Vicki Tong Young
Great-granddaughter of Mok Chuck
Interviewee: Vicki Tong Young (Great-granddaughter of Mok Chuck)
Interviewed by: Barre Fong
Interview Date: May 13, 2015
Location: Lake Forest, California
Length of Interview: 34 minutes, 55 seconds
Young: Hi, I’m Vicki Tong Young, and I’m a former teacher. I live in Lake Forrest, CA.
Young: Yes, I’m very proud of the fact that my great-grandfather, whose name was Mok Chuck, was one of the earliest railroad pioneers. We have a very special family heirloom that we’ve had in the family for 140 years. And it’s a gold watch that my great-grandfather was given by the railroad many years ago, and so over the years it’s kind of been a fascination for me to find out about the story of the gold watch.
Fong: Tell me about the watch.
Young: The watch–it’s dated 1875 and it’s inscribed with my great-grandfather’s name, Mok Chuck. It was inscribed by someone who was an official of the railroad, we think. It’s a beautiful 18-carat gold watch, very valuable, very exclusive. It was made in Switzerland. The story goes that my great-grandfather was so proud of this watch that he had it on a long chain with a peanut, a golden peanut, on the end of it and he would wear it all the time. Just because he was proud of his part in building the railroad.
Young: My mother was the one who really made me interested in the watch, because she was so proud that this ancestor had done this. He was part of my father’s family actually. I was a history major at UCLA so I always was really interested in what the Chinese had accomplished. To have this piece of history in my hand was really neat. So I actually went through ancestry.com and did a big search of my family tree. In doing that, we had also talked a lot to the relatives before they had passed away. We had a lot of oral history. So we put that all together and we traced the story of our family.
Fong: What did you find on ancestry.org? Did you find people you hadn’t known about?
Young: I think it kind of filled in the blanks. I think for a lot of us who had ancestry we might just have known little bits and pieces, but we really have no idea of how incredibly courageous they were and just the hardships they faced. We found a lot of papers about him that are available online now, like we found his census report from Los Angeles in the year, I think it was 1900. We found his name on some of the railroad payrolls that were actually made back in 1866, which were absolutely amazing to see his name on this piece of history–that was really a thrill to see that.
Fong: That’s great. So doing documentation was one of the challenges of this project, so there’s lots of oral history but you actually have documented *inaudible*.
Vicki Young describes her great-grandfather’s gold watch, a gift from a railroad official that has been passed down the family. Young was inspired by the watch to conduct research on ancestry.org about her family tree.
Ancestry.org; Census reports; Family heirlooms; George Tong (father); Gold watches; Mok Chuck (paternal great-grandfather); Mother; Payroll records; Railroad pioneers; Vicki Tong Young
Chinese–clothing & dress Family history
Young: The more I found out about his life, the more I was absolutely amazed at how incredibly brave and persistent the men who came over were. Because he was born in 1847, he was born in Yin Ping, and it was mainly a farming area, but he was very fortunate that he was actually educated. He went to school, and he was training to be an herb doctor. So he was an herbalist. And things in Yin Ping was so bad in those days that they were having civil war and there was famine and there were bandits. It was just a very unsettling time. So about 1864 is when he first came over. So we assume that he came over because he was probably the brightest one in the family and they put their–all their eggs in that one basket. We think he was the first one to come over to America. When he got here eventually one of his uncles eventually got a job working as a cook for the railroad. We think that’s probably how he got connected to the railroad.
Fong: Do you know what he did on the railroad?
Young: On the railroad, he was considered a headman, and headmen were the people that were the Chinese people who kind of oversaw the Chinese crews. First there was a white person who was the foreman, and then there was a headman and he was the one who got all the provisions and he gave out the money and he kept track of them. And I think because my great-grandfather was educated, it was helpful to him because he could do herb doctoring, he knew how to do numbers, and one month it was really funny, he had to be a waiter for a white crew. He only did it for three days, and he did it for I think 66 cents a day. So I guess they must have felt that somehow he could communicate with the white crews, because when they needed him in a pinch they probably moved him over and had him do that just for one month.
Fong: And he was literate?
Young: He was literate. Yes.
Fong: That’s probably why his name was on the–his actual name was on the payroll records. He could write his name.
Young: Yes. And it was interesting because in the tracing of the history a lot of people have names that are misspelled. He also had his name misspelled a lot but because it was such a simple name, Mok Chuck, then I think that it was easy to remember and I think he was very proud of his name so we did find him in a lot of places.
Fong: Do you know if *inaudible* have been back to the village?
Young: No, we have never been back there. My uncle said it was about a hundred miles from Hong Kong. So it would have been easier for those people to come to America because it was simpler for them to get to the port. Basically we think what happened to him was that he realized very early that he didn’t want to work as a manual laborer. First he was educated and most of them weren’t educated, and then when he got there they were going over the Sierra Nevada so he was actually there in that first really bad winter when they had people sleeping in the snow. And I would imagine he realized that that wasn’t much of a future for him, so the following winter–by that time he was already gone, we think. Because he was no longer in the payrolls, so we think probably he became like a middle man. Because in those days what they did was that the headmen, who were Chinese, they got to provide labor and the person who provides the labor then gets to be able to provide the food, clothing, tools, and so they can make a little bit of a profit in between. So we think that’s probably what happened.
Mok Chuck was educated as an herbalist and literate when he arrived in California. This allowed him to become a headman, someone who oversaw the Chinese crews. His name exists on the payroll records. He left the railroad company after the first winter in the Sierra Nevada.
Chinese crews; Foremen; Headmen; Herbalists; Hong Kong; Literacy; Mok Chuck (great-grandfather); Payroll records; Sierra Nevada; Winter of 1865; Yin Ping (ancestral village)
Chinese Americans–Education–Social aspects Chinese Americans–Employment–West (U.S.)–History–19th century Chinese medicine
Fong: Do you know if he was sending money back?
Young: Yes, the reason why he came and I’m sure the reason why most of them came was because they were holding up the family. And we know later in his life that he was able to acquire some land in Yin Ping, and there were 40 families who were able to farm on the land. So not only was he providing for himself and his family but also, you know, the people back there too that could then have a living for themselves. I think that’s why it was hard for them to return, because they knew that so many people were counting on him. And also, he was one of the people who could read and write, so he actually wrote letters for other people, and that’s one of the things that he did. So I’m sure he was helping some of his, you know, fellow villagers to be able to send money home, send letters home, things like that.
Fong: Do you know, on that land, did they build any buildings that he owned?
Young: We really don’t know much about Yin Ping, what happened there. We know they had a big compound for the big family that they had. But I’m sure that being a Gold Mountain person, that was part of why they wanted to come too, they wanted to be successful, they wanted to share their success with the people at home.
Fong: Was he married in China, do you know?
Young: So the interesting part about him was because he came over so early, he was only 17 when he came over, he didn’t marry until much later in his life, and the story on him was that he had worked on the railroad so long by the time he was ready to go back to China there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment. They knew that if they went back and forth it would be very difficult for him to go back. So we think he didn’t go back to China to get married until the 1880s. So he was like close to 40, between 30 and 40, when he went back. And he only, to our knowledge, got to go back a few times to China.
Fong: And so he did get married, I’m sure.
Young: He did get married, he had a first son who ended up dying. He went back about 6 years later, and then my grandfather was conceived. And the I think one of the tragic parts of his life was that he didn’t see his own son be born because they had so many exclusion laws at that time that I think he probably had some inside information–he must have known they were gonna change the laws. So he caught a boat back without seeing his son be born, and he made it about 32 days before they changed the law and said: no Chinese can come back to this country even if they’ve been here for many years, they cannot, they absolutely cannot return. So he beat it by 32 days.
Mok Chuck sent money back to his family and village, providing land for many families at home. He did not marry until late in life, and had to leave his family in China to return to the U.S. due to fears of Chinese Exclusion. He arrived in the U.S. 32 days before exclusion was passed.
Anti-Chinese sentiment; Chinese Exclusion Act; Chinese-American marriages; Gold Mountain; Yin Ping
Chinese American children Chinese American families Immigration and the transnational experience Remittances, Migrant
Fong: He’s here.
Young: He’s here, and I check the dates. It’s really amazing to know that you can’t even stay to watch your child be born. By the time my grandfather did come to the states, they had never seen each other face-to-face. One of the really amazing things we found in the immigration record was that they asked his son, you know, who’s this picture of? That’s my father. Have you ever met him? No. How do you know that’s your father then? Because we have a big picture in our house and I see his picture every day. To me that was just so amazing that a person would be so sacrificial that you knew if he’d stayed in China there would be no future for his family. He had to come back to America, otherwise all the work he had done, all those years would have been gone.
Fong: How old was your grandfather when he finally made his way over?
Young: My grandfather was also 17 when he came over. So it was almost like one replacing the other.
Fong: And they met here, and did they both stay here then?
Young: Yeah, so the purpose of my great-grandfather bringing his son over was by that time, he wanted to–all the success he’d had in America, in Los Angeles, he wanted to give those businesses to his son, and eventually my great-grandfather wanted to go back to China. So after he came over about 6 years later, he was able to return to China, but just for a couple of years before he died. But he did die in China, which of course was everyone’s greatest wish.
Fong; So that entire time his wife never comes?
Young: Right. His wife could never come because of the exclusion laws. They forbade the wives to come unless they were wives of merchants. And even then it was just such a terrible life for a woman that they honestly didn’t really want to bring their wives over, and the wives didn’t really want to come, I don’t think, because it was dangerous for them.
Fong: What year was it when he finally went back to China?
Young: So he finally went back to China around 1911.
Fong: So for 15 years he’s not with his wife.
Young: Yeah, he got to see his wife maybe two times. We were thinking about it. The most he could have spent in China from the time he left to the time he returned was maybe about three years, four years max. So the sacrifice for the wives to make, we can’t even imagine what that would be like. And then for this woman, what happened was she lost her first son, she lost her husband, and then when her second son came over she was basically by herself until her husband came back for a couple years and then he died. So it was a very difficult life for everyone, and I’m really proud of my great-grandfather that he was willing to make that sacrifice for me.
Fong; Isn’t it hard to imagine.
Young: I can’t imagine. And the sad part, I think, about the immigration to America is when they came over, they really did–some of them really did come because they wanted an adventure, they wanted a better life, and nobody had any idea about all the discrimination and the laws that were passed, so they really couldn’t go home. And my great-grandfather was one of the lucky ones. He was a merchant by that time. He could legally come back and forth, even though it was difficult. But anyone who was a laborer could never go back and forth. So once they left America to go home, that would be it. So many of them never got back, they never saw their families, they never saw their children, and it’s hard for us to even imagine that, I think.
Vicki Young describes the sacrifice Mok Chuck made in leaving his family to return to the U.S. Her grandfather came to California at age 17 to take over the family businesses in LA, and Chuck was able to return to China where he passed away. Young describes the sacrifice and familial isolation that her great-grandmother experienced.
China; Chinese Exclusion Act; Grandfather; Great-grandmother; Immigration records; Los Angeles; Mok Chuck (great-grandfather)
Chinese American businesspeople Chinese American children Chinese American children–Family relationships Chinese American families–China–Social conditions Chinese American women Chinese–Women Immigration and the transnational experience
Fong: Two things. First, you mentioned the businesses that your great-grandfather started, so I want to touch on that. But before that, you mentioned a kidnapping story. What is that story?
Young: So one of the downsides of being Gold Mountain family, especially one that did well, was that when things were bad in China, and there was no money, and there were bandits around, then the Gold Mountain children were targeted. So what happened is my great-grandfather, he became a supplier. He was one of the major labor contractors for the railroad when they built from Sacramento to Los Angeles, he was one of the major labor contractors. So he knew everybody. He also had the only employment agency we could find in Los Angeles Chinatown or Los Angeles City around 1910. He was the only one in town. So one of his goals, what he wanted to do, was he wanted when people were out of work, he wanted to provide a way for people to get new work. So after he finished the railroad, he would get people like, you know, farming jobs and things like that. That’s the main thing he did. Also because he had the interest in the drugs and the herb doctoring, the way most of the people started their businesses was they had a tray that people would buy things from. So people provided rice and tea and things like that or they provided herbs. And he was a kind of person, he would go to the other herbalists in the city and they would help each other out. So one of the neat stories I saw was he actually had the store next door to one of the people he met in 1866 who was one of the crew members or one of the headmen with him. Their names were the same and I thought there was a lot of camaraderie, there had to be a lot of community. It was such an alien culture for them that they had to stick together.
Fong: Can you give me the details of the kidnapping?
Young: So what happened then was because my great-grandfather was successful, he was able to buy land in Yin Ping, he was able to help the villagers, there were people of course who recognized that. So when my grandfather took over, he got–there were threats made on the family. They said, if you don’t give us this much money, we’ll harm the family. I don’t know if they actually had to pay the extortion money, but there were some threats made. But when my father himself was about six or seven, he should have been home at the family compound, but he ended up going to his cousin’s house. The bandits came and wanted to kidnap him. Because they knew if you were the “son” of the family they could get a big ransom for you. Or if the family wouldn’t pay they would actually kill them So there were some children around 1920, because their parents couldn’t either come up with the money or for whatever reason it didn’t work out. So my father’s mother was just terrified that her son would get killed. So she wired her husband in the states and said, you must get him out of here, otherwise they’re going to kill him. That is the reason why my own father came to America when he was only 8 years old, is because they must have spared his life, basically. It was a safer place for him to be in America than to be in China. And if it wasn’t for that I don’t know where we would be right now.
Young describes her great-grandfather’s jobs as a labor contractor and an herbalist working in community with other Los Angeles herbalists. She recounts the story of her father’s kidnapping by bandits in Yin Ping, an episode that compelled his mother to send him to the U.S. at age eight.
Chinese bandits; Chinese employment agencies; George Tong (father); Gold Mountain families; Kidnappings; Labor contractors; Los Angeles Chinatown; Mok Chuck (great-grandfather)
Chinese American business enterprises Chinese Americans–Employment Kidnapping–China, Southeast–Cases Labor contractors–Legal status, laws, etc.–United States
Fong: So this was the same pattern as John where the father comes to America, works, goes back, impregnates the wife, comes back, sends son, son goes back, impregnates his wife, and sends that son back, so it’s this chain of–
Young: Yes. And so one of the chains in my family that I think we don’t even think about it now is they were basically broken families. There was a father or a single man in my great-grandfather’s case who came over, married somebody, was there for maybe a year or two, left her for maybe 15 or 20 years. And we recognized with my grandfather that he never saw my father until he also saw him in America. He never was there for the birth, he wasn’t able to stay for the birth because they were afraid they would never be able to come back to the states. So they were very–they gave up a lot to do this.
Fong; And your father stayed here?
Young: Yes. So my father came over in 1921, I think probably a lot of people came over in 1921 because they were the ones who were–the kidnappings took place about 1920. He came over and lived in Chinatown, Los Angeles which was basically populated by old Chinese men. There were very few little children there. Especially there were not very many women because of the exclusion act–they couldn’t bring over their wives. In that case, it didn’t work out, you couldn’t come over. So that was a difficult way to grow up, I think. But my uncle grew up in that situation too, and he said actually the sons were so prized by the old men that the old men were very kind to the children because they missed their families in China so much. They missed their wives. And to be able to see a laughing little boy running down the streets in Chinatown was a real treat for them. And so he said on Chinese New Year they would do so well, they would just say “Happy Chinese new Year” and they would go to all the different stores and they would collect a lot of Li See.
Young describes the cycle of separated families, due to immigration restrictions and laws, in her family history. Her father grew up as one of the few children in Los Angeles Chinatown. Young’s uncle described being a child in Chinatown as a positive experience, and the Chinese men as loving.
Broken families; Chinese New Year; George Tong (father); Grandfather; Kidnapping; Li See; Los Angeles Chinatown; Mok Chuck (great-grandfather)
Chinese American children–Family relationships Chinese American families–Social conditions Chinese New Year–United States Immigration and the transnational experience
Fong: So you were born and raised in L.A. What was your experience like growing up here?
Young: Yeah, so my father stayed. He went to college, went to USC and was successful structural engineer. He was the first licensed Chinese structural engineer in the state of California. So we were able to have a home, but in those days around 1950 there was something called Red Lining in Los Angeles which means that only certain ethnic groups could live in certain areas. My parents tried to buy a home, but after they put the down payment down for the home, they were told, “Oh, you didn’t really think you were going to sleep here overnight, did you? Oh, because you’re not allowed to live in this community.” So my mother actually kept the slip as a reminder to her of how difficult that was. It was a $1500–they had to get the money back. And then when they were able to, my parents decided to build their own home in an integrated area, which is where I grew up in Los Angeles in the Crenshaw Area. It was a great place to grow up because you could see that people of many colors could become friends and get along, and it was a great place to grow up, actually.
Young: I think it was difficult because there were laws that prevented Chinese people from ever legally owning land, and the story behind how they even were able to build their own house was that they had a very sympathetic caucasian friend who was able to purchase the lot for them, in his name, and then he transferred title to their name. And I understand a lot of people were like that, that if there was a kind caucasian American person who was sympathetic to them, then maybe they could buy a piece of property, but they couldn’t otherwise. And I think now everybody is so equal we don’t recognize how hard it was for previous generations to do that, and we’re really lucky now to be able to live wherever we want to. It’s amazing.
Young’s father became the first Chinese structural engineer in California. She describes her parents’ experiences with housing discrimination in Los Angeles.
Crenshaw Area (LA); George Tong (father); Los Angeles; Mother; Purchasing property; Red lining; Structural engineers; University of Southern California (USC)
Chinese American engineers Chinese Americans–Education–Social aspects Housing, Discrimination in Red lining
Young: I think that it is appropriate that my father’s generation was called the greatest generation. I’m 65 now myself. My father, one of the sad parts about my family line that I’ve realized is that even though my great-grandfather lived to be about 65, my grandfather and my father died in their 50s. And I think that one of the reasons why that happened is because it was so difficult to live in a society where you wanted to count and you wanted to be counted and yet the laws were very difficult for them. My father used to always say, you almost have to be better than everybody else. And so he wanted to strive to be excellent. So my father went to USC. The story on that is by the time he came along, the depression had wiped out all the family assets. And so his father didn’t really understand the importance of a college education. So my father, George Tong, was an excellent athlete, and USC, University of Southern California, offered him a baseball scholarship. He would’ve been, we think, the first Asian-American baseball player at USC, which would’ve been a great achievement. But his father really didn’t want him to do that because in the old Chinese way of thinking, if you’re dark-colored and you’re sweaty, then you don’t look like you’re a high-class person, and so he didn’t really want my father to do that. But my father prevailed, and he had to go to school with two shirts: one he would wear and one he would wash, and only enough money for about one big meal a day. And he still persisted–he graduated number two in his class, and he ended up working for the person who was number one in his class. He worked for him for many years. But my father always said that if he had lived in a different era maybe he would’ve had the courage to go out on his own, to have his own company. But in those days it was very difficult. And he was number two in his class, it took him two years I think to even be hired. Because even in the 40s they would say, if there are white people who are unemployed, we are going to take them before we take a Chinese to be employed. So even though my father had excellent academics and he was very smart and he was a very good person and good character, nobody would hire him. He actually had an interview one time where they didn’t realize he was Chinese, and he showed up at the interview and they said, “Oh, oh we’re sorry, we already filled that position so it’s not necessary for you to interview today.” And so the reason why he did get hired was because his friend is someone who hired him, originally.
Fong: Did he end up playing baseball?
Young: No so the funny thing was in the two years my dad was unemployed, what are you going to do? Everyone else is unemployed too. He was a very excellent athlete. He was such a good athlete, and he was so tall–he was like 6’1″–that people would call him City Hall. Everybody in the area knew my dad not as George, but “Oh, you’re City Hall’s daughter” because in Los Angeles, City Hall was the tallest building there. So he was part of the Lowa team, the Lowa was the first well-known Chinese-American team. They played international tournaments and they were very successful. They also helped start the playground in Chinatown. He and his friends were the ones who picked up all the glass on the empty lot and swept it so they could play baseball games, and then he became a really good basketball player. He actually played on a couple of teams that were AAU Championship-caliber teams. And they actually had people come and pay to watch and play. And he did that while he was actually working. But during that time he was unemployed, they started the Los Angeles tennis club, so they wanted to find something constructive to do with their time, and not just sit around and wait for a job. So a lot of good things came out of that time of his life, too, and he enjoyed it.
Despite his parents’ protests, George Tong attended USC on a baseball scholarship. He had a difficult time finding a job after graduation because of job discrimination. During a two-year period of unemployment, Ton helped start successful Chinese-American baseball and basketball teams and tennis clubs.
AAU Championships; Asian-American baseball players; Asian-American basketball players; “City Hall”; “Greatest generation”; George Tong (father); Great Depression; Lowa team; University of Southern California (USC)
Chinese American children–Higher education Chinese Americans- Employment
Fong: Moving on, the idea in education of the cost of ignoring history–do you have any thoughts about that?
Young: Yeah, I think that if we ignore history we don’t realize that the people who came before us absolutely paved the way. That if my father hadn’t been willing to stick it out–one of the interesting stories is that my older brother was a structural engineer like my dad. And by the time that he was a structural engineer, half the people in the company he worked for was actually Asian. But if a person like my father didn’t have the courage to take the state exam and be the first one to pass it, then my brother couldn’t have had a job like that too. So after my father passed, he had a friend who was Japanese-American, and he said, “I want you to pass too.” So my father actually coached him and helped him so that he would pass too. And then one of the things my dad did which I thought was really neat is that we were going to a small Chinese church, and the mother church, Chinese Baptist, had a youth basketball team, and so my father volunteered to coach the team so that my brother could play too. Well, it turns out that they have a big tournament for all the teams. So they got to play and they were the State Champions. And it was the first time an Asian team had ever won a state championship in a league where they’re the only ones–everyone else is caucasian. So that was a big accomplishment for them. And now we have all these teams where everybody can play. Everybody is welcome before. What a wonderful thing. It wasn’t like that in the old days. And that’s why my father and his friends needed to start all those teams so that the Chinese could play baseball and they could play tennis, and they could have opportunities like everybody else. But they were the ones who started it all.
Young: So my great-grandfather Mok Chuck was actually one of the fortunate ones. Since he did have an education, when he was on the railroads he realized, what can I do to make money in this new place? What can I offer people? So he realized that there needed to be a bridge between the Chinese and the caucasians, the ones who were working on the railroad and the ones who were paying for them and getting things for them. So in the old days they would allow the person who supplied all the Chinese labor with getting them all the food and the clothing and the tools that they needed–the Chinese were treated differently. They had to pay for their own keep, they had to take that out of their salaries. Like I said, I think they got paid a dollar a day in gold. So they actually had it in their hand. They were so frugal they were able to save even on this meager amount. So once my great-grandfather realized, Ah, this is something I can do. And all the other Chinese headmen realized that too. So every year on the payroll you would see, Ah Kee Company, you know. And each headman would try to make his own little company so he could have a little stake in what was going on. So those were the fortunate ones because eventually they learned how to sell items and do exporting and importing and they were able to start their own businesses. Because the only people who were not excluded were the merchant class. So what my great-grandfather did was he became a partner and a small partner in some of these bigger companies, and that’s how the Chinese would help one another. Somebody would say, let’s start a company, let’s sell merchandise in San Francisco, let’s sell tea and rice and then each person would put in, say $500 and be a partner, and that would open doors for their whole family, for their futures. When my great-grandfather went to Los Angeles, he realized, okay, how am I going to make a success, Chinatown is such a small place, only Chinese people will come here to buy and sell goods. So he realized he could advertise. So they had a city directory and so my great-grandfather was one who put in–his employment agency has an ad in the City Directory because he realized he wanted to fit into the new culture. He wanted to find a way to help his fellow man. And he was instrumental, I think, in some of the Chinese businesses there banding together and working together for those things.
Young recounts how her father’s achievements opened doors for her brother and his generation in career paths and sports competitions. Mok Chuck’s education allowed him to become a leader and business-owner among Chinese laborers. He became a partner in some companies and began to advertise his employment agency in Los Angeles.
Chinese basketball teams; Chinese churches; Chinese headmen; Chinese labor; Chinese merchants; Chinese workers; George Tong (father); History; Los Angeles Chinatown; Mok Chuck (great-grandfather); Structural engineers
Chinese American businesspeople Chinese American engineers Integration in sports Merchants–China, Southeast- History
Young: Yeah, I think in researching all this about my great-grandfather, my grandfather and my father, the link between all of them is just the character, the love of family, the willingness to sacrifice for somebody else. Even if you’re not the one that benefits yourself, there’s gonna be somebody down the road that benefits. In looking at even all the exclusion acts, I’m realizing that my great-grandfather didn’t go home for 25 years after his second son was conceived. He left. He didn’t go home for 25 years. And why? Because he was so afraid that if he went back, he would somehow be excluded from returning, and he just couldn’t take that chance because that’s his family’s future right there. And to know that my father was willing to be discriminated against, and be out of work for two years and not even be able to get a job offer just because he knew that someday he wanted to have a family, he wanted them to be successful. And to know that my grandson and my granddaughter are growing up in the area where our family couldn’t have bought a home there many years ago, there were exclusions, is amazing to me and that’s what I want to give on to my children, that’s why I think it’s so important that people really understand where we came from and how we got here and the blessings of our lives to know that if my great-grandfather doesn’t make it 32 days before the cut-off, he may never get back. There were about 20-30,000 Chinese people at that time who after the rail work were pretty much finished. They went home to China and then they changed the law so they could never come back. It took them maybe a year or two to figure out who could come back and who couldn’t, but meanwhile if you’re waiting in China, are you gonna wait two more years before you can come back? You’ll probably just stay there. You know, so we are the blessed ones to be able to have the choices we have, and it’s only because we do stand on the shoulders of giants. I can’t say enough about the integrity of the people who came before us, that they really had us in their heart even though we were never even there. They were thinking ahead and they were dreaming big dreams for their descendants and we are the living proof that their sacrifice was worth it.
Young talks about the sacrifice her descendants made for the well-being of the family. She speaks to the importance of knowing history and recognizing older generations’ struggles.
Chinese Exclusion Acts; George Tong (father); Grandfather; Job discrimination; Mok Chuck (great-grandfather); Sacrifice
Chinese American families. Family history
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