Monday, May 2, 2016

Yun Gee’s Birth Date

Yun Gee, also known as Gee Wing Yun, was born February 20, 1906, according to the Yun Gee website. The same date was mentioned in the New York Sun, January 9, 1934; the article is at the end of this post. Here is an excerpt:
Yun Gee explained in careful English that his family name really is Wing Yun Chu. He was born in China on February 22, 1906, the son of Quong On Chu, one-time merchant of Oriental goods in San Francisco.

“My teachers named me Yun Gee because of my interest in art," he explained. “It is a symbolic name meaning that my work should spread throughout China.”
Yun’s testimony on his birth date would have been in his San Francisco Chinese Exclusion Case Files #20660/7-4 and #12017/31974. Sometime later, those files were consolidated in Alien File A12066691. Yun’s testimony regarding his birth date is not available.

However, there is a file on Yun’s father, Gee Quong On, case file #38669/12-2, which is available for inspection at the San Bruno, California branch of the National Archives. 

Quong On traveled to China several times. Each time upon his return to the United States, he was questioned about his family. The earliest mention of Yun was in 1907 when his first name was spelled Yen. The spelling changed from Yen to Yuen (1912) to Ngin (1914, 1922) to Yuen (1924) and to Ngin (1935, 1938). The immigration officers and translators were responsible for the different spellings.

Over the years, Quong On was consistent in stating that Yun was born during the reign of Emperor Kwong Sui, in the thirty-third year, second month and twentieth day or K.S. 33-2-20. Below are copies of pages from Quong On’s file which has information about his family as it grew over time.


October 2, 1907





















December 27, 1912





















October 15, 1914





















September 5, 1922
Yun was in San Francisco. According to a passenger list, at Ancestry.com, he and his younger brother, Hing Yin Gee, arrived on November 27, 1921.





















March 20, 1924





















August 9, 1935
KS 33-2-20 with “Apr 2, 1907” in parenthesis
Yun was in New York.





















Chinese-American Calendar for the 102 Years Commencing January 24, 1849, and Ending February 5, 1951
Compiled and Verified by Windon Chandler Welch, A.B.
United States Government Printing Office, 1928
Page 59 has the table for converting the date, K.S. 33-2-20 (see column two and figure 20 in black). According to this book, Yun Gee’s birth date is April 2, 1907 (see red figures). Presumably, the Chinese date, K.S. 33-2-20, was in Yun’s file. Apparently Yun did not know how to convert the Chinese calendar date, so he said his birth date was February 20, 1906.





















November 9, 1938
Yun was in Paris, France






















New York Sun
January 9, 1934

































The above article is related to an earlier post about Yun’s performance in 1934.


Monday, April 18, 2016

The Tong Brothers























The Evening Star
(Washington, DC)
November 10, 1949
After Dark
It Seems Those Tong Brothers Will Give You a Dizzy Sensation

Once upon a time the drama department was startled by a request from a South American country for permission to reprint some of its comments on movies. The drama department said go ahead, but is has suffered since from a gnawing collective worry over how its idiom sounds translated into Spanish.

Any writer who ever found himself enmeshed in irregular French verbs becomes skittish and ill at ease at the very thought of transporting his words from one language to another. There is no reassurance offered, either, by a booklet which has just arrived here, telling about the Tong Brothers, who are to headline the big fall opening show at the Lotus a week from tonight.

The Tong Brothers seem to have stood Europe on its ear and that will not sound any funnier in French than some of the French reports on them sound in English. One page, a translation “of the French Critics,” in the newspaper, Istanbul, of Mardi, 14 Octobre 1947, reads:

“These three young Chinese equilibrists the Tong Bros. of whom the whole city of Istanbul is talking about, are still having the greatest success after being three months at the Municipal Casino in Maxim.

“They display to us original tricks of acrobatic and balance with handsome ability and easiness, such tricks as they started to practice upon since their very early youth, in 1930. They were then members of the well-known troupe, ‘South China’ and later of the ‘Oriental Brothers’ travelling throughout all big European cities, performing in such important establishments as the ‘Palladium’ and the ‘Holborn Empire Theatre’ London; the ‘Alhambra’ and the ‘Empire Theatre’ Paris; ‘Scala’ and ‘Wintergarten’ Berlin, etc. etc.

“There is an old saying in the United States about: ‘Damn clever those Chinese.’ Accordingly, they are in fact, ‘Damn clever’ those Tong Brothers.”

A translator who make “Oui, oui ils sont wraiment,”come out “Accordingly, they are in fact” is suspect of course. There are, however, a few more European reports on the Tong Brothers, which should be passed along, so you will know what the Lotus is preparing by way of an autumn celebration. They are, to wit:

“…as the famous Hungarian critic Maral Sandor says about the 3 Tong Bros. ‘Something so difficult, yet done in such an easy way, they are not only a team of first class entertainers but prove to be also, an artistry of high class born in them’,”—Budapest, Vilagosag, 1 June 1946.

“…the Tong Bros. is such a great attraction that keeps the spectators spellbound.”—Budapest, Esta Kuir, 5 June, 1942.

“…As to the Tong Bros. their spectacular number is one of the most terrific of its kind. The easy-going motion with which the 3 Chinese play with balance is worth all the big applause they receive every night at the Casino.”—Istanbul, Istanbul, 29 August, 1947.

“…at the ‘Miami’ night club, since last week a fine attraction the 3 Chinese ‘Tong Bros.’ make their appearance with first to be seen acrobatic tricks that give you a dizzy sensation.”—Athens, Aneksartisya, 2 February, 1946.

“…as for instances that bottom-man who lies down holding both partners in Handstand, one on his hand and the other on his feet, and then plays with balance by turning his body over…Such tricks as demonstrated by the 3 Chinese have not yet been seen at the ‘Wintergarten’.” Berlin, Berliner Zeitung, 4 January 1942

The Tong Brothers also were a recent success on Milton Berle’s television show. His comments, however, have not yet been translated, or at least have not yet been made available.

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
November 11, 1949

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
December 5, 1949

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
December 14, 1949

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
December 21, 1949
Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
January 11, 1950

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
February 18, 1950

(Florida)
October 13, 1950
Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
December 6, 1950

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
December 9, 1950

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
December 9, 1950

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
May 21, 1951

The Deseret News and Telegram
(Salt Lake City, Utah)
December 15, 1951

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
February 9, 1952

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
April 26, 1952

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
April 27, 1952

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
April 29, 1952

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
May 7, 1952

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
May 12, 1952

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
May 19, 1952

Brooklyn Eagle
(New York)
June 2, 1952

The Deseret News and Telegram
(Salt Lake City, Utah)
April 8, 1954

The Tuscaloosa News
(Alabama)
June 23, 1954

The Bend Bulletin
(Oregon)
January 17, 1955

The Spartanburg Herald
(South Carolina)
January 24, 1956

The Monon News
(Indiana)
August 30, 1956

The Deseret News and Telegram
(Salt Lake City, Utah)
December 8, 1956

Spokane Daily Chronicle
(Washington)
April 24, 1959

The Spokesman-Review
(Spokane, Washington)
April 30, 1959

The Spokesman-Review
(Spokane, Washington)
May 1, 1959

The Spokane Daily Chronicle
(Washington)
May 2, 1959

Eugene Register-Guard
(Oregon)
September 16, 1959

The Florence Times
(Alabama)
October 15, 1959

The Florence Times
(Alabama)
October 21, 1959

Related Posts
Wen Hai Troupe
Oriental Brothers aka South China Troupe


(Next post: Nanying Stella Wong’s Chinatown Watercolors)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Oriental Brothers aka South China Troupe
















Originally known as the South China Troupe

The Glasgow Herald 
(Canada)
December 20, 1938

British Pathé
The Oriental Brothers, 1939

1940 Blue Book
Barnes-Carruthers Fair Booking Association
page 195: Oriental Brothers (above)

Twin Falls Times News
(Idaho)
July 26, 1981
The world’s best headstand—but he should have saluted
Seattle (UPI)—He may have been the only man in the world who could do a headstand on top of another man’s head, but that didn’t stop the Gestapo from breaking Heni Chaw’s nose when he failed to salute Adolf Hitler’s picture.

Chaw retired this month from the building maintenance staff at the King County courthouse where few of his fellow workers realized that he once was a member of a famed Chinese acrobatic troupe that performed all over the world.

The nose-breaking incident occurred in Czechoslovakia in 1944 the day before Hitler’s birthday. Chaw had forgotten it was the eve of the date of the Fuhrer’s birth and that was a grievous offense in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Chaw’s troupe was trapped in Europe at the outbreak of World War II and jobs were hard to find except in Germany and German-occupied countries.

The acrobats were “liberated” by the Red Army in 1945, but spent 100 days in a Russian concentration camp and their daily food ration was a half-can of soup, Chaw said.

Finally they were released and made their way to the United States. The troupe appeared annually on the old Ed Sullivan television show for seven years between 1952 and 1959.

They also worked with the Harlem Globetrotters for seven years, doing their acrobatic act during halftime at Globetrotter basketball games.

Chaw, born in Canton in 1916, joined with Manny Tong, now of Whiting, N.J., and M.K. Ow, now of Brooklyn, N.Y, in 1930 to form their acrobatic troupe.

“We practiced eight hours a day for six months before we ever went on stage,” said Chaw. “We started the act in Hong Kong and were together until 1959. It was the longest acrobatic partnership in history.”

The troupe performed extensively in Europe during the 1930s. Hitler saw their act twice, once in Berlin’s Winter Garden Theater before the war and again in Munich during the early part of the war.

They also performed before Benito Mussolini, Great Britain’s King George VI and many other European rulers in pre-war days.

“They started out as the South China Troupe,” changing the name to “Oriental Brothers” in the early 1940s [in 1939]. Sometimes they performed as the “Original Brothers.”

Their double-headstand is an acrobatic feat that has never been duplicated to Chaw’s knowledge.

He was the top member of the team, who would stand on his head atop his partner’s head. The partner would step atop a table, then step down while the upside down Chaw kept his precarious balance.

That headstand left a callused ring around Chaw’s head which can still be felt when the former acrobat lets visitors run their hand across his forehead.

The troupe finally broke up in 1959 when one of the partners decided to go into the restaurant business.

Chaw moved to Seattle to settle down because “I’ve been all over the world and I find this is the nicest climate.”

He and his partners still correspond with each other and Chaw plans to visit them after he retires from his county job.

Chaw, who speaks Chinese, English, German, French and Hungarian, also plans to write a book about his experiences.

He learned to repair watches after moving to Seattle and he will keep that sideline going, so Chaw definitely is not going to vegetate in retirement.

His acquaintances from his performing days include Jimmy Dorsey, Nat “King” Cole, Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr. and Marilyn Monroe.

Asked is he missed show business, Chaw said: “Yes, indeed. We used to make $150 for six minutes work.”

(Next post: The Tong Brothers)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Wen Hai Troupe

















After touring Europe, the Wen Hai Troupe arrived in New York City on
April 2, 1937. Below is the passenger list with the names of the members.













Cleveland Plain Dealer
(Ohio)
February 14, 1938
The Wen Hai Troupe, with what even circus people admit is the finest ground bar acrobatics they have ever seen. One of the troupe spins around a bar, hanging on nothing but his shoulder blades. Figure it our for yourself—but darned if he doesn’t.

Cleveland Plain Dealer
(Ohio)
February 22, 1938
…And never—never anywhere—have you seen ground bar acrobatics like those demonstrated by a member of the Wen Hai troupe—in one of the outer rings.

Cleveland Plain Dealer
(Ohio)
December 25, 1938
“International Follies” is the title of the New Year’ Eve offering in Warner’s Uptown. Among its entertainers are the Wen Hai Troupe, Chinese acrobats; Bee Ho Grey and his singing copts; St. Clair and O’Dea, cyclists; Jackie Lane, Tom and Vera Cowan and Ralph Keaton’s band.

San Francisco Chronicle
(California)
May 10, 1939
RKO Golden Gate advertisement
“Bali Bali”
Cast of 50 Singers, Swayers, Dancers, Comedians, Instrumentalists with…Wen Hai Troupe, Oriental Sensationalists…

































San Francisco Chronicle
(California)
May 11, 1939
RKO Golden Gate advertisement
“Bali Bali”
With a Sparkling Cast of 50…Wen Hai Troupe





















The Oregonian
(Portland, Oregon)
June 10, 1939
Stage Show Pix Feature
Vaudeville came to the stage of the Pix theater Friday to run through Sunday.

…The Wen Hai troupe of Chinese acrobats bring a truly remarkable exhibition of their skill to the stage and proved tops with opening day’s audiences.

Seattle Daily Times
(Washington)
June 11, 1939
Film Rustics Due on Stage
The Colorado Hillbillies will appear on the stage and not eh screen at the Palomar Theatre starting tomorrow when they share the vaudeville spotlight with the Wen Hai Troupe, Chinese novelty artists, and also share musical honors in the new Gene Autry picture, “Blue Montana Skies.”

The Colorado Hillbillies come to Seattle with rustic tunes and rhythm, the type of presentation that has made them known on stage and screen. The Wen Hai Troupe, making its Northwest debut at The Palomar, after successful engagements in some of the biggest theaters in the East, offers novel Chinese specialty acts featuring difficult feats of balance and strength.

Seattle Daily Times
(Washington)
June 13, 1939
Wen Hai Troupe Acrobats Steal Palomar Show
There’s a lot of varied entertainment available on the Palomar Theatre’s new bill this week, what with gang of rustic musicians and a troupe of unusually skilled Chinese acrobats on the stage and two new pictures. Gene Autry’s latest boots and saddle opus, “Blue Montana Skies,” and a racket melodrama, “Whispering Enemies.”

Most of the opening-day applause deservedly went to the Wen Hai Troupe. There have been scores of acrobats doing scores of balancing and juggling stunts before The Palomar footlights for a long time now, but most of those performed by these five unassuming Orientals in their bright costumes are doubtless new even to the vaudeville veterans.

Seattle Daily Times
(Washington)
June 14, 1939
Palomar advertisement





















Illinois State Journal
(Springfield, Illinois)
June 29, 1939
State Fair Revue Plans Completed
Plans have been completed for the presentation of the Illinois state fair revue of 1939. The show will open Monday night, Aug. 14, in front of the grandstand and close Saturday night, Aug. 19.

…A few of the attractions in the show will be the Wen Hai troupe of Chinese acrobats and tumblers; the King trio, equilibrists; Burvedoll sisters, dancing xylophonists; the Kay Foursome, dances, and Chang, Chinese magician.

Rockford Morning Star
(Illinois)
July 25, 1939
Palace
The Hollywood Vanities revue come to the Palace theater today for a three-day engagement and features the well-known comedy dancers, the Albins, who title their offering “The Nutmost in Dancing.”

Other acts of the revue include Ballard and Rae, “Those Gay Inebriates,” and Ray Vaughn, who presents a musical novelty, Warner and leigh, singing stars, Martin Barnett, magician, and the famous Chinese acrobatic act, the Wen Hai troupe….

































1940 Blue Book
Barnes-Carruthers Fair Booking Association
page 155: Wen Hai Troupe (above)

Cleveland Plain Dealer
(Ohio)
March 1, 1940
U.S. Law Spills Chinese Acrobat
‘We’re Right,’ Circus Troupe Boss Says; Pal in Jail
Troubles that stem back to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows strike of June, 1938, kept Schang Csi Hua out of the performance of the Wen Hai troupe of Chinese acrobats at the Grotto Circus in the Arena last night.

Schang Csi Hua has not been in the act since Saturday night because he has been in County Jail. The only reason that Leo Wen Hai, head of the troupe, has remained in the act is that he was able to put up $1,500 cash bail.

The two men were arrested by immigration authorities following the Saturday night performance because, according to Vernor W. Tomlinson, head of the immigration office in Cleveland, they overstayed their a looted time in the United States. Tomlinson yesterday set the case for a hearing next Friday, when Wen Hai and Schang will be called upon to show cause why they should not be deported.

Tomlinson said the two Chinese entered the country at New York April 2, 1937. They originally were admitted for only six months to allow them to exhibit their talents with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Tomlinson said there were four extensions of leave to remain from time to time, but they had been ordered to depart by last Jan. 15.

When Hai, resplendent in the gold-embroidered robe in which he appears in the circus ring, sat on a backstage bench at the Arena last night and poured out his story. He was insistent that he was “100 per cent right,” and had been done wrong by certain lawyers whom he named.

The acrobat said that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey brought his troupe of nine members—six acrobats and three non-performers—from London in 1937. He said the circus put up a bond of $9,000 to insure the departure from this country of the troupe members at the end of their a looted time.

On June 23, 1938, the strike shut down the circus, Wen Hai said, and his troupe and the circus went there separate ways. On Dec. 30, 1938, he related, he talked to John Ringling North, who was quoted by the acrobat as saying he would see that the bond was continued if Wen Hai would pay the premium on the bond from 1939 on at the rate of $20 for each troupe member. The group had lost one of its members and then had only eight. Wen Hai said, which made him pay $160 a year.

In 1939, Wen Hai continued, Lui Bao Shu, his wife and child and Whang Lo Ling left the troupe and North asked Wen Hai to continue paying the premium for them. Wen Hai said he replied that he would pay only for himself, his wife, the child and Schang Csi Hua.

Tells of Payment

Then Wen Hai brought forth a paper which purported to show that Lui Cao Chu and Whang Lo Ling had paid $310 to a lawyer for their part of the premium and further extensions. Wen Hai said they actually paid $480, but had been given a receipt for only $310.

On Jan. 15, Wen hai said, he received a telegram from Herbert Du Val, attorney for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, saying that he should leave the country immediately, that his time was up and the bond was being discontinued.

Wen Hai said he went that night from Chicago, where he had been showing with his troupe, to New York. He said Du Val told him that he (Wen Hai) owed a Washington attorney $75 for services and $185 for premiums. Wen Hai said he “was stubborn” and said he wouldn’t pay. He said he went back to Chicago and consulted another lawyer, Harry P. Munns. Munns advised, according to Wen Hai, that the Washington lawyer be paid, which was done.

“My premiums are all paid up to April 2, 1940,” Wen Hai lamented.

Kansas City Star
(Missouri)
March 6, 1941
Fun From Many Lands
The Tower Presents “International Revue” on Stage.
Europe and China Are Represented, While Screen Offering Brings in Arkansas as Well.

“International Revue” is the name of the stage offering that will open at the Tower tomorrow. The acts all are new and have been recruited from various countries.

…The Wen Hai Chinese troupe consists of five Oriental performers who specialize in sensational athletic feats. They have played in twelve different countries and once were featured with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus.

Cleveland Plain Dealer
(Ohio)
March 9, 1942
Alpine Village Theatre Restaurant advertisement





















The Billboard
March 14, 1942
...Wen Hai Chinese Troupe...

The Billboard
March 28, 1942
advertisement

The Times Record
(Troy, New York)
May 6, 1942
Terrace Garden advertisement





















Albany Times Union
(New York)
May 12, 1942
Terrace Garden advertisement





















The Times Record
(Troy, New York)
May 13, 1942
Terrace Garden advertisement

The Boston Traveler
(Massachusetts)
May 26, 1942
As object lessons in the value of a “daily dozen,” Pao Shu, aged fifty one and Chung, aged fifty, agile members of the Wen Hai Troupe at the Latin Quarter, are worthy of note. These gentlemen hail from the northern parts of China where men are taller and stronger and since they were six years old they have been acrobats. Their appearance belies their age so completely that patrons are amazed when they learn their ages.

The Billboard
July 18, 1942
Wen Hai Troupe, Chinese acrobats

The Billboard
August 1, 1942
Wen Hai Troupe closing with Albany date to head west for fair bookings

The Billboard
December 5, 1942
...Fay and Gordon follow the Wen Hai Troupe at the Edgewater Beach Hotel January 2...

The Boston Traveler
(Massachusetts)
January 24, 1943
Old Howard advertisement
Wen Hai Troupe, Acrobatic Marvels















The Boston Traveler
(Massachusetts)
January 24, 1943
Globe advertisement
6 Acts of Vaudeville
…Wen Hai Troupe





















The Boston Traveler
(Massachusetts)
January 25, 1943
New Burlesque at Howard Today
…The vaudeville acts include The Wen Hai Troupe, Green and Lang, Ramon and Louise, Weber Bros., and Ralph Elsmore.

The Billboard
March 13, 1943
...Wen Hai Troupe...

The Billboard
April 10, 1943
Letter List
Wen Hai Troupe
Jim Wong Troupe

The Billboard
April 17, 1943
Wen Hai Troupe

The Billboard
September 11, 1943
...the Wen Hai Troupe, horizontal single bar...

The Billboard
October 30, 1943
Act Bill Is All Set for Houston Shrine
...Wen Hai Troupe...

The Advocate
(Baton Rouge Louisiana)
November 15, 1943
Book Camp Show for Wednesday at Recreation Hall

The next big attraction at The Rec Hall will be “Just for the Ride.” Another of the USO camp-show units, this unique musical comedy revue will appear here on Nov. 17, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. This production, is of course, presented admission free.

…Following are the people who will appear in person:

…Wen Hai Troupe—Two Men, Two Women, Chinese Novelty Juggling

The Billboard
November 27, 1943
...Wen Hai Troupe...

On July 6, 1944, thirty-nine year old Wen Hai Leo became a naturalized citizen of the United States. His address was 95 Orchard Street, New York, New York.
(Source: Ancestry.com)

The Billboard
October 14, 1944
Wen Hai Troupe (Carman) Phila, t

The Billboard
February 10, 1945
Wen Hai Troupe (Hipp) Baltimore, t.

The Montreal Gazette
(Canada)
November 26, 1945
Gayety advertisement





















The Montreal Gazette
(Canada)
November 28, 1945
Gayety advertisement

The Boston Herald
(Massachusetts)
December 31, 1945
p13 c1: Old Howard advertisement
Wen Hai Troupe, Chinese Wonder Workers
















The Billboard
August 13, 1949
...Wen Hai troupe...

The Billboard
November 19, 1949
Dressing Room Gossip
...Wen Hai troupe and Canton troupe...

The Billboard
November 16, 1959
...Wen Hai Troupe...


Related Posts
Oriental Brothers aka South China Troupe
The Tong Brothers


(Next post: Oriental Brothers aka South China Troupe)

Monday, March 14, 2016