In 2013, the Chinese New Year comes a bit later than in recent years, beginning on February 10. In Butte the Parade will be on Saturday February 16, starting at 3:00 p.m. at the Court House. Join the Mai Wah for the world’s shortest, loudest, and coldest (we’ll see about that) parade, which Reader’s Digest declared one of the six “most interesting processions in America.”
In honor of Chinese New Year, I’ll have a couple posts about Butte’s Chinatown.
The menu here (click the pics to enlarge), from the Mai Wah Collection and used by permission, probably dates to the 1920s or 1930s on the basis of prices and the four-digit phone number. In its earliest years the top-floor Mai Wah Noodle Parlor was managed by Chinese not connected with the Chinn Family that operated the Wah Chong Tai Mercantile on the first floor. That was important for the merchants, to enable them to remain immune to the impacts of the Exclusionary Acts, which targeted laborers, laundry workers, and restaurant workers.
By the time this menu was printed by McGee Printing on Granite Street, all the businesses in the Mai Wah-Wah Chong Tai buildings were probably under the purview of the Chinns. Chin On ran the Wah Chong Tai until about 1932, when his fellow Taishanese countryman Chin Yee Fong took over. Chin Yee Fong had arrived in the U.S. in 1905, age about 16. He was the son of Chin On’s partner in the Wah Chong Tai, and he worked as the assistant bookkeeper while attending Garfield School and for many years thereafter.
You’ll find much, much more about the Chinn family in the Mai Wah’s upcoming exhibit on their lives and times. I’m preparing the exhibit, with support from the Montana Historical Society’s Dave Walter Research Fellowship (to me) and the Montana Cultural Trust (to the Mai Wah). It should be in place this summer.