The Promise of Gold Mountain: Tucson's Chinese Heritage

Ong Bing Lok - David W. Tang, Sr.

Based on a speech honoring David Tang on the occasion of his 70th birthday

It was in the "Year of the Tiger" when Ong Bing Lok was born into a village inhabited by the Tang clan. He was the only son in a family of four. Because he was a boy, a celebration was held when he reached the age of one month. During this celebration his head was shaved, and everyone feasted on roast pig and red eggs, symbolizing the family's wishes for his future happiness and fertility. The ceremonies established his status in the Tang lineage, and he was then registered in the community halls of the Tang Family Association.

New's Years lion dance and fireworks
The traditional Lion Dance is a central feature of many Chinese festivals and celebrations, including the one honoring one-month old sons. During the celebration, the infant son has his head shaved, and is presented to guests at an elaborate banquet. Fire crackers are exploded to get rid of demons. The banquet table always has red-colored eggs. The parents give each guest a red egg which brings the guest's family fertility and good fortune. In exchange, each guest leaves a red envelope containing money - one large and one small denomination - which expresses their good wishes to the host family for having old and young members. One traditional banquet dish is Black Vinegar Pork, to cleanse the blood, and Burbon Chicken, to enhance the flow of milk. The Lion Dance is also common at celebrations honoring parent's birthdays. Banquets for the elderly always have noodles, which symbolize long life.

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In China, a boy's first name is his surname, indicating his immediate ancestry. His middle name is determined by the year in which he is born, and also establishes his peer level. The third name is his personal name.

When Ong Bing Lok was 18 months old, his Father died leaving his mother responsible for the task of renting out family lands. His grandparents and extended family helped raise him. He helped on their farm by carrying water and fertilizer to the plants. He loved to raise birds and to catch fish by swimming underwater and using his bare hands to capture them.

Eventually his mother and grandparents decided that he should seek his fortune in "The Gold Mountain." "Gold Mountain" was the term used for the United States, where it was said that men could practically shovel money from the streets. Little did wives and families realize that in reality men had to work very hard for a livelihood. At the young age of 12, Ong Bing Lok arrived in America where he lived with his eldest sister and her family in Cincinnati, Ohio.


David Tang's (Ong Bing Lok) Passage Photo
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David Tang's Passport Shows Arrival in San Francisco
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His first encounter with formal education was at St. Xavier School. Ong Bing Lok often told of the many religious pictures he would draw to delight his teachers. Because of these drawings, the principal took a special interest in him and tutored him after school in all subjects; but most importantly the principal taught him to speak and write English. His ability to draw provided an instant way to communicate his thoughts and his curiosity about the new and foreign world around him. Not knowing how to speak English, he used pictures to come closer to those around him.

After the school day, Ong Bing Lok helped watch his nieces and nephews, and helped with the family's laundry business. He eventually was baptized and given the Christian name of David Tang. ("Ong" and "Tang" are the same surname in different Chinese dialects.)

During the early 1930's, David obtained a job as a grocery clerk and butcher for relatives in Phoenix, Arizona. Later he moved to Tucson, accepting an offer to manage the butcher department at T&T Market.

In 1938, the sister of one of his friends was returning to Tucson from Texas. He wanted to meet her, and being creative, he carved a welcome message on a Halloween pumpkin and sent it as a greeting. When she arrived on the train from Texas, she was thrilled to receive his clever greeting. That girl was Esther Don.

David and Esther were married in June of 1942. Before their marriage, David had purchased a house and, with $789.00 he had managed to save, started a business. Those were tough years running the market on Campbell Avenue because help was scarce due to the war. By working as a team, putting in endless hours, and carefully planning, David and Esther were able to purchase a few pieces of real estate.

1953 grand opening of Dave's One Stop

1953 grand opening of Dave's One Stop, a combination market, liquor store, and soda fountain located at 29th and 4th Avenue. Store owners, David and Esther Tang, had operated the D & B Market on North Campbell for 10 years before opening Dave's One Stop. In the photo from left to right: Norma Jean Don (facing wall), Luella Don, Esther Don Tang (in background), David Tang Jr., Patricia Karen Tang, and Diana Cheryl Tang.
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By 1984, David owned and operated a successful commercial complex, and managed his own liquor and beverage store, "Dave's Beverages." David was well-known as a capable businessman, and as a valued friend who possessed both reserved charm and wit. David and Esther raised three daughters- Patti, Cherry, and Elizabeth and one son- David Jr., and are the grandparents of one girl and five boys.

On March 1, 1984 David was honored on his 70th birthday by a gathering of family and friends. The following is an excerpt from a speech given at the anniversary:

In China, when a man arrives at his 60th year of life and beyond, his children show their love, respect, and appreciation by honoring him with a celebration and banquet. For the Chinese, old age holds an honored place in every family; and as fourth and fifth generation Chinese-Americans, this is a part of our rich heritage. Therefore, it is with great happiness and pride that we, as children of David Tang, honor our Father on his 70th birthday.

If we were to follow Chinese customs strictly, festivities would last as long as three days, with endless entertainment and feasting. But we combined the three days into one full and joyous day of paying tribute to a man who has taught us to stand tall in every situation.

David Tang's friends and family were asked to pay their high tributes and respects by attending a banquet in honor of him. Each guest was given a container of nine sweetened, preserved kumquats that symbolizes the family's wishes for a sweet, golden and rich long life, and the green flowers, with which the preserves were decorated, signify growth and abundance.

Among the gifts presented to David, by his family, were a mounted antique fan, which was originally presented to his grandfather, a revered scholar, by their native village, and a wind banner with the symbol of the tiger on it, to commemorate the year of his birth. Each streamer on the banner represents each grandchild. The Mayor of Tucson presented him with a copper letter, honoring him as an outstanding citizen. A congratulatory letter from Senator Dennis DeConcini was read by the Senator's Father, Judge Evo DeConcini.

On October 27, 2002, David Tang passed away. The following is from the Arizona Daily Star, October 31, 2002, obituary.

David "Dave" W. Tang, Sr. 1914 - 2002
Born February 8, 1914, in Canton, China, passed away in Tucson October 27, 2002. Preceded in death by his beloved daughter, Patti Tang Crowley (Paul). Survived by his loving wife and best friend of 60 years, Esther Don Tang; daughter, Diane Tang Simoes (Manny); son, David, Jr. (Donna); daughter, Liz Tang; grandchildren, Catherine "Casey" Crowley Treptow, Brian Crowley, Shane Tang, David Tang III, Darren and Andre Tang-Simoes; great-grandson, Jake Treptow; and many nieces and nephews.

Dave's father passed away when he was just an infant. At the age of 11, Dave's mother sent him to America in hopes that he would have a bright future. He was never to see his mother or his homeland again. He learned the English language, got an education and eventually settled in Tucson in 1938. Dave became known for master skills as a butcher and became a self-made, successful businessman in the Tucson community. He and his wife, Esther owned real estate and operated numerous stores, including one of the first full service grocery stores in the 50's, "Dave's One Stop" where you could buy your groceries, pick up medicine, have a root beer float and fill your gas tank. U of A sports fans, fraternities and sororities would later appreciate "Dave's Beverages" on Campbell Avenue, where he would have non-stop sports on the TV and radio, becoming friend and confidant to generations of students. Besides sports, his other love was fishing ... the fish at San Carlos Lake trembled when they heard his boat pull up. Everyone who knew Dave appreciated his kind and gentle spirit and his unprecedented work ethic. He was a generous and silent donor to countless community causes. His life centered around an unfaltering and unconditional love for his family.

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