Frank and Jennie (Chong) Jue

Western Neighborhoods Project

Interview with Frank and Jennie (Chong) Jue

October 15, 2005

Woody LaBounty,
Interviewer

LaBounty: We're going to talk about the Richmond District. You probably know that the best. I don't know if you had any time in the Sunset or other parts of the western parts of San Francisco.

Jennie Jue: Sunset only, when she moved out.

Mary Jue: (one of Frank and Jennie's daughters) And near where your dad lived.

Jennie Jue: Yes.

LaBounty: The date today is October 15, 2005.

Jennie Jue: The day that the museum [M.H. de Young Museum] opens.

LaBounty: That's right.

Jennie Jue: And what are we doing here? [laughs] We should be over there.

LaBounty: It would be a little crowded today. It's hard to see the art.

Jennie Jue: But it's free.

LaBounty: I'm here with Frank and Jennie Jue. What was your maiden name?

Jennie Jue: Chong.

LaBounty: You've lived in the Richmond District, you two, for how long now?

Jennie Jue: '58. Before Geoff was born.

LaBounty: About '58 you came out here, and Geoff was your son?

Jennie Jue: Geoff is our son.

LaBounty: How many children do you have?

Jennie Jue: We have nine, but he was the third. After having two, we decided we need a bigger space.

LaBounty: So you had two. Where were you living then?

Jennie Jue: Chinatown. Apartment.

LaBounty: So you had kids in an apartment in Chinatown, and you said, "Well, we need a little more space."

Jennie Jue: Right, because we were expecting our third one.

LaBounty: What made you look out in the Richmond District?

Jennie Jue: Well, we were looking, actually, in other areas, but in that time and era, we were advised not to buy in certain areas because of neighbor animosity and stuff like that.

LaBounty: Which areas were those, do you remember?

Frank Jue: It was the southern part of town in San Francisco. They developed some new areas there.

Jennie Jue: We were looking into newer homes at that time.

Frank Jue: So we thought, "This is a nice little house," and started talking a little seriously, and they said that, "I don't think you'll be very comfortable here, sir," and that kind of thing.

LaBounty: Was it the realtors giving you that?

Jennie Jue: Yes.

LaBounty: So they're saying because you're Chinese American.

Jennie Jue: Right.

Frank Jue: Whatever.

LaBounty: But they tried to make it sound like it was more you wouldn't be comfortable rather than the neighbors.

Jennie Jue: Right. [laughs] And I was in no mood to fight it.

LaBounty: So you didn't have that experience out here?

Jennie Jue: No, we didn't. In fact, when we first moved out here, there weren't too many Chinese out here. It was quite a cosmopolitan area and we had everything and everyone here. A lot of Irish, a scattering of Chinese, a lot of Russians.

Frank Jue: Russians. A good mix.

Jennie Jue: So it was very nice. It was a good mix.

LaBounty: It was already sort of a cosmopolitan neighborhood.

Jennie Jue: Right. So it was nice.

LaBounty: There were some Chinese American families out here, but not---

Jennie Jue: There were some, not a whole lot.

Frank Jue: [inaudible]. [laughs]

Jennie Jue: In fact, we used to have to go down to Chinatown every week just to buy groceries, because they just don't have the Chinese markets out here. But now it's almost like a second Chinatown out here.

LaBounty: It's changed a lot.

Jennie Jue: Oh yes.

Frank Jue: Oh yes.

LaBounty: A more Asian feel in the Richmond District these days.

Jennie Jue: Yes, but a mix.

LaBounty: So it was a big trip; every week you'd have to go down to Chinatown to get groceries.

Jennie Jue: Yes.

LaBounty: Anything else that you'd have to leave the neighborhood to get back then?

Jennie Jue: No, not really. We shopped locally, except for the Chinese stuff, and we go down to Chinatown.

LaBounty: I've interviewed other people who said that they might have moved out to the west part of town, but their social life was still very much in Chinatown.

Jennie Jue: Well, not so much us, because we kind of concentrate on our family, except I think for the first few years we still go up to church up in Chinatown.

LaBounty: Which church did you go to there?

Jennie Jue: St. Mary's.

LaBounty: The big one there?

Jennie Jue: No. The mission.

Frank Jue: The one on Stockton Street. The school there. That's where she went to school, too.

Jennie Jue: Yes, because we grew up there and all our friends were there, you know, and things like that.

LaBounty: You still had a connection to that church.

Jennie Jue: Yes, we still have a lot. In fact, we still do. We still go down and volunteer once a week now.

LaBounty: Do you go to Star of the Sea now?

Jennie Jue: Yes. Star of the Sea is our parish church now.

LaBounty: How did you make that transition to stop going to church there, even though you still have connection, and start going to Star of the Sea?

Jennie Jue: Because the children start going to school at Star of the Sea, so that became our family, but we still have a connection down in---in other words, we're supporting both. [laughs]

LaBounty: Two parishes.

Jennie Jue: Right.

LaBounty: So the decision to send your kids to Star of the Sea, did all of them go to Star of the Sea?

Jennie Jue: All of them went to Star of the Sea.

LaBounty: Because it was the parish school?

Jennie Jue: It was the parish school and they have a family plan also, which helped us out a lot.

LaBounty: So you could get a discount on tuition if you had kids that are already there.

Jennie Jue: Right.

Frank Jue: It has a certain formula.

Jennie Jue: Yes. That really helped.

LaBounty: You must have used what the lowest formula can be with nine kids, right?

Jennie Jue: It seemed like forever there's a Jue in one of the classes.

LaBounty: There were other large families in the neighborhood, too, I guess.

Jennie Jue: Yes. Like I said, this was an Irish parish, so there were a lot of large Irish families. So we don't feel out of place at all.

LaBounty: Having a big family.

Jennie Jue: Right.

LaBounty: I remember the Flynns lived down the street.

Jennie Jue: Yes, the Flynns.

LaBounty: They had a number of kids.

Jennie Jue: Was it ten or nine? Ten, I think.

Frank Jue: Ten, maybe.

LaBounty: Ten children.

Frank Jue: And the Looks had six.

Jennie Jue: Yes, but the Looks are not Catholics; Chinese. The Flynns and then the Murphys.

Frank Jue: All Irish.

Jennie Jue: All Irish.

Mary Jue: The Gleasons.

Jennie Jue: The Gleasons on 10th Avenue. Yes. They're all good Catholics. [laughs]

LaBounty: So there must have been a lot of kids running around. You had nine in your house, but I'd think the streets would be full of kids back then with all the families.

Jennie Jue: Yes, but our children never play out in the street.

Frank Jue: They have.

Jennie Jue: They have, but they're not out there unsupervised. Most of the time you guys are in the back here.

Mary Jue: You mean fourteen-year-old Greg was out there watching us. That's how we were supervised.

Jennie Jue: Right.

Mary Jue: We actually spent a great deal of our time out there. After dinner or right after we've done our homework, we were playing baseball. Sometimes we'd even go to the park without any adults, until dark.

Frank Jue: Throwing the football on the street, hit the neighbor's car door.

Jennie Jue: But I don't mean, when you were little, being out on the street.

Mary Jue: We would sometimes. There were always older kids with us.

LaBounty: The nice thing about having a big family, I guess, is you've got a lot of babysitters or you kind of set up, right, the older kids looking after the younger kids.

Jennie Jue: Right, right. You hardly notice it at all after a certain number. [laughs]

LaBounty: You've got a few babysitters set up in the beginning and then they take over.

Jennie Jue: You have to spend a lot of time with the first few and then the rest is easy.

LaBounty: You stayed at home with the kids, I guess, nine of them.

Jennie Jue: Right.

LaBounty: What sort of work did you do, Frank?

Frank Jue: I was an engineer working for the Navy, Hunter's Point Shipyard. After our second child, then we moved out of Chinatown and moved here.

Jennie Jue: And we've been here ever since.

LaBounty: And you had to go all the way to Hunter's Point for work every day?

Frank Jue: Oh yes, every day.

LaBounty: Did you drive?

Frank Jue: Carpool. Had a few people in the same area, so we picked each other up and take turns driving maybe once or twice a week.

Jennie Jue: So it worked out fine, and he's home by 4:30 every day. I look forward to that time. [laughs] He opens the door and I flop. "Take them!"

LaBounty: So you take over with the nine kids when you got home from work?

Frank Jue: I pretend to, anyway. [laughs]

Jennie Jue: "Take 'em!"

LaBounty: What must this house have been like with so many people in it running around? Was it hard to figure out bedroom space and bathrooms and all of that?

Jennie Jue: No. As a matter of fact, we only had one and a half bathroom at that time. Somehow it worked out.

Mary Jue: A system of making a line. As we woke up, we'd get in line on the steps.

Jennie Jue: [laughs] Not quite that bad.

Mary Jue: [inaudible]

LaBounty: Did you two come from large families?

Jennie Jue: I came from a family of six. He came from a family of four.

Frank Jue: Two boys and two girls.

Jennie Jue: It's just that we're good Catholics. [laughs] The next one I'm going to send to the pope.

LaBounty: Let's talk a little bit about the neighborhood. We were just talking before we taped this about how the real estate prices seem so high here. Did it feel that way when you moved here in '58 or did it seem like reasonable prices?

Jennie Jue: Well, at that time I think when we bought the house we couldn't sleep for three days because we were "Did we do the right thing?" I mean, "How can we afford this?" And we only paid, what---

Frank Jue: Sixteen---

Jennie Jue: About 17,000 for this house, and we were worried.

LaBounty: '58.

Jennie Jue: Yes, but '58, you weren't making much, and here you're starting a family and all the expenses connected to it. Yes, we were worried.

LaBounty: And now it doesn't seem---

Jennie Jue: We're still worried. [laughs] The thing is, we can't move out. Where are we going to move to?

LaBounty: You can sell your house for a million-something dollars.

Jennie Jue: Yes, but so what?

LaBounty: But what are you going to be able to buy?

Jennie Jue: Right.

LaBounty: Did you grow up in San Francisco, in Chinatown?

Jennie Jue: Yes.

Frank Jue: Born in San Francisco, yes.

Jennie Jue: We were born and raised there.

LaBounty: Did your parents grow up in San Francisco, or did they come from---

Jennie Jue: No, my parents immigrated.

Frank Jue: Same. When I was a youngster, my father, who was a motion picture producer, went to Hong Kong to start a new studio back then, and then after a year or so he sent the family back there, so if it weren't for the war with Japan, I would have probably stayed there, grew up there.

LaBounty: In Hong Kong.

Frank Jue: Kowloon, actually.

Jennie Jue: But because of the war, they came back; the family came back, anyway.

LaBounty: Do you remember any of that, coming back?

Frank Jue: Yes, I remember it pretty well, because him being in the motion picture industry, he took a lot of pictures, so I have all that to refresh my memory of the times when we were back there, the studio. He was one of the pioneers who went back from here to there to open the motion picture studio and produce motion pictures. He actually became producer, director, cinematographer, and so forth, jack-of-all-trades, just to get started. He had very good financial backing because my grandfather was a relatively known person in Chinatown, so he has a lot of influence in getting people to become shareholders and all that, so my dad started that way.

LaBounty: What was your dad's name?

Frank Jue: Joseph Sunn Jue.

LaBounty: Do you remember coming back and the idea of going back to the United States?

Frank Jue: Yes, because of the war with Japan then, they started to bomb Hong Kong, so we came back in '39, just when they had the first World's Fair here. We were considered pretty lucky to have a chance to even get out of that horrible situation.

So after we got back here, then my dad, of course, came back and decided that he has to continue his expertise of producing motion pictures, so he started doing it in Chinatown on Ross Alley there, rented a warehouse and made a lot of 16-millimeter motion pictures, Chinese motion pictures. In the meantime, he had some backing from my grandfather, who was fairly well-to-do at the time, so he started a movie theater in Chinatown.

LaBounty: What was the name of it?

Frank Jue: Grand View Theater on Jackson Street right below Stockton. The marquee is still there, but it's an apartment building now. In fact, we lived in that building for a while after it was built. We moved into that building there.

LaBounty: So your grandfather was sort of an influential person in Chinatown and he kind of helped your father get the business going in Chinatown.

Frank Jue: Right.

LaBounty: I bet in Hong Kong it was a bigger---more facilities, maybe.

Frank Jue: Right. He decided, well, the industry's there, Chinese motion pictures, so you can't do it over here, so he decided to go back to China in about 1936 or something like that, just himself first, then after a couple of years the rest of the family moved back there, intending to stay, until the war came in '39, so we came back here. He decided to still continue his motion picture business by setting up some sort of a studio inside Chinatown.

LaBounty: In Ross Alley.

Frank Jue: Yes. And using 16-millimeter, by the way. He couldn't use the 35-millimeter films, flammable and all that. So he started making 16-millimeter motion pictures, being the director, producer, and scriptwriter and all that, jack-of-all-trades. So he made a fairly good success of it, and with the help of my grandfather, who had a lot of influence by that time with Chinese investors and all that, so they contributed enough to have them build a theater in Chinatown to show the movies that he has been making. Also by that time the war is over and they started shipping other movies over, so he was the---I think turned out to be the first theater in Chinatown that showed Chinese motion pictures as well as English-speaking motion pictures.

So he ran that for about a decade and then decided to go back to Hong Kong after the war and do his motion pictures back there instead. But he was still having someone else run the theater over here.

LaBounty: And you stayed. You were older by then when he went back to Hong Kong.

Frank Jue: Right. He went back to Hong Kong. All during that time frame, my mother passed on, too, early, and he remarried, so after the war and everything, he went back with his second wife and started a family over there, while the children were still over here finishing schooling and all that.

LaBounty: Are any of the films still around that he made back then?

Frank Jue: I don't believe so.

Jennie Jue: We were trying to track it down, but somehow they got lost in transit or something. Where they used to keep it, the building has been sold, so we don't know what happened to most of the things.

LaBounty: I would think there would be film historians and libraries that would be extremely excited about the idea of having any of those left.

Jennie Jue: Yes. One of the trips back to China that we made, we were in a bookstore and we found some books on movies and it has mentioned his accomplishments. But other than that---

LaBounty: Because I know we're taping this for family posterity, maybe we should get all the names straight, too. Your father's name?

Frank Jue: Joseph Sunn Jue.

LaBounty: And your mother's name?

Frank Jue: My mother is Lillian Chong, which is her surname.

LaBounty: And your parents' names?

Jennie Jue: Seung Chong and Chew Shee.

LaBounty: How did you meet?

Jennie Jue: We were both active at St. Mary's.

Frank Jue: In Chinatown.

Jennie Jue: He was active in the Boys Club, and I was active in the Girls Club.

LaBounty: As boys and girls?

Jennie Jue: Yes.

LaBounty: As kids, pretty much?

Frank Jue: She meant that we became more or less like assisting the clubs, me the Boys Club and she the Girls Club. Once in a while we were having the same kind of meeting, church-type meetings and so forth. But our families had known each other for quite a while, but during that time we were active at St. Mary's then we see each other a bit more down in the library where we had generally our meetings with the priests there and so forth, so that's how I got attracted to her. [laughs] But our families had been friends from before.

LaBounty: So you were at least sort of acquaintances.

Frank Jue: Acquaintance already, yes.

LaBounty: Did you have like a formal first date or was it just you were just hanging around with each other a lot?

Jennie Jue: No. In fact, when he first called, I thought he was calling for my brother, because my brother plays basketball.

Frank Jue: We were playing basketball together at that time.

LaBounty: How old would you have been?

Jennie Jue: Past high school.

LaBounty: Just out of high school?

Jennie Jue: Out of high school at that time.

LaBounty: Were you working at the time?

Jennie Jue: Yes. He started working at the shipyard at that time.

Frank Jue: I went to Cal and got my engineering degree. It wasn't until then before we started dating.

Jennie Jue: Yes.

LaBounty: You mentioned you were in China, and the bombing and that sort of thing. Do you remember much else about World War II and about what life was like during that time?

Jennie Jue: Well, what I remember was that I was just a teenager at that time, maybe thirteen, fourteen years old, and that was when they interned the Japanese Americans. At that time I thought it was a good thing, because anytime you looked Asian then you get persecuted, so we said, "Good. If they are put away, then they'll lay off us Chinese." Didn't realize the full ramification of the whole thing. At that time I remember my father, he was a bartender down at the Ferry Building, and he said after work one day he was chased by a group of kids because they started calling him a Japanese name and whatnot. So when they interned the Japanese I thought that was a good thing because, you know, it would really help us.

LaBounty: Because they'd start differentiating between people rather than just lumping everybody together.

Jennie Jue: Right.

LaBounty: But it didn't totally work out that way.

Jennie Jue: [laughs] No, but then it took the heat off of the Asians, anyway, the Chinese Asians, and I think at that time everyone was very patriotic, those war bonds and save those little tin paper that you have to roll it up and try to turn it in, and then you have your food stamps and you have your shoe stamps, you're allowed so many a year.

LaBounty: Rationing.

Jennie Jue: Rationing, yes. And then I think my brother was warden for the block in case there's an air raid. Oh, we thought it was great fun, because those are the times that you don't have television; you have radio. You hear "The Shadow" and you have "The Green Hornet" and all that, and anytime there's a raid, you go under the covers and you listen to those radio shows and you get the biggest kick out of it because you are kids and you're not afraid. It's just a big game to you. So that was what I remember about the war.

LaBounty: Were you one of those Bobby Soxers?

Jennie Jue: Oh, definitely. [laughs] As a matter of fact, we came out to Star of the Sea High School, the girls' school, to go to high school. In fact, we were the first Chinese to enroll at Star of the Sea High School, that is, girls' high school. Somehow they were having an outreach kind of a program and they gave us a big break on tuition at that time. There were four of us that came out.

LaBounty: What was that like, being---

Jennie Jue: Strange. It was strange, because in those days we don't know too much about things outside of Chinatown. You don't travel that much. You still have the trolley cars and the buses, and very few people have cars. So you're not really exposed to a lot. So it was interesting.

LaBounty: Were you welcomed, not welcomed by the other students, or indifferent?

Jennie Jue: Well, I think we were more shy because we're in strange surroundings, but all the girls at the school were very nice, very accepting. It's just that our own nature is more quiet. But we seem to fit in after a while.

LaBounty: They had school dances and that sort of thing?

Jennie Jue: Yes, they have school dances. They have hops. They have a jukebox in the auditorium, and that was a time when you started to swing. So that was interesting.

LaBounty: Did you have any favorite music or particular singers you were attached to?

Jennie Jue: Well, it's war music. Frank Sinatra, that kind of music.

LaBounty: So you had some experience with the Richmond even before you even moved out here, by going to Star of the Sea.

Jennie Jue: Right, but just for that school, because in those days you go to school, when you get out, you get on a bus and go straight home.

LaBounty: What did your parents think of you going to school that far away? Did they think of it as an opportunity or were they a little worried about you going out of Chinatown?

Jennie Jue: I don't know if they discussed it with us, but they didn't object, so we just went ahead. I mean, we just don't know.

Frank Jue: It was their choice to choose Star of the Sea for you, though.

Jennie Jue: I don't think it was their choice. I just expressed a wish to go, and they said, "Okay, if that's what you want."

LaBounty: Where did you go to high school, Frank?

Frank Jue: Galileo.

LaBounty: Which I guess if you live in Chinatown is a big public school.

Frank Jue: Chinatown, Francisco, and then Galileo. That's where my older brother and sister went, so I just sort of followed their footsteps, I guess.

LaBounty: Do you have any memories of the war, other than coming back from China? That's how you got here, I guess.

Jennie Jue: But that was the war with Japan. It didn't involve the United States at that time.

Frank Jue: It didn't affect me that much because I didn't know what this war was all about. I was around eight years old. We got back from China into Commodore Stockton Grammar School, eventually Francisco, then Galileo, then Cal. So I think I felt I was innocent about what the war was all about. Everyone is talking about fighting and all that, and I just went through my school years, catching up with the other kids, because when I came back, they put me in the second grade or something, so I had to skip a few grades to catch up with the rest of the children my age. Luckily, I had a very good brother who, even though he was around five years older than I, he guided me along, accepted me.

The story is that when we went back to China, the whole family, he came back with my grandmother. I guess in that stage my grandmother feels that the oldest grandson should stay with her, back in America. So after we all went to China for my father's business, my grandmother came back to the States with my older brother. At that time I didn't realize what was going on. But anyway, so we were separated for another three years, my brother and myself, but then after the war started and after Hong Kong was being attacked, we came back and I rejoined with my brother, who was a teenager by then, but he was real good to me. He led me through my early stages back in the United States, lacking English and all that. He helped me out quite a bit.

Jennie Jue: He took you under his wing, whereas your father was too busy with his work.

Frank Jue: With the business and work and all that, yes.

LaBounty: What was your brother's name?

Frank Jue: Arthur. He had a pretty sad childhood, too. He had some sort of an ailment that---

Jennie Jue: Kidney? Liver? Something like that.

Frank Jue: Kidney, liver, something. He had to have water drained from him.

Jennie Jue: They didn't have dialysis at that time.

Frank Jue: And he finally passed away when he was around either twenty-four or twenty-five years old, right after he got his master's degree in engineering. When I came home that one evening and someone ran up to me and said, "Arthur passed away." That was one of my saddest moments in my life. And before that time my mother had died of cancer a couple of years earlier, too, so it was a kind of trauma, as I recall, losing two of my favorite people all within two years.

LaBounty: It was wonderful you had them for that time when you came back.

Frank Jue: Right.

LaBounty: Your brother was how much older than you?

Frank Jue: About five years older. He's number one. I have an older sister, about two and a half years older than I, and then also a younger sister, two and a half years younger than I. Four children.

LaBounty: Was there anyone in your family who had the possibility of being drafted or having to fight in the war?

Frank Jue: No, no. In that way we were, I guess, fortunate, but my brother always had a bit of a medical problem, so he was not draftable. But I was drafted. After I graduated from Cal, had a couple of years at Hunter's Point and then during the Korean War they gave me a couple of deferments, I think, for working for the shipyard at that time, Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard. And the third time they had to deny it, so I was draft into the service. But fortunately, they were forming some sort of an engineering professional-type group in Philadelphia, in a plant there, so I was sent to Pennsylvania and spent my year and a half in the service just doing engineering work in the armory.

Jennie Jue: Protecting the Potomac. [laughs]

Frank Jue: Yes.

LaBounty: Well, you did a good job. I think it was fine, the Potomac River.

Frank Jue: Yes. [laughs]

LaBounty: Were you married by that time you went to go to Pennsylvania and were in the service?

Jennie Jue: He came back on leave and we married.

Frank Jue: We decided to come back on leave and then I took a week of leave, then we got married.

LaBounty: Did you get married at St. Mary's?

Frank Jue: Yes, St. Mary's, at the chapel there where we both grew up. And I was at first hopeful that we'd get married and maybe have Jennie come back with me to Philadelphia, but then she decided that she still has her job and all that, no use going over there for a year and honor my commitment for the Army by that time, anyway, so we decided, "Let's have the separation. It's okay for a time being."

LaBounty: But you got married while you were on leave.

Frank Jue: Just took leave and got married.

LaBounty: Did you think you'd better do it quick?

Frank Jue: I don't know why. I can't remember why now. What was the hurry all about?

LaBounty: Going back to your dad, he had that interest in the movie theater, the Grand View. Then he went back to Hong Kong to do more movie work.

Jennie Jue: Started a studio back there.

LaBounty: But he still had sort of an interest in the Grand View financially or had someone else running it? When did that end?

Frank Jue: Well, mainly because my grandfather was the main contributor to it financially. He backed my father in creating this Grand View Theater, Grand View motion picture industry, and he was a jack-of-all-trades. He was a producer, scriptwriter, sound guy, and he got my brother involved in it during the war years. They came back from Hong Kong and they started making motion pictures with 16-millimeter, because you can't use the 35-millimeter; it's flammable. So on Ross Alley there, old Chinatown Lane, they opened up an old warehouse, I think it was, and made a studio out of it. He wrote the scripts, produced it, directed it, and part-time photographer as well, I guess. He made at least a half a dozen motion pictures from Chinatown using all different kinds of backgrounds.

LaBounty: Were you ever in any of them?

Frank Jue: No.

LaBounty: Ever used as an extra?

Frank Jue: I was the clipboard guy.

LaBounty: "Action!"

Frank Jue: "Action!" And my brother was old enough to be a photographer, cinematographer for the motion pictures. We were using only 16-millimeter because that was inflammable. That was the only thing allowed. So in the meantime, he built this Chinese theater. My father built a Chinese theater showing films that came from Kowloon, Hong Kong, and other English-speaking motion pictures, and ran the theater fairly successfully on Jackson Street. You see that marquee on Jackson below Stockton.

LaBounty: When did the family stop being involved in the theater there?

Frank Jue: After the war he came back to the United States and ran that theater for just a few more years, and somehow I think he got into some scrabble with some of the company people that ran that theater, and somehow he was not working there anymore, so he decided to---

Jennie Jue: Here's excerpts of a book, Becoming Chinese American: A Story of Communities and Institutions, page 183. That is about his father.

LaBounty: They have footnotes. Did they get this information from you?

Frank Jue: No.

Jennie Jue: Somebody saw this.

Frank Jue: My sister saw this and made copies of it and passed it on to us, first time I saw that. This is my grandfather, Jue Jun Yew.

LaBounty: So your grandfather managed a store, and it seems like he had a lot of business interests.

Frank Jue: Yes. For some reason he did fairly well. He came over as a teenager. In fact, there's a little story about him taking a pair of shoes that the lady that he worked for threw away, high heel shoes, so he took that and he chopped off the high heels and used it for his own shoes. That's a story we hear about him.

LaBounty: Resourceful.

Frank Jue: But anyway, he was the first one in my family who had come over and made a fairly good success of himself in investments and running some farms and all that, and raise a family of six children.

Jennie Jue: And then we recently got this book, Portraits of Pride.

LaBounty: Historical Society of Southern California.

Jennie Jue: Then this chapter about Lawrence Jue is his uncle.

Frank Jue: My father's younger brother.

LaBounty: He was an engineer, too.

Jennie Jue: Yes. They worked at the shipyard together. Of course, he's way higher.

LaBounty: Lawrence Jue is your uncle?

Jennie Jue: Uncle.

Frank Jue: He's number five to my grandfather and then my dad was son number two. He's a very smart person, engineer in a real high position at Hunter's Point Shipyard. He's still alive.

LaBounty: And he wrote his own memoirs, it looks like.

Frank Jue: Yes.

LaBounty: Do you have a copy of that? It would be interesting for you to have that. So he said you had a job while he was off in Pennsylvania guarding the Potomac. [laughs]

Jennie Jue: Yes, I was working for the phone company.

LaBounty: That was a big field to get into for women, I guess, when they graduated. I see all these yearbooks and they're always advertising "Come work for the phone company."

Jennie Jue: Right. There weren't too many opportunities at that time, so I was working as a switchboard operator.

LaBounty: The old plug and put in different---

Jennie Jue: Yes.

LaBounty: How do those work, actually? It would be a connection and then you'd plug into another one?

Jennie Jue: That's it, yes. And then dial the number that they want. It was fun.

Frank Jue: Speaking of switchboard, Chinatown has a very unique Chinese telephone switchboard.

Jennie Jue: Right, when it first started.

Frank Jue: It's amazing. You could just call onto that number.

Jennie Jue: You just pick up the phone and say---

Frank Jue: "I want to talk to" so and so.

Jennie Jue: And they'll connect you.

Frank Jue: And connect you to it.

LaBounty: They knew everybody.

Frank Jue: They knew everybody.

Jennie Jue: They knew everybody and they knew all the businesses. It was just amazing in those days.

LaBounty: I guess also because you have such an insular society where everybody does all their shopping in the neighborhood.

Jennie Jue: That's true.

Frank Jue: They all know each other. My grandmother used to call down to a certain store to deliver certain items that she wanted, and said, "While you're delivering it, while you're on your way up, go to this other store and pick me up so and so." They'd do that for her. [laughs]

LaBounty: Run some errands.

Jennie Jue: It's amazing.

Frank Jue: Only Chinatown could do that.

Jennie Jue: In Chinatown you used to be able to order a whole banquet meal and they'll deliver it to your house on one of those flat trays they put on top of their heads. The complete meal, the bowls, the chopsticks, and everything.

LaBounty: They just bring it up and put it on your table?

Jennie Jue: Just bring it up, and then they'll come and pick it up.

LaBounty: Wow.

Jennie Jue: Just amazing.

LaBounty: When you moved out here, were there any Chinese restaurants out here or anyplace that you could eat out at the time?

Jennie Jue: Not that I know of. They still had Hamburger Haven. That was the mainstay. Hamburger Haven.

LaBounty: You probably didn't eat out too much with nine kids. [laughs]

Jennie Jue: No. Can't afford it.

LaBounty: Now there's so many different restaurants of all sorts and ethnicities. You can get anything. Burmese food and that sort of thing.

Jennie Jue: Right. Thai food, Vietnamese food. I mean, just about everything.

LaBounty: It wasn't like that when you moved here, though.

Jennie Jue: No.

LaBounty: Hamburger Haven, that was it.

Jennie Jue: Hamburger Haven, and we had the five-and-dime, the Woolworth's, five-and-dime there next door, and then we used to have a drugstore, a Rexall Drugstore on the corner of 8th and Clement. What else? We used to shop at that big grocery store on 5th and Clement. They used to have a big supermarket there. Now it's a Chinese store, but it used to be Caucasian grocery store.

Frank Jue: On the corner.

Jennie Jue: Yes, on the corner.

LaBounty: That's before Lick's opened, because that opened later? That's where we used to shop, a big grocery store there.

Jennie Jue: It's a little bit higher-brow. [laughs]

LaBounty: Did you go to the Coliseum at all? Did you see movies?

Jennie Jue: Yes, we went to the Coliseum when we can afford it.

LaBounty: Did you take all the kids, too?

Jennie Jue: No. We only take all the kids down to Chinatown when his father had a movie that he thinks is appropriate for the children. Then he'll call us and we'll take the whole gang down because we can get in for free.

LaBounty: Would you drive?

Jennie Jue: Yes. I think when I was young, they used to have theater on Market and---

Frank Jue: California.

Jennie Jue: It's called California, on Market. Do you remember that one?

LaBounty: No. Market and like 4th?

Jennie Jue: Yes. I think you can take the Stockton bus and it'll get you right there.

Frank Jue: Actually, near North Beach, the Palace Theater, the old Palace, to see Chinese movies.

Jennie Jue: Then bus rides were a nickel, but then a nickel was a lot of money then, so when our family goes, my parents would take the bus and we would walk and meet them down there. [laughs] Can you imagine?

LaBounty: Was that long distances or was that just going down to Market Street?

Jennie Jue: Going down to Market from Chinatown, you would walk through the tunnel.

LaBounty: And say, "Meet you there."

Jennie Jue: "Meet you there." [laughs]

LaBounty: Was there any reason, other than movies, you probably didn't do much shopping over there? You had everything in Chinatown, I guess. Clothes and things like that back then.

Jennie Jue: We don't shop much.

LaBounty: How did you clothe all your kids here? Where did you get your clothes?

Jennie Jue: We go to Star of the Sea. They have uniforms, which was great. Then we still had a Sears, Roebuck at that time, on Geary.

LaBounty: And Masonic.

Jennie Jue: Geary at Masonic. Used to be the Sears. That's where the boys get all their jeans and things like that. So that's all you need, right? And then you have hand-me-downs.

LaBounty: That's true. You have lots of that, so that's good. Have you noticed any changes in the neighborhood if you look at it now compared to when you moved here? We talked about a wider variety of restaurants and stores. You had a lot of different kinds of people here when you moved here, too.

Jennie Jue: True, but we don't have the variety of stores that we have now. Then also there are bigger families. You don't see big families anymore. Our kids used to be able to walk to school by themselves. Now people are afraid to do that. We can let them play out in the street in front of the house by themselves. Now nobody lets them play outside by themselves.

LaBounty: When did that change? When do you think that attitude started coming in?

Jennie Jue: I don't know. I really don't know. I think after one year they had that scare, Halloween, they found razor blades in things, in apples. That was quite some time ago. I think since then, maybe. But before, you have no fear, and people leave their doors unlocked.

LaBounty: We used to walk to school, and all your kids did.

Jennie Jue: Right. And then we trained the older ones to walk the younger ones and vice versa, you know. So no problem. Now everyone drives them to school.

LaBounty: Even two blocks.

Jennie Jue: Yes. It's crazy. It's kind of ridiculous, but what are you going to do? You have the fear factor now.

LaBounty: Where did all your kids end up going to high school? I know Mary went to Cathedral.

Jennie Jue: The girls went to Cathedral. The boys went to St. Ignatius.

LaBounty: Was that pre-planned? Did you have any influence in that or did they all just decide that on their own that they were going to those two schools? Because they could have gone to Star of the Sea girls' school like you.

Jennie Jue: They didn't want to. I think they had enough up to that stage.

LaBounty: They wanted a little distance.

Jennie Jue: Yes. Of course, our oldest daughter would have preferred to go to Mercy or something that has a little bit more academically noted, but with boys going to SI, we just couldn't afford it. So I think to this day she faults us for that.

Frank Jue: "How come they can go there but I can't?"

Jennie Jue: "How come they can go to SI and I can't go to Mercy or St. Rose?" But those are just the times.

LaBounty: Different era, where the boys are kind of---you need to get them a good education and get the good jobs.

Jennie Jue: Well, we had three boys first, yes.

LaBounty: So they were already using up your money. [laughs]

Jennie Jue: Right. They were already using up the money.

LaBounty: Did they all go to college, all your kids?

Jennie Jue: All the kids went to college.

LaBounty: That's quite an accomplishment.

Jennie Jue: Yes, for them. I think they mostly did it on their own, and then we more or less pick up the pieces. That's the way I feel, anyway.

Frank Jue: Lots of financial aid. [laughs]

Jennie Jue: We got one Ph.D., I think we have three master's, three or four master's, and then the rest are degrees. They're all doing well. We're really blessed, I feel.

LaBounty: You must have something to do with it, too. You must have done a good job raising them, to all go to college.

Jennie Jue: "Study, study." But the first few set the tone for the others, so it's more or less a given. They just took it for granted that they're all going to college.

LaBounty: How many grandkids do you have now?

Jennie Jue: Twelve. Great.

LaBounty: Any great-grandkids?

Jennie Jue: No, no. The oldest one is only thirteen.

Frank Jue: They were older than we were getting married.

LaBounty: They all waited longer to get married.

Jennie Jue: Yes. But they're crazy. I said I could have helped them. Now I'm too tired.

LaBounty: Should have kids early when you can watch them.

Jennie Jue: Right.

LaBounty: Do they all live nearby or are they scattered?

Jennie Jue: Catherine, Grace, four of them live in the area, and then one lives in Newport Beach, one in Pasadena, one in Sonoma, one in New York, and one in Minneapolis.

Frank Jue: That family's been moving back and forth a little bit.

LaBounty: Do any of them live in the Richmond?

Jennie Jue: Mary Grace.

Frank Jue: Not really Richmond.

Jennie Jue: Thirty-fifth and Geary. Not the Inner, Inner Richmond, but close enough.

LaBounty: It sounds like you mostly stayed close to home, but did you ever get out to the beach or the Cliff House or anything out there?

Jennie Jue: Well, we go out there for lunches sometimes. Our girls get together. We used to go out to the---what do you call that---

LaBounty: Playland?

Jennie Jue: Playland. They used to have the best chicken pot pie. And the Ferris wheel and all that. Can't take it anymore.

LaBounty: That was when you were younger and more of a teenager?

Jennie Jue: Yes. Only teenagers can stand that kind of fog anyway.

LaBounty: Playland was a fun amusement park at the time. I guess later it kind of got a little rundown.

Jennie Jue: Got a little seedy.

LaBounty: But it wasn't then when you were going.

Jennie Jue: No, it was just a fun place for teenagers. Now what do teenagers do now? I don't know.

LaBounty: Stay home.

Jennie Jue: On the computer, TV, and listen to iPod.

LaBounty: Is there anything else you did when you were teenagers, for fun? You listened to the radio, you told me that. Of course you had to study and go to school and all that. Went to Playland.

Jennie Jue: We had sports in Chinatown.

Frank Jue: Joined clubs, Boys Club, Girls Club.

Jennie Jue: We belonged to clubs.

Frank Jue: Then there's a Young Adults group at St. Mary's in Chinatown.

Jennie Jue: Then we were involved with the Recreation Center at the playground. They had leagues. They had basketball leagues.

LaBounty: Which playground? Which Rec Center is this?

Jennie Jue: Chinatown, the one on Sacramento Street between Sacramento and Clay. They have one court for tennis and one court for basketball.

Frank Jue: The Catholic school participated in the CYO basketball. I was in, anyway.

LaBounty: A lot of people, as they get older, they think that when they were kids or when they were young teens, that was a good time. Maybe they had rough times, but that was a better time. Do you have that feeling, or do you feel like all times are kind of the same, or things are the same now? Do you feel like that was a great time to be a kid?

Jennie Jue: I think all kids go through different problems with different ages. In those days, there wasn't much going on, so there's more togetherness, there's more team kind of things, girls getting together, boys getting together. Now everyone's doing their own thing. Everyone's into computers. Everyone's just insulated, concentrate on this one thing. They're not involving---

Frank Jue: As I say, when we were teenagers, we were---at least I was more involved with the Boys Club and later on the Young Adults group and all that.

LaBounty: More social organizations.

Jennie Jue: Yes. But now they don't need it.

Frank Jue: They don't need it, I guess. They go home to the computers.

Jennie Jue: I mean, they have so many other things for them, whereas in those days that was the only thing going in town.

LaBounty: Otherwise you're just sitting at home.

Jennie Jue: Right.

LaBounty: What about family connections and that sort of thing? Was there more people with more of an attachment to families then, do you think, now? I mean more grandmothers and grandfathers involved, aunts, uncles?

Jennie Jue: Since we grew up in Chinatown, my children claim that I grew up in a ghetto. [laughs] I said, "It may be a ghetto to you, but in those days everyone knew everyone else." You know your neighbors, your neighbors know you, and you dare not misbehave because someone's going to go back and tell your parents. You don't have that anymore because you don't know who your neighbors are, and everyone is working. Nobody's home. So I think it's a different world.

LaBounty: Used to be more stay-at-home moms and that sort of thing, too, I guess.

Jennie Jue: Yes, and you tend to make do with what you have, whereas now everyone wants the moon and no one wants to pay the price. I mean, in order to work to get the good stuff, you have to be away from your family, and there's a price to pay for that. I'd rather do without.

LaBounty: I know a lot of people would have Sunday dinners, where extended family might come together on Sunday dinner.

Jennie Jue: There's always that. Because everyone depend on each other. Now everyone just look out for themselves.

LaBounty: In Chinatown everybody knew everybody, all the neighbors knew each other, but when you moved out here, did you know a lot of your neighbors when you moved here?

Jennie Jue: No. Well, we know our immediate neighbors because they were very nice, Mr. Sax [phonetic] and Mrs. Brown. They were very nice. But we more or less kept to ourselves because we were raising children.

Frank Jue: Also busy.

Jennie Jue: We were just too busy raising children, and we were having one after another, so we really don't have too much time to socialize except concentrate on the family.

LaBounty: Did you have any other friends or relatives that kind of followed your lead and came to this neighborhood after you moved?

Jennie Jue: No. After we moved, the ones that are upward bound, leaving Chinatown, they moved to other areas.

LaBounty: I think it's interesting that you went to other neighborhoods and they were kind of like, "I don't think you'll be comfortable here," but they didn't do that in the Richmond.

Jennie Jue: No, they didn't.

Frank Jue: We didn't get that feeling at all.

LaBounty: It's kind of encouraging to think that, because it's easy to think that it was like that everywhere.

Jennie Jue: Yes. I would hate to live in an atmosphere like that. Kind of a bummer.

LaBounty: Some of the other neighborhoods we did research in, like the West Twin Peaks area, the OMI Ingleside area, there were even covenants written in the housing thing, saying anybody who's not European background can't buy the place.

Jennie Jue: Wow.

LaBounty: And some of those still exist, even though the law's against it now. The housing covenants still say that. So there's some of that down out there.

Jennie Jue: Well, I think in those days this is a working-class neighborhood, so people are pretty good. There's no snottiness or people who are condescending. So it's nice that way.

LaBounty: It seems like this neighborhood has a lot more recent immigrants, too, from different nations coming straight from wherever to the Richmond.

Jennie Jue: A lot of Russians, I notice that. But since we don't have too much dealings with them, I don't understand their background, although I know that the government is subsidizing a lot of their things, because they seem to move out when the subsidy ends.

LaBounty: I would think your church, Star of the Sea, that there would be newer people coming in just because a church would be kind of a gathering place.

Jennie Jue: The church seems to be on a decline, it seems that way, because less Irish families, more Asians moving in and they're not Catholics, more Russians coming in and they're not Catholics, and people having smaller families. Even when our children are going there, the participation has been slacking because they find both parents have to work for whatever reason.

LaBounty: There were a lot of Filipino families that I remember, too.

Jennie Jue: Right. Now we have a Filipino monsignor there, which is very good.

LaBounty: Is there anything else you can think about the Richmond or coming out here that you'd like to mention? Any changes? You liked the neighborhood when you came out. I guess you still like it.

Jennie Jue: Yes, I still like the neighborhood and it seems like the people are staying. They're kind of upkeeping their places; they're modernizing it rather than moving. Can't afford it. [laughs]

LaBounty: And you can't imagine ever leaving San Francisco, can you?

Jennie Jue: No, I don't think so. I like to be able to walk to places. I don't like to live in a suburb, although I like the sun. [laughs]

LaBounty: You don't get much of that here.

Jennie Jue: No, we don't get much here.

Frank Jue: Can't have everything.

Jennie Jue: But you can get too much of the sun, too, because you go to places where it's nice and hot, but you don't see anybody out on the streets, right?

LaBounty: They're all in their air-conditioned cars and buildings.

Jennie Jue: So you can't win.

[End of interview]

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Page launched 24 August 2006.