Joe Hum, the fourth child and third son of Jack and Kung Hum, was born in Ottawa in 1922. When his mother died in 1925, his father took him and his siblings back to China and married again. Over the next decade, he would travel between Canada and China three times, the last time taking his two eldest sons, Thomas and Charles, back with him to Canada to help in his restaurants businesses there.
In 1935, while in Ottawa, Jack Hum died. His widow in China was left to raise her husband’s son, Joe, then aged 14, and a daughter born to the couple. She decided that the boy should join his two brothers abroad.
In 1937, months after Joe’s return to Canada, Japan invaded China. The war, which cut off passenger boat traffic across the Pacific, would last eight years.
Joe Hum did not have an easy start back in Canada. In his ten-year absence, he’d forgotten any English he’d once known. His brother, Thomas, boarded him with the Robertson family for four weeks so that Mrs. Robertson could tutor him in English. Joe enrolled at Osgoode Street School in the second grade. He made rapid progress, graduating from Lisgar High School eight years later. He went on to earn a Commerce degree from McGill University.
For all the early difficulties of adjustment to his new life abroad, Joe Hum narrowly escaped a fate of life in wartorn China and years of separation from his brothers.
Copyright © 2012 Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre and Denise Chong