Category Archives: Chinese Canadian History

Hogan's Alley Cafe: Best Coffee Shop to have a Christmas Eve snack at

Hogan's Alley Cafe coffee shop acknowledges Vancouver's Black History

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Hogan's Alley Cafe is a new coffee shop on the edge of Chinatown.  It's along the historic “Hogan's Alley” area  at the corner of Union and Gore, just at the East end of the block, down from the Jimi Hendrix Shrine @ Main & Union, off the lane.

I asked owner Jennifer Halley why she re-named the former Bean Around the World, as Hogan's Alley.  Her answer simply was to reflect the historical nature of Vancouver's heritage.  Eventually, she would like to add more artwork and artifacts to acknowledge the lost chapter of  Vancouver's only Black neighborhood, which was torn down to create the Georgia Viaduct connector to Prior St.

We chatted about the area, and asked if she knew about Black History Month in February.  Jennifer said that some of the organizers had just been in that morning and were looking to set something up in the new year, as one of them is Terry Hunter, creator of the Heart of the City Festival with his partner Savannah Walling.  I shared with Jennifer, that I had been featured in the recent Heart of the City Festival, when I moderated a showing of the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy.  My great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan, had ministered at the old Chinese United Church, which used to stand at the Northeast corner of Pender and Dunlevy St., before it was torn down in the 70's to make way for condominiums.  My grandmother and her siblings, as well as my parents all went to Strathcona Elementary School.  The houses they lived in still stand on Pender and Princess Streets.

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Food!  I asked Jennifer for the house specialties.  She made me an Americano coffee and served me up one of the pan-pressed eggwich with feta cheese and spinach.  Delicious!  But the favorite at the cafe is the eggwich with bacon!  Already sold out  🙁

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Jennifer takes a pose on top of the coffee maker, after she climbed onto the top of the counter.  And yes… she is 7 months pregnant.

It was a wonderful visit a a new-to-me coffee shop, and a great meeting with Jennifer and her husband Mike!

Check out the Hogan's Alley Memorial Project Blog

More later…  Merry Christmas.

Red Letters is a Canadian Musical about love, family, tragedy and a dark time in Canada's history

Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre is doing their part to contribute to the Canadian theatre repertoire.  Red Letters is an original musical about love, family, history and tragedy.  The story spans decades, continents and generations.  It is also set during Canada's pre-multicultural age, when Canada had a discriminatory head tax against any person of Chinese ancestry, which forcibly kept families apart.

I was fortunate to see the stage reading, while the musical was still in development.   Producer Joyce Lam had assembled a very talented collection of actors to help workshop the work.  The music was lyrical and soaring.  Kathy Leung wrote the book, and had interviewed many people whose lives and families were affected by the head tax, and crafted a story which Alan Bau has set to music and song.

I am looking forward to seeing the full production of Red Letters, which will run ambitiously in Vancouver, Richmond and Victoria.  If VACT's production of Flower Drum Song set their standard of excellence, then you will want to bring your friends and see this show!

Roundhouse Performance Centre

November 25 to December 4, 2010

Gateway Theatre Studio

December 29, 2010 to January 8, 2011

Metro Theatre

January 12 to 16, 2011

Immediate Release



(November 1, 2010) – Following the success of 2009’s production Rodgers and
Hammerstein’s FLOWER DRUM SONG, Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT)
is set to present the Canadian Premiere of its very first original production, a
musical by creator and songwriter Alan
and writer Kathy Leung. RED LETTERS is a period romance between
a young Chinese couple both separated by distance and torn apart by Canada’s
imposing of a head tax on new immigrants and eventually, the Exclusion Act of

story begins in present day as Ping rediscovers the love letters that his
parents wrote to each other when his father Shen immigrated to Vancouver from
China in 1922. Young Shen leaves his wife behind with the high hopes of making
his fortune in Canada, or “Gold Mountain” as it was coined, and earning enough
money to pay the head taxes to bring over his childhood sweetheart, Mei, and
their new baby son, Ping. Once in Vancouver, he finds support from all the
bachelors in Chinatown, but especially from his employer and sponsor, Boss. But
Shen also has to struggle against the harsh reality of language and racism. As
the final act unfolds, the main characters show their resilience as they strive
to maintain the dream of a better life in Canada for their

has assembled a strong cast of local Asian-Canadian talent under the leadership
of producer Joyce Lam and director
Andy Maton, with musical direction
by Yawen Wang and choreography by Vincent Tong. The cast includes FLOWER
DRUM SONG alumni Rosie Simon, Jimmy Yi and Isaac Kwok and newcomers to VACT, Alan Wong, Alvin Tran, Christopher Kim Sing and Ryan Erwin. Rosie Simon has recently
been seen in the highly successful Arts Club Theatre Company run of THE

LETTERS humanizes what many people in Canada may only see as a historical
political policy,” say director Andy Maton. “To portray the emotional life of
individuals as the effect of a governmental or bureaucratic decision is very


Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre is dedicated to showcasing Asian-Canadian
cultural stories and actors in a contemporary setting. VACT uniquely displays
“surtitles” transcribed in Cantonese to encourage Vancouver’s Chinese immigrant
population to enjoy English-speaking theatre.

LETTERS performances:

Roundhouse Performance Centre

November 25 to December 4, 2010

Gateway Theatre Studio

December 29, 2010 to January 8, 2011

Metro Theatre

January 12 to 16, 2011

more info: or call (604) 638-5537  | For tickets:  or

30 –

Paul Yee @ Vancouver Museum, Nov 18 book launch for “I am Canada: Blood and Iron”

Paul Yee launches his new children's fiction novel:  Blood and Iron – part of the “I Am Canada” young readers series from Scholastic.

7:00 to 8:30 PM FREE

Museum of Vancouver – Studio

1100 Chestnut Street
Vancouver, BC

Paul Yee reads and
discusses his latest book, I Am Canada: Blood and Iron, Building the

I Am Canada: Blood and Iron, Heen, is written as a diary of a young Chinese teen who comes to Canada with his father to help build the CPR railway in the Fraser Canyon.

From a teenage perspective, it struggles with the sacrifices made by Chinese labourers, leaving behind loved ones in order to provide for their families in China, as well as staying alive during the dangerous work.  Family loyalty and responsibility is also an issue, as the teen grows into a young man.From 7:00 to 8:30 PM FREE

This event is co-presented by the Chinese Canadian Historical Society
and the Museum of Vancouver. I Am Canada: Blood and Iron will be
available for sale by Sitka Books & Art.

This is a fun easy read, which I quickly read over a few days.  The story is gripping and gives lots of information to the building of the CPR.  It made my summer time visit to Craigellachie, site of the Last Spike, even more insightful as I found information about the Chinese labourers not in the gift shop and book store, but only on pictures posted on the side of the building.  Racism is addressed in this book in a matter of fact educational manner.   It is funny to have the Scottish rail workers called “Red Beards”.

Vancouver Sun features Heart in the City Festival – Generations: The Chan Legacy is the 1st event listed in “At A Glance”

Generations: The Chan Legacy” is the top feature of the Vancouver Sun's “Festival at a Glance”

The Chan Legacy – features the history of Chinese Canadians told
through 5 generations of descendants from Rev. Chan Yu Tan who arrived
in Canada in 1896, following his elder brother's footsteps to minister
to Chinese pioneers. Community service is a featured story in each generation of this CBC documentary.

7:30pm  Thursday Oct 28

Chinese Cultural Centre Museum 555 Columbia.

I attended the Opening Gala for the Heart of the City Festival 2pm at Carnegie Centre.  Special guest was Lt. Gov. Steven Point.  He was very funny and serious, sharing stories about his first visits to Main & Hastings as a young law student. 
This pictures features the Carnegie Jazz Band playing “Sweet Georgia Brown

Great news – Vancouver Sun ran a story on the front page their Arts Section.  They featured a sidebar story “At a Glance” and the first event listed is Generations: The Chan Legacy!

news on celebrities, music, theatre reviews, television, local TV
listings guide, books and contests. Read Vancouver Sun to get current
news on entertainment in Vancouver.,To many people the Downtown Eastside
is an intimidating place: a dangerous, dirty, drug-infested 'hood

New Chinese-Canadian History website launched in Toronto

New Chinese Canadian History website launched in Toronto.

Here's a message from my contact Brad Lee

I'd like
to invite you to take a look at our website, The Ties That Bind:
Building the CPR, Building a Place in Canada,, which was launched on
The url is:;
received some very good press, listed below. The Vancouver Sun was
particularly good.

Best, Brad–online-exhibit-recounts-history-of-chinese-canadian-railway-workers

Chinatown Canada tv documentary on OMNI tonight at 8pm

Watch the Chinatown Canada documentary on OMNI TV tonight

Saturday, Aug 21 at 8pm PST on Omni News (BC)

Todd Wong is interviewed about Vancouver Chinatown and see the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team in action at '09 Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.

The footage was shot last June, when Kerry Beattie contacted me.  I recommended a number of people for them to talk to including Andrew Wong of Wild Rice Restaurant (Andrew's grandfather used to own the Lotus Hotel, where my grandfather Sonny Wong ran the Lotus Cafe Restaurant), and Shirley Chan and many others.

check link for other provinces

National Post: Museum probes link between Chinese Restaurants and small-town Canada

Chinese Restaurants and small-town Canada exhibit at Royal Alberta Museum

My friend Linda Tzang, cultural curator at the Royal Alberta Museum is responsible for this:

Way back in 2002, Linda had initiated a project proposal on the Three Canadian Chinese Pioneer Families at the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives – but had moved to Alberta, before the project really started.  Linda was also a guest speaker at our 2nd Rev. Chan Legacy Family Reunion dinner in 2000.  In 2002, she was also part of our board for Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop that created the 1st ACWW Community Builders Dinner that honoured Roy Mah, Paul Yee and Wayson Choy.

Back on April 6th, Linda wrote to me:

Hello Toddish,

I guess the guy who came up with the idea of ‘six degrees of
separation’ was right – the world is much smaller than we think.

Now that you’ve written, I’m going to hit you up for some
help.  I have almost accomplished the impossible – the museum is on the
brink of giving me permission to do my Chinese Restaurant project.  It
doesn’t look anything like the project I was working on at the CCCMA – I
think it’s a better version.  I was wondering though if you knew anyone
with memorabilia related to Chinese restaurants – ideally someone with a menu
collection.    I don’t need
a huge number of them but a few would be nice.

If you had any leads it would be appreciated.  Maybe one day
I’ll be able to attend another Gunghaggis banquet but I always just seem to
miss the date.



There’s one in nearly every Canadian city and town. And yet some argue the Chinese landmarks,

Larry Kwong, NHL's first Asian hockey player finally getting recognition

A hockey trailblazer emerges from obscurity

Larry Kwong (left), who broke the colour barrier in the NHL in 1948, is joined by former Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden after receiving an award in Penticton, B.C.

The first Asian to play in the NHL, Larry Kwong is at last receiving the recognition he deserves – photo Chad Soon

Tom Hawthorn writes a great story for the Globe & Mail about Larry Kwong, the first Asian player in the NHL

The news media is catching onto one of the greatest hockey stories never told: The story of how Larry Kwong only played one minute in the NHL, went on to become MVP in the Quebec Senior League, but never called up to the NHL again.

I attended the BC Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner when Trevor Linden was the main event, on July 23, in Penticton BC.  But it was Trevor who took the time to come congratulate the inaugural Pioneer Award winner Larry Kwong. Three days after the event, the CBC Radio asked me for contact info on Chad Soon, the Vernon teacher who is spearheading the drive to nominate Larry Kwong into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.  And now eleven days later, a story appears in the Globe & Mail.

Check out the CBC Radio podcast

Watch the video that was shown at the BC Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Dinner that preceded Larry Kwong receiving a standing ovation for the the inaugural Pioneer Award.
See more

23, 2010 – BC Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Dinner (Penticton, BC)
Who was the first player from the Okanagan to make the NHL? The answer
is our next honouree. Not only did Larry Kwong put the Okanagan on the
hockey map, he made international headlines for breaking the NHL's
colour barrier…

Read my story about the July 23, BC Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony event:

Join the Larry Kwong Appreciation Society facebook group!/group.php?gid=50177632975&ref=ts

Vernon student creates history project on Larry Kwong, and wins prize trip to Barkerville!

Larry Kwong: A Hero to Me

P7230042 by you.
Here is Gavin Donald's winning display on Larry Kwong – photo Todd Wong

Vernon student Gavin Donald creates a prize winning history display about the first NHL hockey player of Asian ancestry


Silver Star school student Gavin Donald, with his
project, Larry Kwong: A Hero to Me, one of the winners in the recent
Vernon and District Heritage Fair.

Gavin Donald, 11, is a Grade 6 Silver Star student, that I sat beside at
last night's BC Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner.

I was surprised at how much compassion and information that Gavin conveyed when he talked about Larry Kwong.  Gavin is passionate about his hometown of Vernon, and really wanted to choose a person from Vernon for his project.  The young man beside me wore a tie, and was thrilled to meet Larry Kwong at the BC Hockey Hall of Fame Dinner last night in Penticton.  Even though the induction of Trevor Linden, one of the greatest hockey players to wear the “C” for the Vancouver Canucks, was undoubtedly the evening's highlight – Gavin was only there to meet his hero – Larry Kwong. 

When MP Stockwell Day came over to meet Larry Kwong, it was Gavin who quickly had a pen in Day's hand to sign a petition to nominate Larry Kwong for the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.  By the end of the evening, Gavin was proudly carrying a newly won silent auction prize of a goalie stick signed by Mikka Kipprusoff, and asking other of the inducted hockey players Trevor Linden, Dallas Drake to sign the stick.  An evening highlight for Gavin was having Larry Kwong add his signature that same goalie stick.

Gavin did his history project
on Larry Kwong, a Vernon native who was the first person of Asian
descent to play in the NHL.  Gavin is 1 of 4 Vernon students who went
on to the Okanagan Regional Heritage Fair in
Kelowna and four projects from Vernon students were selected for the
prize of a trip to the Provincial Heritage Fair in Barkerville June 30
to July 4.

Here is a quote from the article:

Kwong, who was born in Vernon in 1923,
played for the Vernon Hydrophones 1939-41. He played for the New York
Rangers 1946-48 but due to alleged prejudice played only one minute in a
game in 1948.
“Many people in Canada were racist then but he never gave up
on his dream. He was a good player. We have to learn from history. It’s
sickening that someone would not have a chance because of their race.
That should not happen anymore,” said Gavin, whose great-uncle, John
Baumborough, played hockey with Kwong in Vernon

Read the original article:

Larry Kwong, 1st Asian-Canadian hockey player in the NHL, will recieve the first annual Pioneer Award from Okanagan Hockey School

LARRY KWONG – the first Chinese-Canadian NHL player, will receive the first annual PIONEER AWARD from the Okanagan Hockey School.

The award is being presented at the BC Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration in Penticton on July 23, 2010.  For more details, including ticket info, click

Larry_Kwong_Rangers by you.
Larry Kwong is one of Hockey's great trivia questions.  Who was the first non-white hockey player in the NHL?  He played one shift in the 3rd period against the Montreal Canadiens, in Montreal in 1948. – photo courtesy of Chad Soon. 

During the 1947-48 season, Larry ('King') Kwong is the first Chinese Canadian to play in the NHL as a member of the New York Rangers Hockey Club.  Also known as the 'China Clipper' during an illustrious juniors and seniors hockey career in B.C., Kwong went on to become Assistant Captain of the Valleyfield Braves in the Quebec Senior Hockey League where he led the team to a Canadian Senior Championship and received the Byng of Vimy award for sportsmanship.  Kwong later accepted an offer to play hockey in England and coach in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

The Larry Wong Appreciation Society Face Book Page

“In 1948, LARRY KWONG broke the NHL's colour barrier, becoming the first
person of Asian descent to play in the big league.

“Our goal is to see hockey hero Larry Kwong recognized for his pioneering achievements — his contributions to the game and to our society.

“We hope his incredible story of perseverance will reach and inspire new generations of fans.”

Tom Hawthorn wrote a story in the Globe & Mail:
Larry Kwong Beat Long Odds

“The sportswriters called him King Kwong, a cheap pun and a subtle dig at
a diminutive scorer who could stretch along the red goal line and still
leave plenty of room for a puck to squirt in at either end.

“Sixty year ago, on March 13, 1948, in the cramped visitors dressing room
at the old Montreal Forum, he slipped a blue sweater over his thin
frame, the number 11 on its back, the letters RANGERS spilling across
the chest.

“Little Larry Kwong, who had been born in Vernon, B.C.,
one of 15 children, who fell in love with hockey by listening to the
radio in the apartment above the family's grocery store, who, in fact,
carried the name of the store – Kwong Hing Lung (Abundant Prosperity) –
rather than the venerable family name of Eng, was about to make his
National Hockey League debut….

“The first player of Asian ancestry to
skate in the National Hockey League had launched – and, though he did
not yet know it, ended – his major league career.”


Larry Kwong at the Homecoming Tribute Night in Vernon, BC, March 27, 2010.  He was honoured by the
Vernon Vipers before their BCHL (Junior A) playoff game. – photo courtesy of Chad Soon. 

Here's some more information from the Larry Kwong Appreciation Society Facebook Group

May  26, 2010 – Hockey legend Jean Beliveau, who competed for two years
against Larry Kwong in the Quebec Senior Hockey League, is backing
Larry's nomination for induction into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

In a phone interview, Beliveau shared:

“I remember Larry Kwong very well….It brings back great memories. He was a very good player. You could see he enjoyed playing the game. He was a very smooth player — very skilled, with a beautiful style. I support his nomination for the Pioneer Award. He deserves it.”

On March 31, the Society of North American Hockey Historians and Researchers (SONAHHR) made Larry its first ever “Lifetime Honorary Member.”

On March 27, Larry made a triumphant homecoming to Vernon, BC.  He was honoured by the Vernon Vipers before their BCHL (Junior A) playoff game, and received a rousing three-minute standing ovation. The Vernon Vipers also issued a “hero” card of Larry.
Barry Marsman of SONAHHR presented Larry with a special Heritage Award in honour of the 60th anniversary of his breaking the NHL's race barrier.

click here to join the Larry Wong Appreciation Society Facebook Group: