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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

ORAL HISTORY

Jenny Wong


Norfolk Noodle Factory

Born in Canton, China in 1911, Park F. Wong immigrated to the United States when he was sixteen to join his family, already settled in Norfolk, Virginia. His father, Fook Hong Wong, owned Wong Hong Laundry, and Park helped with the family business while going to school.

Park attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but money ran out after a year. After receiving an envelope from China with a photograph of Soon G. Eng and a string measuring her height, he fell in love and returned to Canton in 1934 to marry her. The couple had three sons, Arthur, Edward, and David.

Park returned to Norfolk, but strict immigration laws prevented him from bringing his wife and children. Ten years passed before the family reunited. Jenny Wong, their first and only daughter, was born after the family settled in Virginia.

Here in her interview, Jenny recollects the family business, and how her father got into noodles by way of real estate, as he bought and sold buildings for a living.

The Sam Lee Noodle Company, operating since 1906, made yock noodles, or lo-mein noodles for its adjacent restaurant, Sam Lee Restaurant. When the building went up for sale in the 1950s, Park couldn’t find a buyer so he purchased it himself and changed the name to the Norfolk Noodle Factory. By 1958 he moved the business to Reservoir Street to expand into retail and wholesale, selling noodles and other items like egg roll wrappers and chow mein noodles to Chinese restaurants across Tidewater.

After forty years in the noodle business, Park retired in 1990. Jenny’s brother David operated another noodle factory called Sun Noodle in nearby Chesapeake for almost twenty years before selling the business in 2011. Jenny lives in Virginia Beach and works as a watercolor artist.

Date of interview:
2014-05-22

Interviewer:
Sara Wood

Photographer:
Sara Wood

Download Transcript

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