Ping Lee Family

Ping Lee

Ping Lee was born in Canton, China February 16, 1891. He immigrated to Canada, when he was young, with his father, Li Te Neu. He went to public school in Vancouver, British Columbia. After he graduated from school, Ping married a woman named Lena. The date of the wedding is unknown. She died suddenly in 1939. Before her death, Ping and Lena had four children: Henry, Mabel, Fred and Anna. Ping moved to Windsor in 1921. Since job opportunities for Chinese people were limited, Ping decided to go into business for himself. Throughout his life Ping ran a number of restaurants and stores. The first restaurant he opened in 1924 was called ‘The Cadillac Café’ at 1134 Pelissier Street. It was designed as a dinner cabaret lounge. At the time it advertised as having the largest dance floor in downtown Windsor. After the closure of the Café he opened a dry good store in 1935 called the ‘Oriental Goods Co.’ at 123 Sandwich St. E. In 1944 he operated another restaurant called ‘Handy Lunch’ at 4271 Riverside Dr. E. In 1947 Ping Lee founded the ‘Oriental Commerce Ltd,’ which later expanded into ‘Dragon Brands’ frozen Chinese foods on Lincoln Road. It became very successful, and employed many local Chinese and non-Chinese people. It later expanded into the former Sterling Drug Plant on Elliott Street when production increased. The food produced at Dragon Brands was innovative at the time, and was distributed throughout Ontario. The operation was eventually bought out by Chun King Corporation of Canada Limited during the 1960s. Two of his four children worked with him at Dragon Brands. Frederick, a chemical engineering graduate from the University of Toronto was the General Manager of the company and Anna, a chemistry graduate from the same university, was in charge of the laboratory, quality control and inspection. Henry went on to work as an electrical engineer with Chrysler. After the purchase of Dragon Brand, the family opened the Oriental Centre on Goyeau and Wyandotte, where the Detroit Windsor Tunnel plaza is located, which imported and sold Chinese decorative objects. Ping died November 22, 1969. Ping Lee was a founding member of the Chinese Benevolent Society of Windsor and the founder of the Chinese Language School in Windsor in 1925. He was a member of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Windsor, the Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Windsor Foundation, the Canadian Council of Christians & Jews, and the Canadian Import-Export Association. He was the past president and national director of the ‘Shing Wah Po’ - the largest Chinese daily newspaper in Canada and was on the board of governors of South China University. Ping Lee was active in the Chinese War Relief organization and was a delegate to the Chinese Nationalist Government which elected the first executive committee for the government of China.