Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Personal history lives on at Angel Island

MarionFranckW

By
From page B5 | September 23, 2012 | Leave Comment

I like going places with my daughter the historian because she raises questions I don’t think of. It happened again two weeks ago when she flew out to California for the dedication of a plaque on Angel Island honoring her grandfather.

First, some background.

During its years of operation, 1910-1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station was not a friendly place. Immigrants from China, and later from other Asian nations, spent agonizing days and months confined in barracks while their cases were adjudicated.

The harsh conditions and long interrogations made it clear that America did not welcome them, although most managed to get in.

My father-in-law’s experience was particularly difficult. He arrived in 1930, a 9-year-old boy, sent for by his father who worked in America. Laoh Yeh always told us that he waited alone on Angel Island for 9 months, and my heart ached to hear it.

Recently we learned that he was only there for 34 days, but clearly in his child’s mind the experience was prolonged and painful.

————

Although some Angel Island internees are still alive, their numbers are dwindling. My father-in-law died in 2002. Many children and grandchildren of these immigrants, however, are citizens who have done well. Dozens jumped at the chance to honor their ancestors and help fund improvements to the Angel Island museum by purchasing a plaque.

The plaques, placed outdoors, are a fitting counterpoint to the most famous part of the detention center: the Chinese poetry expressing discouragement and longing, painstakingly carved onto the walls of the barracks.

When my husband signed up for a plaque, The Angel Island Foundation told him how many characters to use—up to eight lines, 40 characters per line — and the whole family used email to bounce ideas back and forth.

Here’s what we finally wrote.

“In 1930, at the age of 9, Din Wing arrived from Toi San and spent 34 days on Angel Island. Once released, he met his father for the first time. When his father died two years later, Din Wing survived the Depression washing dishes. After proudly serving America in WWII, he married Chung How. Overcoming hardships, they ran a successful business and nurtured our large family to whom he often said, ‘I’m proud of you.’ We are proud of him.”

Here are four other plaques that moved me.

“Mrs. Lee Yoke Suey. Detained on Angel Island January 15, 1924 to April 29, 1925 upon returning to the U.S. Her American-born husband, Lee Yoke Suey, died in 1922, putting her status in jeopardy. Their American-born children immediately were landed but she endured one of the longest detentions of a woman on Angel Island and prevailed. Her successful, hard fought appeal case helped other immigrants receive justice. Mrs. Lee “Poh Poh” is remembered by her grandchildren with love and gratitude.”

“Hew Din and Lock Shee…Immigrated through Angel Island in 1912 and 1921 as a paper son and his wife. They operated laundries in Merced and Woodland until the 1940s and retired in Sacramento…With love and appreciation from four generations of descendants.”

“‘Eat less, move more and don’t worry.’ Thin Lee 1911-2005, Toisan, New York City, Laundryman, waiter, machinist. Happily wedded 69 years to Emma Yee. His legacy of a better life for 26 heirs.”

“I still remember vividly the moment that I saw my father cry for the first time when he helped me pack and told me that I would have to leave the country to stay with one of my older cousins overseas and that we might never see each other again in this life…” Into Bo Campon, refugee from Laos, arrived in California 1977.”

At the dedication ceremony, I read plaques and listened to speeches. I watched young children play on the grass. The cool air and warm sun felt good, but the barracks looked as confining as ever, and although I didn’t go inside this time, I remember the narrow bunk beds, stacked three high.

————

After the ceremony, my historian daughter commented, “No one said anything about immigration in the present day. That feels like something missing.”

She’s right. Honoring the brave immigrants of the past, some of whom arrived in violation of then-existing laws, without recognizing their brotherhood with the immigrants of the present does feel uncomfortable.

Today’s immigration issues are convoluted, politicized, and heart-wrenching: children see their parents deported, children grow up American but can’t stay, families wait patiently but never get in, and many new arrivals encounter prejudice, whether they’re “legal” or not.

It seems crazy to think of my father-in-law as “lucky” for arriving when he did, enduring detention on Angel Island, and living in difficult conditions for much of his life. And yet, in some disturbing way, he was.

— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at marionf2@gmail.com

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    4-H members get ready for Spring Show

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Will city move forward on public power review?

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Obama to Russia: More sanctions are ‘teed up’

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    2 pursuits, 2 arrests keep Woodland officers busy

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
     
    Youth sports in focus on radio program

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Rummage sale will benefit preschool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Concert benefits South Korea exchange

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Conference puts focus on Arab studies

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis honors ‘green’ citizens

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Water rate assistance bill advances

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Program explores STEM careers for girls

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

     
    Embroiderers plan a hands-on project

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Hotel/conference center info meeting set

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    MOMS Club plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Cycle de Mayo benefits Center for Families

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

    Author to read ‘The Cat Who Chose to Dream’

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Forum

    Things are turning sour

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    The high cost of employment

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    High-five to Union Bank

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Broken sprinklers waste water

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Three more administrators?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Neustadt has experience for the job

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Here’s a plan to save big on employee costs

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

     
    Davis is fair, thoughtful

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Ortiz is the right choice for Yolo

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    DHS tracksters sweep another DVC meet

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Another DVC blowout for DHS girls soccer

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Young reinvents his game to help Aggies improve on the diamond

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    DHS boys shuffle the deck to beat Cards

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    DHS/Franklin II is a close loss for Devil softballers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Baseball roundup: Giants slam Rockies in the 11th

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    UCD roundup: Aggies lose a softball game at Pacific

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

     
    Jahn jumps to Sacramento Republic FC

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Congressional art competition open to high school students

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Emerson, Da Vinci to present ‘Once Upon a Mattress’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Winters Plein Air Festival begins Friday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Bach Soloists wrap up season on April 28

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 24, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6