Interview conducted by Lilian Leung with Keith Lock on October 26th, 2020 (via Zoom)
Lilian Leung: So I was wondering, in terms of the First Chinatown, your family originally came here when First Chinatown was still there [in Toronto], isn’t it?
Keith Lock: Yeah, yes, so they. My grandfather came here. I’m not sure exactly when he came to Toronto, but it was in the 19th century, so the 1800s, and my grandmother came in 1909, and when she came it was so rare for a woman that she was on the front page of the Toronto Star: “Chinese woman comes to Toronto”.
So um, so that’s yes, so she came in 1909, so early 20th century.
LL: And do you know what the community was like then when your grandparents came?
KL: Well, I know it was nearly all men, as you probably know. A friend of my dad’s told me once that in the 1940s it’s a woman, Margaret Ko, that she said that at that time they started a volleyball team in Chinatown in Toronto, so there’s nine players in that type of volleyball, and to get nine girls, she said they had every girl in Chinatown and the youngest was 14 and the oldest was 26 and already married. But they had a full team. They had nine players, that was how. And the population at the time would be around 2000. So the rest were all men, or pretty well all men. There were very few families, you know.
LL: So was it an informal volleyball team between the community? Did the volleyball team have a name or anything like that?
KL: I don’t know, but I know that a game called 9-man was played in Chinatown’s in the U.S. and someone made a documentary about it, and I saw it a couple of years ago, it’s called 9-man or 9-men, I think and it’s about the States they had they had Chinatown leagues and they played each other in different cities.
So I don’t know what it would be like in Canada, but that’s when I realized, oh yeah, nine players, that story that Margaret Ko told me. It must have been something that they did in Chinatowns even in Canada, not just the US.
LL: And in terms of life in First Chinatown, your grandparents, what occupations did they have at the time?
KL: Yeah, my grandfather, he had a hardware store and it was on Queen Street, just south of where the City Hall is. And my grandma, I think she had been a servant for a wealthy family during the Qing dynasty and they adopted her. They liked her so much, like she was a favored servant that they adopted her into the family, and so then she could get a good husband, which is I guess, my grandfather. And she was his second wife and she came with him to Canada, to Toronto.
So I think she just raised the kids, but my grandfather died quite young like in the 20s or 30s. I’d have to check. And then she really had a difficult time. So they had a laundry, they had started a Chinese laundry on Spadina. They had a couple of different ones, and it was pretty tough.
LL: So first the hardware store that you’re grandfather had, and then eventually a laundry as well?
KL: Who’s grandfather?
KL: I guess so, you see, they had the weird immigration law, like you know, about the Chinese Exclusion Act.
KL: They had a head tax which was really high, but if you sold– if you were– at the time my grandfather came over, if you were a merchant and you sold goods across a counter, you did not have to pay a head tax.
I don’t know, that’s my understanding and I haven’t checked into that recently, but I know if you didn’t pay a head tax, and my grandma, because she was a Qing dynasty person. I think that’s why she didn’t pay a head tag to either. So she had a piece of paper that said she was exempt from the head tax. And um, it was signed by the controller of Chinese immigration. They had an actual bureaucratic, yeah and the serial number. The serial number was– oh no, sorry, I’m getting mixed up, this is my mother yeah, so she [my mother] came over in ‘46 from Australia and the serial number on her paper that waved the head tax was 0-0-0-2-6.
So between 1923, when they closed off, you know, that was when they started the Exclusion Act, to 1946 when she came. Twenty-six, she was the 26th person who was allowed into the country.
LL: So what was it like for your mom and your dad In First Chinatown? Your dad ran a pharmacy, I think?
KL: Yeah, so he grew up, you know in the Ward and in Kensington Market. And he was a war veteran. So he. He was in operation Oblivion, and I don’t know if you know about them, yeah, but anyways, so they didn’t allow Chinese into the U of T at that time, I don’t think. But because he was a veteran, a war veteran, they couldn’t refuse him because after World War II when the veterans came back they wanted to show gratitude, the government wanted to show gratitude, to everyone who did their service.
So they made a special thing that they could go to university. I think for free and get an education. So he had wanted to try to get into dentistry, but they were full apparently, so then he got into pharmacy. So he was the first Chinese-Canadian pharmacist. The first one to graduate him and his friends, Sam Chin. They both graduated the same year. East of the Rocky Mountains. So there was another Chinese pharmacist in Vancouver. But his was the first Chinese pharmacy east of the Rocky Mountains, and he decided to open his store in Chinatown because he could serve the community, you know, because there wasn’t anybody who spoke Chinese and they needed that, they needed that. So he opened his store in the old Chinatown on Dundas, between Bay and Elizabeth.
LL: You remember the name of the pharmacist? Oh, the pharmacy, sorry.
KL: Yeah, let’s see. Yeah. Tom Lock Drugs. It was a really well-known store because it was the only one, and you know, people even from Vancouver would visit Toronto and then you know. I’d be hitchhiking in BC when I was a teenager and go to a Chinese restaurant in some really isolated place, and they’d ask me, you know who my family was and stuff, about Toronto. And when I tell them, they’d go “Oh Tom Lock Drugs, yeah. I know. I’ve been there.”. So it was one of those places.
So he had the pharmacy for quite a number of years. Yeah, I think from ’54. I can’t remember when he closed. He had to close it. Was it in the 70s? I think, I’m not sure, it was there for 20 something years.
LL: Yeah, I think for New City Hall, it was like the early 60s, somewhere within the 60s.
KL: Oh the city hall thing. Yeah, that was 1969. Yeah. Oh, when they built the City Hall?
KL: Oh, yeah, that was the earlier, that was early 60s. Yeah, but he was on Dundas, so he was north of that. So that didn’t affect him because that was mostly the residential area.
But in 1969, they [the City] were gonna just bulldoze it, so that he was part of, you know, that would that effect. he was there at that time and my cousin, a lot of people, my cousin spoke at City Hall when they had the big– the community– when the politicians were debating what they were gonna do, and then the community went and they they filled up every seat and then they spoke, and it mostly talked about a contribution of the Chinese-Canadians and the politics– [interview temporarily cuts].
That’s my understanding, they didn’t they didn’t know anything about this stuff they were just you know, it never considered it. And Mrs. Lumb – Jean Lumb – Arlene’s mother, was very instrumental in organizing it.
LL: Yeah, I’ve been really curious about the Save Chinatown Committee at the time, when people were going into City Hall. Do you know how big, within the Chinatown community, where there are a lot of meetings with the community about it?
KL: That I don’t know, I still have the sign that was in everywhere, every store window, every apartment, you know. You go by and you just be these in the windows. So I kept the one that was in my dad’s store. But my dad wasn’t involved in that, organizing that. He was one of the founders of the Mon Sheong: Home for the Aged. So he was really busy doing that because of all the bachelors. They didn’t have any family, so these old guys, they’d just be sleeping in doorways and stuff and it was really sad, so my dad and a few business people got together and they started an old aged home. It was the Mon Sheong, it was on Darcy. I think it’s still there and then they have other ones out in Scarborough, I think.
So they got together and they would meet every night after he closed the store, they’d meet, and made you know, and it was the first old age home that was like for one community, so that was the first time that that had even. But they had to do something because of the old bachelors, they couldn’t take care of themselves when they’re really old, and they had no families. So the community had to take care of them, so they did.
LL: And I guess how has Chinatown itself shaped, I guess, a lot of your work? Did you ever feel like you’re like, you know, there’s so much history that you would go the opposite spectrum of like not needing to discuss Chinatown?
KL: Well, yeah. Let’s see. I started filming in my dad’s drugstore when I was a teenager. So I made a couple of films and my dad was in them and they’re still shown today. There’s this one called Work, Bike and Eat and another called Arnold and they were both shown last Christmas at Innis College Theater.
Um, and I think it was like a safe space for me, and it was real, it wasn’t just contrived you know, so we would go in there and film real people doing stuff but in a story. And I– So what was the question– sorry, and oh my work, yeah yeah–
In the 80s, I didn’t do stuff in the community after that, I did those films when I was in my early twenties. And then I was on my own, I did some other stuff out of town and I didn’t really, I was doing films in the film business, I didn’t really reconnect with Chinatown until I got hired to do this CBC documentary and it was called Neighborhoods and Paul Da Silva was producer.
So you had to audition for the job and show them your work and stuff, and then you would be hired and whatever neighbourhood you lived in you would do. So I was living in Greektown at the time, so I was assigned to do the Greek community. And then he [de Silva] figured it out. [Yeah.]
And then I was reassigned to do Chinatown, and so I really did some research and stuff and I think that’s when I was just shocked like, I had no idea at that time, in the 1980s, like what like I had grown up in my dad’s store, but I just didn’t know. I just thought I didn’t know I had no I remember I
I found out my dad couldn’t vote, like that was, that was a thing. And I was just shocked because I grew up all “This was Canada,” you know, “it’s a democracy, everyone votes” and then I thought, “Oh, if you’re Chinese, you know, in those days, no, you could not in federal elections.” So you know, and it’s– I just remember talking to my dad like: “Dad why didn’t you just vote? Like just go and vote. How would they know?” and he’s like “Oh, they would know.” and then if you tried, you get it you get a boot pretty fast. So I was really shocked and then I did more research, and holy cow there’s just a lot of stuff that I didn’t know about, I had no idea–
And so that was interesting, so I started working in Chinatown and you know, it was just like, your home, you know. It’s like you’re from a small town or something and you haven’t been back for a long time and you go like. Um, you know, my dad said “Okay, you should go and talk to Mrs. Jean Lumb,” cause she knows a lot so I remember I went and talked to Mrs. Lumb, I always call her Mrs. Lumb because I can’t call her by her first name. [Laugh.] I’d get yelled at you know, so I went and talked to her and then you know, she sort of filled me in on some stuff and talked to her.
I knew her eldest son, [they were] my high school teacher and you know, so and it went from there and I and I just talked to people and there’s just it was just this feeling of connection and that was really amazing.
Keith Lock：是的沒錯。我的祖父在19世紀來到多倫多，我的祖母則是在1909年來的。在當時，對於一個女性來說，是十分罕見的事情，她甚至還登上了Toronto Star的首頁：”華人女性抵達多倫多。“所以，是的。她是1909年，也就是20世紀初期來到的多倫多。
KL：當然當然，藥房的名字是Tom Lock Drugs。因為它獨此一家，所以它十分有名氣，甚至從溫哥華來的人也會造訪一下。在我還是個青少年的時候，我常常會去卑詩省獨步旅行，而當我去到一些偏遠地區的華人餐廳的時候，他們會問我我的家庭情況。而每當我告訴他們的時候，他們總是會說”噢 Tom Lock Drugs，我知道我知道，我有去過呢。“我的父親大約是從1954年開始經營這家藥房，大約過了20多年左右，他不得不在70年代的時候停止營業。
所以這是我的理解，他們從未考慮過我們的感受，而在那時，Mrs. Lumb – Jean Lumb -也就是Arlene的母親，在組織這個活動上起到了關鍵性的作用。
KL：這我不太清楚，但我依然存有當年處處可見的標牌，尤其是我父親店裏的那個。但我父親從來沒有參與進去，因為他是Mon Sheong：Home for the Aged的創始人之一，我父親和其他一些人一起成立了這個在Darcy街上的敬老院，他們常常為了那些沒有家庭的老單身漢們而奔波。我想它應該還在那兒，士嘉堡好像也有一間。
KL：在我還是個青少年的時候，我就開始在我父親的藥房裏錄像。我的好幾個影片都有我父親的身影在裏面。去年聖誕的時候，Innis College Theater放映了我所創作的兩個影片，分別是Wokr, Bike and Eat和Arnold。
對我來說，這就像是一個安全的港灣，一切都是那麽的真實而非虛構。我們會在有故事大綱的前提下，錄製真實的人和物。 – 抱歉，剛剛的問題是 – 抱歉，噢關於我的作品 –
但那些都是我20多歲的時候製作的，在那之後我更多地專注在了個人的創作以及在電影製片行業裏摸索。直到CBC的製片人Paul Da Silva聘請我來製作一個名為Neighborhoods的關於唐人街的紀錄片，我才再次與這個社群聯繫起來。
我了解到原來我的父親不能參與投票選舉，當時竟然有這樣的情況。而我卻從小覺得，“這是加拿大，一個充滿民主的地方，每個人都可以投票。” 但事實是，如果你是個華人，在那時是不能參與投票選舉的。我還記得小時候的我對我父親說，“爸爸，為什麽你不去投票呢？”他就會說“噢，他們會發現的。” 如果你有這樣的意向，就會被趕出來。這方面的研究使我大為震驚，我在之前對此毫無了解。
這個關於唐人街的項目把我帶回到了童年的回憶裏，這個我從小長大的地方。我父親對我說“你應該去找Jean Lumb女士聊聊”因為她對唐人街十分了解。於是我去找到了Jean Lumb，而她也告訴了我許多她所知道的信息。我記得我從來都是稱呼她為Lumb女士，不然我就會被責罵[笑]。