Mississippi Delta Chinese

Life in Chinese Grocery Stores

Peter Joe

Joined Feb 5 2011
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General Info

85 years old
Anaheim, Ca
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Mississippi Delta Chinese

About Me

Presently retired with my wife, Evelyn Chu Joe and live in Anaheim, Ca.

Born and raised in the heart of the Mississippi Delta in the small town of Boyle, Ms.  My father, Henry Joe with his wife, Quan Shee Joe operated a grocery store having emigrated to the Delta in 1917 via San Francisco.   He raised 5 sons--Jim, Fee, Edward, Walter, and Peter.  

All of my brothers and I with exception of my oldest brother, Jim graduated from Boyle High School and Miss. State University. I began public school in the 3th grade after the Boyle School board allowed us to attend in 1945.  Much of my memories of public school is centered around sports.   Walter and I lettered in all 3 sports—football, baseball, and basketball. In football, Walter played Fullback and I played Quarterback.  Being Chinese football players in the Miss. Delta, a sports writer from the Memphis Commercial Appeal even interviewed Walter and me --and we had our picture taken in our football uniforms along with George Jee who played for Ruleville-- and Charlie Chu who played for the Greenville Hornets football team. Back during that period, Chinese football players were not considered the Norm.

I also remember getting up in the early morning with my brother, Walter to go fishing near the Mississippi River.  Walter was the Sportsman in the family and loved to fish and hunt. Many a time, he and I would get up before daybreak and travel to Benoit or Beulah to fish the lakes near the Miss. River. We would rent a flat-bottom rowboat and used wooden paddles to get around the lake—he in the back and me in the front of the boat. We would catch our limits of crappies or brim and be home before noon. Often, he and I would compete on who could catch the most fish -and most of the time, he out-fished me- even though he was in the back of the boat. (You see, the guy in the front of the boat was supposed to have the advantage because you could get your bait into the un-fished areas first - but somehow that didn’t work for me). He and I also had a business when we were kids - selling bait to the fishermen that would come though our hometown on their way to the river. I remember a fisherman had placed an order for 2000 roaches--and had given with us 1 week to make the delivery. Back then, roaches sold for 3 cents apiece so $60 was a lot of money for us kids of 15 or 16. We cleaned out our town of roaches during those 7 days and also had to go to Cleveland. I remember we even drafted a close friend, Charles Wong and his brother, John to help us fill the order. Walter and I saved enough money to eventually buy a ¾-Hp outboard engine and a fishing boat, which we were proud to have.

I also have fond memories of the times that we went to college at Miss. State. He and I belonged to the Lucky 11 club, which was started by our older brothers, Fee and Edward along with other Chinese boys from the Miss. Delta. During the 50’s, the Chinese would host their own parties and dances and we would stay up all night dancing into the early morning. The Club would host an annual Christmas dance attended by Chinese through out the South and would select a Lucky 11 Queen.  The dance was the big social event of the year where the girls wore formal evening dresses and the guys wore suits and ties. Back then the “jitter-bug” was the dance of the day and if you couldn't  do the "rock and roll", you were out of place.  

I retired from Rockwell International in 1995 after working 36 years in the Defense Industry as an Engineering Manager. Evelyn and I have two sons and a daughter. Our daughter, Kelly is married and lives in San Diego. They have 2 sons, Nicholas and Kyle, who are 6 and 5 years old, respectively. Kelly works as a dental hygienist and her husband, Mike works as a district sales rep for King Drugs. Our oldest son, Kevin, lives in Kirkland, WA and is a Dentist. He is married to Beatrice Tai and they have 2 daughters—Gaby and Madison. Our youngest son, Keith, is an Air Force Major stationed at Andrews AFB, Wash DC. He is a medical doctor and a specialist in orthopedic surgery. He has a daughter, Kaia, and a son name Micah. I obtained my BSEE degree from Miss State in 1959 and accepted a position as a research engineer with North American Aviation in Los Angeles. I obtained a MSEE degree from California State Fullerton in 1971.   The company opened a new plant in Anaheim in 1962 and I moved to Anaheim, Ca during that same year. I was fortunate to spend 36 years working on Long Range ICBM Guidance Systems from the early Minuteman design throughout all the upgrades that were performed on the system to the present day. The company underwent many organizational changes including merging with Rockwell International in 1979.   After retirement in 1995, I worked as a consultant for the Boeing Company up to 2008-who brought Rockwell International Defense Operations in 1996.

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1 Comment

Reply John Jung
3:44 PM on February 7, 2011 
Welcome, Peter!
Great to get you on the site! Hope your contacts will also get involved, thanks!