Chung Chuck of Ladner BC
In my last year of high school, I learned that my great grandfather Chung Chuck, played a prominent role in British Columbia history, for Chinese civil rights in Delta.
Normally people would not associate a name like Areeb Soo Yasir (formerly Jeffery Soo) with a Chinese ethnic group. So, when someone meet me for the first time, they are surprised- which is fine.
Yes, I am a Chinese Canadian and yes I am a great grand-son of the Delta Rifleman, Chung Chuck. It’s been a journey trying to piece together a family history that has splintered, documents, pictures, stories lost. Last year, my grandmother, dearest Popo (Linda Sit Ying Chung Soo) passed away. With her passing, all the stories she had gone forever. There are many questions I have that are left unanswered. It’s disheartening that there is a chance I will never have all the answers. Yet, I believe there’s a chance that I can at least grasp some of the history and stories left from the people of Ladner and Delta who remember Chuck, to my surviving family, and possibly meeting other Chung great grand-children.
I am including the obituary of my Great Grandfather (from the Vancouver Sun on December 9th, 1986). This is one of the few pieces of public information that mentions my grandmother as one of his daughter’s.
After digging down into the Ladner historical rabbit hole, I know that my grandfather was a Soo and my grandmother a Chung. I always knew my grandmother as a Soo and as my Popo (grandmother). She was also known as Linda Chung to the residents of Ladner who knew great grandpa Chuck. Some of you who knew the family, may remember his daughters and his sons. But recently I found it puzzling that non of the pictures or records on blogs named my grandma, Linda. She was indeed Chung Chuck’s daughter and for whatever reason, after great grandfather Chuck’s death in 1986, there was some level of disconnect. People get married, they change their last names, they have their own families and distance happens.
I know that I have a cousin, Cheryl Chung, but I haven’t been able to contact her yet. I’m hoping by making this blog post that someone from the Chung family tree will see and connect with me. I really do want to meet my extended family, and talk to them about their experiences and of course hear stories about great grandpa Chuck.
I don’t know all the history, but I know that I was 4 when great grandpa Chuck died, so I have no memory at all of him. Which is a sad reality for me. Because I think there are a few traits I get from him very strongly.
My sense of justice comes strongly from him- that I know for sure. If you know me personally, you know I am very proud of my Chinese heritage and I do stand against any discrimination for any group of people. I also get entrepreneurship from him, learned a lot about law in order to help my family and friends, and I am a pretty good farmer too- my blueberries died, sorry grandpa Chuck.
I wish I could talk to him today. I wish I could ask him what he has been through, the fights that he had to battle, why he decided the rifle was the best option (lol). I think we can all learn from our ancestors and our past. It would be incredible to hear stories about him.
The Infamous Potato Farmer
Here’s what I know so far.
He grew potatoes but also Christmas trees. Tree’s that were being cut down without his knowledge so he put up a sign, “Cut trees $1000” – which turned out to be a reward to catch whoever was cutting down his tree’s from the perimeter of his property. I also know, he was often seen on his rocking chair in the front porch of his house. I also heard stories that he wasn’t the best guy to his daughters- which is disheartening, since I can not imagine such a strong boisterous person having that kind of personality. I also haven’t heard any stories of complaints from my grandmother or her kids. But I also know that culture and time played a role.
My dad told me about “Cash Turkey”. My grandma would have to make a whole 17lbs turkey whenever they visited the farm. Chuck would take one whole leg and give it to my father to go down the street to give the neighbor the turkey leg and charge him for it. Basically banking on the free turkey and making a little extra cash off of it. Business sense to the max- even with family. He was generous to his grand kids, he would give $5 to each child whenever they visited- which of course, grandma took because ethnic parenting is a thing.
Another neat story I learned was his ‘orange whiskey hustle’. What’s the orange whiskey hustle- well it’s brilliant. This comes from my mom and a few others on facebook. He would send people a full whiskey bottle and some oranges. He wouldn’t charge for the whiskey but the oranges- get it? He wasn’t allowed to be selling alcohol, but he was allowed to sell oranges…so why not.
You’re probably getting the picture. He was such a character. But perhaps his most infamous story, was his “Delta Rifleman” stand off. More on that a little later. To understand that we need to understand the history that was taking place.
Roots of the Delta Rifleman
Chung Chuck and his father settled in Ladner where other Chinese migrants had moved to work in the farming and fishing industry. Like most ethnic groups who immigrated to Canada, they paid the head tax and the rights of ethnic groups were virtually non-existent. Members of the Chinese ethnic group and others faced discriminatory policies from the government and persecution among other colonial settlers of the time.
While the articles you will find from the time talk about the discrimination that immigrants of the time faced, I wanted to add that I came across a wonderful family (the Archambault’s) from Ladner who were good friends with my Great Grandpa Chuck and his family. As recounted by one of the family member’s, Gale, great grandpa had many supporters and many friends in the community- not just Chinese supporters but Caucasian supporters. Not everyone hated ‘the Chinese’, not everyone was racist. I am told the families would have dinners and were extremely close, and there were many other families in Ladner that supported my Great Grandfather and his family. Hearing this was truly encouraging and am truly grateful for their fathers friendship in that time.
In 1929 Chung Chuck bought a piece of land at the end of Westham Street(formerly the old China town, now known as 48th Avenue and converted it into a Potato Farm.
The timeline is not exactly clear but apparently in the late 1920’s local business and government officials created a scheme to put Chinese farmers out of business. This meant that him and other farmers of the Chinese ethnic group were now bootlegging and breaking the law by farming and selling their produce. The situation become so tense that Caucasian hate groups formed a physical blockade on the Fraser Street bridge to stop him from taking his product to market, and he faced numerous assaults. The blockade was eventually broken and had him named as the “Delta Rifleman” when he rode shotgun across the bridge to bring his produce to the Vancouver markets. In all honesty, that is the most badass thing I have ever heard anyone do. To challenge that hate and discrimination head on, even after being beaten so many times.
Ultimately Chung Chuck and a fellow farmer named Mah Lai challenged the discriminatory laws against Chinese farmers in Supreme Court and won. But he went down in Ladner history for it. ta his funeral, there were dozens of lawyers present from what I’m told.
He built his first home at 4756 47A Street and this is where the famous building “Chung Chuck Potato Grower” was located. The house was literally moved and relocated, but after decades, it’s gone.
Sometime in the mid 1940’s Chung Chuck built his family home by purchasing the “Maeda home” on Westham street and converted it into a family home and successful restaurant.
Eventually he built a riverfront Marina and Houseboat Moorage and provided services including water and electricity to less fortunate people. This eventually lead to a Police standoff with the City who threatened to cut off his water supply. It is reported that he was charged for pointing a rifle at police and city officials but those charges were eventually dropped when it was revealed he was simply holding a piece of wood…who knows if it was really a piece of wood.
The CBC TV Movie
Chung Chuck is known for contributing to the civil rights movement in BC and standing his ground against oppression and other hate groups and was able to succeed to despite organized movements to stop the settling, free movement and basic human rights of Chinese migrants and other ethnic groups.
I recently found out that CBC made a TV movie on his life. Which I haven’t seen but am trying to track down. I also will be making a trip to the Delta archives and City Hall to get any pictures or documents I can, so I can at least connect some pieces together for my children. I do not want them to not know where they come from, and who in our family had to go through this kind of hardship in order to make changes happen for all of us.
Like I said, I’m truly proud to be the great grand son of such an man. I feel connected to him because I feel he passed on his business sense and sense of civil justice on to me. He learned the law to defend himself and I have had to do the same for my businesses. He stood up against a system that was designed to hurt him, and I too have tried to challenge a system that tries place their racism and prejudice on me.
If you have any interesting stories about great grandpa Chuck, please leave a comment for me below!
I haven’t stopped searching for more stories, more pictures, more history. I feel very connected to great grandpa Chuck, even though I haven’t met him. I hope to meet family that can fill the missing pieces of history that I don’t have.
Here’s more interesting stuff about Chung Chuck.
Chung Chuck (Chung Mor Ping)
Born: 1897 in China, Canton Province (now known as Guandong in Southern China).
Immigrated: 1909 to Ladner, Delta BC with his father (Chinese females were not permitted to enter Canada at that time).
Married: Mary (May Lee, 1907-1969) in 1940.
Sons: Napoleon and Winch
Daughters: Frances, Joyce, Vicki and Linda
Chung Chuck’s old house in present day times on Union St in Vancouver (courtesy of Elwin Xie).