The following is an excerpt from an interview by Ron Chew with Cathay Post #186 member Lip Mar as part of a documentary video project funded by Cathay Post #186 and the City of Seattle’s Neighborhood Matching Fund. The video, Cathay Post, American Legion #186: A Legacy of Camaraderie, Community and Patriotism, will premiere at the Wing Luke Museum on November 12.
Ron Chew: Tell me when you found out about the Cathay Post and when you started.
Lip Mar: When I joined the Post, when I came out of the service, I was not active at all until I retired from the restaurant and had time to be at their meetings on Fridays. During the restaurant days, Fridays and Saturdays were the days that you had to work. I’d go down and watch them at the meetings and hear them talk, hear them argue. In those days, after they argued, they all would go down to Sun Ya and have a drink and everybody’s fine.
Chew: What drew everybody together? Obviously, everyone was in the service, but other than that?
Mar: I don’t know. Before my brother, Dan, there were people that originated, the founders: Jimmy Mar, Hing, Gobby, that group, David. There’s a whole bunch of guys that started way back. I was not involved in that at all because they were a lot older than I was. When I joined, got active, was with the later group like Ray Lew, Cal Fung, Bill Chin, brother Dan, John Uno, Bill Sing, Bill Wing, he passed away. He was from Tacoma. There were a few others, I don’t recall right now, that were active. …
Chew: Talk about some of the activities that you did. You mentioned the spaghetti feed that helped support the fundraising. The Christmas parties, can you talk about that?
Mar: Actually, the Christmas party was not a fundraiser. It was just a community service. It’s for the community. The fundraising was just for scholarships. We’d do the street fair. We’d sell cotton candy and snow cones. That was very successful. We did that for quite a number of years. We had volunteers. During the time of the street fair, Bill Sing, he used to be an import/export type of thing. He had a lot of fans that he sold, hundreds of thousands of fans. He would donate that to us and we would sell them at the street fair at $1 a piece. Just with the fans, we would raise $300 to $400. … Since Bill passed away, we don’t have the source of the free donation of fans that would bring in $300 to $400. Without a lot of volunteers, it kind of faded away.
Chew: Do you still do the scholarship program?
Mar: Yes. … This year, the scholarship was $4,000. We give $2,000 to each student. We have a committee. This year, it was Bob Harman and Frances Gregory that selected the recipients through the mail. The participants all mailed in their forms. …
Chew: These are high school students?
Mar: High school students, uh huh. A few years ago, we did the same thing. We didn’t have a committee that was really that efficient. But what we wanted to do in those days is we’d give it to the offspring or relatives of the American Legion members, family. Any family of the American Legion would be eligible. We actually used that formula. And then one year, we opened it to everybody. We gave out a couple of free scholarships to people that we picked. …
Chew: What for you has been the most rewarding part of being with the Cathay Post?
Mar: Well, the camaraderie of people, the camaraderie of the people that were in the service. Not only do we have Asians in our club now, we have Japanese, Caucasians. They are strong members, they are commanders. Those people that are with us, they tend to come to Chinatown and mingle with us. They get involved and they enjoy it.
Chew: What do you see as the future of the Post?
Mar: Well, to me, right now, I don’t think our Post will last too long. The World War II veterans, there are very few left. The few that are left are not active. I think the only active ones from World War II are Cal Fung, Bill Chin, and I. We have Korean veterans, which are very active, and Vietnam people.
To learn more or join the Cathay Post, #186 of the American Legion, contact post Commander Lloyd Hara at [email protected] or (206) 283-9681.