Charlie Wong

My Chinese Grandfather did very well for himself. The Fort Café was only one of his restaurants. He also owned the Fox and the Local and I think there might have even been a couple more. He came to Canada from Hong Kong in 1918,when he was 13. He came alone. I was told he stowed away on a ship that landed in Vancouver, but that may have been a tale (or it may be true). He did menial work, saved his money, came to Manitoba and through hard work, diligence and shrewd business practice, he made himself wealthy. He was a generous man, sponsoring many other Chinese immigrants and helping them get on their feet and become contributing citizens themselves. Much of this was done while he was president of the Gee How Oak Tin Association. Here he is in the yard at the Bachelor’s House o Pacific.

It is clear that he did well for himself and that he intended to be a generous, if not loving, father to my mother. Here they are back in the early forties. This photo would have been taken about five years after the death of my mother’s mother, Clarinda, who died in childbirth in 1937 when my mother was not yet 2 years old. More about Clarinda later.

He was known as Charlie Wong. His obituary identifies him as Yip Wong Chan. He died in 1968, age 63. I have only a couple of memories of him. One was having a nap with him in the house on Pacific and the other when he dropped by my aunt’s  apartment to say hello. He didn’t stay long. He was dressed in a top coat and fedora and his hair had thinned quit a bit. I think he came by with gifts or money.

I was told he was a harsh disciplinarian, as a father, though that may have been my mother’s perspective as a child. He certainly would have had to have been a focused and determined individual to have done as well as he did. He obviously worked very hard, was generous and benevolent to others and he loved new cars. I have several pictures of the shiny new vehicles that he liked to show off. I will spare you the pictures of them, unless you are really interested.

After Clarinda died much of my mother’s upbringing fell to the French Aunties. In particular, Aunt Mary and Uncle Dan. Dan was Clarinda’s brother. Mary and Dan were childless. They were French Canadian so of course things were very Catholic at their place. They were favorites of mine. More about them later.

Despite my mother’s claim that her father was a disciplinarian at home and work, I believe she maintained a reasonable if somewhat distant relationship with him. Here she is at a lake outing with him

Appears to be a long pier or jetty in the background and a small lighthouse peeking between the trees. This is likely a day at the beach on Lake Winnipeg (another picnic). I am probably off camera somewhere with my Evil Sister trying to drowned me in the lake.

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