The theme for the 2019 Rose Parade was The Melody of Life.
Music, because of its immense power to move the soul and then the body, was as key to building American railroads as rails, ties, and spikes.
Immigrant rail workers building the Transcontinental Railroad borrowed from a rich ethnic tradition: the Chinese used crude instruments to keep rhythm, often devising beats that syncopated to the tasks at hand: hammering spikes, and swaying to and from cliffs as they blasted overhanging rocks from ridge routes while trying to swing out of the way before the explosion. They would use chopsticks as drumsticks, clanging on pots and pans, creating a sort of early form of rap music to keep themselves inspired, ever-driving forward. The Chinese also made music to remind them of China. It brought them comfort after the perilous and torturous workday.
Perhaps the combination of team leadership from Irish foremen and the makeshift Chinese music contributed to their record-making laying of 10 miles of track in one day, on April 28, 1869.
Irish foremen used rhythmic phrases as well to command their railroad gangs of Chinese immigrants and keep them timed to their tasks. Somehow, the cultures learned to blend their musical sensibilities together. As the axiom goes, the universal language of the world is music: harmony through union.
African immigrants working on the railroad interpolated Spirituals that were conjured during the slavery period, switching out the lyrics and deploying satire to create a sense of amusement to an otherwise grim profession. To these workers, railroads were symbolic of escape — and kicked-up a sense of deliverance and hopefulness from the grueling labor of the day. Spirituals evolved swiftly into work songs to help break the monotony of laying rail after rail and pounding spike after spike. These songs also perpetuated the oral tradition inherent in the Spirituals, often designed to lift up the spirits of the workers with words of connected inspiration. As time progressed and railroads required repair, blacks created the Gandy Dancers, led by callers who created cadences that kept workers moving in unison, barking out lyrics like a singing drillmaster.
Music played an integral part in getting through the arduous days of building the railroad. After hours, music would refresh the tired and exhausted laborers. It served as relaxing, easy, accessible, and cheap entertainment. In order to overcome the repetitive strife of working on the railroad, in order to work in harmony with one another, music provided these immigrants with their Melody of Life.
Throughout the Harmony Through Union development process, volunteers, float riders (most of whom were descendants of original Transcontinental Railroad workers), and out-walkers were each asked what was their Melody of Life. Riders were introduced via social media. They had Welcome Aboard cards posted online, while an Electronic Press Kit provided additional biographical details about each rider and their connection to their ancestors who worked on the railroad. Here is a sampling of those cards and biographies.
Alex is a Senior Vice President and Market Executive within Greater Los Angeles, for the Commercial Banking group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He is an Executive Sponsor of the Asian Leadership Network within Bank of America and provides mentorship to develop future leaders.
Alex supports multiple not-for-profit organizations in the Los Angeles area. The RYLA Rotary Youth Leadership Program, Union Station of Pasadena, Ronald McDonald Charities, and the Neighborhood Academic Initiative with University of Southern California. Alex sits on the Executive Board of Directors for The San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership and University of Southern California’s Asian Pacific Alumni Association.
Alex resides in San Gabriel Valley with his family. He graduated from the University of Southern California, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a dual emphasis in Global Management and Marketing, and a minor in International Relations. Alex was immersed in the family restaurant business started by his great-grandfather, Charlie Kee Ng, who came to America to work on the Transcontinental Railroad.
Alexander Eng, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is laughter! Today is a gift given by our past.
Major General William Chen (Ret.)
William S. Chen, better known as Bill Chen, is a third-generation Chinese American who served as a career U.S. Army officer for over 32 years. As a Major General, he commanded the U.S. Army Missile Command during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Later he served as the Army’s first Program Executive Officer for Missile Defense – directing all the Army’s theater and national missile defense programs. William had combat tours in Vietnam and Laos, and assignments in Korea and Thailand. He retired as a Major General — the first Chinese American to achieve a 2-star rank in the U.S. Army. His defense industry experience includes work with United Defense, Inc. and BAE Systems, Inc. Bill graduated from University of Michigan with a B.S.E. in engineering mathematics and an M.S.E. in aeronautical & astronautical engineering. He has an MBA from Auburn University and is a graduate of Defense Systems Management College, Air Command & Staff College, and Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He’s a twice recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal from the Army.
Bill is the grandson of Chan Fong, a Chinese railroad worker for Southern Pacific Railroad, founded during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. The line merged with Union Pacific in 1996. His grandfather was also a letter-writer for the Chinese railroad workers, providing them the service of sending written communications back to China.
William Chen, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is ‘Blending in While Standing Out.’
Patrick has been working in the railroad industry for 65 years. He married at 16 years of age; he fathered four children: two boys, two girls. As time went on, he became a grandfather to four girls, one boy, and then a great-grandfather of two girls, one boy — and recently, a great-great-grandfather of one adorable baby girl. The Egan family get together as a clan frequently for swimming and barbecue. Life is excellent for Patrick. His hobbies include target shooting with small bore rifles and pistols as well as participating in all types of motorcycle racing (Flat Track, Dirt Track TT Racing American style, Speedway, and also road racing on paved tracks). Patrick was employed by BNSF Railway Company from 1953 to 1996 and has since been an independent contractor for Amtrak, performing inspections for railcar builders, owners, and providing other services to the railroads — to this very day. He is the grand-nephew of Peter Egan, who was on the Central Pacific Railroad team that set the record for laying the most track — 10 miles — in a single day. It was a combination of Chinese and Irish rail workers who accomplished this amazing milestone, which remains unbeaten to this day.
Patrick Egan, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is Irish folk music and ballads. I also enjoy classical music composed by the great European Masters of the late 1700 — early 1800 era.
Robert Johnson, Sr.
Born in 1929, Robert “Bob” Johnson grew up in Pocatello, Idaho during the Great Depression. The Johnson family was fortunate: their father, Pompey L. Johnson had a steady job working on the Oregon Short Line, which became part of the Union Pacific Railroad. This provided a frugal but decent living for the Johnson family of three boys and three girls. His father's work on the railroad gave Bob a lifelong appreciation for trains. While in high school, he worked for the railroad. In 1951, Bob was drafted into the United States Army, which was segregated at that time. He was sent to Korea as a member of the 24th Infantry Regiment, famously known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” Bob saw a great deal of combat, including having his position overrun — and after three days of playing dead in the mud, Bob was one of only 6 to walk back to the ever-retreating Allied lines. After the war, Bob moved to Los Angeles, where he married Gaynelle Claude and fathered three sons, Robert, Ronald, and Kenneth. Bob found a career in aerospace, where he worked on the Saturn V rocket that took the first humans to the moon. Today he enjoys remodeling projects around the house, taking long road trips, and enjoying his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Robert Johnson, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is 'Tobacco Road' by Lou Rawls. That tells a story I can relate to.
Kimberly was born and raised in a small rural Utah town located at the base of the Uinta Mountains. She is happily married to her best friend, Mike. They have 5 children and 5 grandchildren. Kimberly enjoys baking, gardening, and family get-togethers. She is a direct descendant of Abraham Hunsaker who was her great-great-great grandfather. Hunsaker notably not only worked on the Transcontinental Railroad, but he also impressively sired 51 children. He was the first Mormon Bishop of Honeyville, Utah. Honeyville was established in 1861 following the installation of a ferry across the Bear River. Later that year, Mormon pioneer, Anson Call, built a sawmill in the town, which he eventually sold to Abraham Hunsaker. The town was known as Hunsaker's Mill until it was formally organized as an LDS ward and renamed Honeyville in 1877. Most distinctively, Abraham was present at the Golden Spike ceremony that celebrated the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869. He is actually visible in the historic photo taken by Andrew Russell at Promontory Point, Utah.
Kimberly Quarles, what is the Melody of Your Life?
My Melody of Life is the laughter and sounds of my children and grandchildren, for they will become our legacy.
A native Californian, Karen grew up in the San Fernando Valley. After graduating from Canoga Park High School, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, both from Pepperdine University. She moved to Utah in 1991 where she earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy (University of Utah). Currently, she is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Salt Lake Community College. Karen is the first Chinese American to run and be elected to the Utah House of Representatives (District 34) and was recently elected to Minority leadership, serving as Caucus Manager. As a descendant of a Chinese Railroad Worker on her mother's side, she is a founding member and advisor to the Utah Chinese Railroad Worker Descendants Association and serves Spike 150, the Utah Commission for 150th Anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
Karen's great-great-grandfather worked for Central Pacific Railroad. Karen's grandmother told her a story about how the native Americans and Chinese workers took care of each other, calling themselves “queue brothers.” The five bands of the Paiute Tribe and Chinese railroad workers leagued together to protect each other.
Karen Kwan, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is old school — The Beatles.
Robert Lee Johnson lectures on the subject of local history at colleges, universities, and museums. Robert is a member of the History Council and Chairman of the Projects Committee of the California African American Museum (C.A.A.M.) in Exposition Park, Los Angeles. He is a founding member of the Compton 125 Historical Society and has been recently featured in the documentaries, “The Streets of Compton,” “Compton's Finest,” “L.A. Displacement in Utopia,” and was a consultant on the documentary “Fire on The Hill.” Robert is the author of “Images of America, Compton " and “Notable Southern Californians in Black History” (published by History Press). Robert Lee Johnson is currently working on the history of the Watts/Willowbrook Community of Los Angeles, California. Robert’s maternal grandfather was a member of the “Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters” and brought his family to Los Angeles because he did not want his family to grow up under Jim Crow in New Orleans, Louisiana. Robert’s paternal grandfather, and his brother Ike, found work building The Pocatello Junction on The Oregon Short Line. This provided them with the ability to raise their families, including the first black Miss Idaho, Dorthy Johnson, in 1964, who went on to become a semifinalist in the Miss USA Pageant.
Robert Lee Johnson, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is jazz – “Down here on the ground” by Wes Montgomery.
Terri Wagstaff Breakfield
Terri is married to John Breakfield and they have four children, 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. She was born and raised in the small farming town of Tabiona, Utah. She’s one of five girls. She has fond memories of the girls growing up, always singing together. After getting married, she continued singing and playing the guitar. Terri’s great-grandmother is Esther Hunsaker Wagstaff. She is the daughter of Mormon Bishop, Abraham Hunsaker, who was present with his son, Israel, at Promontory Point on May 10, 1869, when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed. He can be seen in the iconic photograph taken by Andrew J. Russell of the celebration when the Golden Spike was hammered into the connecting East (Union Pacific) and West (Central Pacific) railroad tracks. His son, Israel, was also present on September 8, 1942 when the rails were uplifted and salvaged for the Clearfield Naval Supply Depot. So Israel witnessed both the completion and dismantling of the Promontory Mountain portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. He was, in 1942, the oldest survivor of the Transcontinental Railroad workers. He passed away the following year, in 1943, at the age of 91.
Terri Wagstaff Breakfield, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is the love of family.
Matteo is a 10-year old with a passion for all things science. He especially loves working in the laboratory on his current research project — genetically modifying bacteriophages for possible use on bacteria-borne diseases with no effective remedy. He aspires to follow in the footstep of medical trailblazers like Jonas Salk and Louis Pasteur. In his free time, he enjoys exploring science literature, reading historical fiction and fantasy, fencing, playing the cello, volunteering for charities benefitting the homeless and veterans — and blowing things up (safely). Many of Matteo’s ancestors, who hail from the Taishan region of Guangdong, came to America to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. His great-great-grandfather immigrated during the same period when many escaped the famine and revolution in China to work for the Central Pacific Railroad in California. Mexican rail workers were called Traqueros, a spanglish portmanteau of ‘track’ and ‘Mexicanos.’ They labored north of the Rio Grande, crisscrossing into the Southwest U.S. and California. After long days working, they retreated to their boxcar camps and repaired by playing familiar folk tunes. Matteo is honored to represent the combined efforts of so many immigrants who came to America for a better life and accomplished such a monumental feat together.
Matteo Ornelas, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is the march that I hear in my head that symbolizes the rhythm and progression of life.
Amelia (pronounced Ah-may-lee-ah), is the daughter of the Honorable Karen Kwan of Utah. She is a 7th grader in the Mandarin Chinese dual immersion program. She has been in this program since 1st grade. Utah has 25% of students in Chinese Dual immersion in the nation. Amelia enjoys volleyball, dancing, and has an eclectic palate for musical tastes. Like many kids her age she discovers and listens to music primarily on YouTube.
Amelia's great-great-great-grandfather worked for Central Pacific Railroad. Her great-grandmother told her mom a story about how the native Americans and Chinese workers took care of each other, calling themselves "queue brothers.” The five bands of the Paiute Tribe and Chinese railroad workers leagued together to protect each other.
Amelia Kwan, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is YouTube.
Blythe Schulte (黄淑仁) produces, directs, writes, records, performs, manages, and books shows in 10+ genres and 10+ languages. She also invents toys, acts, and swing dances! Her album, "Synesthetic," debuted at #7 on Amazon's Broadway + Vocalists Charts. She has interned for the Kurland Agency and worked as a supervisor for Mirage Entertainment. Blythe placed her original toy invention, Poshies, with Mattel Toys as a finalist on ABC's "The Toy Box." She has also participated in a VR collaborative with Harvard, MIT, and Berklee College of Music. Blythe is a social media influencer with a following growing fan base on Instagram and Facebook. Her tune, "Out of Many, One," debuting at the 2019 Pasadena Rose Parade, will be available on streaming platforms, iTunes, and other popular music sites on January 1, 2019. Blythe is a descendant of Chinese and German immigrants — a true East meets West connection!
Blythe Su-Ren Schulte, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is silence.
Lupe Valdez joined the Union Pacific as the Director of Public Affairs in July of 2005. She serves the Los Angeles Basin, which includes Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Imperial Counties.
Lupe currently serves as Co-Chair of the Transportation & Goods Movement Committee of the Los Angeles Chamber, Board Member of the City of Commerce Industrial Council and is Vice Chair of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. She is a Board member of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, the Inland Empire Logistics Council and Inland Action.
Lupe was a rider in 2009 atop the City of Roseville and Union Pacific float, Entering Dreams for a Century, which commemorated the city’s centennial celebration. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Southern California. She resides in Whittier with her husband and 17-year-old son.
Lupe C. Valdez, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is my family and friends which brings warmth to my heart on the journey of life.
A native of the Rose Parade city, beautiful Pasadena, California, Calvin Fujiwara is a Locomotive Engineer for Union Pacific Railroad — and has been working with dedication for UP for an impressive 40 years. He has railroad in his blood: his uncle was a Boilermaker for the Great Northern Railroad, before the Second World War.
Calvin also rode on the deck of the 2008 City of Cerritos Rose Parade float. In 2014, he was joined by his wife and two daughters on the Kaiser float. In addition to his service as a Locomotive Engineer for UP, Calvin also works for premier float builder, Fiesta Parade Floats, as a driver, animator, and observer/navigator. Having been born, raised, and still living in Pasadena, Calvin declares that the Rose Parade has always been a part of his life.
Calvin Fujiwara, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is ‘When I’m 64.’ I enjoy all kinds of music, from the classics to pop, from country to cultural. Music touches all human emotions and affects everyone on Earth.
Southern Pacific Railroad was founded during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1865. Jim is a descendant of a long line of Southern Pacific employees. Grandfather James started the tradition, working with the railroad firm in 1920. His father started work with the company in 1939 and eventually retired as a Vice President in 1986, just ten years before Southern Pacific merged with Union Pacific. Jim's sister, Janet, began her employment with the company in 1964; and his sister-in-law and brother-in-law started in 1978. Jim is a 49-year employee, about ready to attain the 50-year milestone! He is a Locomotive Engineer, working at the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility terminal in Southern California. Jim volunteers his time to three organizations, including the Traffic Safety Committee, all for the betterment of his community. He has also taught and presented the rail safety program, Operation Lifesaver, to over 100,000 children, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, and teenagers during his career. Jim’s hobbies include car shows, boating, and traveling. A native of California, Jim attended college at San Diego State University and USC. He is the father of a 30-year-old daughter, Brianne, who has broken the family tradition of working for the railroads to pursue a career in the film industry.
James Guerin, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is ‘Don't Stop Believin’ by Journey (Perry, Cain & Schon)
Catherine Liang, Miss Chinatown
Catherine Liang is this year’s Miss Los Angeles Chinatown Queen. She is 19-years-old and currently attends the University of Southern California as an honors scholar, double majoring in International Relations — Global Business and Economics, with a minor in Music performance. Throughout her life, she has always loved to share her passion for the arts with people all around the world. From teaching English and salsa dancing on a mission in Ecuador, performing piano pieces for friends in Hong Kong, and sharing her European adventures through photography, Catherine hopes to serve as a cultural ambassador. She is currently studying to become a Foreign Service Ambassador and at the end of January will be representing Los Angeles in the Miss Chinatown International Competition in Hong Kong.
Catherine Liang, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is music in its most general sense! It has an infectious and captivating ability to draw people together from all around the world.
Prior to starting at Union Pacific in 2015 as a Senior Analyst, Alexandra’s association to the railroad industry was learning about it in history class and Monopoly. Now, she fully appreciates how important the railroads are to our nation’s and the world’s economy. Her grandparents immigrated from Taishan in the Guangdong Province of China in the early 1950s. Alexandra’s grandmother related stories of relatives and other people in the village coming to America to build the Transcontinental Railroad. Most of the 14,000 immigrants hailed from Taishan, surrounding cities, and villages in Guangdong Province.
Alexandra Mary Mark, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is ‘Imagine’ and ‘Over the Rainbow,’ because both songs depict a world of people living together in peace and harmony.
Ai Cheng Goh was born in Singapore. She came to the United States and worked her way through college, graduating with high honors from Illinois Institute of Technology, with a Bachelor of Science in Design.
From 1992-2016, she was National Director of Fuller Brush Company, founded in Somerville, MA in 1906.
Since 1994, She has been on the Executive Leadership Council of Melaleuca, Inc., a consumer direct marketing company with over one billion dollars in sales.
A nationally Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) since 2003, Goh opened her own fitness studio, e-Fit Mind Your Body, in 2005 and is a volunteer educator in women's fitness.
She is the owner and principal of Z Realty, located in Boston Chinatown, which she founded in 2003.
She served as Vice President of the "Re-Chartered" Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Boston Lodge in 2017 and is an advocate and supporter for the Chinese American WWII Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Act, introduced in Congress as H.R. 2358 and S. 1050.
Ai Cheng is a proud mother of 2 children and 4 grandchildren.
Idahoan Emily Homan is a Patient Financial Advocate for Bonner General Health. She enjoys spending as much time outdoors as possible with her two rescue dogs, Bella and Remmi. She is most proud of her daughter and son, Alison and Varin; Alison is college-bound and on her way to becoming a surgeon, while Varin is a full-fledged teenager and avid athlete. Emily feels honored and blessed to represent her family, the Irish, and America on the Harmony Through Unionfloat.
Emily is the great-great-granddaughter of Irish-born immigrant, Patrick Seals, who was a track foreman for the Central Pacific Railroad and helped build the Transcontinental Railroad that was completed in 1869. Patrick was 21 when he went to work for Central Pacific. He eventually moved to Wyoming and continued to work for the railroads all his life, passing away in 1918.
Emily Homan, what is your Melody of Life?
My Melody of Life is country music, with a little Pink on the side.
Southern Wind Lion Dance — Gio Nam
Located in Southern California, Gió Nam Mua Lan (Southern Wind Lion Dance) was founded in Fall 2004 and performs throughout the Orange County area. Since then the team has developed new goals but we still dance for the love and fun of the art. We hope to create strong bonds, not only among our teammates, but with other lion dancing groups across OC. Gathering our influence from the Four Winds, we combine the traditional and modern style of lion dancing to form our own unique way of presenting the art.
The tradition of lion dance has been part of Southern Asian culture for thousands of years. It is believed to wear-off evil spirits and bring luck to whomever the lions are dancing. In most lion dance performances, the lions will eat lettuce and a tangerine. The spread of good luck and fortune is represented by the lions spitting the leaves of the lettuce. By eating the tangerine and spitting out the peel, the lions spread happiness and longevity among the audience.
Gió Nam Múa Lân prides itself as being a community-based team and therefore are dedicated to all those in the Southern California community who are willing to continue the art and tradition, as well as to better themselves. We are always looking for fresh new faces to join our lion dance family! There is absolutely no experience necessary; all we ask from prospective members is to have an open mind and a willingness to give it your best.
Gio Nam's discipline in the art of lion dancing extends far beyond the scope of just dancing for entertainment. Lion dance is considered a form of martial arts, although most would not associate the two, and as such, we structure our lessons not only to teach the dance, but also to emphasize balance, stances, strength, endurance, respect, unity, morality.