My dad immigrated to the United States when he was 13 years old, in 1979. Unlike many Chinese of his generation, he did not move to the West or East Coasts, but instead to Ohio, where he already had family. Because of this, he grew up isolated from other Chinese, having few connection to his homeland. An added difficulty was the fact that he was born during the height of the Cultural Revolution in China, a time period in which almost all material goods were deemed “capitalistic” and owning any was frowned upon. The only items that were allowed tended to be functional, useful ones that were not decorative. Thus, these pencils were some of the few objects he owned before immigrating. The pencils were not banned because they were functional objects, though once in a while, the artistic designs on them would change. When this happened, my grandmother would buy the new pencil for my father, until he had a small collection. These were some of the only objects that my father was able to bring with him when coming to the US, and some of the only ones that lasted to this day. Ironically, upon his arrival in the United States, he stopped increasing the pencil collection, as the Yellow No.2 Ticonderoga was ubiquitous. Looking at the pencils themselves, it is clear they were preserved as collectibles, as they are unused and unsharpened.
– Alexander Wu