Columns

I Cover Chinatown
by Willy Torrin

Besides Willy Torrin, "I Cover [Seattle] Chinatown" had several writers, including Simeon Doria Arroyo and Emily Angelo.

"Spring Time in Chinatown" (excerpt)

Day by Day in Chinatown

Eight o’clock in the morning, Chinatown is just dead—dead as a deserted ballroom in the morning after the night before. Ten o’clock and the crowd begins to form around street corners and in the lobby of the Alps Hotel. By noon, King street is like a barrio street in the Philippines before the arrival of the governor of the province for a visit. Filipino pool halls open about this time and the crowd begins their diversion of pools and cards. Gossips go the rounds. Labor’s latest news is read and discussed. Last night’s date is reviewed and critically considered.

Seven o’clock in the evening and the barber shops begin to get busy. Filipino sheiks have to attend to their sartorial prestige. The crowd on King street is augmented and Jackson street is like Second avenue during a parade. The boys from uptown come downtown to get down into business—lotteries, the card games, the sicoy-sicoy, et al. Pleasure and business become the order of the night.

Ten o’clock in the evening. The tantalizing music at Rizal Hall tickles the eardrum and makes the feet itchy. The crowd moves around, oh just around the corner and in the neighborhood. "There is pleasure in them thar houses" becomes a silent melody in the young men’s hearts.

One o’clock in the morning. Rizal Hall orchestra plays the "goodnight" and Filipino sheiks with blondes and brunettes and half-ways come out still pleasure-bound. Atlas Theatre is just next block and is open all night. The chop suey houses are open until three o’clock in the morning. These palaces have seen dates made and remade, romances flourish and decline. Half-past three in the morning and the day is officially ended. Even the houses in the neighborhood are now closed, so is the card and buttones house. A few more boys loiter in the show, either to sleep or just to hang around.

* * *

McKintosh suits and the latest…collar and shirt-cuts characterize…most of the wearing apparel of the boys down Jackson and King. I know: they are from California. 1

I Cover Chinatown
By Emily Angelo

Emily Angelo is the pseudonym for Irene Hook, a taxi dancer in Seattle’s Chinatown. As such, she seems to write from both "inside" and "outside" of the Chinatown community. It may be for this reason that her characterization of Chinatown and its people tends toward the exotic. The following is excerpted from her column of September 1935:

Seattle Chinatown is still the magnet of those seeking adventure, its mysteries, dark alleys, lanterns, the chimes and weird rhythm of oriental music, the danger that is supposed to lurk for everybody; yet very disappointed as they well may be, for Chinatown is not what it used to be. It is a modern China, modern oriental people enjoying life with ease and contentment as in any down-town metropolis.

King Street—and what a city! Her bright lights glittering compares with Broadway. Neon signs, limousines and cars parked along the sidewalks. Chop Suey houses, cafes and stores packed to capacity with eager people and satisfied customers: laughing, dancing to the music of syncopated jazz. The afternoons are even gayer, oriental people, Filipinos dominating, are lazy and carefree basking in the sun, some cooling on the corner, talking, joking, content and happy. On towards Maynard and Jackson streets the scenes are the same.

* * *

Wanted. Hop pickers, $1.50 per hundred. Scores of Paisanos on the street, silver jingles in their pockets, suits still pressed, smoking cigars or cigarettes, a broad smile on their faces and the girl friends still love them. Very few like to work…
Since the boys have come back from Alaska, it’s all for one and one for all. Who is to gain and who is to lose? Gambling houses or taxi dancers?

Arroyo, 2 in his last article of this paper encouraged gambling and discouraged taxi dancing. I, a taxi dancer, encourage neither, but can honestly state that a man in gambling can certainly lose more in fifteen minutes of gambling than in six hours of dancing provided he doesn’t meet some of these vicious gold diggers, so to speak. All of us know that gambling is a detriment to proper sanitation whereas in the proper form of dancing we can derive relaxation of mind and a source of exercise and poise.3

United Front
By Aurelio Bulosan

Like his younger brother, Carlos, Aurelio Bulosan wrote and edited for the Commonwealth Times. Aurelio used his regular column, "United Front," primarily to urge U.S. Filipinos to unite in order to attain their civil liberties. Occasionally, however, he would also use the column to present his own short, social realist, fiction.

The young man walked down the street thinking of what the doctor had just told him. "There isn’t anything seriously wrong with you. All you need is a little rest, a little peace, a change of scene." He supposed that he should relax more. He couldn’t afford a vacation but the doctor said that if he just got around more, took walks, explored the city, that would help. After all the city was a big place and he hadn’t seen much of it. Might as well start now.

He had the rest of the afternoon to himself and the Mexican section was close. As he walked down the block he noticed the newspaper headlines: war news, air raids, traffic accidents, earthquakes. He decided not to buy a paper. Not much relaxation in reading stories like that…People fighting each other all over the world. Well he’d heard that the Mexicans were famous for their ability to relax and enjoy life. He’d find out how they did it.

Down in their section he [faced] one of their markets. Although it was the conventional siesta hour, they didn’t seem to be doing much relaxing. The stall keepers looked worried. Business wasn’t much good, one of them told him, when he stopped to buy some cactus candy. Little boys who should have been playing out in the fresh, country air were dashing around, asking people if they wanted their shoes shined. They darted here and there in a business like way, with little black boxes slung over their shoulders and solemn faces. A mother with a harassed expression walked by. Three brown babies were tugging at her skirt and the young man could tell by the tone of her voice that she was scolding them, though he couldn’t understand the words. There wasn’t any peace here, he decided. Even the dogs were kept [illegible].

He left the market and started across the street, and was almost run over by a car which whipped around the corner. As he was recovering from the shock he heard a scream. The car had stopped abruptly down the block. People were running to the scene, and he followed them. The woman he had seen in the market was weeping violently in the middle of the street, bending over the mangled body of one of the children. He couldn’t stand it, so he returned the way he had come.

He wandered aimlessly for some time trying to forget the terrible scene. But pictures of the grief-stricken family kept coming to him. The only comparable experience in his own life was the time his dog had been run over. If the death of a pet had [affected] him as much how much worse it must be to have your baby run down.

Across the street was a park, a [illegible] full of benches really where many of the unemployed of the district spent their time. He sat on the bench and watched the men around him. For an hour he sat there. Some of them never moved, never raised their eyes from the tattered grass in front of them, yet there was something in the atmosphere which suggested an all pervading tension. He began to tighten up inside and, remembering the doctor’s advice, he got up and walked across the square. On the other side a fellow was standing on a bench and exhorting a group around him. [There was an] intensification of all the tension on all the faces there. He left the square and walked slowly toward home. The doctor had been right in his diagnosis, but the modern world no longer had the materials with which to fill the prescription. 4

 

I Found No Peace
By M.G. Alviar

Mariano G. Alviar was the editor of the Commonwealth Times (also known as the Philippine Commonwealth Times), published in Santa Maria, California.

–America, the land of opportunity. . .Come, all who have been beaten, deprived of your rights as human beings—persecuted for your color, your creed, your ideology. . .Come to America, the land of the free. . .Here you can work. . .Here you can find security. . .Here you can find liberty and happiness. . .A place in the sun waits for you in America. . .

* * *

–And so they came. . .All colors all kinds. . .eager for freedom. . .eager for a chance at happiness. . .Attracted by opportunities to work. . .Negroes came to work in the cotton fields of the south. . .Chinese came to build the railroads. . .Japanese to work in the vast fields of vegetables. . .Mexicans to pick fruits. . .Filipinos to can fish. . .All to build an America, stronger, richer, more powerful than any other nation in the world. . .All contributing some part of the culture from which they came to produce a whole which was greater than any of its parts. . .Out of their blood, their sweat, America grew and rose to tower above all the nations of the world.

* * *

–And when this great work was done. . .when the railroads were finished and the factories running efficiently. . .When new machinery had been created so that one person would now do the work which ten, twenty, a hundred had done formerly. . .Then the builders were cast aside. . .replaced by the generations of new Americans. . .Americans growing up to claim their birthright. . .to claim their share in the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. . .Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness. . .There was no longer room for all to enjoy these privileges. . .Someone must be left out.

* * *

–And so America turned upon the builders it no longer needed. . .Vigilantes. . .The Ku Klux Klan. . .the Associated Farmers of California. . .breeding hatred. . .spreading the poison of racial discrimination. . .stealing through the night, going about their vicious, inhuman persecution. . .Destroying those who had made America what it is. . .America which they now claimed as exclusively theirs. . .Anti-alien laws. . ."Negroes Not Admitted". . ."Filipinos Not Served Here". . ."We can’t hire you. Only AMERICANS employed here". . ."You cannot buy property in this state". . .Why not? Because you are yellow, because you are black, because your religion is not the same as ours, because standards are different, because you don’t speak our language as we speak it. . .You haven’t grown up with America as we and our ancestors have. You are aliens. . .

* * *

–But the rights guaranteed in the Constitution. . .Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. . .What of these? We have worked. We have worked hard to build this America. . .Where is the place in the sun which was promised us? "Criminal syndicalism. . .inspired to riot. . .conspiracy. . .prison. . .deportation. . .Who are you to talk of these things. . .You are not American. . .AMERICA FOR AMERICANS. . .Talk about the Constitution, will you, you dirty red. . .". . .Tar and feathers. . .lynchings…

* * *

–But where is our place in the sun?. . .Where. . .You have no place in the sun. . .You live in eternal shadows, surrounded by brutalities and degradation. . .You have been betrayed. . .no place in the sun. . .5

 

1Willy Torrin, “I Cover Chinatown,” The Philippine Advocate (May 1935): 4-B
2 Simeon Doria Arroyo, a staff writer and poet for the The Philippine Advocate.
3 Emily Angelo, “I Cover Chinatown,” The Philippine Advocate, (Sept., 1935): 4
4 Aurelio Bulosan, “United Front,” Commonwealth Times (Dec. 23, 1939): 4
5 M.G. Alviar, “I Found No Peace,” Commonwealth Times (Nov. 15, 1939): np