The Fongs were one of the first Chinese clans to settle in the Maritimes. In 1902, Fong Mon Ding immigrated to Canada with his 12-year old son to set up a restaurant and laundry in Campbellton, New Brunswick. Fong Mon Ding returned to China in 1921, where he was married to Jang Mah Shee. In Campbellton, Mah Shee gave birth to fourteen children, though not all survived. A working mother, she learned English through her children, who spoke a combination of English and broken Chinese at home. In 1940, the family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Mah Shee worked the cash register at the family’s business, the popular Bon Ton Café and night club. During the war, over forty Chinese-owned restaurants flourished in Halifax’s small but thriving Chinatown, which was centered around Grafton and Granville Streets. The Bon Ton, which catered mainly to servicemen, was one of the largest war-time restaurants in the Maritimes. Dow Fong, son of Mon Ding and Mah Shee, continued to reside in Halifax at the time of his interview.
This formal studio portrait was taken in China on March 23, 1921, the day of Jang Mah Shee and Fong Mon Ding’s wedding. Shortly thereafter, the couple traveled to Canada together. It was very rare for a Chinese wife to join her husband overseas.