June 30, 2022

Summer Trips for 2022

By Leonard Chan (except where noted)

Ahh, summer is here and I’m sitting at home thinking about the places I’d like to check out if I had the time.

This is our latest installment in our AAPI related summer travel series (checkout the prior years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2021; please note there are still a lot of broken links, sorry about that).

I was recently browsing the book “Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now.” In one map, the book listed places of interest/significance for AAPIs. One location listed was the Morro Bay plaque marking the landing of Filipinos in California in 1587.

To my surprise, they had Morro Bay as being north of San Francisco (note that we sold our copies of the book and I didn’t have time to follow-up on what I thought was a glaring mistake). I was very familiar with this site because I wrote about it for our 2006 summer trips article. I went to find the plaque not long after and took some pictures of it (I can’t find my photos, but if you do a google search, you can see other people’s photos).

It’s been 16 years since I covered that location. Because of the time that has passed and from research that I have uncovered over the years, I thought I’d revisit (if only in words) a few of the locations we’ve covered in the previous articles. The Morro Bay location is one destination and the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut, is another (I mentioned this school in our last newsletter about Humehume as well as in the 2007 summer trips article). Two other locations, one in Hawaii (Waiola Shave Ice) and the other in Oregon (Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site) were graciously shared with me by our other editors Philip Chin and Susan Tanioka.

The Commemoration Plaque Marking the First Arrival of Filipino in America

(Morro Bay, CA)

If you read our 2006 article, you’ll see that the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) placed a plaque near Morro Rock commemorating the first recorded landing of Filipinos in what is now the continental United States.

For years now, I’ve been telling people that this was also the first recorded arrival of Japanese to America too. Not much is known about the Japanese member of the Pedro de Unamuno Expedition except that he was being brought to Europe by Fr. Martin Ignacio de Loyola to show off his new young Christian convert to the King of Spain. According amateur Filipino American historian Hector Santos the Japanese boy did make it all the way to Acapulco and thus California too. 

The original English translation (by H. R. Wagner) of the Spanish reports from the Unamuno Expedition can be found in a 1923 publication of the California Historical Society Quarterly that is now reproduced online (here’s the link to the article).

Interestingly, the next galleon coming from the Philippines, the Santa Ana, also contained Japanese travelers – Christopher and Cosmas. Those two were better known. They were possibly being taken to Europe as candidates for the priesthood. Although these two probably didn’t set foot in California (they sailed down the California coast like most of the Spanish galleons would continue to do), they did have an amazing adventure with an English privateer (Thomas Cavendish) that resulted in their journey to England instead of Spain.

What this proves is that other Asians were also traveling with the Spaniards during the Galleon trading period (check out Hector Santos’ account of the sacking of the Santa Ana – he says there were 60 non-Spaniards on board).

If you go to this location, it’s a little hard to find the Pedro de Unamuno Expedition plaque. Don’t be fooled by the other plaque in the parking lot by Morro Rock. The plaque is in or near Coleman Park (here’s a Google Map link; note that I didn’t have Google maps when I went to visit it back then, so I was a bit lost). I remember nearly giving up and then stopped by the parking lot in Coleman Park and discovering the plaque near there. Judging by the posted photos in Google Maps, it looks like the rock may have been moved to face towards Morro Bay and Morro Rock instead of the power plant.

When you’re standing by the Morro Bay plaque it’s not that impressive of a destination, but it’s more of a thing of the imagination. Take in the natural beauty of the area and imagine all of the people that traveled to the West Coast from Asia (going back at least 435 years ago). Imagine a California without all the buildings and being one of the first non-natives to see the pristine wild landscape.

Foreign Mission School

(Cornwall, CT)

Back in 2007, when I wrote about the Foreign Mission School, I revealed that Pacific Islanders and Asians were among the students being educated at this school in the early 1800s. Even though there was quite a bit of information known about some of the Hawaiian and Native American students, like Humehume, I could not find much about the Asian students.

Since I wrote that article, Yale historian John Demos wrote a book about the school called “The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic.” In his book, Demos gives us much more details include the names and partial background of a few of the Asian students.

One of the interesting artifacts described is a keepsake booklet, a “friendship album,” given to the teenage daughter of an “agent” (probably like a board member or financial supporter or both) for the school. Her name was “Cherry” (possibly a nickname) Stone and the book was made by Henry Martyn A’lan, a Chinese student from Whampoa, China (now a subdistrict of the city Guangzhou or Canton). Whampoa was the main anchorage for foreign trade ships in Southern China prior to Hong Kong. So perhaps A’lan came from a different nearby village (like many Chinese travelers of that era).

A’lan’s name was obviously not his actual Chinese name. Most of the students had anglicized names (one interesting image in Demos’ book is of a class ledger from 1819 that had the a column with student’s names next to a column with native names; A’lan is not listed).

The friendship album has writings from at least a dozen different students, but A’lan had multiple entries and even wrote some in Chinese characters and drawing. A’lan’s writing clearly showed his fondness for Cherry and may have even had a romantic connotation.

Not much else is known or mentioned about A’lan except that he probably returned to China and was seen as a disappointment by the founders of the school (the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions or ABCFM) because he didn’t carry on their missionary goals.

 John Demos’ book also names other Asians including William Alum (also from Whampoa), John Windall from Bengal, John Johnson from Calcutta, Arnold Krygsman from Malaya, and others. It’s a very fascinating read and I’ve only read a small portion of the book. If you’re headed to Cornwall, Connecticut, definitely pickup a copy of Demos’ book to read on your journey.

Here is some information for this destination – 

The Cornwall Historical Society (7 Pine Street, Cornwall, CT 06753) currently has an exhibit called “Small Town, Tiny School, Big Impact: The Foreign Mission School, 1817–1826” (Open from June 25 – Oct. 15, 2022 ).

The last remaining building of the Foreign Mission School, the Steward's House (14 Bolton Hill Rd., Cornwall, CT 06753; a short walk from the Cornwall Historical Society), was designated as a national historic landmark in 2016.

Here’s another article on the Henry and Cherry “friendship book” by Karen Sanchez-Eppler.

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site

(John Day, OR)

By Philip Chin

In September 1888, Ing "Doc" Hay and his business partner, Long On, bought a building in John Day, Oregon, and opened up a general store named Kam Wah Chung after the previous owner. The store sold imported and canned goods and sundries to local Chinese and whites. In the back they sold opium, which was seen as medicinal by medical authorities around the world until it was banned as an over the counter medication in the United States in 1909.

The building also served as a social center, hiring hall, and Buddhist place of worship for the Chinese population of eastern Oregon. The building, being a former trading post and temporary fort built in the late 1860s, was solidly built of stone with strong shutters over the windows and a reinforced metal door.

That such protection was needed was evidenced by the experience of the neighboring town of Canyon City, Oregon, just a mile north of John Day. In 1885, this community, then the largest Chinatown in the region, was burned to the ground, probably by arsonists motivated by the strong racial hatred of Chinese prevalent in America at the time. The Canyon City government refused to allow the Chinatown to be rebuilt and the Chinese residents moved to John Day, making it the largest Chinese community in eastern Oregon. Nevertheless the John Day Chinese community only numbered between 500 to 600 and perhaps up to 1000 at its peak in the 1880s before dwindling to less than 100 after the gold ran out around 1890. Eastern Oregon remained sparsely populated throughout the 19th and early 20th Centuries and Chinese labor soon became cherished in the region even while it was violently attacked in other areas of the country and in western Oregon. Workers were just too rare to let racism stand in the way of the work that needed to be done and local officials made it clear that they would not tolerate Chinese persecution because of that. Nevertheless the stoutness of the walls of the Kam Wah Chung building must have been appreciated as the remnants of a bullet hole in the door and local lore indicates drunken cowboys or "buckaroos" as they were known locally weren't adverse to trying to "hurrah" or scare the Chinese.

Ing Hay gained respect for being a pulse doctor and herbalist. As a traditional Chinese pulse doctor he always wore a glove on his right hand and never picked anything up with it to protect his sensitivity. He would diagnose a patient's condition by laying his bare right hand on the patient's wrist and diagnose their condition from their pulse. Then he would prescribe Chinese herbs bought from San Francisco and imported from Hong Kong. Over 500 different herbal ingredients were found in the building after his death.

Ing Hay's nephew deeded the Kam Wah Chung Company Building to the town of John Day in 1955 and sealed it up, leaving it as it had been left by Ing Hay. It was only in 1967 though that John Day discovered this fact and decided to restore the building to how it looked in the 1940s. The Kam Wah Chung Company Building was enrolled in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior in 2005. It is regarded as one of the finest surviving examples of a Chinese apothecary shop of the 19th and early 20th Century still in existence and is the only building left of the once thriving Chinatown in John Day.

For more information, go to the Oregon State Park’s web page for the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site.

Google Map to the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site

Waiola Shave Ice

(Honolulu, HI)

By Susan Tanioka

Whenever I travel to Honolulu, one of the first places I check out after checking into my hotel is Waiola Shave Ice off of Kapahulu Avenue (3113 Mokihana St, Honolulu, HI 96816). A trip to Waiola shave ice is a requirement every single day we are in Honolulu. There is very little parking but it’s worth a short walk to get to the stand. There are lots of homemade flavors, but my family and I usually order strawberry, lychee, lilikoi, li-hing, or Thai tea flavors. You can add ice cream, azuki beans, or mochi, be we usually get ours unadulterated. When we can’t decide, we order 2 or 3 flavors and dig into a sumptuous colorful cone of ice. We sit in the shade of umbrella tables and relish the cold sweetness. We always stay at a hotel at the Diamond Head end of the Waikiki strip with easy access to Kapahulu Ave.

If we happen to be out and about closer to downtown, we make the stop at Waiola Shave Ice on Waiola Street just off McCully Street (2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826). This is an old corner store with much worn cement floors that extend right onto the sidewalk. This location has a much needed parking lot to accommodate the visitors suffering from shave ice withdrawal. You should wear pants or shorts at this one. There are benches around the outside and you should sit so that any ice that falls won’t spill on you or your clothes but hit the ground.

We are such shave ice addicts, we schedule our flight home so that we can make one last stop for our last treat just as the store opens for the day before heading to the airport.

My dad might have been responsible for our love of shave ice. After church and lunch on Sunday afternoons, he enjoyed driving around exploring and would ask his four kids if anyone wanted to go for a ride. We’d always go on one condition, “Are we going to get shave ice?” we’d yell. The answer was always, “Yes.” So we piled into the car and went exploring. We’d always stop at Ala Moana Park where the shave ice trucks were cranking out the sweet cold ice. As far as I knew that was the only place one could get the treat when I was a kid.

I’ve tried shave ice in Hilo where it’s known as ice shave, but our favorite spots have closed and I haven’t found one that can compare to Waiola. I haven’t been to the other islands lately but I’d love to try shave ice on Maui or Kauai, just to compare. Do you have a favorite shave ice or ice shave place in Hawaii?