Resy staff writer Deanna Ting shares the story of her grandfather, Young Mar, a Chinese immigrant who opened some of the earliest Chinese restaurants in Kansas in the 1940s and ’50s.
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My grandfather, Young Mar, at the register of Mar’s Gardens in Wichita, Kansas. He moved to Kansas in the 1940s and opened two Chinese restaurants with his business partner, Wah Mar: the Circle in Junction City and Mar’s Gardens.
All photos courtesy Linda Tse and Goldie Ting
My grandmother, Susie (right), with her daughters, Linda (left) and Goldie, as they prepared to leave Hong Kong for Wichita in 1956. My grandfather spent a total of 24 years trying to circumvent immigration quotas and the Chinese Exclusion Act to reunite with his wife and children in America. Their youngest, a son named Edward, had to stay behind in Hong Kong and was only an infant when his mother and sisters left for America. He was finally allowed to immigrate to America when he was eight years old, in 1964.
An advertisement in the Wichita Beacon announcing the expansion of Mar’s Bar-B-Que into Mar’s Gardens in 1953. (1 of 2)
An advertisement in the Wichita Beacon announcing the expansion of Mar’s Bar-B-Que into Mar’s Gardens in 1953. (2 of 2)
All Photos Courtesy Linda Tse and Goldie Ting
Mar’s Gardens was where the local Chinese community in Wichita often gathered during the 1950s and 1960s. My grandfather (center) is pictured here with my mom (left) and my aunt, both wearing green sweaters, as well as other children from local families.
My grandfather often hosted dinners for the local Chinese community in Wichita at his restaurant, Mar’s Gardens.
My grandfather, sitting in one of the booths at Mar’s Gardens. He hand painted the walls with bamboo stalks and dragons.
My grandfather with his daughters, my aunt Linda (left) and my mom, Goldie (right) at Mar’s Gardens. They’re wearing cheongsams that my grandmother made by hand with silk she brought with her from Hong Kong.
The entire Mar family at home (from left to right): Edward, Young, Goldie, Susie, and Linda, celebrating my aunt Linda’s college graduation from Wichita State University in 1971.
At my aunt Linda’s wedding celebration at Mar’s Gardens in 1974, my uncle Edward, who had worked at the restaurant as a busboy, and the waitresses, who were invited as guests, still pitched in to clean up the dishes.
My grandmother (left) with waitresses from Mar’s Gardens, many of whom had worked at the restaurant for decades. The waitresses sometimes took my mom and my aunt to doctor appointments when their father was tied up at the restaurant. My grandmother didn’t know how to drive, and she also didn’t know how to speak English well enough to speak with the doctors.
My grandmother with guests at my aunt’s wedding celebration, held at Mar’s Gardens in 1974. In the back, you can see the dragons my grandfather had painted on the walls of the restaurant.
After selling both of his restaurants and retiring, my grandfather finally had more time to spend with my uncle, Edward, and my grandmother, Susie.
The Mar family, without my grandfather. Nearly three years after retiring and selling his restaurants, he died in 1975. My grandfather spent a total of 24 years trying to reunite with his family in America. He got to spend a total of 19 with them.
In 2012, I met Dean White, a regular at Mar’s Gardens, completely by chance while on a business trip in Puerto Rico. Dean, whose family still runs his florist business in Wichita, still remembered the restaurant and shared his memories of my grandfather with me.
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