96 Kennedy Road, Wanchai ? [????- ]
A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY INTO THE PAST OF THE CHAN AND JONG FAMILIES*
VIOLET MEBIG CHAN LEW
First Paternal Uncle [CHAN Ping Wing ] was born on 3 January 1868 in a village in China. After studying English in Hong Kong and getting married, he emigrated to the United States in 1886 as a carpenter's apprentice. He eventually became connected with the Bank of Canton in San Francisco.
Uncle returned to China in 1910. On my first visit to China in 1919, Uncle was working for the Sun Company, a large department store in Hong Kong, but he later returned to banking as the Branch Manager of the Bank of East Asia in Canton until his death during World War II.
Uncle established two homes — one at 96 Kennedy Road, Hong Kong, and the other in Lai Chee Wan , Canton, on the bank of a small river.
The former was a sturdy concrete building of British design and character, while the latter was Chinese, with an enclosed courtyard and garden.
Since he had accumulated a comfortable fortune, he acquired an estate in Deep Water Bay near Aberdeen, Hong Kong, where he would retreat from time to time to enjoy the beautiful flowers which his gardeners cultivated.
His Kennedy Road home was like a hotel, open to relatives from the village and to other visitors as well. He found jobs for male relatives from the village who wanted to work in the city; he contributed to the support of needy kinsmen; and he paid a percentage of the debt owed to creditors of the family pawn shop which had failed during Grandfather's tenure. He was a true head of the house, assuming responsibilities for the care and support of many.
From 1932-35, when I was working at the True Light Middle School in Canton, about once a month, on pay day, I would invite other teachers to take the train to Hong Kong and spend a weekend at Uncle's Kennedy Road home. This gave us a chance to savour foreign food, perhaps to see an American film or to attend a tea-dance at the Hong Kong Hotel.
During World War II the Japanese took over Uncle's Hong Kong home and the family had to retreat to the cellar, which fortunately was huge, roomy and above ground.
Uncle's son subsequently sold the Kennedy Road home and the country estate.
* Editor's note: Violet Mebig Chan Lew was born in 1906. At the age of 71, she decided to investigate the history of her family, the Chan and Jong clans, which had emigrated to Hawaii from Hsiang-shan county in Kwangtung. Mrs. Lew dedicates this article to her parents. Ping Yip and Jong Hung Chan.