By Gary Libby
Wong Jack June opened the Pekin Restaurant in Bangor, Maine in the 1920s. He and his wife, Chin Ngan Kee, had one daughter and five sons. One of those sons, Raymond Li Min Huang, is the subject of this article.
Raymond’s parents gave all of their children Chinese names. Their “American” names were selected to sound like their Chinese names. “Li Min” became “Raymond.” His sister, “Fee,” became “Fay.” His brother, “Ang,” was called “Don” and his brother “Wey” was “Wade.”
All of the children began working at the restaurant when they reached about nine years of age. Their first job was peeling vegetables. In their spare time they played with the neighborhood children, skied and sledded in the winter, picked wild berries, played sandlot baseball and fished in the summer.
When America entered World War II, Raymond was a student at the University of Maine at Orono. Like all able bodied male students, he was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Two months after Pearl Harbor, he was mobilized. After basic training he was selected for Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Army at age 19. He returned to Bangor for a month’s leave before reporting for duty in Europe.
While there at the Peking Restaurant he encountered Senator Owen Brewster, who congratulated him on becoming an officer. The Senator was surprised that Raymond wasn’t assigned to China, and being a member of the Armed Services Committee, he arranged to have Raymond reassigned to the Chinese Combat Command.
Once in China, Raymond was attached to the liaison group working with the Chinese Fifth Army where he dealt with none other than Zhou Enlai. He remembers Zhou as a very stern and demanding man.
Raymond was briefly attached to the staff of General George Marshall. His duties included rummaging around camp trying to find cowboy novels and Pond’s Cold Cream for the General. His best source for cold cream was the nurses’ quarters. Later he served as a translator until he was discharged in 1946.
As mentioned in the last newsletter, Raymond’s father’s family name was changed to “Jones” when he immigrated to the United States. Raymond, upon leaving the Army, decided to assert his Chinese ethnicity. He went to the Penobscot County Probate Court and became legally Raymond Li Min Huang.
He also returned to the University of Maine where he finished his degree in business administration. He earned an M.B.A from Stanford in 1950, after which he began a long career as a salesman at IBM. His years there spanned the technological transitions from the punch card computer and electric typewriter to the personal computer and the ATM. Raymond’s spent most of his career working with the banking industry until he retired in 1988.
He now lives in San Francisco with his wife Florinda. In 1991 he came back to Bangor for his fiftieth high school reunion. He has shared many more memories of growing up in Bangor in an oral history interview, that can be found at the Maine Historical Society.
Gary Libby has received 13 black & white reprints of photos that have appeared in the Portland Newspapers. The most important one is of Chin Kow who was Portland’s last Chinese laundryman, taken in 1966, shortly before he died. He sits in a chair talking with a woman. Most of the other photos show various cooks at local Chinese restaurants including all three of the Ng brothers associated with the Hu Shang restaurants. Unfortunately the terms of acquisition do not permit reproduction in the Newsletter. The photos can be seen in the Chinese Archive at the Maine Historical Society. [By Gary Libby from May 2005 CAFAM Newsletter]