When I first started to research Lem Wong's life, I knew very little about him. After all, he had died in 1979 and had been born in China almost a century before.
Through good fortune, I had an all-important family connection to Lem Wong. The fact was, his children who lived in London, and my parents, who lived in Toronto, were roughly the same ages and they happened to know each other.
In the 1930's the Chinese Canadians that lived in Ontario numbered a few thousand. They kept a sense of community even over a distance of two hundred kilometers, roughly the distance between the Cities of London and Toronto.
Three of Lem Wong's children have remained in London and I drove down to meet them for a preliminary interview. My father, who is in his eighties, asked to come along. This was a lucky break for me. Soon the ice was broken. The Wongs brought out their precious scrap books and even encouraged me to take them with me for my research!
Wong's Café, had it's heyday in the 1920's and was sold in 1941. I doubted that I would even find many people I could talk to who remembered Lem Wong and his restaurant. Boy, was that a wrong assumption. I placed a small notice in the London Free Press asking anybody who remembered the Café and Lem Wong to contact me. My phone rang constantly for quite a few days.
Former neighbors of Lem Wong, people who had their graduation dinner at the Café, people who had memorable dates there, a policeman who had Wong's on his beat, and a former band member who played at Wong's Café all called. Because of the era I was researching, most who contacted me were in their senior years. Sometimes people called to tell me about a touching incident involving Mr. Wong and also their most recent operation. I dutifully took down all this information and began to realize what a remarkable man Mr. Wong must have been. He obviously had deeply impressed many people. I also appreciated the kindness of all the people in the London area who took the time to call or write letters to me about their recollections of Lem Wong and his very special Café.
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