Alice Louie-Byne (née Quon) was born in 1916 to Quon Liang and Ng Shee. When Ng Shee first arrived in Victoria, British Columbia in 1914, women were minorities in the gender-imbalanced Chinese ‘bachelor’ community. Alice says that her mother found a friend in her sister-in-law. The two women attended meetings at the Oriental Home and School, established by the Methodist Church as a refuge for young Asian women, where they learned Canadian domestic skills like crocheting and knitting.
Alice and her family moved to Calgary, Alberta, where her parents opened a restaurant. At the age of 12, she left school to work in the family’s restaurant, an industry she would remain in for many years. As a young adult, she encountered barriers to job opportunities outside of family-run businesses. While raising her children, Alice worked alongside her husband at the White Star Café and later, the family’s convenience store. She became a secretary for the Calgary school board in 1964, and later worked for the provincial government in various roles. Outside of work and family life, Alice played an instrumental role in the organization of the annual ‘Chow Mein Tea,’ a Chinese United Church fundraising event. Alice continues to reside in Calgary.
‘[W]e were making over $100 on every tea. But then, that wasn’t all pure luck.’
Alice Louie Byne describes the high degree of community involvement in Calgary’s Chinatown that allowed the Women’s auxiliary of the Chinese church to host consistently successful fundraisers. Alice details her own role in this organization.