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Memories by Helen Owyoung…

In 1923, upon their arrival in America, my parents Henry C. Sue and his bride, Lum Suk Hin settled at a Peach Ranch in Fairfield, California.  I was the first born at the Peach Ranch.

They were supposed to return to Calexico, California where my Dad was a partner in a grocery store.  But his partner told him not to come back as the store was destroyed by fire. My Dad later discovered that it was a false story concocted by his partner to gain the business.  My Dad also eventually lost the ranch during the Great Depression because he had used it as a collateral to help out some friends in need.

After we lost the ranch, we moved around the surrounding towns when my two sisters, Gladys and Edith were born.  I recall that Gladys and I were playing with the Red Mavis Powder cans on the porch of our Vacaville home when our sister, Edy was born at home.

Asians were not allowed at any of the hospitals, so all the births were at home. There were actually seven kids in our family. Mom had given birth to a brother after me and one after Gladys but they both died at birth.

During the Great Depression, Dad relocated our family to Oakland, California where he became a gardener for folks who lived in Piedmont.  We had some enjoyable times growing up as he would be home whenever it rained, as he didn’t work on rainy days. I can remember Dad making won ton skins by galloping them on a large bamboo.

Dad was very progressive in his thinking. He had an Italian friend, who played the accordion.  So he hired a teacher for my sister and I to learn how to play the accordion. Unfortunately, we loved to hear music but were not great at playing tunes. He encouraged us to meet other folks by giving us a coin to join the others to dance.  He also took us to Moss wood Park and Chinatown for treats on Sundays.

We had some happy times until September, 1937 when tragedy struck. A neighbor shot and killed our beloved father who was trying to tell them to be good neighbors. My Mom was left with 5 young children from age 13 to age 3.

Our grandparents told Mom to move to San Francisco to be near them. Mom found employment in the sewing industry.  We all lived in a small apartment with one bedroom, a living room, a small kitchen and a community bathroom (25 cents per hour for the use of it for several hours). We had to climb 2 flights of stairs to get to this apartment. I guess those stairs gave us the strength we needed to get home every day.

One Response to “Gaining a Foothold in America”

  1. Linda says:

    Auntie Helen, I loved these stories! Please write more, as they will provide insight to my generation, and future ones, as to how things were. Your stories are PRICELESS!

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