My grandfather HONG Hock How 曾學厚 was born on 23rd day of the 6th month of the 26th Year of the Emperor Guang Xu (July 19, 1900), in the waning days of the Qing Dynasty in Dong An Village, Taishan County, Guangdong Province 廣東省台山縣東安村. He spent his boyhood years in the village, entering school at age 7 where he spent his first four years memorizing books and learning how to write.
The Chinese Revolution of 1911
In 1911, the Chinese Revolution overthrew the Qing Dynasty, and the Republic of China was established on January 1, 1912. The revolution signaled the end of 2,000 years of dynastic rule in China and the start of China's early republican period. The revolution accelerated the modernization of daily life in China, and for Hock How, it meant his school was re-organized and divided into different classes. He continued to study there until he was 15 years old.
|Hock How, 1915
In February 1915, Hock How’s father, Hong Chew Yook, returned to their village from America. At Hock How's grandmother's insistence, he married NG Chau Hai, “a very pretty girl", in April 1915. Hock How returned to America with his father on October 27, 1915. He was detained on Angel Island while his citizenship status was investigated. After the initial interrogation, Hock How's application was reject, and he faced deportation. Chew Yook hired a lawyer who petitioned the Labor Department in Washington DC. Eventually, his petition was granted, and on February 23, 1916, Hock How was admitted to the U.S. as the son of a native-born citizen.
Once in Palo Alto, Hock How spent a month teaching himself to read English with the help of friends and was eventually placed in 4th grade at the Lytton Primary School. In 1918, his wife, NG Chau Hai, had a heart attack and died while traveling to her younger brother’s wedding. According to Hock How “that news knocked me off my feet, but thereafter I determined to put all my energy into study.” He continued his studies at Palo Alto Union High School and went on to qualify for admissions to Stanford University’s School of Engineering.
From the time he started Primary School, Hock How worked for families as a house boy, doing odd jobs in the house including cooking and cleaning. This work earned him “a room in the back barn, breakfast, and evening meal, and $20 per month.” He first worked for Mr. Nagle, then Professor Fish, and finally Mrs. J. F. Newsom at 1129 Cowper Street, Palo Alto, eventually earning $40 a month.