Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Historical Day

 The scrim from the Nippon Kan Theater was used for advertising.  If the merchant did not pay his fees, his ad was scraped off and another painted on.

                        One of the ads.  The frog is a sign of Good Luck!

I had given Corinna the travel section of the NYT, (which she likes and which I never even glance at,) and it had an article about fun things to do in Seattle. One of them was visiting the Wing Luke Museum, which celebrates the Asian-American immigrants – both in history and culture.  When Rachael was wee, she was in a Filipino dance troupe which performed there, so we all went to watch her dance.  The museum was interesting, but I never felt compelled to make a second visit. Well, I was mistaken about that.  This was a most fun day, and one full of surprises.  One surprise was how totally ignorant I was about early Seattle history and its men who moved mountains.  Literally, moved mountains – down into the bay, reshaping the topography of the city and moving the shoreline out to sea.  The museum itself had moved since I was there last, and now is in a refurbished, retrofitted, mostly spiffed up immigrant hotel which had been let go derelict for decades. 

But parts of it were left much as they had been, and were a window into the experience of the early Chinese immigrants – the workers who came to work in the canneries and fisheries. 

The rooms were not allowed to have stoves, but many did. Here - green beans cooking!

Our guide gave us a vivid look at the Chinese family associations, the Tongs, as we toured their meeting rooms.  For me the word “Tong” conjured up Chinese mafia, and lives of violent crime.  This was apparently not the case.  The Tongs were basically benevolent associations, helping the family groups which could  not access the resources available to the non-Asian population. There was indeed a lot of gambling, with dens which my great-aunties visited frequently, once getting caught in a raid, but the raids, our guide told us, were mostly for show, as the police were well paid to leave the gamblers alone.

Family Association Room at the top of the hotel! The doors once opened to a balcony.

Time for a Mah Jong all nighter  with the ladies.


I. F. said...

It was all so interesting! And made me think of Lillian Gish in "Broken Blossoms." There were probably plenty of blossoms broken at that mysterious building across the way where the more nefarious activities took place.

Marta said...

Great blog, Joanna. I visited Wing Luke Museum years ago and I am fascinated by the history.
Like most of history, there is both pride and shame.

Janet McKee said...

Great blog post.

Laura said...

So interesting. Another Seattle treasure I need to see.