The Face of Multicultural Canada
This book is about Vancouver in the ’50s,’60s,’70s,’80s and 90s, and explains how Vancouver transformed, both good and bad, from a sleepy backwater fishing village on the west coast of Canada into one of the jet-set capitols of the world and a playground for the rich and famous, as seen through the magnificent life and the incredible achievements of Faye and Dean Chun Kwong Leong.
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Published by: Warfleet Press
Release Date: February, 2022
Pages: 465 $34.95
This book is the epic tale of Canada’s coming of age in the 20th century when it went from the most racist country in the British Common wealth to a multicultural country in ten short years, 1967 to 1977. Pierre Trudeau traveled across Canada when he was running for Prime Minister in 1968 and saw Canada was made up of all different nationalities and ethnicities. When he was elected Prime Minister, in 1971, he declared Canada a multicultural country, but he didn’t make it one. That was started ten years earlier when someone began reforming Canada’s immigration laws, Faye Leung.
Faye Leung is a force of nature and a larger-than-life character. She burst onto the Vancouver scene in 1960 when she single-handedly developed ninety percent of the C.P.R.s raw land at Oakridge, building houses and selling them to the little guy for less than 100,000 dollars. Two years later, she opened the first branch office of any trust company in Canada, Canada Trust, in her tiny real estate office in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Chinese-Canadians rushed to open bank accounts because they trusted her over the big banks. In 1964, she and her husband, Dean, travelled to Hong Kong and Dean established the first business relationship between a Canadian trust company and a Hong Kong bank, bringing lots of investment money into Canada not only through Canada Trust but through the five big banks as well. Gender discrimination in Asia at the time meant she was just the wife.
Because of what she did, she and Dean were soon the first Chinese couple to be invited to establishment functions and government garden parties, opening up the doors for other Chinese to follow. They led by example and showed other minorities how to mix in the Caucasian world in business and socially.
The twentieth century was a century of extraordinary change all over the world: World War I, World War II and the Holocaust, the biggest crime of the century, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fear of WWIII had everyone living in the moment because no one knew if there would be a tomorrow, the Vietnam War, the second biggest crime of the century, the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., the space race and putting a man on the moon, the death of Mao Tse Tung in China and the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R.
In 1967, the most important of her immigration category reforms passed, and Hong Kong Chinese began flooding into Vancouver. Faye acted as a one-woman-welcoming committee and got many started off on their new life in Canada. Because they didn’t know anyone in Canada but Faye, they all wanted to live by her in Oakridge, so she sold them all houses as well.
Nowhere were Canada’s changes more profound and visible than in Vancouver, which after Expo 86, went from a sleepy west coast fishing village to an international jet set capital of the world. Canada’s economy changed at that time from a resource-based economy to one based on international finance, business and housing.
I wanted to capture the extraordinary times in which the main characters of this book lived and thrived, so I wrote this book as a road trip, added a soundtrack and included worldwide events in double-page photos. Dean and Faye, when they weren’t developing projects in Vancouver so the little guy could prosper and get ahead, were on the road promoting tourism for the B.C. government up and down the west coast and all around the Pacific Rim. In between, they were always on the go helping raise money for a new university in Burnaby by then Premier Bennett called Simon Fraser University or helping get funding for a Chinese Cultural Centre in Chinatown or saving the Orpheum, which were just a few. There wasn’t anything going on in those days that they weren’t involved in some way.
But successive Canadian governments at all levels, unfortunately, failed to regulate the changes during this period in Canada’s history. As a result, today, we have an unaffordable housing crisis, high university tuition fees and an uneven distribution of wealth across the country. The government’s answer to the problems is to make Canada the land of multi-millionaires by favoring overseas investment over homegrown talent. The most stressful situation is affordable housing for all. Canada’s real estate industry is toxic. The only answer is to end speculation on all types of real estate.
So whether it was putting a face on racism and discrimination, helping the little guy get ahead in life, promoting the province of B.C., which they loved or helping others come to Canada to live a better life, Faye and Dean were a significant catalyst for change in Canada in a century of change worldwide.
Chapter 1 – The Empress Hotel of Chinatown
This chapter opens in Victoria’s Chinatown in the early 1930s when the main character Faye Leong is 3 years old. It introduces her extended family to the reader and tells how five of them influenced her life the most, all the Chinese community’s pillars. It also supports the central theme of the story: discrimination, the establishment versus the little guy, and explains what life was like for Chinese Canadians during the Age of Discrimination (1923 – 1947); Chinese couldn’t become Canadian citizens, the pioneer gentlemen couldn’t bring their wives and children over to Canada from China, they couldn’t attend Canadian schools, and they could only work in grocery, laundry, clothing and farming businesses.
It also introduces to the reader something that will play a big part in Faye’s life growing up and continue to do so all her life, her grandfather’s Yick Fung Merchandising Store where they all live and work. Yick Fung is more than a brick and mortar store; it is an ideology where Chinese-Canadians can find refuge from the sea of discrimination in which they live. Faye will have many Yick Fung’s in her life as she and her husband build a life for themselves later in Vancouver.
CHAPTER 2 – A Star is Born
Faye’s immediate family moves to Vancouver’s Chinatown in 1936. The reader learns more about her mother and of her father, who is the leader of all Chinese Canadians across Canada. We know more about life in the discriminatory period and how vital Vancouver’s Chinatown is to all Vancouverites, not only to the Chinese, especially during wartime when Chinatown’s nightlife was enjoyed by all as a diversion from the war.
As a teenager, Faye’s personality begins to blossom, and she too becomes the leader among her peers. She is the beautiful teacher’s daughter who can do no wrong, and soon she has a following. She realizes by being center stage and always glowing, being larger than life she can attract more people and her’ bus of life’ begins its long and distinguished road trip in the first act of the first scene in the first play of their young lives.
CHAPTER 3 – A Fine Romance
This chapter is the love story and introduces her hero, lover and future husband to the reader Chun Kwong Leung or Dean, as he becomes known to one and all. He is much older than Faye and was a successful actor and orator in Canton City, China, until 1949 when the Communists seized power, and he had to flee like all others of the educated, business and landowning classes. He soon becomes the most eligible bachelor in Chinatown, and every mother wants him for their daughter.
Faye and Dean finally meet, but he is the older brother, and they must respect the ancient customs. As their friendship grows to courtship, they decide to make life better for other young people in the community and bring all the different Chinese classes together in a graduation ceremony out of Chinatown with a safe landing somewhere in the Caucasian world. They finally decide what it is going to be and start the first mixed choir, the Mei Wun Choristers in Chinatown, made up of Chinese from the lower, middle and upper classes as well as those who were born in Canada and those who were born in China, because none of them mixed socially. They reason if they cannot learn to socialize amongst themselves, they will never survive in the Caucasian world.
It isn’t long before they realize they are in love, but her parents are against the marriage because it will break a 500-year-old taboo that Chinese with similar last names can’t marry. After Faye’s mother dies unexpectedly and her father storms off to Nanaimo, he doesn’t want to be around, they get married, and the entire Chinatown community is on their side, proving by example that taboos are meant to be broken.
CHAPTER 4 – Under the Bs for Bay Day
So they begin married life together in 1953. While legal discrimination ends for Chinese in Canada in 1947 when they win Enfranchisement, which means they are allowed to become Canadian citizens and bring blood relatives over to Canada, they are still prevented from working in jobs other than those I have mentioned. They always want to help their fellow Chinese, so Dean says to Faye, “We can work for ourselves, or we can bring everyone along with us out of Chinatown.” So begins their life long struggle to make life better for all Chinese and to help Chinatown prosper.
Doors begin to open, and icons start to fall when Faye became the first Chinese employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company in downtown Vancouver in 1953. Shortly after, in 1955, her sister Gwen becomes the first Chinese pharmacist to be hired by a national retailer Woodward’s Department Store. It isn’t long after that Faye decides she will go into real estate, and Dean decides to go into the Life Insurance Business. They find a small 20-foot wide office-space on Pender Street in the heart of Chinatown and open Pender Realty & Insurance.
Pender Realty & Insurance like Yick Fung becomes a refuge for Chinese seeking help in a still discriminatory world. One day in 1959, the owner of the Sai Woo Restaurant next door comes in complaining that he can’t find anyone to take over his business as he wants to retire. Faye decides to help him and sends a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker, asking if he can create a new immigration category for Chinese chefs to apply to Canada. He decides to help, and they draw up a white paper together, allowing Chinese chefs to immigrate to Canada (At this time, only people from British Commonwealth countries could immigrate to Canada). At about the same time, the City decides to run a freeway through Vancouver’s heart, and they propose bulldozing Pender Street, destroying Chinatown. Dean, who is the President of the Chinese Benevolent Association, leads a delegation to City Hall to fight the freeway, and Faye is by his side. Faye, the activist, is born!
CHAPTER 5 – Daily Interest versus Monthly Interest
In 1960, Faye, the developer, is born when she undertakes her first significant housing development on Vancouver’s west side, Oakridge. Her Pender Realty not only sells houses, it now builds homes for the little guy all under $100,000. Faye and Dean are doing what they said they would do, moving out of Chinatown and bringing everyone with them. But most Chinese don’t even have bank accounts in the early sixties, let alone money. They are afraid to venture out of Chinatown and deal with the five big banks. Resentment towards the establishment because of the many years of discrimination is still strong in the Chinese community. Faye knows that a bank account is a symbol of prosperity, so she goes into the head office of the Canada Trust Company where she does her banking and talks them into opening the first branch office of any trust company in Canada in her and Dean’s small twenty-foot office in Chinatown.” It just makes good business sense,” she says.
When a freeway is proposed to go through Chinatown, bulldozers manage to tear down many Chinese homes. Faye and her group are successful in 1963 at having the Freeway plan halted, at least for the immediate future. But what to do about those families whose homes had been torn down? The Mayor organizes a redevelopment committee and puts Faye in charge. Plans are drawn up to create unique new buildings on land available nearby. All is going well until they all go to City Hall and are told they can’t build anything higher than three stories and they can’t sell the individual units because there is no such thing as strata title ion the books, But Faye has a plan! She draws up a paper to have Strata Title put on the books in Victoria. Strata Title has been in use in the Orient for some time by developers but never in Canada. Victoria thinks they are nuts! It isn’t until 1968 that strata title passes in B.C., and from that moment on, developers can build buildings as high as thirty stories, all thanks to Faye Leung.
There Canada Trust office is a huge success, and they open up more accounts than they ever imagined. One of the services they offer is sending money to the central banks in Hong Kong for the pioneer families. Most Chinese pioneers maintain two homes, one in Canada and ancestral home in China. The Leungs don’t make any money; it is just a service. But Faye realizes there is a way to make more money for Canada Trust, so in 1964 she goes back in to see J.D. Wilson in the head office downtown and tells him that she can make a lot more money for his company if they can establish a business relationship with a bank in Hong Kong. Soon, she and Dean are on a plane headed for Hong Kong to launch the first-ever relationship between a Canadian trust company and a Hong Kong bank, and they are successful. Thanks to Dean’s school classmates who are now in high business positions in Hong Kong, they establish business relationships with two Hong Kong banks. Faye is just the wife and not as important as gender discrimination is worse in the Orient. But while they are there, Faye realizes that every businessman they meet wants to come to Canada.
CHAPTER 6 – Opening Canada Up To All
When they return to Vancouver, Faye immediately calls Jack Nicholson, the Minister of Immigration in Ottawa. Jack had been invited to the opening of their Canada Trust office, so they knew each other. “Why don’t we write up a white paper allowing businessmen from non-commonwealth countries; who are not a financial burden to Canada to apply for Canadian citizenship? We can have three categories for businessmen, professionals and skilled labour.” Jack is all for it and gets his secretary involved right away. Faye’s reasoning is that if businessmen in Hong Kong can’t easily come to Canada, Canada will lose out on a lot of foreign investment.
In 1966, Mao starts his Cultural Revolution in China to consolidate his power. This scares everyone, so in 1967, when Faye’s new immigration category reforms became law, Hong Kong businessmen begin to flood into Canada, bringing with them family money. But it is not only Hong Kong businessmen who seize the opportunity; Malaysians, Iranians and East Indians also see the opportunity and look to Canada as their future home. Like most things Faye does in her life, she is only trying to help a friend or the little guy on the street live a better life, but she is a Walter Mitty character who doesn’t realize while she is benefitting her friends, she is helping everyone live a better life.
CHAPTER 7 – Making Canada Multicultural
The first wave of Hong Kong immigrants to Vancouver and Canada come in 1967, and Faye sees herself as a one-woman welcoming committee. They don’t know anyone in Canada, so they all want to live by Faye in Oakridge, where she and Dean have built themselves a lovely replica of the Imperial Palace in Beijing. She helps them all get settled, and they buy houses from her all under $100,000, and the wealth starts pouring into Canada. Many of these new immigrants go into the real estate business because they can see the opportunities coming from Hong Kong with its cramped living quarters and high costs. Faye and Dean build their second significant housing development below Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. They are both by now convocation founders of the university, an honour bestowed on them by Premier Bennett of B.C. in 1965 for helping raise funds in the Chinese community to build the university. They had been down in California on a bus trip full of establishment good old boys in 1962 when the university’s location was announced on Burnaby Mountain and all celebrated by buying a case of Coca Cola.
Besides strata title, Faye introducs on her construction sites, pre-fab concrete and pre-sales. Today these are used on construction sites everywhere but not in 1968. Pre-fab concrete means you do not have to pour the slabs on the site, and they can be thicker, making the building stronger. Pre-sales replaced interim construction financing and meant the developer could pre-sell condos to customers to raise 80 % of his costs. He can then go to the bank to finance the rest. Faye is involved in everything around town in the sixties, and she is instrumental in sticking a needle in the bum of Cyrus McLean, the President of B.C. Tel to get him to install pagoda telephone booths in Chinatown to enhance Chinatown’s tourist appeal. For everything she has done, the City awards her the ‘Man of the Month’ Award in 1968, yet because she is a woman and a Chinese woman, she can’t even apply for a mortgage due to discrimination.
CHAPTER 8 – Vancouver’s Only Big Time lady Developer
Always wanting to see her beloved Chinatown prosper, she and others are looking to build a monument to the lifestyle of the new breed of Chinese who are quickly taking control of their own lives with bank accounts and houses and establishing newfound wealth from China and locally. They decide they will build a cultural center in Chinatown that becomes the focal point of much intrigue. Everyone wants to get involved the young, the old, the associations, the Reds. A good number of Chinese Canadians support the communists in China and try to infiltrate the Chinese associations. There is a lot of fighting between the associations. Premier Barrett, head of the new N.D.P. government, says, “We will sell the associations the land at 50 West Pender Street for $1 if they have all the associations on board.” That is fine, but the associations have no money to build. Dean is charged with raising funds to build the new cultural center. Many groups try to take it over, and one eventually does; the Reds. By 1979 they raise enough money to build the center, and the government gives them the land.
One of Faye’s fantasies is to build the first Chinese mall in North America, and she and Dean did just that in 1972. The opening ceremony of their Mandarin Center has dignitaries from everywhere showing up to honour their next accomplishment. Their old friend Mr. R.Z. Yung opens one of the doors. He was one of the five wealthiest tycoons in China when Mao seized power in 1949. He fled to Brazil while his brother, Rong Yuren, stays and helps Mao rebuild China. He becomes known as the ‘Red Capitalist.’ He falls out of favour during the Cultural Revolution but then is reinstated in 1976 when Deng Xiao Ping consolidates power after Mao’s death and is given the job of rebuilding China’s economy. Faye brings the Caucasian business world into Chinatown when the Bank of Montreal asks if they can hold their 100th Anniversary board meeting in her and Dean’s office. She and Dean have done what they set out to do to help Chinatown prosper and bring the Chinese community into the Caucasian world to all live a better life.
CHAPTER 9 – Crash, Boom, Bang!
But things start to change in 1974 when Dean is in a bad car accident and injures his heart. Faye’s focus shifts from looking after their businesses to looking after Dean. Her bus of life is back on the road to Palm Springs, where they socialize with movie stars like Peter Lawford and then to Hawaii to find a treatment to restore his health, to the way it was before the accident. In Vancouver in 1975, they get Chinn Ho Kelly from Hawaii-Five-O over to open their Continental Night Club on the Mandarin Trade Center’s top floor.
In 1978, Faye is the force behind three more immigration category reforms, the Immigrant Investors Program and the two Entrepreneur’s Programs. They soon realize that a multicultural Canada is here to stay. They keep opening doors for other minorities and Chinese when they are again invited to the Lieutenant Governor’s Ball. When Pierre Trudeau, the PM of Canada, travels around the country and sees all the different nationalities, he announces that Canada is a multicultural country, but Faye made it so. They spend any spare time buying real estate in and around Greater Vancouver throughout the seventies because it is still inexpensive. It helps when they have their own bank. Dean’s heart is not acceptable, and he needs a heart bypass in 1979. He is not his old self like in the days when they travelled the world together, and she longs for an opportunity to get him back into living in the moment.
CHAPTER 10 – Opening Up China
She doesn’t have to wait long when in 1980, four PROC representatives arrive on her doorstep with an invitation from President Deng Xiao Ping to come to China to help develop economic ties between their two countries. She had been noticed both here and in Hong Kong. Faye spends the next decade going in and out of Mainland China meeting with businessmen and government officials developing economic ties, first in Canton City, then Beijing and then Shanghai and eventually to Shanxi, Guangdong, and other parts of China. She becomes the glow girl for the Army, and whenever they see her face on a T.V. screen in a sports stadium, they know she is in China. Then they go looking for her at her hotel and ask, “Where’s Faye Leung? General Wang wants to see her.” They don’t know how to reach her in Canada. The Army in those days operated as a business and bought and sold commodities and products. Today, things have changed since President Xi’s crackdown on corruption.
In 1982, the world-wide recession hits everyone hard. Interest rates went up to 29% on commercial property, and Faye and Dean are mortgaged up to their nose. They are forced to sell many of their properties. As well, disaster strikes Chinatown when the provincial government closes the mental hospital outside Vancouver. All the mentally challenged inmates infiltrate into the lowest income neighbourhood, the Downtown East Side, right next to Chinatown. They take up residence in the seedy hotels and get involved in unlawful activities after dark prostitution, drugs and robbery but worst of all, they spill over into Chinatown, spelling its eventual downfall. The police establish a lookout on the second floor of their Mandarin Center, but it does little to help.
In 1984, Faye’s bus of life is off again to California to help out an old friend in San Diego. Dean goes into Scripp’s Clinic for a gall bladder operation while Faye stays at the Del Hotel, where the 20th Anniversary of the movie Some Like It Hot is being held. She hobnobs with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemon and Billy Wilder, but she longs to be back on the road. In 1962, they met the Canadian actors Glenn Ford and Barbara Parkins in L.A. while promoting tourism for the B.C. government. When Dean is well, they head to L.A. for the ’84 Olympics, where they wind up the news anchor Diane Sawyer’s guests. They find out a group is going to Taiwan for Double 10, and decide to go with them and stay at the new Asia World Hotel. There they meet Tan Yu for the first time, the wealthiest billionaire in Asia’s private sector companies. He owns the Asia World Complex. When she was in Hong Kong in 1980 between trips back and forth to Beijing, she met Li Kai Shing at a luncheon and later had a meeting with him at his office. He was the richest man in private sector companies in Asia because he got exclusive government contracts.
In 1985, Faye is off again on her bus of life to promote Expo 86 in Korea and Japan. The Glow Girl is larger than life, and everyone wants to meet her because of her personality and beautiful hats. In China, she was always a superstar right from the start because everyone wants to live her lifestyle, the newly liberated sixties multicultural woman, yet she is also one of them and can speak seven Chinese dialects. She is no snob. Expo 86 puts Vancouver on the international map. Overnight Vancouver goes from a sleepy backwater fishing village on the west coast of Canada to a playground for the rich and famous. Just before Expo 86, B.C. gets a new premier, Bill Vander Zalm. After Expo is over, the question is what to do with the Expo lands? The Premier wants to sell it to a good friend, and they will go into business together, developing it and building restaurants. The Deputy Premier, Grace McCarthy, wants to sell it to Li Kai Shing with spin-offs to her, of course. Faye bids on the lands for a local business group, but the deal has already been signed on a Hong Kong harbour boat. The government is just going through the motions, and Li Kai Shing wins the prize, but he doesn’t have to pay the $35 million cleanup cost like Faye’s group did. There is a lot of controversy over the sale because the governments favouring an overseas buyer over a local buyer marks the beginning of the unaffordable housing crisis that still plagues Canada’s big cities today.
In 1989, Faye and Dean are back in Shanxi, China, but not for long. They are in Beijing at the Great Wall of China Hotel a few days before the Tiananmen Square massacre. The Army warns them not to go down to the square but they go anyway and see the Premier of China talking to the students. Back at the hotel, tensions rise, and they must leave. They are lucky! Because they are V.I.P.s and guests of the Army, they are put on a train to Shanghai and board a plane to Hong Kong escaping China. The train they are on has a bomb on board and blows up later that evening.
CHAPTER 11 – Fantasy Faye
They aren’t back in Vancouver for more than a month when Faye finds an unexpected voice on her answering machine. “That’s Premier Vander Zalm,” her number 2 son declares. “I wonder why he is calling you?” The message is an invitation to visit him at his home in Fantasy Gardens, a theme park he owns in Richmond, a Vancouver suburb. The Premier wants Faye to sell his theme park for him and several other properties he owns. She decides, he is the Premier, so he must know what he is doing, and she takes on the sale. She soon discovers the Premier is bankrupt and needs cash in a hurry. His theme park is losing money, and he wants her to find an Asian buyer. By this time, Faye has developed an extensive client list of wealthy Asians worldwide, especially in the Orient, and the Premier knows it.
Faye develops a business plan that she thinks she can sell to a syndicate of buyers she has put together in Taiwan. The critical player is Tan Yu, who she met in 1984. She must travel to Taiwan to sell the plan to the syndicate, but it turns out the Premier not only wants her to sell his theme park but him as well. He wants to become as rich as the wealthy Asians he saw coming to Expo 86. He tells her to be sure they know whose property they are buying. In Taiwan, Tan Yu decides to buy the property himself and establish an Asia World Canada head Office in Vancouver for his kids to run, and she tells the Premier. The Premier comes up with a plan to sell government land to Tan Yu, and he will become the President of Asia World Canada and use his influence to develop properties. The only problem is it is all highly illegal.
Faye arrives back in Vancouver with Tan Yu and his entourage after throwing a hectic wedding for his son at his castle in Manila that would rival Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding. The deal is signed in the wee hours of the morning in a room in the Bayshore Hotel in downtown Vancouver but not until the Premier and his wife spend time on the balcony trying to not be seen by a busboy bringing dinner. After exchanging a brown paper bag full of 100 dollar bills, as a sign of good faith, the deal is finalized for 14 million dollars U.S. Faye has not received one penny of commission money for all her efforts, which started out a 2 million dollars but the Premier manages to weasel down to 1.5 million. He assures her she will get her money when he gets his money.
Tan Yu has a list of things he wants the Premier to do before his daughter arrives to publicly sign the deal. One is an official luncheon at Government House in Victoria with the Governor-General, David Lamm, who just happens to be an old friend of Faye’s. The hijinks continue when his daughter arrives, and their entourage is chased to the ferry to take them to Victoria by a bunch of newspaper photographers and reporters who smell a good story. Back in Vancouver, the next day, the Premier personally chauffeurs Tan Yu and Faye around, showing him government property he can get off the books and sell to him at a reduced rate, all to the delight of Tan Yu.
Long story short, the lawyers for the Premier try to scuttle the deal seeing problems down the road for the party, the Premier gets found out for his evil deeds and is forced to resign, and the R.C.M.P. bring criminal charges against him for using his public office for his private gain and call Faye as the crown’s star witness. After much courtroom antics designed to get the Premier off, he is found not guilty, and Faye is made to look like the scapegoat, having coerced the Premier into using his office to sell his theme park. The sad part is she loses her house, her savings and has several unfounded lawsuits against her to make her look like an irreputable businesswoman. She is tied up in court for the next couple of years until 1993 when China reopens its doors after the fallout from Tiananmen Square. They jump at the chance to leave their problems behind and go back out on the road for what will be their last road trip together. Upon returning home before Christmas, they are dancing the Blue Danube at the Top of the Hotel Vancouver when Dean suffers a heart attack and dies in her arms.
The fun part of this book is when we see inside Faye’s mind, and watch her try to rationalize her reasons for doing things; how she deals with discrimination, starting as a young girl, taboos and falling in love. We see how she learns to be the centre of attention and draws people to her as her personality grows when she is still a teenager. Every writer wishes for a character like Faye in one of his books, who is larger-than-life and always thinking grand ideas and always unpredictable. What goes on in Faye’s head is the glue that holds the stories together and drives the narrative, and makes her in this book a three-dimensional character.
Chris Best grew up in Vancouver in the ‘50s,’60s and ‘70s. He was in college in ’69 at the height of the Vietnam War with all the crazy things that were happening in the world at that time and remembers them all vividly. When not in college he was living the hippie lifestyle and playing in a band to support himself. He spent the summers of ’66, ’68 and ’70 travelling around Europe in a bus playing in a band so he knows all about road trips. He loves writing character-driven epics about Vancouver in this period which is when Faye and her husband Dean had their greatest triumphs so this book fits his expertise and interests well. Mr. Best went on to become a music educator in the public and private schools of Canada and has written several books on musical subjects. Most recently he has been working with public school music programs in Metro Vancouver developing books on their programs for his foundation, The Arthur W. Delamont Foundation which supports public school music programs everywhere. He has also written several books on native artists on the west coast and in Alaska. Mr. Best has written some twenty books in all which can be found online at Warfleet Press. (Check out the new cover)
Join us for a hilarious road trip to the millennium and beyond with Faye and Dean Leung, Chris Best, Peter C. Newman and a cast of characters you all know but may have forgotten Premier Vander Zalm and Lillian, Grace McCarthy, Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark, Bob Rennie, Bill Rathie, Art Phillips, Li Kai Shing, Tan Yu, David Lam, Gordon Campbell and many more. If you liked the sixties movie It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World then you will love this one because it’s the same only set in Vancouver, California and the Orient with cameo appearances by Peter Lawford, Glenn Ford, Jack Lemon, Tony Curtis and Billy Wilder. You will learn a lot as well about immigration, banking, housing, education and politics in B.C. Mr. Newman knows what she did and that’s why he agreed to write the Foreword.
The 20th century saw the Holocaust, the start of commercial air travel, the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War, the space race, the Civil Rights Movement, the Cultural Revolution and the end of Communism in Europe and they all form the backdrop to the greatest road trip ever under taken by a lady and her husband who had her feet firmly planted in two countries Canada and China and who very early recognized the potential of the emerging Pacific Rim countries and especially China long before the Canadian establishment and the world realized that China was becoming the world’s largest economy. To pre-order this book which will be out soon, please go to the website below and leave a message after the synopsis at the end.
Chapter 3 – Our Struggles!
To bring our people into the new world
“An opportunity was knocking on my door KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK and I wanted to be a part of it, a big part of it, so I taught myself how to do it. I built affordable houses: big, small, medium, red, brown, beige, I didn’t care. I developed them all over Greater Vancouver, except in Coquitlam and Maple Ridge because no one was doing it out there yet. All of a sudden, it was one-stop shopping. I would sell the property (usually to a family in those days), make a contract they could understand, hire the best builder, get a mortgage, (at a reasonable rate with TD or Prudential), employ the best tradesmen, set up an account for the client, record the finances and hope it all worked out in the end which it usually did. I was building houses, and I got my hands into everything. No one told me how to do it. Well, they may have tried, but I never listened to them. You could always find someone willing to tell you anything.
Then, as quickly as it started, it finishes. Then come the roses, the gardenias, and the chrysanthemums and tulips; then brilliant sunlight, shining through the rain and happy people smiling from head to toe as they take possession of their new homes. That’s when I truly realize I am in the housing business. Vancouver has Grouse Mountain; it has land, it has space, it has parks, it has water; it has trees. What I was in the middle of wasn’t even mentioned on the radio. There was one construction site after another as far as the eye could see. Tiny houses all lined up in a row costing under $100,000. We were all in the middle of a wild new thing, a building boom the likes of which Vancouver had never seen. Arthur Erickson, Geoffrey Massey, Fred Hollingsworth, Ned Pratt, Bing Thom and the toughest of them all, one of the fastest builders in Vancouver history – me! Faye Leung!
My first big project was developing the Canadian Pacific Railway land around Oakridge. CPR had decided,
“We’re going to subdivide our large parcel of land extending from Cambie Street to Oak Street and from 41st Avenue to 49th Avenue.” There were stories about how every day in the early 1960s I would be down at City Hall getting a building permit. That’s probably a fable because there were so many down there getting building permits that it would have been hard to pick me out. David Shepherd, CPR’s manager who was in charge of the sale and his wife, became excellent friends with us over the years.
“Which properties do you want?” David would ask. I would tell him the ones I wanted and get to work. It was me specifically though who was responsible for developing ninety percent of the land at Oakridge.
It was a family affair. Dean did the sketches, my brother Ken drew up the plans and (in addition to my other roles), I did the décor. You have to remember, in 1960, it was just us. All the other developers had millions behind them. We took them all on. It was never a question of would we succeed. It was a question of whether we could finance it all. We were like Robin Hood or Jesse James. Every time we built a house in Kitsilano, Oakridge, Fraserview, Mount Pleasant or where ever, people would say:
“Thanks for building our custom house. Because you locked our mortgage in for thirty years at six percent, the problems with interest rates that came afterward didn’t affect us.” (Remember the 20 percent interest rates of the early 1980s?) We were doing it for the little guy. We built houses down to Marine Drive even though that wasn’t CPR land. We negotiated each of those units separately. We were building all over the place. It was a busy and exciting time.
I developed a lot of houses. Then, about 1962, people began to ask,
“Where is Faye Leung?” The little guy on the street knew (10). They say she’s gone into the banking business, was the word around Chinatown. For me now, to ever go into another line of work would have been completely insane. I was doing so well in the housing business. Besides that, I already had other interests – insurance, real estate sales. But the little guy on the street said, “It’s in her blood.” He says, “She’s like a knight in shining armor, galloping off over the hill to help us all live a better, more prosperous life. I can see her now leading the peasants on a white horse.” It was the 1960s, and anything was possible.
Chapter 3 – Excerpt 2
In the early 1960s there were no Koreans, Malaysians, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Cambodians, Africans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Caribe’s, Brazilians, Panamanians, Pakastanis or East Indians in any number to speak of in Vancouver. Go visit your neighborhoods you smug types, Point Grey – mostly English, Kitsilano – beach bums and later hippies, Fairview , Mount Pleasant, Fraserview, South Vancouver – middle class, New Westminster – English and Scots, North Vancouver – those who can’t afford to live in West Vancouver, West Vancouver – CEOs and bosses. Do you really think things can’t change? Your safe now but there is a big world out there, itching to come in and take possession of their new home. Do you think the Lion’s Gate Bridge will keep them out of West Vancouver when they come, The Second Narrows Bridge or the Patullo Bridge or the Oak Street Bridge? It sounds like it is going to be Fort Apache/The Bronx all over again. You may have lots of money to insulate yourself but when they start to come you won’t even see them at first. The THIRD WORLD is perched on your doorstep just waiting to be invited over.
You and the mayor and the city council and the police may all belong to the same fraternity – white anglo-saxon – and be part of the establishment but when things change and they will change, that will change too. They will infiltrate your lives, look after your kids, care for your sick, sell your houses, buy your insurance, sell your stocks and invest in your schemes. They will see your weaknesses and take advantage of them. Soon they will be running for mayor, for city council, for MLAs and MPs even though they don’t have any qualifications other than their ethnicity. One may one day run for the highest office in the land but they don’t really need to if they control the office with their own people. They may even be asked by some foreign government to do their bidding out of some sense of divine allegiance or mind control.
Your world is changing and it is not a matter of will it but a matter of when. You can’t keep Vancouver to yourself like your own personal Monopoly game. The time will come when you won’t be able to afford to build a house again in Greater Vancouver, let alone buy property. You won’t get any second chance or get out of jail free card. You won’t have enough money, unlike everyone coming in and you will have to move further up the valley. Your kids will be last on the list to get into the universities. You won’t any longer be a member of the establishment, you will be in the minority and then you will know how it feels.
This is how it all started!
“You know, you’re not doing any business with China,” I told Charlie O’Hara while I was waiting to see J.D. Wilson. “You’re missing out.” He didn’t care, so I went on in to see J.D. “You’re missing out on a lot more business. We can make a lot more money for your trust company if we go to Hong Kong and let them know you’re doing daily interest calculations. They only know of the bank’s quarterly interest on the minimum. Why don’t we help the people and the company at the same time?” I got Jack listening. He then talked to Allyn Taylor. Allyn thought we were nuts and ignored us.
“Never mind we’ll figure something out,” J.D. said to me.
By mid-April 1964, people were again asking,
“Where are Dean and Faye? We hadn’t been seen through the window in our office for quite some time. The little guy on the street knew, “They might have gone to Hong Kong,” were their direct words. Moved to Hong Kong, the establishment hoped? No, not moved. For us now, to ever move to another country would be completely insane. We were doing too well in the banking business. Besides, we had other business interests here – insurance, realty and housing. But the little guy on the street said,
“It’s in their blood.” He says, “Their like knights in shining armor, galloping off over the hill to help their people live a better, more prosperous life, wherever that might take them. I can see them now leading the peasants on white horses down the Yangtze River.”
A week earlier, we had hopped on a plane and headed for Hong Kong. It was to be one of the most successful trips we ever made. Canada Trust didn’t offer us a cent of backing. We had to pay for the trip ourselves, and for that reason we accomplished a lot in a very brief time. We were willing to take risks. We went to establish the very first business relationship between a Canadian trust company and an overseas bank.
Chapter 3 – Excerpt 3 – Simon Fraser Gardens
* OUR SECOND BIG DEVELOPMENT WAS BELOW SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY-the action was starting to head over towards the new university. Pretty soon everybody would be there and the cars would be bumper to bumper out to Burnaby Mountain. Up on top of the hill, the university became known as the Home of the Hippies just after it was built due to some radical professors in the Political Science Department who aligned themselves with similar radicals at the University of Berkeley near San Francisco. The antiwar movement moved across the border and draft dodgers moved to northern Canada to avoid the draft. Vancouver was known as Berkeley North in those days and Fourth Avenue was where the hippies hung out in Vancouver around fourth and arbutus. But down below SFU, things were booming. Burnaby was growing by leaps and bounds and we wanted to be a part of it. Thousands of kids were commuting to the university daily and it wouldn’t be long before the land between there and downtown Vancouver was all developed, we just knew it was coming!
We called our new subdivision, Simon Fraser Gardens. We’re still talking 1966. The land at the time was fourteen acres of raw, undeveloped land, with no amenities at all. It was in Burnaby at Government and Piper Street. We named it after Simon Fraser University. Later we named one of the streets Vanson Street, in honor of our son. We did all the groundwork ourselves: the sewer and all the wiring (which all had to go underground because of a new Burnaby bylaw).
Again, the whole family got involved.
“This one should be lots of fun,” I said to Dean in our Pender Street office. “Wally can do the underground work with his engineering company.” Wally had two companies and was doing well. His engineering company was on Norland Street in a new Burnaby Industrial Park. His Arthon Construction Company was also in Burnaby and was the first to do underground work for subdivisions. “There sure are a lot of empty acreages out here in Burnaby,” I said to Dean. Burnaby as yet was largely undeveloped. My brother Ken artistically drew up all the house plans. They were unique and beautiful. “As usual,” I said, “I’ll do the interior design and décor.” I added convenient household cabinets. Dean did the other work. B.C. Tel introduced a variety of telephones for our project just like they had done in our home. They were all single family homes. “We’ll keep these, as well, all under 100,000 dollars,” I said. I hired several builders because it was a BIG project.
“Thanks for building my custom built home,” people still say to me when they see me. Our aim was always to build comfortable homes and of good quality so that everyone could have a pleasant and affordable place to live.
Chapter 3 – Excerpt 4 – Chinatown Lion’s Club
THAT’S GOOD THINKING THERE, BENNY. Benny Patinsky was a Jew and he owned Patinsky’s Jewellers at 144 E. Pender Street. Don’t rouse the bastards. Lie low. Benny is upset because the local Lion’s Club in Vancouver won’t let him join because he is Jewish. Sitting in the back seat of a car parked in front of the Vancouver Lion’s Club in downtown Vancouver with Benny is Al Segal. Al owns Segal’s Furniture and he can’t join the Lions Club either, for the same reason. At the wheel is another jeweler Richard Mar. Richard’s shop is located at 122 E. Pender Street and he too can’t join the local Vancouver Lion’s Club. Harvey Lowe is sitting next to Richard in the front seat.
Along comes a typical uptown business man, briefcase and all, shoes shined – what are all these Jews and Chinese doing parked here – Richard hits the pedal and their car streams off…. Soon every cop in downtown Vancouver will know they were here.
There is another man in the back seat, Richard D. Wong. Richard is the manager of the prominent Bamboo Terrace Restaurant at 100 E. Pender Street in the heart of Chinatown. Richard is a successful restaurateur and the Bamboo Terrace is one of the two most popular restaurants in Chinatown.
They talk it over and Benny and Al decide to call a meeting of all of the above and a few others, on the second floor of the Bamboo Terrace. When their car arrives at the Bamboo Terrace, Benny heads up the stairs first, Al follows closely behind him, George goes into the restaurant to call Tim Louie before heading up to the second floor and Harvey goes across the street to get Dean. – together – these men form the very first chapter of the Chinatown Lion’s Club in 1956, nothing special – something that would start to happen over and over again in the new Chinatown of the late 1950s and 1960s but it would mess up the minds of the white establishment for a while until some lady began inviting them down to see what was going on for themselves, a few short years later.
Chapter 3 – Excerpt – 5 – Doug Jung
In those days, when something happened in the Chinese community it was always significant, never an accident. Everybody’s life was significant. Everybody was alert and watching for the meaning of it all. Doug Jung became Canada’s first Chinese Member of Parliament, MP in 1957. He was by then also a WWII veteran. He was sent to the United Nations in New York by Prime Minister Diefenbaker. A page boy when he saw this Chinese man, came up to Doug Jung and said,
“This seat is reserved for the Canadian delegate.” Doug Jung replied,
“I am the Canadian delegate!”
It was a parable of life for the Chinese in those days. If you were Chinese you couldn’t be considered part of the establishment. Even as far away as New York City, you were still considered second class. Didn’t matter if you were Chinese, a Jew, East Indian or what, you were still considered one of them by those with an over-size golf ball on top of their clothes. They don’t even think about it – it’s just the way the world was and they kept coming at you. The incident was a symbol of fuck-you! Everyone was picking up on these details and blowing them out of proportion in those days as if they were trying to maintain the status quo. It was all so phony but it made them feel important.
Chapter 3 – Excerpt – 6 – Diefenbaker
My fantasy of bringing interesting people into Chinatown to help it prosper would last a lifetime. The most interesting people in the country to me at the time and still are is not the writers or the intellectuals but have always been the politicians. Politicians can make things change for the better. This was before politicians became movie stars and they weren’t as concerned about their public image as they later would be. No one was concerned with photo opportunities for the sake of publicity. Most of them were good old boys. The most interesting ones were from the Canadian heartland. Old fashioned, down-to-earth, even a bit awkward in public but they always had the interest of the little guy in mind.
There were all sorts of politicians. There were civic politicians, regional politicians, provincial politicians and then there were politicians that had the good of the whole country in mind. They were the most interesting ones. If we could get one of them to come to Chinatown and see what we have to offer, maybe we could put Chinatown on the superhighway to prosperity even quicker than even I imagined.
The first prime minister to visit Chinatown was Diefenbaker. Doug Jung came to Chinatown in 1963 as a Conservative candidate up for re-election but he had made a big mistake. All the Vets had rallied and elected him as their MP in 1957. In 1963, the Jung Association put on a dinner to honor him in Chinatown. He was so snobbish that he didn’t show up. He offended everyone. The banquet was at Ming’s Restaurant for about 300 people and even Diefenbaker came. There was sure a lot of straight talk going on that evening. Diefenbaker was in the centre of the head table. Dean was the Master of Ceremonies. At the head table, were Diefenbaker and myself on one side and Dean on the other because, Dean had to read his speech in Chinese.
When Diefenbaker stood up to speak, he was so tall that his hand was right in front of my eyebrow, shaking away. MY GOD! I exclaimed. He was trying to help Doug Jung get re-elected. I didn’t dare move. Not all the Chinese people voted for him the second time. The first time everyone was excited when he won. I remember, my father came in the front door and threw his hat across the room he was so happy because Jung was the first Chinese MP ever to get elected.