10134 97 Street, Edmonton
Later known as Hong Tai Café & Company Merchants, Canton Café, and Yat Sun Compan.
Hong Tei & Company Merchants conducted its business in this building located at 150 Namayo Avenue in 1909-1911. In 1912 the business became Hong Tai Café & Co. Merchants. A year later the building was co-occupied with Canton Café; the café was there until 1917. The building was listed in Henderson’s Directory as vacant from 1919 to 1930 and again from 1935 to 1947. The directory simply noted “Chinese” on this address from 1932-1934. In 1950, the premises was occupied by Yat Sun Company.
A few details of the business and building can be extracted from an Edmonton Bulletin article dated July 1, 1914. In a court hearing against Mah Tong Chong, who was the manager of the Hong Tai & Company store, it was revealed that besides the store in the premises Hong Tai also sublets to a restaurant, which would have been the Canton Café, and rooms upstairs to other Chinese. This is evidence that the premises were a two-storey building. However, the newspaper reported that the store was on 156 Namayo Avenue, while Henderson’s Directory listed it as 150 Namayo Avenue. It is highly plausible that the reporter had the wrong business, because at that time there was another general merchants business called Hong Tai Chong & Company General Merchants located two doors away at 156 Namayo or 10138 97 Street.
Mah Tong Chong was in court on Canada Day in 1914 over papers seized by the police on a Saturday midnight raid in his premises. They contained statements of gambling profits from November 1913 to May 1914, which Mah Tong Chong claimed to be records of private loans made by the business. He further claimed that he had never seen them before, and that they could have belonged to previous businesses that were in these premises. When asked if he belonged to lottery companies, he replied that he used to have shares with some but not anymore. The last share he had was in Wing Lee’s company—about six or seven months prior. The records seized by the police showed five lottery companies running at 156 Namayo Avenue.
In the shop of Hong Tai & Company was a salesman for the shop named Yee Hop, who was there for 2 months. Before Yee Hop was a Chinese employee named Jo Chung who did miscellaneous work in the store and was paid $5 a week, before he quit on June 7. Mah Tong Chong told the court that he had paid Pong Yuen and Pong Jo Chong money and records of payments were written in two books kept for each one. Pong Yuen was paid $25 (for services rendered) to act as interpreter for Mah Tong Chong in a police court once. The court received statements from other witnesses (Charlie Mah Tee and Mah Giu that Pong Yuen and Pong Jo Chong were the same person, and was known as the Chinese “fixer”. They contradicted the information from the manager of Hong Tai & Company. Mah Goon Doon, who worked in a laundry, was asked by the judge if he ever worked for the Hi Ong Chong or knew what it is and he responded in the negative to both questions. But he had heard of it and he thought it was a person’s name in Victoria. He claimed that he never had anything to do with lotteries in Edmonton. He went to Hong Tai & Company several times when he was free from work. He vehemently stated that he went to the grocery store to read the newspapers. After he was warned to tell the truth he admitted that he used to gamble there. The only game he played was dominoes, and he had never participated in lotteries. Mah Goon Doon knew Pong Yuen but never knew him by the name of Pong Jo Chong or a man named Pong Jo Chong and he never knew Pong Chong to work for Hong Tai & Company. Another person, Jen Chong was called and he was suspected to be the manager of Hi Ong Chong, whose job was to collect the money for Hi Ong Chong and divided the profits among the shareholders. Jen Chong denied all.
Era: The War Years
Themes: Trade & Industry
Cultural Groups: Chinese