Compiled from information provided by Owen Young and an interview conducted by Lily Lee with Sam Young, 6 Shadwell Place, St Heliers, 6 September 2015
Young Man Chit 楊文捷– 1898 to 1960
Young Man Chit 楊文捷 (aka as Young Man Jip) was born on 12 October 18981 in Sun Ming Ting 申明亭 village close to Sha Kei 沙溪 market town in Zhongshan. Like many Chinese men, he followed others, leaving Guangdong to seek prosperity overseas. He had hoped to emigrate to Honolulu but learnt of New Zealand in Guangzhou and arrived in New Zealand on the ship Riverina on 1 of June 1920. He paid the £100 poll tax (Certificate No 44)2 on arrival in Auckland.
According to 83 year old eldest son, Sam Young (Young Hon Way 楊漢威)3 his grandfather, Young Hoong Cheung (or Cherng) 楊鴻章 had two wives and eleven children. Sam recalls:
There were four daughters and seven sons. My father was the fourth son of seven children to his first wife. My father was the only one to come to New Zealand. My ‘dai bark’ (first uncle) went to Sydney and was an itinerant salesman going from door to door with his suitcase of cosmetics and haberdashery. My ‘ng sook’ (fifth uncle) went with a village cousin to Havana, Cuba and we never heard from either of them again. Apart from 3rd Uncle who went to Canada, the others remained in China or later went to Hong Kong. My grandmother died when her seventh child was still an infant and my grandfather married a second wife and they had two girls and two boys. My cousins, Danny Young (Young Dat Mun 楊逹文), the son of my ‘look sook’ (sixth uncle) and Danny’s sister Oi Yee, migrated to Auckland, New Zealand in the 1970s and 1990s respectively, from Hong Kong.’
The 1920s and early 1930s
Young Man Chit was a short, stocky man of five foot two inches in stature. ‘He first picked up odd jobs at the homes of the wealthy,’ says Sam. He also worked as a kitchen hand at a girls’ boarding school, according to daughter Una (Young Hon Yuen).4 He thus learnt to speak some English. Samy says:
He did not want to stay with the group of Zhongshan men who lived in Newmarket but in the 1920s moved to East Clive in the Hawke’s Bay where he grew vegetables on his own plot of land next to Zhongshan kinsmen Wong Bing from Sek Moon 石門,5 and Mew Fong from Gark Harng 隔坑 village.’6
Meanwhile, Young Man Chit met Zhongshan brothers, Chong Dung Lum 張東林 and Chong Terng On 張暢安, who were market gardeners in Mangere, and were from the neighbouring village of Chung Tou 涌頭. Sam says it was time his father took a wife:
Chong Dung Lum acted as matchmaker ‘joo gai siu’ and my father agreed to marry his niece. So he went back to China in 1928 and he married my mother Cheung Yuk Kwun 張玉坤 from Chung Tou – a Cheung clan village close-by of about 300 people. My father was 31 years old and my mother, born on 27 January 1911, was aged 17.’7
Young Man Chit returned to New Zealand and, according to Sam, ‘My father travelled back home to China twice after he married, in 1931 and 1934. With his knowledge of English and shopwork, each time he returned he was able to get work at the Dai San company to help instruct new recruits for their department stores.’8(Young Man Chit told his daughter Una later that he was taught English by the wife of a dentist while employed by them in his early years in New Zealand).
Sam (Young Hon Way 楊漢威 ) is the eldest of two children born in China. He was born on 14 July 1932 and his sister Una (Young Hon Yuen 楊漢媛) was born on 2 August 1935.
The late 1930s and 1940s
In the late 1930s, Young Man Chit spent some time working in Auckland. He may have been working at Hop Wah’s fruit shop which was owned by several Jung Seng men, the Chans.9 Above the fruit shop were dormitory-like rooms which accommodated workers and other single men. In September 1939, Young Man Chit was residing at Hop Wah’s of 88 Karangahape Road where he remained until 16 April 1943.
From Hop Wah’s, Young Man Chit moved to Norman Choy’s house at 394 Khyber Pass Road. On 12 November 1943, he gave 537 Dominion Road, Sandringham as his address. The shop at 537 Dominion Road was called Chan Lee & Co.
Then there was a move to Coromandel in 1944. After spending a few months working for Kwok Lai Chuen, Young Man Chit moved to Hawke’s Bay where he took up market gardening again in Mill Road, Clive.10 After four years of market gardening, on 1 July 1948, he moved to work in a shop at 192 Featherstone Street,11 Palmerston North where a man named H Ping had been the owner from 1942 to 1947. In November 1949 he was staying with his friend Joe Ngok, of Joe & Joe, The Square, Palmerston North, prior to moving to Coromandel to take up the lease of K. Lai Chuen’s milk bar-fruit shop where he remained until 1953. His wife Yuk Kwun, son Sam and daughter Una were to arrive at the beginning of this period in Coromandel.
Coromandel Milk bar-fruit shop 1949-1953
Young Man Chit leased the milk bar- fruit shop from Kwok Lai Chuen in Coromandel in November 1949 and awaited the arrival of his family to help him run the business.
Sam recalls his 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. We arrived on the 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.
‘I remember the next day was Friday and we were quite busy. My father taught me how to trim outer leaves off the lettuces by flicking the knife inwards whereas I had always trimmed outwards! That was my first lesson in the shop and that was the beginning of my livelihood as a greengrocer! Eight months later I moved to Auckland to work in Norman Choy’s Karangahape Road fruit shop. I stayed there until 1954 then I went to work for Wah Jang’s in Queen Street.’12 ‘In Coromandel, we opened every day from 8 am to 5 pm. The weekends were very quiet. Friday was our best day. That is when people from smaller settlements came to do their shopping. We would sell fruit and veges, biscuits, sweets and cigarettes. There were several Chinese men who use to come into the shop. They were married to Maori women. Una helped in the shop serving customers and Mum did the household chores. (Una later took a seasonal job down at the Coromandel Mussel Company.) Owen (Young Hon Kew 楊漢僑), our young brother was born in Coromandel Hospital in 1950, so Mum had her hands full!’
‘There were few leisure time activities for us,’ says Sam. ‘We used to go to the movies once a week and sit in an old building with hard wooden seats! It was quiet and rather lonely with no Chinese people around.’
The family remained in Coromandel for three years before moving to Auckland on the 31 March 1953.
Living in Auckland 1950s
Young Man Chit and family moved back to the city of Auckland from the small town of Coromandel and purchased their first house at 11 Norfolk Street, Ponsonby. The young adults, Sam and Una socialised with other Chinese around Auckland. Young Man Chit and daughter Una worked for a time at Norman Choy’s fruit shop at 79 Karangahape Road.
M J Young – 1209 Great North Road, Point Chevalier 1956-69
In 1956 the M J Young fruit shop at 1209 Great North Road, Point Chevalier was purchased from a Mr Lee Chun who lived in Vincent Street, next door to the Presbyterian Church. Mr Lee had a son who died of cancer. Sam recalls that the fruit shop was quite a good business but hard work. It was his job to go to market on their truck and purchase the fruit and vegetables while his father and sister worked in the shop.
Towards the end of 1958, Sam got married to Kwok Lai Yew 郭麗瑶, Kwok Jew Kuen’s eldest daughter. 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. We also invited our Point Chevalier friends Gordon Barnaby13 who had the book shop and Les Mills14 who owned an appliance store, both next door.’
In 1959 the Point Chevalier shop was sold to an Indian man by the name of Dajy. Young Man Chit worked for him for some months before retiring due to health problems. He died suddenly of a heart attack in April 1960 and is buried at Waikumete Cemetery, Waitakere. His wife Yuk Kwun Young who died on 30 July 1998 is buried beside him.
Sam Young (Young Hon Way 楊漢威) 1932-
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.
Our village was close to the market town of Sha Kei Hee (now Sha Kei Jun). There were three towns with markets: Sha Kei Hee (258) held markets on the 2nd, 5th and 8th day. Dai Chung (147) held markets on the Ist, 4th and 7th days. The other market was in Sek Kei and was known as Sha Kong Hee. Our village was fairly small. There were about 70 houses and no more than ten to a house. About 700 all told. The families of those ‘gum sarn hark’ who had gone overseas – some had gone to Hawaii and others to 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.’
Sam described the painful years of World War Two
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.’
Excelling at school
‘All the children went to the village primary school and I attended Ee Fun 雨分 High School in Sek Kei (now Zhongshan city). I was one year away from graduating from Senior High when I had to leave for New Zealand in late 1949.’ Sam excelled academically. He still possesses his medal for coming 1st in his year for Written Composition and 1st overall.
[Note: Sam’s arrival and early years in New Zealand are told in his father, Young Man Chit’s story above.]
Sam Young – Newton Fruit Shop, 249 Karangahape Road 1959-1969
In 1959 Sam Young joined Joseph Luey (Una’s fiancée) in partnership at the fruit shop at 249 Karangahape Road. The Newton Fruit shop was originally owned by Jung Seng brothers Michael and Joseph Luey (before Michael emigrated to Australia). Joseph married Una at Easter that year (1959) and for a wedding gift, Sam recalls that she was given a brand new green Hillman car from her parents. In 1962, the Luey family (with their four children) decided to move to Sydney, Australia15 and the lease of the shop was taken over by Sam.
Sam talks about his time in the shop through the decade of the 1960s:
It was a very good business. The landlord R H Hellaby gave us a fair rent which went up gradually every three years. We had a large staff of 10 people including Europeans. My mother would cook lunch for the staff. She would also cook dinner for the family and help with her three young grandchildren: Eddie, Elaine and Leslie while my wife Lai Yew helped in the shop. We had two levels, the shop level on K Road, and the second floor above, where we had a very large cool store and washing facilities. On the third floor there was a dancing studio. We had to carry our fruit and veges through the front entrance (where parking and pedestrians were a problem!) and up to the second floor. Every day I would buy and truck 100 boxes of taro from the city markets and drive slowly up Franklin Road to the Newton shop.16 It was heavy work getting them into the cool store! We would trim our vegetables up there and use a concrete mixer to wash carrots.
‘By 1969 it was getting harder to find good staff and I felt it was time to move on, so I sold it to a European man, but unfortunately he did not make a go of it. I worked for a couple more years at Wah Jangs. They had a good boss, good staff and good wages! Then I worked for a few years with my father-in-law who had bought Norman Choy’s shop at 79 K Road.’
Sam Young, Buyer and Supervisor, Auckland Fruit Centre 1979-1990
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 in 2011. Sam 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.
- Poll tax certificate records 12 October 1897.
- NZ Archives, AANK 24728 W3164/5/17.
- Interview conducted by Lily Lee with Sam Young, 6 Shadwell Place, St Heliers, 6 September 2015.
- Personal communication from Owen Young, 27 January 2016.
- Refer to Lee & Lam, Sons of the Soil, p.264.
- Mew Fong did not remain in New Zealand but returned to live in China before World War Two where he had a son who had attended the same high school as Sam. Sam said that Mew Fong’s son joined the army in China and rose to become a very high-ranking official.
- Cheung Yuk Kwun lived to 87 years of age. She died 10 July 1998 and is buried alongside her husband at the Waikumete Cemetery, Waitakere.
- Dai Sun rose to become the biggest and most lavish department store in Shanghai (and therefore in China). It was the No 1 Department store in the 1980s. New York Times article, 28th November 1982.
- Their names were: Chan Sit Kwung, Quing, Chan Poo, and Chan Kum Chor. Information provided by Beverly Lowe, 1 July 2015.
- Joe Gock whose father was market gardening in Clive remembers Young Man Chit gardening there.
- This is the location of an old shop. Recent use of shop (to 15 May 2015) was by www.nativetattoocompany.co.nz
- At Wah Jangs it was usual for the Chinese workers to live on the premises and regularly use the bathrooms at the nearby Tepid Baths. Personal communication from Owen Young, 27 January 2016.
- Gordon Barnaby became an Auckland City Councillor.
- Les Mills became Mayor of Auckland between 1990 and 1998.
- Joseph Luey started a successful restaurant business in Sydney.
- Note: there were large numbers of Pacific people, living in Newton in the 1960s.