This downloadable 1-hour long CBC-radio documentary produced by Yvonne Gall in April, 2011 examines the impact of growing up in a Chinese laundry as seen by four “laundry kids.” . The origins for this program started last May at a fund raising event at Vancouver’s historic Chinatown family restaurant, Foo’s Ho Ho where ‘laundry kids’, Elwin Xie, Judy Fong Bates, and I spoke about our experiences growing up and working to help our parents run laundries. Yvonne was in the audience and found a compelling story in what she learned. A few months later she came to southern California to interview me and to make a visit to West Los Angeles to visit one of the last fully operational Chinese laundries in town. (Laundries should not be confused with “laundromats,” which are not at all the same). Yvonne is to be commended for the outstanding program that she produced for CBC-Radio.
Memories of Vancouver’s Union Laundry
Elwin Xie, a contributor to my book, Chinese Laundries: Tickets to Survival on Gold Mountain, grew up in his family’s Union Laundry in Chinatown, Vancouver. B. C.. Elwin created a website that includes historic and archival photos, articles, and videos from many sources that document the Chinese laundry across the U. S. and Canada and the people who operated them. He also shares his photographs and memories from his own family’s Union Laundry.
Moon Tung Wong and Siu Fong Yu prepare to close the Frank Wong laundry in Hollywood in 1984.
An overview of the difficult struggles of Moon Tung and Siu Fong Yu Wong in coming to America and running the Frank Wong Laundry in Hollywood for over 40 years to support their family.
As in the U.S., Chinese laundries could be found all across the country as they provided one of the few opportunities for Chinese immigrants to earn a living. The Canadian Museum of Civilization created a virtual exhibit of a Chinese laundry using artifacts from various laundries including many from the Central Laundry that operated for decades in Winnipeg by Ho King in which you first enter a counter area of the laundry, and then a kitchen area where an original documentary shows interviews with the older generation of Chinese laundrymen and their offspring. A list of the Chinese who opened Newfoundland Chinese laundries from the late 19th century until mid 20th century includes photographs of some of the exteriors and brief descriptions of the owners,
Frank Wing Yow Soo ‘s father, born in China in 1897, came to England after World War I ended. Frank describes in detail the background of his father’s work in various laundries in different towns before opening his own laundry in Cheltenham, England, and later in Birkenhead. Frank and the rest of the family worked to help their father in the laundry until he converted it into a restaurant in 1958.
Galy Leung helped in a family laundry in the U. K. She describes in detail her observations and experiences with the laborious work of hand laundries. Her interview is in Cantonese, but English subtitles are provided. The process was similar to that used in U. S. Chinese laundries.
She came from Hong Kong to England to study when she was 19, and stayed with a relative’s family in Forest Gate in East London. She helped out with the family’s laundry shop in her spare time. She was told that her relative was once a sailor, and that after coming to England he started his own laundry shop. After 3 years, she found a job in a garment factory and became a seamstress, sewing clothing templates. Later, she started her own take-out restaurant. Galy Leung is now retired, and is very active in the Chinese community centres, taking part in all kinds of cultural and social activities.