Weekly Reflections: People Brought Character and Culture to Peace River – Part 68


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Chong’s Café was the last Chinese restaurant in Peace River to be not only known, but also documented, in the Record Gazette. We stopped in the recent Ponderings with a Record Gazette account of an incident at Chong’s Café 80 years ago which wronged Chong Mow and the incarceration of the wrongdoer.

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On January 9, 1942, Record-Gazette documented the fate of Jerry Pope – six months of hard labor in Fort Saskatchewan jail for him, having pleaded guilty to “causing grievous bodily harm to Chong Mow – c ‘was Pope’s second charge, he, having been convicted last September following a fight at the Chong Café. The sentence was pronounced by [Magistrate Wm. Stewart] the result of a brawl at the Chong Café on the morning of December 26, in which Chong suffered injured ribs and several damaged teeth ”.

Another account of May 5, 1944, Record-Gazette recounts the change in management of the New World Café. The name has changed too. It was now the Club Café. “Louis Ming, Edmonton, and Frank Fong, Grimshaw, bought the business from Ye Chong and Charlie Gray. The new owners plan to renovate and redecorate the lower and upper parts of the building.

In Friday, July 21, 1944, Record-Gazette – “Chong Mow, a well-known Chinese resident of the district for many years, left by train for Vancouver on Saturday, where he intends to settle. It is not known whether he was checking the availability of housing or whether he was going to live there.

On another tangent that you might be thinking, it might be. However, as is often said, our awareness is heightened – at the very least. On September 24, 1943, Record-Gazette reported: “The Chinese District War Relief Fund has passed the $ 350 mark, thanks to generous contributions last week. … Many people attended the Chinese feast at Mr. and Mrs. AS Newcombe’s…

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“Guests were greeted and served by ladies dressed in Chinese clothes, all costumes being exceptional, along with Dr Wm. Greene [dentist and local thespian] responsible for most of them. Chinese girls served chop suey prepared by the cooks of the new World Café, [Club Café], the Chinese dish being appreciated by all. Delicate cookies and Chinese tea complemented the evening’s refreshments. Chinese music was performed by Ms. JB Jackson, pianist, with Chong Mow soloist of the evening.

“Those present who contribute to the Chinese War Relief Fund.” Put simply, as one source put it – “raise money to help children in China , especially orphans and those suffering the effects of civil war and famine. Its objectives gradually expanded to include the promotion of a national child protection program in China ”. Another source – the Canadian government – Archives Canada, in its publication History of Canada’s Early Chinese Immigrants: “During World War II, China and the Allies fought against Germany, Italy and Japan. Chinese Canadians joined Canada’s armed forces. On the home front, Chinese Canadians from all walks of life raised funds through public campaigns for Canada’s war effort. They also donated funds to support China’s fight against Japan, whose army had invaded their homeland.

Yet another account involving Chong Mow and Chong’s Café in which “The sale of Chong Café and nearby laundry was announced…, whereby Ling Yee and Charlie Gray bought Chong Mow’s restaurant and rooming house and Lee Wing Yee, and Der Lock bought Ling Yee’s laundry business. The change of ownership came into effect on July 1. Chong and Lee Wing Yee plan to leave shortly for Vancouver where they will settle.

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A little further, but in the neighborhood, Gwen L’Hirondelle remembered her mother talking affectionately about Joe Hong of Notikewan. “He engendered in her a permanent love for all that is Chinese. She once told me how disgusted he was to see the women in the community making sandwiches in large groups – buttering one piece of bread at a time. He would arrange a whole loaf of bread in close rows, spread patches of butter all the way down the blade of his knife, and butter a whole loaf of bread in one pass.

Joe Hong had a restaurant in Notikewan. He also liked dances. For this reason, every night that there was a dance in school, or later in the community hall, it would stay open until the early evening and then go off for the dance. When Joe was tired he would go back to the restaurant, put on a large coffee maker, then go to bed, leaving his restaurant door open for those dancers to fancy a coffee for the road to help themselves, leaving the payment on the counter. . Reliability. This is just one of many acts of kindness that Joe has shown.

Just down the road – Hwy 35, or as some think – Mackenzie Hwy from Notikewan – Grimshaw – 89.7 kilometers – Dan Soo Der, born 1893 in Canton Province, China, s’ finally settled in the city of Peace Country after having worked in western Canada from 1910. He returned to China in 1916 to marry Fong Kim Tai. In 1928 it was time for Dan to return to Canada with Fong, to operate the Royal Café in Grimshaw until 1966. He took a brief hiatus to operate a restaurant in Dawson Creek during WWII and to rebuild the Royal. Café after a 1950 fire.

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Dan Soo Der died at his home in Grimshaw on September 12, 1966, at the age of 73. In the Record-Gazette of September 21, 1966 – “While in business at Grimshaw he gained a reputation as someone who could always be relied on to support all community projects.

“Besides his widow, who resides in Grimshaw, Mr. Soo is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Soo of California and Wai Che Der of China; one son, Kwan Der, of Grimshaw; 11 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren and two sisters, Ngan Fon Der from California and Ngan Ying Der from China. … A service was held at BPO Elks Hall, Grimshaw on September 14th. The remains were sent to Edmonton for interment.

One person who has remembered Dan Soo Der and his Grimshaw Royal Café is Winnie Condrotte, who fondly remembers Dan as a young girl. She and her friends would bring bouquets of flowers to Dan in exchange for an ice cream cone. She said he was Dan Soo to the townspeople and Der Soo to his family.

Another restaurant in Grimshaw – the Lucky / George caught the attention of Carm Ellis. Carm as a child had access to blueberries and the restaurant needed them, so a deal was made to have Carm’s blueberries used on the restaurant menu.

Charlie (Jer Bark Kue) and Seto Der Guey moved to Grimshaw in the early 1950s. Charlie entered the restaurant business in partnership with Dick Sui [Dan Soo?] at the Royal Café, said Tom Guey Jr.’s father Tom, Tommy Der Sr. was the maker of specialty soup – oxtail and barley, which he made three or four times a week because Johnny’s Sausage, [formerly Grimm, Bauman] gave the restaurant a free oxtail. “What is now the most expensive part of the animal was donated back then,” said Tom Jr.

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As with a delicious meal at a Chinese restaurant, there is always an appetite for more – the next Ponderings – the story continues of Tommy Sr.

Hold the presses – your scribe has learned that the new Peace River history book, as well as the reprint of Book 1, will be arriving soon. “If everything goes as planned, we [Sir Alexander Mackenzie Historical Society] plan to distribute books before Christmas from the Belle Petroleum Center in Peace River. Dates and times, once confirmed. More information – email [email protected] or the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Historical Society Facebook page.

Sources : Peace River Remembers, Jack Coulter, Frank Richardson; Turning the Pages of Time – History of Nampa and the surrounding districts; The files of the Peace River Museum, the Archives and the Mackenzie Center; Peace River Record-Gazette; Peace River Standard; Coots, Codgers and Curmudgeons – Hal C. Sisson and Dwayne W. Rowe; Edmonton Journal

Beth Wilkins is a researcher at the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Center.

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