Video by Hawkins Media for the Chilliwack Museum and Archives
Informant: Dr. Chad Reimer, author of Chilliwack’s Chinatowns (Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia, 2011)
Location: Chilliwack, British Columbia
Dr. Chad Reimer discusses the social life of Chilliwack’s Chinatowns.
A title card saying ”Social Life” is shown with a black and white photos of the Wong Gip family, and some Chinese domestic workers.
Social life of the Chinatowns was, of course, very closed, insular. You had people coming and going all the time so it’s not like it was a static community. The social life in the Chinatowns revolved around these boarding houses and stores.
A black and white photo of some Chinese men outside a wooden building is shown, followed briefly by a black and white photo of shells.
The Chinese often didn’t understand each other because they spoke different dialects and so forth. But, you know, at least they would be able to spend time with, with, their fellows. Fun was hard to come by, and so the, you had big events where things such as Fan Tan games, which is a form of dominos for, you know, money, gambling.
A photo of a number of Chinese men playing fan tan is shown, with the text “Fan Tan: A game of chance where a banker stashes an unknown number of markers under a bowl on the table. Players then bet on the number of markers that would be left at the end of the round”.
And these could be quite raucous affairs. It was treated as “ohhh gambling” by the local officials, and basically they saw it as a way; it was a way of social control. The other thing that, that was done for recreation too was smoking opium.
A photo of an elderly Chinese man smoking an opium pipe is shown, alongside the text “Social Life” and other photos of Chinese men smoking opium.
You’d see these elderly Chinese sitting on their porches smoking, and smoking, they didn’t smoke tobacco by in large. There’s no evidence that it was on the level of addiction and so forth. They didn’t drink and so it was very much like a social, you know, like having a whiskey and so forth. Most of the Chinese would not have been literate, so reading wasn’t a big pastime. And the other thing was that, with very, very few exceptions, there were no families. By in large people who came here were, you know, men, well when they were here they were single. Many, if not most, had families in China.