, yes. Yes. MW: So he speaks English quite well, and my father does a fairly good job. Because in his . . . part of his duties in running a restaurant is making contact with the various salesmen and making orders and so he has to . . . SM: Oh, yes. So he has a pretty good command of it. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: And did your uncle Ben, too, have an arranged marriage or was he in a different era? 8

MW: Oh, see . . . it was . . . I’m not sure how arranged their marriage was, because, you know, as I said earlier, his wife was from Vancouver, Canada. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And she . . . SM: So she was American born or...? MW: Canadian born. Westernized. SM: [Chuckles] North American born. MW: North American born, right. SM: Yes. Oh, so that is quite different then. MW: Yes. SM: I mean I imagine it would mean a different kind of family somewhat, or does it? MW: Oh, well, in a lot of ways I think it does, because of the fact that they were, to a great extent, same comparison to my parents. More Westernized in their attitudes. SM: Yes. MW: Yes, like in . . . I can relate it to the way they handled their children as regards to dating. SM: Yes. MW: Whereas my father is very strict about not dating Caucasians. Period. SM: [Chuckles] MW: And my uncle Ben and his wife, May, they were more liberal, shall we say, about letting their children date Caucasians from say, high school on. SM: I’m beginning to see that that really was a big issue with the Chinese. And I suppose this was a way of preserving their culture. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Or preserving their . . . themselves. [Chuckles]


MW: Yes, because one of the arguments they always used was the fact that how is your mother going to be able to communicate with your wife. SM: Oh, I see. MW: You know, because this whole idea about family. I mean, you don’t marry off and forget your family. That’s very important. SM: I see. So there really was a lot of concern about communicating with the wife. MW: Right. Yes. SM: What about in some cases with the children themselves, I guess. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Yes. But that would be particularly important, how to relate with the daughter-in-law. MW: Yes. SM: Hmmm. MW: Because just knowing some of the little customs, like since my wife happens to be Chinese, and all of these little things that . . . my parents get a big kick out of it. They seem to want to make a big point of it because . . . SM: [Chuckles] MW: . . . there’s a certain amount of . . . face with Chinese community. Whether it’s . . . you know, even up here. Or else like say even in Albert Lea. The fact that your . . . your son or daughter married a Chinese. SM: I see. MW: I mean, there are enough marriages up in the Twin Cities area, where, you know, it’s both Caucasian and Chinese. SM: Yes. MW: So that’s . . . I think people . . . Chinese are getting used to that. It’s not that big a deal. SM: Yes. MW: But there still is that added pressure and there still is the . . . seems that they look . . . still look more favorably on marriages that are between Chinese. One of the families from Albert 10

Lea, every time we see her, she’s always so grateful, or she’s always complimenting my wife and saying how nice and so on, because of . . . I guess of our age group, we have a lot of . . . well, there’s a lot of kids that are . . . our contemporaries. And so the fact that we were sort of like the first group, my wife and I were the first ones of that age group to get married and we’re both Chinese. It was sort of as they used us as an example for their kids. SM: I see. MW: So that, “Look, you know, they did,” and so on. SM: You’re the first generation to marry then from that . . . MW: Yes. SM: I mean, to marry that grew up in Rochester. MW: Yes. My sister, I have an older sister. She married a Chinese but they moved to Los Angeles, and so that really doesn’t count, I guess. [Chuckles] SM: Oh. MW: We’re still around here. SM: Have all of your siblings who have married, married Chinese? MW: Yes, they have. SM: Yes. So they’ve fulfilled your parents . . . MW: So my dad is . . . so we keep telling my dad, we’ve got . . . since I have two younger brothers, that he should just count his blessings and whatever, you know, whatever else happens happens, you know. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] Yes, you’ve made it easier for your younger brothers. MW: Yes. Oh, yes. SM: Well, your wife grew up here in the Twin Cities? MW: Yes. SM: Oh. What is her name? MW: Her name is Isabel but she goes by the name of Isie [pronounced ‘izzy’]. I-S-I-E. 11

SM: I-S-I-E. And which family was she from? Did that make a difference to your family or . . .? MW: No, it did. Her . . . her last name is Joe, but they’re really Moys. SM: Oh, they are really Moys? MW: Yes, they’re really Moys. But . . . SM: Well, that’s a . . . MW: This . . . what’s interesting about her last name is that, you know, it should be just like, you know, Chou [unclear] C-H-O-U. SM: Oh, I see. MW: But for the Americans, because they always couldn’t figure out, you know, how is that . . . SM: Yes. [Chuckles] So they made a mess of the . . . MW: So they spelled it J-O-E. Just . . . SM: [Gasps] Oh, they did! MW: Just for convenience. SM: Oh, well, maybe when I’ve seen Joe, like Joe Huie, would that really have been like Chou, such as C-H-O-U? MW: It could be, sure. Oh, sure. SM: Oh, yes. I thought maybe they sometimes just took an American name to make it easier. [Chuckles] MW: Oh, sometimes they did that, too. I mean, if you look at like the names of my brothers. You know, there’s Dennis, Michael, Howard, Timothy, you know. SM: But they all have Chinese . . . MW: Yes, last names. That’s . . . SM: Or were you officially given the name Michael? Well, I suppose so, yes. MW: Yes, and it’s just the . . . and that’s the reason why . . . and we’re going to continue this, too, about having an American . . . an English first name. 12

SM: Yes. MW: And then having a Chinese middle name to sort of . . . you know, with your last name, I mean, it obviously identifies your heritage. SM: That’s a good idea. MW: But I think that we like that . . . the idea that of my father giving the grandchildren their Chinese name. That sort of tradition, I’d kind of like that. SM: Yes. Yes. That’s a very good idea, to have both. [Chuckles] MW: You know, whereas like my cousins, you know, the ones [chuckles] with the Westernized background, they have English middle names. SM: And Chinese first names? Or both? MW: No. SM: Oh. MW: They don’t have their Chinese names in their . . . SM: Oh, mixed together. MW: Yes. SM: Oh, I see. So they have a completely Western name. MW: Yes, right. SM: And then a completely . . . so they have two. MW: Like my cousin Steve. His middle name is Ryan. SM: Oh, I see. MW: And I have . . . one of his sister’s middle name is Lorraine, named after Lorraine Day. And I can’t remember the middle name of the other. SM: I see. MW: But yes, so . . . SM: Then they do have a Chinese name but it’s probably not used much. 13

MW: Right. But it’s not used. SM: And then [unclear]. MW: Yes, that’s right. SM: I see. So there really is a difference then between these families. MW: Yes. Yes. Even though my grandfather still is the one to name . . . give them their Chinese names, they don’t use them. And their . . . what, official name. SM: Yes. So this way it would say on your birth certificate, whatever you have it all there. MW: Right. That’s right. Yes. SM: I see. Hmmm. MW: Now we’re kind of [chuckles] wandering off the track here. SM: Well, not really. [Chuckles] It’s all on track. Maybe we . . . well, we are talking about your own childhood somewhat, but maybe you want to talk a little specifically about . . . MW: Well, yes. I remember . . . well, when we lived in Austin . . . I was born in Austin. And we just stayed there for a couple years because my next memory is of Fargo, North Dakota. SM: Oh, I see. MW: That’s how we get there. So I was probably . . . must have been like two or three years old when we went to Fargo. SM: So your first memories are of Fargo or do you remember Austin? MW: Well, I don’t remember very much of Austin. Really, my only . . . the reasons are . . . my memories of Austin are when we eventually settled in Rochester, we’d always go visit our cousins in Austin, occasionally. SM: Yes. MW: So that, you see . . . SM: It really reinforced it. MW: Yes, right. That’s right. Yes. 14

SM: So during your childhood then, your cousins lived in Austin. MW: Yes. Cousins live in Austin. SM: I see. You don’t have any idea why [chuckles] your parents went to Fargo, do you? MW: Oh, well, I think part of it was . . . a business opportunity more or less, because they . . . both my uncle then and my father worked at the Pheasant Café in Fargo. SM: Oh, that was a Chinese . . .? MW: That’s a Chinese, yes, a Chinese restaurant. And I’m not sure if Ted Wong, who owns Wong’s . . . House of Wong in Saint Paul, if Ted was either the owner then or just another . . . someone else was working there. But that’s where those three first met. SM: I see. And he’s . . . is he related to them? MW: He’s not related. SM: Oh. MW: Just another Wong. One of them. SM: [Chuckles] Got to be related somewhere back of the line. MW: Yes. But I . . . yes. SM: [Chuckles] But not [unclear]. MW: But I think it was some sort of business arrangement that Ted perhaps may have offered them that they went to Fargo. SM: I see. They were young men then at the time. MW: Right. They were . . . my father was . . . well, my father got married, I guess, even today it would be considered a late age. He didn’t get married until he was about twenty-nine or thirty. So at that time he was in his early to mid-thirties when we went to Fargo. SM: In mid-thirties. MW: Yes. And then at that time, Fargo was a very bustling city. It had five Chinese restaurants in it. Because I mentioned that was . . . my dad said it was . . . I guess was a depot or a stopping off point for a lot of American troops. SM: I see. During World War II. 15

MW: Yes, during and after World War II. SM: I see. Let’s see, what year were you born then? MW: I was born in 1948. SM: 1948. I see. Oh yes, so it would have been towards the end or after . . . or after mainly, I guess. MW: Yes. SM: When they . . . oh, I see. So it was . . . was it still a military . . .? MW: I guess there was enough business generated from the military. SM: From the military. [Chuckles] MW: So that then restaurants of that type could survive. Because I think we’re just down to one Chinese restaurant in Fargo now. SM: Oh. Hmmm. Well, that’s interesting. So I suppose where people would establish restaurants would be where the business opportunities would be best. MW: Yes. And I would really be interested in seeing how, you know, like at the same time how the restaurant . . . Chinese restaurant business in the Twin Cities area was faring. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Because many of the restaurateurs, Chinese restaurant owners in the Twin Cities area now came from South Dakota and North Dakota. SM: Oh, yes. MW: So that there obviously had to be some reason why they wanted to leave the area and then come to Minneapolis-Saint Paul and start a business. And I mean . . . SM: They might have come, say, in the 1950s or 1960s or . . . MW: Yes, because they’re doing real well, you know [chuckles] Ted and Howard Wong. Howard Wong was from South Dakota. I mean, he’s . . . Aberdeen. SM: So they might have a clue to why people came. MW: Yes. Yes. 16

SM: I’ve been going through the city directory to see whether the numbers of these businesses go up and down and so on. MW: Mmmm. SM: I was interested to see that most just continued during the Depression. There wasn’t a big drop. MW: Mmmm. SM: I haven’t gotten to the 1940s yet. [Chuckles] MW: Oh. SM: I see. So these . . . Ted and Howard Wong both came from . . . MW: Well, yes, Howard Wong was from . . . came from like Aberdeen, South Dakota. SM: I see. MW: And Ted was with my father and uncle in Fargo. SM: Oh, yes. I see. Hmmm. So the earliest part of your life then was in Fargo. MW: Right. I just have very, very vague memories. They didn’t stay there too long before they did decide to go to Rochester. SM: How old were you then? MW: Oh. I was probably . . . let’s see. Probably about four years old. SM: Oh, I see. MW: Because I did not . . . I didn’t start elementary school, Kindergarten, until we came to Rochester. SM: Oh, yes. So early Rochester is the real . . . MW: Yes. And at that time, my cousin Steve – he’s the same age as I am. SM: Yes. MW: Neither one of us spoke any English at all. 17

SM: Oh. When you started school. MW: When we started Kindergarten. So that was just traumatic. We were just . . . I guess the teacher told my aunt that we were just both . . . well, it’s just like . . . part of it is typical of any young child going to Kindergarten . . . SM: It’s traumatic enough without the . . . MW: Where we didn’t want to leave, where are you taking us? I just want to stay here. But that we were telling each other that these other kids were really dumb because they couldn’t speak Chinese. SM: [Unclear]. [Chuckles] MW: Yes, I thought, God, they’re . . . SM: You were both in the same Kindergarten? MW: Yes, we were both together. SM: Oh, that must have helped somewhat. MW: Oh, it did. It did. [Chuckles] Yes. SM: Oh, that’s marvelous that you figured you were the ones that knew the right language. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Yes. So we had each . . . oh, I don’t know how we would have survived if we were in other classes. We just kind of . . . SM: I suppose it didn’t take very long to learn. MW: No. No, it didn’t, because we had a number of kids our age in that neighborhood, so we, you know, we were playing with them. SM: Oh, that were Chinese kids? MW: No. SM: There was no Chinese in the neighborhood. MW: No. No, we were . . . yes, I guess we were it. My father mentioned that there were some Chinese in Rochester before we moved there. SM: Oh. 18

MW: I’m not exactly sure how many years ago before they moved down there. But at one time there was a Chinese, he owned a laundry in Rochester. SM: Oh, I see. MW: Right down on Broadway. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And then there was . . . SM: There was a laundry. MW: Yes. SM: He . . . you don’t have an idea about when that was? MW: No, that may be in Lynn’s interview. SM: Oh, yes. MW: But there’s also a Chinese who’s buried in the . . . SM: Oh. MW: Oh, where is it? At the state hospital at their cemetery. SM: Oh. That might [unclear]. MW: He . . . he died, unfortunately, at a very young age. I think it was like he was in his twenties. And . . . SM: Oh. MW: No, I don’t believe he was a resident of Rochester but I think he was in Austin. And so since Rochester State Hospital was the closest, that’s where they . . . SM: You think he was from Austin? MW: Yes, that he resided there. SM: Yes.


MW: But my father has very warm feelings about . . . I can’t remember the person’s name – about this person, because he thought he was someone who had a lot of imagination and spirit, but that it was stifled by not just Caucasians but as well as some of the other Chinese. And so that he felt that that’s the reason why he was committed, that he was . . . having a difficult time coping for various reasons. SM: Oh, this was a state mental hospital? MW: Yes, state mental hospital. SM: Oh, and then he died there. That’s [unclear]. MW: Yes, he died there. Yes. SM: Hmmm. MW: So that when we . . . SM: Did your father know anything about him? MW: Yes, he did. SM: Oh . . . MW: So this is . . . he just sort of . . . though how we learned about him is that, you know, for Memorial Day where Americans not only honor their dead soldiers but as well as their ones who have passed away, Chinese do the same thing. It’s called Hong San [sp?], where literally interpreted it’s like “walking the mountain.” SM: Yes. MW: And so that we, you know, take flowers, do the same thing. But so every Memorial Day, we go down to Rochester and we, you know, visit the graves of the ones that are buried in Rochester happen to be my grandfather and grandmother and my uncle Joe. Then we also go to the cemetery behind the state hospital. SM: Oh, I see. MW: And that’s where he’s buried, so that’s . . . my father tells the story of this guy that . . . he does it for us every year. SM: Hmmm. Does he talk about that on his tape, I wonder? MW: I’m not sure if he does or not. 20

SM: Because I’m sure there were many really very lonely immigrants in those early days. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: I’ve heard of another suicide . . . I don’t know I mean another, but I’ve of a suicide way up north in some town where this man was the only Chinese and just ran this laundry and . . . and it must have been horribly lonely existence. MW: Yes. Because well, like even today, two of the cooks we have for our restaurant, their families are still in China. And one just last year went back and visited his family. And he hadn’t seen them for many, many years. And he has . . . here he has several teenage daughters and we’re in the . . . SM: Oh, he’s an older man then. MW: Yes. We’re in the process of helping him bring his family over. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: So and then another one of our cooks is going to leave in a couple months and go visit his family. SM: I see. So these are men that have been around for a long time. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: For that long separation. MW: Yes. That they’re able to . . . Because, you know, working in the restaurant, you put in long hours. I mean, that kind of helps kill the time or something. [Chuckles] But, you know, I just . . . SM: [Chuckles] [Unclear]. MW: It would be very . . . I don’t know, that’s very . . . just [unclear]. And just a very difficult thing to do and try to keep your family together. SM: Yes. MW: But it’s just the way of . . . I think it’s typical of, you know, still, of a lot of the way immigrants would come over where you’re sending money back and then [unclear] of course there were some that were . . . just made the promises and never sent it back, you know. SM: Right. And many sent back money, which meant they never accumulated enough to go themselves. 21

MW: Yes. [Chuckles] Themselves, yes. SM: But it is interesting, I think, that the Chinese were so guarded about intermarriage that this resulted partly from that. This really trying experience of either being a single person here . . . MW: Yes, because there was a lot of pressure. SM: Yes. MW: You know, of not doing it. Especially, I guess, say . . . well . . . maybe until recently, in the past ten years maybe things have loosened up a little bit. SM: Yes. Right. It’s certainly different now. MW: Yes. SM: Well, maybe not so different. [Chuckles] I don’t know. MW: Yes. Because . . . well, I guess you could say like in a community like even in the Twin Cities, where the Chinese population is not that great, you’ve . . . you know, the tendency is in smaller areas to feel greater community and peer pressure, you know. SM: Oh, yes. Yes. That’s true. MW: And like then just imagine [unclear] growing up in Rochester. I mean, you just stick out. [Sighs] You know. SM: Yes. But so there’s more of maybe cohesion in the group or pressure to marry a Chinese in a small place. MW: Yes. SM: That would be typical of all people, I guess. MW: Yes. I guess that that runs into that problem of, you know, what your parents’ attitude is and then what your attitude growing up as a child or young adult where they want you to marry a Caucasian but then you point to them, well, there’s nobody else here. Who am I going to marry? How am I going to meet these people? SM: Right. MW: And so as far as dating goes, getting . . . fitting in, since you, in a sense, like dating is practice for the courtship process. 22

SM: Yes. Right. MW: And you have no way of . . . [chuckles] . . . how do you get this? SM: Of practicing. [Chuckles] MW: Yes, how do I? You know. Because you’re always telling them, well, I’m just going to be a . . . You know, you do dumb things, you don’t know what to do, and . . . SM: [Laughter] MW: And you’re not helping . . . SM: Yes. MW: And so that’s . . . you know, that’s a . . . SM: It’s a bad enough problem for any teenager. MW: Yes. SM: But it’s worse when you . . . MW: And if you see your friends going to dances and dating and, you know, there’s a lot of frustration that can be built up. SM: Well, do most of the second generation take part in the dating and so on just like the Americans? Or is there pressure not to? MW: I guess I can only speak for my family’s perspective. SM: Yes. MW: I know my . . . I don’t believe my youngest brother [chuckles] is dating or he’s going out, but he’s real active in school activities. SM: Yes. MW: My cousin Steve, when we were both in high school, he was dating Caucasian girls. SM: I see, so it was kind of mixed in your family. MW: There was a . . . yes. My father has an ability to put the fear of God into you. SM: Your father forbade it, I take it then? 23

MW: Yes. [Sighs] SM: So in your cousin’s family though, it was a little looser or . . . MW: It was . . . yes. SM: Yes. MW: Yes. I’m sure I would be putting words in my aunt and uncle’s mouth if I said, you know, either of them allowed their kids to date Caucasians. I think in the back of their minds and their hearts they would like it if their children did marry Chinese. SM: Yes, that’s understandable. But it is a difference that they would allow it even reluctantly or whatever. MW: Yes. SM: Hmmm. Well, in the second generation would there have been any that didn’t marry at all because of this pressure or . . .? MW: Mmmm. SM: I suppose it would always have been at least arranged . . . [unclear]. MW: Yes, if nothing else, if you got to the point where for whatever reasons you wanted to get married, there were people you could go to, either in your own family or else marriage brokers that could arrange a wedding. And I suppose . . . I’m not sure if this is truer now than before, but there were certain . . . women in the old country who look at this as a way of - not only in say in Hong Kong but in Taiwan as well - as a way of getting to the United States. SM: So there’s no problem finding someone, I take it. MW: Right. SM: Yes. MW: And that doesn’t necessarily ensure that once they get to the United States that this marriage is going to last. SM: Yes. MW: I think in previous years the attitudes of the women were that, you know, this is . . . this marriage was very important so that they would stick it out. Whereas I think . . . 24

SM: You mean the ones that were remaining in China? MW: Yes, remained there or else the ones that did come over as well. SM: Oh. Oh, I see. MW: That . . . that even though it was arranged, it was . . . you know. [Chuckles ]Nowadays, I think, maybe there are a few more gold diggers. SM: I see. So in the old ones they would stick it out whether it was miserable or not or whatever. MW: Yes. SM: But not anymore. Hmmm. MW: Because the United States still has, you know, still has that . . . is viewed as the gold mountain, you know. SM: Right. Is that much of a problem of many who appear to just get over here and then divorce? MW: I guess I don’t . . . I don’t have . . . I don’t have any statistics to give you. SM: [Chuckles] I doubt there are any. MW: But I just . . . yes. SM: Yes, but it does happen sometimes. MW: Yes, it does happen sometimes. SM: I suppose that’s been true for all immigrant marriages. MW: Yes. Because this whole . . . even, you know, relating to marriage, this whole attitude about divorce. SM: Yes. MW: There have been a couple of divorces of Chinese families. SM: Oh. MW: That’s always been something that’s . . . SM: The second generation [unclear]? 25

MW: Yes. That Chinese just don’t get divorced, you know. SM: [Chuckles] MW: You know, no matter how bad things are going. And so this is something that . . . well, this idea gets . . . I guess it certainly relates back to about arranged marriages where the kids will then . . . you know, this argument between the kids and the parents about, well, look at our marriage, it was arranged. Look how well it’s working. The kids will find an example. But look at so and so, you know. SM: [Chuckles] MW: They’re having a . . . they’ve got a terrible marriage and that was arranged. And so the . . . you know, neither side would really be able to convince the other. It’s just something that . . . I think as a child . . . as a son or daughter that you had to learn to cope with the fact that, you know, no matter how you could . . . how persuasive your arguments were, this is something that is too emotional and can’t be . . . in most cases anyway, debated with your parents in a logical sense, you know. SM: Hmmm. So you didn’t try to argue it yourself then or . . .? MW: Well, you did. Then you discovered that this is not doing any good. And, you know, you would just end up shouting at each other and you’re not . . . you know, it maybe made you feel good just to get it out more than anything else. SM: Oh. So there was some argument about it then. MW: Oh sure, yes. There was, yes. SM: [Chuckles] I suppose this would be really characteristic of most immigrant groups between generations, but maybe more so with a group like the Chinese. MW: Yes. SM: Where the tradition is very deep and very important. Hmmm. What about . . .? I’m interested in how the structure would vary when this family is transplanted to the United States. The way they would bring you up, how that would differ from the way they would have brought you up if it had been in China. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. SM: The influence of the environment. I suppose they attempted to duplicate it, but there wasn’t ... 26

MW: I guess in terms of like maybe the families where the attitude about family was kept, and the . . . sort of the outside things about . . . It’s very important also to be accepted by the community as well. SM: Oh. Oh. MW: So that . . . SM: So that would make a difference. MW: Yes. So they saw it as . . . they quickly recognized the fact that if you did well in school, that was a positive thing. SM: Ah ha. MW: [Coughs] Excuse me. So that there was . . . they stressed their point about excelling. SM: Of course, that would have been stressed in China, too, wouldn’t it? Or not as much? Or not maybe quite the same reasons? [Chuckles] MW: Yes. What would be interesting is the fact that, see, since I was born in 1948. It’s about the same time as the [Chinese] Revolution. And how things if . . . say, my parents would have stayed in China and would have made it, lived through, how . . . how different we maybe [would be] now. SM: That’s certainly true, yes. MW: Because I think it was a big . . . because there was a big change in the educational system in China. SM: Right. MW: So . . . yes. SM: Yes, that certainly would [unclear]. MW: [Unclear] because it was truly . . . you know, it was really a period of transition, so it would be difficult to say. But be interesting to speculate. SM: Yes. MW: Yes. Because, you know, even though, you know, our family growing up in Rochester, we . . . when we first moved to Rochester, we lived upstairs from my uncle’s family. So that all the kids in both their families, you know, even to this day, are very tight because we essentially grew up with each other. 27

SM: Yes. So you did have the extended family. MW: Yes. SM: Maybe not quite as large as it might have been in China, but . . . pretty much. MW: But we are . . . and the fact that we are really the only ones in that city. SM: Oh, yes. MW: You know, drew us closer together. And even though we had a lot of Caucasian kids to play with in our neighborhood, we just sort of . . . SM: You did play with the other kids, too? MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Hmmm. What about the hierarchy in that setting? I assume that your father and your uncle were the main authorities. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. SM: And but was their wives’ position any different than it would have been in China? MW: Oh, I don’t think there was . . . that it would be that much different. SM: Not too much. Yes. MW: With my . . . well, with my mother, when we were young, she pointed out that it was . . . it was very important to my father that my mom stay home and take care of the kids. SM: She pointed this out to you? MW: Yes. He worked . . . you know, if he had to work extra hours or whatever it took, he wanted to be sure that she was home to take care of us. SM: Hmmm. Because many of the wives did work in restaurants, didn’t they? MW: Yes. That sort of changed as the kids grew older. So that she . . . she’s been doing a lot of work at the restaurant for like the past . . . eight years or so. SM: I see. Now that they’re more grown. MW: Yes. 28

SM: But . . . oh, I’m trying to think of all the implications of that. Was that partly because you were in a foreign country, so to speak? That it would be more important for her to take care of the children at home? MW: I don’t think it was. I think it was just something that . . . a notion that he had about how to raise a family. SM: Yes. Yes. MW: So he would have done it no matter . . . SM: Yes. MW: With my Aunt May, the fact that she . . . you know, she was raised in Vancouver, Canada. SM: Yes. MW: And had a . . . would be a typical North American education. She went to . . . she worked at the restaurant . . . well, she stayed home with the kids, too, but she started working at the restaurant before my mother did. SM: I see. MW: In various capacities. SM: Yes. She was a little younger, too? MW: Yes, she’s a little younger. SM: Yes. I see. But she did take care of her own children, too, as well. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Well, would your family have had servants and so on then in China or just [unclear]? MW: My mother did. So when my father married my mother, she didn’t know how to cook at all. SM: Yes. MW: Yes, she was used to having servants. SM: So she was from a higher status or class or . . .? 29

MW: Well, I really can’t recall what her . . . SM: Or just wealthier maybe. MW: Yes, wealthier, what her father did. But part of it was that it was just fairly easy to get . . . to hire help to work at home. SM: Yes, right. I mean even fairly . . . fairly non-wealthy would have servants, too. MW: Yes. Yes. So that was a . . . so it was a big transition for my mother. SM: I see. MW: Going into married life, she had to learn how to cook. And, I guess, a lot of other typical homemaker type chores. And then, you know, it wasn’t too long, they were only married a year before kids came along. So it was a big transition for her to get into motherhood after marriage. SM: [Chuckles] Right. So she wouldn’t have ordinarily been doing that in China? MW: That’s right. Yes. SM: Hmmm. Did your grandparents live there, too, during your early childhood? MW: See, when I was . . . my grandfather stayed in Austin.... [Recording interruption] SM: So was your grandmother around at all? MW: No, she wasn’t here . . . SM: No, she stayed in China. MW: Yes. SM: That’s right. MW: Yes. And then . . . I’ll have to get these exact dates for you. SM: Yes, that would be nice. MW: My grandfather then came from Austin to Rochester and stayed with us. SM: Oh, when he got more elderly? 30

MW: When he got older. This is about the same time my grandmother came over then. SM: Oh. I see. MW: So they stayed at our house. They stayed with us. SM: With you and not the cousins? MW: Right. My older . . . the oldest son in the family, my Uncle Joe, was still in Austin at the time. SM: Oh, I see. MW: But then my grandfather moved to . . . because at that time, I guess, my Uncle Joe, they didn’t have the room, and my father was the next oldest in line that was here. SM: Yes. MW: So he stayed. SM: Okay. And your grandmother came over about that time, too. MW: Yes. Then shortly after, my Uncle Kee and his family came over. SM: I see. MW: And they have . . . I think they have six or seven children in their family. So you can imagine . . . SM: They had them when they came over? MW: They all [unclear]. SM: Yes. MW: One was . . . I guess they had a . . . no, the one was born in the United States shortly after they came over. SM: Oh. Hmmm. They came to Rochester, too? MW: Yes. Two of their family . . . two members of their family stayed with my Uncle Ben and his wife. SM: Two children stayed with them? 31

MW: Yes. SM: Oh. MW: And the rest stayed with us. SM: Oh . . . MW: So you can imagine what a zoo our house was. SM: [Chuckles] Where did the parents stay then? MW: Oh, gosh. They . . . like . . . SM: Oh, then the parents stayed with you, too, then. MW: Yes. Yes. My mom recalls difficulties of trying to cook for all those different people. SM: [Chuckles] Oh. MW: My grandfather had . . . because he was getting older, had a certain diet he had to stick with. And my grandmother liked certain things and the kids, you know, they liked American food. And so . . . SM: [Chuckles] They liked American food? MW: Yes. [Sighs] SM: The kids that came over? MW: Yes. SM: Oh, well, that’s interesting. [Chuckles] MW: And so we just had . . . SM: So that was quite a burden then on your mother. MW: Yes. Yes. And with our families there were, you know, four boys and just one girl, and being typical boys [chuckles] they weren’t too helpful around the house. SM: [Chuckles] Well, did you always have Chinese food usually then? MW: Yes. 32

SM: Yes. MW: Yes, we did. SM: Until these cousins from China came? [Laughter] And liked American food. MW: Yes. They quickly . . . [unclear] But part of it was the fact that, you know, since my . . . you know, they’re in the restaurant business. We could always go down to the restaurant and eat. SM: Yes. MW: So that we got . . . it was . . . my, you know, as far as trying to get acclimated to the American way [chuckles] not . . . another way of doing it was like through food. SM: Yes. MW: And my parents wanted to be sure that we ate well. And so we . . . you know, so like even to this day, we’re, you know, we don’t have to worry about getting meat. My parents are always, hey, you’ve got to eat this, you know. SM: [Chuckles] MW: We always, you know, eat steak like a lot of other people eat hamburger, you know. SM: I see. [Chuckles] MW: I just get . . . yes. So they want to be sure that you grew up very strong and healthy and had a good education, you know, those were ways of . . . I guess, one way of seeing it is just through the . . . the height of American-born Chinese and the immigrant parents. You know, just the . . . typically, kids are taller and stronger and . . . SM: Oh, yes. Right. MW: You know, just because they have . . . from . . . I guess, I think, especially from when they were younger, that they had better nutrition. SM: Right. MW: Not necessarily as they grew up . . . grew older, but just from that young age. SM: Right. Yes, that would make a big difference. They say drinking milk makes a difference. [Chuckles] But did your parents want you to drink milk or . . .? MW: Hmmm, yes they did. There’s a problem with . . . my wife’s a dietician, so she is giving me a lot of this information. 33

SM: Oh. MW: But a lot of Asians and people from Africa as well have a problem with drinking milk because they have lactose intolerance. SM: Yes, especially if you don’t . . . as I understood it, it’s if you, you know, quit drinking it after infancy. MW: Yes. SM: And then it’s hard to take it up again. MW: Yes, because my mother-in-law doesn’t take any dairy products at all. SM: Yes. MW: And she doesn’t like to eat beef. But [unclear] not necessarily for the same reasons as that, but, yes, that can be a problem. But I think I recall, yes, we were drinking milk right away. SM: You were drinking milk. MW: Yes. SM: I suppose at school you would anyway. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Hmmm. Well, that’s an interesting observation though, this acclimatization through food and . . . well, of course, education that’s [chuckles] going to, too. MW: Yes. SM: You mentioned your parents were . . . on the food and that change. What about your occupation as an adult? Were they anxious that you grow into professions or . . .? MW: They never really pushed us into one specific type of job. I guess they got this from my Uncle Joe. And the reason for . . . you know, obvious reason for that type of influence from him is the fact that he was the oldest in the family, so that my father would listen to his advice. And his advice was not to try to force your children into certain types of jobs. Let them do something they enjoy. SM: Oh.


MW: But the only thing that . . . that they didn’t really want us do would be like . . . they never encouraged anybody to go into the . . . to follow them into the business, to continue. SM: I see. They . . . did they discourage it, or . . .? MW: They didn’t discourage it. They just never encouraged it, I guess, because I think part of it was the fact that when we were growing up the big emphasis on education in schools with the . . . in the 1950s, late 1950s with the Russians throwing up the satellite. SM: Yes. Right. MW: So that this . . . and science and mathematics at that time became very important. So just through the natural process of going to school, they just . . . they figured out that we would know what we’d want to do. SM: Yes. MW: And I think they sort of assumed that it would be some sort of a profession because they . . . that emphasis on . . . oh, not in a real overt way, doing something that was . . . not sort of just labor oriented like working in a restaurant. The only time I can really recall my dad giving me a negative . . . encouragement, if you could say negative, but any negative feedback about career choice I might have, I remember that one time when I was in high school where I thought I would like maybe want to go into business. And he discouraged me from doing that. Because he said, “Why would Dayton’s want to hire you? Because you’re Chinese, you know, who’s going to hire you?” SM: Oh. Hmmm. MW: And so that . . . that had a real devastating blow on me. SM: What about if you were going into business on your own or something? But he would assume you’d have start in someplace . . . MW: Yes. SM: I see. And he didn’t think Dayton’s would hire you. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Well, I think part of that came from the fact that when my parents first moved to Rochester, which would be early 1950s, there were certain parts of town that we would not be able to buy a house in. SM: Oh, I’m sure he spoke from his own experience. MW: Yes. 35

SM: Yes. Hmmm. MW: Yes. And so that, to this day, is . . . is something that occasionally will come out. The fact that here he is now, an immigrant from China with very little education. Possesses certain things, has, you know, material things, and has children that are . . . have good jobs, etcetera. That he takes a certain pride in that. And that, I think, is the real reaction to the . . . the sort of racist things that he encountered. My dad . . . I guess part of this, you know, trying to be accepted, this is his way of dealing with a lot of those things, is not to make waves, just to sort of keep it in. SM: Yes. MW: Yes. And I think those are just little ways that he’s able to find release from those, where his . . . through his own achievement and through his children’s achievements that he’s shown that, you know . . . sort of his way of getting . . . of getting back. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: Because that was . . . I think it was important to him. That’s something he emphasized to us, too, that if anybody ever asked you—this was [unclear] children—if you were for the Communists or for the Nationalists, you had to say you were for the Nationalists. “Because,” [chuckles] he says, “They’re going to throw you out of the country.” You know, this idea of . . . a slight paranoia. SM: Right. MW: And it was tough enough [chuckles] being a minority. But then something that was unpopular should . . . SM: [Chuckles] Survival comes first. MW: Yes, right. SM: Well, what were his actual sympathies? Or I mean, which . . .? MW: Oh. SM: I mean, was it a matter of saying the Kuomintang to survive, or was he really pretty sympathetic? MW: Well, he was pretty sympathetic to them. One reason being there was a lot of friends and relatives that . . . that died. And so that it . . . SM: That was the China he remembered, I suppose.


MW: Yes, right. That’s what he remembered. Yes, as a youth. And so that . . . that transition, you know, that he has witnessed from a distance, plus the fact that many of his friends died as a result of it, has made it very difficult for him even today to want to go back and visit. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Whereas like my uncle and aunt, they’re going to go to the People’s Republic next spring. SM: Oh, are they? MW: And my mom, I mean, she’s ready to go. SM: Oh, she is? MW: Yes, she wants to go. She went to . . . SM: Just to see China or to see the new China? MW: Yes. She wants to . . . yes, she’d like to visit. SM: Yes. MW: And my father, I think maybe give him a couple more years, he’ll come around. [Chuckles] But he still has a difficult time in dealing with that. I think also part of it is the politics in the United States where . . . here again, I think part of it being accepted, following the official line of the United States Government, the attitude towards China. And he’s had a . . . he’s had a difficult time seeing the about-face all of a sudden. SM: Yes. MW: Now, you know, all this time he was . . . like now the Communist People’s Republic of China supposed to be something very evil, now it’s accepted. SM: Yes, that would be really sort of rough on the immigrant group. MW: Yes. But I’m sure in his heart he would really like to go back and visit. SM: Yes. Politics aside, I suppose. MW: Even though he may . . . yes, on the outside he may say that he’s disinterested, but I’m sure he really would enjoy that trip. SM: Hmmm. Did the Chinese in Rochester take any strong positions on American politics? MW: No. Not as . . . 37

SM: Do they sort of keep aloof? MW: They stay pretty aloof about that. I mean, they’ll donate money to both candidates. SM: [Chuckles] MW: If they’re going to donate money. You know, they’re not really going to . . . SM: They don’t want to get into trouble. MW: Right. That’s right. Yes. SM: But privately do they have any particular feelings about Democrats or Republicans? [Chuckles] MW: Oh, well, I think my . . . nothing that would be too much different from a typical citizen. And my dad has his . . . well, gripe about whosoever is in office. SM: [Chuckles] MW: And make his, you know, usual comments. But not to the extent where any of them would consider getting involved with politics. SM: Yes. MW: Even going to a caucus or anything like that, you know. SM: Oh, really. MW: Yes, they wouldn’t do that. SM: Hmmm. MW: Just getting them to the polling booth is tough enough. SM: They do vote though? MW: Yes. SM: Then so they’re really afraid of taking a position in politics? MW: Oh . . . SM: This isn’t true of the second generation, I’m sure, but . . . [Chuckles] 38

MW: Yes. Right. Right. Not necessarily . . . I think more so because they wouldn’t feel at ease about it since they don’t feel they have enough expertise where they could . . . SM: Oh, I see. But they feel they don’t understand political situations? MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Hmmm. MW: They sort of leave it in the hands of those who supposedly know more. SM: Their children or . . .? MW: No, the politicians. SM: [Chuckles] The politicians. MW: Because like they’re . . . SM: They wouldn’t ask their children who to vote for and so on? MW: No. No. But like in the 1960s when all this was going on with the anti-war movement, you know, boy, they wanted to be sure that their kids didn’t get involved because that’s . . . [Chuckles] You don’t want to . . . SM: Oh, yes. Many did though, didn’t they? MW: Yes. SM: Or I don’t know if in Minnesota, but . . . MW: Yes, many did. And they were . . . I guess they are, you know, taking the administration’s stance because that was the official line, I guess. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] MW: But, you know, not wanting their kids to get in trouble. SM: Yes. That’s pretty natural. [Chuckles] MW: I guess the . . . yes. And then the fact that, you know, you’re protesting against the government and there’s a . . . I guess they saw it as a lot of . . . there’s many negative aspect to that. 39

SM: Yes. MW: Get involved like that where you would be seen. You know, you’re getting involved to the point where . . . I mean, you stick out enough as it is, but then trying to become involved in something like that. SM: Yes. It just adds one more danger to their situation. [Chuckles] MW: Yes, that’s just something that they wouldn’t . . . they couldn’t see themselves doing. SM: Yes. MW: And so I think it’s difficult for them to see. You know, why would you want to do that? There’s other people that are doing it. You know, that’s sort of . . . that . . . getting that sort of . . . level of consciousness, you know, where . . . SM: Yes, that would be pretty understandable. Well, how did they feel about [Chuck] Hazama? [Chuckles] MW: Oh, my . . . I guess my dad, his attitude about that was the fact that he’s known Dick Postier, who is the city council president who ran against Hazama. SM: Oh. MW: He’s known him for many, many years. And his attitude is that . . . not that was from that . . . well, gee, here’s Dick Postier. He’s served the city for all these years. He sort of deserved to be . . . SM: [Unclear] [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Yes, that’s the way he looked at it. SM: [Chuckles] MW: But it was interesting, the editorial in the Rochester paper, since Chuck Withers, who is the editor, is pretty well known for his conservative attitude. I was kind of surprised at his remarks. But it made sense. He felt that, you know, the job duties of a mayor and of a council president were different. They required people of different talents and he felt that Hazama had the talents to be a mayor and that Dick Postier had the talents to be the council president. SM: I see. MW: So it was kind of . . . from him that seemed refreshing. [Chuckles] SM: Yes. [Chuckles] Well, do they . . .? 40

MW: So my dad was totally surprised. SM: He was? MW: Because he was out of town at the time of the election. He was . . . you know, here, getting back to the fact that Postier has served the city for so long and Chuck Hazama who’s only been in Rochester for like about six years or something like that. SM: Oh. MW: So he was . . . surprised. SM: What about do they see either the Republicans or the Democrats as more helpful or supportive of immigration? Or like [Hubert] Humphrey or . . .? MW: I think that the deal with it as individuals and not necessarily parties. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: Because yes, Hubert Humphrey did help our family a lot in helping get relatives over. SM: That’s what many Asians have said. MW: Yes. And so that they’ve supported him, supported his campaigns throughout the years. SM: I see. But as an individual then. MW: And so they expect . . . like, you know, here, of their government representatives to help them and things like that. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: No matter who it is. And like [Walter] Fritz Mondale helped, too. SM: Oh, he did? MW: There’s certain ones that don’t. They [chuckles] . . . they . . . you know, they expect favors. They’ve learned to expect these things and, you know, they’ve given in return, it’s not like a political bribe, but they just, you know, this is . . . SM: So they’ve sort of brought the Chinese tradition . . . MW: Yes, right. They see that these people are public servants and for me this is what you can do. For someone else, maybe they want something . . . another favor, a different type. 41

SM: [Chuckles] I see. MW: And . . . but this is basically what they want from them. SM: Yes. So they wouldn’t care if it was a Democrat or a Republican. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Right. If you come through for them, yes. Yes. SM: [Chuckles] MW: Because they were . . . one of the things that . . . well, my father and my uncle both prize is . . . when Humphrey became vice president, they received an invitation to the . . . one of the . . . the inauguration. And so that was a real . . . SM: Oh, because he had had this contact with him? MW: Yes, with him before. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: So that’s a real big deal for them. Here again, a poor immigrant coming over . . . SM: Did they go? MW: No, they didn’t go. But they got it framed, that announcement. Anybody comes in the house, you can’t miss . . . SM: That Humphrey really is an idol of many immigrants, and Asian immigrants. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: But some of the Filipino . . . well, I guess I won’t say this on tape. MW: [Chuckles] Alright. SM: [Chuckles] To do with Mondale. MW: But they noticed, it seems like . . . politicians seem less inclined now to help with those kinds of things. SM: Oh, yes. Oh, they think . . . I see. MW: Yes. 42

SM: But they haven’t seen any particular differences between the [unclear]. MW: I don’t believe so. SM: Maybe they aren’t, you know, really into it enough to know. MW: Yes. Yes. That’s probably it. SM: Well, before the time runs out, I think it might be interesting to talk about your high school. And did you go to the university or . . .? MW: Yes. I went to the university. SM: Those days . . . and since it was during the 1960s, I assume. MW: Yes. SM: That could have been pretty interesting. MW: Yes. Like in high school, I guess, you know, that I see the big difference between my cousin and myself. The fact that he was able to date and I wasn’t. SM: Oh. MW: And so there was . . . I think a fair amount of frustration built up in myself. I guess, I don’t think I look at it as an outlet or not, I kind of killed my time. I worked at a drive-in when I was in high school. And . . . at that time, that particular drive-in was an interesting place to be on weekends because if there was going to be a fight or anything, that’s where it was going to be at, out in our parking lot. And so that . . . SM: [Chuckles] So you were in on the action. MW: Yes, I was in on the action. And it was interesting from the type of people I met there, because—I don’t know if you have a stereotype of kids that work in drive-ins—most of them are not what you’d call the [chuckles] real bright ones. SM: [Chuckles] MW: And here was . . . you know, I was a fairly good student. And so I . . . it was an interesting mix of people I met at that drive-in. And that was a good experience, I thought, because you met a lot of kids who were . . . I mean, the . . . were into other things than I was. SM: [Chuckles]


MW: You know. And you sort of . . . I guess I learned a lot from just like their experiences. The things they were interested in doing. SM: Oh, yes. MW: But . . . and it was a pretty typical high school experience, I guess. You know, had your . . . our high school was kind of clique-ish. And like my cousin was able to kind of run amongst one of those cliques where they . . . it seemed like they a . . . they had their quota, see. There was one Jewish kid in that clique and there was one Chinese kid who was my cousin, so, you know. SM: Oh. [Chuckles] MW: And he sort of . . . SM: So he was accepted by them. MW: Yes, he was . . . yes. It was not that I wasn’t accepted. You know, I had friends with . . . I knew . . . like in high school, this group known as The Pills, who were kids . . . SM: [Laughing] The Pills? MW: Pills. Because they were sons and daughters of doctors. SM: [Laughing] Oh, no. MW: Sort of the elite. SM: That’s interesting. MW: Of course, they . . . they had friends who weren’t . . . they weren’t all sons and daughters of doctors, but, you know . . . SM: Then some others could be called Pills, too? MW: Sure, yes. SM: If they [chuckles] associated with the other Pills. MW: Right, they associated. Right. And then you had your . . . you know. But I guess my . . . the group I ran around with was pretty motley, where we had . . . SM: You didn’t go with The Pills, is that right? [Chuckles] MW: No, no. [Chuckles] I was down there a little lower. Yes. 44

SM: The next group down? [Chuckles] MW: My . . . my cronies, yes. Because I would . . . you know, like have the kids I met in classes and then the ones that I, you know, associated with from work, you know. It was like, a lot of times were opposite ends. [Chuckles] SM: I see. Well, didn’t the ones at work go to school? MW: Oh yes, they did. SM: Or were they dropouts? [Chuckles] MW: A lot of them were dropouts. Some were older and just . . . yes. SM: I see. So you had like two sets of friends. MW: Yes. But I never dated in high school. SM: Yes. MW: I just . . . you know, the usual school activities, the going to football games and basketball games and homecoming, working on floats. Yes, it was . . . the thing is that maybe growing up in that town, the fact that we weren’t threats, you know. We were fairly . . . I mean we were well accepted into school. SM: Yes. MW: They just didn’t . . . I guess that was thought at the time to be very cool to accept minorities, you know, to be kind to them or whatever. But it was . . . there weren’t any problems at all in school. SM: So it was kind of a liberal atmosphere? MW: Well . . . SM: Or one part of the town? The doctors? MW: I guess . . . yes. I don’t know if you could look at it as liberal or not but it was just . . . we were accepted, because that . . . you know. So then it was a pleasant experience. It was a nice . . . Rochester was a nice town to grow up in. I mean, people . . . the community really support their education system. They’ve . . . it’s a nice clean town. You’ve got a . . . there’s good support for doing well in education. SM: Maybe it’s more of a conservative than liberal. 45

MW: Yes, it is. SM: I looked in the paper, there did seem to be some conservative columnists and so on. MW: Yes, I think it is a conservative town. Yes. The attitude, as I mentioned earlier, they want to seem cosmopolitan but they’re really conservative. [Chuckles] SM: Yes. MW: You know, that sort of balances off. SM: Yes. Hmmm. But it was largely your father’s restriction that . . . MW: Yes. It was my father’s. SM: Prevented you. MW: Yes, I sort of . . . didn’t want to test his . . . his will. SM: Yes. And I assume it was also your mother’s opinion. MW: Yes, she went along. Yes. And I think my mother has more of an understanding of . . . like even when my youngest brother wanted to go away to school, have an understanding of what her kids want. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: You know, it’s . . . with my youngest brother, with his decision about going away to school. We just had taken him to see the movie Hair with us. There’s a scene in there where someone . . . one of the actors, [one of the] main characters wants to borrow some money from the father. The father goes ranting and raving about how he should get a haircut and so on. And so the mother quietly takes him in the kitchen and says, “How much do you want?” You know, it’s the same thing about . . . SM: Oh, yes. That’s sort of a customary mother’s . . . [unclear]. MW: Yes, so my mom is sort of . . . was a buffer from that. But she had to go along with what my father said. But my . . . I guess my college experience, you know, my parents really didn’t want us to leave town to go away to school. SM: [Chuckles] MW: Going to the university, they seemed like, you know [sighs] it was an opportunity for us to . . . you know, to get some independence and get away from under their wing. And for myself, 46

personally, it was a chance [chuckles] to . . . for some freedom. Yes. [Chuckles] And I guess I, in a lot of ways . . . SM: [Chuckles] What you needed. MW: Yes. And I guess in a lot of ways I probably abused that. [Chuckles] SM: [Laughter] [Unclear]. MW: It was . . . it was a real . . . yes. SM: Were they quite reluctant when you went? Or just . . .? MW: Just a little bit. SM: Just a little bit. MW: Yes. SM: Let’s see. I forgot now whether you are the first son of your family. First [unclear]. MW: Well, see, my . . . I have an older sister. SM: Oh. MW: She went . . . she did go to the community college for a couple years. SM: Oh, so she took the main brunt of this. [Chuckles] MW: Yes, right. SM: I see. MW: Especially since she was a daughter. SM: Yes. MW: And then the oldest daughter. That was real . . . SM: She went there two years? MW: Yes. Then she . . . then, let’s see . . . I started at the university in 1966. And I just happened to . . . my cousin Steve and I were roommates, too, as well, in the dorm. SM: Oh. [Chuckles] You’re exactly the same . . . or I mean, the same year. 47

MW: We’re within six months. SM: Yes. Well, they managed to make sure you roomed together, anyway. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. SM: Or was it your idea or theirs? MW: I think it was ours. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Yes. Well, probably our parents’ idea. SM: What is your cousin Steve doing now? MW: He’s a lawyer now. SM: Oh. MW: In Vancouver, Canada. SM: Oh. Hmmm. He went to the law school here? MW: He went to law school in Canada. SM: Oh. He’s . . . does he consider himself Canadian or . . .? MW: Well, he had to get landed immigrant status in order to be able to be accepted in law school there. SM: Oh, I see. MW: So he’s going to make his . . . at least for the near future anyway – set up his work and live in Canada. SM: I see. He’s a Canadian citizen or becoming one. MW: Yes, becoming one. SM: Yes. MW: Since his mother is still a Canadian citizen, yes. 48

SM: Oh, yes. So it’s pretty easy. MW: He has a lot of relatives that live in Vancouver. So career-wise it could be very helpful for him to be there. More advantageous there than here, I guess, in those type of things. SM: Well, what is the situation in terms of being Asian? Is there a difference in Canada to here? MW: In Vancouver it is. It has a very large Chinese population. It’s probably the second or third largest in North America. And so like . . . SM: Is that an advantage? I mean . . . MW: It’s an advantage, yes. They’re very well accepted in Vancouver. One reason being that the Chinese hold a lot of high positions. SM: Political positions? MW: Mmmm. Economic more. One of his uncles is a president of a bank in Vancouver. Another is the head of the immigration in Vancouver. SM: Wow. [Chuckles] MW: And then I guess that you could say politically with it, since there is a large Chinese population. That uncle who runs . . . the bank president . . . SM: Yes, it’s political in a broad sense. MW: He is part of . . . yes, he’s in one of the Chinese organizations and he’s one of the heads. And so that, in those terms . . . SM: He’s a head of one of the Chinese organizations? MW: Yes. He’s a vice president. But he’s involved in one of those organizations. SM: Oh, so he’s in the Chinese politics. MW: Yes. You know, what’s unique about Vancouver’s Chinese community from other large cities is the fact that . . . well, there is a big Chinatown, but then Chinese are all over the town. SM: Oh. MW: They’ve got . . . you’ll see little shops on every corner of the town. You’ll see an Asian face everywhere. So it’s not isolated. SM: Yes. 49

MW: That’s one thing that I . . . I notice that’s quite different from like New York and San Francisco and L.A. SM: Yes. MW: It’s not like a little ghetto or anything like that. They’re just a real . . . real . . . they’re a big part of the city. SM: What about percent do you think they might be in the population of [Vancouver]? MW: Oh. I haven’t got . . . I would just be picking a number out of the air. I don’t know right off. SM: But it would be less than half, you think? MW: Yes, it’s less than half. But it’s . . . but, you know, the fact that Vancouver, like San Francisco, you know, it’s on the coast. SM: Yes. That makes a big difference. MW: And a lot that could get in the United States go up to Canada. SM: Oh, yes. Sure. MW: So that like in Western Canada . . . SM: Was it easier to get in? MW: It seems like it’s easier, I think. SM: Yes. MW: But I think . . . SM: But some intended to go to Canada, didn’t they? MW: Yes. Yes. I think in the early days there was the . . . they had as much racism there as you did in the United States. SM: Yes. MW: But now it just . . . I don’t know. They’ve . . . in Vancouver anyway, they’ve sort of grown up with the city that, you know, they’re sort of accepted. 50

SM: Yes. Well, Canada was looking for a population, too, for many years. I don’t know if that’s still true, but, I mean, they were welcoming at least. MW: Yes. Now they’re having the . . . what is it, [unclear] . . . West Indians in Vancouver. SM: Oh. MW: They’re sort of looked on . . . I guess if you could compare it to . . . there are very few blacks in Canada, especially Vancouver, so the West Indians are sort of bearing the brunt of the . . . the Canadian racism. SM: I see. MW: Because they’re moving in. SM: Oh, they probably have a preference in being British. MW: Because they’re . . . yes, they’re still a British . . . yes. SM: Yes. MW: And yes, so they have . . . their attitudes, if they’re going to take it . . . they’re the minority that takes the brunt of the racism in Vancouver anyway. SM: Hmmm. When you were in high school—and whether it was different or the same when you went—did you identify yourself . . . I mean, did you think of yourself as Chinese or Chinese American or . . .? MW: Mmmm. SM: Or did you think about it? [Chuckles] MW: I didn’t think about it a whole lot. SM: Yes, in high school there. MW: In high school, yes. Because, you know, none of my . . . none of the kids at school really . . . I don’t know if they consciously or unconsciously did or not. It just didn’t seem to be important. And I think part of the fact was that [chuckles] there were so few that it . . . you know. SM: Yes. Did you and your cousin ever talk about it as kids? MW: No, we never did in high school, you know. It never became a point. I mean, you knew we were . . . you were different. But, you know, I think that one difference mentioned earlier like dating, that was brought on more so from my father than anybody at school, you know. 51

SM: Yes. And more than your own feeling, too. MW: Yes. SM: I see. Yes, so . . . and I suppose there wasn’t enough of a group to make much of it. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. And, you know, there was still . . . well, occasionally there was the uniqueness of . . . like more so, I think, like in grade school, that you were really different. I think maybe kids then are less inclined to make a big deal about it, you know. And so, you know, I was more aware, but I think when . . . in grade school than say in high school. SM: You were more aware of it in grade school? MW: Yes. Kids would . . . would make that sort of uniqueness more apparent. Make a bigger deal of it and in high school they were less inclined to do that. SM: But not in a negative way or was it in a negative way? MW: Oh, I guess there were occasions in a negative way as well as positive, so that was pretty balanced out. SM: Yes. So in the high school it was more . . . well, would that have been . . .? Well, it would be a bigger group, since the grade schools would feed into the high school. MW: Yes. Yes, because like the fact that my . . . well, from like . . . well, going into junior high. See, my cousin and I, Steve and I went to different grade schools. SM: Oh. MW: But then at a later point we moved. SM: I see. MW: So we went to different grade schools. They went into junior high so that there were a fair number of people that were in fact from his grade school that were aware of who he was and then from my . . . SM: Oh, you went to the same junior high? MW: Yes, we went to the same junior high. SM: Yes. I see. 52

MW: And so that there were enough people, I guess, who knew who we were, so that it wasn’t . .. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Yes, they were aware, I mean. It just . . . like even like the one black student in junior high. [Chuckles] I mean, everybody was talking about . . . more or less knew about him, who he was, so that . . . SM: Yes. MW: I think more . . . you get more surprise or negative feedback from like kids who didn’t know you existed before. Like kids who came up from the rural areas. That way you were kind of . . . SM: Oh, yes. This was in high school? MW: In junior high and high school. SM: In junior high. MW: Yes. Because the other kids, you know, from our class, more or less grew up with you. SM: Yes. MW: Yes, from junior high on, so they all knew about you, and so it was . . . SM: Yes. Hmmm. Then when you went to the U, what did this . . . in 1960s and so on, do you want to talk a little bit about that? MW: I guess like in both . . . like . . . say in a cultural and a personal sense, it was a real . . . anytime you go to college, I think, it’s a . . . SM: Yes. MW: Quite an experience. And from like a personal standpoint, as I mentioned earlier, it was a chance for me to get a lot of independence. And that’s when I also started dating. And, you know, it was just with Caucasian girls. And I still did not tell my parents that I did. SM: Hmmm. MW: It was . . . I just didn’t see any sense of upsetting my father. SM: [Chuckles] Bringing up the . . . 53

MW: Yes, of doing that. So I did it. And I sort of . . . I really felt, you know, guilty that I wasn’t being fair to like myself and as well as my girlfriend. The fact that I couldn’t tell my parents that I’m having this relationship as . . . however casual it was or however serious it was. SM: Yes. MW: And I did get very serious with one girl. And I . . . this is what, towards my senior year. And mentioned . . . I did mention that my parents and my father had a . . . I wanted them to meet her. And he had the reaction that I anticipated. He was quite angry. There had always been threats of disowning, you know. SM: Oh. MW: And, you know, the thing . . . that was difficult because of the fact that you were brought up in being very important with the family about my brothers and sisters and all that stuff. So that was really disconcerting, and my . . . my mother understood but she had . . . she said she had to stick with my father in something like that. And so then, as a result, well that . . . that relationship broke up. But . . . SM: Oh, as a result, it did break up? MW: Yes. In a real direct way, I guess. Because I just . . . at that time, I wasn’t ready for various reasons to make a commitment like that to . . . to say, to choose one over the other. It was just a very . . . and as I look back, that’s something very selfish on my part. I wasn’t willing to give enough of myself to her to do this. SM: Oh, and your family is a big thing, too. MW: Yes. So that was one of the reasons, then it’s just a personal thing. But . . . it was also a time, I think like especially after my sophomore year, becoming more aware of being an Asian American in the United States. And a part of it was the involvement with the anti-war movement formation on campus of . . . of the Asian American group. And that led to . . . well, like . . . SM: Is that the Asian American Alliance? MW: Yes, Asian American Alliance. Right. SM: Did you help to organize that or . . .? MW: Oh . . . Ann and Beth Takakawa [sp?] did more of that. SM: Who was that? Ben? MW: Beth. 54

SM: Beth. MW: And Ann Takakawa. SM: They were sisters? MW: Right. And a couple of other people, I can’t remember right off. SM: I think Joyce [Yu] said she was involved in that. MW: Yes, I think she was, too. SM: Yes. MW: Yes. And just getting involved first . . . on a personal basis, then later on with the . . . through that organization. SM: I see. Yes. MW: And that sort of led to . . . well, even before that was going on, when I was . . . as a . . . my minor as an undergraduate was history. SM: Oh. MW: And I had taken some black history courses at the university from Allan Spear, and I decided to take some Chinese history courses. And I think I ended up taking about four . . . four or five quarters of Chinese history classes. And through one of those classes I met another . . . I met a Chinese American who was involved with that Asian American Alliance. So that’s how I got through into that. SM: I see. Hmmm. Well, were there any particular teachers that were influential? Or that taught this . . . was this Chinese history or Asian . . . or Chinese American history or both or . . .? MW: It was Chinese, of China. SM: Chinese. MW: Yes, I . . . I think the reason why I took those courses, just as a . . . my own personal curiosity about China. You know, that was part of my heritage. I . . . and I guess, well, this was actually a spinoff from . . . a Chinese art history class that I had. SM: Oh. MW: Since at that time I was . . . studio arts was my major. And a number of art history courses are required. So . . . 55

SM: Who taught that? MW: God, what is his name? Hmmm. I can’t even think of who it is now. SM: I think I know who it is and I can’t [chuckles] think of his name either. He’s now a somewhat elderly man? MW: Yes. I can’t . . . I can’t . . . SM: [Unclear]? MW: No. SM: No. It wasn’t him then. MW: So I had taken a couple of Chinese art history classes and then decided to take some through the history department as well. SM: Were you an art major? MW: I was an art major. SM: Oh, I see. Hmmm. MW: And that just really . . . just from my interest in history that I’ve always had, that was . . . just stimulated more trying to find out a little bit about . . . I guess about my heritage. SM: Oh, yes. Do you think any of your interest in history came from your parents? MW: Hmmm. SM: I’ve noticed that it seems to be something Chinese are so aware of, and even first generation that can hardly speak English, they know what history is when you mention that. MW: Yes. Well, I guess, maybe probably curiosity that we as kids always had, the fact that my parents came from somewhere else that we don’t . . . we had always asked them questions about their background, you know. SM: Yes. Right. Did they ever talk about Chinese history? MW: No. SM: Or more about family? 56

MW: More about family, not really about Chinese history. And the reason for that, I think, was say with their contemporary history is the fact that there was with the Revolution, the Communists. SM: Oh, yes. MW: So that was . . . you know. SM: Kind of a sore point. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. The other history that they could relate to was like World War II. SM: Oh. MW: Yes. My mother remembers running to the caves to avoid the bombing from the Japanese. SM: I see, they were in China during World War II? Or your mother was. MW: My mother was. My father was in the United States. SM: Oh. So your mother is the one that relates to World War II. MW: Yes. SM: And maybe the earlier Sino-Japanese? MW: Yes. I mean, that’s one thing that I had for many years. Difficult. I had a difficulty in discovering why, you know, they . . . like Chinese and Japanese in larger areas of Chicago and New York hate each other. SM: Right. MW: Yes. Here it’s just . . . there were . . . there’s so few that we kind of all had to stick together, you know. [Chuckles] SM: Yes. That’s interesting because I grew up in the 1930s and 1940s in Canton and was just infused with that hatred, you know. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. SM: And so when I came here and saw second generation really getting along, it was a big relief, you know. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. 57

SM: It was so intense in China . . . with obvious reasons. MW: Yes. I’ve been reading Teddy White’s book In Search of History. SM: Oh, have you? Oh, yes. MW: And he relates that attitude in one of his chapters. SM: Oh, yes. It was very strong. I remember watching soldiers drilling every morning. I mean, it was just . . . we just breathed it, you know. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Yes, I could tell though when I . . . you know, I took those Chinese history classes. Whenever I’d visit my parents, you know, I’d tell them things I learned in class. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And so my dad . . . yes. I mean, he was definitely aware of things that had happened in Chinese history. He just never, for whatever reasons, decided to tell us much about it. So he could, you know, suggest and so on. And tell us stuff that he learned in school about Chinese history. SM: So he was interested when you would talk about it? MW: Yes, he was. Yes. Talking about . . . especially about more contemporary Chinese history, about land reform and the positive things that the Communist Revolution had done. SM: He was interested in that? MW: Yes. I’d bring those points up. [Chuckles] But for him at that time it was still too much the . . . personal emotional involvement of what had happened, you know. SM: Right. MW: It was hard . . . it was difficult for him to see beyond those things about . . . of how China had changed. SM: Yes. Well, was he close to family members that were there during the Revolution? He grew up more here. MW: Yes, he grew up more here. I guess the fact that there’s . . . you know, you mentioned like extended family. Knowing.... [Recording interruption]


SM: Okay. Well, I was going to ask you somewhat about the . . . was there anything you wanted to say about . . .? Yes, I don’t think we really finished about yourself at the U and all that. MW: About those . . . yes. SM: Yes. Why don’t you . . .? MW: I just think that was a real enlightening period. The fact that . . . that sort of personal crisis that I had and how I was trying to deal with it had changed my attitude, had changed it, sort of made myself more determined to try to control my own destiny more in regards to what my parents’ decisions, you know, because . . . even today, you know, they still try to [chuckles] exert some influence on us. And it’s . . . it is real tough for them to let go. SM: Yes. MW: Real tough. You know, they’re overly kind. They . . . you know. And they do it from . . . from just trying to do good for their children. They don’t have any, you know . . . they’re just . . . they’re very kind, they don’t have any negative thoughts, there’s no underlying ties to, you know, why they’re doing these things. And so at that time, it was a result of what happened, you know. I just tried to be more determined to become more independent. And at that time, you know, from that college experience, and getting involved with the Asian American Alliance, and also taking those Chinese history classes, I became more aware of being Chinese in America. SM: I see. MW: How it really . . . and then started, you know, relating or thinking back of how it was growing up in Rochester, you know, a small town, and meeting some Chinese who had grown up in the Twin Cities, and sort of comparing experiences. And so . . . in a lot of respects it just seemed important to me that I . . . I find those things out, you know, learn about those. But then after finishing at the university, I just worked for a couple years and met my present . . . met my wife through my brother who was at the time going with her sister. SM: Oh, I see. MW: And so then we got engaged, got married a couple years later. And it was . . . I guess like something that my father . . . you know, here was his oldest son marrying a Chinese. And so of course he pulled out all the stops. [Chuckles] SM: Ah ha. MW: And it was . . . just doing the wedding, I guess, it was like . . . an interesting comparison between the generations. We wanted an outdoor wedding. And of course this is something that my parents thought, this is . . . oh! This is too strange for us to do. SM: [Chuckles] 59

MW: People just don’t do these things. Only hippies do outdoor weddings, things like that. And so, here again, it was just a matter of cajoling them, and they go along with it. Just . . . so we took care of those kinds of plans and we . . . we allowed them to have the reception be more typical Chinese. SM: Yes. Oh, you did have an outdoor wedding? MW: So we did have it outdoors. We had it at the Rose Garden. And everything went terrific, so they were really pleased with it. And all their friends, American, Chinese . . . they just . . . you know, ate it up when they told them what a great idea it was having it outdoors [chuckles] and how nice it was. And so they liked that. But the reception . . . SM: Where was that held? MW: It was at the Radisson South. SM: Yes. MW: And so my wife wore a cheongsam at the reception. And then one of the things that [chuckles] you do is like just going around from table to table toasting and my dad had to get that Chinese rice wine to . . . I guess we had to get it through Haskell’s, the only place in town that carried it. And the fact that it was an opportunity for my dad to show off to the other Chinese people in the Twin Cities. SM: [Chuckles] Oh, yes. MW: And the fact that his son was marrying a Chinese girl and that . . . to set an example to kids of my age group that [chuckles] that . . . I mean, it was . . . the attendance. There was a lot of people invited, a lot of them showed up because the adults saw it as an opportunity to use it as an example to their kids as, see, look, you know. SM: Oh. [Unclear shuffling noises] SM: It must be nice to be a model! [Chuckles] MW: Oh, definitely. We certainly didn’t intend it to be that way, but that worked out that way. SM: [Laughter] That’s interesting. MW: Yes.


SM: Hmmm. I was wondering whether the fact that your parents are . . . you know, had a very hard time letting go, as you said—which is true of most parents to some extent . . . MW: Yes. SM: But do you think this was exaggerated by being in an alien environment or would they have been equally protective in China, too? Or I guess that’s pretty hard for you to answer. [Chuckles] MW: Oh, it’s really hard to say. You know, I think my parents . . . maybe one of the reasons why they selected a small town to settle in was the fact that they didn’t feel there would be as many outside influences on their children growing up. SM: Oh, yes. MW: You know, if you look at say, a Chinese family growing up in Chicago, New York, or San Francisco, there’s more temptation there, as it were, if you can use that term to describe . . . SM: Yes. MW: And so that, you know, small town where it’s, until recently, the only other Chinese there is just our own family. SM: Yes. MW: And so that had . . . you know, there’s positive and negative aspects about that. Not being able to meet other Chinese, but yet they’re able to exert greater control over their children that way. SM: Were they worried about influences of other Chinese? MW: Oh, I think just that being . . . no, or that if you’re in a big city. SM: Yes, there are all kinds of people to . . . MW: Or even in Minneapolis [unclear] you know, that there’s . . . yes, there are more things to lead you astray, not just morally but from your family, I guess. SM: Yes. MW: From what they want you to do, more than anything else. SM: Right. Did they ever discourage you from making friends or doing things at school or . . .? MW: No. 61

SM: Joyce [Yu] thought that her parents really did. MW: Oh. SM: Because the family is the one source of good influence and . . . MW: Well, they always encouraged us to, you know, about meeting friends and that was . . . they always welcomed having friends stop by the house or us taking them to the restaurant. SM: Oh. MW: [Unclear] you know, they always welcomed them. SM: Yes. I see. MW: Yes, I think . . . here again, just, you know, wanting to be sure that we fit in. And this is one way of doing it. You don’t want to . . . SM: Oh, they did want you to fit in. MW: Yes, they wanted us to fit in. That would seem to be real important. SM: Yes. MW: As long as it was just with [chuckles] SM: With the right . . . MW: Yes, right. [Chuckles] SM: Yes, I guess Joyce [Yu] said the same of her parents. It was a little ambivalent. They wanted them to be social but they wanted them to study all the time and . . . MW: Yes. It was my getting involved with certain activities . . . My father is kind of a . . . in certain respects, kind of timid. And he was always afraid that we’d get hurt. And so that like when I was playing football in those youth football leagues, he was always worried that I would get hurt, and even like joining the Boy Scouts. Now we were in Cub Scouts and got all this . . . you know, went through that. But [unclear] for some reason or other, he saw Boy Scouts as being something that could . . . as a physical . . . SM: Danger. MW: Danger, yes. Going camping or something. Even like with guns, you know. He doesn’t like guns because it’s just something where you could easily hurt yourself. You know, his 62

attitudes were from like . . . stem from something like that. So that maybe that’s part of also not getting involved with certain things, like politically, too. Both physically and . . . SM: [Unclear] cautious . . . MW: Yes. Yes, not to take risks. SM: Yes. MW: He even has that today where like taking . . . like investing money. Certain financial risks that he’s a little leery of. SM: I suppose when you’ve taken the big risk of [chuckles] coming to another country . . . MW: Yes. Yes. And even, you know, having that today, that attitude today, even though he’s . . . is quite financially stable, and doesn’t really have to worry about, you know, making a living and surviving anymore. SM: Yes. But he’s still very cautious. MW: Yes, he’s still very cautious. Maybe because he takes a lot of considerations as like say a businessman as to like what kind of house you’ve got, what kind of car you drive. You don’t want to upset people to think that you’re too . . . you know, that you’re making too much money or else that you’re too uppity. Because . . . SM: You don’t want them to think you’re too poor either though. [Chuckles] MW: Yes, right. Because see, I mean, he’s . . . SM: Oh, too uppity. MW: Yes, it took him a long time before he could get himself to buy a Cadillac, you know. I mean, this is something that he wanted for a long, long time. SM: [Chuckles] Oh, that’s [unclear]. MW: Then he finally . . . he got his first one then about three or four . . . four years ago. And then we helped him out choosing a color, a fairly conservative color. He didn’t want it at first; he wanted to get a gold one. We said, “Dad, that’s too flashy. It’s not very nice.” So anyway, we [unclear]. SM: The children told him gold would be too flashy? MW: Yes, totally too flashy. So he got a nice conservative tan. This time he . . . he just got a new one this year. And he was worried about getting a particular model because he was afraid 63

that, well, if people think . . . it would be if we got the top of the line Cadillac, people would have thought, oh, if you’re making so much money . . . you know. SM: [Chuckles] Well, that’s interesting. MW: But that’s still, you know, I mean, that gets a lot of business with him in it, and you have be concerned about that. SM: Yes. MW: But [unclear] we told him, you know, that’s something that he always wanted, so why deny himself something like that. SM: Right. MW: And that’s something that they’ve . . . my mom’s learned . . . I think learned a little easier than my dad is that you know, you should enjoy the things you can . . . you should enjoy them while you can and not try to wait until you’re too old. SM: Right. MW: And start spending some time and money on themselves rather than the kids. SM: [Chuckles] Well, part of this extreme caution among many of the first generation seems to be involved with that whole discriminatory immigration law where they’re always afraid of letting anyone know much about the person or whatever. MW: Yes. SM: Although this couldn’t have, you know, affected your parents. But that just seems to be such an ingrained habit that . . . there’s one that I’ve talked to. He doesn’t ever want me to even put his name down or anything. And he’s got nothing to worry about. [Chuckles] You know. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: In fact, he was born here. That is strange. MW: [Chuckles] Yes, that is strange. SM: He seems very much like first generation though. Maybe he wasn’t born here, I’m not sure. Anyway, his way of thinking is very first generation, just leery of getting in trouble. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. SM: In all kinds of ways. 64

MW: Yes, because my cousins from my Uncle Kee’s family, the ones that came in the late 1950s, early 1960s . . . SM: Oh, yes. MW: They’ve . . . they’re now living in Miami. SM: Oh. All of them? MW: Yes, they’re all living down in Miami. And . . . SM: The parents, too? MW: Yes. SM: I see. MW: See, one of them is an architect and the other has taken up religion. I’m not sure what the other one is doing. But we really haven’t kept close in contact with them so . . . because they all, with the exception of the one that was born here, they all came over here [unclear] and ranged between like eight years old to seventeen. SM: Yes. MW: And most of them were able to speak a little English because they were . . . you know, when they were going to schools in Hong Kong they learned both. So it wasn’t that difficult for them to . . . Well then, I guess, and also the fact that they had help from their American cousins in fitting in. SM: Yes. Are they pretty cautious [unclear] as first generation? MW: I don’t think they are. SM: Yes. MW: They . . . I don’t think they are as cautious. SM: Well, what class did your father’s family come from? I mean, his father was a teacher. MW: Yes. SM: So they weren’t farming people. MW: Right. That’s right. But he still refers to himself as just a dumb farmer occasionally. 65

SM: He does? [Chuckles] MW: Yes, because I think the fact that that Canton area, you know, there’s a lot of agriculture there. SM: Yes. MW: But, you know, educated . . . SM: Oh, maybe it was a farming family, and some were educated out of those . . . like they would save everything for one son or something. MW: Yes, because there were a lot of people that did go into education and ended up being teachers in China. SM: Yes. MW: The fact that he was a . . . the fact that my grandfather was a principal, I think, that . . . SM: Yes. MW: He has a . . . sort of a . . . I should bring you some photographs of him . . . he’s sort of . . . I mean he looks like a principal. He’s got . . . SM: Oh. So he doesn’t look like a peasant. MW: No. He doesn’t, no. SM: Oh. Yes. Would your father know what class they came . . .? He was born here though. MW: Yes, I could . . . I’ll have to ask him and find out. SM: Since there was such a . . . you know, stratified kind of society at the time they came. MW: Yes. And I never asked my father why my grandfather decided to go into the restaurant business. Maybe it was just from an economic standpoint. It was a . . . SM: Yes, you could make more money. MW: Yes. SM: Yes.


MW: That’s what’s interesting about, you know, the restaurant. Like in both Fargo and Austin, the fact that my dad said that he would, you know, bake the pies fresh every day, and the way he ran restaurants, it [unclear]. SM: The pies. So this was American food. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: And did it serve only American food? MW: They had American and Chinese food. SM: Hmmm. MW: Some of the guys that worked for that restaurant in Austin had been there, apparently . . . at least in the United States for a long time. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: You know, they were all sort of old hands, as it were. And it seemed like, you know, they were accepted in the community. SM: Oh. MW: Here again, I think it always gets back to numbers that . . . to a certain degree you’re an oddity but you’re not . . . there aren’t enough of you to be a threat so that there . . . it’s easy for those people to accept you into the community because you’re providing some sort of service and you’re not a negative influence on the community. SM: Right. That’s true. Well, your father . . . do you know how far he had gone in school when he came here? MW: Oh . . . SM: Whether that ended or might have gone if he had . . .? MW: Mmmm. I can’t remember what grade he stopped at but . . . SM: Yes. And he didn’t go to school here. MW: No, he didn’t go to school here. SM: Hmmm. MW: He may have finished . . . 67

SM: Oh, maybe they were merchant class or something. MW: I’ll find out. He may have finished like equivalent to high school, but I’m not positive if he did or not. SM: Yes. MW: Because both my parents are able to read and write Chinese. SM: Yes. What did your mother’s family do? Did you say? MW: I can’t remember what her father did. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: But her . . . her mother, her stepmother came over about . . . oh, it would be about seven, eight years ago. SM: Oh, she did. MW: And she’s currently living with . . . in Los Angeles. SM: Oh. MW: She can’t stand the winters here. SM: Yes. [Chuckles] [Unclear]. Well, did your mother feel pretty . . .? I mean, did she mingle with the Caucasians in the community or . . .? MW: Hmmm. Not too much. SM: There wasn’t much of that? MW: It was really the people that she knows in the Rochester community, primarily like through the restaurant customers and friends of . . . oh, like friends of my younger brother. SM: Oh. I see. Their parents? MW: Yes. SM: Yes. MW: But there’s real strong connections with like the people . . . the Chinese from Albert Lea as well as people up here. 68

SM: Oh. Oh, I see. MW: You know, they . . . those are the ones that they see socially. SM: Yes. MW: So that my parents will either . . . will drive to Albert Lea on Tuesdays, which is their day off, or else the people from Albert Lea will drive up here and . . . SM: Oh. MW: Or else they’ll come up and visit us up here. But there’s . . . they know quite a few of the Chinese up in the Twin Cities. SM: Oh, I see. How did they get to know them? Or did they know them before they went . . .? MW: I think they knew them before, like through the . . . like the Wong Association. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: Being in the business together or else, you know, going to some . . . like going to weddings and going to some of those meetings, those annual dinners, and just being introduced. And it seems like they just don’t forget. [Chuckles] SM: This is then through the Wong Association? MW: Yes. SM: Oh, I suppose that would be a big social connection, too. MW: Yes. Yes. It seems like once you’re introduced to someone . . . SM: They cling to your . . . [Chuckles] MW: Yes, they cling. Then you ask them if they know so and so and it usually happens they do, and so it goes on and on like that. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Because my dad is . . . even though he’s kind of . . . he’s a real gregarious guy. SM: Is he?


MW: He’s a real outgoing guy. And he’s . . . when you get in those kinds of social occasions, he’s just really . . . he’s real funny to follow around. SM: Oh, yes. MW: But those are their sort of social activities. SM: I see. So the others are just like work associations or . . .? MW: Yes. Right. SM: Or parents of their children’s friends or . . .? MW: Yes. SM: Do they go over to Austin at all? MW: Not anymore, because my Uncle Joe who had . . . was running the Canton Café after my father and uncle left . . . they did . . . they moved up to Rochester and opened up their own restaurant in Rochester also. SM: Oh, I see. MW: And then . . . SM: Another restaurant? MW: Another, yes. SM: Oh. Is that still there? MW: No, it’s not. They . . . then my Uncle Joe decided to close that and then he came and worked at our restaurant, at Wong’s Café. SM: Oh, I see. So he’s there now? MW: Oh, he passed away a couple years ago. SM: Oh. MW: But his wife is, well, semi-retired. She just kind of helps out down at our restaurant occasionally and then visits her daughter down in Miami. SM: Oh, yes. 70

MW: And she has a couple of her children who are married and living up in Minneapolis as well. SM: Oh, I see. Hmmm. Well, before the time runs out, there are a few things I wanted to ask you about the Chinese community. [Chuckles] Well, I suppose your parents are coming up for that big Wong Association convention or . . . MW: They’re not going to come up for it. I don’t know why not. [Chuckles] But they gave me their . . . I’m supposed to . . . they wrote a little note and then I’m supposed to give their donation. So I’ve got to stop by there and drop it off. SM: Oh. Oh, part of it is fundraising then. MW: Well, the Wong Association, they wanted to remodel their facilities so that when they had a convention here it would look real nice, you know. SM: Yes. MW: So that was . . . that’s part of it. SM: Oh, for the [unclear]. MW: Plus whatever the annual dues are. Usually because of the scheduling of those dinners, usually they’re like on a Monday night or a Sunday night. Well, usually on a . . . yes, Sunday night. Because many of the Chinese restaurants in Minneapolis, if they close, they close on a Monday. SM: I see. MW: My parents always close on Tuesday, so . . . SM: [Chuckles] MW: They have difficulty . . . the only time they really were able to make it up for those annual dinners is the . . . that year when my wife and I were engaged as well as when my brother and his wife were engaged. We had to go to those dinners then. [Chuckles] Kind of to . . . SM: Oh, that’s part of the . . . MW: Politics or something. [Chuckles] Yes, but we made those and we normally don’t go to those. But we . . . they came up for those. SM: Are there many second generation that take active part in those? MW: I think there are some. Yes, there are some. 71

SM: Yes. MW: But they’re . . . yes, they’re not going to be able to go to that convention. SM: I see. What is the main purpose of the convention? Is it for business deals or social or . . .? MW: I think it’s more social than anything else. I think as far as business goes, I think each community has their own setup for that. SM: I see. MW: There really isn’t anything you could say like on a regional or national scale that they’re really involved . . . SM: They don’t control [unclear]. MW: Yes. SM: Yes. And is it just called the Wong Association or does it have another . . .? I thought I heard that it . . . the Moy and the Wong went together in some way . . . MW: Oh. They’re . . . SM: Or maybe not completely . . . MW: Yes, they’re just . . . they just still have their own. SM: They have their own. MW: The Wong Association. They maybe . . . like in through the Chinese Chamber of Commerce or Chinese Merchant Association or something like that, where they may be. SM: Oh, there’s also a Chinese Merchants Association here? MW: I’m not sure if that’s the exact title. SM: Oh. Well, I thought the Chinese Chamber of Commerce was the merchants, but . . . MW: I have to get that straight. SM: Oh, there’s CAAM, too. [Chinese American Association of Minnesota] MW: Yes, you could ask Helen Fong about that, she would know more about it. 72

SM: Yes, she would straighten me out. [Chuckles] MW: Yes, she would know more about that. SM: Okay. [Chuckles] Okay. MW: I guess that’s one thing about coming from Rochester to the Twin Cities is that a lot of the . . . like those types of organizations, I don’t know a lot about . . . SM: Oh yes, you were a little removed from them. MW: Yes, because we were removed from that. The fact that my parents . . . you know, even though they know a lot of the businessmen, because they are in the same business, just the distance . . . SM: Yes, it would be hard, especially for the children to know. MW: Yes, and then us not being involved with it ourselves. SM: Yes. MW: Kind of . . . we’re not now that interested in finding out what’s going on with it. SM: Were there ever any tongs [Chinese secret society sort of organizations or gangs] in Minnesota? MW: Well, when I was a . . . SM: I saw [unclear] newspaper [unclear]. [Laughter] MW: Well, when I was in high school, my . . . one of my shop teachers kept telling about all the tong wars in Duluth. SM: Oh, really? MW: And I was like, what is this guy talking about? Because I was . . . personally, didn’t have any knowledge about it. But he kept reminding me of all those up in Duluth. SM: Was he making it up? MW: I don’t know. SM: Hmmm. I wonder if there ever were any. I saw one item in the paper . . . let’s see. Oh, quite early in the century, I think. Where supposedly Chinese here were worried that some tongs were going to be organized here. 73

MW: Oh. SM: And well, it sounded like a lot of speculation. [Chuckles] MW: I guess, you know, I guess a little bit now is . . . worry about the Chinese gangs from like New York moving to . . . SM: Oh, coming here and starting. MW: Yes, because they get sort of chased out. You know, like some in New York got chased up to Boston and then maybe coming out here. SM: I see. Well, I think you’d certainly have heard of it if there were any. MW: Oh, yes. Yes, you would know. Yes. SM: Out of New York and Boston, is that . . .? MW: Yes, a lot of those are . . . but even like in Los Angeles, too, there’s a lot of gang wars. SM: Oh. What about a place like Chicago or anywhere in the Midwest, would they . . .? MW: I’m not really too sure. SM: I’ve never heard of them in Chicago either. MW: Yes, in Chicago the Japanese are so much more organized than the Chinese. The JECL is really . . . SM: Yes, from that whole resettlement. MW: Yes, they’ve got their community center. If you go there, like their trophy case just doesn’t quit, you know. SM: [Chuckles] Oh, really? MW: Yes. SM: Oh. MW: They’ve got . . . SM: What kind of trophies? 74

MW: Every . . . all sorts of athletic . . . SM: Oh, the kids. MW: Yes. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Yes, their sports, it seems are . . . They’ve got so many more people to draw from and they just do real well. SM: Yes. It’s a whole different scene. And the Filipinos are real organized there increasingly. This is the new immigrant group more, I guess. MW: Yes. SM: Well, mixed with the old . . . MW: I know. Seems like with, I don’t know, the Chinese community here with the second generation, it just has a lot . . . has a more of a laid back attitude it seems like, you know. It’s important but then it’s not to an extent where they’re having to stick together for survival or anything like that. SM: Right. That makes a big difference. MW: Yes. SM: Well, are there still many new immigrants? There are, aren’t there? I mean, Chinese coming from Hong Kong and Taiwan. MW: Yes, I think there still are. SM: So they must seem like a pretty different world from say second generation. Or are there meeting places or . . .? MW: Well, it seems that in Asian . . . how it’s becoming even more Westernized than ever before. SM: Oh, that’s true. MW: And so that . . . well, in certain respects, it’s not that big a culture shock anymore. SM: For the new immigrants. MW: Yes. 75

SM: Yes, that’s true. Because what the old immigrants have preserved is no longer [chuckles] in existence. MW: Yes. And even . . . yes, they could find . . . I think it’s more of a problem for the parents then when they come over to try to maintain whatever old traditions they want to keep, because the kids want to so readily be accepted that they are more inclined to jump on the bandwagon, you know. They’ll go for . . . they are an advertiser’s dream, you know. [Chuckles] Anything you can sell, they’ll buy. SM: [Chuckles] This is the new immigrants? MW: Yes, it seems like. SM: Oh, yes. I was told by some Filipinos that . . . no, no, some Vietnamese that some of them are really [chuckles] getting, you know, over their heads in credit buying and so on. MW: [Chuckles] Yes. SM: Because they just . . . jumped in. MW: Yes, because things . . . you know, they’ve . . . they hear so much about the American lifestyle. SM: Yes. MW: How easy . . . you know, because there . . . there’s just so much more of everything and things are . . . it’s easier access to things. SM: I suppose that’s the same with immigrants from the South or . . . you know, other groups, too. MW: Yes. SM: I guess maybe if we’re going to get to that meeting . . . MW: Yes. Okay. SM: Unless you think of something you’d like to add . . . MW: No, why don’t I go back and try to get some more specific dates and times for this so we can fill those in. SM: Oh, that would be good. Then we could just fill the rest of those in next time. [Chuckles] 76

MW: So it’s a little more authoritative. SM: Well, that would be very good if you . . . if there’s any way you could find out any motivations, you know, of your grandparents. MW: Sure. SM: And parents . . . well, your parents came because your grandparents were here. But how they happened to [unclear]. MW: Yes, I want to find out this for myself because when I have children I’m sure they’re going to want to know also. SM: Yes. MW: I want to be able to pass those kinds of things down. SM: Yes. MW: You know, because like the interest generated from [the television miniseries] Roots about finding out your family tree. SM: Yes. That’s . . . MW: And I guess . . . I’d really like to do something like that. The difficulty, I think I may have mentioned to you before, with my . . . on my father-in-law’s side, because his family [unclear] kind of scrambled up. SM: Oh. Oh, I see, yes. MW: Not from any sort of legal standpoints with immigration or anything like that, just his . . . he had an unfortunate childhood, and a lot of that . . . it’s not going to go back too far, which I guess is not necessarily . . . it isn’t necessarily something that’s . . . would be bad. Maybe for our kids it will be sort of unique. SM: It’s really interesting, probably. [Chuckles] MW: Because like it just starts here only a few years ago, you know. SM: For once I remembered this release, too. [Shuffling paper sounds] You know we could.... [Recording interruption] SM: Testing, testing, testing, one, two, three, four, five. 77

[Recording interruption] SM: Do you want to test it? MW: Let’s see. Today is July the 3rd, and it’s humid. [Recording interruption] SM: I’m talking to Mike Wong, continuing from our earlier conversation, and this is July 3, 1979. You were going to add a bit about your father. MW: Yes, I was going to fill in some information I had found out about why my grandfather came to the United States. And I’ve got some dates, but they’re sort of vague dates because my dad, I don’t think his memory is that great about it. SM: But even to get around the time is good. MW: Yes. So I think it was like the . . . it has to be the late 1920s, early 1930s that my grandfather first came to North America. SM: Oh, I see. MW: He first came to Vancouver, Canada. But he was sent here to raise funds for a school back in the old country, back in China. SM: Sent from his village or by the government? It wouldn’t be the government, I suppose, if it was to where he was from . . . MW: Yes. I’m not sure if it was . . . I’m not sure about the school system, whether it was private or public, but since there were enough . . . must be a fairly large number of Chinese in that Northwest area, I think they were figuring this is a way to ask for people who . . . where immigrants were here to sort of . . . help with the old country. And just not only help with their families but help with their education. And the reason they sent my grandfather is because they thought that he was a very honest man. SM: Ah ha. MW: The reason being that they had sent a number of other people over previously, and they had absconded with the funds that they had raised. [Chuckles] SM: I see. MW: So they had to send my grandfather [unclear]. And so he first went to Vancouver and then also went down to Seattle to raise some money. And this gives you a fairly . . . this rest of the 78

story illustrated a pretty good idea of the . . . sort of the grapevine involved with the Chinese in the United States. SM: [Chuckles] MW: Some . . . he met up with some people that he was hustling for money and they told him, that say, you know, if you’re only a schoolteacher, you know, that’s . . . you really can’t make a lot of money that way. You ought to get into the restaurant business if you want to get a lot of money to send back. Because they said that they heard there was a restaurant available in Rochester, Minnesota. SM: Oh. MW: All the way from Rochester to Seattle. SM: That is amazing. MW: Yes. And so there were two other people that he went in with, he decided to go ahead and do it. SM: My goodness! MW: So they had a restaurant in Rochester. And then there were . . . I guess they had a falling out with one . . . well, one of the partners. So my grandfather and this other guy said they would buy out the other guy but at the same time there was a restaurant that was for sale in Austin. So that’s how they got from Rochester to Austin. SM: Oh, I see. They first did buy one in Rochester. MW: Yes, I never realized that before. I thought they just somehow went from Austin to Rochester. SM: Yes. MW: I didn’t realize they went back. SM: Was it the same restaurant or location or whatever that they are . . .? MW: I don’t think . . . I don’t believe it was. SM: Yes. MW: And this is before my father and his younger brother came to the United States. SM: Oh, yes. I see. 79

MW: So I guess this falling out took place around the mid-1930s then. SM: I see. So they did buy the one in Rochester but then they left that and went over to Austin. Did one of the partners remain in Rochester? MW: I’m not sure what happened to him. SM: Oh, I see. But two of them, including your grandfather, went. MW: Yes. I guess now my . . . I should say they first went from Rochester to Albert Lea. SM: Oh. MW: And then when they were in Albert Lea, like the sheriff or the police chief or somebody said, hey, you know, you ought to open a place up in Austin. Because, you know, there’s this guy who’s selling out and, you know, they need a good restaurant there, so . . . SM: The police chief said that? MW: Yes. Yes. SM: And that was in the mid-1930s. MW: Yes, in the 1930s. SM: I see. So they really went from Rochester to Albert Lea to Austin. MW: Yes. SM: Oh. It’s amazing they could pick up and move that easily. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Well, the one they went to in Austin had been a restaurant then before. MW: Yes. SM: Oh. I wonder who owned that. [Chuckles] MW: I don’t know. I’ll see if I can . . . yes. My dad is going to be in town for a couple days. And I’ll see if I can . . . if he gets in a talkative mood, get some more information out of him. SM: That would be nice. 80

MW: Yes. Those are back in the old days of like all of the restaurants, I guess, were . . . everything was made on our premises. You know, my father said he learned to . . . he baked pies every day. You know, fresh pies. SM: Oh, my goodness. So he served American food, too? MW: Yes, they served American food as well as Chinese. SM: Yes. That was more common in the early days, wasn’t it? MW: Yes. If I can go through my parents’ old photographs, I think they’ve got some that . . . of some parties that were in the restaurant so you can . . . they had an old . . . the lunch counter with the old soda fountain in the back. SM: Oh, that would be wonderful to see if we can have them for the exhibit, too. MW: Yes. Because my cousin Ben, his father was the oldest son in the family. And his mother lives half the year in the Twin Cities and the other half with one of her daughters down in Florida. SM: Yes. MW: And I suspect that she probably has . . . should have a lot of photographs. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: Yes. My parents also have some, but I remember they were damaged from the flood. SM: Oh, yes. That’s really too bad. MW: So yes, but I’ll ask her and see if she’s got some. SM: Well, that would be good. MW: Yes. SM: She isn’t one we sent a letter to [unclear]? MW: No, I don’t believe so. SM: Hmmm. Well, that would be really helpful. MW: Yes. Yes, because I think when you mentioned that [unclear] about police chief, I think I may have brought that up last time, of how my father learned how to drive, was with the police chief who taught him how to drive. [Chuckles] 81

SM: Yes. Well, was that common for the Chinese restaurant owners to become pretty well acquainted with the police chief because of keeping order or something? MW: Yes. Well, like my . . . see, even today my dad’s business . . . I mean, if police come in for a cup of coffee or something. He doesn’t charge, you know. SM: Oh, yes. Ah ha. MW: I guess it’s with a lot of other businesses. You know, he doesn’t . . . SM: [Chuckles] Oh, yes. Well . . . yes, that’s really interesting. And then he depends on them for protection and . . . MW: Yes. Yes, I guess, you know, you can look at my dad’s attitude about how he runs his business, it’s . . . he does a lot of people favors. And it’s his . . . and you can, without really knowing him too well, you figure, well [unclear] he just . . . he lets these people [chuckles] he’s being too easy, nice a guy. SM: [Chuckles] MW: But he’s got . . . you know, there’s a . . . he’s got a motive behind it, he knows the truth. SM: Well, sure. That’s a pretty traditional Chinese way of running a business, I would think. MW: Yes. Yes. Ingratiating himself with the . . . SM: [Chuckles] MW: I mean, because he realizes . . . this is like my . . . their whole attitude about running their business where, you know, they just have like a medium-sized ad once a week in the Rochester paper and for these twenty-eight years, the businesses built up primarily on word-of-mouth advertising, you know. SM: Oh, yes. And personal contacts. MW: Yes. Again, I guess, especially that, you know, a community Rochester’s size, even though it’s grown fairly rapidly is that they’ve been there long enough and established long enough and you make enough contacts that if you want to succeed in a business like that, you can’t forget about the community. SM: Right. MW: You have to put back into it, you know. 82

SM: Right. Well, that’s one thing I’ve noticed that it seems to be the merchants or the restaurant owners who are the really . . . make a big effort to be very civic-minded. MW: Yes. SM: And Joe Huie in Duluth will give scholarships and I mean it wasn’t simply for his own advantage but of course it was to his advantage to be known as a generous person and . . . MW: Sure. Yes, and Howard Wong did a similar thing at Camp . . . it must have been Aberdeen. But he bought band uniforms. SM: He did? MW: Yes. [Chuckles] So . . . SM: In Aberdeen that was? MW: I’m fairly sure it was Aberdeen. But it was in South Dakota. SM: That was a very good thing to do. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Right. Yes. SM: Oh. And he’s now in the Twin Cities. MW: Yes. He owns that Tedesco’s Restaurant on 494. SM: Oh, yes. I think I did send him a letter. [Chuckles] MW: Because his number of members of his family . . . both the sons and in-laws are involved in the business of it. SM: Oh. Here? MW: Yes. SM: Oh. Oh, I should get in touch with him, probably. Well, that’s pretty interesting. There’s some . . . well, I’ll ask about it afterwards. What were some of the other [unclear]? MW: Well, I think we were sort of getting into just a . . . on a personal aspect about being in college and then getting interested into aspects about understanding my heritage. SM: Yes.


MW: And I think it probably first stems from taking—this may seem a little obtuse—but taking some Afro-American history courses at the university. SM: Oh. MW: Because even though studio arts was my major, my minor was in history. I always had an interest in history. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And so I took a number of those courses and sort of . . . that sort of spun off in trying to learn about . . . about China. SM: Hmmm. MW: So then I took a number of Chinese history courses. SM: Who were your professors? Do you remember? MW: I think McDonald and Farmer. SM: Oh, Angus MacDonald and Ted Farmer? MW: Yes. Yes. They were instructors. SM: Were they pretty good? MW: Yes, I think they were. I think they were quite good. SM: So that kind of led to your own Asian American . . . MW: Yes. There was a group starting around campus, the Asian American Alliance, about that time. SM: What year did that start? MW: Oh, I really . . . I don’t remember. I’m sure that it’s . . . SM: Late 1960s maybe? MW: It has to be late 1960s because one of the things that the Alliance did was participate in a number of marches against the war. SM: Oh. 84

MW: And I guess the culmination of that was the . . . I don’t know if I was drafted or how I got chosen. I gave a speech against the . . . for the Alliance speaking for Asian Americans at the . . . at Northrup Auditorium. SM: Oh. And it wasn’t . . . MW: Or it was at . . . well, it was either at Northrup or at the State Capitol. SM: Oh. And it was generally anti-war or was it . . .? It was the draft or . . .? MW: Oh, it was . . . it had to deal with . . . like against the war in general and the fact that . . . about the notions people in the United States had about Asians and their attitudes about life and in regards to the war. SM: Yes. MW: The myth that Asians didn’t have a high regard for war so they didn’t mind dying. SM: Yes, I heard that a lot, too. MW: Yes, that they didn’t value life. And . . . I don’t think that that speech made a terrific impact on anybody there, even though there’s something . . . SM: You never know. [Chuckles] MW: I don’t know. It just . . . it didn’t seem to get much of a reaction because it was . . . you know, Barb Hiroda [sp?] and I can’t remember who else. A number of people worked on the speech, really tried to get that point across. SM: That was a good idea, to talk about that. MW: Yes. SM: You and Barb Hiroda? Anybody else work on that? MW: And . . . oh, gosh, I can’t remember. There was a number of other people, but I can’t think of their names right now. And I guess that that’s sort of a . . . the fact that group organized on campus and with the war, helped . . . oh for reasons of bringing a lot of people into the group, I think. The campus was a good central location. SM: Yes. MW: And there was a lot of like at that point . . . seemed to be, I guess, the right time. We were a lot of Asian Americans who were on campus who were interested in getting involved with a group like that. 85

SM: Did students . . . Asian Americans come from other colleges around the Twin Cities, too, for that organization? MW: Hmmm. There were some that were like down in . . . in Carleton, down in Northfield. SM: Oh. MW: But I think they were just primarily Twin Cities campus. SM: Twin Cities campuses, you mean, or . . .? MW: Just at the main . . . SM: Just mainly the university. MW: The university. The main university. SM: But a few from Carleton. They usually had a certain number of Asian students [unclear] Carleton. Hmmm. Well, that’s really nice. MW: Yes. With that, you know, when I took those courses in Chines history.... [Recording interruption] SM: Okay. You were asking your father . . . MW: Yes, about after I had taken those Chinese history courses. I wanted to find out his . . . so he knew about Chinese history and his . . . because he had mentioned he hadn’t had much of a formal education. SM: Yes. MW: And so I was surprised that when I talked to him about how much understanding he had about it. Because with those courses, the sequence evolved from ancient Chinese all the way up to contemporary history. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And of course, as I was going to mention last time, is about his attitudes about Communists running the government in China now. I mean, he still had a hard time dealing with that fact because of a number of friends who were killed as a result of the Revolution. And oh, I think it stems . . . any . . . I could see even if it was like say a European immigrant whose homeland is now under Communist rule and then coming to the United States where this is the land that’s given you opportunity to succeed or fail. And so he’s very grateful to this type of 86

government. And I’m sure he is well aware that if they would have . . . fate would have had it so they would have remained in his homeland that he certainly wouldn’t be living the type of life he would be today. So he’s really grateful. SM: Yes. That’s pretty common. MW: Yes, I think it is. SM: But he had a pretty good sense of history in China then? MW: It seemed like he did, yes. Especially, I think, you know, coming from Canton Province where . . . where like the majority of Chinese anyway were an agrarian society. SM: Yes. MW: And those aspects about like land reform and . . . SM: Oh, he was pretty much up on that? MW: Yes. I had . . . like we did . . . oh, I guess, or [unclear] of being about . . . trying to organize a country as massive as China. Where . . . SM: That’s quite a job. MW: Yes. And I guess about the fact that it was . . . had been unified. Because even though he . . . you know, backed that Chiang Kai-Shek, I think he also was aware of the fact that like T.V. Soong . . . I think he was like the Finance Minister or something, had ripped off the Chinese. [Chuckles] And . . . SM: He knew what’s going on. MW: Yes. And so he still . . . he’s quite bitter about that fact. SM: Oh. MW: This is something that is just . . . he’s just recently brought up. And he knows that his relatives are in the United States and the fact that he had . . . is a rich man, as a result of . . . of less than honorable means. So I was . . . it was . . . so that I guess I was glad to hear that. The fact that he just wasn’t . . . hadn’t been blindly following that line just because . . . SM: Yes. MW: But I don’t know. It’s . . . I’m sure he still would like to go visit there, the homeland. SM: Yes. Do you think he will? [Chuckles] 87

MW: Well, that’s . . . who knows when he’d . . . I’m sure . . . I would guess that in the next five years [chuckles] he will probably change his mind. You know, probably would want to go back. Especially the fact that my . . . SM: Oh, he says he doesn’t want to go. MW: He’s not . . . he says he’s not too enthused about it. But my mom would love to go back, plus the fact that his younger brother and wife and I think at least one of their daughters is going to go in the spring. So I think these kind of things kind of build up his enthusiasm. SM: Yes. So they still have relatives they are in touch with in . . . or somewhat in touch with then? MW: Yes. And they still have a sister. SM: Oh, that’s close. Yes. MW: Yes. SM: Well, refresh me on when he came. I mean, in terms of Chiang Kai-Shek. [Chuckles] MW: Okay. They . . . he came when it was like the late 1930s, early 1940s. SM: Oh, yes. So that was the time Chiang was pretty much of a hero, too. MW: Yes. Because, you know, with the war against the Japanese . . . SM: Right. MW: And see, when he and his younger brother Ben came over, my dad went into the Navy and my Uncle Ben went into the Air Force. SM: Oh, I see. MW: During . . . during the war. SM: So they both went into the service. MW: Yes. SM: Well, how did that work then? Were immigrants drafted or did they volunteer? MW: I’m not sure how that was taken care of. 88

SM: Hmmm. Or did that speed up citizenship right away? MW: It probably did. SM: Yes. MW: [Chuckles] Actually, that was . . . SM: Yes, I think it usually did. Yes. MW: Yes. I think, yes, that was . . . a good incentive. SM: Yes. So they both became citizens then. MW: Yes. Whereas, here again, I guess like a difference between the families again. My uncle’s family and my dad, that my Uncle Ben’s wife . . . I may have mentioned this last time. She’s a Canadian. SM: Yes. MW: And so she’s retained her Canadian citizenship. SM: Oh. MW: It makes it easier. I guess it . . . she prefers it that way and it makes it easier to move back and forth. SM: Yes. Sure. MW: And then my mother got her citizenship . . . and it’s just . . . as a means of primarily of making it easier to bring over relatives. This is something that like my mother-in-law has had difficulty doing, is getting or finding opportunity, really, to take English courses so that she could pass her citizenship test. She’s been given all sorts of information and misinformation about it. And so she’s gone there a number of times and has been embarrassed by learning that what someone had told her wasn’t true. And so like she has some relatives [unclear]. SM: This is your father’s mother-in-law? Your mother’s mother? MW: This is my wife’s mother. SM: Oh. Oh, your mother-in-law. MW: My mother-in-law. SM: I see. Oh. She’s . . . so . . . well, what kinds of things would be told to them about the test? 89

MW: Oh, she just . . . somebody had told her that she just had to know like four sentences. SM: Oh. They were trying to get her to go. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Oh, I see. MW: And so . . . because, and then if she had been here X number of years, she wouldn’t have to take any exam and wouldn’t have to answer any questions to do it. SM: I see. So she did try and then didn’t . . . MW: Yes, she’s trying. She hasn’t made it. SM: Well, did she come over recently? MW: No, she’s been here for a long, long time. SM: Oh. MW: She . . . let’s see. She was married and then . . . oh, gosh. Let’s see, because my wife is thirty. I know she has an older brother who is . . . gosh, fifteen, twenty years older than she is. SM: Oh. MW: I’m not sure exactly. But she was married at a very young age. It was an arranged marriage typical of Chinese marriages at the . . . SM: Her husband was here or . . .? MW: And then he came here. SM: Oh. MW: And went . . . joined the armed forces and was in World War II where she was still in China. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And so they were apart for many, many years. And then finally brought them over. Because my . . . SM: That’s a pretty common thing. 90

MW: Yes. My wife’s oldest brother is . . . was born in China. SM: Yes. MW: And I’m not sure how old he was before they came over. But . . . SM: I see. MW: She’s in a . . . my mother-in-law is in a situation . . . oh, I’m not sure how many, but there’s a number of the Chinese ladies of her generation in the Twin Cities who, for one reason or another, haven’t really got out socially in terms of trying to at least blend in more with the American society. So that they speak and understand very little English. SM: Yes. MW: And aside from maybe meeting occasionally while shopping or at a dinner or something, they just communicate by the phone. SM: Oh. They don’t even see the other Chinese very much. MW: Not very often. Not very often. SM: Sure. Yes. MW: Because like . . . I guess part of it stems from like say if you could compare my parents’ restaurant and my wife’s parents’ setup where it was just a takeout place. SM: Yes. MW: And then say growing up in Rochester and then growing up . . . with their takeout place being up in Northeast Minneapolis. With my mother, when she worked in the restaurant, she had to communicate with the waitresses and the other people who worked there. So she had to learn English, aside from going to those classes. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Whereas my mother-in-law working in a takeout restaurant, the only people, outsiders who would be . . . occasionally they would hire a Caucasian cashier. Otherwise it was just all the kids in the family who would work there. So she had . . . it wasn’t necessary for her really to communicate in English to anybody. SM: She worked there but she didn’t have to talk to anyone in particular. MW: Right. Yes. 91

SM: Well, would she be in her fifties or more or less? MW: More. SM: Oh, more. Yes. MW: Yes [unclear]. Late fifties, early sixties. I think it’s her late fifties. SM: Late fifties. Hmmm. The women really have missed out on learning English really [unclear]. MW: Yes, because . . . I don’t know all the details, but with like . . . with my in-laws, my fatherin-law, he . . . well, at times worked like three jobs to keep his family going. Because like their family has been involved not only in the takeout restaurant but also they had a laundry for a while. SM: Oh. MW: And he worked as some sort of supervisor at Honeywell. SM: Oh. MW: And so he’s had a number of jobs. SM: Well, so he must speak very well, I mean, if he works outside [unclear]. MW: Yes. SM: Well, when would these have come, after World War II? Or maybe the wife and child thing after World War II. MW: Yes. Yes, after World War II. SM: But the father came . . . MW: Earlier. SM: As early as your father? MW: I’m not sure of the dates of my father-in-law when he first came over. SM: Yes, but anyway, maybe fifteen or twenty years before. MW: Yes. Yes, so that they were . . . he and his wife were separated for quite a number of years. 92

SM: There are so many like that. MW: Yes, it was . . . SM: It’s really amazing. MW: Yes. SM: So then your wife was born here, after she came. MW: Yes, she was born here. SM: I see. They were always in the Twin Cities then? MW: Yes, they were always in the Twin Cities. SM: Hmmm. That whole thing of the family structure is really interesting with the Chinese immigrants, I think, because they first have their very distinct pattern, but then this enforced separation for these long periods of time. It would be interesting to know what effect that has. MW: Yes. I guess it’s like . . . my grandmother and grandfather were separated for so long. SM: Oh, yes. Right. MW: That she didn’t come over to the United States until like the mid or late 1950s. [Chuckles] And so that’s . . . SM: Right. That’s about the same time your mother-in-law came in. MW: Oh, she came. My mother . . . SM: But she came right after World War II. MW: I think she came right after the war. SM: So your grandmother came in the late 1950s. MW: Yes. I guess that’s one thing I really learned, you know. You want to learn about learning by example of how my parents added to it about their parents. SM: Oh. MW: I guess that’s kind of rubbed off on the kids in our family. The fact that they take care of them not out of . . . it’s not a job, it’s out of . . . 93

SM: It’s an honor. MW: Yes. It’s out of love. You know, you take care of the members of your family. SM: Right. MW: Because like my parents’ attitude is that, you know, they’re taking care of you when you’re young, and so when they get old, you take care of them, too. And it’s . . . and it’s just . . . it’s not like something they tell you, you have to do this. You just see it, you know. SM: Yes. MW: As you’re growing up. And you can see that . . . I mean it’s . . . you have the usual number of problems with that . . . all the different personalities in one household, but it’s just something that’s done, you know. SM: Right. MW: And so . . . I think all the kids in our family [unclear] you know, we’re not going to be . . . we wouldn’t place our parents in a nursing home or something like that. We’d take care of them. SM: Yes. So it was nothing that was ever said openly about how when you grow up . . . [Chuckles] MW: Right. It was just . . . SM: It’s just understood. MW: Yes. Yes. Just understood. And it was . . . I think the reason my grandparents stayed with us instead of my . . . the oldest son in their family is that I think just that it was probably easier for us to do it in our house. It was larger and it just made it more convenient. And it’s usually where the . . . the boys in the family take care of the parents, not necessarily the girl. SM: I see. Yes. MW: If there’s any girls in the family. SM: So it’s usually a son doing it. MW: Yes. SM: But it is usually the older son? MW: Usually the oldest son. 94

SM: Yes, but not necessarily. MW: Not necessarily. SM: Well, I don’t know if you could put your finger on it or not, but what kinds of influences on you as the grandson would this have had? Your grandfather and much later your grandmother, I guess. MW: Oh . . . SM: But well, was he ever like disciplining the children or was he more in a kind of benevolent role or . . .? MW: Oh, he’s more . . . [chuckles] I guess he is more in the, you know, benevolent role. SM: Oh, yes. So it would be the parents that would exert control. MW: [Chuckles] Yes. Yes. SM: [Chuckles] MW: And it was the grandparents . . . like a typical grandparent to try to protect [chuckles] the grandchildren. SM: Ah ha. MW: [Laughing] If they’re . . . they’re not . . . yes. I guess it’s pretty . . . SM: Ah ha. MW: I guess it’s pretty universal. SM: That’s pretty interesting though, because that binds them together. [Chuckles] The grandchildren and the grandparents. MW: Yes. Yes, because I can look at now when I’ve got a niece and two nephews. SM: Yes. MW: And it just so happens that my parents are the only grandparents for both. SM: Oh, I see.


MW: Because my brother-in-law’s family, both his father and mother passed away, and my sister-in-law, her mother and father have also passed away. So that’s my . . . so it falls onto my parents to be the only grandparents for both these sets of kids. SM: Yes. MW: And they just spoil them rotten. SM: [Laughter] MW: You know, they . . . and you know they enjoy doing that. And so I think it . . . it falls to the same pattern as I think with most grandparents that they . . . the parents are the ones that have to do the discipline. SM: They have to worry. [Chuckles] MW: Yes, and the grandparents take care of them. SM: Yes. Right. MW: And also the fact, I think, just my grandfather . . . I should have brought you a picture. SM: Oh, yes. MW: He just seems to be the . . . SM: How old is he by now? MW: Oh, let’s see. SM: Not too old maybe. MW: My grandfather, he passed away a number of years ago. SM: Oh, he’s died. MW: He was fairly old. SM: Oh. MW: But he just looks the scholar. SM: Oh. MW: Yes, like see, we have examples at home of his calligraphy. It’s really quite good. 96

SM: Oh, I see. MW: And so he just had . . . you know, he looked like a grandfather, he looked like a, you know, a real scholarly type person. So he just . . . SM: Hmmm. MW: And he, you know, encouraged us. You know, I guess now everybody is encouraged to do well in school, [unclear]. SM: Oh, yes. MW: [Unclear] as a way of succeeding. SM: I see. MW: And I think that it wasn’t a matter of like beating it into our heads or anything. SM: [Chuckles] MW: I think it was . . . made us, for some reason, I mean, we just enjoyed . . . enjoyed school, enjoyed learning. Because we had our share of TV watching, I mean, we were . . . it’s even like surprising with my youngest brother. He’s doing so well in school. Because I . . . there’s just a number of bad habits that we . . . we started him on. SM: [Chuckles] MW: Oh, it just . . . because he . . . SM: [Chuckles] MW: I mean it was . . . it was really neat when he was quite young, maybe only a couple years old. So very precocious because he picked up a lot of phrases from watching TV. SM: Oh. MW: And [unclear] and we’d take him down to the bowling alley, teach him how to clean a pinball machine at the age of three years old, you know. SM: [Chuckles] Oh my. MW: And despite all these things, he still did quite well.


SM: Well, your father then was maybe that . . . and from a . . . your grandfather, I mean, was maybe from a gentry family or . . . was he the schoolteacher in the village? MW: Yes, he was a schoolteacher. I’m not sure as to how big a school it was. SM: Yes. But he must have been a scholar of some sort. MW: Yes. SM: Maybe that he passed the first exam or more of this test, do you think? MW: I’ll see if I can find out from my dad. SM: Yes. MW: If he knows. And that’s, I guess, that kind of puzzles me in my mind right now as to the fact that my grandfather was a schoolteacher and then my . . . that my dad had such a limited formal education. It would seem to be kind of . . . SM: Yes. Yes, maybe the immigration had something to do with that. MW: Yes. Yes, because my Uncle Ben, who’s younger . . . SM: Yes, that is strange. MW: He was able to go to high school when they were in Albert Lea. SM: Oh, I see. So that would make a big difference. MW: Yes. SM: But your father didn’t go to high school here then. MW: No. No. SM: And he had gone to school in China though, I suppose, up to about [unclear]. MW: Yes. I think like eighth or ninth grade, or equivalent to that. SM: Eighth or ninth grade. Well, it was probably the situation of coming over here. MW: Probably. SM: He probably worked . . . 98

MW: And he occasionally, you know, makes a point of that. How he’s just a dumb farmer. SM: But he calls himself a farmer. Maybe they were landed [chuckles] landed gentry. MW: Sure. SM: Well, that would be interesting to find out what their background was, just out of . . . you know, to get the whole picture of different groups coming over. MW: Yes, that was a problem [chuckles] trying to talk to my dad in the car. Trying to watch the traffic, and trying to, you know, remember all the answers that gave, too, you know. SM: [Chuckles] Oh, yes. Yes, I think he probably hasn’t thought about it though. MW: Yes. Well, he’s going to be on vacation for a couple weeks, so I’m going to . . . SM: Oh. MW: Have a little more access to him. SM: You ought to do a tape of him. Or did you already? MW: Well, my sister-in-law, Lynn Wong did one [unclear]. SM: Oh, that’s right. I guess Joyce [Yu] told me that. MW: Yes, I’m not sure if all that . . . yes. SM: Yes. Oh, I’d really like to listen to that, if I could. MW: For that oral . . . for that oral history. SM: Yes. I’d really like to hear that. MW: Yes. SM: Joyce did one of her father that’s pretty interesting, too. Hmmm. MW: I think that kind of . . . well that, you know, stems from . . . I remember occasionally we would ask my parents about China. SM: Yes. MW: And [sighs] they would . . . they didn’t seem to give us real complete answers about it. And this is when we were a lot younger. And they would just tell us some stories and not really 99

detailed things. And I think it’s . . . I think he, you know, appreciated the . . . like the interest I had from like taking those Chinese history classes. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And how his . . . and that oral history thing that Lynn did. SM: Yes. MW: Where he’s much more relaxed about talking about it now and I’m sure he . . . he’s pleased that his children have an interest in that . . . in that history. SM: Oh, yes. Well, I’ve noticed just in talking to a few Chinese that history is very important in Chinese culture. MW: You know, the passing it on of . . . SM: And they all seem to have a pretty good idea of it. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Yes. Especially with . . . well, see, with my father, I think it was oral history, because he is the type of person who likes to tell stories. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And everything . . . yes. He has a . . . I mean, he has an incredible memory for the people he’s met a lot time ago. And even like the city of Saint Paul, he knows like the back of his hand. And even though he’s . . . he may have not been here for a long time, he doesn’t come up that often, and he knows his way around the town. SM: That’s the kind of person oral history is perfect for, because he’s not going to sit down and write his memoirs. MW: Yes. Right. Yes. Yes, because if he’s . . . if he needs something written, he’ll usually have my mom do it. And then if he’s writing something, he’ll occasionally have to ask her, “How do you write this character?” You know, because he [unclear] . . . SM: Oh, yes. MW: Yes. SM: So he was sort of left out both in English and Chinese then. MW: Yes, because he reads and writes it. SM: Yes. 100

MW: But he usually leaves that, the writing part up to my mother. She . . . that’s probably common with most husbands and wives [chuckles] where the wife does most of the correspondence. SM: [Unclear]. [Chuckles] Well, what about your mother then? She came from China, right? MW: Her family was . . . had settled in the Philippines. SM: Oh, that’s right. She was an overseas Chinese. MW: Yes. SM: Well, had she gone farther in school? MW: A little further. I’m not exactly sure how far. SM: But she also writes English, too? MW: Mmmm. Very seldom. SM: [Chuckles] MW: And it’s usually only for a note for my . . . you know, it’s usually just writing checks. SM: I see, yes. MW: You know, because she doesn’t . . . there isn’t a need for her to communicate . . . SM: Yes. MW: I mean, it’s usually . . . it’s always like she’s depended on her kids to do it, you know. SM: Oh, yes. But she does speak English. MW: Yes. SM: That would be really interesting to talk to your parents if they ever come up here on vacation. Would they? MW: Sure. Yes. SM: I’d really like to just . . . especially we have so little information on the women.


MW: Well, I can . . . yes, I can ask them. I’d probably meet them for supper, for dinner [unclear]. I could ask them. SM: Ask them if they’d be willing. MW: Alright. SM: It would be really nice. MW: Yes. SM: It would be nice to hear that tape, too. MW: Yes. SM: Would your mother ever be willing to be taped, do you think? [Chuckles] Well, don’t start by asking that! MW: [Chuckles] SM: Just ask if she’d like to talk first. MW: Yes. SM: Don’t want to scare her away. [Chuckles] But gee, especially if they’re going to be up here in the next few weeks. That would be really . . . MW: Yes. SM: Well, a good opportunity. MW: I’ll find a way of bringing it up in the conversation and see if she’s interested in doing it. SM: Yes. MW: That’s a good point about the women’s role in it. SM: Yes. I’m really interested. Especially, you know, these long separations . . . well, that wasn’t true of your mother though. MW: No, it wasn’t. SM: But of your grandmother. MW: Yes. 102

SM: But of course then they were probably living in an extended family there. MW: Yes, because . . . I mean, just . . . if you . . . it’s really difficult to comprehend, I think, from . . . maybe from our society, how you could keep that together. Because, I mean, most people after a couple weeks has been . . . but that just . . . SM: [Chuckles] It says something for the bonds of each of their families, I must say. MW: Yes. Yes. And then, you know, like the role of . . . [unclear] that role about Chinese women from say my parents’ generation to Chinese women who have grown up in the United States today. SM: Oh, yes. It’s an enormous difference there. [Chuckles] MW: I mean, they just . . . yes. Yes. SM: Yes. Hmmm. Well, had quite a large part of your mother’s family gone to the Philippines? Or were they . . .? MW: Well . . . her . . . let’s see. Her father and her stepmother were. SM: Oh. MW: And now she has these two younger brothers. And now I’m not sure when they came to the United States if they had . . . I’m fairly certain they came from Hong Kong and not from the Philippines. I’m fairly certain about that. SM: I see. Yes. MW: I may not be correct, but I’m fairly certain about that. And they’re like . . . those two uncles and their families are the most recent [unclear] to come over. SM: Oh, so they’re here now. MW: So they’re here now. And they came over . . . oh, in the mid-1960s. SM: I see. MW: 1965, 1966, something like that. SM: So pretty recently then. MW: Yes. 103

SM: Hmmm. Well that . . . I don’t want to get off the role of women, but the whole business of bringing over relatives is an important phenomenon because I’m trying to figure out, you know, how many people a family might bring over. MW: Yes. SM: Like fifty or . . . it varies a lot, I guess. MW: Well, see the . . . yes. When my Uncle Kee and his family came over . . . He had a fairly large family, I think, six or seven kids, something like that when he came. SM: Yes. MW: And with my two uncles, let’s see . . . he had . . . my Uncle Harold, he had one son already and then one was born here shortly after that, I think. And then my Uncle Tony’s family, he has . . . let’s see. It was four kids. Three of them were with him and then one was born here. SM: Yes. MW: And you know, part of the reasons for bringing them over is to help out in the restaurant, but also a way . . . it was . . . when you bring someone over, they have to have some sort of needed skill, you know, a job or something like that. SM: Yes. Right. MW: So that was sort of built in. SM: Right. MW: It was employment waiting for them when they came over, so that they wouldn’t be a burden. SM: That makes it easier to bring them? MW: Yes, I think it makes it easier to bring them. SM: So then would they also try to bring in say their wife’s family? MW: Yes, the whole . . . Yes, whole families. SM: Yes. MW: We have two cooks with us now who . . . well, one just recently went back to China and for like the past . . . many . . . [unclear] many years, he’s been trying to bring his family out of People’s Republic of China. 104

SM: Oh. Oh, he went back for that purpose? MW: Yes. He went back two years ago, rather naïvely, because he really hadn’t really made a lot of preparations, and didn’t have any luck at all. But then this past year they got some things working, and so that they’re going to be joining him shortly. And he has to be separated from them, I think, for at least ten years. SM: Oh, dear. MW: And the other cook is in my mother’s family. He’s just . . . he’s leaving today, as a matter of fact, to fly back to visit his family who he hasn’t seen in five or six years. SM: And that’s in Hong Kong then? MW: Yes. SM: [Unclear]. Well, is it getting easier then to bring relatives out of People’s Republic or . . .? I thought they were working on some kind of agreement. MW: Yes, it’s . . . SM: But I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything lately. MW: It’s still difficult even just to get people’s relatives from Hong Kong. SM: Oh, in terms of the United States, it’s difficult. MW: Yes. Yes. SM: But is there any problem bringing them out of People’s Republic? MW: Well, I think it’s . . . the change in the relationship between the countries has really made a significant difference. SM: Yes, it’s bound to get easier then. MW: Yes. Before it was just a stone wall. I mean, there was just no chance. SM: Right. Yes. Well, to go back to the role of women . . . [Chuckles] MW: Yes. SM: I don’t know, any light you can shed on . . . for instance, even the ones where separation wasn’t an element. The whole fact of an arranged marriage and what kind of . . . 105

MW: I guess this is something that . . . like growing up, the fact that all the kids in the family are aware that my parents’ marriage was arranged and that the vast majority of people of their generation’s marriages were arranged. And so we got to talk about when we get married, you know, we don’t want, you know, you to do this. SM: [Chuckles] MW: And so they always . . . it’s the point of argument about how well certain arranged marriages worked and sort of try to bring examples about how arranged marriages are somewhat . . . some people are having difficulty and some aren’t and so forth. But . . . SM: Well, I suppose they can point to plenty of other [unclear]. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. And so, you know, to an extent, it’s still going on, where there’s matchmakers. SM: Oh, it is still now? MW: Yes, you can find matchmakers in . . . in, well, in a less formal basis in any Chinese community [chuckles] but more formally in the larger . . . I mean, where there’s Chinatowns, you know. SM: Oh. Hmmm. MW: Whether it’s . . . could be informal, the basis where, you know, so and so has a cousin or whatever about the same age as . . . and so they just . . . if they’re just friends, they just talk about . . . Or else if you just go to a matchmaker and try to arrange something between someone . . . couples who are in the United States or else even somebody who’s back in the old country, you know. Back in Hong Kong and so on, and try to arrange a marriage. SM: Hmmm. Would that be because there are fewer women here? Or is it [unclear]? MW: Usually today with . . . of kids of our generation, it’s not happening. It’s more a case where there . . . because you’re a recent immigrant or else if you’ve been living here a long time, for one reason or another, you have difficulty meeting . . . SM: Excuse me, I think I have.... [Recording interruption] MW: Yes. I think I left off talking about how that you know most of the kids of our generation now are not involved with the arranged marriages. I think the only ones—this is my understanding anyway—that still participate would be like immigrants who are living here now, or else they’re born here and for one reason or another they just can’t get married. [Chuckles] 106

SM: [Laughter] MW: So this is sort of a last resort. They just need to do it. SM: I see. [Chuckles] MW: But I think the . . . SM: But that would be . . . like an Asian American would look in China for one? MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Yes. There should be quite a gap, I should think, in the culture, but . . . MW: Yes. But I think that brings up a lot of problems of certain ones where they’ve come over and, you know, they expect it, or whatever ideas they have about America. And also their treatment, they expect that everything would be a bed of roses where they don’t have to do anything, they just sort of lounge around and not have to do any work. SM: These are largely wives, I take it. MW: Yes. SM: Yes. MW: And the women back in Hong Kong, you know, obviously see it as a way of getting to the United States. SM: Oh, yes. MW: You know, I mean, that’s one thing I don’t . . . people tend to overlook that or forget that, is that America is still the place where people want to go, you know. SM: Right. MW: They don’t want to go to the Soviet Union, they don’t want to go to Eastern Bloc countries, they want to come to America, you know, and it’s . . . SM: There aren’t any matchmakers bringing husbands or wives from America to Hong Kong. [Chuckles] MW: Not that I know of, you know! SM: Well, does anyone ever send for a husband? [Chuckles] 107

MW: Gosh . . . SM: I’ve never heard of it, but . . . I suppose . . . well, is there an imbalance in the younger group? MW: Ah . . . SM: I suppose more of the students that come are males, but . . . maybe not, I don’t know. MW: Yes, more of them are. But it seems that just for . . . I don’t know if it’s . . . maybe it’s just more visible. SM: Yes. MW: It seems that the women here are going to have less difficulty finding a husband than men finding a wife. SM: Would they intermarry more? Or not? MW: Hmmm. I don’t know if that would result in that or not. I really can’t say. SM: Yes. But in any case they seem to find their husbands here. MW: Yes, because . . . and I guess in general terms of . . . you know, mostly our generation wanting to change things in the respect that they want to find their own spouse, you know. SM: Yes. MW: They want to have control over . . . because of just the . . . and I think just because, you know, this is the . . . the society we grew up in has that kind of attitude, because it’s really different from my parent’s generation. SM: Right. MW: And I think most of them realize that. SM: Yes. And of course it’s changed in China, too. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Yes. And then even age of marriage where before it was important that you get married and start a family right away. I guess this almost coincides with the attitudes that are in America now as well as in China, of getting married later. SM: Yes. Right.


MW: It’s not that big a deal to . . . you know, to be married and wait a little to start a family, even though there still is that pressure, because they want to be grandparents, you know. SM: Right. They want grandchildren. Yes. MW: Yes. Here again, I think parts of keeping the family in line and going, it’s one of those . . . is the family line is also tied into your own sort of personal history, too. SM: Yes. MW: So that’s important to them. SM: Right. MW: And I suppose it’s important to all cultures, too. SM: Yes. Probably all grandparents want to have grandchildren. But it does seem as though there’s more emphasis maybe on that in Chinese culture. Hmmm. Well, does that change as the generations . . .? I mean, is there less . . . I mean, would you be less anxious about having grandchildren when that period arrives or . . .? MW: I don’t know. I suppose I probably will be just as anxious, you know. SM: Yes. MW: Because one thing that’s kind of interesting is that something my wife has brought up recently about if we have children, when they grow up and are ready to marry, she would prefer that they marry a Chinese. SM: I see. MW: Not from, I think, the same reasons necessarily as my parents, but I guess in certain respects there’s a similarity in that. She just feels that, you know, since we’re both Chinese . . . SM: Yes. MW: The fact that the . . . the cultural things that we were able to share a lot of common experiences and whether our children find that to be a necessity or not, it’s . . . we’ll leave it up to them, but she just feels that it’s . . . it is important enough where she would find that to be desirable. SM: Well . . . MW: I always assumed that it wasn’t a big deal to her. But she says it is. 109

SM: Oh. Well, is it important to you, too, then? MW: It’s not really important to me. SM: Not so important. MW: No. It’s . . . if they do, it’s fine. If they’re not, I can . . . you know, it’s okay, too. Even with . . . well, in my wife’s family, there is a wedding coming up. It’s her youngest sister, is marrying a Caucasian. SM: Oh. This brought up the question maybe. [Chuckles] MW: Probably so. It probably did. And her mom is, you know, is not putting up a fight about it. She’s pretty resigned to it. Yes. SM: Yes. I see. MW: Her . . . let’s see, she has . . . let’s see. One son that married, it was an arranged marriage. Well, her oldest son, that wasn’t an arranged marriage. And the younger son who is my age or probably older, older it seems like, who had an arranged marriage from someone in Hong Kong. And that marriage fell through. [Unclear]. SM: And that is a person your age? MW: Yes. SM: Oh. MW: And then she has another daughter who is about twenty-seven, twenty-eight, who married a Chinese in the Twin Cities. SM: Oh. MW: Who was raised in the United States but was foreign born. SM: I see. MW: And that marriage fell through, so . . . SM: Oh. MW: So she probably figures . . . SM: You can’t back on either. 110

MW: . . . why [unclear], why not, you know. So she’s had, you know . . . SM: Married a Chinese that was foreign born. MW: Yes, but raised here. SM: But raised here. MW: Yes. So she’s had what, three children who have married Chinese . . . probably . . . four. [Laughing] Four have married Chinese, and it’s fifty-fifty is the ones that have turned out, so she probably figures, what the heck. Might as well . . . SM: [Chuckles] She might as well stop worrying. MW: Yes. SM: Well, I suppose at least in your generation the same pressure wouldn’t be put on even if say your wife really would prefer that . . . MW: Yes, right. SM: She wouldn’t . . . MW: There’s not . . . I don’t think there’s going to be that kind of pressure that my parents’ generation put on their kids. SM: Yes. Right, because it’s . . . MW: It’s just enormous. SM: Yes, well, being the first generation, they had a lot more at stake. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Right. Yes. There is that thing again, like you mentioned before, of the history of family history. There is a lot of that at stake. SM: Yes. MW: And of having kids, of being, you know, passing on the name, you know. SM: Yes, right. MW: That’s why, you know, the importance about having sons. SM: Yes. 111

MW: You know. SM: Right. Well, that leads to another thing I was going to ask you about, but I don’t know, there may be other things you wanted to finish talking about. MW: No, go ahead. SM: And that was the kinds of relationships between father and son, or mother and son, or mother and daughter, father and daughter. How this comes about. I mean, we know that there’s a different kind of concern for the sons. MW: Yes. SM: But I don’t know whether that means any less affection for the daughters or it’s just a more different concern about their future or . . .? MW: I think maybe . . . well, I think from the outside, as far as like the daughters go, there’s still that . . . I think it was still tough for a lot of girls, like they . . . to want careers. I think the parents still have a hard time dealing with that. SM: Oh. MW: But the fact that we’re able to go to . . . you know, kids here are able to college, whether scholarship, work on their own, or help from their parents. They have really opened things a lot and sort of changed the rules [unclear] in that respect that . . . go to school and work rather than just staying home, because . . . my dad wanted my mom to stay home and take care of the kids until they got old enough to be on . . . take care of themselves a little bit. So that was real important . . . he saw it as really important that the mother stay home and, you know, take care of young children. SM: Yes. MW: And, you know, the opportunities in the United States for both the boys and girls are so much greater that I think that sort of attitude about [unclear] leaving it to the sons . . . SM: That isn’t the same question of which one to send or something. MW: Yes, right. It’s not [unclear] before like especially in China it was . . . there was no question as to who was going . . . who had the . . . who was going to get the opportunity. Here it’s a little more open. SM: Right. MW: Here, of course, I guess it would still depend to an extent on the family resources. 112

SM: Yes. MW: But here, you know, the kids are more able to find jobs when they’re going to school so that with my wife, she received minimal support from her parents in going to the university. So she’s . . . SM: So she swung it pretty much on her own. MW: Yes, on her own. And she’s able to . . . at the same time then, develop a tremendous amount of independence. SM: Yes. Well, yes, the Chinese women of your generation seem to be very . . . very competent in making a career for themselves and so on. MW: Yes. SM: Well, I mean, that wouldn’t displease their parents, would it? MW: No, no. No, not at all. SM: No. MW: Because they . . . here they still, I think maybe, I don’t know, see it where they still want . . . I think they realize that here . . . even before the days of women’s lib that opportunity was open to all people, not . . . I mean, this includes all the sexes, both sexes, of having an opportunity to achieve. SM: Yes. MW: And here again, education is a way of doing it. But the thing about the relationship between father and son, it still has that . . . especially with the oldest son, that’s still very important. SM: You’re not the oldest? MW: I’m the oldest son. SM: Oh, you are the oldest. Excuse me. I should have looked this [unclear]. MW: I am the oldest son. So that . . . you know, here again, it gets back to that . . . I guess, is more visible in terms of that marriage thing. Where the pressure is on the oldest son to set the example. SM: Yes. 113

MW: And so that perhaps the oldest son gets disciplined more. And also as well as like the daughters, I guess it’s . . . in terms of, you know, interracial marriage, you know, it’s . . . I don’t know. Maybe it’s more or less . . . but keeping the purity within the race, you know. It’s just . . . SM: You mean the oldest daughter . . .? MW: Since the daughter is going . . . she would be one that would bear children. SM: Yes. MW: Where . . . in that respect. SM: Well, are you saying the oldest daughter would get more pressure then to marry a Chinese? MW: Well, it would be just as much pressure. SM: Oh, just as much as the son. MW: But . . . but just women in general, I guess, in general terms, there’s that pressure. SM: Yes. I see. MW: But . . . so in certain terms it’s more . . . more responsibility that falls on . . . still falls on the oldest son. SM: Yes. MW: Just in terms of . . . you know, you’re setting an example. SM: One thing I was thinking about was that in the old traditional China the daughter would, you know, become a part of her husband’s family. But maybe in this setting here, maybe it’s more important for her to carry on.... [Recording interruption] SM: Hmmm. What were we talking about? [Chuckles] MW: Yes, we left off on where . . . about a woman who got married would leave her family and be part of her husband’s family. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And to an extent that’s still true. SM: I see. 114

MW: So that, you know, my wife is really part of our family now, but it’s not like you just forget, you know, [chuckles] she forgets her mother or anything like that. SM: [Chuckles] Right. MW: Because I think like her attitude is more of a . . . an American attitude about [unclear] and stuff like that. SM: Yes. MW: It’s nice that they get along, but the in-laws [unclear] stereotyping of . . . of conflicts between in-laws, but . . . yes. Her mom has that sort of . . . views it that way. And even like when we were married . . . of the little customs that the new wife has to perform. SM: Oh. MW: When you’re . . . well, like when my parents . . . like after the wedding, she was supposed to serve them tea. She was supposed to be the servant. SM: I see. MW: Things like that. SM: Yes. MW: Little things that maybe . . . it’s . . . I mean, I’m glad she had the attitude where she didn’t think that these little customs were rinky-dink or anything like that or just a pain in the neck. SM: Yes. MW: She is . . . you know, she’s more than happy to do these things. It’s kind of neat that it’s . . . just even from the standpoint of being different, you know, it’s just something that . . . you know, like my parents’ attitude about it wasn’t something where, hey, you’ve got to do this. But, you know, they just . . . they’re something that . . . SM: Something to enjoy. MW: Yes, to enjoy. Right. SM: What were some of the other things? MW: Well, let’s see. When we were married, the fact that she had an older brother who was not yet married . . . 115

SM: Yes. MW: We had to pay . . . in a sense, pay him off. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] MW: So my . . . let’s see. My parents bought him a new pair of pants. SM: Oh, really? MW: Yes. SM: Hmmm. MW: And her mom bought me a wallet. SM: I see. MW: And I can’t remember what . . . if my parents had to give my wife something or not. But . . . SM: So there’s some exchange of gifts. MW: Yes. If that’s . . . yes. Some of this had to be done since my . . . she had an older brother who hadn’t yet married, because you’re supposed to go down in order. SM: I see. But only . . . I mean, the exchange has to be between certain parties? MW: Yes, certain parties. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Now, with my wife’s youngest sister getting married, see, they have . . . there’s another daughter who’s older, who is not yet married. And now I don’t know if she has to buy her off or whatever. [Chuckles] SM: [Laughter] MW: Or if there’s . . . if it’s just with the males or there’s anything to do with the women. SM: Yes, I see. MW: You know, I’ll have to find out.


SM: I see. Hmmm. What about at the time of a death or a birth? Are there certain rituals to go with that, too, that you remember from childhood? MW: I know with the deaths . . . there’s a ritual at the cemetery. And it’s just [unclear] throwing a flower in. SM: Oh. MW: And it’s also related to . . . with Buddhism, with . . . oh, in terms of respecting the departed. Because we had a table set aside where . . . after my grandfather passed away. SM: Yes. MW: Of his . . . a photograph of him and some candles and various fruits placed in front of him. And that we would go and bow three times. SM: There was a picture of him and fruits, you said? MW: Yes, some fruits set in front of it. I know there was fruit; there may have been other foods as well. SM: Were there sweets, too? MW: I’m not sure. SM: I thought Linda Woo mentioned that sweets were [unclear]. MW: There may have been. SM: Yes. MW: I’m not real positive about that. SM: Yes. MW: Then . . . something we touched on last week about . . . like on Memorial Day. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Hong San [sp?] you know, walking the mountain. And we would also bow three times. SM: I see. MW: Then also . . . this is sort of popular, at funerals, they would pass out some candy, some sweets. 117

SM: Oh. MW: And also a little envelope with a nickel in it. I’m not sure what the significance of the nickel is or if it was just supposed to be money. You know, but also the sweets. SM: Oh. Yes. Hmmm. Well, were your family Buddhist or have any particular religion or . . .? MW: Well, my grandmother was. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: And our religion was whatever [unclear]. It was whatever church was closest to the house. SM: Oh, so your family went to Christian churches in Rochester. MW: We went to Christian churches just . . . first it was a Methodist church just because it was a block away. SM: [Chuckles] MW: And then when we moved to a different part of Rochester, we became Lutherans because the Lutheran church was two blocks away. SM: [Chuckles] MW: Then we were . . . let’s see. We were baptized . . . we weren’t baptized, let’s see, until we were like in our early teens. SM: Oh. MW: And my youngest brother, he was baptized as a baby. And so . . . SM: As a Lutheran? MW: Yes, as a Lutheran. And so that when he got baptized, we figured . . . because my parents figured, let’s get them all baptized at the same time. SM: [Chuckles] I see. MW: But otherwise it was a matter of convenience rather than of any theology. SM: Yes. But I mean, I’m interested too in what other things it might have meant. Like did it have to do with assimilation or . . .? 118

MW: Yes, it had to do with assimilation because . . . I’m sure my parents felt that if their kids were raised Buddhist that their friends, you know, would think that this is really . . . SM: [Chuckles] That wouldn’t [unclear]. MW: Yes, this is really strange. SM: I see. Well, did both your parents go? Your father, too? MW: No, they . . . my parents rarely attended. SM: Oh, they didn’t go. MW: Yes, rarely attended church. SM: I see. They sent the children. MW: Yes. To a great extent, the fact that my father had to work on Sundays. SM: Yes. MW: And my mother felt that she really wouldn’t understand what was going on when . . . SM: Oh, I see. MW: But here, yes, it does get back to that point about assimilation. SM: Yes. MW: Saying this is . . . you know, that this . . . SM: So they really wanted you to go . . . or somewhat anyway. MW: Yes. SM: Or was it more the kids’ ideas? MW: No, they . . . that was . . . SM: No. Not . . . [chuckles] MW: You’ve got to go to church. SM: Oh. Because it’s an American institution. 119

MW: Yes, right. Yes. SM: I see. Well, are you still associated with the church? Or I mean, did it have any particular meaning for you? MW: I think that it had no lasting effect. SM: [Chuckles] MW: Yes. SM: Of course, that happens in many families where the parents are Christians. MW: Yes. I guess, yes, there was the difficulty. Even the . . . well, the fact of a lot of kids where their parents tell them one thing and the parents don’t do it, you know. SM: [Chuckles] Right. MW: Yes. And it got to . . . like even with my dad’s smoking. This is kind of off the point . . . where he, you know, parents tell kids not to smoke. SM: Right. MW: And they do it anyway. SM: [Chuckles] [Unclear] MW: You know, we finally got my dad to quit and there is nobody who smokes in the family. SM: Oh. That’s very interesting. They took him at his word. But then they convinced him not to. MW: Yes. I think with him we were always . . . had been putting pressure on him, but he got respiratory, held it for a while, and he did quit smoking for like three weeks and he figured, well, he can last this long [unclear]. So that’s when he quit. SM: Oh, that’s pretty good. MW: Yes. SM: But he didn’t want the children to smoke. MW: Right. SM: For health reasons, I suppose, or . . .? 120

MW: Yes. I guess that and the fact that it was the law. [Chuckles] Kids, you know, weren’t supposed to buy cigarettes. SM: [Chuckles] MW: You aren’t supposed to smoke at school. SM: Oh, yes, [unclear] children. MW: And you were a juvenile delinquent if you smoked, and so . . . SM: Oh, yes. So he would want you not to be delinquents. MW: Yes, [unclear]. Yes. But that was sort of off the point of ceremonies and dealing with life and death. SM: Yes. MW: And I guess we like went . . . my dad has come up a number of times, oh, in the past three, four years where there are Chinese people that he knew in the Twin Cities who passed away. So he felt obligated and was there for our family’s representative from Rochester, to come up for the funerals. SM: Yes. MW: And so if my schedule . . . this is when I was living up here also. If my schedule permitted, then I would go to the funeral with him. And so I’ve been able to observe a number of these. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And the fact that the Chinese community has bought a huge plot in Lakewood Cemetery. SM: Oh, the Chinese community bought that together? Or is it family associations? MW: I’m not sure if it was through a specific associate . . . if it’s the Wong Association or . . . SM: Oh, yes. MW: But there’s a plot there. SM: Yes. I went out there and I saw that. MW: Yes, where they get buried. SM: And I wondered how it was bought, you know, whether . . . 121

MW: And they’ve had . . . they bought it a long time ago. SM: I asked the cemetery man there, you know, why, how it happened the Chinese were all separate there, and he had some weird explanations. But I think you might have a better explanation. [Chuckles] So it was that the Chinese bought it in a huge area. MW: Yes. They’ve got that plot as it were so that I think it was . . . SM: Yes. That probably was the Wong Association. MW: So that if somebody . . . you know, I mean, there is someplace that they’ll be buried, you know. There won’t be a problem, you know. SM: Yes. MW: That if . . . and then there are, you know, certain plots within the area where families that have decided to, you know, build . . . have a big headstone or a little shrine or something within that area. SM: Oh, I see. MW: But then it sort of makes it a matter of remembering where to go to get to that area because they’re all buried in that spot. SM: Yes. There were a few in another section, I noticed. Thirty-six. MW: [Unclear]. Well, maybe they couldn’t keep it all together. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] Well, it was mainly just one or two. MW: Yes. SM: But yes, they have a little arch and some urns. MW: Yes. But there is that real reverence for the dead. SM: Yes. MW: Even though it’s something like death is not something you’re supposed to talk about. SM: Oh, you’re not supposed to talk about it. MW: It’s . . . you know. It is bad luck, it’s . . . you know, there are superstitions around death. 122

SM: Oh. Would it bring on death or something? MW: Oh . . . it just . . . I don’t know if it would . . . I guess that it would just . . . they don’t want to take a chance, you know. [Chuckles] SM: So it’s not [unclear]. Because that was one of the explanations this man had—which is completely screwed up—but he said that Chinese believe you shouldn’t talk about death or you’ll die. MW: Yes. SM: And so they didn’t just get those, he said, they don’t plan for death until the day before they die. [Chuckles] Which can’t be really true. MW: Yes. SM: And that having the sections set aside made it possible for them to buy single plots. This sounds totally off to me. But that was what he thinks. MW: Yes, my . . . well, I could be wrong, too, but my attitude is where it’s sort of a . . . you know, this idea of somebody who died, no matter how poor they were . . . SM: It would take care of it. MW: Yes, you would be taken care of in that respect. SM: Yes, that would make sense. Because in Saint Paul with the older one, it’s also a separate section . . . and of much earlier then. And they seem . . . they might be single men, I don’t know. MW: What cemetery in Saint Paul is that? SM: Oakwood. Oakwood, it’s not far from here. And there’s a whole group that died in the 1920s. I wondered if maybe it had to do with the influenza epidemic or something. Well, that was 1918. But they don’t seem to . . . well, there are some families, too, but there seems to be this long line of . . . I’m not sure, but they might be single men. MW: See, my father is a . . . kind of a superstitious guy, so that whenever he would come up to meet me to go to one of these funerals . . . SM: Yes. MW: He’d have me meet him like a couple blocks from my house. SM: From your house? 123

MW: Yes. SM: Oh. MW: He didn’t want to meet me at my house . . . or any of children’s homes. SM: Because that might bring some kind of bad . . . MW: For [chuckles] yes, for whatever reason. SM: [Chuckles] MW: I mean, we . . . of course, to the kids, I mean, we take these superstitions and totally . . . [unclear]. But we . . . I mean . . . SM: Well, it’s so ingrained in the earlier . . . yes. MW: But, you know, I mean, that’s really my dad’s attitude, so there’s no sense in arguing with it for [unclear]. SM: [Chuckles] No. MW: So that even after the funeral, before he will go to our house, we will stop someplace and wash our hands. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And then it’s okay to . . . if he wants to stop by our house or whatever, then it’s alright. SM: Yes. MW: But, you know, these are things that, you know . . . obviously, that he believes in, so . . . SM: Yes, well, so many generations have practiced this that it’s hard to . . . MW: Yes. SM: But you can sort of see how it would arise, too, this fear of death and . . . MW: Because . . . let’s see. The most recent immediate death in our family would be my Uncle Joe who is the oldest son in their family. SM: Oh. MW: And he died of . . . of liver cancer. 124

SM: Oh. MW: And so with this cancer, obviously, this was something that was over a long period of time, so it’s not like . . . where they . . . I mean, they . . . I’m sure in the back of their minds they knew he was dying, that he was going to die. SM: Right. Right. MW: But they still didn’t give up hope. They bought some very expensive herb they got from Hong Kong. SM: Oh, did they? Oh. MW: And that was supposedly going to cure him. Obviously, it didn’t. But, you know, here . . . this is something we touched on last time, too, about folk medicine and Western medicine. SM: Yes. Yes. MW: Because at the same time here he was in, you know, Saint Mary’s Hospital, and . . . because when you’re in Rochester . . . SM: Oh, so they’re trying everything. MW: Yes, right. Here it is, you know, one of the medical centers of the world and, you know, you’re still doing that. SM: You might as well try everything. [Chuckles] MW: And the doctor was, you know, was willing to . . . SM: Was he? MW: Sure. SM: That’s pretty nice. MW: He says, whatever . . . you know, try it. SM: Yes. Right. It might have helped him psychologically or something. MW: Yes, I think so. But . . . yes, death is just something that . . . I don’t know how my . . . I don’t know they’re going to prepare you for death because . . . like I’m . . . because I was . . . oh, let’s see. Oh, what was I? I had to be about thirteen or so. 125

SM: When this uncle . . .? MW: When my grandfather died. SM: Oh. Oh. MW: He’s the first death that I personally experienced, was my grandfather’s death. SM: Oh, yes. I see. And you were about thirteen then? MW: Yes. And here he . . . I mean, he . . . you know, he passed away at home. SM: Oh, that’s nice. MW: And he was . . . SM: He wasn’t sick or anything? MW: No, he just died of natural causes. It was likewise with my grandmother a number of years later when she passed away. And so that . . . I think at that time I was still too young to really understand or to feel a loss at a death. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Even though it was my grandfather, I still didn’t understand. SM: Yes. MW: And I’m not sure how Chinese parents deal with it, to try to get their kids to understand about someone dying, you know, passing away. SM: They didn’t talk about it too much? MW: Not . . . not really. I just understood that, you know, of going through the . . . you know, people visiting and of crying and of . . . SM: Oh. MW: Like when my mother’s father passed away, he was in the Philippines. She wasn’t able to bring him over yet. So I couldn’t understand the tremendous amount of grief that my mother went through, and so like I guess you just kind of learn from that, just of observing. But to this date, they really haven’t discussed things about, you know . . . about plans. Even trying to get my father to . . . to get a will is something . . . I did it a couple years ago and I didn’t do it too well. But this is something that because it has to do with death that he doesn’t . . . for one reason or another doesn’t want to, you know, face it. 126

SM: Oh. MW: My uncle, his younger brother, was more Westernized, you know. And he has no problem dealing with that. Because it just . . . from a financial standpoint, you know, it just makes sense. [Chuckles] And so . . . and so that’s something that, you know, as sensible as having a will, it’s something that my father has a hard time facing. SM: Oh, yes. Hmmm. MW: Elements about death like that. SM: So kinds of superstitions and so on maybe do enter into that then. MW: Yes. Yes. And I guess like with . . . of course, then after the funeral, you know, just like with other . . . a lot of cultures, you have . . . it’s just like a wake, you know. You have like . . . SM: A big feast or something? MW: A big feast, yes. Yes. But it’s still, you know, important that you honor your dead on Memorial Day because it’s really maybe an inconvenience, but you still do that. SM: Yes. Well, is there another memorial day in Chinese culture or . . .? MW: Oh . . . let’s see. It works around . . . in the United States around . . . Christian . . . SM: Here they just follow this one. MW: Yes, because they also like Christmas time. SM: Oh, at Christmas time they go to honor the dead? MW: Yes, you don’t have to [unclear] but, you know, you’re also . . . is you remember. SM: I see. MW: Yes. SM: So they just took American . . .? MW: Yes, and even . . . oh, maybe Chinese New Year. SM: Oh. MW: You can do it, too. 127

SM: I see. So any holiday or special day? MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Well, that’s interesting, because Americans don’t think about that on Christmas or . . . MW: Yes. SM: Or maybe they do if it’s a person close to them or something. MW: Because the Chinese don’t do it to a big extent at Christmas time. SM: Oh. MW: I guess more at Chinese New Year. But . . . go ahead. SM: Oh, I was just remembering you had mentioned your father always took you to see this . . . or on Memorial Day you would go to pay respects to that Chinese that had lived there before. MW: Yes, that . . . well, not . . . yes. See, both my grandparents are buried in the cemetery in Rochester. SM: Oh. MW: As well as my Uncle Joe. But yes, that little plot in the cemetery at the state hospital grounds in Rochester. SM: Oh, it’s a different cemetery then. MW: Yes, it’s just for . . . well, it can’t . . . I’m not sure if it’s just . . . at one time it was probably just for people who died in the state hospital and didn’t have anywhere else to be buried. The reason I say that is because there are very few headstones or very few markers there in that area. SM: Oh, yes. MW: So I’m not sure if they, you know, changed their policy or what’s happened. SM: Yes. But your father didn’t know that Chinese? Or did he know him? MW: He knew him vaguely. SM: Oh, he knew him a little bit. 128

MW: Yes, he knew him a little bit. SM: Well, I wondered if say he hadn’t known him, would he still have felt a kind of obligation to go since he was a fellow Chinese in an alien situation or . . .? MW: Probably not, if he didn’t. SM: Probably not. MW: Not if, you know . . . SM: It would only be if he knew him. MW: Only if he knew him. Yes. And you know, it’s interesting, too, those funerals that I’ve attended, that they’re all at . . . always at the same funeral parlor. SM: Oh. MW: I can’t . . . it’s the one on . . . what is it? SM: Is it a Chinese owned or . . .? MW: No, it’s not. It’s on Lyndale and . . . what is it? Fifty-Eighth, right on the corner. I can’t remember the name. SM: I see. MW: I should, I have been there enough times. SM: [Chuckles] MW: But I’m sure they have some sort of arrangement worked out so that they handle all the . . . at least all the ones that have been Wong ones. SM: Oh, yes. MW: The exception would . . . like when David Fong’s mother passed away. SM: Yes. MW: Or his mother-in-law passed away, I should say. It was at Wertis [sp?] Funeral Home. That was in Bloomington. And since he works and lives in Bloomington, I think, you know . . . SM: Oh, yes. 129

MW: That’s why he had it there. But the majority or all the other Chinese funerals in the Twin Cities that I’ve attended have always been at that one funeral home. SM: I see. Well, maybe the personal contact, too? MW: Probably, yes. SM: Or from the grapevine. [Chuckles] MW: Yes, that was established and so they . . . SM: Yes. So everybody asked, well, who was a good . . . [Chuckles] MW: Yes. So, you know, they always handle it. And it’s not that far from . . . from Lakewood Cemetery, you know. [Chuckles] They just . . . SM: Right. [Chuckles] If it’s on Lyndale. MW: Yes, right. They just hopped on Lyndale, cut across on Thirty-Sixth and they’re there. SM: Yes. Well, so it was probably the Chinese initiative to have a separate part. MW: Yes. SM: Yes, because they would buy in groups and . . . MW: Now as far as like some ceremonies in regards to like births . . . SM: Yes. MW: Like my sister, who is probably . . . even though she is American born, has more old Chinese . . . habits than a lot of old Chinese. SM: [Chuckles] MW: Because when she . . . like one of them I remember is that you don’t wash your newborn baby’s hair for . . . what is it? A month or two, whatever it is. SM: Oh. MW: I’m not sure of the reasoning behind it, but . . . now I’m not sure that . . . if my mom did that with my youngest brother. Because I was old enough to . . . I was like, you know, thirteen or fourteen when he was born. SM: Yes. 130

MW: But I don’t remember. But I know that my sister . . . because my nephews are young enough that I would remember that, that that’s one thing she did. SM: Oh, yes. Yes. MW: So we gave her a bad time about, boy, your kid’s head is going to smell, and things like that. SM: [Chuckles] It’s probably good for them. MW: Yes. [Chuckles] And even with . . . my niece who is a little over two years old. And . . . gosh, I just . . . my mind is a . . . I just don’t remember whatever little things that my sister-inlaw had to go through with her newborn baby. I’m there are some things. SM: But there were some kind of . . . MW: Yes, there were some. I don’t know what exactly. SM: Hmmm. MW: And I was surprised like that night that she was born, I was in . . . in a dinner with my parents, a Chinese dinner, how calmly they took the news that my sister-in-law was in labor. I thought my dad would go nuts. SM: [Laughter] MW: But they were very happy, but he . . . he was quite well composed. [Chuckles] And I think with the Chinese it seems like the grandparents-to-be oftentimes are more excited [unclear] or worried or concerned. SM: Right. MW: Or show it more than. SM: It’s an important . . . MW: Yes. But I think these kind of ceremonies . . . I don’t know how . . . if other, you know, Chinese, American born Chinese kids of my generation . . . it would be interesting to follow how many of them pick up on these and then pass it along. SM: Yes, it would be. MW: Because I know a lot of these . . . I’m sure that both my wife and I will still carry on, but other families, I don’t know if they’ll do it or not. Because if there’s . . . if they . . . whatever 131

compels them to do it or not to do it, it’s . . . It’s just pure speculation as to what percentages will do it and then not do it. SM: Yes. That would be really interesting to know. MW: Yes, because it seems like this . . . our generation is . . . I think it could be a real watershed, you know. SM: Oh. MW: Where what things we’ll continue with and other things that won’t, because . . . SM: Yes. Well, see, almost everybody your age would be second generation. MW: Yes. SM: It does seem in the Twin Cities the people I’ve met are very interested in preserving the Chinese culture. MW: Yes. SM: It hasn’t even gotten to the third generation, which among the Japanese, they say, was a return. But that . . . the Nisei, of course, have that wartime . . . MW: Yes, that experience. SM: Yes, which did lead to try and preserve it. Hmmm. Well, is there any difference in relationships between sisters and brothers and sisters and sisters or brothers and brothers? Or is it pretty much . . . varied as in anything? MW: Well, it seems to be pretty much varied. I think it . . . like my . . . in our family we just had one girl in the family. SM: Oh, yes. MW: That’s my sister, she happened to be the oldest. And so I think she had the unfortunate task of trying to help my mother keep a house straight with four boys. SM: Oh, there were four boys and one girl. MW: In our family, yes. And with my wife’s family, there’s that big age gap between her oldest brother and then the rest of the kids in the family. SM: Oh, yes. 132

MW: And so she was the oldest daughter in the family. So it fell upon . . . SM: Oh, the oldest of the second group? MW: Well, she had a brother who was about a year or so older. SM: Oh. Yes. MW: But it fell upon her as being the oldest female in the family to do a lot of things around the house. SM: I see. MW: So she can see and look back at how her other sisters are not as disciplined or know as many things, I guess, sort of domestic things about household as she does. SM: I see. MW: Because she was given responsibility. SM: I see. So the oldest, that is one responsibility the oldest daughter would have then. MW: It seems like it, yes. SM: I see. MW: Yes. SM: I see. And so then sisters just played with brothers on a pretty equal basis? They weren’t kept apart or . . .? MW: Yes, pretty equal basis. SM: Yes. MW: And I could see in terms like of our own family, you know, when we were growing up in Rochester we first lived with my uncle’s family. SM: Oh, yes. MW: And so that we had a lot of, you know, we had the neighbors as well as just our own cousins and brothers and sisters to play with. SM: Yes. I see. So the Caucasian neighbors would be in and out a lot or . . .? 133

MW: Yes. Yes. SM: Yes. It sounds like fun. [Chuckles] MW: Yes. Yes, we had . . . SM: A wild . . . [Chuckles] MW: Yes, with the family, you know, that’s one thing we always liked about, you know, having all those brothers and sisters and cousins, that if you wanted to play baseball or football or whatever . . . SM: [Chuckles] You had enough for two teams. MW: Yes, you’ve got enough people [unclear] yes. And I think with having a big family, too, the idea of having to share things. SM: Yes. MW: [Unclear] and it’s just something you got used to. SM: Well, how many were you all together? All the cousins, I mean, just the children. MW: Oh, let’s see. There would be . . . most . . . well, it was usually . . . it was seven until my youngest brother Tim, he was like . . . You know, he’s what, thirteen years younger than I am. SM: Oh, I see. MW: And so before he came along . . . but so there was essentially like the seven of us that grew up together. SM: I see. And then friends in and out. MW: Yes, friends in and out, Yes. Because we lived in that house together until . . . let’s see. Until I was in second grade. SM: Oh. MW: And then we moved to a house of our own and they moved to a house of their own. SM: Was it because you were too many for the house or . . .? MW: I think it’s more that . . . well, they probably they had gotten too many and too big and that financially were able to get their own houses then. 134

SM: Yes. Oh, maybe that would have been a more important factor, do you think? MW: I think probably that’s more of a . . . SM: Financials. MW: Yes, the financial. SM: Hmmm. Well, that’s pretty interesting. Did most of the children in your family and your cousins marry Chinese? Or did it mix pretty much? MW: So far the three that have gotten married in my family, my sister and one of my younger brothers, we have all married Chinese. SM: I see. MW: And in my cousins’ . . . my immediate cousin [unclear] there’s two daughters and one son in that family. None of them have gotten married yet. SM: Oh, none have married yet. MW: None have married yet. And the other family of the oldest son in that family, my Uncle Joe, of his family, let’s see. The oldest daughter married a Chinese and they moved down to Florida. Then her husband passed away a couple years ago. And then there’s the next one in that family was also a daughter, and she married a Caucasian and they’ve just been recently divorced, and they have three children in the family. And then . . . SM: These are the children of the son of Uncle Joe or these are the children of Uncle Joe? MW: No, these are the children of Uncle Joe. SM: I see. Okay. MW: And then he has . . . the oldest son in that family, who is the next in line, married a Caucasian and is divorced. SM: Oh. Well, Uncle Joe was the one that came over later, isn’t he? MW: But he’s the one that was here first. SM: Oh, he was here first. MW: He’s the oldest and the first. Yes. It’s my . . . SM: Oh, he came with your grandfather? 135

MW: Or shortly after. SM: Shortly after, I see. Okay. I see. And then the two, Ben and Neil came together. MW: Right. That’s right, yes. So none of Ben’s kids are married. SM: I see. He’s the youngest of those three. MW: Right. SM: Yes. Well, that’s interesting that more of Joe’s children married Caucasians. MW: Yes, because he has another, a daughter who . . . another daughter who married a Caucasian. SM: Oh. MW: And they’re either divorced or separated, I don’t know. SM: Oh. MW: Then his other son married a Japanese girl who is American born. SM: I see. MW: And I think they’ve . . . they’ve got the best chance of surviving. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] MW: They seem to be doing quite well. SM: Oh, I see. MW: But yes, that is kind of interesting that [unclear]. SM: Yes. Hmmm. Well, was there more pressure on those kids to be Chinese or to marry Chinese or . . .? MW: Well . . . SM: Or about the same? [Chuckles] MW: Probably about the same. Now my Uncle Joe was a pretty . . . I guess he had a lot of influence on his brothers because he was the oldest. 136

SM: Oh, yes. MW: You know, he had the . . . he had always told them, you know, let your kids be what they want to be. SM: Oh. MW: Study what they want to be, you know, whatever they want to go into. But I’m sure he still, you know, wanted his kids to marry Chinese. SM: Oh, yes. MW: Because when his . . . the first, his daughter that married a Caucasian, that was the first . . . that was . . . oh, that was . . . SM: A big crisis. [Chuckles] MW: Yes, that was a big crisis. My grandmother, I remember, thought it was okay for some reason or other. SM: Oh, she did? MW: I don’t understand why. SM: Oh. MW: But she said it was okay. But that was . . . yes. That was a big problem. SM: Maybe she was just supporting the granddaughter or . . . MW: Yes, probably so. Because my . . . my mom thought it was okay, but my . . . you know . . . SM: Oh. MW: See, my father’s been always very sociable to them and he’s always been very friendly, but . . . SM: But inside . . . MW: Yes, I’m sure. Yes. SM: Well, so the mothers sometimes aren’t quite as upset about it or that it’s the fathers that are?


MW: Yes, usually the fathers will . . . the mothers still can be, but I think the fathers more so. Because, here again, it gets down to the . . . SM: It’s their family name that’s going. MW: Yes. SM: Yes. Hmmm. MW: Yes. That’s changing. And then even it’s kind of interesting, too, is that my sister married a Wong and my brother married a Wong. SM: Oh. MW: So [unclear] women involved didn’t have to change their name. [Chuckles] SM: [Chuckles] That’s handy. MW: But there was . . . it was . . . my sister had a problem dealing with her in-laws, her at that time future in-laws, because it was a Wong marrying a Wong. SM: Oh, they didn’t like that, hmmm? MW: Yes, because they felt that it was in some . . . some way still incestuous even though zillions of generations have separated them. SM: [Chuckles] It couldn’t be very close. MW: That’s right. But they still . . . that was, you know. SM: Oh. MW: Since her . . . SM: So that’s a real taboo then. MW: Yes, because that was . . . they were still . . . her in-law’s families were still not removed enough from the old country, you know. They’d recently left so that they still believed in that old . . . where my parents didn’t think that was a big deal. [Chuckles] They were just glad that she was marrying a Chinese! SM: [Chuckles] They can’t afford to be too fussy. MW: Right. They didn’t care. 138

SM: Oh, yes. MW: And even to an extent my brother and his own wife faced that same problem, the fact they were both Wongs. SM: Oh. Well, I suppose that could be a very common problem. There’s so many Wongs. MW: That’s right. SM: [Chuckles] MW: Especially in the Midwest, yes. SM: Oh, are they especially in the Midwest? MW: It seems, well, yes, that there’s a lot of them. SM: Oh. MW: Well, Wong . . . yes. Wong is a common name in general. SM: Yes. MW: But it seems like there’s a lot of them. SM: I see. MW: Yes. So, you know, they’ve got . . . I think that’s part of what selling point my mom probably used on her future in-laws. Hey, you know, why worry about that? It’s something that’s so insignificant that . . . just you be glad that your children are marrying Chinese. SM: Oh, yes. Well, were Wongs one of the first families in Minnesota, do you think? There’s some . . . MW: I . . . I don’t know. It seems like it could be a real distinct possibility since that name is fairly . . . SM: Since there’s so many. MW: Yes, that’s a fairly common name. And spelled many different ways. SM: Oh, it is? What are some of the . . .? Oh, it could be W-A or something? MW: Yes, it could be W-A and . . . 139

SM: Oh, Wang. Well, in the governor’s report, you know, that 1949, which wasn’t completely thorough, but it . . . she did dig up quite a bit of stuff. She didn’t find anyone that could claim to be the first Chinese in Minneapolis, but . . . [coughs] excuse me. In Saint Paul she thought the first one was Wong Toi [sp?]. I don’t know [unclear]. Have you ever heard anyone talk about it? MW: No. [Unclear]. SM: Probably not related. [Chuckles] MW: Probably no, not related. SM: Yes. Well, have you ever heard Chinese say who they think is the first one here? Or maybe they aren’t interested particularly, but . . . MW: [Unclear] yes. Well . . . I think, you know, the only way it would really come up is if it would . . . we specifically asked my dad . . . SM: Oh, yes. MW: Hey, do you know . . .? SM: Yes. MW: You know, and he might relate a story of someone and someone told him about . . . SM: Yes. MW: Yes. SM: Well, I mean, all we have really is say the city directories. MW: Yes. SM: And see which is the first ones listed with a business. [Chuckles] But it’s not a hundred percent sure that he’s the first Chinese to come here. But maybe I could dig up, you know, the first ones listed and see if he’s ever heard of them. MW: Yes, because even though my . . . you know, my dad first got established like in Southern Minnesota, it’s still enough of that hearing the grapevine where if someone is from the Twin Cities, they would more than likely know about it. SM: Yes. Right. Yes, that grapevine was very effective. MW: Yes. 140

SM: Were there other things you were going to bring up? MW: No. No, not really, no. SM: Well, there were some things about the community that I guess we mentioned. Well, there seem to be several different concentrations, although there was never a Chinatown, you know, that’s really known as such anyway. MW: Yes. SM: But well, there’s the one that some people still refer to as the little Chinatown by Glenwood and North First. MW: Yes. SM: And then there seem to be . . . you know, Dennis mentioned that Hennepin Avenue, between Fourth and Fifth, and this book . . . I don’t know if we need to put all this on the tape. MW: Probably not, because . . . SM: Anyway, thank you very much for your information. MW: Oh, you’re very welcome. SM: And if we think of something else to put on, we’ll add it. MW: Sure.