Golden Lang family’s chain of immigration to Canada began with his uncle, the older brother of his father, Kim Lock. In 1915, once the uncle was established in Vancouver, he financed Kim Lock’s passage and head tax and found him work as a cook for a doctor’s family.
On a subsequent visit to China, Kim Lock married and in 1923, he sent for his wife. While she was making the crossing, Canada enacted the Exclusion Act. When her ship arrived in port, Canadian authorities sent her back to China.
Kim Lock visited his wife three times: in 1924, 1929 and 1934. Each time, he fathered a child. On that third visit, he left for Canada before his third child, Golden, was born.
By the 1940s, Kim Lock had made his way eastward from Vancouver. He worked for a time in Goderich, in southern Ontario, then moved on to work for a couple of friends who owned cafés on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. He worked first at the Royal Café in Campbell’s Bay, and later, at the Coulonge Café in Fort Coulonge, where he filled in for one of the partners who’d left for Hong Kong to look for a wife.
In 1950, after the government repealed the Exclusion Act and allowed fathers to sponsor wives and dependent children, Kim Lock sponsored 16-year-old Golden, the only one of his three children eligible to immigrate to Canada. Golden, at age 78, reflected on being the sole Chinese youth in Campbell’s Bay and Fort Coulonge: “Living in a small town forces you to learn English, otherwise there is nobody to talk to except your family.” One year after he arrived, his mother followed.
After his wife joined him and Golden, Kim Lock asked Gerry Finer, the man who travelled about servicing the nickelodeons in various cafés if he knew of any café in a small town that might be for sale. He told him about the McMurtchy Lunch and Gas Bar in Carp, a farming village 30 kilometres west of Ottawa. Kim Lock bought the business and renamed it the Golden Café, after his son.
Golden Lang: “My father wanted to name the café, Golden Gate Café“
The Langs were the first Chinese residents of Carp. In 1955, in a marriage arranged by his mother, Golden wed Janet Tang in Hong Kong and brought her back to Canada. The young bride moved in with her in-laws in the living quarters adjoining the café.
Used to life in cosmopolitan Hong Kong, Janet had to adjust to rural life and the predominantly Scottish traditions of Carp. Neighbours were helpful: Mrs. Reid, who delivered the village’s mail, was a daily presence; Mrs. Cox and Mrs. Armstrong taught Janet to make pies, knit, and quilt; and Mr. Carruthers drove the Lang children up the steep hill to Sunday School. In 1969, the Langs sold the Golden Café and moved to Ottawa so that their children would not have to commute to high school.
Golden picked up a hobby of black and white photography and film processing from Father Emard, who had the parish in Campbell’s Bay. He enhanced his skills in part-time work at the Carp Review, where he made offset plates and ran the printing press. In 1960, he became one of the first in the Ottawa area to offer a developing service for a new product, colour film. Until then, colour film had to be sent to Toronto for processing.
One of Golden’s commissions, in 1971, involved standing by around the clock to develop the first photographs of the first-born child of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife, Margaret. That baby, Justin, was born on Christmas day. Golden’s daughter, Arlene, recalls walking through her father’s work area just as he was finishing mounting the photograph for framing: “I remember being sworn to secrecy by Dad, because I’d seen the picture before its official release.”
Copyright © 2012 Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre and Denise Chong