Interview with a railway worker’s granddaughter.
My names is Chan Siu-Yin 陳小燕.
My grandfather Chan Kwok-Luk 陳国六 went to Canada to work as a railway worker in 1882.
After completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, he lived in Vancouver and visited China in 1898 to marry my grandmother. He returned to Canada afterward.
My father Chan Gum-Yau 陳金有 (aka You Hong Chin) was born in 1899, he was married at a young age and my older sister Chan Yuk-Ho 陳玉好 was born in 1916.
When he was about 20 years old, my grandmother sent him to Canada by “purchasing paper” (to assume another persons’ identity) and paid the Head Tax to look for my grandfather as they had lost contact with him.
Although he was not able to find my grandfather, he remained in Canada and returned to China to visit in 1923. I was born in 1924, the year after the Chinese Exclusion Act was introduced.
During the Exclusion period my father did go back to Toi San, China to visit us in couple occasions, but I was not reunited with him until we immigrated to Vancouver in 1973.
By that time he was residing in Maryland, USA with his new family. Apparently after working in the lumber industry in British Columbia for several years, he moved to Baltimore in 1940 to open one of the first Chinese restaurants in the city. He had become a successful and well respected businessman in the Chinese community. He was the president of the local Chinese Merchants Association for a few years.
He would come to Vancouver to visit me and his grandchildren from time to time until he passed away in 1979.
I actually did not meet my step-siblings in America until my late 70’s.
My older sister Chan Yuk-Ho moved to New York City after her marriage. She died in 2009 and she was 93.