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Our victories, obstacles and leaders

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Anti-Filipino riot occurred in Watsonville, California and in
Kent Washington.
The five days of the Watsonville riots, throwing two counties into turmoil and spreading fear and hatred throughout the state, had a profound impact on California's attitude toward imported Asian labor. As a result, Filipino immigration plummeted, and while they remained a significant part of the labor in the fields, they began to be replaced by Mexicans.
The Japanese American Citizens League's first national convention was held in Seattle on August 29.


Nearly 3000 Filipinos working in Alaskan canneries.

Amendment to Cable Act declares that no American-born woman who loses her citizenship (by marrying an alien ineligible to citizenship) can be denied the right of naturalization at a later date.


Chang Apana (Ah Ping Chang), the 5’3” former Honolulu detective and prototype of the character "Charlie Chan" in the mystery novels of the Earl Derr Biggers who weighed 145 pounds with a thin austere-looking face, died in the Queen's hospital at 7:30 p.m. Friday on December 8, 1933 and was buried in the Manoa Chinese Cemetery. Mr. Chang was seriously ill for about a month.

The fast-walking, cigarette-smoking, Panama hat-wearing sleuth who spoke fluent Cantonese, Hawaiian and pidgin English while only able to read and write Hawaiian was born at Waipio, Oahu on December 26, 1871 (some reports have him born on the Big Island) - Mr. Chang was 64 years of age at the time of his death. His family moved back to China (it is assumed that it was to the village of Oo Syak is within the Gook Doo district of Chung Shan county, which is part of Kwangtung Province / Oo Syak village of Canton) when he was three, but he moved back to Hawaii when he was 10. He was survived by his widow, Mrs. Annie Lee Kwai Apana; eight children, Annie, Rose, Margaret, Cecelia and Alexander, and, by a former marriage, Mrs. Helen Meheula, Victoria Apana and Samuel Apana; 10 grandchildren, and a brother, Chang Kwock.

He worked as a paniolo (a cowboy) in Waimea as a young man – that’s where he learned to use a whip. The Waipi'o-born Apana ad an early stint as a paniolo, picking up the whip skills he'd later use to tame opium smugglers, gamblers and children out past curfew. A wiry, slight man a little over five feet tall, Apana took a lot of hits while doggedly pursuing his suspects: The deep scar above his eyebrow was from an ax handle, and he was also thrown out of a second-floor window, run over by a horse-and-buggy and stabbed.

Serving longer than anyone else on the local police force, Mr. Chang was one of the most picturesque and best known characters in the city. His achievements (along with Lee Fook’s) resulted in the attention of novelist Earl Derr Biggers that resulted in the book "The House Without a Key" (along with the creation of the detective character “Charlie Chan”) and friendship.

Mr. Chang joined the police department when the city and county was incorporated 35 years before his death and (as a Honolulu PD detective who spoke Chinese, English and Hawaiian and who was authorized to carry a bullwhip for a weapon) was one of its most popular members until he was pensioned in May, 1932, after he had been seriously injured in an automobile accident. Apana had a great record at HPD and was a natural detective. He moved easily among Waikiki's many ethnic communities and, though just over five feet tall, was a tough but fair officer. After that, he was employed as a watchman for the Hawaiian Trust building until his death. Veteran officers tell stories of his feats of daring, especially relating to the early days of Chinese immigration to the islands when there was much opium smuggling. They say he never lost his courage, although knifed and beaten many times.

Keye Luke picture in a Charlie Chan movie
Before he died, Keye Luke shared that he was aware many Asians didn't like the idea of a Swede playing the Chinese detective, especially since all his children were played by authentic Asians. However, Luke didn't resent the casting nor did he feel the films were racist. He felt they may have been a bit naive, but were worthy films that presented a Chinese-American hero at a time when there were no others on screen--and gave lots of Asian-American actors like himself careers in Hollywood.

While his derring-do was enough to catch anybody's attention, a Chinese detective was in itself unusual in the era. Captivated, Harvard-educated author (and former newspaperman) Earl Derr Biggers based six novels' worth of the Charlie Chan character on Apana. "Apana's the epitome of law enforcement in Hawai'i: unique, dedicated," says Eddie Croom – police museum curator and fellow officer. "Law enforcement was his life for 34 years. He's the ultimate cop."

There's no getting around the fact that the vintage Charlie Chan mystery movies of the 1930s and '40s are, to put it mildly, politically incorrect in this day and age because three of the actors who brought Earl Derr Biggers' sage Chinese detective to life on screen were played by Caucasians: Warner Oland, Sidney Toler and Roland Winters. The only saving so-called “grace” was that these movies marked the first time there had been an Asian hero on screen. Biggers created Chan as a reaction against the racist Yellow Peril stories popular in the early 20th century.

It's a common mistake to believe Charlie Chan never was played on screen by Asian actors. That's not true: The first screen Chan was Japanese actor George Kuwa, followed by another Japanese, Sojin, who played Chan in a silent version of "The Chinese Parrot." E.L. Park played Chan in the first talking picture version of a Chan novel--Fox's "Behind That Curtain," a 1929 film that occasionally turns up on Fox's cable network.

There hasn't been a new Charlie Chan movie since "Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen" in 1981--a box office disaster that drew hordes of Asian pickets for the casting of Englishman Peter Ustinov as Charlie, if not for the film's general incompetence. Chan was entertainment and widely popular, though few people ever knew that Charlie Chan was based on a real Waikiki detective. At the time, America only stretched from "sea to shining sea," and not many had heard of much about Hawaii, much less Waikiki.

Side Note: A smart producer would find a charismatic Chinese actor to play a politically correct Charlie Chan who played one of the past century’s greatest detective characters that originally appealed to Earl Derr Biggers when he read about Chang Apana. Can you imagine what it must have been like to rise to prominence as a Chinese police detective of great renown in 1920s Honolulu, that melting pot of the Pacific?

The Filipino Labor Union, founded in 1933, organized the Salinas Lettuce Strike. Filipino Agricultural Workers Union publishes the Filipino Journal.


Filipinos are ruled ineligible for citizenship and therefore are barred from immigrating to the US.

Cannery Workers' and Farm Laborers' Union formed in Seattle. Virgil Duyungan, a Filipino cannery worker, is the first president.

In 1934, Japanese American farmers and their families trek into town from the countryside, from Boyle Heights, uptown, and West Virgil (near Echo Park), for the first annual Nisei Week festival. They line up, five and six deep, to catch a glimpse of the demure kimono-clad women like those back home. Charlie Chaplin even makes an appearance before the cheering crowd.

The ghetto, as many call it, is a thriving hub for Japanese Americans throughout Southern California. In the 1920s, Los Angeles claimed the largest population of any Japanese American community in the continental United States. In the 1930s, families began to move out of the ethnic enclave, but still returned to buy groceries on the weekend, to see the latest Japanese flicks, or--in the case of first-generation Japanese--to hang out with fellow immigrants from their home prefectures. Japanese smells filled the air. Japanese was the language on the streets.

Nisei Week was conceived during the Depression as a way of boosting business for Little Tokyo merchants. After the war, the festival provided a place for emotionally wounded Japanese Americans to reclaim their cultural heritage ... and also to prove their American patriotism. For more information go to Since the tradition began, it has only been interrupted once, for seven years during and immediately after World War II, when Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated and interned in camps.The festival grew. And inevitably, it changed.

Little Tokyo, bounded on the east by Alameda Street, on the west by Los Angeles Street, on the north by Temple and on the south by 4th Street, is one of the country's three remaining "Japantowns" (the others are in San Francisco and San Jose).

The term "nisei" means "second generation" and refers to the American-born children of Japanese immigrants. The bulk of Japanese immigration took place from 1900 to 1920, with more than 213,000 entering America.

On December 23, 1934 - Cavino "Kelly" Petillo of Huntington Park and his mechanic, Takio Hirashima, a Glendale High School student, crossed the finish line first at the LAX track (better known as Mines Field Speedway, offered escapist entertainment for as many as 75,000 fans at a time) - where the Los Angeles International Airport is located, averaging above 100 mph. Petillo, driving the Gilmore Speedway Special the car was sponsored, like the ones in NASCAR today would win the Indy 500 the following year.

Eddy See opens the Dragon's Den Restaurant in the basement of the F. Suie One Company with a $600 grubstake creating a restaurant different than others in L.A. Chinatown. On the exposed brick of the basement walls, Benji Okubo, Tyrus Wong and Marian Blanchard painted murals of the Eight Immortals and a dancing dragon. An arty crowd, including Walt Disney and the Marx Brothers, came to see the murals and sample the "authentic fare." Dragon's Den served egg foo young, fried shrimp and almond duck. Non-Chinese diners during the Great Depression considered these "exotic" dishes.

Eddy See also opened a small gallery in the mezzanine of the F. Suie One Company to sell the artwork of his friends, including Tyrus Wong, a student at Otis Art School, and Benji Okubo, a Japanese American artist from Riverside. Okubo met art pioneer Stanton Mcdonald-Wright while studying at the Art Student's League. He encouraged these young Asian American artists them to look to their heritage for forms and to juxtapose colors without adopting western perspectives.

On June 24, 1935 - FDR granted citizenship to 500 Asian Americans for armed services during World War II. Public Law 162 granted several hundred Asian veterans who served in the United States Armed Forces during World War I the right to apply for United States citizenship through naturalization.

At first, the Filipinos could not be excluded due to the fact that the Philippines was a U.S. "territory" (read colony) and its people were thereby "wards," sometimes called "nationals" of the United States. Consequently, they were legally neither "citizens" nor "aliens." Ironically, this was resolved by the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1935, which simultaneously granted "Commonwealth" status with promises of eventual independence in 1946 to the Philippines and immediately cut Filipino immigration to the United States to fifty persons per year.

Thus the Chinese experience in the nineteenth century produced a new racial category-"aliens ineligible to citizenship" -and a new form of racism-exclusion - which would be applied to virtually all of the Asian nationalities that were to immigrate to the United States until after the Second World War. It fundamentally structured the social and political rights of peoples of Asian descent once here until the 1960s.

It was this common history of being considered racially inferior and not assimilable that forged the distinct (and often mutually hostile) Asian nationalities into a new panethnic racial group: ASIANS AMERICANS.

World-renowned conductor Zubin Mehta is born in Bombay, India. At the young age of 16, Mehta begins conducting the Bombay symphony while his father, the cofounder, is away on tour.

George Takei ("Mr. Sulu in Star Trek) is born.

Last ethnic strike in Hawaii.

Chinese workers'
Mutual Aid Association is founded in San Francisco to help workers of all trades get organized. Workers from restaurants, laundries, farms, and docks joined.

Jack Shirai, New York restaurant worker, is killed fighting the fascists in Spain. He was the only Japanese American in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Charlie Low's
Forbidden City Nightclub gained an international reputation as the nation's premiere all-Chinese nightclub showcasing Chinese American performers in All-American production numbers soon after it opened in San Francisco on December 22nd in 1938. Night club featured accomplished and renown performers. Dancers included Dorothy Toy Fong (tap dancer/actress), Stanley Toy (dancer), Bertha Lew Hing (dancer, magician), Dorothy Sun Murray (dancer), Lew Hing (dancer, magician), Dorothy Sun Murray (dancer), Jade Ling (actress/dancer), Marion Fong Got (dancer) and Noel Toy (dancer). Singers included Larry Ching (singer), Frances Chun Kan (singer), Ivy Tam (dancer/Mrs. Charlie Low) and Lily Pon (dancer, singer). These performers were featured in Arthur Dong's "Forbidden City USA" documentary.
Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman with the owner of Forbidden City - Charlie Low. (Courtesy of Deep Focus Productions)

Forbidden City was frequently compared to the Cotton Club of Harlem, which featured America's finest black entertainers. Asian American singers and dancers strutted their stuff at the San Francisco Chinatown nightclub at 363 Sutter Street, and at similar "Chopsuey circuit" nightclubs from the 1930's through the 1950's. Larry Ching, the "Chinese Frank Sinatra", Toy Yat Mar, the "Chinese Sophie Tucker", Bubble dancer Noel Toy, the "Chinese Sally Rand" and the incomparable dance team of Toy and Wing, the "Chinese Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers" were just a few of the top notch performers headlining at the club.

Forbidden City was not the first or only such club, but it was the best known, and it became the model for the nightclub in the C.Y. Lee book and Broadway musical, The Flower Drum Song

On Saturday of June 25, 1938, California's Governor Merriam and a host of dignitaries dedicated Los Angeles Chinatown's Central Plaza in a gala Grand Opening ceremony. Central Plaza provided a magnificent hub and lexus for growth into the famous colorful, vibrant Chinese American community. Originally, New Chinatown consisted of many notable restaurants, shops, an herbal store, a grocery store, a bean cake factory, a Chinese deli and offices. In 1938, these long-time establishments were all moved from Los Angeles' Old Chlnatown, not quite a mile away.

Ex-California Governor Frank F. Merriam stated that New Chinatown "represented a monument to those Chinese who played such an important role in building the West and a lasting evidence of American Chinese amity." Gov. Merriam then dedicated a curved plaque mounted on a column of the pailou, which was "Dedicated to the Chinese Pioneers Who Participated in the Constructive History of California." Merriam was followed to the podium by Los Angeles Mayor F.L. Shaw and Supervisor Gordon L. McDonough. Chinese Consul T.K. Chang remarked that the building of New Chinatown is an example of a willingness to adopt new modern ways, that the community needed to follow this spirit to promote "our Chinese economic and social status."

Peter SooHoo was a visionary native Chinese American born and raised in Old Chinatown. He moved with facility in both the Chinese and Los Angeles communities and gained the high trust of

He became an influential leader in the Chinese community at a relatively young age. Fluent in Cantonese and English, he became the spokesman for Chinatown to American institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce and the press.

During the 1930's, he made periodic declarations to the local papers that the reported demise of Old Chinatown was premature, and that customers in Chinatown were most welcome.

He graduated in engineering from the University of Southern California, one of the first local Chinese Americans in the field, and was the first Chinese American to join in the Department of Water and Power. His commitment to his community was total.
For more info, click

Los Angeles' Chinatown was one of the nation's first malls and first modern American Chinatown, owned and planned from the ground up by Chinese, Central Plaza would provide a magnificent hub and lexus for growth into the famous colorful, vibrant Chinese American community in Southern California. Peter Soo Hoo, President of the Chinese American Association, negotiated with Herbert Lapham of the Santa Fe Railway Company to purchase land and build New Chinatown. Soo Hoo formed a corporation with twenty-eight men and women, each contributing $500 per share. New Chinatown's brightly colored buildings and tiled pagoda roofs attracted tourists, shoppers and diners. The eighteen stores and bean cake factory also served the social and economic needs of the community. The clean, contemporary appearance of New Chinatown did much to raise the status of Chinese Americans in Los Angeles. Inscribed "Cooperate to Achieve," New Chinatown's west gate was constructed as a tribute to Chinese laborers who built the railroads of California. Y.C. Hong erected the east gate in honor of his mother and the self-sacrifices of motherhood.

History of "Old Chinatown"
By 1870, an identifiable "Chinatown" of 200 or so was situated on Calle de Los Negros - Street of the Dark Hued Ones - a short alley 50 feet wide and one block long between El Pueblo Plaza and Old Arcadia Street. These early, mostly male, Chinese were mainly laundrymen, market gardeners, agricultural and ranch workers, and road builders. Despite the heavy discrimination in the late 19th century, Chinese held a dominant economic position in the Los Angetes laundry and produce industries for several years of this period. Consequently, old Chinatown flourished, expanding eastward from the Plaza across Alameda Street and eventually attaining a population of over 3000. The Exclusion Acts inhibited any real growth for many years.

In a typical experience, Chinese became lessees, subleasees or tenants of a major land or property owner, such as Apablasa. Laws prohibited most from citizenship and hence, property ownership. The Chinese densely settled a major part of Old Chinatown on the Juan Apablasa grazing grounds and vineyards, controlled by his old widow. Inability to gain ownership in large measure would have dire consequences later.

Old Chinatown in its heyday, 1890 to 1910, could count 15 or so streets and alleys, and perhaps 200 building units. It had sufficient size and sophistication to boast of a Chinese opera theater, three temples, a newspaper (for a while), and later, its own telephone exchange. Old Chinatown was a residential as well as commercial community. The slow increase in the number of women would lead to the establishment of families with children. During this time, most of today's leading Chinese family and district associations, Chinatown institutions were founded, and church missions were organized, which began the process of community acculturation. Old Chinatown, with restaurants, curio shops, and "strange" entertainments, even became an attraction for the early, pioneering breed of American tourist.

L.A.'s original Chinatown, after half a century of tenuous existence as a self-contained slum and black market for forbidden goods and services, was seized using eminent domain in the 1930s and razed to make way for Union Station, forcing 3,000 residents to start over elsewhere, their history literally paved over.

China City
June 7, 1938: A tourist attraction called China City opened on Ord Street between Main and Spring streets, drawing 10,000 visitors on its first day. The site was dreamed up by civic activist Christine Sterling, the founder of Olvera Street, after construction of Union Station pushed out Chinatown residents and shopkeepers. The Main Street gate was dedicated to the late Times reporter and columnist Harry Carr. "He would have enjoyed watching every little store going into place. Chinatown was one of his adventure lands," The Times said. It was enclosed within a miniature "Great Wall of China," with lotus pools, temple gongs, curio stands, dance pavilions, and movie sets from The Good Earth. Tourists rode rickshaws and ate Chinaburgers. They loved the atmosphere, as did dignitaries like Eleanor Roosevelt. Movie stars such as Mae West and Anna May Wong were paid to make appearances and promote the attraction. A fire leveled China City in February 1939. In the late 1930s the China City project provided an alternative for the dislocated Chinese businessman or the would-be entrepreneur. Eventually over 70 such opportunities would exist in China City for tenants. Two major fires in a decade sapped the vitality of the enterprise. Though it reopened amid great fanfare in August, business was never the same and China City was gone by the early 1950's..

The End of Old Chinatown
Seeds of decline were sown in Old Chinatown (the area east of Alameda, near downtown Los Angeles) by the 1910s. The Exclusion Acts, inducements of the new produce center at City Market that co-founded by the Chinese and a new nearby Chinatown with an evolving residential district led to a gradual population decrease in the Old Place. News of wide open gambling houses, vestiges of opium dens - often staged for the unwary tourist - and the fierce tong warfare of the period encouraged the respectable visitor to avoid the Old Quarter that made it highly dependant on Chinese residents alone.

The pending demolition of Old Chinatown to build a new railroad terminal - Union Station - was one reason the neighborhood was falling apart. Another cause was the exodus of second generation Chinese Americans, youth whose citizenship rights enabled them to secure "outside" jobs and housing. Some were ashamed of the run-down place where their immigrant parents had been forced to live. They blamed discrimination on bad publicity emanating from the media portrayals of Old Chinatown. Hundreds were forced to relocate when demolition began in December 1933, many of them elderly Chinese bachelors.  

Another important factor in Old Chinatown's increasing depression was instability and uncertainty in the actions of the landlords. With the rumors of impending City redevelopment increasing in volume with each passing year, few cared to improve or maintain their Chinatown properties - though the historic streets of Old Chinatown east of Alameda were never to be paved as a result of this downward spiral of disinterest. Housing conditions were abominable in the end, the Chinese were too impoverished to improve conditions and without a place to go - they became stubbornly reluctant to vacate.

The threat of Chinese relocation started as early as 1913 when a large portion of Old Chinatown was entangled in a three-way litigation suit between the Apablasa family and the City of Los Angeles over the ownership of Chinatown streets. It was contended that the streets belonged, not to the city, but to the estate since all street improvements had been paid for by the estate and the property had been maintained as private.

Meanwhile all the leases on the Chinatown property had expired and litigation was the one barrier which prevented the sale of the property for uses other than housing the Chinese. On December 12, 1913, all suits were dropped and six acres of Old Chinatown property were sold for $310,000, possibly for Southern Pacific track ways. On November 7, 1914, a large deal was concluded for the acquisition of all Chinatown lying east of Alameda Street. This property cost the new owner L.F. Hanchett, a San Francisco capitalist, over two million dollars. Old Chinatown was to be converted into an industrial and warehouse district while a new Chinese Colony would be developed. In time, Hanchett was found to be planning a railroad terminal instead, but he was thwarted in court as his plan lost credibility. On the fateful day of May 19, 1931, a California Supreme Court decision was upheld approving land condemnations and the construction of the new Union Station upon the site of Old Chinatown. Two years were to slip by before an acceptable Chinese relocation proposal was accepted by the City.

150 Chinese women garment workers strike for three months against the National Dollar Stores (owned by a Chinese).

As consul general for the Chinese Nationalist government in Vienna, after Adolf Hitler invaded Austria in 1938,
Mr. Feng Shan Ho helped many Jews escape the Nazis by issuing them visas to China. In one particularly close call, Mr. Ho managed to stave off Gestapo agents at the door of a Jewish home where he had gone to deliver a visa. Upon his 1973 retirement, Mr. Ho settled in San Francisco. In addition to being honored as one of a handful of Gentile diplomats identified by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial who saved the lives of more than 200,000 European Jews, he become a well-known figure in the community and a founding member of the Chinese Lutheran Church.

In Manila, though, a vigorous expatriate cigar manufacturer from Cincinnati had been playing poker and bridge with the likes of Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower; Paul V. McNutt, the American high commissioner; and Manuel L. Quezon, the first Philippines president.

When Alex Frieder, a expatriate cigar manufacturer from Cincinnati, saw refugees straggling to the port pleading for entry, he cajoled his high-profiled poker cronies (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Paul V. McNutt - the American high commissioner and Manuel L. Quezon - the 1st Philippines president - to let the Philippines become a haven for thousands more.

Through his efforts and Phillip - along with his two other brothers (Morris, Herbert & Henry), about 1,200 German and Austrian Jews eventually found sanctuary in the Philippines in the late 1930's, then an American protectorate, even as the liner St. Louis was turned away from Miami with a boatload of 900 Jews in a more typical example of American policy.

The story of the Manila rescue begins in 1918 with the decision of the Frieder family to move much of its two-for-a-nickel cigar business from Manhattan to the Philippines, where production would be cheaper. Alex, Philip, Herbert and Morris took turns living in Manila for two years each.

Frank Ephraim who as a child was one of the Jewish refugees in Manila and who wrote a history of the rescue, "Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror" (University of Illinois Press, 2003), said that in 1937 Philip Frieder saw European Jews arriving in Manila's port from Shanghai while it was under siege by the Japanese. Shanghai remained an open port and eventually harbored 17,000 German Jews. Mr. McNutt, the high commissioner, was able to finesse State Department bureaucrats to turn a blind eye to quotas and admit 1,000 Jews a year.

Mr. Quezon's approval was also needed. Dr. Racelle Weiman, the Holocaust center's director, said there was a letter written by Alex Frieder to Morris Frieder that said skeptics in Mr. Quezon's administration spoke of Jews as "Communists and schemers" bent on "controlling the world." "He assured us that big or little, he raised hell with every one of those persons," Alex Frieder wrote of Mr. Quezon in August 1939. "He made them ashamed of themselves for being a victim of propaganda intended to further victimize an already persecuted people." Mr. Frieder combed lists of imperiled Jews for needed skills and advertised in German newspapers. The brothers and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee arranged visas, jobs and housing and raised thousands of dollars for sustenance.

In 1939, decades before the creation of the NBA, six Chinese Americans from San Francisco barnstormed across the country as members of the Hong Wah Kues, America's first all-Chinese professional basketball team. They played local all-stars or pros, including other *ethnic* teams.

In 1939 and with the opening of his Chinese restaurant (Frank Fat) in a rundown former speak-easy two blocks west of Capitol, Frank Fat (Dong Sai-Fat) started his immigrant dream story. With his $2,000 investment that he borrowed, it quickly became a favorite among state politicians, representatives, senators and government officials. Over the decades, its widespread popularity earned it the nickname of the "Third House" because it was the preferred location for legislators, lobbyists and other high-level officials - along with California's most powerful men and women - to meet, including every governor who has served California for the past 80 years - hence the restaurant most closely associated with Sacramento history and a Sacramento institution. Frank Fat - who died in 1997 - and son Wing provided a table-hopping, belly-up-to-the-bar atmosphere where legislators, lobbyists and reporters could meet and bond and learn to trust each other - where landmark bills were drafted in back booths, and tort reform arose out of a famous "napkin deal."

Fat Family
Only Fat's has survived on the old circuit. Also long gone are such hangouts as Bedell's, the El Mirador Hotel, Capitol Tamale, the Senator Hotel and Eilish's (the "final, final" stop). The restaurant still packs them in at lunch, but it's a different crowd: a mix of lobbyists, locals and tourists. Very few legislators. The dinner clientele is mostly nonpolitical.

Frank Fat journey started when sailed to San Francisco from China in 1919, a 16-year-old who spoke no English and carried a false ID - a penniless and illegal immigrant. He picked fruit, washed dishes, swept up, waited tables and in the beginning slept nights on the stone stairs to a restaurant's basement. Frank Fat's formula, as he once explained it: "You give people good food, a nice place to eat it in and make them happy. The Fats made customers happy by keeping their secrets - political or personal - and providing a friendly atmosphere. They knew virtually everybody's first name, treated them the same whether a senator or a staffer and served up tasty dishes. This was during the era ('60s into the early '80s) when legislators could fight guys on issues during the day and then have dinner and carouse with them at night."
Governor Schwarzenegger

Frank Fat's holds the distinction of being the Capital City's oldest eating establishment, but it isn't the only restaurant in town that bears the family name. Frank cared deeply about preserving the history and contribution of Chinese immigrants during the historic Gold Rush. He helped to renovate Old Sacramento by opening a restaurant along the riverfront. The Fat Family owns several restaurants in Sacramento and Southern California and were consultants to China Camp in the old Cache Creek Casino before establishing Kung Fu Fat's as a joint venture between Fat Family and Cache Creek Casino Resort - along with their business arrangements with Indian casinos.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger became the latest to visit Frank Fat's, the oldest active restaurant in the Sacramento valley, when he lit the ceremonial firecrackers to usher in the Chinese New Year, number 4702.Frank died at age 93 in 1997, but his four sons (Wing, Ken, Tom and Jerry) and two daughters (Jean Ann and Mabel) carry on his tradition and are expanding the business.

WING KAI FAT: The No. 1 son of legendary restaurant founder Frank Fat - died of a stroke at age 79 on Feb. 25, 2005. Former Assembly Speaker Brown (who delivered one of the eulogies), a flamboyant Democrat whom non-Sacramento Republicans loved to hate, forged strong bipartisan relationships at Fat's.

Wing K. Fat, the humble immigrant who inherited Frank Fat's, the famous Sacramento restaurant where politicians sealed countless deals, died Friday just before 5:00 P.M. at the age of 79. The cause was related to a massive stroke he had suffered in his Arden Park home four days earlier.
Wing Fat

Wing Kai Fat was born in Canton, China, in 1925. He immigrated to the United States 10 years later, after his father had arrived in America. Wing Fat served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1940s and graduated from Sacramento State. Starting as a dishwasher and floor scrubber during the day and taking care of his five brothers and sisters by night, Mr. Fat had worked at his father's restaurant for most of its 66 years - becoming manager in the 1960s and until he retired a few years ago as its main owner and host.

In continuing his father's tradition - Fat made friends with the politicians, and was on a first name basis with virtually every major political figure in the state. He was active in the Sacramento Asian Sports Foundation and a number of local charities. In addition to serving as president of the Fat Corporation, Fat was a founding board member of River City Bank and served as president of Channel 58, Inc., which owned KQCA television in the 1990s.

The Fat restaurant group today includes 10 restaurants throughout the Sacramento region. In November 2004, Mr. Fat and his wife, Chee Fat, donated $1 million to the Sacramento Asian Sports Foundation for a planned sports center in Laguna.

In November 2004, Mr. Fat and his wife, Chee Fat, donated $1 million to the Sacramento Asian Sports Foundation for a planned sports center in Laguna.

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