This story was written by Lily Lee, 15 September 2017.
Tony Wong 王定熊 from Lueng Tou Wan 龍頭環, Long Du District, Zhongshan
Tony was the first in his family to settle in Auckland, New Zealand. This was in 1966. He was young, enterprising and very keen to meet other Zhongshan Chinese. He found here a small but close-knit Zhongshan community from rural villages near Sek Kei, many of them speaking the Long Du dialect.i Supported by his New Zealand born wife Mary from Jung Seng ancestry Tony wholeheartedly entered into family, business and community life here.
Tony Wong’s Parents
Tony’s father was Wong Lam Chan 王林燦 from Leung Tou Wan 龍頭環, Long Du district, Zhongshan. His mother was Yee Wing Kwun 余詠群. Tony’s mother’s tai gung (great grandfather) was originally a Yee from the village of Deep Sek 叒石 but later the family moved to near the market town of Sha Kei 沙溪. They had two sons: Tony Wong (Wong Ding Hueng 王定熊) born in Hoi Pong Road, Lueng Tou Wan on 11 July 1944 and Tony’s older brother Alun Wong (Wong Ding Lun 王定倫) born in December 1939.
Tony’s grandfather had four sons and an adopted son. His adopted son was an orphan child his grandfather had discovered wandering around the village. Grandfather Wong was rather protective of his own sons and so instead of sending his sons, he sent his adopted son to work in Hawaii in 1938 -about the time the Japanese troops were invading South China.
Grandfather expected that his adopted son would work hard, save and send home any spare money he earned to assist the family. This he did. He eventually met and married a Zhongshan woman in Hawaii and had a family of four children. He kept in touch with his brothers all their lives.
Not long after, because of the desire to provide better for his family, Grandfather Wong decided to leave home and travel to Hawaii where he found work as a tailor. He settled in Honolulu and returning to Leung Tou Wan every two years to visit his family.
Life in Leung Tou Wan Village
Tony lived with his grandmother (a Young from Sun Ming Ting 申明亭) from the age of four. He spoke about life in the village:
We were quite well off in the village. My father (he was No. 3 son) owned a house and several sections but no land for growing. He owned a fish market, ngee larn 魚欄. From the fishermen he would buy four kinds of freshwater fish 四大家族魚. There were: lung ngee 鯇魚, dai tou ngee 大頭魚, yin ngee 鮣魚 and ling ngee 零 魚.
My father owned one of the three or four mei pu 米鋪 (rice shops) in Leung Tou Wan. There were two rice mills in the village where my father could purchase rice wholesale to sell in his shop. Villagers would come and buy small quantities of rice – one or two gun [one gun is equal to 500 grams] about once per week. This was all left behind when my father and mother left for Hong Kong before 1 October 1949 when communist party became the People’s Republic of China.
But we two children remained in the village with our grandmother. We were young – we did not have to work. We went swimming with school pals and we roamed the streets and played on the hillsides. We attended a good school. We had a herng lee (kinsman) from our village whose name was Chow Sung 周松 . He made his fortune in America in the 1920s and provided money to build our school. Our school was named after him, Chow Sung Primary School 周松小學. Chow Sung also put money into roads and other public buildings for our village.
Hong Kong – Sydney – Hong Kong
‘My parents lived at 544 Fuk Wah Street, Sham Shui Po, on the Kowloon side. They both found work as machinists in a factory near by sewing shirts – it was owned by Zhongshan people’. Tony added that his older brother Alun was fortunate to join their parents in Hong Kong in 1952. He attended school there and became a policeman.
In 1956, just before Tony was 12 years old, Tony’s mother returned to China to accompany him out of China to Hong Kong. Tony said he was very ‘lucky’. If he had turned 12, it would have been much more difficult with the authorities. The family was happily reunited.
Tony lived with his parents in Hong Kong where he attended secondary school until he was 16 years old. He decided he was old enough to venture into the world and make a living for himself.
He travelled to Sydney and found work in the ‘Dixon Restaurant’ owned by the Young’s of Sun Ming Ting in Sydney’s Chinatown. While working hard there he also found time to study commerce. He also frequented the popular Tai Ping Restaurant owned by the Luey brothers of Jung Seng ancestry from New Zealand. Michael Luey’s wife Una (nee Young) was a Zhongshan girl from Sun Ming Ting – was a close connection to Tony’s mother.
Another turn of good fortune occurred when Tony was introduced to his future wife Mary Loo in 1964 while working at the restaurant. Mary Loo, Loo Lai Ying 盧麗英 of Dai Dun Village 大敦村 and of Jung Seng 增城 descent was born in Auckland, New Zealand. Like a number of New Zealand born Chinese girls of the ‘sixties’ Mary was travelling to Hong Kong on a working holiday when she met Tony in Sydney (through the introduction of Una).
Tony decided to return to Hong Kong to work and to continue his friendship with Mary. Tony and Mary were married on 31 December 1965 in the Hong Kong Town Hall Registry Office and their wedding reception was held in the Clover Restaurant in Hong Kong.
Settling in New Zealand
Tony and Mary returned to New Zealand in 1966 and bought a house in Bader Drive, Mangere. They settled there and had their three children, Michelle, Angela and Martin.
Tony was very impressed with the Zhongshan families in Auckland. He had previously met Mrs Ho Chew Chong and son Jack at the Tai Ping Restaurant in Sydney in 1964. Tony said:
I was new here and had only been in New Zealand a couple of months when she invited me to her husband’s birthday party at their market garden in July 1966. That was very kind of her and it was a good introduction to the Zhongshan community as they were one of the most well known Zhongshan families in Auckland.ii
Tony’s Work Life
When Tony first arrived in New Zealand, Sam Young (Una’s brother) very kindly offered him a job in his fruit shop in Karangahape Road. He then joined the Foodtown Supermarket in Otahuhu in 1969 where he became the Produce Department Manager. In his spare time in the weekends, he would help various friends in their market gardens and at one stage he helped his friend sell pork from a roadside truck to earn extra funds to maintain his family.
Tony was hard working and keen to get started in his own business. In 1971 with the guidance and assistance of Mrs Young Man Chit (Sam’s mother) Tony and Mary, founded and successfully started their first takeaway business, Clover Takeaways on Mt Eden Road, Three Kings. The takeaway was named after the restaurant in Hong Kong where they had held their wedding reception.
In 1978 the family moved to New Lynn and bought the New Lantern Restaurant 新紅燈酒家 on 3113 Great North Road. After three years, in 1982 Tony moved to Te Atatu Peninsula and established the Sunrise Restaurant 曰昇酒家.
In 1989 Tony and Mary established and founded a new restaurant in Swanson, West Auckland, which they continued until 2004. The restaurant was named the Swan Sun 天鵝酒家 and during his time there Tony looked at other businesses and invested in a Laundromat in Glen Eden, West Auckland.
In 2004 Tony moved away from owning restaurants and instead became the Owner/Operator/General Manager of Wisemaker Bathroom Accessories in Rosedale Road in Albany. Tony and Mary retired from business in 2010.
Tony brings family members to New Zealand
Tony was conscious that he was the only member of his family in New Zealand and set about bringing other family members to settle here. They included his father and stepmother who arrived in 1972, his brother Alun and family in 1973 and in 1997 his eldest uncle Wong Buck Chee 王北 治 and his family, as well as several other cousins over the years.
Alan and his wife Lana (Sue Yin King 蕭燕 瓊) from Sou Mei Yuen 秀美園 and their four children arrived in 1973.iii In Hong Kong Alan had established their own tailor workshop, making men’s suits. But when there was the possibility of coming to New Zealand he diligently attended various restaurants in Hong Kong to learn the art of making tofu, perfecting roast duck, roast pork and other Cantonese specialties.
Tony spoke well of his brother Alun who was the first to make ‘dou fu’ (tofu -bean curd) in Auckland:
He was well known by Chinese chefs for making good ‘dou fu’ and was nicknamed ‘dou fu Lun’. Alun was very enterprising and moved on to establish his own restaurant Sun Sun 新新酒楼 in the city at 76 Customs Street. He later moved his restaurant to Beach Road above the Tai Ping Trading Company and continued there until his death in September 2006.
Auckland Zhong Shan Clan Association
Alun and Tony were mindful of their Zhongshan heritage and in the early 1980s got together with Sam Young, Sammy Lee, Tong Lee, Mr & Mrs George Wong, and Jilnaught Wong and his father got together at the Sun Sun restaurant to discuss the starting of a Zhong Shan Association. They were like-minded and organized themselves quite quickly inviting donations of $1000 from those interested in becoming members.i As the huge majority of Zhongshan people lived in Auckland it was named the Auckland Zhong Shan Clan Association and in 1984 Chas Wong (Wong See Chu 黄仕超) was asked to be the first Chairperson.
Tony and Alun helped organise the first Zhongshan dinners at Auckland Chinese Community Centre in Mangere. Tony agrees with Jack Chong, an early committee member who recalls:
They were quite big affairs –on at least two occasions there were four hundred in attendance. They installed a full restaurant- sized kitchen with four huge woks and all the necessary kitchen equipment. The cooking was done on a voluntary basis with everyone turning his hand at food preparation and setting up the venue. It all happened before the big Chinese restaurants came along,’ii
Later Alun was to hold many Zhong Shan Clan banquets at his restaurant. They were well-attended and happy occasions hosted by Alun and his wife Lana. Tony and Alun entertained visiting dignitaries and delegations from the many different regions of China – often at their own expense. Alun was appointed Chairperson of the Association from 1997 to 1998.
Tony Wong: Chairperson 1989-1992 and 2001-2004
Tony Wong served his first term as Chairperson of AZSCA between 1989-1992. He recalls:
During my first term, committee members of the Association raised funds amongst the Zhongshan community and managed, with the assistance of a bank loan, to purchase a house in Henderson, which was rented out. The Association sold the house for a good price two years later and the funds were deposited into the Association’s bank account until the next asset could be purchased.
Tony served a second term ten years later between 2001 and 2004. He said:
We had been searching for a commercial property for some time to establish our Club House and also purchase a rental property. We achieved this in 2001 by buying a block of four shops and two offices in the Glen Eden Mall. Five of the properties were rented out and we kept an office for our Zhong Shan Clubroom. That has provided the Association with a good annual income.
Tony added that his wife Mary has played a very important role in the Auckland Zhong Shan Clan Association. Since its inception, Mary has taken the role of English Secretary and has helped organize many events and activities. She has also been responsible for keeping the office records and membership rolls. ‘Mary is very dedicated,’ Tony says.
Over the years Tony and Mary have represented the Auckland Zhong Shan Clan Association and have traveled to worldwide conferences in Zhongshan, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Macau and Hawaii. The latest visit in 2016 was an invitation from the Chinese Overseas Affairs Department to celebrate the 150th commemoration of Sun Yat Sen’s birth.
Retirement and Family
Tony has also been active in the Auckland Chinese Community Centre Inc (ACCC) and has been a committee member for over 30 years. This year he stepped down as Deputy Chairman after completing 20 years of service. He is looking forward to spending more time with the grandchildren and taking up leisure activities including supporting Mary who recently acted in the musical ‘Dominion Road’, written by Renee Laing.
Tony and Mary’s family comprise of three children, four grandsons and three great-grandchildren.
Elder daughter Michelle is married to Stephen Jones, they have three sons Troy, Brayden and Keegan.
Grandson Brayden is married to Sian Jones and they have a son Riley. Keegan is married to Siobhan Jones and they have a daughter Lily and a son Oliver. Younger daughter Angela is married to David Corinaldi and they have a son Luca Corinaldi; and son Martin is married to Jenny Best.
I am very grateful to Tony and Mary Wong for providing information and sharing their family history and photos with me. I conducted interviews in Long Du dialect with Tony Wong on 8 September 2016 and 6 September 2017 at Point Chevalier, Auckland. I had personal communication with Mary Wong on 11, 14 and 16 September 2017.