1970s - 1980s

South side renovated in 1972-1975.

North side renovated in 1988-1990.

Architect of Wong's Association building renovation: Clem Lau


In 1924, six attached brick storefronts were constructed at the front of the duplexes. 

In the 1960s, the buildings continued use as residential in the rear and commercial space in the front.


Architects: Child & Wilson


+ Tell me your story. How long have you been in Chinatown?
What was Chinatown like at the time?
My grandfather came to Vancouver in 1899 on the first steam ship; he came to Calgary in 1900. He paid A LOT of head tax for himself and for a lot of people. My father was born here in 1913 on 219 4th Ave. My father shielded us from racism. It was never talked about. He was the most stoic person you can imagine… even when he was sick, he said he had no pain.

I was born in China and I had to learn Cantonese when I first came to Calgary.

To me personally, Chinatown was only this block (Canton Block) — not the block we lived on, although my sister thought differently.

Growing up here, because of the times in the 1950s, we had so much freedom. Our life was so rich, and at school we had an hour and a half of lunchtime.

DoFoo Family (from Left to right): Ernie, Dorothy, Paul, Silas in the back row, with parents Eng Ho and Luey in the chairs in front.
Photograph courtesy of Joan McFetridge (DoFoo) and the DoFoo family.

It was such a mixed population — so many Europeans and different ethnicities at school. There was definitely no racism in school; we even had a class for the hard of hearing, and a class for teens learning English. Chinese United Church was a major part of our life.

There was definitely racism that my father encountered — if you were Chinese, they called you John — a generic name. They wouldn’t call you by your name. He told me this when he was more than 100 years old; he didn’t want to talk about it, but then it started leaking out.

Kin Sang [in the Canton Block] was there in the 1950s… it was the Chinese grocery store. We would go there at lunchtime to get snacks. The men who worked there were so nice to the children. I felt that children were precious to these men because their families were in China — just walking down the street, they would say hello and hand you a coin.

In the Home Confectionary Store, fruit was free for us kids, but we had to buy our own candy in our father’s shop — we would ring it up ourselves.

Here’s a photo of Judy, Grampa, Caroline and me in outfits sewn by our mom. She was a journalist not a seamstress. And a peek at Grampa’s Christmas tree. My brother Eldon was born a couple of years later. They built a bedroom for him up in the attic. When they opened the little hatch to the attic to have a look while planning this they found a towel. Wrapped up inside were two old revolvers and some long pointy pins of some sort. They turned these items in to the police. The main house had no basement, just a dirt dugout accessed by a trap door in the pantry and a ladder. Grampa used it as a workshop. 1954.

[The two photos on the right are] Some photos of my 12th birthday party.

The first one is in the dining room. It was apparently originally the chicken coop. That was later moved to the far end of the yard for a short while. After the backyard chicken coop was gone, my grandfather had his compost and soil bins for his garden there. You can see the radio my parents brought from the broadcast station in China. It could receive from other countries… I spent hours spinning the dial seeking voices from far away. My friends pictured here are Chinese, Japanese and Caucasian. It was a very nicely integrated neighborhood. Catherine, the blonde girl at the end, still likes the salty dried preserved fruits from Chinatown. We got those treats at Kin Sang just a few doors south. The men who worked there were so kind to us. I think many of them missed their own children (and wives) who were not permitted to come to Canada. 

[In the last photo on the right] On the far left are me and sisters Caroline and Judy, all in clothes made by my mom. She would sew late at night after midnight when the store closed and the accounting was done.We are in the living room. The room was sinking and I remember sometime in the 1950’s they had it jacked up and leveled. There is a gas heater in the corner of the room. This house had no central heating so there were from what I recall 3 heaters, two on the main floor and one for the entire upstairs. 

Joan with her sisters, her mother Lillian and her father Paul. Photographs courtesy of Joan McFetridge (DoFoo) and the DoFoo family.

Captions (from left to right):
1.) We had a play area at the back of the garden. There was a swing set and a teeter totter which my grandfather built. We seemed to make a lot of molded mud pies back there too.

That’s me on the swing in a dress my mom sewed and she is sewing on the glider. Probably around 1953.

2.) Judy and Joan in the snow.

3.) Caroline, Paul, Joan and cousin Jadine goofing around. Photograph courtesy of Joan McFetridge (DoFoo) and the DoFoo family.

4.) This is in our house behind the store. This part of the building is much older than the store which was added later. My brother Eldon helping me wind yarn for knitting.  This is the living room. Lots went on in this room. There was a piano and a record player. We did a lot of singing and dancing here.

My mom would play the piano and eventually we all played musical instruments. Piano lessons were in here. We had many Reader’s Digest boxed sets of records and would sit on the sofa (which we called the Chesterfield) listening to music. We would also socialize with friends here. In later years we had a TV but were very restricted in what we were permitted to watch. Lots of creative play when we were young. My sister would make puppet theatres and shows, we played with all the cardboard apple boxes from the store making trains etc.

+ Where is the building that used to be your father’s confectionary shop? Where were the buildings you used to live in? What’s there now?
My grandparents, Luey DoFoo and Luey On purchased 310 and 312 Centre Street in 1948.

312 Centre was the Home Confectionary Store and it closed in 1984.
In 2019, it was sold to Hing Wah.

It was a rectangle built in the front of the old house [Hull’s Terrace] — which is still the same today in Hing Wah. This new addition and the old house were connected. You went to the back of the store, where there was a hallway with the telephone and storage of the pop bottles; and then there were 3 steps up and you were right in the old house.

The storefronts were already built by the time my grandfather bought the property. He bought the shop and the house in 1949. (Grandfather did NOT own the whole block — the other side has a different owner.) In the early 1970s, the owner of the other side of the building tore half of this house down. You can see as you walk down the street that only half of it is there now. The other side was occupied by a variety of businesses. The first was a tailor shop owned by a very dapper man we called “Dutch” or Oin Gung. A few men boarded there at the time. Later there was a pharmacy, barber shop and now a variety shop.

Home Confectionery store in 1970.
Photograph courtesy of Joan McFetridge (DoFoo) and the DoFoo family.
Caroline, Judy, Joan and Lilian on stairs.
Photograph courtesy of Joan McFetridge (DoFoo) and the DoFoo family.

+ What about the layout of the old house behind the shop?
In the house behind the shop:
When you walked into the entryway, we had a portable, standalone closet. Even in the bedroom, there were no closets. On one side, there was the living room and behind the living room, there was my grandpa’s room. He had everything going on in there, with a nice chair for dozing and a trunk where he kept plants.

There was a kitchen next to my grandpa’s room and in the very back, there was a dining room that was also the chicken coup (which previously was a coal shed.) 

There was a staircase. Going up, there was a bathroom with a washer and dryer in there. There were 3 bedrooms and an alcove off my parents’ bedroom where it was my mom’s sewing space. Then, there was an attic that they converted to a room for my brother.

And under only the kitchen was a dirt dugout that you accessed through a trapdoor in the pantry; this was my grandfather’s workshop where he painted things, built things… 

We always wore shoes in the house because it was so cold.

The backyard was the garden.

I wonder, how did Grandpa make anything grow when the yard was bordered by a large garage / brick wall that blocked the south sun? And there were two more billboards further down that blocked the south side.

There was a polka dot fence and a side yard that was fenced in (that is now the Hi Tea shop) — my grandpa didn’t garden this area. It was adjacent to the gas station.

Here are photos of Luey DoFoo in his garden. He made all sorts of decor for the garden. Metal flying geese, various items made from driftwood, carved sticks, painted rocks. My sister mentioned that there is an interesting phenomenon relating architecture to this garden. The entire south side sun was blocked by the brick wall of the building next door. There were also 2 huge billboards on that side. How in the world did he get things to grow so magnificently?

Captions (left to right):
1.) Our four year-old brother Eldon is in our backyard which was almost completely shaded by Texaco’s brick wall as well as a massive billboard held up by the thick wooden poles seen in the background. And yet, our grandfather planted an incredible flower garden of award-winning roses, gladiolas and other blooms in this most unlikely of places. June 1960. 
2.) Outside the fence we cleared a small and scrappy, rock-filled, weed-infested patch of ground with the store on one side and the billboard on the other, hoping to emulate the magic of our grandfather’s green thumb! Sadly, I don’t recall it being any great success. June 1960.
3 & 4.) Luey DoFoo and his rose garden.

+ And the layout of the store?
[The footprint of the store] was basically a rectangle; the front had the fruits on one side of the window (beautiful fruits that you could never get at Safeway, like big apples in pyramids. We polished every fruit and took tissues and folded them and made them a little nest. All the fruit was stacked in an artistic way, and we had to eat all the rotten ones. Apples, cherries, oranges, bananas, everything — we got them from wholesale.

In the middle of the store, there was a big cooler with water in it for pop, so you could get a nice cool pop. There were bottles of pop with an opener built in. Next to it was a freezer where you could get an ice cream cone.

You’ll see in the photos there were stacks of eggs. People would buy as many as they wanted and we’d put them in a paper bag. 

There were cold meats. We had a meat slicer and people would say “I want 5 slices of ham / baloney”… and a big wheel of cheddar cheese. We had pork chops and vegetables. Candies were actually a very small part of the shop. We sold everything — even detergent. Underneath the store was a real basement, where the extra groceries were stored.

At nighttime, we would put the grapes and more perishable fruits in the refrigerator. 


+ Who came to the shop?
The clientele was of all different ethnicities and types of people.

There were characters who patronized and hung out in the store.
I remember “Slick” (who had Down Syndrome) who hung out at the store and the gas station and the fire hall…  he was accepted into our community.


+ What was it like working in the store?
I worked in the store. Of the 4 kids, I was the only one who worked in it. As a young child, I was always hanging out in the store. It was so much fun. I loved listening to the adults talking. 

I refilled the pop and re-stocked the shelves. Starting in high school, I got paid to work in the store on Sundays so my parents would have the day off.

Our dad, Paul Dofoo, standing in front of the Home Confectionery. The summer screen door is in place, ready to let air in and keep the bugs out. It banged loud so our dad had forewarning of any customer entering the store even when he was working in the back, June 1956.

Captions (left to right):
1.) Paul DoFoo in the Home Confectionery. Everything was always stacked and arranged neatly throughout the store. Fruits were individually wrapped with tissue on the bottom and stacked in triangular rows.The wholesale would save beautiful fruits for my dad’s store. We were regularly dusting with a feather duster. My dad made signs on recycled cardboard showing the prices of things. He would do it in calligraphy and poster paint, usually with a wide flat paint brush. Beautiful little signs and sadly we don’t have any.

The store was open every day until midnight except for Christmas day which was a very special day for our family. We always invited some of the lonely men from nearby for dinner. 

2.) Lilian DoFoo behind the counter. You can see the popular candy case. So many people still remember what a treat it was to choose candies from this case. They would be put in a tiny paper bag.

Captions (left to right):
1.) The fruits were displayed in carefully constructed pyramids of apples, oranges, and grapefruits. When I was old enough, it was a job I loved doing!
June 1956.

2.) Our four-year-old brother on Centre Street beside the Texaco service station with Home Confectionery behind him. If you look carefully, you will see that there are big, bright polkadots decorating the white wooden fence beside the storefront. Our grandfather, Luey Dofoo, painted them to add some cheery and whimsical color to an otherwise rather drab stretch of service stations, car washes, tire stores and other nondescript businesses. September 1960.

3.) Cousin Kirk and Judy, both three years old, could peek from our backyard into the darkness of the Texaco garage window to see what mysterious things happened in there. Summer 1953.

+ What was on this land before this building was built, and how was the land acquired?
“By 1920 the Kee Loung confectionery occupied the unit at 310 Centre St, and in 1924, the year before Hull’s death, six attached brick storefronts were constructed in front of the duplexes. The businesses had access into the duplex units from the rear of the storefronts.” 
(The City of Calgary’s Chinatown Historical Context Paper, page 18) 

+ Do you know of any major renovations or changes to the building since it was first constructed?
The attic was added. My parents built a staircase to it and a window in it.
They also jacked up the living room in the early 1950s because it was sinking. 

+ Other Chinatown community members have fond memories of buying sweets at your family’s store. What kind of candy do you remember being sold?
My dad sold many kinds of penny candy, but never candy cigarettes as he felt that would not be appropriate for children. There was red and black licorice, double bubble gum, jawbreakers, mojos, spearmint leaves, to name a few. Candies were put into tiny paper bags as the children carefully chose. 

+ What do you think this shop meant for Chinatown?
It was a social hub. My dad spoke English, so he enabled so many people to get their pensions. My dad would fill in forms for people who didn’t speak English. My mom and dad were translators for families at the James Short school. They did a lot of work to help the people in the community. These people were really poor; but they would bring over something for us — yummy things that my mom didn’t know how to cook; like two pork buns or something…


The fruits were displayed in carefully constructed pyramids of apples, oranges, and grapefruits. When I was old enough, it was a job I loved doing! Photograph courtesy of Judy DoFoo & the DoFoo family.
Floor plan sketch of the ground floor of the Home Confectionary and the DoFoo's home behind, drawn by Joan's husband Bill McFetridge.

Link to Leonard Lee / Sien Lok Society’s Interview with Paul DoFoo.


+ Give us a little background about the Wong’s Association.
When new immigrants came [to Canada], there were language barriers and they didn’t know how to communicate with the government. Someone set up the Wong Wun Sun Association or the Wong Kar Har Association — they all represent the Wong’s descendants. These associations used to be across the street from each other.

The first building was in the Canton Block at what’s now 205 Centre Street. Many men who came at the beginning were from Guangdong province. Inside, the establishment was hotel-style with short-term housing. The association bridged the gap between the new immigrants and how they established their lives in Chinatown.

In 1967, the two associations joined together. At that time, it was in its current location here, but in just a small bungalow. In 1975, the association started collecting donations and in 1990, they renovated: making an addition (an adjoining room) and then the second story above. 

The flooring here is probably still the original hardwood underneath!

+ Tell me your story. How long have you been involved in Chinatown?
In 1976, I was 17 when I came to Montreal, Canada from Hong Kong.

My grandfather came to Canada in 1910. My grandmother was pregnant, but no women were allowed in Canada, so she borrowed money from the village for the head tax for Grandpa to come to Canada on his own.

In 1912, Grandpa remarried a French-Canadian lady and had 13 children. He sent money from time to time back to China, but it was not enough. 

In 1983, I graduated from McGill University and moved over to Calgary. The oil boom had slowed down at the time, and after 200 applications applying for jobs, I just couldn’t find any jobs. My brother Edward and I decided to establish a restaurant in Calgary Chinatown. 

In 1983 -1984, we took over the old WK Restaurant on Centre Street and changed the name to Ho Won Restaurant. In 1988, we sold the restaurant.
In 1990, I joined the Wong’s Association.

+ What was Chinatown like at the time, in the early 1980s?

In the early 1980s, Chinatown was very quiet and only busy on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Most Chinese were from Hong Kong and mainland China. The languages were mainly Cantonese and Taishanese, and you hardly heard any Mandarin.

Things changed after 1997 — more immigrants from mainland China came to Calgary becauge Calgary was full of oil and gas companies.

+ Who are the current users of the Wong’s Association building?
In 1990, there were over 500 members. Now, there are around 200 members. 

+ What was on this land before this building was built?
How was the land acquired?
The association bought the existing bungalow and when the extension was built in 1990, loans were taken from Hong Kong Wong’s Association.

+ Do you know of any major renovations or changes to the building since it was first constructed?
1990 was the big renovation. Since the facade was old and in need of repair, the renovation began in 1989 and completed in 1990. In early 1993, an extension was built at the rear.

+ How do you think the Wong’s Association is important to the Calgary Chinatown community? Do you connect with other associations?
As these earlier immigrants get older and the generation gap gets wider, more elderly people come to Chinatown to look for their friends and to play mahjong. Seniors love Chinatown and the association becomes their favorite place to stay and to look for someone to communicate with.


Architectural drawings by Clem Lau.
Courtesy of Clem Lau & the Wong’s Affinity Association.


The Hull’s Terrace duplexes were commissioned by WR Hull and designed by Child & Wilson architects. It’s believed that the duplexes were completed around 1887. In the early 1920s, storefronts would be added, leaving the duplexes in the rear.  To the south, the lots were used as recreation spaces in the 1890s, and later on as a garage and gas station.


Photographs taken in 2020.