Mary Laura Wong
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Mary Laura Wong (Mah) enlisted with the CWAC (Canadian Women's Army Corps) in Vancouver, British Columbia where she was employed as a teletype keyboard operator. « View Transcript
Larry Wong (Interviewer)
Mary Laura Mah was born in Salmon Arm,. B.C. and enlisted in Vancouver. Assigned to the army barracks that occupied the old Hotel Vancouver, she worked as a teletype operator.
Mary Laura Wong (Interviewee)
I had a dream that I should join the forces. I wanted the Air Force but the Air Force had their quota of women. And I didn't want the Navy 'cause I couldn't stand black stockings in those days. (Laughs) So, I joined the Army and when I went down to join the Army the fellow said to me, "You're too young, you're not 18." So I said to him, "I'll be back tomorrow with my birth certificate," and he couldn't believe that I was 19. So anyways, I came out, they sent me out here to... Kitchener was the basic training, because they had just closed the one in Alberta, so I came out to Kitchener for basic training. And after basic training they sent me on a clerk's course there. And after the clerk, after that course was over the staff sergeant said to me, "I want you to be a teacher." I says, "A teacher?" "Yes I want... you're very good," she says, "I want you to teach typing." Oh no, no, no, not me. I says, can you see me, little me, standing up there teaching all these adults? She says to me (laughs), "It's not your size, it's what you have up here," and I laughed. Anyways, it fell through and I got sent to Vancouver, and I was stationed at Vancouver in the old Hotel Vancouver. I was with the Royal Canadian Signal Corps there.
Yeah and you... what did you do at the unit?
I was a... a teletype operator, and... and because we worked shift work we had the 14th floor of the old Hotel Vancouver, and except one end was used for sick bay.
So you didn't stay overnight at the hotel?
Yes, yes. We lived there.
Ah, you did.
Yes, we had our... our meals, everything and the cooks. When we had to work the midnight shift, midnight to eight, the cooks would cook a special meal for us at for 11 o'clock before we went on duty. And I'm afraid I was very spoiled there (laughs). They'd say, "Laura, I've got something special for you," and in the candy department they knew I liked Cherry Blossoms, so when the Cherry Blossoms came in the fellow there would say to me, "Laura, I've got Cherry Blossoms for you (laughs)." So I would sometimes... he would let me buy enough for all the girls in... that were... in the Signal Corps.
Were you the only Chinese woman in the Vancouver barracks?
Yes, yes, yes.
How did it feel at that time?
Wonderful, I had a wonderful time.
You did eh?
Everybody was very friendly and kind and good to me, yeah.
You didn't encounter any racial discrimination?
No, no racial discrimination of any kind.
And did you by any chance work on any secret documents or anything like that?
Oh well, we used to have these Colonels and the higher-ups come in and... and we... I would be on the Ottawa machine and they would dictate to me and I would teletype for them and... and they... we'd wait for the answer and then he would. I guess it was about a half an hour I was with them. Yeah.
After the war, Mary was chosen as one of the first three Chinese-Canadian women to receive her Canadian citizenship in February 1947.
Did you Know?
Did you know that Mary Laura Wong was among the first Chinese-Canadians to receive her Canadian citizenship along with two other Chinese women and five Chinese men, in a special ceremony in Vancouver?
Copyright to Produce
Interviewee: Mary Laura Wong
Table of Contents
- John Ko Bong member of Operation Oblivion
- Mary Ko Bong an instrument mechanic
- Neill Chan deciphered communications
- Paul Chan served in the Second World War
- Roy Chan served in the Second World War
- Bill Chong served as Agent 50...
- George Chow trained as a gunner
- Marshall Chow a wireless operator
- Douglas Jung represented CA at UN
- Daniel Lee an aircraft mechanic
- Peggy Lee served in the home front
- Alex Louie trained in India to parachute
- Albert Mah flew 420 return trips from...
- Cedric Mah a pioneering bush pilot
- Roy Mah a pillar of the community
- Gordie Quan full military career
- Andrew Wong in US Merchant Marines
- Frank Wong in Holland for the liberation
- Henry Albert (Hank) Wong
- Larry Wong in Newfoundland Regiment
- Mary Laura Wong (Mah) a teletype operator
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