Register of the Papers of
REVEREND DR. YAM TONG HOH
Anthony St. Joseph
Processing and cataloguing of this collection were supported in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The Reverend Dr. Yam Tong Hoh, clergyman and civic leader, was born June 16, 1898, in Fushan, China, and grew up in Canton. He studied in mission schools when he was young. In 1923 he earned an A.B. degree with honors and a diploma in Education from Lingnan University (Canton Christian College). He went on to become secretary of the Canton Young Men's Christian Association and then principal of the Lingnan High School.
While attending Lingnan, missionary professors selected him as one of three young men to be sent to the United States for further education. Reverend Hoh earned a master's degree in Education at Stanford University in 1929, then attended San Anselmo Theological Seminary near San Francisco. He went on to receive his doctorate from Columbia University Teachers College in 1933. His dissertation, entitled "The Boxer Indemnity Remissions and Education in China," was a historical study of education in China from 1900 to 1930. It was based on extensive use of government documents and the official reports and publications of the administrative agencies for the various remissionsBritish, American, Portuguese, and others. In the preface of his dissertation, Reverend Hoh acknowledged the help of various fellowships which had supported his research, and the help of his wife, Daisy Law Hoh. The former Daisy Law, born in 1900, was an orphan who had attended True Light School. Mrs. Hoh had received fellowship grants to study in the United States.
Reverend Hoh returned to China with a special interest in education. He became the administrative head of the True Light Middle School in Canton. This school was a Christian Mission School originally sponsored by the Foreign Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Founded in 1872 as a school for orphan girls, the school began as a primary school in Canton. In the early part of the century, True Light School developed an outstanding reputation by producing some of the brightest young women, a reputation which continues today in the Hong Kong school.
While serving as principal of True Light, Dr. Hoh guided the school through its darkest days of the Japanese occupation and World War II. The school was forced to move from Canton to Hong Kong, then to Sam Kong, Kukong, Lienshien, Pinglok, Liuchow, Kweiyang, and finally to Chungking in advance of the Japanese invasion. Dr. Hoh's wife and son George, born in Canton in 1935, fled Hong Kong in 1940 and spent the war years with missionary friends in South Pasadena, California. During this time, Mrs. Hoh actively raised funds on behalf of the Chinese war effort against Japan. Finally, in 1944, Dr. Hoh was also forced to flee Chungking by an overland route through mainland China to Burma and then India. He arrived in New York City and then was reunited with his wife and son in California. A few months after his arrival in the United States, Mrs. Hoh, who suffered from cancer, died in 1945.
After the war ended, Reverend Hoh considered returning to China, but as a result of the communist takeover and Mao Tse Tung's assumption of power, he decided to stay in the United States. Reverend Hoh served as minister at the Chinese Congregational Church in Berkeley, California, from 1947 to 1953. During this time, he married for a second time to Chia-Teh Li and the couple had a son, John, born in 1954. Following a successful building fund drive at the church, Dr. Hoh took the position of general secretary of the Chinese Community Center in Oakland, California. A Chinese school was one of the major activities of the Center. When the opportunity arose in 1954 for him to become minister of the Chinese Christian Church and Center in Philadelphia, Dr. Hoh left California with his family to accept the calling.
As pastor of this congregation until 1967, Reverend Hoh served the Chinese community throughout the Delaware Valley. He was ordained a minister of the United Church of Christ. In addition to his pastoral duties, Reverend Hoh did extensive work to help immigrants adjust to their new country. He frequently acted as a translator, many times providing assistance for naturalization or application for social security benefits when the immigrants became eligible. During his tenure, plans were made to build the Vine Street Expressway, the original routing of which would have destroyed part of Chinatown. Hoh and other community leaders were successful in persuading officials to re-route the expressway. The alternate routing spared most of Chinatown including the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. Reverend Hoh also took part in building a playground for the children in Chinatown.
Following his retirement in 1967, Reverend Hoh continued to be active in the Chinese community in Philadelphia. He also maintained contacts with those he had known in Berkeley, at True Light School, at Lingnan University, and missionary friends. He participated in a variety of organizations involved with community service, including the United Way and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, and continued assisting immigrants. The main thrust of his retirement work, however, focused on the elderly, particularly the elderly Chinese in Chinatown. Reverend Hoh was acutely conscious of the plight of many elderly men who had migrated to "Gum San" (literally translated, "Mountain of Gold," as America was known in China in the old days). These men had come to the United States in their early years to earn money to send for their families. Instead, they found themselves in their old age living alone and broken.
Hoh's concern led him to plan, develop, and oversee the construction of a facility which provided low-income housing for elderly Chinese citizens, so they could spend their last few years in a community-type setting instead of alone. This project occupied the majority of Reverend Hoh's time from the late 1970s until its completion in 1985. There were many problems. The initial proposal to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was rejected; and during construction, the workers hit the water table, causing costs to exceed the initial projections and initially available funds.
Officially named the "On Lok House Older Adult Living Center" ("On Lok" translated into English means "Peace and Happiness"), the center was constructed at l0th and Spring streets in Chinatown. The seven-story structure contained 54 rental units. The $3 million dollar project was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs, private individuals, and four foundations: the Glenmede Trust Company, the William Penn Foundation, the W. W. Smith Charity Trust, and the Samuel S. Fels Fund. The land was purchased for the project by the City Redevelopment Authority. Numerous individuals worked with Reverend Hoh to make this project a reality.
Dr. Hoh was honored with the Philadelphia Bulletin's Thomas Jefferson Award in 1979 for his "...unselfish and unstinting public service." The community cited him in 1985 for his "vision, dedication, and leadership." Completing a life of service, Reverend Hoh persevered in his wish to provide for the elderly. Having been active in service for most of his life, his final mission appropriately turned out to be successful. Reverend Hoh died of leukemia in Baltimore, Maryland, on December 15, 1987.
These papers were donated to the Balch Institute in 1990 by George Hoh and his wife Florence Hoh. George Hoh is the son of Reverend Hoh and his first wife Daisy Law Hoh. Florence and George Hoh have since donated additional materials to the Balch in 1991 and 1994. These additions have not been fully processed. An inventory of the 1991 accession is included in this guide. The 1994 accession which pertains mainly to the life and work of Daisy Law Hoh has not been processed.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Reverend Hoh papers span the years from 1946 to 1986. They cover the second half of his life, starting shortly after his return to the United States in 1944. The papers reflect his life of service as a minister here in the United States, both in California and Philadelphia. The papers consist of a great deal of correspondence between Reverend Hoh and individual people, as well as between himself and various organizations. The collection includes yearbooks, banners, blueprints, sermons, greeting cards, law cases, and various personal materials.
There are a sizable amount of photographs which accompanied this collection. They were primarily from the On Lok House and personal pictures of family and friends. The photographs have been removed and now compromise Photo Group 349.
The papers are divided into 11 series:
Series I: On Lok House Older Adult Living Center Papers (1972-1986): traces the development of Reverend Hoh's project to create housing for the elderly in Chinatown. This series contains Hoh's initial letters to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in which he proposed the idea of the On Lok House. The papers trace the development of the proposal, construction of the building, its dedication, and opening in February 1985. Included in this series are several detailed legal cases (including documents) against the On Lok by a building contractor. There are highly detailed documents of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development involvement as well as extensive legal correspondence. There were also pictures with Philadelphia mayor Wilson Goode (removed to photo collection).
These records are divided into HUD materials, architectural papers, Board of Directors materials, miscellaneous correspondence, by-laws, mission statement, and financial statements. Blueprints for the On Lok House building are also preserved.
Series II: Chinese Christian Church and Center, Philadelphia, Papers (1948-1982): document the involvement of Reverend Hoh first as a minister and then as the pastor of the Chinese Christian Church and Center. These records contain files and substantial correspondence regarding the church and its many functions, particularly the annual "China Night". Sermons, church printed materials, and extensive correspondence with other churches and their pastors paint a vivid picture of Reverend Hoh's duties as a pastor to Philadelphia's Chinese American Community. Other interesting materials included in this series include the budget, the 40th Anniversary celebration of the church and center, and papers explaining to applicants and new ministers of the church all of the duties that the job of minister entailed.
Series III: Hong Kong True Light Foundation Papers (1950-1982): describes Reverend Hoh's continuing relationship with the True Light School and the True Light Foundation after he settled in the United States, including time he served as the treasurer of the True Light Foundation in 1954. There is also extensive correspondence with friends from Hong Kong and China, as well as from those in the United States, also associated with the school. There is especially detailed and interesting material associated with the Centennial celebration of the True Light Middle School in 1972, in which Reverend Hoh was highly involved and traveled to Hong Kong to participate. The materials in this series contain yearbooks, a mini-banner, book markers, and fliers. There is also a history of the Foundation and school, the certificate of incorporation of the Foundation, information on attaining a passport and airline tickets for the Centennial celebration, handwritten notes for a seminar, and sheet music for the True Light School song.
Series IV: Miscellaneous Organizational Records (1941-1987): detail Reverend Hoh's involvement with various community service organizations, largely after his retirement as pastor of the Chinese Christian Church and Center. These organizations included the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the United Church of Christ regarding Chinatown urban renewal. The material is largely correspondence and brochures. Correspondents included the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, Mayor W. Wilson Goode of Philadelphia, South Philadelphia High School, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There is correspondence about voter education. There are blueprints. There is interesting correspondence with government agencies regarding public polices on aging.
Series V: Chinese Congregational Church, Berkeley, California, Papers (1946-1985): reflect the time that Reverend Hoh spent at the Chinese Congregational Church in Berkeley, California. This series consists mainly of notes for sermons, agendas, notes for services, teaching and church materials, as well as some correspondence.
Series VI: Chinese Benevolent Association of Philadelphia Papers (1971-1984): details the work that Reverend Hoh undertook with this organization including fundraising activities. The materials largely deal with Reverend Hoh's involvement with the Chinatown Centennial Celebration in 1971. There are also fliers, publicity materials, and correspondence.
Series VII: Papers Concerning Work with the Aged (1970-1979): documents Reverend Hoh's widespread work on behalf of the Chinese elderly in Philadelphia. The organizations that Reverend Hoh worked with include the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Authority, the Philadelphia Council for the Aging, Asian American Council of Greater Philadelphia, the Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center, and ACORE (Advisory Committee on Residence for the Elderly (ACORE) of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation). Included are budgets, conference letters, and abstracts. There is also a copy of legislation proposed in the Pennsylvania legislature.
Series VIII: Papers Concerning Community Service (1950-1986): which date largely from 1968 to the mid-1980s, concerns various community service activities which Reverend Hoh took part in. There are detailed case files of his work as translator for newly-arrived Chinese immigrants, personal correspondence, citizenship papers, passport applications, Social Security information, general notes, sermons, and addresses. There are also materials on naturalization papers, as well as insurance documents.
Series IX: Personal Correspondence (1944-1986): contains general personal correspondence between Reverend Hoh and his friends in Philadelphia, Hong Kong, China, and California. There is correspondence with his family. The majority of the correspondence is in the form of Christmas cards and greeting cards, many accompanied by notes in Chinese. There are miscellaneous personal materials, detailed date books, calendars, handwritten sermon notes, news articles, tax materials, and translations of poetry.
Series X: Printed Materials (1917-c.1980): contains mainly religious and educational books written in Chinese. Included is an educational serial for children from Hong Kong. There are illustrated children's books and religious literature, almost all of which are in Chinese.
There are also several oversized documents, including blueprints, newspapers, and posters.
Series XI: Chinese War Bonds (1938): contains vouchers for money from the Republic of China, that date from before 1949 when the Communists led by Mao Tse Tung took control of the government of China.
The box list of the Register of the Papers of Reverend Dr. Yam Tong Hoh is
sixty-nine pages long.