A human touch and personal connection with Sangamon Watch Company project!
In the early 1960s, my father was 24 (at the same age I sought US for shelter after the Beijing Tiananmen Massacre in 1989)，he had two most valuable belongings as he was single, a pair of ice skates and a Swiss made ROAMER Anfibio watch (a Swiss brand since 1888). As a fresh graduate of precision mechanical engineering college, he earned less than $3 a month. I do not know how he could afford a watch that time (Su family used to be a very wealthy family in a small town before the Communist takeover).
In 1958-1962, China suffered one of the worst great famines in human history due to insane government policies coupled with Soviet Union and Western embargoes, people had no food. My father had to sell his favorite skates for food. My grandma was almost starved to death that time, it was quite difficult to get food even in big cities. Official research stats showed 45 million deaths as a result of starvation.
Last year I visited 82 years old father with my Springfield born children. He gave me the most valuable heirloom of Su family – a black white family photo of my grandparents with him and his sister (small boy possible 4 years old that time and my aunt who now lives in western China). This photo is the ONLY old family photo passed on from my grandma who raised me in 1970s. The photo was taken in Japanese occupied Manchuria early 1940s. My handsome grandpa passed away in mid-1940s.
In the early days of the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” (1966-1976) led by Chairman Mao, young Red Guards from schools and colleges carried out Mao’s order of “destroying old ideas, old culture, old customs, old habits”. The rise of the Red Guard movement swept through entire mainland China, tens of thousand ancient churches, mosques, temples (including Confucius Temples) and traditional heritage buildings, classic books and paintings as well as western artworks were burned and destroyed.
For the safety of our family, grandmother burned all her family photos and tossed her jewelries (except one gold wedding ring that she passed to me before her death in mid-1990s). These are the darkest years in China. During this brief visit to China, my dad also passed his ROAMER watch to me. He wanted me to kept it as he felt I would be more appreciative than my younger brother would.
After the reunion with my parents, I had tremendous desire and urge to wear always wear a watch. Now I have purchased nearly 20 watches made in Switzerland, Germany, Japan and China. Upon my return, Tyler McKay and I decided to start an American heritage watches project to carry on American spirit.
Perhaps in the future I can share my past story and leave a piece of our own SANGAMON American brand watch to my children and their children; Sangamon watches will deliver American heritages, Midwestern values and American spirits. (Photo with my parents by: Andy Lin Wang)
Author: Brian Su, Co-founder of Sangamon Watch Company