Remembering past Memorial Days
May 28, 2020
To The Eagle:
For as far back as I can remember my dad insisted we put flowers on the Chinaman's grave every Memorial Day. He's the only one of the Chinese workers who was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery. The others who died here were buried on the hillside behind the old gym. Their markers were cedar boards that have long since perished. Only this Chinaman's grave stone is marble. It used to stand upright but years ago it was placed on its back in a concrete surround. This was probably for easier mowing once more land was needed for graves. For so many years his was the only grave down at the bottom right corner of the cemetery far from the others. It wasn't easy to find in the tall grass and brush but every year we would search until we located it, cleared around the headstone and left him flowers.
Dad came to Puget Island in 1921. He said the Chinamen were well treated in Cathlamet. They had their own China House next to the cannery. The ships that came from the Orient for loads of the canned salmon brought them tea, candied ginger and lichee nuts, etc. In the evenings they would go down to the riverbank and dig wapatoes for their potato like bulbs. They flew their kites in the breeze and taught the children here how to make their beautiful and unique kites.
Every year they came in the spring to make the tin salmon cans and work in the cannery until the end of the season. Then they would be taken by boat to Portland for other work.
Julia Butler Hansen wrote that her grandmother often said, "You can always tell when spring is coming - the Chinamen have returned and the frogs are croaking."