Connecting with Claremont

Hi Everyone, 

I have been working as a CCEPS fellow for three weeks now, and I am done surveying the first half of the Yao family papers. Having examined so many Norman Yao’s photos of Claremont, I gradually developed a deeper sense of connection with the college town. When I ascended the stairs on the south side of the Honnold/Mudd Library, a black and white photo that Norman Yao took in the late 1960s flashed in my mind. Four students about my age were walking down the stairs, chatting; one was fixing her hair, while another student was staring north at Mt. Baldy. For a brief moment, I felt that had I waved at them, they would have waved back at me. In other instances, as I walked around Claremont and saw the places photographed by Norman, I felt like I was visiting places that I had seen in movies or read about in novels. But Claremont is not a distant and strange place, but the city where I reside. Yet, seeing the town through the lens of a camera and with a historical dimension prompted me to take a step back from my many frustrations with Claremont in my daily life to view myself as a part of its changing history and appreciate the many beauties of Claremont. 

Moving on, I will be processing the Yao family papers. Basically, I will draft a processing plan, rearrange the documents under different themes and evaluate their research value. 

Hope you have a good week! 



Claremont students during a protest

Processing Plan

Hello everybody,

I made a processing plan this week. I read the OAC Guide to the Kruska Japanese Internment Collection and the Guide to the Addison M. Metcalf Collection of Gertrude Steiniana for reference and now I am fascinated with both collections. (Dr. Allen told me that a Picasso painting of Gertrude Stein is housed at UCLA special collections! How cool!) 
CCEPS work honestly does not feel like work. It’s mainly just me fan-girling over fascinating, age-old documents. But back to T.S. Eliot, the three series are correspondence, photos and memorabilia, and printed materials. Ruth George Collection of T.S. Eliot is a very small collection, so I will have time later on to work on an online exhibit. 
I am excited for next week (though because of spring break, I will only work two days of the week). I plan to meet with librarians of both Honnold-Mudd and Denison to further discuss my plan. 
Thanks for reading!

Claremont in the 1960s

Hi Everyone, 

This week, I continued to survey the Yao family collection and encountered a box full of negatives and 35 mm slides. Since Mr. Norman Yao took many photos for the Claremont Colleges and the Claremont Church, I am also discovering local history while going through his photos. In the 1960s, the Scripps College campus was decorated with Chinese Buddhist statues donated by Norwegian General Johan Munthe who emigrated to China in 1886. The fascination with the Orient was so deep that President of Scripps College Mark Curtis even tried on a Chinese imperial robe. 

The racial aspect of 1960s Claremont in this collection is also rather interesting as the vast majority of the people Norman photographed were Caucasians, and yet he was a person of color. This particular dynamic reminded me of the photos of the all-white parties that Norman took in Hong Kong. I wonder what psychological effect such racial dynamics could have had on Norman as well as the photographed subjects. Meanwhile, Norman’s camera also captured social changes in the 1960s, for instance, the first admission of Black students into Scripps College through Future Development Program of Negro Students. 

Hope you have a good week! 


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Norman Yao reads “How to Use the Box Camera”

Race Against the Clock

Hello Everyone, this week has been productive, but
time on this project seems to be passing quickly and I am trying to pick up the
pace to accomplish as much as possible. I now have nine of the twenty-seven
boxes completed with much of the annual and monthly operational club activity
records and Junior Club project reports in folders. I have also made significant
progress on creating folders for Club history as well as Woman’s Club events
and projects. The remaining boxes awaiting processing contain ledgers and
journals, printed matter and ephemera, newspaper clippings, photos, and slides,
and some remaining loose paperwork. I have a good plan of attack for next week
and am eager to get started on Tuesday.

The Woman’s Club of
Claremont has had some great fundraising events throughout their history and
have been very creative in coming up with event themes. I have come across some
wonderful event programs for fashion shows from the 1950’s and 1960’s with such
titles as “Autumn Fashion Treasures,” “Fashions for a Goddess,” and “Strawberry
Supreme,” with some programs being handmade. Check them out!

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Valerie Eliot’s Christmas Card

Valerie Eliot’s whimsical personality is evident even in her penmanship. 

I think I am drawn to Valerie Eliot’s cards to Jeanette McPherrin because I see so much of Eliot’s influence on Valerie here. Her signature has the same slanted line underneath her name that T.S. Eliot employs. 
Her handwriting is a lot easier to read than her husband’s, as hers is more bubbly and almost youthful. Valerie was 40 years younger than T.S. Eliot and she was a longtime fan of Eliot’s before she met him at Faber & Faber, where she purposefully worked as Eliot’s secretary (she used Charles Morgan’s connections to get a job at Eliot’s publishing company so that she could work in the vicinity of T.S. Eliot). Quite a fandom! Years after their deaths, I sit quietly at the Denison Library admiring Eliot’s writings, just as Valerie must have done when she was around my age. I wonder if Valerie knew about T.S. Eliot’s previous “relationship” with Emily Hale, Jeanette’s friend… A mystery indeed. 


The Story of the Yao Family

Hi Everyone, 

I am very excited to be on board to work as a CCEPS fellow. This semester, I will be working on Claremont’s former mayor Mr. Peter Yao’s donation of photos and other family documents to The Claremont Colleges Library. First week on the job, I encountered many fascinating documents, including numerous personal letters and dozens of official documents issued by the Kuomintang, British Hong Kong and American government. From these documents I was able to reconstruct the story of the Yao family. Graduates of University of Shanghai, Peter Yao’s parents hailed from elite families in mainland China. But when the Communists won the civil war and confiscated their business, they fled to British Hong Kong where they worked for the US Information Service. Under the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, they came to the United States. Peter Yao’s father Norman Yao was a lifelong enthusiast of photography, and the photographs he had taken constitutes the majority of the documents I will be processing. 

Hope you have a good week! 



Norman Yao and his beloved Rolleiflex camera

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It feels befitting to start my CCEPS project on Valentine’s day because I will be working on the T.S. Eliot Collection at Denison Library. And this is so, not just because Eliot wrote many love poems, but because I will be examining Eliot’s (most likely) romantic relationship with Emily Hale, a former faculty member at Scripps. 
Thanks to this “friendship” (we really don’t know for sure what kind of relationship they had. I am certain though that we will know more when T.S. Eliot’s 1,131 letters to Hale become open to the public on 1/1/2020), T.S. Eliot was here in Claremont several times and the collection houses memorabilia, handwritten cards, and letters from Eliot. He made friends in Claremont through Hale and I am excited to explore his connection to Claremont by digging into the box!
This post card caught my eye today. It’s sent on April 6th, so I presume that the “Valentine’s Post Card” is just a printing company owned by someone named Valentine. But still, I thought it was cool and sort of relevant. Eliot writes to Jeanette McPherrin (a friend of Hale’s): “This is to let you know that there is still a good deal of snow about Inverness, which I left yesterday morning. Crocuses are out, however. T.S.E.” Decoding his handwriting has been tough. Initially I read “snow” as “show” and I could not figure out “crocuses” until Dr. Susan Allen helped me out. More to come, I’m sure. 

Seeing Where I Am At

Hi Everyone, this week has been spent sorting and
creating folders. I have continued working on processing Junior Club project report
folders. It is time consuming work. I have been removing staples and
transferring the contents of the reports from report covers to file folders.
It took longer than I estimated, but I managed to get through two boxes of
project reports. I was beginning to feel as though I hadn’t accomplished much,
but I felt a little better after looking at the tidy boxes of folders I have
processed. It is hard to believe the amount of work it has taken to produce
these six organized boxes. Still a long way to go!

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Things Are Shaping Up Nicely

This week was productive. I managed to get all the
annual and monthly activity documents sorted from the boxes and put into
folders. I also began getting the Junior Club Project reports separated and
into folders as well. Next week I will continue with Junior Club Project
reports and then, depending how long that takes, begin on scrap books. There
are many scrap books full of newspaper articles, achievement awards,
certificates of recognition, and photographs from decades of activities and
events. I am looking forward to processing all these memorabilia.

The Woman’s Club of
Claremont has had many interactions with the Girl Scouts of Claremont over the
years. I came across a Girl Scout Calendar from 1988 as well as a letter sent to
households and members of the community in 1957 detailing “OPERATION SEOPATCA,”
the Claremont Girl Scout’s effort to send one of their troops to Canada. The
letter explains the troop’s plan for an “all-out sale” of Girl Scout cookies to
fund their trip to Canada. Considering it is Girl Scout cookie season now, it
was amusing to note in the letter that cookies were only .50 cents a box, $6.00
a case! Times sure have changed.

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Girl Scout calendar 1988, a blast from the past.

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Girl Scout Cookies @ .50 cents a box!

Back to Work/ Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I am pleased to be back at work and
picking up where I left off processing the Woman’s Club of Claremont records. I
am making progress and am almost finished processing the Club’s operational
records. I am looking forward to moving on to processing the Junior Club’s
project reports and associated records. The process keeps unfolding as I get
deeper into the records. The plan keeps evolving, and I can see ways of improving
the plan as I continue to wade through the material and become more familiar
with the Club itself. I really want to finish as much as possible before my
time with CCEPS is over, so I feel like I accomplished something important when
I leave. This desire is fueling a sense of urgency in my work.

The Woman’s
Club/Junior Club has done some amazing projects to better their community over
the years. The Junior Club has made a difference through projects under program
themes such as Building a Better Community, Fine Arts, Family, and many more. I
was able to learn about one such program while processing correspondence with
the theme of International Affairs. The letters detailed the club’s sponsorship
of an orphan named Lee Myung Cha from the Orphans’ Home of Korea located in
Seoul, Korea. Lee Myung Cha wrote a touching letter of appreciation and
gratitude to the ladies of the Woman’s Club that appears to be dated ca. late
1950’s to early 1960’s. Lee Myung Cha reports that, through the Club’s
sponsorship, she can stay healthy and continue her educational studies. She
mentions twenty cows that were sent to her town from Texas and a homemade
drawing she sent to the club depicting happy children playing with a top. I wonder
what ever became of Lee Myung Cha? I haven’t come across any records detailing her
fate, but her letter says a great deal about the Woman’s Club of Claremont’s efforts
to make the world a better place. These compassionate women not only impacted
communities domestically, but also managed to touch lives on an international
scale. Brava Ladies! 

Children of Home of Korea located in Seoul, Korea   

“Children Spinning a Top Joyously,” quote from Lee
Myung Cha’s letter.

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Lee Myung Cha’s letter of thanks, (in Korean).

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English translation of Lee Myung Cha’s letter.