Arthur Lee was born on August 15, 1916 in Montreal, Quebec, to Chinese immigrants, Hee Chong Lee and Fong Shee Lee, who had come to Canada in 1890 and 1915 respectively. Fong Shee was required to pay the Head Tax meant to deter Chinese people from immigrating to Canada.
The Immigrants from China, 1885-1949 database lists a 25-year-old Fong Shee who arrived in Canada in 1915, destination Montreal. The 1921 Census of Canada, lists Fong Shee’s age as 31. Therefore, the Fong Shee in the database must be the same individual as the one in the census. Arthur Lee’s baptism record lists parents as Fong Shee and Lee Fet or Fat. However, in the 1921 census, Arthur Lee’s father is listed as Fat Lee, not Lee Fat or Hee Chong Lee. Perhaps by 1921, the family had assimilated and adopted the convention of putting the family name last? The 1921 census also lists in addition to Arthur four siblings: Tessie*, Samuel, Howard, and William (fig. 1). In an obituary for Arthur Lee, his sister’s name is listed as Jessie, not Tessie.
A travel document (fig. 2) indicates that Arthur travelled to Hong Kong in 1935. According to an article in The Montreal Gazette, Arthur left for Hong Kong, but traveled to Mainland China following the Second World War. Upon returning to Canada, Arthur had opened a fortune cookie and noodle manufacturing company with his brother, Samuel.
Arthur’s father started a company–a manufacturer of noodles–in 1897. But after Arthur’s return to Canada in 1946, he rebranded it under the name Wing Hing Lung or, more commonly, Wing Noodles Ltd. Arthur brought the company to its full potential as one of the leading manufacturers of noodles and fortune cookies in North America. Despite the company’s success, however, the company did face some difficulties, such as having to move locations due to expropriation.
Arthur Lee became a prominent figure in Chinatown, Montreal, contributing some of the wealth he gained from Wing Noodles Ltd. to charities and local hospitals. For his community service for the Chinese community in Montreal, Lee was awarded the 125th Anniversary Confederation Award. He gave the City of Montreal a five-tiered pagoda that was installed in Chinatown. But the monument was mysteriously removed in 1981 without notice, erasing a Chinatown landmark. Lee questioned the city what had happened to the pagoda but was left without answers.
Arthur Lee was proud to be both Chinese and Canadian and sought to preserve Montreal’s Chinatown when he fought the redevelopment of Chinatown that endangered the historical site. He strove to better his community and was an inspiration to the people around him. Arthur and his family made the effort to make Canada their home despite the discrimination Chinese people faced in Canada. At age 86, Arthur Lee passed away in 2002. Today, Wing Noodles Ltd. continues to be in business as Hee Chong Lee’s grandsons continue to run the family-owned company in Chinatown. Arthur Lee’s legacy as a well-respected figure of the Chinese community of Montreal that embraced both his culture and country remains.
“1921 Census of Canada” Ancestry, www.ancestry.ca/discoveryui-content/view/4713458:8991?tid=&pid=&queryId=f46dc35b8fc41d6c52dc13a9666fbc2c&_phsrc=TOW106&_phstart=successSource.
“Arthur Lee’s Life Was Difficult, and He Never Forgot That, His Son Reveals. ‘As Result, He Believed in a Sense of Community; It Was Important to Him.’ The Gazette, 15 November, 2002.
“Arthur Lee Shared His Fortune-Cookie Wealth”, The Gazette, 15 November, 2002.
“Arthur Lee was an Inspiration”, The Gazette, 16 November, 2002.
“Arthur Lee Wong Hong Lee in the Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Droulin Collection), 1621-1968”, 1921, Ancestry, www.ancestry.ca/discoveryui-content/view/3505557:1091?tid=&pid=&queryId=836552a412d70c1618ff5baef4c77ce3&_phsrc=TOW92&_phstart=successSource.
“City Should Install Lee’s Pagoda in Park”, The Gazette, 16 November, 2002.
“Cookie-Making Firm Considers Trying Its Fortunes Here”, The Miami Herald, 15 May, 1979.
“The Dynamic Chinese Food Industry”, En Ville, 22 June, 1970.
Head Tax Records. Register of Chinese Immigrants to Canada, 1885-1949. #84735.
“History”, Wing Noodles Ltd, www.wingnoodles.com/en/history.php.
“Item: Arthur Lee Wong Hong” Immigrants from China, 1885-1949, 7 March, 1935, Library and Archives Canada, www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/immigrants-china-1885-1949/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=107080&.
“Obituaries & Memorials”, The Gazette, 14 November, 2002. www.newspapers.com/image/425614507/?terms=Wing%20Hing%20Lung&match=1.