Even Santa Claus Eats Here: The Southern Israelite and the Marketing of Chinese Food

Southern Israelite, December 12, 1947

Newspapers have always been one of my favorite sources of work, and the DLG Georgia Historic Newspapers collection is one of my favorite sources of full-text searchable newspapers to use for this type of research. There are many different approaches to examining newspapers, but one that you may find useful is finding global connections in local sources. One global thread that interests me is how diverse foodways are introduced to new communities. Marketing methods tell us how customers were enticed to try food that may be new to them.

Southern Israelite, December 24, 1948

This marketing idea led to thinking about the special connection of the Jewish community to the  Chinese culinary scene. The relationship between Jewish communities and Chinese food is particularly evident around the Christmas holidays. Yong Chen’s Chop Suey, USA, explores the topic of Chinese food in the United States and pays some attention to cultural connection centered around food between Jewish and Chinese communities. The Southern Israelite proved to be an excellent source to ask questions about how the Jewish community in Atlanta was sold on Chinese food.

While this project is still in its early stages, I have discovered a few interesting facets of the marketing of Chinese food to the Atlanta Jewish community. A few quick facts:

  • From the 1930s to 1960s, I found twelve restaurants serving Chinese cuisine concentrated mostly in downtown Atlanta.
  • During the early twentieth century, there was an attempt to market Chinese food as “authentic” either by highlighting the origins of the chefs or the type of food served.
  • Many restaurants, as late as the 1960s, advertised both American and Chinese dishes. During the 1950s many restaurants began to emphasize their Chinese dishes over their American dishes.
  • The first true “take-away” Chinese restaurant, Young China, did not appear in the Southern Israelite until the 1950s.
  • The most prolific advertiser in the Southern Israelite was the restaurant Ding Ho which was open by Chinese-American Veteran Tom P. Wong in 1948.
Southern Israelite, January 11, 1952

There’s more research to be done, but thanks to the Georgia Historic Newspaper Project at the DLG, the ease of accessing resources like the Southern Israelite will allow for deeper discoveries that allow us to make global connections with a local context.

This project originated as a class project during this past semester in Dr. Ian Fletcher’s History 8490 at Georgia State University. In this course, we spent the term coming to an understanding of the importance of global history and how each student in the class might use elements of global history in their research and teaching. Students in this course decided to conduct a research project on food and global context in Atlanta.

The final map for the class was created by Curt Jackson and is available here:

https://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=2fd02952e89c457bb4701816b2b7d9de&extent=-84.3652,33.8704,-84.163,33.9553

–Joshua Kitchens
Director, Archival Studies Program
Clayton State University

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Oral histories from Georgian WWII veterans now freely available online

“This unique project shone a light on the special men and women who sacrificed themselves for all Americans and continues to be a valuable historical resource for researchers, family, and friends of the veterans.”

Aug. 15, 2019

CONTACT: Deborah Hakes, dhakes@georgialibraries.org

ATLANTA — Video recorded recollections from 50 World War II veterans originally from the Bainbridge, GA, area are now available online through YouTube and the Digital Library of Georgia. The interviews, which were originally captured on VHS and VHS-C tapes, were digitized as part of a summer student practicum program sponsored by Georgia HomePLACE, a unit of the Georgia Public Library Service, the Southwest Georgia Regional Library System, and the Clayton State University Master of Archival Studies program. 

The interviews preserve the experiences and history of WWII veterans and provide insight into the cultural and societal values in America between 1939-1945. The majority of veterans interviewed for the project have since passed away, making preservation all the more crucial.

“This unique project shone a light on the special men and women who sacrificed themselves for all Americans and continues to be a valuable historical resource for researchers, family, and friends of the veterans,” says Library Director Susan Whittle. “Responding to a request from an older community resident, SWGRL librarians & historians interviewed and videotaped many of the area’s “Greatest Generation” to share their war experiences and preserve them for posterity in our library and archives.” 

The World War II Veterans Project was an oral history initiative conducted by the Southwest Georgia Regional Library System from 1998-2008 with funding from The Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Trust. In 2002, the library received a National Award for Library Service from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, partly in recognition of the project’s success.

In order to preserve and improve access to these oral histories, the analog interviews were described, digitized, and uploaded to YouTube. They are additionally searchable within the Digital Library of Georgia. On average, each recording lasts 30 to 40 minutes and chronicles the interviewee’s age when drafted or enlisted, the branch of service, and training. Interviewees recount the nature of their assignments and duties, and often the weapons or artillery used, the transport ships, trucks, trains, and planes; the countries in which they were stationed; and where applicable, the major battles in which they participated.  

Joshua Kitchens, Director of the Master of Archival Studies program at Clayton State, says, “Outside-of-the-classroom experiences, such as working with Georgia HomePLACE, help our students apply the knowledge and skills they’ve accumulated in their course work. It is invaluable that our students have these types of opportunities to gain firsthand experience. Partnerships like these also help our students give back to the larger community of institutions preserving Georgia’s memory.”

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Georgia HomePLACE encourages public libraries and related institutions across the state to participate in the Digital Library of Georgia. HomePLACE offers a highly collaborative model for digitizing primary source collections related to local history and genealogy. HomePLACE is a project of the Georgia Public Library Service, a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. HomePLACE is supported with federal Library Services and Technology Act funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Georgia Public Library Service.

The Clayton State University’s Master of Archival Studies (MAS) program prepares professionals for careers in government, businesses, and collecting archives. The program emphasizes digital archives and electronic records. Because the program concentrates on archives and records, it offers a more in-depth study than students would receive in a library, information science, or public history program. Its innovative blend of traditional archival knowledge with information technology responds to the need for professionals who understand contemporary records and record-keeping systems. 

The Southwest Georgia Regional Library System serves the residents of Decatur, Miller, and Seminole Counties. The library system houses books, audiovisual materials, computers, genealogical resources, and more to serve the needs of the residents of the area. The Southwest Georgia Library for Accessible Services provides materials for blind and physically handicapped persons and serves a 22 county region in Southwest Georgia. We strive to provide the collections, reference services, and events that best serve the members of our community.

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