Life in Sun Ming Ting Village, Zhongshan

Sam Young 楊漢威, was born in Sun Ming Ting village on 14 July 1932. Sam provides insight into his time living in China before migrating to New Zealand in 1949:

The families of those ‘gum sarn hark’ who had gone overseas – some had gone to Hawaii, San Francisco and other parts of North America - were not expected to work but usually relied on remittances sent back every few months to cover their living costs. ‘We were the dai ban.’ We did not own land. My grandfather’s occupation was to organise food such as pigs for celebratory days like baisan.’

The most difficult years were from 1939 and through World War Two when we did not receive money from overseas. There was no mail service. We found it extremely difficult. We were hungry much of the time and if the war had dragged on another couple of years we would have starved to death. We were lucky that my aunties owned fish ponds and they provided us with rice.’

Sam recalls his New Zealand arrival:

There were three of us. We left our village just as the Communist party took over the government of China. My mother was 38, I was 17 and Una was 15. We travelled by ship on the ‘Tai Ping’ to Sydney and then by plane to Whenuapai airport on 19 November 1949. My father hired a taxi cab and came to Auckland to pick us up. He then took us directly back to the shop in Coromandel. That’s where we were to live - in accommodation at the back of the shop.

In 1953 the family moved to Auckland, initially working at Norman Choy’s fruit shop at 79 Karangahape Rd, in 1956 purchased a fruit shop at 1209 Great North Road, Point Chevalier and in 1962 took over a fruit shop at 249 Karangahape Rd.

Towards the end of 1958 Sam married Kwok Lai Yew 郭麗瑶. They were married at the Chinese Presbyterian Church in Vincent Street and had a large western style reception at the Farmers Trading Company’s Harbourview tearooms in Hobson Street. ‘We also had a Chinese style banquet filling 32 tables at the church hall,’ said Sam. ‘Practically all the Zhongshan people in Auckland attended the reception.’

In 1979 Sam was offered a position in the the Auckland Fruit Centre Ltd with its head office in 424 Queen Street, Auckland and branches at Mangere, Papakura, Mount Eden, Northcote, Papatoetoe, Glen Eden, Onehunga, Avondale and Lynfield. ‘ I was asked to be a buyer and a supervisor of the 13 shops in the company.’ said Sam who by then had a lot of experience as a fruiterer. ‘I enjoyed the work of being a buyer - you had to get to know the character of your auctioneers and be good at timing to buy the right lines at the right price!’

‘I also worked in the Tai Ping supermarket which was also and owned by Bill Fong and Peter and Ronald Chan until 1990s. Then, I suffered heart problems and had to have a triple by-pass operation.’

Sam, then was forced to retire from his lifelong career as a successful businessman. Looking back, ‘The best years in the fruit and vegetable retail industry,’ says Sam without hesitation, ‘was when I worked for myself. And of course I made more money then than working for other people.’

Sam Young – Auckland Zhong Shan Clan Association

Sam has made a huge contribution to the Zhongshan community in Auckland and to his relatives back in his village Sun Ming Ting and that of his mother’s village, Chung Tou. He is rightly proud of his Zhongshan heritage and a recent trip back was with his wife and brother, Owen, in 2011.

owen sam lai visit sun ming ting village 2011Sam has made an outstanding contribution both personally and financially to the Auckland Zhong Shan Clan Association in Auckland over many years. Sam has written (in Chinese) a history of the Zhongshan clan in Auckland and about the early years of the Association in the 2011 Zhongshan commemoration booklet. His selfless work, including serving as President from 1991 to 1992; and his role as the Chinese secretary from the Assocation’s inception from 1984 to 2009, has been recognised through being made honorary President in 2007.

We invite you to read the full article by Lily Lee.

Sam Young Family story in full