I received one of those “great to get” comments last evening from a Jack Chong:
thanks for the insight and story of my grandfather, PY Chong, so long ago.
It was in response to one of the entries containing my dad’s recollections of early Honolulu restrauteur, P.Y. Chong, and it prompted me to take another quick look back.
Down the left side, apparently in Chong’s handwriting:
“There is but one Belly God and you are his prophet.”
Click on Chong’s picture to see a larger version, as well as a couple of other photos, including one of Chong’s original Lau Yee Chai Restaurant at the corner of Kuhio and Kalakaua in Waikiki, which opened in 1929.
According to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program Blog:
Lau Yee Chai was built in 1929 by Chong Pang Yat, and its elaborate, classical Chinese architecture stood out in the Waikiki landscape, effectively attracting mainland tourists to its door. The original landmark restaurant featured a moon gate entryway, fishpond filled with carp, waterfalls, and a rock garden. Some of the art work remains at the current restaurant in Waikiki.
Lau Yee Chai was a place for locals to dine at on special occasions. P. Y. Chong, the original owner and chef, was quite a businessman and marketed the restaurant widely by promoting himself with Creole pidgin slogans such as “Me, P.Y. Chong!” on radio and newspapers.
I found one of those newspaper ads described in a 1933 academic journal article, “Pidgin in Hawaii,” (in American Speech, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1933).
Me–P.Y. Chong plenty smile any time now. Anybody too muchee kokua Me–P.Y. Chong new chop sui lestlunt fix up Hotel Street between Nuuanu and Smith. Too many person come Hotel Stleet Lau Yee Chai, catches Me–P.Y. Chong Numbeh One kaukau lunch time, dinneh time, afteh-theateh supper time, any time catchem.
Disee new Lau Yee Chai chop sui place no so hard to find, Chinee red and Chinee jade paint all oven. Numbeh One lestlunt, no so muchee money cost kaukau. You come look see, eh?
My–P.Y. Chong tank you so muchee.
And the author commented: “Everybody understands this advertisement and reads it with greater interest than if it had been written in the purest English.”
I found another story in my dad’s notes and wrote about it back in 2008, soon after he was hospitalized and then moved into a McCully nursing home. This is the story Chong’s grandson had seen. I’m reprinting it here.
P.Y. Chong, who was the owner of Lau Yee Chai in Waikiki, Hawaii’s most popular Chinese restaurant, wanted to do his part for the men in the service of their country.
We designed, supplied and set up a steak house located where the Ilikai Hotel now stands. P.Y. was a great host. Trailer Mercer of the Star-Bulletin’s advertising department prepared a lot of his ads, all featuring “Me PY Chong Number One China Cook!”
P.Y. was a friend of all and had his steak house broiling steaks in his charcoal broiler into the wee hours.
At one time he had trouble getting meat so located several small calfs that he had grazing behind the steak house. When the Board of Health heard the report, he was instructed to have them removed.
P.Y. and I loaded them in our flatbed truck with the side gates up for the trip to Woodlawn where he owned property. With P.Y. sitting along side me early on a Sunday morning with the cows mooing, we cruised the quiet residential Manoa area en route to Woodlawn Meadows.
Later in life he was swindled and had to file bankruptcy. He was down and out–he owed us a few dollars but even tho broke, gave us the balance that was due on his account. In my sixty six years in business, that Chinese gentleman is the only person who ever showed that kind of gratitude.