Document 14: Interview with Hing W. Chinn

Ron Chew, ed., Reflections of Seattle's Chinese Americans: The First 100 Years
(Seattle: Wing Luke Asian Museum and University of Washington Press, 1994), 16.

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Hing W. Chinn b. June 1,1930, Bo Yin Fong Village, Toishan District, Kwangtung Province, China

[At the age of nine, Hing Chinn came to Seattle to join his father, a bookkeeper for the Tuck Shing Company. He grew up in Chinatown. Later, as president of the Gee How Oak Tin Family Association, he spearheaded the successful renovation of his association's building in Chinatown in 1990.]

You had to go through immigration regardless. People stay there for a few months, some of them years. You stay there less than a month, you are lucky. I think I stayed a couple or three weeks. They ask all kind of questions, match with your dad's questions. See if the answers match or not. Make sure you're a real son.

It's just like a jail house. Bunk beds, metal bars. Except in a jail house you have tow people to a room. here, you have 20 or 30 people in a room. At lunch time or dinner time, they open the middle gate and they let you out. You line up for lunch and sit down in this cafeteria at these benches and tables.

They ask silly questions. If I remember, those questions related to your house. They ask you how many chairs you got in the house. Where do you keep your rice barrel, the mai gong? How many windows in your house. How many kitchen windows? Which way to they face? Is your house the third one in a row from the road? How many trips did your father go back and forth from China?

You have to prove you are the real McCoy. A lot of people are real sons, but they can't get out because the answers doesn't match. At that time, you are guilty until you are proven you're not. Before we came over, we memorized all those questions. Your parents always tell you, you have to memorize. If you don't answer correctly, they kick you back.

When the Chinese first came over, they worked 12 to 16 hour days. Now the younger generation doesn't work like that anymore. Eight hour day, and that's it. I think that's why you see a lot of those small grocery stores run by new immigrants. They work hard like our forefathers.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest