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by Linda Gong
Like many Chinese immigrants, Tom L. Gong arrived at Angel Island in 1936 as a “paper son.” He came as Kong Leung Quong, a 14 year old boy, but he was actually 16 years old. After a long life of work, he settled in Watsonville with his wife Edna, raised a family, and became a community leader actively involved in the Fah Yuen Association and the Sam Yick Association.
My dad, Tom L. Gong, came from China in 1936, on the President Hoover as a “paper son” with the name of Kong Leung Quong. Dad always talked about ending up in Napa with relatives and being enrolled in elementary school and being placed in kindergarten. The school didn’t know what to do with a fourteen year old who did not know the English language. He was eventually moved to 3rd grade. Dad survived school a couple of more years, and left to join the work force. It was a good thing, as back in China preparations had been made for his arranged marriage to Edna Ow. She arrived in January of 1940 and they were officially married at the Santa Cruz Courthouse in 1943. Dad’s “paper son” age was 14 when he arrived to the U.S., but his birth age was 16. In 1957 he legally changed his “paper name” to his birth name Tom Leong Gong. The fact that his “paper son” was two years younger became and unlucky situation later in life when he had to work 2 additional years in order to get his social security benefits!
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