Posted By Smple Staff

Staging the Past – The Curation of a Vancouver Living Room


It is 2nd July 1964, and a chambermaid is shot in the lobby of the Lotus Hotel on Vancouver’s Abbott Street. This was a full ten years before the now infamous last line of dialogue would hit the silver screen, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” The who and why are not important to this story, but the where is, because it is at the Lotus’ front desk that our true subject of interest works—Ging Chong. Chong is wearing a dark suit with a white shirt, wayfarer spectacles, and his black hair is slicked and perfect. His tie is diagonally stripped and knotted in what is likely a single Windsor. He is, by every account, as professionally presented as can be. Immaculate.

Imagine now a Canadian living room, same day, five miles southwest in Collingwood, east side. The carpet is olive green and the furniture is pastel pink, ash grey, or a sickly sea teal. An ashtray is in pride of place, square and centred on the coffee table, and to one side is a modern, pigeon-grey typewriter. The television set is a sleek, vertical box with a squircle screen, barely bigger than the size of your own head. But the television isn’t on, this evening. The radio is. The person listening to it is Chong’s wife, who after all domestic chores and endeavours on this idle Thursday hears something in the local news that disturbs her. The report identifies that a woman in the Lotus has been shot. Someone who works with Ging. She tries to call, the home’s phone a rotary one, with almost half a century before push-button telephones would come to replace them. Her fingers quiver as she moves to operate the device. She has lived here for five years, and nothing like this has ever happened. The sounds of other members of the Chong family echo throughout the house as though from another world, distracting her. Each digit of the number for the Lotus’ front desk takes seconds to input. Perhaps she recalls a number wrong, has to kill the dial tone and start again. Perhaps the line is busy, or perhaps she gets through and Ging placates his wife personally—this detail is lost to time. What we do know, however, is that he came home unharmed, and just in time for dinner.
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