Mary Laura Wong

This page has been archived on the Web

The Standard on Web Usability replaces this content. This content is archived because Common Look and Feel 2.0 Standards have been rescinded.

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.



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

Click image to make bigger.

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.

Larry

Yeah and you... what did you do at the unit?

Laura

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.

Larry

So you didn't stay overnight at the hotel?

Laura

Yes, yes. We lived there.

Larry

Ah, you did.

Laura

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.

Click image to make bigger.

Larry

Were you the only Chinese woman in the Vancouver barracks?

Laura

Yes, yes, yes.

Larry

How did it feel at that time?

Laura

Wonderful, I had a wonderful time.

Larry

You did eh?

Laura

Everybody was very friendly and kind and good to me, yeah.

Larry

You didn't encounter any racial discrimination?

Laura

No, no racial discrimination of any kind.

Larry

And did you by any chance work on any secret documents or anything like that?

Laura

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.

Larry

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

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Interviewee: Mary Laura Wong

Duration: 4:13

Date modified: