by Linda Gong
After arriving at Angel Island in 1940 from China, Edna Ow married Tom Gong and settled in California’s Central Valley and worked with her husband in the chicken ranching and grocery business. Linda Gong, the youngest of four children, paints a loving portrait of a generous and hardworking woman, her mother.
My mom, Edna Ow, came from China in 1940 and ended up staying on Angel Island for the weekend because when family members went to get her, they forgot to bring her birth certificate. She never really talked about the conditions or her stay at Angel Island, but she was one of the lucky ones to get out only in a couple of days. Edna was actually born in San Francisco in 1922, but the hard times and the promise of mountains of gold was not what her laundry worker father found when he came to San Francisco. He proceeded to pack up his family and return to China with his wife and family in 1927. She had only seen her husband-to-be in a picture, but she had been living with her in-laws for the past year until her voyage back to the U.S. Her husband had only seen her in pictures and upon seeing his bride when she got off the boat, he made the comment “You are not too bad, a little short, but at least you aren’t crippled.”
Edna followed her husband Tom from Fresno to Salinas, to Santa Cruz and then to Watsonville as he worked in the grocery business and then chicken ranching. She worked alongside him as he took care of the chickens and eventually he changed careers to open a grocery store with friends. Mom always talked about cooking meals in a kitchen space above the store for all the workers. I am sure that is where she practiced her great cooking skills. Mom lost her first child due to pneumonia, but was able to have 4 total, 2 boys and 2 girls.
Place of Origin
Place of Settlement