Since the mid-1800s, there has been a significant Chinese presence in the Central Okanagan Valley. Chinese men patiently panned for gold on Mission Creek, often finding precious ore which earlier miners had missed.
Â In 1892, Kelowna's townsite was established. By the early 1900s, Kelowna had a Chinatown, stretching along Leon Avenue, between Abbott and Water streets. There were also some buildings on the north side of Eli Avenue ( now Harvey Avenue). Chinese men and women set up their own community, consisting of small residences, businesses, and facilities and clubs where local Chinese assembled.
Eventually, Kelowna's Chinatown included several hundred inhabitants, most of them male and virtually all isolated from the larger predominantly white community. Residents and activities in Chinatown were generally ignored by the larger community and details about early Chinese residents are therefore very scarce.
One notable exception is Lum Lock. Â According to information provided by Lum Lock's granddaughter, Cecily Meilan Lam, Lum Lock was born in Sun Wui Kwantung, China. The exact date of his birth is not known, although it was probably around 1860. Lum - he also was known as Lam - Lock came to Canada as a young man, and Â worked as a gold miner in British Columbia's Cariboo District before coming to Kelowna about 1893. Â
He grew tobacco in Benvoulin, then moved into town and established a store at the present-day corner of Abbott Street and Harvey Avenue - for many years the location of The City Park Cafe, also known as "Quongs". (Currently this is the site of the Prestige Inn.) Lum Lock's business prospered, and he became a leading member of the local Chinese community.
The Nov. 21, 1907 edition of The Kelowna Courier and Okanagan Orchardist reported: Lum Lock, one of the magnates of the Chinese quarter, returned from the Coast last Thursday withâ€¦(a) bride who is said to be the daughter of a rich merchant and is a native of B.C.
Cecily Meilan Lam provided information about her grandmother Quon Ho. Lum Lock's bride was not born in British Columbia, but in Shanghai. Her father was a general in the Chinese army, and it has been suggested that Quon Ho, then only 11 or 12 years old, was sent from China for her safety. She arrived in Victoria Dec. 27, 1903, on board The Empress of Japan, and lived with the Lee Tai family, who operated a shop in Victoria. Through this family, Quon Ho met and eventually married Lum Lock.
When Lum Lock and his new bride arrived in Kelowna, there was much excitement in the Chinese population, since there were very few Chinese women in Kelowna. Quon Ho was one of the first Chinese brides to take up residence in Kelowna. As was the custom, the happy bridegroom distributed gifts to his friends, to celebrate this special occasion. Lum Lock and Quon Ho had four children - all born in Kelowna. Their first child, a daughter, died at birth in 1908. Three sons were then born to Lum Lock and Quon Ho:
- Frank Lock Lam was born July 8, 1909, and died in Vancouver April 7, 1968.
- George Lum was born July 14, 1911, and Â died in Vancouver July 20, 2008.
- Christmas Lock Harry Lam was born Dec. 25, 1913, and died in Vancouver April 9, 1965.
In the 31st Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, page 46, Ettie (Clement) Adam wrote the following:Â Â Â Â Â Â
The leader of their (Chinese) community was a man named Lum Lock. Lum Lock had a wife and three small boys of whom he was very proud. On special occasions, the boys were dressed in suits of Chinese red silk with red skull caps to complete their outfits and they were very cute.
In his later years, Lum Lock always claimed to be 105 years old. We suspected this was because old age was highly venerated by the Chinese.
Ettie Clement's family lived on the south side of Eli Avenue, across from Kelowna's Chinatown. As a child she came to know many of the residents of Chinatown.
In March 1911, Kelowna's Chinese population hosted a very important visitor, Dr. Sun Yat Sen (1866-1925), soon to be the first President of the Republic of China. Dr. Sun Yat Sen visited several communities in British Columbia, updating the local Chinese of developments in their distant homeland. In Kelowna's Chinatown, celebrations were held in honour of his visit, including a parade. As one of Kelowna's leading Chinese residents, Lum Lock had a place of honour in the parade, proudly riding a white steed.
Robert Michael Hayes is a lifelong resident of Kelowna and a descendant of the pioneer Whelan and Clement families. He is a life member of the Okanagan Historical Society. This article is part of a series submitted by the Kelowna Branch, O.H.S . Additional information would be welcome at P.O. Box 22105, Capri P.O.,Kelowna, B.C. V1Y 9N9.