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Kimberley Families

The Sun Family

as told by Sun and Eeng

Joe Sun was born in Canton, China, in 1891. His father left China and came to Vancouver where he purchased a store that sold groceries and clothing. When Joe Sun's mother died, his father sent for him and he came to Vancouver to live with his father. He attended school and helped his father in the store. In 1918, Mr. Sun Sr. sold his store and returned to China, where he married again.

Joe Sun then came to Cranbrook where he obtained work on a vegetable farm, owned and operated by Chou Long. It was here he realized the need for fresh vegetables in the community and in 1934 a fellow countryman offered to loan him enough money to buy some property of his own, to be made into a vegetable farm. The Kimberley area was his choice and his farm is near Cherry Creek, about eleven miles north, off the main highway. Here he built his own house and cleared some of the land.

Before this, in 1931, he married Eeng Young of Cranbrook. Her family also came to Vancouver where Eeng was born. She says her father was a bit of a rolling stone and changed jobs and places often. Her sister On, was born in Coleman, Alberta, and her sister Yan, in Burmis. All three went to school in Bull River for a time where their father worked at the mill and was janitor for the school. When they moved to Cranbrook, the girls completed their high school there.

Joe Sun and Eeng had friends in Fernie and they knew the minister there, a Reverend Gray, so this is where they were married. They spent a six months' honeymoon in China with his folks, but Eeng realized she was carrying a child and she wanted it born in Canada. It was after their return that they spent two years in Vancouver where Garland and Bea were born.

Eeng and Joe Sun.

Finding jobs hard to come by in the depression years, they came back to the East Kootenay and the property near Cherry Creek was purchased along with a 1931 Model A Ford truck, which was bought from Parks Hardware. He still has the truck, although it is not in running order.

The clearing of the land was hard work and it was done mostly by hand. A horse and plow turned the soil, which seemed to be mostly rocks. The first few years it appeared that they could produce nothing much more than rocks and gophers. Their first purchase from Beale and Elwell, a Real Estate firm in Cranbrook, consisted of three hundred and twenty acres. They later bought an additional four hundred and eighty acres, eight hundred acres in all.

Over the years eight children were born and the sale of vegetables in Kimberley maintained them all. For the first years they could not attend school as it was too far to walk, so they were taught at home. An accident to Bea, the second child, when she received a severe blow to the stomach, caused her to be rushed to the Cranbrook Hospital. Dr. Green Sr. found out she was nine years old and had never been to school and that she had an eleven year old brother, in the same situation. It was his influence that got the school bus running out there so they could all attend school.

In the early years of hard work, from dawn to sometimes after dark, Joe Sun delivered vegetables from door to door in Kimberley. He recalls one heartbreaking time, when twenty tons of potatoes, that had all been dug and picked by hand, could not be sold. He has raised beef cattle and hay as well.

In keeping with the Chinese custom of one's surname being pronounced first and the given name last, has resulted in a bit of confusion. When the children started school, their surname was pronounced last, hence Garland, Millard, Dale and Willie Joe are the sons of Joe Sun. All the children are now married. Garland, the eldest, owns and operates Jones Grocery Store in Kimberley and has five children. Bea lives in Vancouver and also has five children. Welland bought the B.C. Electric and Radio Shop and has three children. Both boys have homes on different parts of the farm and work the land as well. Welland just recently closed the store to devote his time to his farm. Jane lives in Richmond with her family of three, Dale is in Abbotsford and has one child, and May lives in Seattle with two children. Willie lives in Cranbrook and is parts manager for the John Deere Company and has one child. Betty, the youngest, is married with one child and lives in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Joe Sun now 87 years old, but only semi-retired, still has a large vegetable garden, and he keeps active doing whatever he can. He still reads and writes Chinese as well as English.

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