The Hum Family in Smiths Falls

Jasper Hum (Courtesy of Linda Hum)

James (Jasper) Hum and his sister Mabel were two of the four children of their parents’ sixteen offspring to survive infancy. In 1919, Mabel sent the teenaged Jasper ahead of her to Canada to work for her husband, Harry Fong Johnston, owner of Harry’s Café in Perth. Harry also financed Jasper’s head tax. Over the years, Jasper visited China to marry and to build a house. On one of those trips, he and his wife had a daughter.

In 1947, after an absence of more than a decade from his family because of the Japanese war and occupation of China, Jasper took his savings and returned to China. He intended to retire and live in his house there, which he shared with the family of his younger brother, a doctor of Chinese medicine. Jasper also owned the clinic and store selling Chinese herbs and western medicines where his brother worked. In 1950, the Communists began arresting landowners as part of their land reform program. Jasper fled for fear of his life back to Canada. Just before he left, his wife gave birth to a second daughter.

Mabel Hum, Jasper’s sister (Courtesy of Mabel’s daughter, Doris Soong)

Later, Jasper learned that Communists had tortured and executed his brother. They also tortured and held captive his wife and his brother’s wife. Upon their release, his brother’s wife committed suicide, leaving three children orphaned. The Communists also confiscated Jasper’s house and land and the clinic and store. He sank into despair. Mabel rallied her brother: “Get back on your feet! You have a family to worry about!”

In 1957, Jasper sponsored his wife to come to Canada. Of his children, only his second-born, Linda, qualified as a dependent child. Jasper passed off a nephew, one of the three orphaned children, as his own son. He settled his new family in Smiths Falls. He and several partners, including Mabel’s son-in-law, Howard Soong, opened the Astor Café, the first Chinese-owned café in town. Jasper’s wife took the name Margaret (née Mah) in Canada.

One of Jasper’s favourite pastimes was to fish for bass off the dock at Port Elmsley. He died in 1965.

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Copyright © 2012 Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre and Denise Chong

 

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