Recently I received an email from Lillian, my daughter-in-law, about an old postcard found from Henry’s office drawer while cleaning.
Father’s second American visit
It is a very old postcard my father wrote to my mother on July 23, 1923 from Honolulu, Hawaii on his second visit to America. It was written in old-fashioned Korean letters(언문) mixed with Chinese, out of which I had difficulty to read since they were somewhat scribbled. With more effort, finally I decoded all the words Korean and Chinese.
This short letter indicated that he arrived here in Hawaii today on July 23, and planned to proceed to New York soon, expecting to be there by August 10 or so.
Years ago I gave it to Henry, my son, as a relic along with father’s old photos. While I was writing Father’s Footsteps in America, I wanted to include the valuable information from this postcard and so asked Henry to send me the copy of the card. However he couldn’t find it, and didn’t even remember it at all. So, I had to give it up entirely.
Fortunately, Lillian is a person full of curiosity and happened to read my English translation in a slip kept along with the card, and so realized that it was a very important item.
Now I decoded father’s hasty writings fully, wrote the original writings exactly as they were, then rewrote in the twenty first century Korean language, and finally translated it in English for my sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren. This precious postcard was well preserved in a special archival framing. What a great relief it was, not to be thrown to a trash bin!
Along with this new information, there will be some corrections to make on father’s visiting year from 1925 to 1923, Considering 30 days’ period of one way navigation in an old steam ship, he must have departed a Japanese Harbor by June of 1923, landed at Hawaii on July 23th, arrived at New York around August 10th, and took 4 memorable photos at the Belvedere Castle in the winter time.
Yesterday we moved from Southampton to Chelsea, New York and will stay here a week before moving back to Southampton for Thanksgiving dinner.
During my stay at Manhattan, I plan to visit the Belvedere visiting center and to show friendly employees these old photos to figure out the approximate time of the year: Father was wearing his winter coat, there were no hanging leaves on tree branches, nor snow anywhere.
I will take some more photos in front of the stone wall and in the pedestrian walk shown in the old photos.
In the two top lines: UNION POSTALE UNIVERSELLE
Right side-Vertically from below: きかは便郵 (와가기-일어: Wa kaki: Christmas tree )
Next: Onyang Korea 昨昨
Next: 朝鮮 忠南 牙山郡 松岳面 外巖里 八一
Next: 李圭貞 前
今日 無事히 布哇에 到하
얏소. 卽刻 出發하야 紐育
으로 向하겠소. 其地에 到着
하기난 八月十日頃이나 되
겟소. 其時 곳 連絡히겟소.
(이 배가 내 타고 가는 배요)
2. 한글 표현(Korean language)
오늘 무사히 하와이에 이르렀소.
즉각 출발하여 뉴욕으로
향하겠소. 그곳에 도착하려면
팔월 십일경이나 되겠소.
그때 곧 연락을 하겠소.
(이 배는 내가 타고 갔던 배요.)
3. 영문번역 [ English translation]
Today I arrived at Hawaii without difficulty.
I shall head for New York as soon as possible.
It will be around August 10th
or so for me to be there.
By that time I will contact you without delay.
(The ship shown on this card is the one I have been aboard.)
This time I thought he had arrived at NYC in August, tried to resume his study at the Wharton School without success due to the financial problems, and then to contact his American friend with whom he had left his belongings at the time of his departure in 1914, but found his death at the time of his military service in the European front of the World War One. Consequently his belongings were mostly lost since there was no one to keep father’s possessions.
Fig 1-1. July 24, 1923 Postcard Main Page
Father made friends with a number of Korean expatriates in NYC, out of whom I remember only three persons:
Heegyung Lee, an independence patriot.
Byungok Cho, a politician
Keebung Lee, a politician
I have kept father’s four old photos taken at that time in NYC. Only recently I found the place of photographs, which was the Belvedere Castle in the Central Park.
Two photos were taken in front of stone walls, and another two sitting on a bench in a pathway with background of the castle, hill, long stone wall and a cylindrical stone pillar.
Despite drastic geographical changes in the pathway photos, I finally found the exact site of the bench in the photos though the bench was gone. It was the very exciting and rewarding experience to find the exact locations of the photos in ninety some years later.
Father and his friends were wearing suits, winter coats and caps indicating winter time. I wanted to determine the month of the photographs if possible. Since I was in NYC for 31 days from Nov 10 to Dec 11 at my son’s apartment in Chelsea, NY, I took photos at the Belvedere as I wanted, including Nov 15, Dec 4, and Dec 10.
Incidentally the old photos are of poor shape, not because of such long years since photo taking time, but during Korean War our house remained vacant for 3 years, and some valuables were all stolen, others were strewn outside the rooms. I could see the trees with all the leaves gone, but there was no snow on the ground.
With this hint, I tried hard to keep taking photos at the sites while comparing the trees in the old photos with them in the new ones. The photos taken on Dec 10 did show bare branches but still with some hanging leaves.
I finally concluded that the old photos were taken sometime after Dec 10, possibly in the month of January.
That means father had stayed in NYC after the end of 1923, and possibly left for Korea possibly during the springtime of 1924. Probably he stayed there more than half a year since his arrival.
The school record showed his address was 633 West 115th Street, New York, which means he had resided there at least from 1909 to 1913, but it is quite possible that this residency could be much longer than four years. It could extend to the very beginning of his arrival and beginning of lower school days in 1903 or 1904. Possibly he could have lived there for as long as ten years. I want to figure out how the neighborhood around 633 West 115th Street, New York was in those days, and so obtained the copies of the old maps at the New York Historical Society. Indeed there were not too many buildings. I will post some important photos following the castle photos.
Fig 1-2. July 24, 1923 Postcard Back Page
Fig 2-1-1. Winter 1923 Belvedere stonewall
Fig 2-1-2. Winter 1923 Belvedere Pathway
Fig 2-2-1. Nov 15 Stone wall
Fig 2-2-2. Nov 15 Pathway
Fig 2-2-3. Nov 15 Bench
Fig 2-3-1. December 4 Stone wall
Fig 2-3-2. December 4 Pathway
Fig 2-4-1. December 10 Stone wall
Fig 2-4-2. December 10 Pathway
Fig 2-4-3. December 10 Vacant benches
Fig 2-5. January 6, 2015 Stone wall
Fig 3-1. Winter 1923 Stone wall
Fig 3-2. Winter 1923 Pathway
Upper two and lower two photos are father’s old ones while middle ten’s are the photos taken recently. Please see the dates and compare the old ones with the new ones.
Fig 4-1. Nov 14 Maps: West 113-116
Fig 4-2. West 114-115
Fig 4-3. 633 W 115th Street
Fig 4-4. Current 633 W 115th Street Map
The first three photos showed the neighborhood of 633 West 115th Street with gradual enlargement of the residence while the last one was the current map. The streets were seen with buildings sparsely distributed in those days.
Fig 5. Walk from Plaza West to Dong Bang Grill
This is the road map from the bus stop of GWB Plaza West to Dong Bang Grill, Fort Lee, NJ which is supposed to take 10 minutes, enabling me to take advantage of public transportations from Chelsea, New York to Fort Lee, New Jersey for our reunion of snu alumni.