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Title: Interview with Lillian Hong Leonard, Part 1 of 1
Date: October 1, 2009
Donor: Hong Leonard, Lillian
Subject: Childhood, China, Education, Exclusion, Family Life, Family Separation, Identity, Immigration, Work, War and War Effort
Province: Nova Scotia
Language: ENG

Hong Leonard, Lillian

Lillian Hong Leonard was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia to Charles Hong and Lim Megan Hong. Charles Hong was 12 years old when he immigrated to Canada with his father in 1923. He returned to China to marry Lim, and the couple gave birth to two daughters. Because of The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923 and subsequent immigration restrictions, Lim and her daughters remained in China until around 1954, when they immigrated to Canada. Lillian was born in 1957, two years after the family established their first laundry business on Clyde Street and Birmingham Street in Halifax. Lim worked alongside her husband in addition to cooking all the meals and looking after their three daughters. When Charles and Lim closed the doors of Hong’s Laundry in 1978 (then located on Dresden Row), it was one of the last businesses of its kind in Canada. The remaining equipment became part of the Canadian Museum of Civilization collection, and was featured in the exhibition, Enduring Hardship: The Chinese Laundry in Canada (2000).

In this interview, Lillian Hong Leonard discusses her parents’ period of separation during the Exclusion Period, her family reunification in the 1950s, and her mother Lim Megan Hong’s adjustment to life in Canada. She also speaks about her family laundry, which was the last Chinese hand laundry in Halifax, Nova Scotia when it closed in 1978.

Lillian’s parents were matched in an arranged marriage while her father Charles Hong visited China from Canada during the Exclusion Period (1923-1947). Lillian explains that Charles was able to make trips to China over the years, and the couple had two daughters. Although Lillian’s sisters later told stories of their happy an