In 1923, Chong Jun Wai was born at home in east Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Later he became known as Willie Chong. As the 9th child of a family of 12 surviving children, Willie followed Daisy, Mary, Buddy, Vee, Rosye, Harold, George, and Sandie, and after him came Pearl, Jackie and Jean.
In his early years, he lived with Daisy and her family but when it was time to go to elementary school, he returned to the family home.
Even as a child, Willie was repairing boats
Life in school lasted until Grade 8, after which he went to work. When he joined the workforce there was a variety of jobs in Vancouver, many related to the fishing industry. His father Chong Joe Sat had many different jobs from working on farms to working in the fishing industry. Willie had jobs such as building boxes, salting fish, and cleaning boats.
Soon Joe Sat became the Chinese foreman at Cassiar Cannery outside of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. At this time, he took his 3 sons, Harold, Willie, and Jackie on the ship named SS Cardena leaving Vancouver and heading north to Cassiar Cannery with supplies and crew under his control.
George worked in a fish cannery in the Vancouver area and Jackie eventually stopped going to Cassiar, leaving Harold and Willie to make the trip. Harold continued working in Cassiar and Willie eventually went into fishing with a 39 foot gillnetter and a commercial licence. His summers were spent in the northern waters with his friends in the Japanese fleet. At that time he had the distinction of being the only Chinese fisherman on the BC west coast.
Salmon gillnetting is a seasonal summer job, so after the run, Willie headed south and changed his salmon gear to shrimp fishing gear to catch shrimp and prawns in the southern BC waters. At 65, he sold his boat and licence and retired.
A Fashion Icon as well - Willie with a model and his freshly caught prawns
He returned to his hobbies of hunting and fishing.
There was a long line of pet dogs in his life, many of which assisted in his hunting pastime.
A variety of small boats were also in his life, from before and after his two gillnetters. The first boat Willie built was the 'Jody L', which was built in the neighbour's garage. When he began his commercial fishing career, he bought a licence and bigger boat, which he named 'The 3 Js'. Eventually, he commissioned a better boat and named it the 'Jody L II'.
Willie's homemade gillnetter, the Jody L
In the early years, hunting for deer and moose were Willie's target, but this eventually stopped. Later, he targeted a number of salmon species, common on our west coast. His fishing later included catching the large white sturgeon in the Fraser River, until the sturgeon fisheries went to 'Catch&Release. During the winter hunting season, Willie went after Canada geese and ducks. There were trips to ranches where pheasant,
originally from Europe, were hunted.
Willie and Leslie's dog 'Chloe' and their 'Catch of the Day'
After WWII, Willie married Edith and had 3 girls, Leslie, Glenda, and Jody. For a time, when he was not commercial fishing, Willie owned a laundry before washers and dryers were common in homes. Renovating his house and garden also took up his time. Eventually there were marriages and grandchildren to fill their lives. Surprisingly, Willie learned how to use a computer and email in his later years. These skills added to his house and boat building talents. Willie and Edith had good lives until various medical issues ended their time with us.
Willie's Laundry business - 'Popular Cleaners'
The Family Home
A Proud Father and his Sons
Dad in front with L-R Harold, Jackie, George, Willie
Below are some photographs of the old Cannery, 'then' and 'now'. The B&B house were originally for one ethnic race and all the housing to the left of the cannery (visible in the older pictures) were for everyone else. The final photograph is the original of the workers at the Cannery
The Old Cannery now