From Shanghangzhoi, China to Park Slope, Brooklyn
"Mom was one of the first Chinese immigrants who came to New York," Fran told me. Fran Onne is a musician, with two children, who lives in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Fran's mother, Tih Lou, came from Shanghangzhoi, a big Chinese city located south of Shanghai. Tin Lou was a young woman when the Japanese invaded China in the early 1930's. Her family fled to their vacation home in the mountains. An image that remains with Tih Lou is of the Japanese soldiers with their bayonets, pulling a servant girl's pony tail. Miraculously, the soldiers left, leaving the family alive. Throughout the family's ordeal, Tih Lou's mother had been sick, and she nursed her mother back to health. Tih Lou was a teacher of Chinese pilot's children, whose fathers were fighting off the Japanese. Afterwards, Tih Lou traveled to Shanghai where she had her arranged marriage. Another relative of Fran's, a grand -aunt, Lily Yee, a painter of Chinese landscapes, was a strong influence on Fran. She came to New York, from Shanghai, where she had associated with Shanghai's Chinese intellectuals in the late1920's.Tih Lou arrived in New York City in 1938. She made Chinese lampshades and dresses for her husband's cousin's import/export business on 28th Street. During World War II, Tih Lou acted as a go- between, helping Chinese immigrants to get jobs in an airplane parts factory, as they got off the boats in New York, where she would meet them at the piers, and direct them to the factory. Later, Fran's parents had a grocery store, Jimmy's Grocery, in Harlem, near where Tih Lou still lives today, alone, at the age of ninety-six. Fran's children visit once a week for Chinese lessons.