OCAW Talk Sept. 2022

Earlier this month, my brother Philip and I gave a talk to a group of people from OCAW (Organization of Chinese American Women) in Silicon Valley. Many of OCAW members are immigrants from Taiwan, and many are about my age. In the book “The Chinese in America”, author Iris Chang talked about the three waves of Chinese emigres: the first wave of over one hundred thousand laborers came to California during the gold rush era, more followed to work in railroad, mining, and farming. The majority of them were laborers, single, and came from one province in China: Guongdong. The … Continue reading OCAW Talk Sept. 2022

The Iron Chink

Here is a photo of the Iron Chink machine on display at Seattle’s Expo in 1909. The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was a world fair held in Seattle to publicize the development of the Pacific Northwest. Since salmon canning was a major industry in Pacific Northwest at the turn of the 20th century, it made a lot of sense for the Iron Chink, a fish cleaner, to be displayed in the fair. Edmund Smith invented the machine in 1903, which he named Iron Chink. By 1909, the machine was gaining acceptance by the canners and Smith was becoming wealthy. The participation in … Continue reading The Iron Chink

AAPI Heritage Month

To celebrate AAPI Heritage month in May, Robert Palos of Alaska Bureau of Land Management decided to host a talk on the impact of Asian workers in Alaska salmon canneries. Jeff Chen, multimedia journalist from Alaska Public Media, my brother Philip and I were invited to participate in this virtual event for the employees of Bureau of Land Management. Marnie Graham, a BLM manager, gave the opening remark. She happens to have worked in Alaska canneries when she was attending college. Her experience in the egg-house brought back some fond memories since I also worked in the egg-house and as … Continue reading AAPI Heritage Month

An Article about Chinese Cannery Workers & Iron Chink

It was May 2021, when Jeff Chen, Alaska Public Media, did a story on the history of Chinese workers in Alaska salmon canneries. His 5 minutes video was shown on Alaska public TV station in May, 2021 as part of the programs to celebrate Asian Pacific Islander Month. Through Jeff Chen, another reporter from South China Post, Mark Magnier, contacted me for an interview on a written story. Mark talked to me, my brother Philip, and others over a period of 3-4 months. Eventually, he put together a pretty comprehensive story on the history of Chinese cannery workers with a … Continue reading An Article about Chinese Cannery Workers & Iron Chink

Boat Races in Lower Puget Sound

The canning industry developed in the Columbia River in the 1870s, and soon spread north to Puget Sound. What was it like working in the first Puget Sound cannery? Boat racing? Can you imagine evening boat races between Chinese and native Americans? You have to read the Mukilteo cannery story and the apparent tradition of boat racing between Chinese and the native American crews: In his report, Herbert Hunt wrote about Mukilteo Cannery and its workers: “Jackson, Myers & Company operated one of these plants at Rainier, on the Oregon side, and when the 1877 season opened, had made preparations … Continue reading Boat Races in Lower Puget Sound

150 Cannery Workers Stranded…

There was an Internet news story on ABC News that caught my eyes with the headline “150 Cannery Workers forced into hotel quarantine without pay”. It was also widely reported in Los Angeles’ local news such as KTLA News in June 2020. Each summer, Pacific Seafoods based in Seattle hires hundreds of foreign workers for summer jobs at its Naknek cannery, located in Bristol Bay, Alaska, promising them round trip transportation to and from their point of hire as well as lodging and meals. Most of the workers were from Mexico or Southern California; however, in 2020, something went wrong … Continue reading 150 Cannery Workers Stranded…

Contractor Lem Sen’s Story

It was exactly a year ago when we gave a talk at CHSA (Chinese Historical Society of America) in San Francisco. The talk was originally planned in early 2020 as an in-person event; however, it became a virtual event because of the pandemic. Because it was a virtual event, we were able to reach out to a wider audience. After the talk, I received an email from Deborah Lem, telling me that her grandfather was a labor contractor and she has some of Lem Sen’s documents in her possession. I was overjoyed to hear that because Lem Sen was one … Continue reading Contractor Lem Sen’s Story

Waterfall Cannery Now and Then

Five years ago, after I retired from my professional work, I was interested to find out what happened to the first cannery I worked at. When I looked up Waterfall cannery online, I was surprised to find that the cannery was shut down after the 1970 season and the place was turned into a fishing resort in the 1980s. This discovery piqued my interest in canneries and the history of Chinese workers. In 1970, on my first trip to Alaska, my mind was filled with excitement, as we look down at this cannery from the floatplane. My first thought was: … Continue reading Waterfall Cannery Now and Then

Chinese Workers and the Iron Chink

5 months ago, I first got an email from Mark, a reporter, asking me to do an interview for an article on Chinese cannery workers. He had recently visited Alaska and picked up our names there. We talked 2 or 3 times over the phone, and he went away. A few days ago, a friend read his article on South China Morning Post and send me the link. Besides the history of Chinese cannery workers and our more recent ventures in Alaska, he talked a lot about Iron Chink, which is a fish cleaning machine that eventually replaced the Chinese … Continue reading Chinese Workers and the Iron Chink

A Tribute to Chinese Laborers from SF

About two month ago, one morning, one of my tennis friends said to me “I saw an article about your coming presentation on the newspaper today.” The next day, he brought me a clipping of the article from SF Chronicle. It was the first time I read the article, but it was only recently that I found it online. Carl Nolte, a renowned writer of a weekly column, Native Son, for SF Chronicle, contacted us in mid-March about the story of Chinese laborers from San Francisco. It was published on March 20th, just a week before our free MESS lecture … Continue reading A Tribute to Chinese Laborers from SF