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Mary Laura Wong

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.

Salmon Arm, British Columbia


Second World War
Mary Laura Wong

Table of contents

  1. Video
  2. Where they participated


HTML5 Transcript/Captions

[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.

[Larry] Why did you join the army?

[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 uh 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.

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.

[Larry] Laura 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 um 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 uh...

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.

Mary Laura Wong and two friends holding their Canadian citizenship certificates

Where they participated

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