By Ann Lau
Of the several thousand Chinese residents in the Los Angeles area, a large number are native Californians, while many others were born in various parts of Asia. Many of these residents have little or no knowledge of the vital part played by Chinese pioneers in the development of California and other parts of the United States. Certainly the hardships and heartaches endured by these early immigrants should be considered as much an integral part of American history as the uncertainties confronted by the Mayflower Pilgrims. Thus, on May 29, 197 5, a small group of concerned citizens decided that a historical society should be formed in order to preserve for present and future generations the true but often incredible facts pertaining to the very significant contributions of the Chinese pioneers to California’s growth and progress.
After the initial meeting and several months of preparation, an ad hoc committee was formed with Stan Lau as convener and Norman Wong as Vice-Chairman. On Nov. 1, 1975, 27 people attended the first general meeting, giving the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California its start. The officers elected were Stan Lau, president; Jerry Shue, vice-president; Emma Louie, corresponding secretary; Ann Lau, recording secretary; George Yee, treasurer; Paul Louie, John Ching and Chuck Yee, members-at-large. On Jan. 7, 1976, a constitution for the Society was adopted, giving it a foundation by which future plans for organization would be put into effect.
Among the several community projects in which the Society participated in 1976 were the following:
- Chinese New Year parade to welcome 4674, the Year of the Dragon.
- The Spring dinner-meeting held on May 8, at the Hong Kong Low was attended by over 220 persons. Guest speaker was Philip Choy, noted lecturer on Chinese American history.
- The Lotus Festival held on July 1 7 and 18 in Echo Park. The Society operated a tropical fruit stand and provided entertainment.
- The most memorable event of the year was the Golden Spike Centennial, held at Lang Station, chaired by Chuck Yee. The Society was invited to participate in this event by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. The occasion was the commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the completion of the San Fernando tunnel, which linked tl1e southern and northern portions of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Thousands of Chinese laborers had worked diligently and painstakingly for many months to accomplish this seemingly impossible project. The Society donated a bronze plaque, written in both English and Chinese:
“On this centennial, we honor over three thousand Chinese who helped build the Southern Pacific Railroad and the San Fernando Tunnel. Their labor gave California the first north – south railway, changing the State’s history.” California’s Secretary of State March Fong Eu and the Society’s President Stan Lau shared in the honor of dedicating the plaque. As a result of the participation in this historic occasion, the Society received commendations from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles City Council, the California State Senate and the California State Assembly.
- The Fall dinner-meeting was attended by 200 people on Nov. 13, 1976 at the Golden Dragon Restaurant. Chuck Yee presented a hauntingly-moving account, of the many hardships endured by the Chinese laborers in the building of the San Fernando tunnel and the Southern Pacific Railroad, culminating in its completion on Sept. 5, 1876. Mr. Yee also presented an audiovisual film on the Lang Celebration.
In its first year of existence, the Society has sponsored a number of outstanding speakers and interesting film presentations:
Nov. 1975 – Guest speaker Paul De Falla narrated the incident of infamous 1871 riot in Los Angeles, which took place in what was then known as Negro Alley in old Chinatown.
Dec. 1975 – A film titled “Chinese American” was shown.
Jan. 1976 – Dr. Hansen, Dr. Priscilla Oaks, and Mr. Shu Yan Chan of California State University at Fullerton presented suggestions and ideas on oral history projects.
Mar. 1976 – John Yee, presented a film on the Mother Lode country, he has acquired a vast knowledge of the historical sites within the region.
July 1976 – Member Chuck Yee presented his vivid account of the building of the Fernando tunnel by Chinese laborers in the l 870’s.
Aug. 1976 – A film on Locke, a town in northern California founded by early Chinese pioneers, was shown.
Oct. 1976 – Film documentary on the late James Wong Howe, prominent Hollywood cameraman, was presented by member Beulah Kwoh, who won an Emmy award for her sensitive production of the impressive film.
Dec. 1976- Election of officers for 1977. President, George Yee; Vice-President, Gerald Shue; Secretary, Munson Kwok; Treasurer, James Loo; Board Directors; Jim Cummings, Chuck Yee, Paul Louie, Margie Lew.
In the short span of time that the Society has been in existence, much has been accomplished, due for the most part to the dedicated efforts of the Officers and Board Directors, and to the great cooperation and interest of the Society’s members and friends. Certainly 1976 was a successful year, an impressive beginning for CHSSC.
Journal – Ettes
. . . . The Logo Committee has selected a symbol for the Society, as presented on the cover of this issue of the Journal. Chairperson Ann Lau and her committee extend their thanks to Society members who submitted a number of attractive designs. The Committee’s final choice was unanimously approved by the members at the June monthly meeting.
. . . . Secretary Munson Kwok has received a complete set of the “Bulletin”, outstanding monthly publication printed by the Chinese Historical Society of America. In the near future, the Board will present a plan by which members may obtain Xerox copies of the “Bulletin”, if they so desire.
. . . . For June monthly meeting, guest speaker Judy Tachibana presented material from her Master’s thesis, elaborating on a number of’ California writers whose novels, magazine articles and news editorials reflected the biased feelings and attitudes of the Caucasians towards the Chinese in the period from 1849 to 1924.
. . . . Gerald Shue has made several trips to Fiddletown and devoted many hours to working with other groups in coordinating an event to be known as “Chinese Pioneers Day – – a Fiddletown Festival”, scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 8-10. Society members will be notified in the near future of final details for this field trip, which promises to be fun-filled as well as educational for the entire family.
A Logo By Mr. Leong
From several outstanding designs submitted to the Society, the Logo Committee chose the unique emblem created by Gilbert Leong, prominent architect in the Chinese community. The logo is beautiful in its simplicity, a true reflection of Mr. Leong’s artistic talent. Archaic Chinese characters were used to give the logo that “touch of class”, symbolic of the ancient artistry of the Chinese civilization. The special .type of lettering beneath the logo was also designed by Mr. Leong. For the many hours spent in creating this elegant logo and letterhead, the Society extends a very special “thank you ” to Gilbert Leong, architect and artist par excellence!