Ruby Ling Louie
Ruby Ling Louie grew up around her parents’ businesses in China City.
Written by Andrew Jung
Ruby Ling Louie was born on April 11th, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois. Traveling seems to be a part of the Ling family tradition. Her parents came from a village called Tsingtien in Chekiang Province. Her mother was the eldest of seven children and her father was the youngest of four brothers.
Trying to find a better life for his family, Ruby’s adventurous father traveled to Seattle, then to Chicago and finally settled in Los Angeles. An industrious entrepreneur, Ruby’s father participated in the World’s Fair in various cities.
In San Diego that the Ling family discovered the auspicious weather offered by California and settled in Los Angeles with a curio shop in China City, which sold “scholar’s stone” carvings made by villagers from Chekiang.
Established by Christine Sterling, China City was created due to the success and the need for Chinese Americans in the burgeoning movie industry in Hollywood. As a young child, Ruby considered her neighborhood a multicultural environment. There were Italians, Russians, Croatians, French along with various Chinese immigrants.
Ruby helped work at her father’s curio store. As the youngest of four children, she was allowed the luxury of running around and visiting her friends as opposed to her older siblings who had to constantly mind the store. In school, Ruby attended Alpine Street Elementary and later attended Belmont High School. She laments to this day how her Central Junior High School was closed down because she feels that if it had remained open, many of the different ethnic communities in Chinatown could have further intermingled. Ruby fondly remembers her China City; as a multicultural and multiethnic community where “honest immigrants” had an entrepreneurial spirit and creatively worked to better their families’ lives.
During World War II, the war in Asia prevented Ruby’s father from continuing to resupply his three shops with curio and art goods. After consulting with a family friend, Ruby’s father decided to start a restaurant business. In 1942, Ling’s CafÃ© opened in Long Beach, California. There the family made “good American Chinese food” for everyone. Ruby, being the youngest, served as the out-order clerk while her brother and sisters worked as waiter/ess.After graduating high school, Ruby continued to work in her parents’ restaurant. Trying to find more to her life, she luckily was advised by a counselor to attend Long Beach City College. To this day, Ruby advocates for city colleges as an incredible source of education for all peoples. Ruby attended Long Beach City College for almost five; interestingly, she also set the record by accumulated at that institution with 62 credits. Eventually, Ruby attained a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in general elementary education at UCLA, where fortunately pioneering librarian, Frances Clark Sayers, encouraged her to become a librarian. Ruby entered Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh for her Master’s degree, and eventually obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California that helped her to establish the first public library in the L.A. Chinatown community. Along the way, she married Hoover J. Louie, a member of one of the founding families of Los Angeles Chinatown, where they raised their two children and still live today.