Shepherd, Ted 8/17/99 1 of 2
By Emily Erwin
This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Program. The interview is being recorded with Br. Ted Shepherd in his residence on August 17, 1999. The interviewer is Emily Erwin.
EE: Okay, Br. Ted have you always lived in Greenville?
TS: Right I was born and raised here.
EE: Your parents and you family are all centered in Greenville?
TS: Well my father came from Kentucky. His parents were from Missouri and Kentucky. He was born in Lakeview, MS. My mother came from Gibson County, Tennessee. They met and married in Greenville.
EE: You were born in ’24. So the flood of ’27 occurred when you were a little thing, right?
TS: Yeah right I was three years old. I have been told so much about it by my family that I feel like I kind of remember though I doubt that I do. My family had some great experiences. They talked about when I was growing up about how they all had to go to the levee. My father was an auditor with Mississippi Power and Light Company, and he had to take all the books to Grenada on the train. So my mother just marched the kids down the railroad tracks up on the levy to get on the highest ground available. After a couple days they found out that the water was not going to get in the house. It came up only about six inches under our floor. So we were able to go back and live in the house during the flood. I remember them talking about how my father came back, and they built a boat. My brothers built boats, and they had a great time catching fish and crawfish. They just had a big time. The flood was a great event in our lives.
EE: Did you live close to the levy?
TS: Oh yes we lived on South Broadway. It was 707 South Broadway, the seven hundred block. Really our family was all in that area. I had uncles, aunts, and cousins around the street on Clay St. All the cousins grew up like brother and sister. We just had a great time. When we were growing up going up on the levy and sliding down on cardboard. We would hear the showboats blow their whistle. We would all run up on the levy trying to see which showboat it was. Some of them back then were “The Capital”, “The President”, and “The Island Queen”. We would guess which one it was. We had a great time. The circus unloaded. We lived close to the railroad. At the end of Broadway was the circus circular. The circus unloaded right close to our house. We would watch the circular unload. We would go to the circus, and then we would watch it load back up. We got a first hand view of the circus. Some of the greatest circuses in the world, there was Wringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, Hagen Back and Wallace, and Cole Brothers. All of them were great circuses. We saw all of the animals before they got to the circus grounds. It was just a great time. We lived close to the old steam generating plant, which was right there at the railroad. They had the responsibility of the streetcars also. They were a little before my time, but I can remember my family talking about how the streetcars would pass the house. Then go up into the streetcar barn at the end of the day. Of course they would pass by the house. They had streetcars back in Greenville then that would go all over town. They would go out to Greenway Park. They go up into the town itself and up in the north end and everything. So we had a great time when we were kids growing up on South Broadway. We walked to school. I walked to old Central School. I believe that is Ella Darling now up on Broadway. I went to E. E. Bass and Greenville High School. Now E. E. Bass of course was one of I believe one of Mississippi’s great educators. He came to Greenville to tutor a family. He was going back to Missouri where he came from to study law, but the local people encouraged him to stay and kind of superintend what little school system we had here. He grew into becoming the first superintendent of Greenville public school. He inaugurated some of the great programs that were copied throughout the state. He began to build up the school system. He died in 1932. I was about seven or eight years old. I was in Central School. I remember vividly one day that he brought a horn toad around for every class. He wanted every student to see that horn toad. I remember him bringing it in our class. I remember that very vividly. He was a great man. He did a wondrous work in education for Greenville. I went on the E. E. Bass; Herman Sawman was the principle there. I never will forget one little saying that he had when he would admonish the students about not studying. He would say, “You don’t know bull bean or buttons about anything.” Then I went on to Greenville High School. E. J. Lukembark was the principle there. At that time Forest Mercy was the superintendent. So I came up through the Greenville School system.
EE: You got to know the people around town.
TS: We had a great time in school and everything.
EE: How big were your classes?
TS: Well looking back they were not that real big, twenty or twenty something in a class. I can look back. We had a band, and I played in the high school band.
EE: Is that where you learned the trumpet?
TS: Yeah that is where I learned to play the trumpet. We had a little dance band called Tiger Bob and his Bearcat. I played first trumpet in that orchestra. I would not take a million dollars for it. We had a great time.
EE: Sounds like a rowdy group.
TS: We played for high school dances, and we played occasionally for the high school. They would have us at an assembly. We were all in the high school band. We just had this little orchestra. The leader of it was called Tiger Bob. He went on in WWII to fly a P51, and he shot down some German planes. I remember him talking about that one time after he came back from the war, and we visited. All that time I was working off and on. I worked at a local drive in called the Fountain Terris. That was the place to work. It was the teen hangout. After football games all the teams would come in you know. I cooked hamburgers. I remember kind of the menu was with ham, steaks, and bacon and tomato, and a pig. That was part of it. I knew how to cook all of those. We would listen to the game, and when the last quarter come around we would start cooking up the hamburgers on one side. We would stack them in front of us, and then we would slice up the buns and put them in a big garbage can. When the game was over we would start flipping them over and cooking them on the other side. Then we would just slap them together. They were ten cents apiece. They were delicious too. We had a great time. I enjoyed working at the Fountain Terris. All of the kids would come. That was their hangout. After that the war came along.
EE: Did you go to State before?
TS: Yeah I went Mississippi State for one semester, and then I got drafted into the army. I remember going over on the bus the first time to Mississippi State, and then I would hitch hike. You would not do that today. In fact two or three of us would get together and hitch hike. We would make it fine. After I went into the service I came out of the service, and I went to Delta State. I was going to get my English off, and then go back to Mississippi State. I got a job in Greenville making five dollars a weekend, and that would be my spending money for the next week. The G. I. Bill put me through see. I would have this five dollars to spend each week. I worked at a drug store as a soda jerk in Greenville. I would hitch hike back and forth. I remember one time two or three of us caught a ride from Delta State with an inebriated crop duster. He thought he was flying an airplane. It didn’t have any shock absorbers in that old car. I remember that. It was bouncing up and down. When we hit Shaw, MS the first place he stopped at the stop sign the doors flew open and we went into the cotton field. I caught a ride in an ambulance, dump truck, and with that old crop duster. We had a great time. You would not do that today.
EE: G. I. Bill how did that work at Delta State? Did they put you in housing at Delta State?
TS: Well at Delta State a lot of G. I. ‘s were coming back and taking advantage of the G. I. Bill. They had two old army barracks that were called G. I. one and G. I. two. They put most of the G. I. ‘s in there. First I got there and I remember the old dormitory up on the front. I stayed there a night or two. Then they put me over on the army barracks that they had put on the campus. Okay this was probably the second year that they started Business Administration. Before Delta State was a teachers college, and it was then. They had a course of Business course for teachers. I graduated with a B. S. degree in Business Administration. I got out of college of course I put out. They didn’t have the placement service which that you have today. Pretty well up to the student to do it on his own. So I have written some resumes and went to Memphis and different places looking for work. One day in the bus station I was going up there for an interview for a job. I saw an old school mate of mine, Lou Legman. We talked in the bus station. I didn’t get the job. I came back to Greenville, and I got a job here. Then one thing led to another, and I began to date Lou. We got married. Our family came along. We had three girls Jackie, Anne, and Mealy. Lou died in 1983. I remarried in 1988. I married Nan Farmer. You know Nan. She is a member of our church at First Baptist. So that pretty well brings us up to date. I worked for two wholesale hardware companies, Henderson Bear Wholesale Hardware Company and Beardon Company. I started the IBM system. That is what they called then at Beardom Company. I was a little punch card system where you had keypunches. Back then we called it 402 Accounting machine. After the cards keypunched you would put them in the machine and run out the invoices and everything. So I set that up I worked with IBM and set that up with Beardom Company. Then in time I left them and went to Henderson Bear. At Henderson Bear I worked for a while as a buyer of hardware goods, and then I worked into the office as Office manager. That company closed. When I was very young about sixteen or seventeen I felt a real impression from the Lord to, well I knew he wanted me to do something. In time with that continuous feeling I had I felt that he wanted me to be a preacher. That was back when I was young. It never left me. Then when this company begin to talk about closing and set up there entire headquarters in Greenwood one night I was in a business meeting. I was a deacon at the church. The pastor at that time was Barry Landrum. He approached me after that meeting, and he said, “Ted for the past six months every time I bough my head to pray your name comes up in my head. I have been wanting to set up a position in our church called Minister of Missions, and I feel that you are the man for it.” I have been working in a mission Sunday school. I just felt that I need some thought. I came home and talked it over with Lou. I just felt that the Lord was opening a door for me. Here this company was going to close on me, and I still had to provide for my family. I just felt that the Lord was opening a door for me to go into full time Christian Service. I did. I went on and took that position. I had many responsibilities on the staff. I had the bus ministry that I worked with. I took care of the people who would come to the church looking for help. Transients, destitute people, and we had a food and clothes pantry. I had a jail ministry. I would go into the city jail. I did that for about eight years. Every week we would have a service there. Out at the airbase they had a place for people who were homeless. We had service out there. Also my main responsibility was being pastor of the Chinese Mission. That kind of brings us up to date as to what I have been doing the last twenty-two years in working with the Chinese people. So I guess we need to talk about that then.
EE: How did you get involved with the Chinese? Did you feel like the Chinese in the community was a place for you all to reach out to that the Baptist needed to reach out to? Did they not have an organized religion or religious group yet?
TS: Well the way it started was back in 1934. We have had a Chinese Mission for sixty-six years. The First Baptist Church has. It was going and in progress when I came on the scene at First Baptist. So I began to work with a mission that was already established. If you would like to know a little about why the First Baptist went into this mission work back in ’34. We could talk about that if you would like to. Well back in the thirties there were a number of Chinese grocery stores in Greenville. Now Chinese had come into the delta after the Civil War around the 1870’s. What do you call it the Reconstruction period after the Civil War? Planters began to seek labor, and they had heard about Chinese working over in Arkansas and down in Louisiana in the sugar cane fields. They begin to recruit Chinese to come and work on the Plantation. It is a lot of different stories about how they got here. That is one way. I think this the one that stands to reason that the planters recruited them to come in for labor. Now there were a number of Chinese that had left the work on the Trans-Continental Railroad. They had just completed that, and they were just floating around in the United States. A number of them went to the China towns in the cities like New York and San Francisco. A number of them circulated around New Orleans and worked in the canaries and things like that. So those people as they settle in the south some of them were recruited by the farmers to work. Some of them worked in the canaries. Joe Ting was an old Chinese leader in Greenville that is gone on to California now. He is in his late eighties. In fact he is almost ninety. I talked to him the other day on the telephone about a way I am writing up these experiences, as you know. I talked to Joe about something I wanted to put in my writings. He told me he thought the ones that settled in the Greenville area came up on a steamship. A fish canary had burned on the coast around New Orleans, and he calls them the original thirteen. Some other Chinese call them the original seven or the original five. The number is not important, but a few of them came up on a steamboat and got off near Greenville. At that time there was one Chinese man named Wong On, and he had a store at Stoneville about eight or ten miles from Greenville. Some of them went to work for him, and they got odd jobs around. In time they begin to open up little stores in the delta towns. Now Greenville has a heavy black population. The Chinese would open the store in the black neighborhood. They would live in the back of the store. They would service the black community around them. Now there were a number of these stores in Greenville. I have heard numbers like forty or fifty at one time. Really when I started in ’77 there were about thirty or more Chinese stores in town. One of the most famous stores in Greenville was Joe Gow Nu and Company. Jo Gow Nu was at the foot of the Washington Avenue at the levy. This store the old building recently burned. Frank Carlton is the prosecuting attorney in Greenville had his law offices in that old building. That store mysteriously burned a year ago. They had Fire Marshall, and government agents searching that fire looking for some cause. They are not saying for sure it was arson, but they suspect someone set it on fire to destroy evidence. It was a real shame because that was a real famous Chinese store in Greenville. I remember going to it after the Saturday matinee when I was a kid. I would just walk down there and look in some of the showcases and see those old sandals and chopsticks. Beads and Rings and things they would sell them in the store along with their groceries and meat and all of that. I would just walk in there and look at them. That old store burnt. Of course there was a large Chinese population. It was very heavy back in the late 20’s and 30’s. Greenville having this large population attracted what would you say mission minded people. Of course the Baptist are well known for their mission work. We had a WMU, a women missionary union, who saw this opportunity of reaching out to the Chinese. So Ms. Galla Packston and a lady from the Methodist church, Ms. Guy Drew got together and they began to plan on how to reach these Chinese. They felt that the Lord had laid it on their heart here you have an opportunity right at your doorsteps you don’t have to go across the sea. Here it is right here. They got real excited about that, and they got the other ladies working. They begin to visit the stores and found out that the Chinese liked the idea. Some of them had been church services before, and they were not well accepted. Joe Ting told me that he even visited the First Methodists and the First Baptist, but he never felt comfortable. Back at that time there was a feeling that Chinese was classified as colored. They were not accepted in “white areas” and so forth. That was a problem for these ladies as they went out. They gradually broke that barrier, and they said the ladies said, “If you will come and worship with us we will have a service on Sunday afternoon where you can close your store for an hour or two and bring your family. We will have a worship service just for you on Sunday afternoon.” That is the way it was started having the Chinese Mission at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon in 1934. The men got into the act, and the ladies began to recruit the men. Some of the first ones were John Davis, Kurn Pratt, and men like that who went out and recruited other men in the church. They begin to bring in a sizable number of Chinese. The church assumed that responsibility. There was a lot of enthusiasm. The teachers from the main church would come on Sunday afternoon and teach the Sunday school classes. The pastor of the main church would come on preach the worship service. They would have teenagers that would come and help with the handwork. We were just a real enthusiastic effort early. Now this didn’t hold up through out the years. The Chinese mission had its ups and downs. This continued on with the church supplying the preacher that would be the educational director or the pastor would come and preach. They grew to some extent that they saw a need for a full time pastor. So they worked with our state office and our home mission board. They brought in a man named D. I. Young Sr. D. I. Young Sr. and his wife came and headed up the Chinese Mission. They probably made the greatest progress and greatest impact upon the Chinese up till that time of any individual or effort we have had before. This was their full time work, and the church and the home mission board paid them. By the way D. I. Young Jr. still lives in town. D. I. Young Sr. and his wife have both passed away. In fact D. I. Young Sr. was instrumental. (tape cut off)
TS: The Chinese were not admitted to the public schools then.
EE: Did they have their own schools then?
TS: They had their own school. E. E. Bass that I talked about at the beginning of our interview realized the need, but he was advanced in years at that time. He died in ’32. About 1930 he and a teacher were talking about the Chinese. By law they could not come to the public schools. In fact a Chinese, Ms. Lume, had brought suit and carried it all the way to the Supreme Court before this time, and they still would not admit the Chinese to the public schools because the Mississippi constitution classified them as colored. They upheld that ruling. Of course Mr. Bass talked to this teacher, and they talked to Joe Gow Nu who was a leader at that time. They said they would provide well the school would provide a teacher if they would provide some sort of facilities. So Joe Gow Nu got together with the Chinese men, and they bought a house on the North end of town. I think it was Old Hallion Thible, and they started the first Chinese school with the one teacher. The first teacher was Mrs. Zora Anderson. In time this school was for some reason not adequate or it was torn down, and the Chinese bought another building which still stands at the foot of Nelson St. and the levy right across from the old court school. It was originally court school. That was the second Chinese school, and there were other teachers that came along.
EE: Were the teachers at the Chinese school were they Chinese?
TS: They were Caucasian. The Chinese previous of that time had hired a man named Dr. Irving Woo. He was geologist, and he had come to this country looking for work as a geologist he and his wife. Because of his race he had difficulty getting a job as a geologist, so the Chinese hired him to teach their children. He in fact lived in the back of that second Chinese school. The teachers were Caucasian. One teacher would teach from the first grade to the twelfth grade. She would have anywhere from twenty to twenty-five to thirty students all in one room. She had her work cut out for her. Mrs. Hamilton was one. Mrs. E. B. Rental this is some of the Caucasian teachers that they had. Okay let’s go back to D. I. Young. He circulated a petition among the Chinese and got their support and help in trying to get the Chinese into the public schools after WWII. They achieved their goal in 1945. They were allowed to enter the school through the efforts of D. I. Young. Who was the pastor of the Chinese Mission at the First Baptist Church. Joe Ting who was a Chinese leader and merchant in Greenville. Hodding Carter was the editor of the Greenville’s “Delta Democrat Times” at that time. He was instrumental in helping. There was several old Chinese Frank Tu Len, Jo Gow Nu, and all of these worked in going before the school board. They guaranteed the school board that if they would let the Chinese in junior high and high school. They would guarantee that there would not be any trouble, and that they would excel. So an announcement came out in the paper, an article, I have a copy somewhere in my files. Where Henry Starling who was the president of the school board at that time made the announcement that the school board had decided to allow the Chinese in to the public school on a trial basis. At that time R. J. Cooch was the superintendent of Greenville public schools, and he was a member of First Baptist Church. I feel that D. I. Young being in the First Baptist Church, Kurn Pratt being in the First Baptist Church, and all these others who had worked with the Chinese Mission had a great influence on R. J. Cooch to make his recondmendation to the school board. I kind of feel that was underneath the surface in all of this in the decision. They did let them in school in junior high through high school, and they continued on with the old Chinese school with grammar school until 1947. After that the Chinese made their way into the public school, and they begin to produce valedictorian and salutatorians. It is rumored that they had a problem with one young lady, and Joe Ting heard about it. That young lady disappeared; they shipped her out of Greenville. That is how much the Chinese wanted in the public school. They wanted acceptance. They had already received that acceptance by being in the First Baptist Church. It was not only a religious thing for them, but it was a social thing for them to be accepted in the church. Then also they are able to enter the public school, and they were accepted there. They were not going to let anything happen anything go wrong. They were going to take care of it like this young lady. They probably shipped her to California or somewhere. Anyway they got into the schools, and you know the rest of this story. I was just talking to one of my good Chinese friends yesterday. His son had been accepted in this math and science school in Columbus. You have heard of that.
EE: Yeah, Mississippi Math and Science School.
TS: He is so proud. I understand you have to have it to get into there. Chinese are noted for that. Is there anything about the Chinese community you would like to know about some of their customs and things like that?
EE: Yeah, Okay after you got into the mission, the Chinese Mission. Did you participate or did you do their weddings and funerals? Or did you just watch as another leader in the community did them?
TS: I was their pastor. I was pastor of the Chinese Mission. I was there under shepherd. I taught them the bible. I preached to them. I baptized. I did their funerals and their weddings. I visited them. I would go to the hospital when they were sick. I dedicated homes. I would go and have a prayer. When new babies came along. I just did it all as pastor of the Chinese Mission, and I had some great experiences. I really did. When I first started I went in cold turkey. I had been in the business world. I was fifty-two years old of age when I went into full time Christian service. I remember my girls when I called them in one night, and I said, “Daddy had decided to go into the Christian ministry full-time.” They let out a big sigh and said, “Daddy we kind of heard about that, but we are so glad you are doing here. We thought you were going to Alaska or somewhere.” Anyway when I first started it was cold turkey. I had to learn everything from the ground up.
EE: I know that Chinese have different customs. Did you have to learn their customs? Or kind of do a modge-podge of what you thought was the right way to do it, and how they wanted to do?
TS: Yes, right. We are in about the third of fourth Chinese generation here. They still would not turn a loose of their old country customs. They still have those customs, and I honor those. I went along with everything except the things that were detrimental to the Christian faith. We never compromised our Christian faith. This is what I taught them. As far as their old customs that they had with their families and everything previous to coming to this country I would never criticize them or anything. They hang on to those. Let me tell you how I started. The lay-superintendent of the Mission was named Ed Pang.
EE: He is still here isn’t he?
TS: Yes, Mr. Pang is very crippled now. He is in his home, and his about eighty-nine years old. He and his wife did a tremendous work in the Chinese Mission. He was the superintendent for thirty something years, and she talked in Cantonese. The Chinese dialect Cantonese she taught a class in that in the Chinese Mission. They helped me greatly. He would visit with me. He would take an afternoon or morning off from his store and take me around and introduced me to the families. That is the way I started. I developed me a book of names and addresses and family members and everything. I finally visited every Chinese that I could in Greenville with his help. Then I just took that book on my own, and I would go from family to family, home to home, store to store. Now there was very few in the residential homes at that time even in ’77. There were only two or three that owned homes out in the sub-divisions. All of them lived in the back or beside their stores. Now they gradually accepted me, and I was very persistent in my visiting. I took one of the church’s buses. On Sunday afternoon I would go and pick up their children. Now when you help Chinese children you got a foot in the door if you help one of their children. So I would do that. I would pick them up along with the help of Trivina Chu and Helen Sit. Trivina could speak Cantonese, and she could converse with some of the children that could not speak English. She could converse with the parents and tell them who we were, what we were doing, where are we were going, and when we were coming back all in Cantonese. So we would bring a busload of Chinese children to the Chinese Mission. I began to get my foot in the door. As soon as they would see my coming in the front of the store, they would say, “Monchu Monchu Makee (?) you come here, you come here, you eat with me, you eat with me.” They would take me by the arm and take me to the back and sit me down and there before me would be all sorts of Chinese food. You had to eat it. You would not want to hurt their feelings. I drank more coca-colas than any one preacher that ever lived in my twenty-two years with the Chinese. Always when they see you coming they would pop open a coke. I gradually get to know them, and we gradually began to get some of the adults that weren’t coming. When I came in we had nucleus to work with some old faithful. We begin to reach out and begin to reach new Chinese. Now the mission not only did the work of the mission, but we also helped them with citizenship requirements. We would teach them what they needed to know to get their citizenship papers. I would take them to Memphis for the test. I have been to places where they would be sworn in after they passed and all of that. Then we would teach the English language.
EE: In church?
TS: In our church now we had a number of retired teachers or interested members of First Baptist Caucasians that would teach the Chinese who could not speak English. Some of these people were Irma Crow, Iris Mitchell, Elizabeth Young, Lucy Whitman, and Ms. T. H. Adams. Bless her heart she taught a number of Chinese. People like that so of them were retired teachers. We used the law back method that is a phonetic type of teaching. You are probably familiar with that in school or something. That is what we used, and as those Chinese that had come to Greenville heard about this program. They wanted to get in it. That would bring them into the Mission.
EE: Help grow?
TS: Yeah help grow our mission, and then to teach the English language. They were anxious to learn because they wanted to get their citizenship. They wanted to go on to college or get employed and that sort of thing. So we did all of that to. Now the Chinese have customs. I have had over well weddings I don’t know. There have been a lot of them. I have had sixty or seventy funerals. Three or four a year in my twenty-two years I did Chinese funerals. I did Chinese weddings one two or three or four a year that sort of thing. Weddings the big thing was a big thing with the Chinese.
EE: I heard the last wedding I have heard of was held at the convention center. I heard it was huge. That it had to be out there because there was so many people, and it was so much involved. I also had heard about their New Years Celebration. Is it in the summer time that they do it?
TS: No it is right after our first of the year.
EE: Oh okay.
TS: It falls somewhere between the last of January and the first of February.
EE: The marriage service did you go to that one in the convention center?
TS: What is that?
EE: The wedding service did you go to that wedding?
TS: Well I probably performed it if it was Chinese. It was huge. Well let me tell you about the wedding. The Chinese weddings that I have conducted have been in First Baptist Church. As parents save money for years just so their son or daughter can have the most scrumptious wedding that anybody could have. I have seen the auditorium full in the First Baptist Church. Some of the largest weddings we have ever had have been Chinese. They usually have those on Sunday afternoon. The reason being that all of the people that they are going to invite can close their stores on Sunday and come. They come locally that is what they do. They as far as, we had a recent wedding up there. They came from Calgary, Canada and San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, Texas, and then I have had weddings where they come from Hawaii. It is a big deal.
EE: The community really comes together.
TS: Oh yeah right the Chinese community and the families the uncles, the aunts, cousins, and everybody comes. So they fill up the place. After they have the bride after the wedding she changes into a flaming red full-length dress usually embroidered with a gold dragon on it. She will have the families of both sides have given her family jewelry. Now she can’t get all on her arms and her necks so she puts it on her ankles and everywhere just diamonds and pearls, jade, and gold just hanging all over her. She wears that at the reception in this flaming red dress. Usually they have like you said out at the convention center they have that catered. They would have places for over a thousand Chinese. They will have a head table with all of the families of both sides sitting there. They have a very elaborate entrance. Sometimes they would have a trumpet fan fare, or a band that they have hired playing and the whole wedding party would march in. They would be seated at this head table. After that they would introduce each one of them and tell something about each one of them. I have seen them use video productions showing the home place, and where they were from and what they do. I have seen pictures of slides on the wall. They really made a big deal out of the families. I have not said this, but family that word was the big thing with Chinese. Everything is centered around the family. It means so much to them. They include all of the family and everything. They do this with birthday parties. They do it with weddings, anniversaries, and all of that. Those things are very important to them. Now you know we have a Chinese cemetery in Greenville too. It is unique. I haven’t heard of another one in Mississippi. There may be. All of the Chinese that I have buried have been in the Chinese cemetery here in Greenville.
EE: Where is that?
TS: Okay you go south on Main, and you know where the Village Shopping Center is? Okay right behind there is Live Oaks Cemetery, which is African American cemetery. Then right next to that on Crescent Street is the Chinese cemetery.
EE: Okay I know where that is.
TS: You cut right at Holt Collier’s sign there. You know old Collier is a famous guy that guided Teddy Roosevelt in the bear hunt where the teddy bear was born. Did you know about that?
EE: I knew that he did that. I did not know that man was he.
TS: Okay he is buried right across the street from the Chinese cemetery, Holt Collier. I read a book in McCormick BookStore here while back about things to see in Mississippi. When they got to Greenville the only two things that they said that you need to see, I guess what they said? The Chinese cemetery and Holt Collier’s home on North Broadway on Hay St. out of every thing to see the average person in Greenville doesn’t know anything about either one of them.
EE: I did know about either one of them. Thank you for telling me.
TS: The Chinese cemetery is unique. I did a little research on that for my writings. In 1913 two men that were kin to Joe Ting, Joe Ting was not in the country at that time. Two men purchased one acre of land from Harry Wells who was original owner of Well’s Funeral Home. This acre of land was behind the Pool House. Every since then the description of where is the Chinese cemetery it has always been over behind the pool house. Okay I went to the Chancery Clerks’ office and looked up the records, and they paid Harry Wells two hundred dollars for one acre of land. That was the beginning of the first Chinese cemetery. That old cemetery is still in Greenville, and guess where it is now?
EE: Behind the pool house.
TS: It is right behind Disciples Hills Tennis Club. I took my good friend Dr. Young Ching over there to help me read some of the Chinese writing. We had to pick up tennis balls out of the cemetery and threw them back over the fence to the tennis club so they could use them again. It is very interesting. Evidently they outgrew that one-acre of land, and the oldest date that we found, Dr. Ching and I was 1929. Evidently it required more land, and so they purchased five point eight acres of land on Crescent Street from a man named C. M. Gooch. C. M. Gooch owned a lumber mill and a lot of land around Greenville. He sold them this land what is now know is Crescent Street. He allowed them to keep one house on the land, and the tore the other two down. I remember that in reading the records at the Chancery Clerks office. They paid one thousand dollars for almost six acres of land. That was the second cemetery. Now Dr. Ching and I read all of the Chinese writings on the gates and everything. This is what we determined. I haven’t thought about it before until I started writing up our experiences. It had always been Chinese writing there, but I did not know what it said. He read it for me. On the left gatepost is the beginning of a poem that says in effect that this is a place where your body will find rest so be happy here. Then over here it says you are in heaven and your soul is at peace with God something like that. I got it all written down somewhere exactly what it says. I never knew that said that before. It is a progoda type of entrance, and Dr. Ching said he is very typical of what you find in old China the entrance to the present cemetery. He said it would be more ornate in China, but this entrance is very typical. We walked through the cemetery and read on some of the tombstones. One thing that threw us was that we found a, that was in 1930 when they bought this second cemetery. First one was 1913, and the second one was in 1930. We found some dates that would correspond to the first cemetery. We said this is not right, but I went to Well’s Funeral Home and found out when the new cemetery opened some of the Chinese transferred the remains of their loved one over there and buried them in the new cemetery. So they just put the tombstone over there.
EE: They wanted their family to be buried together.
TS: Together, together.
EE: That is neat.
TS: I have heard rumors that some old Chinese because of their customs after a number of years would have the remains of the individual sent to China, but I could never get proof of that. So I don’t know whether that is true or not. I have had a number of funerals with the Chinese. Now a funeral with Chinese is another very important thing. Now when Americans dies we speed things up, don’t we? Yeah we want to get our loved ones buried and get all the family in here and get it over with. They don’t do that. Everything slows down. There is a week to two weeks it doesn’t matter. If they can get the whole family in here and it takes two weeks to do it then they will have the funeral then. It is usually on a Sunday afternoon so they can close all their stores, and everybody can come. Now they will have the funeral if it is very well known or prominent Chinese they will have it at First Baptist Church. I have seen the church full. I remember Henry Wong when he died that church was full. They had a very large attendance. After a Chinese funeral they have a meal for everyone that attends. If there was a thousand people you were invited. They have a Chinese food for them. Usually on a wedding it is a nine-course meal of Chinese food. They don’t serve quite that much at a Chinese funeral. It would be five or six courses. They have the soup and the rice and the fish dishes and the meat and the duck and all of that. Everybody was invited. Now most of the family will wear black, and the pallbearers will wear white gloves. Sometimes arm bands for every family member, cousins, little biddy baby, everybody would get a black armband.
EE: Is that an American custom that they have adopted?
TS: I don’t know; though I wish I knew. I have seen it a lot. Most of the Chinese funeral that I have done has been done by Boone Wells Funeral Home now Boone’s Funeral Home took over Well’s Funeral Home after Ms. Wells died. Those two funeral homes, they call it Boone’s Well they have done most of the Chinese funerals in Greenville. I believe the reason for that is back when (tape cut off)
Tape 2 of 2
EE: Okay Boone Well’s?
TS: Right I believe that Louis and Boone Well’s have done most of their funerals because a trust was established when those two men back in 1913 bought that acre of land from Harry Wells who was the owner of Well’s Funeral Home and ever since then. Now I have had funerals where other funeral home would do the funeral, but it was very few. This cemetery is where most of the Chinese in the delta bury their loved one. I have buried few in Green Lawn. I don’t think I have ever had a funeral for one in Greenville Cemetery. I have gone to Memphis to the City of Memphis Cemetery where they have a section set aside for Chinese. I have gone up there or maybe twice for a funeral. Most of the time it is at this cemetery here in Greenville. It is really something the historians have overlooked is these two old cemeteries. The first went into the second one.
EE: When they marry did they marry in their family? They normally would not marry a white person, or a black person. If they did would that person be buried in the Chinese cemetery?
TS: The Chinese has a Chinese Cemetery Association in Greenville. One of the rules is that only pure blood Chinese can be buried in the Chinese cemetery. Now under our civil rights laws today I don’t know if that would stand up. I have mentioned that to several of the leaders. Only pure bloods can be buried. Let me give you an example, R. Lee Hen was an elderly Chinese woman in Greenville who was half-Chinese and half-black. She was a very wonderful person. I enjoyed talking with her a great deal. Her husband was Jes Hen, a pure blood Chinese. Because he had married a half-Chinese and half-black, this is what they did at his funeral, Joe Ting handled the whole thing. He went to the police department and got six policemen to carry that man’s casket. They brought that man’s casket there and placed it under the tent and allowed R. Lee. Hen to come in and sit. Joe Ting would not quote “disgrace any Chinese men by asking them to be pallbearers of one who had married a half-Chinese and a half black.
EE: Very stringent rules.
TS: Yeah, okay now.
EE: Is R. Lee still alive?
TS: Oh no she has passed on, but she had been interviewed quite a bit. You know Emily Sociologist, TV Programmers, and Historians they all come to Greenville to find out one thing just what we are talking about right now. Why do they marry out of their race, or do they marry out of their race? What happens when they marry out of their race? All of these questions, Loa Wings, a very distinguished sociologist, came to my home one night to interview me. He has written a book, Mississippi Chinese between Black and White. That is the title of his book. He had written several others. He is a very well known sociologist. Robert Ceto Quon who was a writer in residence at Delta State wrote a book. He was from California. He was a sociologist. He wrote a book called Lotus among the Magnolias. You see Magnolias is a Mississippi flower, the Lotus were Chinese flowers. These are the vanes of thought that they came in here with about inner marriage. That is what they wanted to know what happens and so forth. In my experiences the Chinese are not happy when their children marry out of their race, but today you see more and more Caucasians-Chinese marriages. In the beginning the Chinese men were here without their wives, and they came like we said working on the railroad. Eventually opening their stores and they could not get their wives over. It was bigamy, but they married black women and produced half children. The pure blood Chinese were classified as color.
EE: So when other Chinese came with their Chinese Wives, were the ones that were here looked down upon?
TS: Oh yes, any interracial marriage back in the early days was looked down upon. Chinese, Black Chinese, or White whatever it was looked down upon. Of course the I would say in just the observation that Caucasian-Chinese marriages are accepted today. There is still we hate to say it, but the Chinese-black marriages are not looked upon with favor.
EE: Would you suppose that is because when you think of Americans you normally think of white prosperous adults and just a stigma of that?
TS: Yeah, those things happen, and that is what the sociologist write about. It is a fact. We have to have those facts so these two gentlemen put it in books. Because of my position with the Chinese Mission I would never talked to them in detail about any of that. I did not want to. So it happens and it is just a fact of life.
EE: I wanted to talk a little bit more about you working with the Chinese Mission? Are their any stories that just stand out while you were working with them?
TS: Any stories?
EE: No wait who is the man you worked with the most Ed Pang?
TS: Ed Pang
EE: He took you around, I think my mother told me a story about you all going to a grocery store. It might have been Mr. Pang’s, but a man had come in there and tried to rob him.
TS: Oh yeah, we have not talked about that. We need to talk about that. I have buried three I can think of, three Chinese that were murdered in their stores. Mr. Pang had two or three narrow escapes. When I first went into mission I picked up the paper one night after supper about Pang’s Grocery had been robbed. Lou and I immediately jumped up and got in the car and ran over there. We said, “We didn’t know about this Mr. Pang. Are you okay?” Oh that happened the other day. I am alright, alright. He begins to tell us about the robbery. He moved over in the center of the store and planted his feet. He said now look down, and I looked down. He said see that bullet hole that was the bullet hole the boy fired. I was just standing just like this.
EE: Talk about reality check
TS: He knew the boy, and he turned him in. They arrested him. Another time Mr. Pang, a bandit entered his store with a mask on and everything and took Mr. Pang’s head in his arm and put the pistol up to his head. Okay just so happen a police patrol car was patrolling that area on South Delecips. He thought something was strange in that store. He saw these two people close together, and he said something is going on. He stopped and peeped in the window and saw that situation. He radioed for help, and they surrounded the store. All this is being done while Mr. Pang was in that fellow’s arm with a pistol up against his heads. He was demanding the money, and Mr. Pang said now son if you shoot me they are going to kill you make your choice. Give me the gun. He said that boy laid a 357magnum in his hand and walked out the store. The police got him and everything. There is incidences where for instance a storekeeper named Pact Kee Kwan, had a store on the corner of Nelson and Broadway in the old Joe Gow Nu number two store. Two teenagers that were doped up came in and demanded his money. Evidently he knew them. There were just young teens. Evidently he refused, and they shot him. I had to go back with a family member after that to get his personal affects from under the cash register. I saw that floor spattered with blood. Ironically I saw a bible that I have given to Pact Kee with a gospel tract in it just above his head, and it was spattered with blood. I want to say this in Mississippi delta, in Greenville particularly, every day a Chinese storekeeper gets up and enters his store. He puts his life on the line. That is a strong statement. We have you know the prevalence of drugs that are in our community. When a person wants drug money, and they don’t have it. They think immediately that Chinese store had money, and they target Chinese store. This we are talking about 1999. It wasn’t happening when I first started. There was some robbery, but it wasn’t as bad as it is in these later years. So yes we have had some bad experiences like that. Sorry to say they happen. I think every Chinese store has experienced robbery. They have experienced robbery either with knifepoint, club, pistol, or a shotgun. I have seen shotgun blast up on the wall, a hole that big. Bullet holes were in the floor.
EE: Why do you think they stay there? Why do you think the Chinese stay in the community? I mean are they still where they were when they first established themselves?
TS: Okay the old Chinese have gone, the old-timers. The Chinese store is a diminishing thing now in Greenville. When I started we had thirty, thirty-five stores. There are about fifteen or eighteen now. I was surprised here a year or so ago that several brothers came in here and bought up some of old stores. I was surprised that Chinese still come into the delta, but they did. That was in the last part of my ministry. You see the Chinese thinking is not like the Caucasian thinking. They are merchants that are inborn in them. They bring it from Chinese to buy and sell. They know how to do it. Why do they still come in here? I don’t know if they can hold out against the supermarket much longer. This food stamp welfare program is changing. When the Chinese is in that corner store he owns that store. His family lives in the back. They have invoice for heat, light, gas, and water. They don’t have to pay two. The family is his labor force. They work in the store. It doesn’t cost to employ people. They eat out of the store. They got their food supply. They got everything they need right there. As they gain a little capital they buy the house next door. A year or two they buy the house across the street. If you look at a Chinese store he may own five or six houses, eight or ten houses around here. All of the time he is investing in the stock market. He has a telephone hook-up with other Chinese that they talk about investments. When he buys his wife or his daughter a diamond ring that is an affectionate thing, but it is also an investment. Because a diamond never decrease in value. It always increases things like that. Chinese are very sharp business people. They look at an area, and they say I can make money there. It is sad to say the black population around the Chinese store uses that Chinese store just like you use the refrigerator. He gets up in the morning, and he wants breakfast. He goes across the street, and he buys R. C Cola and a moon pie. The Chinese store has it. He gets hungry at noontime. He goes back to the Chinese store and buys some vienna sausage and another soda and maybe some crackers. At nighttime he gets hungry again, and he goes across there and buys some neck bone and some other things that our black friends like. They cook that and eat that for supper. When he comes to the check out counter when he pays for that item that he has bought there in front of him is all kinds of candy and cookies. They are penny, nickel, and dime. The Chinese grocerymen will give him his change, and he would look at his change and look at those items. He will pick him out some candy. The Chinese would take back some of the money you see. They are very smart businessmen. The black man uses the Chinese store like you use your refrigerator. The Chinese know that, and they make money out of the black neighborhood. They really do. The old stores you can see them boarded up around town. When the old timers which is few now we have a fine old gentleman, George Su and Grace is still in town. Mary and Ed Pang and Lucky and Mary Chow are still in town.
EE: The Sidneys?
TS: Well Mr. and Mrs. Sidney now you know Mrs. Sidney just retired. C. W. her husband is still running the electronic store. They are still here. Well I don’t know if they have any mind to eventually, you see there children live away from Greenville. The old Chinese it used to be when they would get to old to operate the store the family would take it over. If the family didn’t have it or take it over then another Chinese family from China would come and take it over. It would just keep turning over, but now it is not that way. You see a lot of old stores boarded up. The old folks would go and be with their children. Some will go to a nursing home. Chinese take care of their own.
EE: I can see that.
TS: They take care of their family mother and daddy, brother or sister.
EE: With that intense set feeling of community in their family I would understand that.
TS: Family was everything. They would tend to them and take care of them and nurse them. When I first entered the ministry in working with the Chinese I would see the old grandmother or granddaddy tended to the grandchildren in the store. So they all worked together.
EE: Is there anything else?
TS: Well it is an interesting thing to work with the Chinese. I have enjoyed it, and I would not take a million dollars for it. My hearing got so bad. These seventy-five years started telling on me, and I had to give it up. I still stay in touch with my Chinese friends. We have a very fine pastor nice. Reverend Park Nelf and his wife Sharon are heading up the Mission now. They will do a great work in continuing the ministry of First Baptist Church. Park is starting to work on his doctor’s degree with the New Orleans Seminary along with his work with Chinese. He is a planter south of Greenville. He is what you might call bible vocational pastor. He will do a great job. We have had a number of pastors before. It is all in the Lord’s hand, and we just pray that the good work with the Chinese will continue on.
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