Chinatown Interview: Interviewee
Chinatown Interview: Interviewer
Chinatown Interview: Date
Chinatown Interview: Language
Chinatown Interview: Occupation
Chinatown Interview: Interview (en)
Q: Mr. Chiu, could you please describe your life in Hong Kong before you immigrated to the United States?
Chiu: Actually, I spent even less time in Hong Kong than in America, just19 years. My memory dates back to when I was six years old. I vaguely remember that we moved from Kowloon Tong to Central District and lived on D'Aguilar Street, on the second floor, above some bar. I just recently went back and saw the place, so that’s how I know. I used to be a wild kid. My parents worked in the business of “home banquet.” Back then, there weren’t any cars on D'Aguilar Street, so we kids would go roughhouse in lots of places around there, playing “soldiers chasing thieves.”
Q: When was that?
Chiu: That was when I was six, around 1958. We moved to Central and lived on D'Aguilar Street for two years because the previous landlord forced us to move out. Two years later, we moved to Wo On Lane which was on the opposite side of D’Aguilar Street and still in the Lan Kwai Fong neighbourhood. Two years later, we moved to Wing Wah Lane. We lived there until 1963. My father was sick and had two strokes, so my mother wouldn’t let him work. They sold the business to their employees and friends. My father later accepted an offer to work as a chef in Japan at Liu Yuen [Restaurant] where he taught the Japanese how to cook. That was a lot easier. He only had to work eight hours a day instead of working constantly.
Q: How busy had your family business been?
Chiu: As far as I remember, during our busiest periods, we had 22 workers, four to five chefs, and catered several places a night.
Q: Was the home banquet business popular back then?
Chiu: Actually, there were not that many experts in that field. Some of them ran their own restaurants or worked in the restaurant business. People from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces liked to entertain their guests at home and have chefs come cook the meal. First of all, the atmosphere was a lot more cozy. Second, it was more convenient for them to chat with their friends and fellow businessmen at home. Usually, the homes were huge. Some of them had an entire floor, and some had a whole building in places like Kowloon Tong, Happy Valley and Mid-Levels. At his peak, my father was extremely busy every day, working from very early to very late.
Q: Mr. Chiu, why did you come to the United States?
Chiu: That’s a long story. My mother later told us that my father came to Hong Kong from Shanghai in 1950, while my mother came to Hong Kong in 1951. I was born in Hong Kong in 1952. In 1948, my father had come to Fuzhou city and married my mother. I have an older sister who was born in Shanghai in 1949. My father didn’t understand business at the time that he moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong. He had heard people say that he could make money selling towels, and so he spent all his savings on buying towels. But when he came to Hong Kong, nobody would buy them and he lost a lot of money. A lot of people from Shanghai went to Hong Kong for business. One of these men, who worked as a lawyer for the Xu family, asked my father, “Why don’t you come to my house and work as a chef?” So my father worked there, and the Xu family taught him a lot of dishes. They were wonderful. Mrs. Xu constantly taught my father how to cook Shanghai dishes. When Mrs. Xu went to Shanghai-style restaurants, she would ask the chef how he made the dishes, and when she returned, she’d teach my father how to do it. So my father can cook Shanghai dishes really well. After Mr. Xu immigrated to the United States, he missed my father and asked, “Master Chef, what can I do for you? Would you like to come to America?” My father said yes. My father had previously registered as a refugee and applied for immigration at a Catholic church, but there was no response. Mr. Xu said: “When I get there, I will find a way to apply for you.” But we heard nothing, all the way until I was a teenager, so we thought we didn’t have any opportunity to immigrate. Even my father brought it up, saying, “If Mr. Xu was there and had applied for us to go over to the U.S., I wouldn’t need to pay so much tuition and I wouldn’t need to work so hard. If you want to study abroad, go to Taiwan.”
Maybe fate arranged it. Before he died, Mr. Xu’s said that his last wish was that his promise to help Chef Chiu immigrate be fulfilled. Mr. Xu had a daughter, Mrs. Lee, the owner of the Lee Travel Agency. Mr. and Mrs. Lee enthusiastically searched everywhere for my father, but couldn’t find him. One time, leading a tour to Japan, they came across my father in Liu Yuen, where he worked as a chef. Mr. Lee asked my father, “Chef Chiu, do you want to come to the United States?” My father said yes. When Mr. and Mrs. Lee returned to the United States, they requested Mr. Yip of Zhi Mei Lou Restaurant to apply for us to go to America using the sixth preference. In less than three months, while my father was still in Japan, the application was approved. My father returned to Hong Kong and applied for our family. We have nine people in our family. My sister was in Denmark at that time and was not included. That was around August and we had six months to get the visa. You can see we had no idea of what United States was like, so why did we still want to come? That is a long story.
Hong Kong was annexed to Britain because of the Opium war. I didn’t know that before, I only cared about eating and sleeping, and my parents had to force me to study. I still remember that during the peak of my family business, servants would send me to school and take me home while I studied at Raymondi College.
In secondary school, the curriculum stopped when it got to modern [Chinese] history such as the anti-Qing dynasty movement and the Republic of China. After that, no more history was taught. That was in Form 4 [equivalent to Grade 10 in US educational system]. I was confused about modern history. Why was Taiwan protected by the U.S. government? Taiwan was recognised by the U.S. government and protected by it. Why was China called Shina? Some called Chiang Kai-shek Chiang Fei [robber Chiang]. Or Mao Zedong Mao Zei [thief Mao]? Why were things that way? The purpose of studying is to gain knowledge, so how can it be shameful to ask? Questioning is the key to acquire knowledge. I asked the teacher, “What are Chiang Fei and Mao Zei?” Who knew that I would create a huge scene? The teacher I had come across had followed Chiang Kai-shek in the army. Screaming “Do you want to live?” he came at me and grabbed my waist. Pointing at my head, he yelled, “You dare call President Chiang Chiang Fei? I’ll cut your head off!” I responded by saying that I only asked because I didn’t know, and that I could only know things by asking. “You still want to argue?” the teacher said. I was punished for my behavior. Without any reason, I was punished. From that day onwards, I started doing research, since the teacher would not explain things to me. If it’s OK to say Mao Zei , why not Chiang Fei? That was the beginning of my quest for political knowledge, because I had been wrongly punished and that was too upsetting.
From that day onwards, this teacher of Chinese literature and history deliberately gave me a hard time, so I studied extra hard and thoroughly learned the texts of Chinese literature and history. Later, when I no longer needed to study modern history, I relaxed, since I didn’t have to study it every day any more.
You know why Lin Zexu burned the opium in Humen? Why the Chinese were defeated by the British because of their anti-opium drug efforts in Humen? Why that would make Hong Kong become the colony of the British government? I hated the Japanese who invaded our country. I hated the British who smuggled opium into China and victimized the Chinese. I was also puzzled at why the swath of land making up China and Taiwan were divided up into left and right. I thought it didn’t make sense and was unreasonable. I was biased against the British government. If the British had not victimized Chinese, China wouldn’t be so easily defeated. So that was where I got my sense of warlike indignation.
I learned kung fu before. I think I already told her that I lived on D’Aguilar Street when I was young. My kung fu master used to do business on D’Agilar Street and lived in the building across from us. I was a wild kid and I was playing once on the stone staircases, which were wet and thick with moss. I was pretending to be a thief, and someone was chasing me, and I stepped on the slippery moss and slid. “Thump!” I had cracked open my head. The scar is still here. I was about eight. My kung fu master was across the street, and he stopped the bleeding and cured me. In 1964 we moved to Graham Street. The master also moved to the opposite side of the street from us. You could say it was fate. I started to learn the Cai Lifo school of martial art from my master Lee Pak-ling (also known as Lee Pak), who is the third generation of Cai Lifo.
Q: Is it because you didn’t like the British government, so you turned to the American government?
Chiu: Yes. Since the British government was a colonial government and took Hong Kong like that and suppressed the Hong Kong people. Especially within the government departments, where the government officials were bullying others. I thought, what kind of world was that?
Besides, in school, I learnt that the United States was huge, but had no idea how big it was. I had only thought of studying in Taiwan because studying in America was too expensive. But apart from Chinese literature and history- the only two subjects that were taught in Chinese- no other subjects were taught in Chinese in Hong Kong. I had no clue [what the other subjects were if they were taught ] in Chinese.
I wanted to be a doctor and study at Taiwan National University. At that time, only Taiwan was being recognized as China. The biology and chemistry tests were done in Chinese. It might be okay if the tests were carried out in English. But when it came to Chinese, I did not even understand what the questions meant. So I failed the Taiwan University admission tests.
Since my Chinese skills weren’t so good, and I couldn’t be a doctor, I decided to become a merchant. I wanted to really do it and work my way up from the bottom. I passed only three to four subjects in my high school graduation examination and did not pass the basic requirement of passing five subjects.
My god-mother worked for an American businessman whose name was Gibson and originally resided in Chicago. He referred me to his business partner Mr. Kent P. Koo. As soon as he met me, Mr. Koo said, “All right, come and work for us!” I worked as a low ranking junior in the Tak Sing International Export & Import Co. Ltd. Tak Sing International Export & Import Company is an exporter to the United States and Canada, specialised in wool sweaters and exports to Britain, United States, Canada and Australia. My god-mother’s boss, Mr. Gibson, was an American importer from Chicago. With her referral, one of the heads not only accepted me but luckily gave me a special favour. He said, “You may look at the files, you can look at anything you want.” Actually, that was not allowed. How come? Office hours started at 9am. I was there at 7:30am. I studied the files one by one. If I was free, I practiced typing. I re-typed some of the files. Some of the staff members were not happy about this. There were over 30 employees. Some directors saw me and told me, “Do you know these files are confidential and you are not supposed to look at them?” I answered, “The boss asked me to read them.” The director then said, “If the boss said so, let it be.”
Quickly, within six months, I mastered the concept of the trade. My boss was very nice to me. He taught me how to negotiate a business, how to get a sample, how to get payment, how to charge, how to get a letter of credit, how to write a confirmation, how to sell your contract to the bank, etc. After the six-month period, I was promoted three grades upward, but my pay remained the same. Besides typing, I checked the goods and worked on confirmation, etc. I worked in every sector.
Other juniors ran errands, but I worked as a representative. Others lined up and were yelled at by the colonial officials at government offices, but I would fight back. I disliked the way the colonial officials bullied others. Even though the people obediently lined up, they were still being scolded. I stood up and said, “Let me see your supervisor. There’s a problem with your attitude.” They were scared and let me go first. Hence, I could finish my assignments a lot quicker than other people. I always looked for their supervisors since I was representing Tak Sing International Export & Import Company. When other employees went out and carried a bag, I asked my company to buy me a briefcase. The accountant said, “Who do you think you are to buy a briefcase?” I said, “I represent the authority of Tak Sing company. I can’t do it without a briefcase.” He was dumbfounded and bought it for me. I used to wash the dishes and my hands became coarse, so I asked the company to get me some lotion. The accountant said, “Why do you want to buy lotion? Nobody is as fussy as you are.” I said, “If I hurt my hand from washing mugs, would the company compensate me for that?” Probably because of my good relationship with the boss, they didn’t refuse.
If I was determined to do it, I could finish eight to nine assignments in a day, even though I’d end up in a sweat. Therefore, my boss always praised me, saying “Well done!” and gave me tips to buy food. I was only 17 or 18 years old back then.
I worked at Tak Sing company for a year before I came to the United States. I studied accounting at night. Why? I thought accounting was indispensable. I could not work unless I understood accounting. Since I studied accounting before, I would test the accountants in my company, as they might not be certified accountants, and I had already started learning it in Hong Kong.
Q: Please talk about the moment you learned you would be coming to the United States. How did you feel?
Chiu: I was very happy when I learned I would come to the United States. My boss was working on business in North and South America, so I worked on business opportunities in Africa. I didn’t want to learn my boss’ business and steal it from him. I wanted to embark on a new path. It’s easy to do business in America, and he had large orders, but profits were small. My region on the other hand had smaller orders and bigger profits. Just when I was about to propose to my boss that we explore that region, my immigrant application was approved. I had to say goodbye to my boss and worked until December of that year. My boss was very understanding. He told me that he was a soldier in the United States during World War II. Later on, he went from the United States to Hong Kong and stayed here to do business.
When I came to America, plane tickets were very expensive. I wanted to do business, and so I had to search and ask all over to find the cheapest rates. Now, if I was doing a travel agency, I would be able to get the cheapest fare. I suggested this to the Lee Travel Agency and they agreed and helped us get the lowest fare. Why? Our benefactor was Mrs. Lee, or put it this way, Mr. Xu, Mrs. Lee’s father. If not for his words, we would still be in Hong Kong. I will never forget Mrs Lee’s good deeds to me and I will always remember Mrs. Lee and the Xus who offered us great help.
The Chinese lived a repressed life under the British rule. Even if we were British, we were considered second class citizens. They could distinguish you and say that you still needed a visa to go to Britain. That’s ridiculous. They recognized you as British subjects but not as British citizens. Their attitude was to discriminate against all British subjects. Only those in Britain were British. I thought that was undemocratic. Besides, I thought Britain was a country of thieves. Why? Her prosperity was built on selling opium. They invaded other countries for profit and stole the land from the Chinese. In school, Britain was called the land where the sun never set, and it seemed so glorious. When I learned that Britain invaded China because Lin Zexu, the governor of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, had destroyed their opium, I hated the British even more.
The British youth in Hong Kong really liked to harass Chinese youth. They walked with a swagger. When they passed by a Chinese youth, they’d elbow him hard. You were supposed to be scared. They wanted to make you avoid them. They were that way to everybody. I had the exact opposite reaction. If they hit me, I elbowed them back. They were in too much pain to say anything. I would say [sarcastically,] “Oh, I’m in so much pain! You really hurt me!” They didn’t dare say anything.
There was one British teenager who would hit Chinese in their stomach when they passed. When he passed by me, I knew he was about to hit me, so I punched him. He was in so much pain that he couldn’t speak. A lot of similar incidents made me think that opposite outcomes would result when things were being pushed so far.
During the 1966 fascist riot [in Hong Kong], there were a lot of fights. People in school were divided into leftists and rightists and I didn’t have a very clear idea what was going on. Some of them said, “We should sing Dong Fang Hong [Red Sun Rises in the East] in unison and fight against the British government.” Considering the conciliatory policy of the Hong Kong government, and the way that Chinese were suppressed, I disliked Hong Kong even more. I did not want to be a colonial subject. If I had to be a colonial subject, I would rather be an American colonial subject.
When we emigrated to the United States, we were thrilled. We bought our air tickets to the United States from the Japan Airlines. My father worked in Tokyo for eight years and made so many friends in Japan that his Japanese friends flew all the way from Japan to Hong Kong to visit my father. I also learned Japanese for three months but I never used the language. I had already thought that the airport in Tokyo was big, and I was astounded at John F. Kennedy Airport. It was as big as a world, with an impressive ambiance and a view that seemed to go forever. Others were jetlagged but not me. I was full of energy within the first three days after I arrived. That was in 1971, the first time I saw it snow.
I worked at Zhi Mei Lou as a waiter trainee. Zhi Mei Lou was located at where Subway Deli is now- at the intersection of East Broadway, Bowery and Doyer Street. The second or third store, south of Doyers Street and next to a mall, where Subway Deli is now was the location of Zhi Mei Lou restaurant. That was the restaurant which applied for my father. You can say we were a very lucky family.
Q: Was it very difficult to apply to the United States back then?
Chiu: If you didn’t have the right qualifications, your application wouldn’t be accepted. Why do you think so many people snuck off ships [into the United States] and so many overseas Chinese students over-stay and won’t leave? The American immigration policies were lenient, so then these people ended up staying. Most of the community leaders [in Chinatown] came here illegally on boats or over-stayed in the country while foreign students and never went back to China. Very few were legal immigrants. Very few of them were born here, especially the Fujianese. I remember there used to be only one Fujianese association with a rather paltry membership, only a few hundred people. Nowadays, in the tri-state area, we have, by a conservative estimate, 500,000 to 600,000 Fujianese people.
Q: You mentioned that your father applied for refugee status to the United Status through the church in Hong Kong. What happened then?
Chiu: The refugee application was like a boulder that fell into the sea, with absolutely no response. When we emigrated we had to report this in the application. Otherwise, I would not even know, because I was so small then.
Q: Was applying for a refugee visa hard?
Chiu: To put it frankly, unless you’ve got special skills and a sponsor, don’t even think about it.
The Chinatown of 1971 was vastly different from the current one. The amount of business in Mott Street was nothing compared to the current Chinatown. There were only two or three streets then. I came in 1971 and worked in Zhi Mei Lou Restaurant and as a waiter trainee. I was not given any salary and I had to pay for my round trip subway fare. At the time, the fare had just increased to 50 cents. Now it’s two dollars. I used to get up early. Back in Hong Kong, there was no such thing as being late for work, although things are different now. I used to get up at 4 a.m. and got there at 6 a.m..
Q: Where do you live now?
Chiu: I live at Setauket near Stony Brook on Long Island. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes to commute here if the traffic is good, but if there’s a traffic jam, it could take up to 4 ½ hours.
Q: Did you live in Chinatown back then?
Chiu: Back then, I lived in the Bronx because I had to learn to be a waiter trainee in Chinatown. My father’s friend got us an apartment in the Bronx next to his home, and I paid a dollar for subway fare each day to work. These people told me ahead of time, “We’re not going to pay you. You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner [with us], and we’ll teach you how to set and clean tables. If you learn fast, we’ll teach you how to take orders.” I trained at the Zhi Mei Lou Restaurant for a month. After a week, an elderly waiter told me, “Boy, I don’t care what others think. If you do a good job and give me a hand, I’ll give you a dollar a day so that you don’t lose money taking the subway.” So I earned twenty-one dollars that month from this waiter. He’s still in Chinatown now. When the month was over, they said, “You’ve earned enough and don’t need to come anymore.” Mr. Chiang asked me, “Do you want to be a substitute worker? I can let you work three days a week. Do you want to do it?” I said yes.
At that time, the Chinatown waiters had bad attitudes. Bowls were thrown on the tables, where they’d clatter loudly, and they wouldn’t refill tea for the customers. I had only worked there for one month, but I thought that behaviour was wrong. I set the table quickly. I cleaned up fast. I refilled the water fast. In one word, I was perfect. I’ll tell you something funny. I was a substitute and an unskilled fresh worker, who earned very little money and needed help from others. They didn’t want to share tips with me. They would just send me to the inside of the restaurant [which they seldom filled with customers], left me to work on my own, and sent over the “iron customers” who gave no tips.
One of these “iron customers” was astonished at how I treated him and asked, “Why do you serve me so well? You’re so polite, you greet me, give me water and take away used dishes.” I replied, “You’re my customer here and since I represent the restaurant, shouldn’t I treat you nicely?” He was surprised and asked, “Don’t you know I’m not going to give you any tip?” I said, “That’s not important. You’re the customer, so I want you to be satisfied. If you’re satisfied, that’s enough.” Unexpectedly, he gave me a 20% tip when he checked out. The other waiters said, “Boy, we’ll share tips with you.” This is the way the world works. People will bully you if you’re new, but if you turn out to be useful, they’ll want to be your friend. But I left after three months. I believe they would have given me a permanent job if I wanted. But I chose to leave, since, first of all, I had to study. Secondly, I thought it was a waste to earn several dozens dollars each day. Fujianese people worked hard. We could work three shifts a day - eight hours a shift- without sleep. They worked until they died and remitted the money back home [in China]. Their ability to work was extreme. However, if I worked for Chinese bosses, I could not work two shifts.
I had originally intended to study, but I ended up not doing it. I went into a college and asked about the tuition and credit. They said I had to study 12 credits. I asked how much was a credit. They said two hundred dollars a credit. I asked how many credits did I need to study in a day. They said three credits. I cried: “Woah! How can I get that much money for tuition?” So, instead, I asked my younger brothers and sisters to study in high schools since it was free, and after one year residency in New York, you could study at NY colleges at their local resident rate, which was a lot cheaper. My father earned only six hundred dollars a month. I told him, “I will make money for you and we’ll pay off the debt first, until our financial situation improves.” My father agreed because it was too hard to sustain a family with only his [monthly] salary of six hundred dollars. My family needed three hundred dollars a month for living expenses and more to repay debt. We owed a lot to Mrs. Lee; most of the debt was for the air tickets. If I had to work two shifts to earn enough money, I could not work as a waiter in Chinatown. I wouldn’t earn enough money that way. So whatever places other people recommended to me, I went there and tried my luck.
The first restaurant I turned to was Reuben Restaurant, a first class restaurant at the time, which was famous for its cheese cakes and Reuben sandwiches. I went in there to enquire about job vacancy. The supervisor said, “Sorry, Sorry, we don’t have any vacancies for waiters.”
I asked, “How about busboy? Busboy. I would be very good at that too.”
He said, “If you’re willing to be a busboy, then we can use you. We need some busboys.”
I said, “Okay, then I’ll work as a busboy, and when you have an opening for a waiter, give it to me.”
The caption said okay. Actually, he didn’t know my abilities, and was not serious. He was a Hispanic captain.
It’s not just the Chinese that have pride. Non-Chinese are the same way. Hispanics, Blacks, Italians are all the same way. In each case, they’ll bully others. I thought, first of all, since I was a new worker, I should give way to others. If they crossed the limit and started bullying me, then I’d resist. I almost got in a fight with a Puerto Rican. Why? As a bus-boy, each person had his own station [with silverware]. Sometimes he’d take my stuff to use, saying, “Let me borrow it.”
I said, “No problem. We’re friends. We’ll work together, right?”
But when I ran out, and had to borrow silverware, he said, “Don’t touch my stuff!”
“That’s fine too. Let’s not fight about it. But next time, don’t borrow my things either.” I learned fast.
Next time, I didn’t let him borrow my stuff, and he said, “What did you say?” and punched me in the stomach.
I knew I should give way to them and not fight, so I said, “Fine. Don’t punch me again.”
He said, “What are you going to do if I punch you?”
I said, “This is your last chance. Don’t touch me again.” He punched me again, a total of three times. I fought back using the Cai Lifo punching style, and knocked him to the floor. He said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Chiu.” He didn’t bully me anymore.
Wasn’t that humiliating for him? Chinese should be willing to give way, but we can’t be too submissive. Three times is enough.
Q: Were you the only Chinese who worked in the restaurant?
Chiu: There were two Chinese, no, three Chinese workers. One was older, another one was about my age. I was the youngest, because I was only 19. They were timid and let people bully them. I wouldn’t allow that. I wanted the same rights, and I would fight for the Chinese people. I would not be silent and I wanted to fight against injustice.
Besides the other guy, there was one other employee who said I couldn’t handle him, and who wanted to fight. He tried to attack me, but I didn’t give in. Each time he came at me, I escaped him, and no matter how he came after me, he couldn’t catch me. I fought back in such a way that I immobilized him. He said, “Come on, let me fight.”
I immediately shouted for the captain. I said, “He started things. If he wants to fight, I don’t mind. But you have to be the witness. If he gets killed, it’s not my problem.” He tried to grab me, and I slipped past, but he was able to tear my clothes apart. He knew martial arts, but I was not scared. If I had to fight, I would beat him until he couldn’t stand, but I wanted a witness. The captain slapped him [in the face] and said, “Fighting during work hours! You want me to kill you?” He put an end to our battle, and this guy didn’t dare touch me again. In fact, he didn’t dare touch any of the three Chinese workers.
I have another interesting story. An Italian waiter always stuck out his finger while working. I asked, “How come you act so feminine? How come your pinkie always points out?”
He said, “It’s ‘cause I hurt myself. The doctor said it’s stuck like this permanently.”
I thought, “Why is this foreigner so ignorant? This is only a joint problem. I learned Chinese bone setting before, when I learned martial arts. This joint problem could be fixed, and I was confident that he could fully recover. I asked him whether he was afraid of pain.
He said, “I don’t feel pain.”
I said, “This time it’s going to hurt, but if you can take it, I can fix this for you.”
He said, “Don’t joke around. If you really can fix it, I’ll call you Dr. Chiu.”
I said, “Are you sure you’re not afraid of pain?”
He said, “No, I’m fine.”
I put my best effort into it. I said, “Give me your hands.” If you know how to fix joints and you are not afraid of pain, it can be cured.
Q: Is this Chinese bone setting?
Chiu: I said, “Give me your hands. Give them to me and don’t try to fight.”
He relaxed and let me do it. I turned and rubbed his pinkie several times and then I twisted it. He said, “Oh! Dr. Chiu, Dr. Chiu!”
After that, whenever he saw me, he called me Dr. Chiu. What his doctor thought was incurable was actually easy to fix. Pull it straight and apart, and put it back in its old position. I told him to hold it whenever he was free until it was completely healed. I helped people in small matters and caused them to respect me. There’s no problems, and the person will remember you forever.
I have some other funny stories. We shouldn’t let others discriminate against us. Some people always say, “People always discriminate against me.” I say, “Don’t discriminate against yourself, and then nobody will discriminate against you. This is America.”
Once, I was in the subway train, and an old white man was sitting next to me. I had always respected the elderly. But he said, “You dirty Chink! Don’t sit next to me.”
I said, “Who the hell do you think you are? You dirty pig!” I slammed against him with my butt. He was too shocked to move. I said, “Don’t try to discriminate against anybody. Everyone is equal.”
In America, I didn’t feel like I was a victim of discrimination. I learned to fight back. If you say something in a joking manner, I will do the same. If you can’t take it, that is discrimination, and I’ll give you more trouble for it. Hence, I gained a lot of respect from others, especially when someone thought he was superior. There’s no such thing as that. America is a democratic country, and I want the democratic ideal to be fulfilled.
Q: After working at Reuben, what else did you do?
Chiu: My father needed someone to help him to establish a restaurant in the suburbs. He asked me to come help him. My father had worked in Japan for eight years, ever since I was 11 years old, and I hadn’t had many chances to be with him. So I said I’d do it because I wanted to be with my dad. I had earned $300 a week at Reuben, and I only made $200 per month working for his boss. Even with tips, it was only $1000 a month, but I still agreed to do it. Because workers in Reuben were too messy, and also because the boss was Italian and thought he was better than everybody else, the restaurant was eventually closed down by the health department… It’s really too bad.
Q: How long did you work at Reuben?
Chiu: I worked there for about six months. I remember that when they had open positions for waiters, I asked for the job, but they didn’t give it to me. They gave the positions to their own people. They hadn’t kept their promise. So when my father asked me to work out of state with him, I went.
My father and I intended to open a restaurant in the United States. He would monitor the kitchen and I the dining area. We had bought a lot of decorations for the restaurant in Hong Kong. We put them into fourteen wooden cartons and shipped them to the United States. I knew the shipping company. They packed and shipped them free of charge because I worked for Tak Sing Company, and they treated me courteously. Picking the items up in the United States was fairly easy. I had been an importer in Hong Kong, so why couldn’t I do it in the United States? I asked around, cleared customs and had the goods delivered to my home by a Chinatown moving company.
My father and I helped somebody open a restaurant in Port Washington, starting from scratch. I taught them management skills and how to set up menus. My father taught the owner how to be a cook. I taught the boss’s son to be a manager. After they finished learning, my father went to Massachusetts and helped others open another restaurant. My father earned a monthly salary of $800 in Port Washington and also $800 in Massachusetts. I lowered my earning from $1500 in New York to $1000 over there. I was willing to earn less since I wanted to be with my father, to strengthen our relationship and also to take care of him. Later on, my father went to Boston alone because they only needed one cook. I went back to New York and saw that Reuben Restaurant was closed, but my colleagues said it would reopen soon. Fulton had screamed at the sanitation department and he thought he was better than anybody else. Unexpectedly, the inspector put a warrant [notice] to close the restaurant at once. They had to clear the violations to reopen. I helped them reopen but the business dropped drastically. After one week, my father asked me, “Why don’t you work here? There’s a vacancy at the Peking Garden in Lexington City, Massachusetts. I worked there as a waiter.
I have another story. Once, I was almost mugged while waiting for a long distance Continental bus from Washington Heights to Boston. I tried to get away from him, but he tried to get close, and so I got in a fighting posture. Luckily, the bus arrived, and I jumped on board and escaped.
I was robbed twice. The first time was in 1971 when I was a waiter trainee at Zhi Mei Lou Restaurant. I was waiting for the restaurant to open early in the morning. Three big black guys tried to grab me around my neck and pull me to the staircase. I was small but very nimble. I blocked them with my hands and escaped. I made a gesture indicating I was ready to fight. Suddenly, they said, “Oh, we were just playing around.” I was really surprised, but it turned out there was a policeman in front of us. I immediately told the policeman, “These people want to rob me.” The police said, “They haven’t done anything yet.” I was angry and yelled, “Robbery! Robbery!” But no one cared. I was mad. Why didn’t Chinese people help other Chinese? Why didn’t we unite together? Why do we let others bully us? The three black guys glared at me the whole time, but it didn’t matter. When Zhi Mei Lou restaurant opened, I went in to work. I did not see them again.
Oftentimes, when Chinese were robbed, no one offered any help, because they thought they had no status. In the old Chinese community, no one would care for you. There was a lot of garbage and it was filthy. Some people would even say the Chinese liked to look slovenly in order to get welfare. If that was true, Chinatown would be so prosperous and have such a huge increase in people during these intervening years. After the 9/11 tragedy, it was much worse for a while, but compared to 32 years ago, Chinese people have become stronger and self-sufficient. The Confucius Plaza, Chatham Square, Chatham Green, CITIC Ka Wah Bank and Wing Ming Building [at 2 Mott Street] are all good examples. We Chinese built them ourselves. Also, we have Heng Tung Building on Henry Street. So if we continue this way, Chinatown will once again be prosperous. Yes, 9/11 has victimised Chinatown. If the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association [CCBA], the Fujian Association and the Hakka Association could come together and promote Chinatown, then Chinatown can be revitalised.
Q: How was Chinatown back then?
Chiu: 32 years ago, Chinatown was rotten and not as booming as it is now. Chinatown has developed from a bad place to become a satellite town. If you don’t believe me, you can walk around Mott Street, Broadway, East Broadway and Grand Street. Look at the grocery, fish, meat and gift stores. Yes, the aftermath of 9/11 was a blow to Chinatown. The state of Chinatown before 9/11 was two or three fold more prosperous than what it is now. Of course, for Chinatown to keep growing, to get results, we need investments from the Federal, State and City government and to work together as a team. We also need continuous assistance from Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), I Love New York, Empire State, and so on. It’s not enough to have people work hard or to make financial investments. I believe in the Chinese proverb “the wool comes from the lamb”- we have to pay for our own expenses. We are not trying to take a lot from the welfare [system]. We only need to give out more. With the Chinese spirit, we strive to become stronger. We sustain ourselves. We work together as a team. These factors will raise up the current status of Chinese people.
I also notice that the officials have stopped being indifferent towards Chinatown and now show concern for the Chinese community. We have to thank the new immigrants who have made us a larger constituency. If we weren’t a large constituency, we wouldn’t attract so much attention now from politicians. I hope both new and former immigrants will cooperate and improve the community, and make this community more prosperous. The government should also help our community.
(Side 2 of tape)
Q: Mr. Chiu, I understand that you do a lot of business. How did 9/11 affect your business?
Chiu: I have been in the United States for 32 years. I worked in Chinatown for 20 years. Why was I away from Chinatown for 10 years and not develop any business in Chinatown? It’s because Chinatown was too rotten and sparsely populated, with people being bullied. Nobody cared when you were mugged. I thought it was a cruel place and I didn’t like coming there.
I went with my father to Massachusetts. It also had a Chinatown but was not as busy as in New York, with few Chinese restaurants. Two years after we came to the United States, we cleared all my father’s debts and borrowed money again to plan for our future. With our friends as references, the same Uncle Zheng who rented us an apartment helped us to open a take-out restaurant in Setauket. My father was in charge of the kitchen. I took care of the front and counter. I guess it was fate. The Chinese restaurant was in the suburbs and was not popular. We had to educate the residents about Chinese food. Thank God I know English. I had to introduce and promote Chinese food [to the people there].
Just when we started, my father died of heart attack. He had been in America for less than three years. The heavy burden of running the restaurant fell on my shoulders. I had to take care of both the kitchen and the front. In the beginning, I could not cook. Back when I had been in Hong Kong, I had done some fundraising events and cooked a few dishes for Caritas Youth Centre in Hong Kong with my parents giving me instructions. So the dishes that my parents taught me I could cook fairly well. I had only been with my father here for a short amount of time. I had not completely mastered cook. Besides a few of my dad’s good friends, I didn’t know anybody in the United States. I had to do everything by myself. I struggled on my own. I had to sustain myself. For 30 years in the United States, my father had wanted me to receive a United States education and work hard for a brighter future. He also had hoped that I could make a better life in America than we had in Hong Kong. Following these two principles, we had refused to take a single penny of welfare from the government, even when we were struggling. The government had once offered us help. We declined it. We did not want help. Instead, we strived hard - as my father once said, “If we grow the food ourselves, it tastes sweeter.” I have stuck to his principle all the time.
My mother was distraught at my father’s early death. She had to watch over us, and she couldn’t work. My mother had married him at an early age, and accompanied him to Shanghai. Two years later, she gave birth to me in Hong Kong. When I was eight or nine, my father went to Japan and worked there for eight years. During all these years, my mother met my father for only short periods of time. While in the United States, my mother expected to spend much more time with him. We thought we would be a happy family. But tragedy struck us, and my father died young.
Although insurance has long been popular in the United States, we never took out a policy. We, the Chinese, thought that it was unlucky to mention death and didn’t want to hear anything about it. We would rather insure ourselves by having more savings. I didn’t even understand the concept of insurance until I was running the restaurant. The agent of an insurance company was a customer in my restaurant. He asked, “How come we don’t see the fat guy (he didn’t know that was my father) cooking any more?” I told him about the tragedy. I said he was my father, and he had just passed away. He said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Oh, did he have any life insurance?” I said no. He didn’t believe in it. He asked, “Why not?” I said in Hong Kong, people weren’t interested in that. We talked about the concept of insurance. He said one thing, which hit me like a blow. He said, “If your father had had insurance, he would have been able to realize his dream, and you could now do whatever you want.” What he said was like salt in my wounds. I asked, “But who knows if you will really provide compensation?” He spoke very practically, “You don’t have to believe me. You can check it out and analyze it on your own.” I thought that was fair and I listened for three months before applying for a license.
There were 30 students. It seemed like I was the only one who raised questions. I asked tricky questions on all sorts of areas. Each time, I would say, “Maybe I’m not smart, but I really do not understand. Please explain it to me.” The trainer said, “You’re not stupid. In fact, you are the smartest one. The other students think they understand. In fact, they pretend that they understand but actually don’t.” Then, out of the 30 students, only three passed the licensing tests, including me. The trainer said, “Did I teach you something?” I said, “You are right.” The others failed. Of those three who passed the tests, I was the only one who has been working in the field for the last 30 years. Life is so unpredictable.
I forgot what your original question was—?
Q: I was asking you how Chinatown has changed?
Chiu: It changed in that there used to be many drunks on Bowery and now there’s none. Building prices have soared from several thousand dollars to a few million dollars. They’ve gone from having a few American banks to many Chinese-operated banks and banks with foreign capital. It’s an unusual thing in the US for there to be so many banks in such a small area. So you can’t say that Chinatown hasn’t changed.
The future of Chinatown is bright, but we need to work together with federal, state and city governments to rebuild Chinatown and make things better. We discovered that the government really wanted to help. I hope that the businesses in Chinatown and those who want to help Chinatown can all work together to present Chinatown on the Internet in the best possible way. We can let future generations see our incredible history, our moments of struggle, conflict and hard work; how we do business with foreigners and help them appreciate our culture and show a good example to them.
Q: Were you one of the earliest insurance agents in Chinatown?
Chiu: You can say so. My father passed away in 1974. I formally signed a contract with New York Life on April 28th, 1975. I planned to work for 20 years, and then I could retire. Actually I couldn’t retire. After 20 years, when I was named a Senior NYLIC Agent, and even after I was named a Post-Senior NYLIC Agent, I still could not abandon my clients. I have to work until I die.
Q: How does 9/11 affect your insurance business?
Chiu: 9/11 has a direct impact on my insurance business. Besides New York Life insurance, my company approved me to run commercial insurance, house insurance businesses and also property and casualty, homeowner, liability and bonds. Besides New York Life, I run investment, mutual fund, IRA, casualty, car, homeowner, clothing store, factory, garment factory, worker compensation, disability, bonds. You name it, I do it. Twenty years ago, I rented a place in Wing Ming building. Ten years later, I rented an office at 11 Doyers Street. Now I have this place.
Why did I skip some years in the middle? That’s because I operated a restaurant business out-of-state in Setauket, near Stony Brook.
Why did I join the insurance business? Because my father died within three years after arriving in the United States and he did not have one penny of insurance. Alfred Lapitino, the manager [of New York Life] told me, “Do you know there are many Chinese families who are just like yours? They need your help. You need to tell them the advantages of insurance.” From then until today, I’ve been serving people with the intention of bringing good news and benefits to Chinese people. We need more than just democracy, we also need what I call “protection.” This protection gives you dignity that others cannot destroy. In a family, even if one or two breadwinners pass away, someone will still bring in money for the family. This is New York Life insurance. It would be best if every family had insurance. If nothing happens, that’s great. The savings could then be used in retirement. A lot of our clients withdraw more from our insurance savings than they get from Social Security. Their Social Security benefits are only a few hundred dollars but the 30 years of insurance premiums that they’ve saved becomes a retirement fund. If people follow my advice, they can enjoy an affluent retirement lifestyle.
Q: How does 9/11 affect the insurance business?
Chiu: 9/11 hit the insurance industry hard, especially property and casualty insurance. The money that was paid out due to the collapse of the buildings has to be recouped by drastically increasing the premiums. A lot of businesses cannot afford these rising insurance costs. They say, “I cannot even afford to pay for basic food. How can I afford to buy insurance? I would rather go without insurance and save some. If something happens, I’ll just close down my business.” It’s hard to do business now because the premium is too high and customers would rather operate without insurance.
Q: How are insurance premiums different from those before 9/11?
Chiu: It’s a lot more expensive. During the last two to three years, the premiums are 40 to 50% more expensive. The prices increased 10 to 20% each year, adding up to a change of about 40 to 50%. The premiums had to increase in order to recoup our losses. But is our business completely gone? No, and in fact, we’ve made up for it in some other areas. It’s become easier to do life insurance, for example. People have clearly seen just how unpredictable life can be. When 9/11 occurred, I had been going over a bridge and I saw the buildings collapse. It was so sad. Tears kept pouring down my face. What I had thought was impossible had actually occurred.
Q: Where were you when 9/11 happened?
Chiu: I was at the far end of the bridge and I wasn’t allowed to cross. On that day, I had to take off early. Normally, I wouldn’t have left so early. When I could not cross the bridge, I called the 5th precinct in Chinatown in order to ask if they needed any translators. For instance, a lot of Chinese do not understand English. They might not understand what happened and need advice to escape from the disaster. I called and called. All the way until 6pm, no one answered the phone. Why? Everyone went out to rescue people, so there was nobody to answer the phone. It was like we were in a war where all communications were lost. It was lucky that I didn’t go to Chinatown, because you weren’t allowed to go out for two to three days. It was two to three weeks until I was allowed into Chinatown, and I had to bring along documents to prove my identity.
Q: What do you think of the 9/11 incident?
Chiu: I think having democracy is good but too much democracy is a disaster. Why is that so? Why was it so easy for the terrorists to commit this crime and use our own resources to hurt us? It’s because the United States is too democratic which allows the young, fresh graduates- I think most of the airline workers are young people, who are carefree. They lead a leisurely life style with good food, nice homes, good education and put pleasure before work. When they work, they are not serious enough. Every employee should be paid to work - not chatting, and not joking. These workers missed the terrorists, let them hijack the planes for an hour and were unable to stop them and let them hit the World Trade Center. This whole situation shows us that the American government and the public education system of the United States have to change. If they cannot improve and become stronger like the Chinese and if they don’t motivate themselves but instead are content with ease and comfort, bad things will eventually happen. Don’t blame Bush, who might have ignored the intelligence. Don’t blame Clinton for not working diligently. We should learn from John.F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.” We should contribute our talent to improve Chinatown. Although 9/11 was cruel, if everyone contributes, Chinatown will prosper twice as much.
If you don’t agree with me, just go out and look. Look at the new Chinese immigrants in East Broadway for instance. Wasn’t there a depression here after 9/11? Not only East Broadway, but also the other areas, we need customers from outside. And so do the jewellery, gift and restaurant industries.
Let’s go back to the Columbus Park project. We can find ways to build a six-,seven-, eight- story underground parking lot and allocate space for several thousand parking spaces. Customers can come and not worry about parking or paying for the parking fees. Chinatown will become a shopping paradise and dining paradise. More customers would come to Chinatown and the place would prosper.
The government has researched possible parking sites. Columbus Park is one place they’re considering. I hope the government will approve the Columbus Park project. I dare say that this project would, without a doubt, solve all parking problems for the federal, state and city agencies. We won’t have to worry about that anymore, and it will cease being a controversial issue. We have to do things with precision, without confusion or misunderstandings. Actually, a lot of things have been done wrong. I think one story of the Columbus parking lot could provide 300 parking spaces. A seven- to ten- story building, if it was entirely for parking, would create 3,000 to 4,000 parking spaces, and this would allow more people to come to Chinatown. Chinatown could improve things, and business could increase. Parking fees could become cheaper. Anyway, it’s just a single place so it would be economical. We could keep a park on the surface. We’d only have to build underground. We can build it with today’s technology.
Q: When will this project be implemented?
Chiu: The project is still being researched. I am one of the advisors of Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. We’ve already held two meetings. An announcement will be made in April, with our purpose being to develop Chinatown. I hope they will approve the project this time. We’ll have to do a lot more public relations work and lots of events. We have a whole bunch of plans. In fact there is a meeting at 10 AM tomorrow to discuss these issues.
Q: Mr. Chiu, how was your other business besides the insurance? Could you discuss them with us?
Chiu: It’s not just my business. Take the tourist industry as an example. Almost all agents closed
after 9/11. A lot of them had worked together, and had the help of wholesalers. Afterwards, they all negatively influenced each other, and most closed because there was no business at all. Tourist agencies cannot function scattered in different places. Our family tourist business did not have any business because nobody was willing to travel. Now it is better. We continue to have some hotel reservations, car rentals and travelling business. Domestic travel is still weak.
We don’t know if things will recover, especially because airlines make direct sales and have a monopoly. They don’t need a third party to be their agent. Travel agents will disappear. Only a few will survive. There won’t be as many as before, because they can’t make ends meet.
Q: So, where is Setauket Travel Agency?
Chiu: In fact, now we have only one office for all our businesses. We had tried to divide into branches. Now we have just one, in order to minimize costs and survive. We’re not accustomed to getting relief funds, and we feel that we’ll find a way to get through this period. If we can’t succeed, we’ll just close.
Q: How is 9/11 affecting your business?
Chiu: 9/11 takes away a large proportion of our travel business. We’ve only got our old, loyal customers, and there’s not many of them. It’s a lot worse than it used to be.
Q: Are most of the travel packages domestic ones?
Chiu: There is almost no more domestic business. Foreign customers stay away because of SARS and anti-terrorism measures. Many of them had a hard time getting a visa to the United States. On the other hand, we get new business whenever new immigrants gain green cards. They go back to Mainland China or Hong Kong and travel there. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have any business at all.
Q: You have been in the tourism business for more than 30 years?
Chiu: I’ve worked in the tourism business from 1971 to the present. After I came to the U.S., I was involved in the business for a short while. And then I was in Long Island and worked in a travel agency at Setauket. And then I bought the business. When I moved the business to Chinatown, I kept the name Setauket Travel. The Chinese name was called Liu Feng, named after my father’s hometown. Both names refer to suburbs. Now the travel agency is called Chinatown Travel because we moved it to Chinatown.
Q: Do you think the tourism industry in Chinatown has reached its nadir?
Chiu: Chinatown’s tourism industry in Chinatown is in the midst of its deepest depression, and is struggling to survive. Now it’s time to unite. If everyone works hard we can make it and find some opportunities. Otherwise, it’s really going to be tough.
Q: Besides that, what other businesses do you have?
Chiu: Import and export. I was importing jelly fish heads. After 9/11, we ended up overstocked and couldn’t sell them. I suffered a huge loss. The goods stayed in the warehouse and could not be sold. I had to discard them. It was really horrible. When the customers do not pay, I won’t reorder the same product. We won’t import that product anymore. So that business is practically over.
Q: Why was imported food especially affected?
Chiu: Because after 9/11, the restaurant business diminished and individuals had less income. When the economy is so weak, who’s going to buy luxury items? Jellyfish are expensive. They cost between seven and ten dollars a pack. Second-rate jellyfish costs three dollars.
Q: How much did you lose?
Chiu: We actually lost thousands and thousands of dollars, a total loss. The storage and other expenses we already paid for could not be refunded. The loss was huge.
Q: You have so many different businesses. Was 9/11 a huge blow to you personally?
Chiu: It was a heavy blow to everybody, and it was also a heavy blow to me. Luckily, my insurance business survived. You can say that was my last fallback.
Q: Mr. Chiu, you’re Fujianese. What is the difference between the old and new Fuzhou immigrants here? Or what are the differences between the way Fuzhou used to be and the way it is now?
Chiu: There’s a huge difference between recent and past Fuzhou immigrants. In 1971, you could distinguish between the locals and the ones that entered illegally on ships. Ninety-five percent of them would cover their heads. They were always staring around with their heads lowered. I pitied them and didn’t want them to be caught. I would pat their shoulders and talk to them. They would be very scared and stare at me. I talked to them first in Cantonese. If they did not know how to reply, then I would use the little bit of Fujianese that I had learned as a kid. If they were Fujianese, I would tell them, “Don’t walk in such a timid way. People will know you’re an illegal immigrant off the boat and you will be arrested. Walk like me and nobody will catch you.” I dare say, a lot of people will remember what I’ve told them. Ha ha.
Q: Why was illegal immigration so easy back then?
Chiu: It was not so easy. At that time, sailors had boarding passes to come on shore, but they didn’t go back. This was called “jumping ship.” They had no other way. Most of them just “jumped ship.” They worked on the ship as seamen, as sailors, as crew, as cooks or helpers, or as deliverymen. They escaped when they came to the United States and didn’t go back to the ships. “Jumping ship” doesn’t necessarily mean that they literally jumped from the ship into the sea and then swam ashore.
Like the overseas students who liked staying in the United States and looked for a sponsor, and then never returned. Or some people came by tourist or business visas and decided they wanted to stay. These are all just ways to change your position. If you’re rich, you can apply for a tourist visa or do business here and end up getting permanent residency. All the different methods are fine. There’s nothing wrong with them. People who weren’t as privileged used other methods which fit them.
“Do I oppose anyone who came to the United States illegally?” In fact, no, I think Americans and their ancestors came to the United States illegally and invaded the country. That created America. American-born citizens should not be anti-immigrant and should not sanction illegal immigrants. If they do, that’s like a slap in their own face, unless they are Native Americans. No one should oppose immigrants, or they themselves should not be here.
But we should have a way to make immigrants follow the right path to immigrate, because a small number of immigrants committed crimes in the United States and endangered both the Chinese community and public safety. We also see some Chinese being oppressed, bullied, assassinated and murdered. If you can unite and help each other mutually, we will have more power. Why? If we are plentiful in number, we will have a lot of votes, and then elected officials will do more for us. If we work against each other, the politicians will manipulate us. We need officials to work for us and be our public servants. They have to represent us and work for us. Otherwise, we’re completely useless.
Q: Mr. Chiu, after all these years, you must have been back to Fuzhou a few times. What was your impression?
Chiu: I have gone back and taken a look at Fuzhou. In 1980, 10 years after I immigrated, I went back to Fuzhou via Hong Kong. My mother had lived a hard life with my father. She followed him from Fuzhou to Shanghai, then to Hong Kong, and finally to the United States. She didn’t return to Fuzhou during all this time, until 1977. I did not have enough money to take her home to see her parents. I took out a loan from the bank in order to fulfil her wish. Then my mother wanted to apply for her parents to come to the United States. In 1980, I went back to Fuzhou and applied for visas for them in Guangzhou. They came to the United States via Hong Kong. My maternal grandfather asked my mother, “If I die, what will you do with me?” My mother said, “If you like, I will bury you here with my late husband.” My grandfather said, “No, it’s too quiet here. I have to return home.” My mother said, “You don’t have to be in a hurry to go back. Stay here. If you pass away, I will send your body home.” My grandfather said, “What if you don’t send me home? What will happen to me? It’s livelier back there.” He insisted on returning to China. He said it was nice we settled down in the United States. He was an old man, after all, over eighty years old. If he stayed here, he could only look at the sky and the four walls in the house. Although we lived in a [two-story] colonial house with front and back yards and have a big family, he was still not used to it. He went back to China with my grandmother. Two years later, he passed away at the age of 90. I heard the news when I was attending a New York Life educational conference in West Virginia. I went back with my mother to take care of his funeral ceremony in China and then we returned together. My grandmother came to the United States several times, but she got bored and went back.
As far as what I saw when I returned to Fuzhou in 1980 – I wept continuously from Hong Kong to Guangzhou. Why? China was so miserable, dusty and without infrastructure. I thought, China is so poor that it’s no wonder others look down on it. In Shanghai, I was trapped in traffic jams all the time. It took two hours to drive 12 miles and I would have gotten there faster walking. Everything was so backwards and miserable.
It was even worse in Fuzhou. When the wind blew, yellow sand scattered every where. The buildings were worn out. There was nothing there. China was really miserable. That was in 1980.
When I returned again in 1982, I saw some changes taking place. I was there in 1984 for my grandfather’s funeral. In 1983, representing this community, I raised funds for a dragon boat contest there to promote athletics. Each time we led a tour from the United States to Fuzhou, I saw changes. And in September 2003, last year, there were highways and skyscrapers everywhere, the streets were orderly, and the buildings were so tall you couldn’t see their tops. In 1980, there were so many bicycles that you could not even cross the street. Now, we have skywalks built across the second floors of the buildings. We don’t have to cross the streets on the ground floor. We can follow their example and cross the roads on the second floors of buildings in Chinatown or combine skywalks with escalators for the elderly. Let the cars have the road. We could also have businesses on the second floor. I think it would be a nice thing and a huge plan for development, and in the future, it could be expanded when there is more investment.
We need this kind of construction in order to develop our Chinatown.
Q: Do you think Fuzhou became prosperous as a result of immigrants returning to their homeland?
Chiu: Not just recent immigrants, but also past immigrants who returned to invest in properties and in business. And it wasn’t just in Fuzhou City, but also in suburban areas such as Changle. They completely remade these places. There was more construction work in the suburban areas than in the cities. The roads and highways are so advanced that from Fuzhou to Xiamen, it takes only one hour, while it took eight hours in the past. Transportation is convenient. There are lots of new buildings, but not so many people living in them. Thus, the price of the buildings is not so high. The price will go up only when demand is greater than supply. Currently, there is more supply than demand.
When I organized a tour for [U.S.] policemen to visit China, they said, “Now I understand why the new immigrants will risk their lives to come to the United States, willing to send home money home and repay a huge debt. For if they work hard for a few years in the United States, they could return to their homeland and build three- or four- story buildings. They don’t use red bricks, rather they use beautiful white tiles, and build fences. The homes are very classy, like those of the rich.
Q: What other public service positions do you hold within the community?
Chiu: While I was working, I never thought of returning. One major task I did was to help out with burials. When Golden Venture crashed, 10 persons drowned. On behalf of our American Fujian Association of Commerce and Industry Inc., we claimed the bodies, buried them and located their families. Four of them were very lucky in that we could identify them, notify their families and have their bodies returned. The other six were not so lucky. We had to bury them. Mrs. Amy Chan of Ng & Chun Fook Funeral Services and Mrs. Ying Kam, Yu Tang donated $10,000. We donated our manpower. Ng & Chun Fook paid for the rest. Everyone got involved in this charity work in a different way. We are still searching for the families of the deceased. One of them we may be able to locate. Ten years later, a Chinese reporter asked me to make an appeal one more time in the newspapers. A Chinese family had been looking for their son who had been missing for 10 years. But there was only one drop of blood [on the cotton gauze] and it may not be enough to identify the DNA. We need about one square inch of blood to identify the DNA. If the person identified is their son, we will have one more body to return to their family.
Q: Were most of the Golden Venture passengers Fujianese?
Chiu: Most were Fujianese, and there were also many from Wenzhou City. The second family who claimed a body was from Wenzhou, Zhejiang province. When they came forward to claim the body, the immigration officer ordered the family member to be arrested. It was only after we called this inhumane treatment that they released the family. America is a democratic country. They felt bad when we said they were undemocratic. Then they released the names of 10 who drowned and let people claim them. Every family had to claim the body with my signatures and approval, because I was the person who claimed their bodies.
Q: What is the moral of this tragedy for immigrants?
Chiu: Frankly speaking, it tells immigrants that America is no paradise. Whenever I returned and explained that, they did not believe me, as if I was lying. I told them that America is a “slave training camp”. No one should work over 13 hours but I worked at least 13 hours every day during my 32 years in the United States. So I told them the Untied States is a “slave training camp”. They argued, “But why are you still there?” I said I had no choice. They would not believe me.
They said the United States was a paradise. I said the United States was a paradise as well as a hell. If you cannot earn enough money, you are in hell. If you earn enough money, anywhere would be a paradise. That’s true not only in the United States but also in China. I told them, you’re already very fortunate and don’t even know it. I said, in China, you get food even if you don’t work. In the United States, if you don’t work you don’t eat. No one believed in me back then. Upon their arrival here, they realized I was telling the truth. They told me, “I should have listened to your advice. I didn’t listen and now I’m in trouble.”
Q: When the Golden Venture tragedy happened, did it act as a warning in China and Fuzhou and cause less people to come to America?
Chiu: I thought they did a good job of keeping the story a secret. Not a lot of people knew about the Golden Venture. Chinese people living outside of China knew more about it. Some overseas Chinese knew about it from foreign television. They knew from news report that I helped in burials and held a Buddhist funeral ceremony at the shore.
The biggest project we worked for in the community was to reopen Grand Street Station. We finally succeeded in demanding a subway line between Grand St. Station and DeKalb Avenue- saving our passengers time walking and transferring. When they repaired the Manhattan Bridge, they originally planned to complete it in eight years. Instead, it only took two years and Grand Street Station had already reopened. That’s how the community is rewarded if we work at it.
I was also involved in the Chinatown cleaning campaign but it wasn’t that successful. I think Chinatown should have our own private garbage trucks. Whenever the trash cans get full, they can pick it up. It’s worth it to pay more and get better service. If Chinatown was cleaner, more tourists would be willing to shop here. After all, everything is cheap in Chinatown.
As far as the roads go, Chinatown has lots of potholes. East Broadway is already improved. I made a complaint last month about a fund that was already approved to redo the road surface at the intersection of Doyer Street and East Broadway since they had claimed that they didn’t have any funds. I said, “That’s no excuse. I know the federal funds have already arrived. I can accept other excuses but not this.” After one week, they finally started working on the road. But they didn’t dig the usual seven inches. They only replaced two or three inches. It was only surface work. They replied that different methods would be used for complete renovation. I hope this project works, because there are two spots in East Broadway that always sink even after repeated fillings. It would benefit Chinatown if the problem is fixed.
Besides these projects, I personally think there are not enough parking spaces in Chinatown. Everyday, we hear complaints, that government employees have taken away our parking spaces. Why can’t we build an underground parking lot with three to four stories and let them park their cars and not occupy surface streets. Or we could build a few skywalks with escalators for the elderly and allow pedestrians to move around without walking. They wouldn’t block traffic, and elderly pedestrians wouldn’t get hit by cars. Wouldn’t this project make Chinatown more prosperous?
Q: When will these plans be implemented?
Chiu: I think LMDC has accomplished 70% of what I would desire. I think these things are very important and necessary. Chinatown is vastly different from what it was 30 years ago, even though there was a drastic drop-off after 9/11. If Chinatown is going to improve, the parking problem must be solved. If we do not even have enough space to live, how can we have enough spaces for cars? If one has to pay 20 to 30 dollars for parking while having dinner in Chinatown, people will choose to eat close to where they live and save money.
I also have hopes for the 2nd Avenue subway station project. I hope it will start soon and that will make Chinatown prosper. For 32 years, Chinatown did not have her own subway station. It would be a big convenience if we had a subway spot at the intersections near Mott Street and East Broadway and Park Row. Just dig a hole in East Broadway or Park Row and that will be the underground subway station. The project should start as soon as possible. It will help revitalize Chinatown.
Q: Mr. Chiu, you mentioned that the relationship between police and locals was not so good in the past. Has it improved recently?
Chiu: The police-civilian relationship has changed drastically in recently years. I went to the police plaza headquarters and explained to them how Chinese people feel. Don’t assume the Chinese are opposed to the police. I also suggested the police should be courteous and have a better attitude towards Chinese people. Through networking, I got to know some officers better and I brought them on a trip to China. They realized that most Chinese people are good-natured. Only a handful of bad ones need to be dealt with. The police treat Chinese citizens a lot better.
There was once a police action on East Broadway to arrest illegal peddlers. When the police arrived, the peddlers fled. After the police left, the peddlers set up their booths again. For a long time, the police could not make any arrests. They were mad. A Chinese policeman grabbed a child and threw him into a police van like he was throwing out garbage. All the Chinese people were stunned. They asked me to confront the policeman. The arrested boy was frightened because he had no legal status and he also worried that he could not survive upon release since the police might take revenge on him. Both the arrested and the arrester were Chinese. This was the first time that the Chinese policeman had done anything like this. Someone said, “If we don’t teach him a lesson now, he’ll be even worse in the future.” They thought that policeman was as bad as colonial police. When I confronted him for the first time, he was mad. But we could not blame him, he had gotten fired up. I was angry too.
I told him calmly, “I know you are very mad at this moment and very agitated. But let me tell you one thing. If the child you threw was my son, I would pull my gun out and shoot you. You are doing something very stupid; you’re not behaving like a police officer. If you don’t want to say you’re sorry and apologize for this act, I’ll make your life very difficult. Do you want all the reporters in front of the police station, and see your name in the newspaper? You’ll lose your job.” He said, “Fine, I apologize.” Then he closed the door and apologised to the child and his family. They all greeted at me. I wanted everything to be resolved peacefully. If he knows he was wrong, and he corrects his ways, that’s all I want. I don’t want to cause trouble for one person. If he lost his job and went on welfare, how would we benefit? We want a good community. We have to work together. Everybody will make some mistakes, right?”
Q: When was that?
Chiu: It happened a few years ago. Now we have community police officers and youth explorers. When youngsters see something happen, they immediately tell the police so that they can halt the crime and make an arrest. We have community days and sponsor the local precinct during community activities on important days like Christmas. We sent in gifts and gave out fingerprint kits, car detailing products and other things. These are events that improve the relationship between police and residents.
Q: How is the 5th precinct police station in Chinatown different from what it used to be? Is it still at the same location?
Chiu: The location is the same as 30 years ago. I have known some captains and lieutenants. They are nice people. Some of them are really nice to the Chinese, especially Ronald Lekos. He is Greek and took good care of the Chinese. There is also a Thomas Chen. In the future, we might have Michael Lau. I call him Captain Lau. He is a community officer at the Police Plaza.
Q: Would you say that you are very satisfied with the current police-civilian relationship?
Chiu: Speaking frankly, they could be even better, of course, with more funding and manpower.
Q: Mr. Chiu, you have children here. What hopes do you have for them?
Chiu: Frankly, Chinese people always say. “Children are insurance for old age.” But we can’t have that same expectation now. We say that child-rearing is educating elites now. I hope they gain academic knowledge while learning Chinese customs from their home. Then they can accomplish even more than us. We can’t control the result, because American education over-emphasizes liberty and democracy. And they overdo it, so that you can never completely… My elder son was a student in Binghamton University. He joined the National Guard Reserves and is learning to repair Black Hawk helicopters to prepare for a position as a crew chief. He also learned how to use machineguns. Last year, he taught the new soldiers to shoot. It is nice if he will contribute to our country. My hope is that he studies even better in the future.
My second son is a fresh man at Stony Brook University and he is a good student. He wants to be a scientist, not a money-maker. I hope he can be a distinguished scientist. It would also be good if he contributes to his family and himself.
Q: You have been living in the United States for such a long time. Now that 9/11 has happened, what do you think of the United States? Do you still think that United States is a good country?
Chiu: The United States is an excellent country. We should have democracy but not too extreme. If kids are allowed to have too much democracy or misuse democracy, a lot of things will happen, including cults, groups running money scams in the name of democracy and so on. We should not just sit here and do nothing. We should point out the risk.
Q: Do you have anything to add?
Chiu: I was going to ask you the same question. Sometimes I have so much to say that I could talk endlessly. I could talk for three days non-stop.
Q: Do you have any hopes for Chinatown?
Chiu: We have to live together and cooperate. We have to make Chinatown prosper by keeping peace and not arguing. We should not try to gain credit for what others do. Instead, we should work as a team and Chinatown will become better. We hope we can double our prosperity within three or five years and not wait another 30 years. If we are willing to cooperate and make Chinatown prosper, I believe we can do it and we will succeed.
Q: Thank you for your interview. Today is March 30th, 2004. This is the Chinatown Oral History Project of the Museum of Chinese in the Americas. The interviewee is Mr. William Chiu. The interviewer is me, I-ching Ng.
Chiu: Thank you.
(End of tape)
Chinatown Interview: Interview (zh)
<p> 知道為什麼林則徐在虎門銷毀鴉片？為什麼中國因為反對鴉片毒品而被英國攻打虎門？為什麼要割讓香港？後來因為清約而割讓香港，很憎日本人及英國人，英國人販毒，害我們中國人。那時也是很模糊，因為中國和台灣土地一大片，為什麼分左右派？覺得很無理，和很不合理，同時對英國政府有偏見：如果不是英國人殘害中國人，中國就不會這麼容易被打敗！中國人不會被日本人叫東亞病夫！ 所以我的尚武精神就開始了。</p>
<p> 我想既然中文不行，不能造醫生，我第二個愿望是要做商人，我要實踐，由低做起，我的中學畢業會考不合格，只有三至四科，不足五科。當時由我契媽（樊英）的老闆 Mr Gibson是美國人，原居地住在芝加哥，介紹我給他的生意合夥人顧文忠先生德信行的老闆，她一介紹，顧老闆就說：「好呀，你來吧！」，在德信行，由最低層做起，那間是德信國際貿易有限公司，是出口美國和加拿大的貿易公司，專門做羊毛衫，外銷英國、美國、加拿大及澳洲四個地方。其中我契媽的的老闆 MR GIBSON亦是大主顧之一，所以亦是對我另眼相看，算是有機緣。他說：「你來，自己看檔案，什麼都可以看。」但那時其實是不容許的，為什麼呢？ 朝早九時上班，我七時半就到寫字樓，逐個檔案去讀，沒有事就練打字，將一些文件重新打過，可能有些職員不滿，有三十多個職員，有些主任看見，不喜歡(like) 我的行為，問我：「你知不知道這是機密文件，你是不能看的。」我答道：「老闆叫我看，」主任就說：「既然老闆叫你看，那我們就不干涉，」</p>
<p> 在英國管治下很壓抑，就算是英國公民也只能算是二等公民，而且是分級地(classified)告訴你，你去英國還要簽證，那是一派胡言，承認你是英國人士，不，只是承認你用英籍人士，你是英國子民(British Subject)，不是英國人，他們的態度是歧視所有英籍子民，只有英國人才是英國人，我覺得沒有民主。其次我覺得英國是賊的國家，為什麼講這些？因為她是靠賣鴉片發達，為了利益侵略別人的國家，割別人的地，所以讀書時說，英國日不落國，以為很威風，後來看見英國人因為林則徐銷煙打中國人，另我憎恨英國。</p>
<p> 我在致美樓學做侍應生，致美樓在現在的Subway Deli，在東百老匯口、包厘及宰也街（Doyer）旁邊，右手第二或第三間是Subway，x福商場及旁邊的Subway Deli是屬於致美樓餐館的舊址，就是這間餐廳申請爸爸來美國，可以講我們一家人算是最幸運的一個家庭。</p>
<p> 1971年的的唐人街和現在的有天淵之別，Mott Street當時旺的程度，也不及現在這裡旺，只有兩三條街，移民的1971年到致美樓學做企枱(待應生)，也沒有工資，連來回兩程車票，都要自己出，那時地車剛剛漲價，一程要50美仙，現在是兩元了，我慣了早到，那是從香港來，在香港打工沒有遲到那回事，現在就麻煩了，4點多起床，6時到這裡。</p>
<p> 趙：現在住長島事多吉 (Setauket)，（Stony Brook）附近，快者1小時1刻，但塞車要4小時半才到。</p>
那位打鐵客人對我的態度很愕然便問：「為什麼你招呼這麼好，又有禮貌，會問候人，會添茶，會收碗。」我回答說：「因為你是這裡的客人，我是這裡的代表，是不是我應好好地招呼你？」他很愕然，「你不知道我不會給貼士？」我說：「這個不重要，你是客人我就要你滿意。你滿意就好了，你感覺舒服，就是我們的期望。」(As long as you enjoy yourself, this is what we are looking for.) 出奇地，結賬時他付20%的貼士(小費)，其他夥計說：「亞弟，你和我們打共產，」世事就是這樣奇，如你是新人他們會恰(欺壓你)，如果有用他們會拉攏你。</p>
第一間找工叫羅賓餐廳(Reuben)，以前是第一流餐廳，最著名芝士蛋糕 (cheese cake)和羅賓三文治(Reuben sandwiches)。我進去問工，他說：「對不起，我們沒有待應的空缺。」(Sorry, we don’t have any vacancy of a waiter.)我就說：有沒有收碗筷的 ？我也很在行。(How about bus boy？ Bus boy, I will be very good on it too. )</p>
<p> 他說：你願意做收碗筷的，可以的，我們也需要收碗筷的 。(Are you willing to be a bus boy？ That’s okay. You know we need bus boy too.)</p>
<p> 我說：可以，我就做收碗筷的，如果你有機會的時候，請升我做侍應生。(Okay, then I go and work as a bus boy. When you have a chance next time, you will promote me to be a waiter.) </p>
<p> 不要說中國人有自尊(pride)，外國人亦一樣，西班牙歸西班牙裔，黑人歸黑人、意大利人歸意大利，個個都會互相欺負。我覺得第一，我是新人，什麼都要讓人，如果他們太過份，要欺詐的時候要反抗。我曾經和波多黎各人(Puerto Rican)要交手了，為什麼呢？做 收碗筷的，每人一個站(station)的時候，他會搶你的東西拿去用，一句「借來一用」(Let me borrow it.)。</p>
<p> 我說：無問題，我們是朋友，團結工作，是不是？(No problem. We are friends. We will work together. We should cooperate as a team, right? ) </p>
<p> 但當你沒有的時候，他會說不要碰我們東西。(Don’t touch my stuff.)</p>
<p> 那也是可以的，我們不要吵架。(That’s okay too. We don’t want to fight. )但是下一次，你也不要借用我的東西，我學會你的一招。(Next time, don’t borrow my stuff too. I learnt fast.)</p>
<p> 到下次，你不讓他用，他說：「你說什麼？」(What are you talking about？)一拳就打在我的肚子上。</p>
<p> 我知道要讓人，不要打人，我說：「可以，但不要再打了。」(That’s okay. Don’t do it again.)他說：「打你又怎樣？」(So what？)<br>
我說：「我給你最後機會，不要再碰我。」(I give you a last chance. Don’t touch me again. ) 他又打一拳。三拳一出，我一個蔡李佛拳打回去，他整個人跌倒地上，他說：「對不起，趙先生。」(Ok, Mr. Chiu, I am sorry.)以後也不敢再欺負我了。</p>
<p> 我馬上叫部長(captain)出來，我說：是他先惹事，如他要打架，我奉陪，但你要當證人，如他被打死，不是我的錯。(If he wants to fight, I don’t mind. But you will be the witness. If he gets killed, it is not my problem. )他搭手，我一穿，我整件衣服也給他扯開，他是懂功夫的，但我不怕。如果我要打他，我要打到他不能站起來，但我要有證人。部長摑他一耳光，說：「做工想打架，你是不是找死。」就制止了一場戰爭，但他以後不敢碰我。同時，華人有三個，他也另眼相看，不敢惹我們。</p>
<p> 還有一件趣事，一名意大利侍應，做工時手指經常豎立，我說：「為什麼你那麼女兒態？你的手指為何經常豎起？ 」(How comes you are so feminine？ How come your finger always points out？ )</p>
<p> 他說：「不是，我受過傷，手指就這樣豎了起來，是永久的了。」(No, I hurt myself. Doctor said it’s stuck like this, forever. )</p>
<p> 他說：是的，我不會覺得痛。(Well, Okay I never feel pain.)</p>
<p> 我說：「這一次你會覺得痛，但如你可以，我會處理得好。」(This time you will. but if you can, I can handle it.)</p>
<p> 他說：不要講笑，如你可以醫好我，我會稱你為趙醫生。(Don’t be kidding. If you can fix it for me, I will call you Dr. Chiu.)</p>
<p> 我說：你肯定你不怕痛？(Are you sure you are not afraid of pain？)</p>
<p> 他說：不會，可以的。(No, Okay.)</p>
<p> 我盡人事，我說：給我你的手。(Give me your hands.)這些骨較，如果你曉得去弄的話，你不怕痛，很容易弄好的。</p>
<p>趙：我說：「給我你的手，是我的了，不要嘗試和我鬥力。」(Give me your hands. It’s mine Now. Don’t try to fight with me.)</p>
<p> 他很自然，放軟身體，完全給我弄。我轉多兩轉，揉兩揉，一扭。他說：噢，趙醫生，趙醫生！(Oh, Dr. Chiu, Dr. Chiu!)</p>
<p> 在那裡的趣事，不要叫人歧視自己，有人說時時被其他人歧視，(I am always discriminated by others. )我說：「不，你不會被歧視，沒有人可以歧視你，這是美國。」(No, if you don’t discriminate yourself, nobody would discriminate against you. This is America.)</p>
<p> 我曾經試過在地車(subway)，有個白人老人，我原本很尊老敬賢，但他說：你這骯髒的中國豬佬，不要坐在我的旁邊。(You dirty Chink pig. Don’t sit next to me.)</p>
<p> 我說：你以為你是誰，你這骯髒的豬！(What the hell you think you are. You dirty pig! )就一屁股撞回去。他當堂嚇至動也不敢動。</p>
<p> 我說不要歧視任何人，每個人都是平等的。(Don’t try to discriminate anybody. Everyone is equal. )</p>
<p> 我和爸爸到Port Washington幫人開餐館，由sketch開始(從零開始)，我教他們，由寫菜譜(set up menu)到管理(management)，爸爸教老闆做廚，我教老闆兒子做餐樓。之後他們懂得後，爸爸到麻州又幫助別人開新舖，爸爸在Port Washington收取月薪800元，在麻省也是取800元，我則由每月由1500元，去到那裡取1000元。就算少了工資也願意，因為我想和爸爸在一起，既可彌補父子的感情，又可以照顧爸爸。後來他自己到波士頓，他們只要廚師，我就回去紐約Rubin，見到它關了門，同事說就快開門，因為富敦經理(Fulton)和衛生局對罵，以為自己大過任何人， 誰不知官員一貼紙，整間餐館要關門，要清理後才可以重開，後來我幫他們開門，但其後生意一落千丈，差到不得了，一星期左右，爸爸問我：「這裡有個缺，你來不來？」我說好，就去，到麻省(諾盛頓市)Lexington，在北京園 (PEKING GARDEN) 那裡幫手做企枱。</p>
<p> 還有一段古，到華盛頓高地(Washington Heights)坐內陸(Continental巴士) 到波士頓 （Boston），等候巴士時曾差不多被打劫。我意欲避他，他卻逼近我，我蓄勢待發，幸虧巴士到站，我連隨跳上客車，避過一劫。</p>
<p> 我曾被劫兩次，第一次在1971年在致美樓做企枱，早上等致美樓開門，三個黑人，很肥很高大，扼我的頸，想拖我去樓梯邊，我雖然個子小，但很靈敏，我一盤手擋(block)回去，他在我前面，我鬆出來，扎馬準備還要打，他們卻說：「只是開開玩笑！」(Oh, just for fun.)，我覺得很奇怪，原來他們眼見前面有個警察站在我後面不遠處，我就對警察說：「這些人想打劫我！」(These people want to mob me.)<br>
警察卻說：「他們還沒有做什麼呢？」(They didn’t do anything yet.)我很激氣，叫「打劫！打劫！」卻沒有人理會，我很激氣，為什麼中國人不幫中國人？為什麼不團結起來？為什麼讓人欺負？這三個人一直盯著我，但沒有用，因為致美樓開門，我就進去做工，之後也沒有再見他們。</p>
<p> 很多時華人很多時被打劫，沒有人敢出聲，因為沒有自己的地位，以前在華人社區，根本上沒有人理會 (care for) 你。垃圾一大堆，污糟辣塌。更有人說華人愛拿救濟的身份，所以愛骯髒，但如果是真的話，華埠不會這麼繁榮，又增多了許多人。除了9/11以後慘很多，但比起32年前，華人能夠自強不息，什麼都自力更生，看看孔子大廈、且林士果廣場 (Chatham Square) 、且林士果．格林 (Chatham Green)、嘉華銀行，永明大廈都是好例子，是自己建築的，在顯利街 (Henry St.) 就有亨通大廈，陸續下去，華人本身有一個階段經濟飽和的時間。是的，9/11 害到華人很慘，故此中華公所、福建僑團、客屬僑團一起出來，一起推廣，希望能夠重新繁榮華埠。</p>
<p>趙：那時華埠很破爛，不若現在旺，32年從一個很陋習的地方發展為一個衛星城市，如不相信可走一走勿街 (Mott)、百老匯(Broadway)、東百老匯(East Broadway)，格蘭(Grand)街，賣菜、賣魚、賣肉、禮物店，是的，在9/11之後是差了一大截，9/11之後的兩三倍就是9/11之前的景象。當然，將來一直繁榮華埠，如更加見效，很需要聯邦政府，州政府，大家合作，作為一個團隊(as a team)，他們一起來這裡，那華埠會很好，也需要哈曼頓下城發展公司(LMDC)、我愛紐約(I Love New York)、帝國州發展局(Empire State)等一直幫忙，<br>
是的，人力財力可能不足，我的看法是羊毛出在羊身上，不要說要拿很多救濟，我們要想幫到多些，以華人的精神，自強不息，自力更生，夥同 (partner) 一起作團隊 (as a team)，完滿地將華人的地位提升。</p>
<p>(Side 2 of tape)<br>
<p> 但剛剛開始時，爸爸因心臟病過世，他在美國不足三年就過世了。當時店中的重任放在我的身上，我要主外又要主內，本身起初時，不會煮菜，在香港明愛青年中心，曾做籌款，有幾度菜做得不錯，是爸媽教導的。在這裡，跟了爸爸一段時候，不是完全懂得煮，在美國沒有人，除了爸爸幾個好朋友以外，什麼人也不認識，什麼都要自己去闖，咬緊牙關，第一做到自力更生。在美國30年來，爸爸的宗旨是希望我們接受美國教育，將來有些前途，第二希望發展比在香港好，由於這兩點，30年來，由最困難的時候，我沒有接受過政府一毛錢的救濟，政府也提供 (offer) 過，但我們沒有接受，因為不是為拿這些，因為要自己奮鬥，爸爸說，自己做出來的事物，吃得特別甜。我一直抱著這個宗旨。</p>
我們早期未能領會這點，直至我做這間餐館，保險公司的經理是我餐館的客戶，他問：「為什麼不見那個肥佬 (他不知道是我爸爸) 煮東西？」提起這些傷心的事情，我說他是我們的爸爸，已經過世。他說：「噢！對不起，噢，有沒有買人壽保險呢？」(Oh, sorry. Oh, does he have any life insurance?) 我說沒有，我們不相信這些，他問：「為什麼不買?」(Why not?) 我說在香港很多人沒有這些興趣，不信這些。我們再談話講及這些理念及理想，他就講了一句，令我覺得好似被打了一大拳，他說：「如果你和爸爸都相信這些保險，又買了一份，最起碼他可以實現他的理想，而你可以做些你喜歡的事情。」這句說話擊中我的要害。我問：「但是，誰會知道你們的保險，真正有得賠償？」他亦很客觀地說，我亦不要你馬上相信我的話，你可以抽時間下來我的公司，自己查證一下，聽下及問下。我覺得有理由，我就去他公司查問了三個月，然後同意去考保險師牌照。</p>
<p> 當時有30多個學生，好像只有我一個有問題，我的問話很刁鑽，由頭問到腳，我每次都說：「可能我蠢一點，但我不明白，希望你能解釋給我聽。」導師說：「你不蠢，其實你是最聰明的一個，個個你以為他們明白，但他們扮懂，但其實不懂(pretend that they know but they don’t.)」於是30多人之中只有3個考到牌，包括我。導師(trainer)說，我不是告訴過你嗎？ (Did I tell you something？)我說他說得對。(You are right.)其他都肥佬 (不合格)，三個考到之中，只有我一個做了30年。人生真的很難說。</p>
<p> 華埠將來當然更加好，但我們需要聯邦政府、州政府、市政府來和我們一起工作，(work as a team)來華埠幫手，華埠才可以重建，才能夠做得更加好。我們發覺到政府都是有這種心意，希望華埠的商家，能夠和所有願意和華埠合作的人，將華埠的精要點，完全可以上到網頁(internet)，讓我們的子孫見到，可以在華埠看到我們的輝煌歷史，在慘淡的時候，看到我們的掙扎，奮鬥；和他們做生意，讓他們明白中國人的文化，給好榜樣給外國人看，</p>
<p>趙：可以這麼說，我在1974年爸爸過世，1975年4月28日開始和紐約人壽正式簽約，在福州人當中，只有倆人，我是其中之一。當時簽約以為做20年，便可以退休，其實沒有可能退休，拿到資深代理（Senior Nylic Agent）好難將客戶棄之不理，唯有再做，30年拿到高級拿到資深代理（Post Senior Nylic Agent），但做到那時，更難將客戶棄之不理，所以，要做到死的一天為止。</p>
<p>趙：9/11對保險業影響很大，除了紐約人壽保險以外，因公司批准我，可以做商業保險，及家庭房產保險，所以我也銷售物業及傷亡、家居、責任，及保証險(property and casualty, homeowner, liability and bonds)。除紐約人壽外，投資、共同基金、退休基金(investment, mutual fund、IRA)、連車、屋、布、廠房、車衣廠、工傷保險，工病保險、別人需要的保証險(bonds)，我全部都有。20年前，到華埠，第一個地方租永明大廈，十年以後，租宰也(Doyers)街11號，到現在來到這一邊。</p>
<p> 為什麼中間少了一段時間？因為我在外州及石溪 (Stony Brook) 附近的事多吉（Setauket）做餐館。</p>
<p>趙：9/11對保險業影響，尤其是物業及傷亡科(p&c，property and casualty)影響重大，因為9/11倒塌後的樓宇，付出的要賺回來，很多人因為生意做不來，保險費又貴，有些人說：「現在食也保不住，如何保，不保了，搏一搏，做得不來就關門。」生意難做，因為保費貴，貴就寧願不買了。</p>
<p> 趙：貴很多，兩三年漲的保險費升了40至50%，每年升10至20%，加起來要40至50%，因為損失了的錢始終要取回，籌集(recruit) 所有的錢，所以生意不好做，但，是不是完全沒有了？那又不是，在別的地方補回來。如人壽保險反而好做，因為人們清楚明白，無端端不可預知的，我當時預備過橋，看著它一直倒塌，好慘，眼淚一直留下來，覺得沒有可能，但是發生了。</p>
<p> 如果你不同意，你可以看看，以新華僑為計，你可以去東百老匯看看，9/11之後，華埠有沒有沉過？你可以去看看，要做的，不單是東百老匯(East Broadway)簡單，別的地方也很重要，你說珠寶行業、禮品行業、餐館行業，如果沒有外面的人來到這裡，華埠就很傪了。</p>
<p> 現在政府已研究在那裡做，哥倫布公園(Columbus Park)已放在名單之內，希望能夠成功通過，以哥倫布公園為一個，我夠膽說：華埠的泊車(parking)、聯邦政府、州政府、市政府的公務員的泊車(parking)，完全可以不需擔心，沒有爭議。我們做事，一定要做要一針見血，不要馬虎，張冠李戴，其實很多事做得不對。我覺得哥倫布泊車(Columbus Parking) 一層可以泊到300至400輛車，如果全面興建停車場七、八、九、十層，<br>
<p>趙：旅遊生意，從1971年開始做，做到現在，起初剛到的時候，只做了一陣子，後來來到這一邊，在長島的事多吉(Setauket)做，到後來買了回來，我們到華埠時，也沿用Setauket Travel，因為Setauket是鄉下名，中文名則叫六鳳，為什麼叫六鳳？ 因為六鳳是我爸爸出生的家鄉，中文名不變，後到在華埠就英文名叫「華埠旅遊」(Chinatown Travel)。</p>
<p>趙：其實也不是這般容易，因為以前的海員有通行證(pass)，他們用通行證上了岸就不回去，所以叫跳船，以前除了這個方法之外，也沒有很多其他方法，所以大部份都是跳船來。因為他們在裡面做工，作為一個水手或一個海員(as a seaman, sailor or as a crew)，或者在廚房幫手，運貨等，所以等來到美國時逃走，就不返回去船。很少在船上跳入海，然後游泳，入來，並不是這個意思。</p>
都留下來，不回去。其實都是其中一個轉變身份的方法，或者你或是很有錢，可以旅遊簽證入境，或做生意取綠卡，也好，也沒有錯。(It’s good. Nothing wrong with that.) 如果是其他人，沒有這麼優厚的條件，變了用適合自己的方法。</p>
終於我外公問我媽媽一句，「如果我死了，你會如何處置我的遺體？」我媽媽說：「如果你喜歡，你在這裡陪我的丈夫。」外公說：「不可以，這裡太靜，我要回去。」媽說：「你不用現在趕著回去，你留在這裡，我答應你如你百年歸老，我送你回去。」外公說：「如果到時你不送我回去，我又怎樣？我在那裡比較熱鬧些，」他堅持一定要返回中國，他說我們落地歸根也是好的。老人家已經80多歲，留在這裡，只望著天，對著四度牆，雖然我們住在二層歐式住宅 (colonial) ，家中也不算小，有前後花園走動，但老人家也不習慣。他便和我外婆回去，兩年之後，我外公他老人家過身了，已經是90多歲。我和媽媽回去為他做喪事，那時我正在外州(西維吉尼亞州 West Virginia) 公司為我們召開最高層會議，也要向公司請假趕回來，陪媽媽到中國辦喪事，事後再回來美國。現在我外婆仍健在，她亦來過美國2,3次，她又覺得悶，又回去中國。</p>
<p> 我們和社區做的事，最大的有重開格蘭街地車站(Grand Street Station)，到最後，我要求一條巴士線由格蘭街車站(Grand St. Station)到DeKalb Ave. ，不需乘客周圍(到處)走，周圍轉車。最後他們都做到。做曼哈頓橋，本來說要八年的長時間，縮到現在兩年，格蘭街地車站(Grand Street Station)就通車了。所以幫手做的事，都有好的結果。</p>
<p> 我也希望另外一個計劃──第二大道的地車站儘快點建成，盡快開始越好，對繁榮華埠是一個很大幫忙。32年來，我們華埠沒有正式的車站，如在來了華埠是一大方便，在勿街頭（Mott），東百老匯 (East Broadway) 與袙道（Park Row）頭的角落，只要在東百匯、袙道頭地下鑿一個洞在那裡就可以了，地車就在下面，希望能夠越快開就越好，能夠繁榮華埠。</p>
<p> 我很平淡跟他說：「我知道你現在很氣，氣上心頭，但我要告訴你，如果你今日擲的是我的兒子，我會拔槍打死你，你做了一些很愚蠢的的事，是警官不應該做的，如果你不道歉，我會令你不好過，所有的記者就在警察局門前面，你要不要在明日的報紙上刊登你的名字，包括紐約時報？你也會失去工作，他說：「好，我就道歉。」他關上門就向當事人一家道歉，他們都向我喝采，我希望和平解決，而不是鬥爭，他知道自己有錯，知錯能改，就是我想做到的，我不想釘死一個人，如使他失業，領救濟，又為了什麼？ 我們要一個好的社區，共同合作，每個人都會犯錯，對不對？<br>
(I know you are very mad at this moment and very excited. But let me tell you one thing. If the child you threw is my son, I will pull my gun and shoot you. You are doing something very stupid, not supposed to do by an officer. If you don’t want to say a sorry and apologize for this act. I am going to put you down.” He tried to confront me. I told him, wait a moment, I let you open the door and let you see what kind of weapons we have. All the reporters are at the front door. Do you want me to put you on all the newspaper tomorrow including New York Times? And you will lose your job too. He said, “Alright, I will apologize.” Then he closed the door and apologized to the victim and family. They all greeted at me. I want them to be at peace, not fight. As long as he knows he is wrong. He corrects it. This is what I am looking for. I don’t want to nail one person. And he loses his job and goes for welfare, for what？ We want a good community. We have to work together. Everybody will make some mistakes, right?)</p>
尤其是當奴．力高 (Ronald Lekos) ，他是希臘裔，對華人更加愛護，很幫華人。我們有個陳文業。可能將來有位劉家和(Michael Lau)，我現稱他為劉警長(Captain Lau)，現在警察總局做公共關係科。</p>
<p> 我的大兒子在兵咸頓大學(Binghamton University)唸書，他是後備的國民防衛軍(National Guard Reserve)，正在學修理直昇機 (Black Hawk)，因為他有意在軍區當 (crew chief) , 這職位要曉得修理整架直昇機，和使用直昇機內的機關槍。去年教新丁用槍射擊，將來幫到國家也很不錯，亦希望他將來讀書更好。</p>