In January 1938 Lee Yok Tin swore in an affidavit that he was the son of a native of the United States and was last admitted at the port of San Francisco. Photos of Lee Yok Tin and his son were attached to the affidavit. In September 1938 he was applying to have his son, Lee Gum Sing, who was a citizen through him, come to the U.S.
“Lee Yok Tin affidavit with photos of Lee Gum Sing and Lee Yok Tin,” 1938, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, Record Group 85, NARA-Seattle, Lee Gum Sing file, Seattle Box 769, 7030/11419.
Lee Gum Sing, age 5, the son of Lee Yok Tin, a U.S. citizen, arrived at the Port of Seattle on 6 September 1938 with his aunt, Lee Ah Yee, and his father. Their destination was San Francisco. Gum Sing had a scar on his forehead over his right eyebrow, a scar on the back of his right ear and another scar on the right side of his neck. [There was no explanation for the scars, and interrogators did not ask about them in the interviews. THN]
His file contains twenty-nine pages of interrogations. Most questions were directed at his father and aunt but there were four pages of interrogation and two pages of re-interrogation for five-year old Lee Gum Sing. The father and aunt, the son and daughter of Lee Lock, also have separate files.
Gum Sing’s aunt, Lee Ah Yee, was twenty years old when she arrived in Seattle. She had a large brown burn scar on the right side of forehead which she said was from a boil and that no one in the family had had smallpox. She was born on 11 March 1919 in Macao City, China and lived in Sheuk Kee city from the time she was two or three years old. Her citizenship status at her arrival was as the daughter of a native citizen. According to the Chinese Exclusion laws it was necessary for her to prove her right to enter the U.S. She told the interrogator that her father, Lee Lock, marriage name Poy Lum, died in July 1936 at the age of 58. Her father’s funeral was held at their home, but she did not attend it. Her mother, Wong Shee, age 52, had released feet and was still living in the family home in China. Japanese warplanes bombed the business section of their village but not the residential section. [In 1938 the Japanese launched several military campaigns in China.] Ah Yee’s brother brought her to the U.S. to take care of his son, Gum Sing, and told her she could go to school if she was interested.
Lee Gum Sing’s mother, Ow Young Shee, died in 1938. Gum Sing identified his mother’s photo from her San Francisco file #12033/7572 and his father’s photo from his Seattle file 7030/10699. Gum Sing was born in Jung San on 4 October 1933. He had two older brothers and a younger brother. After his mother died his father married again to Leung Shee.
The interrogators asked Gum Sing about his family, home, street, and neighborhood. Gum Sing spoke in a mixture of Heung San and Sam Yip dialect and told them that the family lived in a small house with no upstairs. It had three bedrooms and three parlors, a clock with a pendulum, red tile floors, no courtyard, a toilet near the kitchen, no outside windows, no framed pictures, one outside door in one of the parlors, and a skylight. There was a round wooden table in the kitchen and a clay stove. The house was lit with kerosene lamps at night. He described who slept where. His grandmother had small feet and walked slowly. His father smoked cigarettes. His father’s new wife, Leung Shee, had bobbed hair and wore earrings, rings and bracelets. On their way to Hong Kong to start their trip to the United States they traveled by autobus and boat. The interrogators asked the same questions and more to his father and aunt.
Gum Sing’s father, Lee Yok Tin, marriage name Jock Sang, testified that he was 32 years old and born in Shauck Kee city, Jung San district, China. He was first admitted to the United States at San Francisco in 1922. He lived in Rockport near Walnut Grove. Since then, he had made three trips to China through San Francisco and one through Seattle. His most recent address was at the Hai Goon Grocery Store, 740 Jackson Street, San Francisco. He worked as a truck driver for the store. Lee Yok Tin’s first wife, Ng Shee died in 1923. They had no children together. His second wife, Ow Young Shee died in early 1938. They had four sons and no daughters. Lee Yok Tin married Leung Shee, age 21, a few months after Ow Young Shee died.
Lee Yok Tin explained that his sister, Ah Yee, was not allowed to attend their father’s funeral in 1936 even though it was in the family sitting room, because she was a girl. [Ah Yee would have been about 18 at the time of her father’s death. It is not known If she could have attended if she was older or if she was not allowed to attend simply because she was female; her age may not have mattered. Does anyone know the customs for females attending funerals? TNH]
The interrogator asked Lee Yok Tin why he did not bring his two older sons to the U.S. Yok Tin said he wanted them to attend school in China. The interrogator was also troubled by some of the discrepancies between the family’s description of the neighborhood. The three agreed on most of the details about the house and neighborhood but did not agree on whether the building directly to the right of the family home was an ancestral hall or if a fruit stand and grocery store stood at that place. And they disagreed about how much space there was between the buildings.
When Lee Ah Yee was being reexamined about some of the discrepancies between her statements and her nephew’s, she said Gum Sing’s answers might be different because he was only five years old and probably too young to know the answers.
In the summary of the interrogations by Roy C. Matterson, chairman of the Board of Special Inquiry, he explained the citizenship of Lee Look, the father of Lee Ah Yee and paternal grandfather of Lee Gum Sing. Lee Look’s file stated that when he was leaving San Francisco for China in March 1906, he claimed he was born in San Francisco. An affidavit from his mother and another witness confirmed his birth. After an investigation he was admitted as a citizen. In May 1922 Lee Yok Tin, the son of Lee Look, applied for admittance as the son of a U.S. citizen and was admitted. They both had made several trips to China and were readmitted each time. Although there were several discrepancies in the testimonies for this trip, when all the evidence, testimony and records were reviewed the discrepancies were not enough to detain Lee Ah Yee and Lee Gum Sing. They were admitted to the U.S. on 24 October 1938. Lee Gum Sing received Certificate of Identity #78259. His application includes his photo at age 3.
“Lee Gum Sing, form M143,” 1938, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, Record Group 85, NARA-Seattle, Lee Gum Sing file, Seattle Box 769, 7030/11419.
The reference sheet in the file included file number 7030/12466 for Gum Sing’s older brother, Lee Mai Hing.