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2 sisters reminisce about the family's laundry business in Hollywood


Hollywood is preparing for the Oscars this weekend. And today's StoryCorps features people with a special view of Hollywood. They're sisters - Suzi and Donna Wong. They grew up just minutes from the big movie studios but a world away and came to StoryCorps in 2013 to remember their dad, Frank, who moved to the United States from China and opened a laundry on Melrose Avenue in 1949.

SUZI WONG: We lived in the back of the laundry in Hollywood.

DONNA WONG: It wasn't your typical home, but it was a home for us. There was a simple plywood wall that just kind of hid our living area from the customers. As kids, we carved a little keyhole...

S WONG: Yes.

D WONG: ...So we could peek out and see which customer had come in.

S WONG: Actually, at some point, Dad, had a customer who worked for "Bonanza," that TV show that was popular in the early '60s. And he invited all of us to go to the set and to watch the actors. And my father readily agreed.

D WONG: That was one show that had a character that was Chinese - Hop Sing. And he was the worst stereotype. I mean, he was sort of, you know, bowing and smiling all the time. But I think it was important for my dad to see that there was some acknowledgement of Chinese people on the screen.

S WONG: You know, being in the laundry, we still had our own world as a family. But we also witnessed my father in interaction with people who had more money who came to them for menial work. And that's always a little hard to see your dad in that role.

D WONG: But when it came to protecting his children, he was heroic.

S WONG: Right. When I was in second grade, someone shoved me into the water spigot. And the next day, he came with me to the principal's office to protest and just get across, hey, this cannot continue.

D WONG: I don't think I at all thought about what our parents did for us until much later. One of our daughters is now a film editor. And she told me recently that the first time she got to work on Paramount Studio, which was just a mile from the laundry, she really felt like it was coming home.

S WONG: Yeah. I'm very proud of our family.


INSKEEP: Suzi and Donna Wong at StoryCorps in Atlanta, recalling their dad, Moontung Wong, known as Frank. He ran the family laundry with his wife for 35 years. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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Jo Corona