I recently recalled a family dinner during my childhood when Uncle Mack (son of China Alley herbalist Y.T. Sue and grandson of the Alley’s prominent businessman, Sue Chung Kee) was our guest.
Although as an adult he lived in San Francisco, he had grown up in Hanford and often shared with us remembrances and stories of Hanford’s Chinatown. It is not surprising because of this, that today what I remember most from that one particular night is a story that is part of Chinatown’s history, having taken place over one hundred years ago.
Uncle Mack delivered a riveting account of love and betrayal in which a man rode a great white horse down China Alley, swooped up his beloved and together they galloped out of Chinatown.
As a young child I didn’t pick up some of the nuances of the tale Uncle Mack told that night (especially since he spoke rapid fire Chinese when he was sure he didn’t want my siblings and me to completely understand an adult story he was telling). I just knew it was dramatic and exciting. A man riding a horse down China Alley! Swooping up a woman! Galloping away!
Dad had a life-long love of the Arthurian stories, his interest, which began when as a youngster when he read the Hal Foster comic strip and later deepened when he enjoyed books and movies depicting tales of the knights’ adventures. Thus, many of our bedtime stories were about the Knights of the Round Table. So, in my child’s mind, I saw one of King Arthur’s knights on his trusty steed blazing down the Alley, and – because it was Chinatown – the woman he swept up was Hua Mulan, the legendary Chinese woman warrior. They galloped away to … save the world?
It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I learned the actual story, a story discussed little and often in hushed tones, unless Uncle Mack was relating the account. But it did happen. It is a part of our history, and it is someone’s story.
There is an article from the Hanford Journal dated September 10, 1913 with the headline: “Murder Case in San Francisco Centers About Pretty Chinese Girl From Hanford’s Chinatown.” Below that was a smaller headline: “Brave Oriental Who Eloped with the Beautiful Daughter of Sue Chung Kee is Victim of Vengeance.”
The victim was Jew Yee Quock, the man on the white horse of Uncle Mack’s story. As a young man, Jew Yee Quock was a frequent visitor in Hanford, where he took a fancy to Sue Chung Kee’s daughter, Sue Moy, the wife of Hong Jock. Jew Yee Quock persuaded her to leave her husband and run away with him. They traveled to China, but after sometime, Jew Yee Quock abandoned Sue Moy, sold her into slavery and married another woman.
Jew Yee Quock had returned to San Francisco approximately two weeks before he was murdered. On a Monday night he was walking down Waverly Place and was confronted. An instant later he was dead on the pavement with five bullets in his body. His assailant escaped without a trace.
San Francisco police asked local authorities to question Sue Chung Kee and his son-in-law Hong Jock regarding the murder. San Francisco police believed the two might know something about the shooting, since it appeared that it was a case of vengeance. Hanford authorities found Sue Chung Kee and Hong Jock at their business places only to discover that neither had been to San Francisco in recent days nor had any knowledge of the murder.
Decades passed. The crime was never solved. Nor do I know what happened to Sue Moy, Sue Chung Kee’s daughter. After she galloped out of Hanford, she was basically disowned, written out of her family’s history. Her story feels so incomplete; I hope to learn more.
Now I’d like to share a bit of happy news. As many of you know, my brother, Damon, lost his home in the Ventura fires. A couple of days ago he was allowed to return to the premises, to poke through the ashes to see if there was anything left to recover. I teared up when I looked at the picture Damon sent to me. He had salvaged a couple of pots that Dad made. Small miracles against great loss. I felt Dad’s spirit was trying to comfort us. Still being Dad.
On closer inspection, I noticed one of the pots had Dad’s calligraphy painted on it. It was the character for longevity. Immediately my thoughts went to the King Arthur legends and Merlin’s promise: everlasting. Longevity. Everlasting. Dad.
As long as stories are recorded and shared and passed through generations, those stories live on. Longevity becomes a matter of the love and attention we pay to those who have come before us as well as to the great myths of our times and our cultures. Sue Moy’s story lives on. The tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table today delight young and old as they thrilled me when I was a child and as they now, without fail, make me think of Dad.
I wanted to share a recipe this week that had an Arthurian theme to it. Mulled wine came to mind, and honor of Hua Mulan, I served it in Chinese tea cups. I’ve found Ina Garten’s recipe to be one of the easiest and tastiest. It’s the perfect cold weather adult beverage to end one year and ring in another.