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BEST BET

December 06, 1990|KAREN E. KLEIN

The lives of two very different men--millionaire landowner E. J. (Lucky) Baldwin and Lem Kay, a Chinese ranch hand--are contrasted in an exhibit featured at Sunday's open house at the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum.

Baldwin's life is already documented in detail at the Arboretum, which stands on his former landholdings. His homes are permanent exhibits on the grounds, and his papers are on display in the barn.

But much less is known about the Chinese immigrant ranch hand who is believed to have worked for Baldwin between 1890 and 1909, said Sandy Snider, the Arboretum's associate curator. Lem Kay's effects were donated to the Arboretum in 1973 by an elderly couple who befriended the Chinese man and rented a house to him before his death in the early 1970s.

By combing through Kay's letters, translating a faded newspaper article written in Chinese and matching the dates, the Arboretum staff has concluded that Kay was a field hand, possibly working in Baldwin's vineyards, around the turn of the century. "The collection of artifacts includes Lem Kay's picture, pipes, a pouch, some Chinese pottery, clothing and a photograph of a wife that he left behind in China and apparently never returned for," Snider said.

Among the items donated is a cigar box full of Kay's letters, written in Chinese, but they have never been translated, she said.

Kay's artifacts will be on display in the Santa Fe Depot on the Arboretum grounds from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Also available to tour during the open house will be Baldwin's Queen Anne Cottage, which is decorated for Christmas. The Arboretum is at 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, and admission is $3 for adults, $1.50 for children and senior citizens. A second admission of $2 will be charged for entry to the Queen Anne Cottage. There is no separate admission charge to the depot, which, like the cottage, is opened to the public only one day each year.

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