Architect: Clem Lau


+ Where were the buildings you used to live in?
We first lived upstairs over the W.K. Restaurant at 209 Centre Street (where the parking lot is now). Shon Yee had one side of the building, and we had the other. There were two bigger rooms, and our family had three smaller rooms. Then we moved to 211 and 213 Centre Street, in the fourplex, which was renovated in 1947-1948 for us to move in.

We moved out by 1960 when George and I got married.

This building was demolished in the early 1980’s, around 1980-1981.
The lot was empty for quite a while.

Courtesy of the Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, Calgary Public Library. 211-217 Centre Street South, 1967.


+ What do you remember about living here?
Carol: We lived as an extended family.  There were always people around: Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, cousins. It was never dull or boring, lots of activities. We played a lot. We kids use to slide down the stairs and the banister. On some evenings, Grandma would play hymns on the piano and we would sing and dance around.

Grandma had a flower garden in front of the house. In the summer we would sit outside on the patio or the steps and watch people or cars go by. When we were really little we rode our tricycles up and down Centre Street in front of the house and Linda Mae’s. When we were a bit older, we went to the playground which was behind the church. The playground had swings, teeter-totter, a slide and in the winter it had an ice rink. 

Jasmin: Chinatown was small, safe to play in and had less people than what it is now. I only knew Chinese people in Chinatown. It was home, where grandparents and relatives gathered. There were a lot of us little cousins playing together. We used to jump down the stairs to see how high up we could jump from.

Former residents, childhood friends and neighbors: Jasmin and Carol Poon with Doug Wong

I remember the Chinese school where we went every day after “English” public school. We attended the Chinese United Church and they used to have events where we could get the “bow ties” to eat and attend kids’ dances. Paul’s convenience store was across the street and a block south, where we’d go get treats after running around picking up bottles for cash to buy candy. We used to play in the parking lots and there were a lot of stray alley cats. After lion dances, we’d pick up leftover firecrackers to play with. 

I remember going into Linda Mae’s café to make root beer floats. The gift shop had lots of knick knacks. I remember Grandma sitting in her office. The upstairs was the “fancy” restaurant where all of us kids had a non-alcoholic drink named after us.

DOWNSTAIRS: Carol Poon’s diagrammatic floor plan of the family unit at the Centre Street fourplex, drawn from memory


All Photographs courtesy of Carol Poon & the Poon family.

From left to right, starting with the top row:

1.) Jasmin Poon, Dana Lee and Carol Poon in front of the house, 1963.
2.) Stephanie Poon and Carol Poon on the front steps of the house, 1963.
3.) Carol Poon and Jasmin Poon in front of the house, 1964.
4.) Carol Poon and Dana Lee in front of the house, 1963.
5.) Carol and Jasmin Poon on the front steps of the house, 1965.
6.) Carol and Jasmin’s brother, A. John Poon inside the living room.
7.) The dining room, 1963.
8.) The doorway between the living room and the dining room, 1963.

All Photographs courtesy of Carol Poon & the Poon family.

From left to right, starting with the top row:
9.) Hallway to the front door, 1962.
10.) The kitchen door led to a narrow lane between the house and The W.K. restaurant, 1964.

11.) Outside the kitchen window was a view to the rear of the house, 1964.
12.) Dana Lee and Carol Poon, 1962. The living room had textured ceilings
13.) In the living room, a door led to the basement, 1962.
14.) Carol Poon, 1962. The living room door led to the kitchen and the dining room.
15.) Carol and Jasmin Poon, 1963. Past the living room, the hallway led to the rear bathroom and outside the house.
16.) Shirley and Carol Poon in the parlor, 1960.
17.) Carol Poon in the parlor.
18.) Stephanie, Randy and Carol Poon on the stairs that led upstairs, 1963.


+ What was life like growing up with the Poons?
We shared the fourplex with the Poon family (they lived in 211 and 213 and we lived in 215 and 217).  They were good neighbours and sometimes we would play with their kids in the backyard because there was a common area.  A lot of the kids in the neighbourhood played in the park on the West side of Centre Street along 1st Avenue (now called Riverfront Avenue). There was a swing set there and some monkey bars. In the winter, they would flood it and that’s where we would skate.  There was also a light on top of a telephone pole with a switch box mounted below so we could light up the rink at night. When we felt adventurous, we would walk down to Prince’s Island park and catch minnows which, unfortunately, didn’t survive in tap water.  There was also a baseball stadium nearby called Buffalo Stadium and a grocery store on 2nd Avenue where we would buy pop and candy. And, speaking of pop, there was a bottling company on either 3rd Avenue or 4th Avenue between Centre Street and 1st Street SW. They had windows so we could watch the bottles being filled with pop and then capped on an automated machine. 

This photo is of us 5 kids in front of our family home and was taken in July 1962. We would not meet our older sisters Mabel and Karen (who were living in Kowloon) until several years later.

From left to right:
1.) Doug Wong’s diagrammatic floorplan of the fourplex, drawn from memory in 2020.
2.) “Mom and my younger brother Peter in May 1959.” Photograph courtesy of Doug Wong and the Wong family.
3.) “This photo shows a lion dance in front of our childhood home at 215 Centre Street South.  There was smoke from the firecrackers so the quality is a bit fuzzy.” Photograph courtesy of Doug Wong and the Wong family. 


The fourplex that Jo, Carol, Jasmin and Doug lived in was demolished or gutted and re-faced in the early 1980s. It’s unknown what year the new building was built, but we do know that architect Clem Lau worked on building renovations in the 1990s. Upstairs in the U&Me restaurant, Carol, Jasmin and Doug have all recognized street views from their childhood bedroom windows. 

The U&Me Building at 233 Centre Street South, 2020.