Stories of Chinatown

Alice Lee.jpg

Chinatown is rich in history and stories. In this blog post, we’d like to share some stories and memories of Chinatown. Introducing Alice Lee, who is a Senior Vice President at Wellesley Bank. Wellesley Bank is a partner of ACDC’s First-time Homebuyer Program.

Name: Alice Lee

Where in Chinatown did you used to live?

“My family stayed with my aunt on Tyler Street for a short time.  We then moved to a three family building on Broadway (I don’t believe the street exists today).  The building was directly adjacent to elevated Orange line train tracks, and the back of the building was across the street from the old Pine Street Inn.  We were then among the first tenants at Tai Tung Village, as the Broadway building was scheduled to be demolished.”

Elevated train running through Chinatown

Elevated train running through Chinatown

 What is your favorite memory of Chinatown?  What are some of your favorite places in Chinatown?

“I have many fond memories of growing up in Chinatown.  Maryknoll Sisters (neighbors of the old Quincy School) hold a particularly special place in my heart.  They were exceedingly kind to new immigrant children like me, who struggled with learning a new language and adjusting to a foreign culture and way of life.  I spent many after school hours being tutored by the sisters.

Another favorite memory is Kwong Kow Chinese School.  I attended when it was located on Oxford Street, with Mrs. Emily Ng as my teacher and headmistress.  Mrs. Ng was herself a recent immigrant at the time.  She instilled in her students the importance of retaining our Chinese language abilities and cultural values.  I learned from her much more than reading and writing Chinese.  After graduating from Kwong Kow, I joined an alumnae group and participated in classical Chinese dance.  We performed at numerous events including August Moon Festival and First Night.  Many of the ‘Kwong Kow Dancing Girls’ formed lifelong friendships and remain close to this day.

What I love about Chinatown is its capacity for change and inclusiveness.  When my family first arrived, Chinatown was inhabited by mostly elderly, Toisanese speaking men.  We experienced the wave of Cantonese speaking immigrants, followed by immigrants from Vietnam, and more recently, Mandarin speaking immigrants from mainland China.  Each group brought unique talents and ideas, and built new businesses.  The community’s success is possible only with willingness of existing residents and new immigrants to work together.   I’m also proud that the Chinatown community extends goodwill toward individuals other than Chinese/Asians.  Non-profits like ACDC and Asian American Civic Association (AACA) offer assistance to anyone who needs it, regardless of their ethnicity.  I think it’s an excellent way to promote and grow our community.”

The construction of Tai Tung Village in 1972.

The construction of Tai Tung Village in 1972.

 Have you or has your family benefited from affordable housing?

“My family has definitely benefited from affordable housing.  I’m almost certain the building on Broadway was owned and designated affordable housing by the BRA (Boston Redevelopment Authority).  Being the first occupants of a brand new apartment at Tai Tung was wonderful.  That was our nicest home after arriving in the U.S.  Since my parents did not have the opportunity to learn English, they had low paying jobs.  Being able to house their children in a nice apartment meant a lot to them.  They also felt comfortable among a community, including some relatives, who shared their language and culture.  Living in Boston allowed me and my siblings to attend public exam schools where we received top notch education free of charge.” 

 Thanks for sharing your story Alice! We are proud to work with you and Wellesley Bank to assist residents of Chinatown, both newcomers and long-timers. If you’d like to share your memories of Chinatown, please contact us.