My dad the original gangster
In an earlier post I showed my dads bakery/ dim sum tea house that went back to before the turn of the century..fast forward to the 40’s & 50’s my dad still had the store but he was involved with the on leong’s. he never really talked about what he really did he just called it the merchants association.
But he always carried a gun or a knife..
Lets talk about the on leong for a second they started in in nyc around 1894.. why? To protect the Chinese from getting beat up or killed did you know at one time if a white man killed a “chinaman” if you could pay the fine you could be set free. Even if it went to court it would get throw out.
So the merchant association was born and people paid them to get protection against other gangs in nyc there was a area called the 5 points and Chinatown was one of em with tons of different gangs.
There was also a lack of Chinese women because they did not allow Chinese women to immigrate because they did not want the Chinese population to grow so it was against the law.. only under certain circumstances were they allowed mostly $$. So you could import a bride if you had the money or just go to a brothel on a chilly night.
“The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. Many Americans on the West Coast attributed declining wages and economic ills to Chinese workers. Although the Chinese composed only .002 percent of the nation’s population, Congress passed the exclusion act to placate worker demands and assuage prevalent concerns about maintaining white “racial purity.”
The on leong’s also settle issues and disputes in the community. They also had hatched men to help with these disputes and opium dens and brothels.
The hip sing tong was started in San Francisco then came to New York to trying to take over territory from the on leong and so began the tong wars around 1900’s.
What was America like at that time? It was the start of city’s and the high of technology in Nyc was the telegraph. the electric trolley made it appearance in 1890. there were cowboys and butch Cassidy and the wild bunch were robing banks. People were digging for gold. Billy the kid was was in hiding and towns in the west looked like the towns in the cowboy movies.
The war between the tong continued they would have peace treaties and things would settle down then something would happen and the wars would start again. My dad was involved in ”merchant association”.
You can see his pal the Chinese version of bugsy segal the the picture..
Just look at that mug that says don’t fuck with us.
In the 30-40 my dad had his tea shop but was doing things for the association. Those were his hardcore gangster years and eventually got caught for something and was sent to the Kentucky penitentiary.
My step brothers took care of the store while my dad was gone.
Yeah the 3 kids below. The Chinese woman was my dads first wife.
When he got out it was back to the tea house and the association but more in meetings and being now in top position so it was more laid back and more travel.
The main guys always had these group meetings in Hawaii and other cool places. I have to find those pictures.
Then the 50’s they built the on leong building on mott street. My dad used to bring me there for special dinners for members only. And on Chinese New Year we would hang on the balcony and throw firecrackers from the balcony. I might have a short 5-10 clip of Chinese New Year from a balcony view from there.
I was in the restaurant every day I remember the armory in the back shout gun, rifles, hand guns bullets pretty much everywhere till I pick one up and they saw me holding it… The next day they were all gone.
There were always cops hanging out drinking coffee etc.. Probably for free.
My dad closed the store around 1969 and started running card houses a few years later.. in the basements of chinatown if you remember Betty’s newsstand on mott right next Betty’s was the basement card spot.
The first couple of years were great no problems… I went to school around the corner at ps 23.
There I had problem lots but that’s another story. I will tell later.
The the card houses were protected by the ghost shadows at first everything still calm then the fob members came and shit started to hit the fan they were reckless and didn’t give a shit.
Then a war broke out with the flying dragons. All the gangs were a recruiting phase it was simple join or get beat up or worst..
I was lucky I was not full Chinese and they worked for my dad. I remember going out to restaurants with them and when the bill came they just signed their name and would just walk out.
Then on pell street was the flying dragons I knew a lot of the kids before they were recruited.
I was also kinda friends with them.. I am not sure if they knew of my association with the other group.
But I have to say the coffee shop where they hung out had the best curry corn beef over rice the place was known as half ass. They would invite me down to their club house in the basement but I always refused just in case I am not stupid…Let me go down and hang out with the rival gang in the basement no thank you.
But I used to go down to the basement of my dads card house to get money from my dad I would walk in and see the stacks of cash from restaurant owners it was crazy people pulling out of brown bags thousands of dollars.
My dad offered me a job sweeping up when the gambling house was closed my mom put a stop to that and gave him a yelling he will never forget.
In the mid 70’s if you live in Chinatown you knew who I was.. I used to ride a skateboard 24/7 and had long hair and my hang was Confucius plaza.
Gambling houses started getting hit hard by the cops.. and started closing down.. because of the gangs.
In the early day they were safe from cops because you could spot a white undercover cop miles away.
Later on they imported Chinese undercover cops from the outside and they were able sneak around and bust the houses. They would get closed for a short time but they kept get going busted and eventually it was over everything was slow and not to mention my dad played cards… I might add not well.
He even started work for his former competitor nom wah.. it that lasted only short time they had a fight about money and his recipe for dim sum. I am not clear on exactly what happened.
My dad passed away when I was about 14. I saw all the ruling members at the funeral along with the ghost shadows then we did the big dinner thing…
After that we were on our own I would get the up and down head shake kinda like hey/what’s up/respect if I ran into one of them but that was it.. it was all over.
Soon later I left chinatown to make my name in the night club world… but I would return back to Chinatown after a few years.
Next story coming soon ps 23…