Lai Man Kim whose American name was William K. Lai was born on 5 September 1887 in Portland Oregon, the son of Lai Fong and Foong Ho. He had no siblings. His father died when he was about four years old and his mother went to live in China in 1906. Lai Kim obtained a certificate of residence in 1894 when he was seven years old. On his 1913 pre-investigation of citizenship status he listed several witnesses: Mr. Sanborn of Van Schuyver & Co., and several prominent Chinese: Lee Mee Gin, Seid Back, Moy Back Hin, Seid Back, Jr. (Said Gain) and Moy Bow Wing. Lai Kim was a charter member of the American Born Chinese Association in Portland and held certificate number 21. After his mother left Portland he lived with the Moy Bow Wing family. He listed his occupation as vocal soloist at the Majestic Theatre in Portland. Lai Kim was a student at Chinese and English schools in Portland before attending the University of Oregon at Eugene, Oregon. Lai Wai, Lai Kim’s cousin and godfather, help support him and his mother after his father’s death.
Lai Man Kim’s application was approved by the Seattle Immigration Office but he didn’t leave the country at that time. About a year later, in 1914, Martin Beck, General Manager of the Orpheum Circuit in Chicago wrote to Immigration Service in Portland to tell them that Lai Man Kim would be leaving Chicago for Canada, then returning to Seattle from Vancouver, B.C. There is no more information in the file.
Information not included in the file:
[These entries are from my 2009 blog on the Chinese at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle. The newspaper articles tell a little bit more about William Lai’s earlier musical career.]
Portland student at AYPE and Harry Ding and William Lai Perform
In December 1919 Charley Poon Wing was anxious to visit his sister in China before she died–she was very old, in ill health, and he had not seen her since they were children. Before he left The U.S. he applied to re-enter the country as a returning domiciled merchant. Although he was a laborer many years ago, he now considered himself a merchant. On his return trip Wing arrived in Seattle, Washington on 18 April 1921 on the S.S. Princess Alice but was denied admittance. His case was appealed and he was finally admitted on 6 June 1921. [He spent almost two months at a detention center waiting for the final decision.]
Wing first entered the U. S. at San Francisco in 1875 at the age of ten and remained here continuously until 1919. He was a citizen of South Dakota, owned property worth about $600, paid taxes, and was a registered voter. He voted until he was prohibited by the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1892. He had a certificate of residence No. 135,817, issued at Omaha, Nebraska in May 1894.
Charley Wing applied for readmission as a merchant but under the provision of the Exclusion Act he was deemed a laborer. Because the immigration authorities thought he was trying to enter fraudulently he was subject to deportation. An appeal was made and he was landed as a returning laborer issued nunc pro tunc. [Latin for “now for then,” this refers to changing back to an earlier date of an order, judgment or filing of a document. See Law.com]
Harry L. Gandy, a former member of the U. S. House of Representatives, and a friend of Charley’s, testified that he had known Wing many years and that he should be admitted as a citizen of the state of South Dakota. Gandy wrote a very convincing letter in Wing’s favor explaining that Wing was now an old man and if he was not admitted and forced to go back to China, he will probably die there, alone.
Mr. J. S. Gantz, testified that he had known Charley Wing over 30 years and that Wing had voted prior to 1889 when the Enabling Act [when South Dakota became a state] was passed. Wing was the manager and head cook at the Chicago Restaurant in Rapid City. [Because Wing also did manual labor as head cook, the immigration authorities considered him a laborer.]
According to the records of the Register of Deeds of Pennington County, Wing was the owner of lot 8, block 7, Feigel’s East Addition in Rapid City assessed at $400. Although Wing was the manager of the restaurant, Robert F. Davis, Immigrant inspector, did not think he qualified as a merchant.
Yee Sing Wah and Yee Wah Ong, partners at Chicago Café, testified that Charley Wing was a partner in the Cafe.
Louis W. Napier, the proprietor of a soft drink place in Rapid City, testified that he had known Charley Wing for 25 years. He said he wouldn’t classify him as a merchant but he was a businessman. His definition of a merchant was one who deals in merchandise although Wing was the proprietor of several restaurants over the years. “He always contributed to any cause, churches and civic movements, campaign finds, etc.”
George F. Schneider, president of Pennington County Bank, testified that he had known Charley Wing for over ten years. Schneider thought Wing was a merchant and in charge of supervision of his restaurant who also did manual labor as a cook so in the strict definition of the Act he was not a merchant.
Affidavits testifying to the good character of Charley Wing were filed by W. L. Gardner, a furniture dealer in Seattle; James B. Barber, a contractor and builder; Charles A. Whitson and Guy Wing, both workers at Wing’s Cafeteria; and Edmund Smith, a lawyer in Seattle.
In the five-page statement filed by Smith & Chester, Wing’s attorneys they reiterated all of Charley Wing’s qualities and point out the sad predicament he was in. They said Wing was denied re-admission because he stated he was a “restaurant man” when he left and a “merchant” when returned. They said, “The government does not mean for its functions to serve as a trap, nor to use this kind of a mistake as a snare for the unwary.” They ended their plea,
“Exercising the broad discretion given to the Secretary of Labor, we earnestly request that the decision of the local board be set aside and an order be entered nunc pro tunc, admitting appellant under his true status, if he cannot be admitted as a merchant.”
Charley Wing was admitted on 6 June 1921.
Lem Chan was 19 years old when he first arrived in the United States at San Francisco in 1871. Since then he was working as a cook in a restaurant in Astoria, Oregon. He was living at Me Gin John’s place when he lost his Certificate of Residence on Christmas day 1902. In 1904 he took a chicken oath to swear that his certificate was lost and destroyed by fire in Lum Lop Wy’s store.
[The rationale behind the Chicken Oath was that the Chinese were not Christians and therefore could not be believed when they swore on the Bible. Many courts in the United Sates and Canada had them swear over a freshly killed chicken.]
Gold, Martin. ”Chinese Oath Swearing,” Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the U.S. Congress : a Legislative History, (Alexandria, VA: TheCapitolNet, 2012), 60; digital images, (https://https://books.google.com : accessed 15 September 2015).
Lee Mo, age 18, was living in Portland, Oregon when he obtained his Certificate of Residence. He was working as a laborer.
Yip Fay was Yep Sue’s father. His Certificate of Residence #49999 was included in Yep Sue’s file. The certificate had pale green ribbons and a gold seal. It was signed by A. Caminetti, Commissioner General of Immigration and Louis F. Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor.