Sharing Memories: “When You Drink Water, Remember the Source” 飲水思源
Article by Emilie Robert Wong and Marc Robert Wong (Daughter and Son of Julie Wong ’86 TC)

Thanks to all the Yale alumni, family, and friends and also students for participating in this Yale Day of Service event. This is the largest group Yale’s ever had at Angel Island, and we were actually the first SF site to reach capacity! Fueled by a special mix of Yale GORP, forty-four alumni, family, and friends joined forces from Sacramento, Napa, Silicon Valley, and Berkeley as well as San Francisco. Honors of the day go to Eric Kofoid ’66 TD who uprooted a four foot high thistle bush with spines that pierced through the thickest leather gloves, and the only complaint heard as volunteers cleared the beach, walkways, monuments, and detainee barracks of weeds and debris was that next year they wanted more to do and sharper blades on the equipment! It was great to have such a large and enthusiastic group to preserve such an important historical site on Yale’s 4th Annual Day of Service.

Called the “Ellis Island of the West,” Angel Island processed about 1 million immigrants from over 80 countries between 1910 and 1940. Due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the only US immigration legislation enacted against a specific nationality, many Chinese were detained on the island, waiting anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years for entry. During this time, they carved beautiful poems into the walls that are still visible to this day. Japanese, including “picture brides,” Koreans, Filipinos, South Asians,Russians, Mexicans, and Jews escaping the Holocaust were also detained on Angel Island in significant numbers.

May 19, 2012 was a beautiful, sunny day to take a ferry ride from Tiburon to Angel Island, but memories were bitter-sweet for John Yen Wong ’75 TC and sister Betty Yimhall Wong as they accompanied their 95 year-old mother on the journey back to Angel Island. Mrs. Wong shared a memory from her husband who has now passed on, who was detained as a 16 year old at Angel Island Immigration Station nearly a century ago. In her native Toisan, Mrs. Wong recalled her husband recounting how grueling the “entrance exams” were for the incoming immigrants and what difficult questions they asked. As we students prep for AP exams and finals, it is good to have this perspective and contrast how much more was at stake and how much previous generations of immigrants endured so that we could enjoy the opportunities that we now have in the United States.

Mrs. Wong’s daughter, Betty, vividly remembers her father triumphantly whacking the Angel Island bell placed in front of the Angel Island Immigration Station when he re-visited Angel Island. We gathered around that same bell at the start of the Angel Island Immigration Station tour, and although the day was clear and warm, we took a moment to imagine what it must have been like for Mrs. Wong’s husband to come all the way across the ocean in the crowded hold of a boat without adequate food or water or even perhaps enough light and air to hear that same bell ring out through the cold and ghostly fog of San Francisco bay when he was just our same age, waiting to be interrogated in hopes of beginning a new life in America.

Student Leaders:
Emilie Robert Wong, World Affairs Council Student Ambassador, Lycee Francais La Perouse 2013
Marc Robert Wong, Lick-Wilmerding High School Asia Club, International High School 2015
Site Co-ordinator: Julie Wong ’86 TC

EM&M’s YALE GORP RECIPE:
Emilie & Marc’s delicious mix of languages, dried fruits, nuts, granola, and chocolate created just for the Yale Day of Service at Angel Island. Bulldog, Bulldog, bow wow WOW!

B Blue Yale/AAAYA M&Ms
U Ume梅 (Japanese) plum
L Lei4梨 (Cantonese) pear
L Lo-Hua-Sheng (Mandarin) peanuts
D Dahī Kiśamiśa Kavara दही किशमिश कवर (Hindi) yogurt covered raisins
O Oats
G Granola
S Sagwa사과 (Korean) apple

Reflection of Mrs. Wong, 95, mother of John Yen Wong ’75 TC, on a poem carved into the wooden wall of the immigration station.

Mrs. Wong observing her daughter Betty Yimhall Wong and son John Yen Wong ’75 TC cleaning pathway at Angel Island Immigration Station.