Chinese History and the Au Family Home Assembly

Mahalo to the Au Family for Our School’s New Adjacent Property

Today's assembly was devoted to learning more about the new property that the school recently purchased and the family who owned it -- Lai Fong Au and her husband, Edward S.H. Au. We are lucky that their grandson, Robert Au, was at assembly to share his stories growing up on the property.

The Assembly started with everyone singing, "Who are the People in your Neighborhood?" which is a Sesame Street song. Ms. Woo started the assembly by sharing that the school started a long time ago thinking about expanding the campus. During Centennial Year, the Au family approached the school and asked if we were interested in buying the property and we said, "Yes!" She mentioned that the Board of Trustees helped to make these big decisions for the school.

Dr. Makaiau shared the timeline of how the Chinese immigrated to the US and to Hawaii. Students shared signs they made of key dates to show us the order of the events that happened in history and to see how one event may have caused or led to another. The Chinese sailors joined Captain Cook's Voyage to Hawaii in 1778 and went to the mainland in 1785. When they came, the Chinese did not have the same rights as people with white-colored skin. Chinese started the first commercial sugar business in Hawaii in 1802 and became contract laborers in the sugar industry in 1852. Honolulu's Chinatown was started in 1860.

In 1882, the USA Chinese Exclusion Act was passed meaning that the Chinese could no longer immigrate to the US. We saw a video on the Chinese Exclusion Act and Laoshi asked about what we say and how did the video make us feel.

As Hawaii was not part of the US at this time, many Chinese came to work on the plantations in Hawaii.

Mrs. Wong told us the story about Lai Fong Au family. They got married in 1911 and Lai Fong was a picture bride which meant their marriage was arranged and she was picked from a picture to marry Mr. Au by his parents. Edward Au did not return home to Hawaii right away but fought in the Chinese Revolutionary War in 1911 led by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen to free the Chinese people from the tyranny of the Qing Dynasty. They succeeded and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen is now known as the Father of the Nation in China. He is well-known in Hawaii too because he studied at Punahou and Iolani before the revolution began.

Mr. Edward Au brought Lai Fong back to Hawaii and they became entrepreneurs and opened up their own business. The Lai Fong Department store on Nu‘uanu Avenue opened in 1947. One half of the store was a travel agency and the other half was for selling all sorts of things such as porcelain, furniture, jewelry, rugs, cloissoné and antiques. Lai Fong was a dress designer and also sold the Chinese traditional dress, cheongsams. Mrs. Chen wore her cheongsam and modeled it for us.

Grandson, Bob Au, fielded questions from children in the audience and shared stories about how he would sneak over to school to play on the playground and in the trees, but no one at school kicked him out! He remembers having wonderful holidays in the home with the big extended family and going over to play at our school founder, Sophie Judd Cooke's house where he’d pick the largest avocados he’s ever seen in his life! He also shared that his grandparents bought the house because the address is 1911 Ke‘eaumoku Street and 1911 was the year of the Chinese Revolution! We hope Mr. Au will return to share more stories with us again soon!

It was nice to learn more about the history of the property and to meet and hear Mr. Au.