News & Politics » Our Town

Backing Chinatown

Invest in your community today, says former banker Ben Wong, and spend your retirement singing Elvis songs.

by

2 comments

Part of an occasional series of oral histories, as told to Anne Ford

I came to United States from Hong Kong in 1970. I went to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, for college. You know what is my feeling the first month? There's nobody walking on the street. You go to Hong Kong, you go out to the street, people push you around. Come to America, the whole street, nobody walking. It like a dead town. After I graduate, I came to Northwestern for graduate school in MBA. I'm in the financial field.

I went down to Cincinnati to live there for about 15 years. Cincinnati had very few Chinese—maybe 300. One day I talked to my wife: "Are we going to be here for the rest of our lives? We have to go somewhere that have more Chinese there." It's like if American go to Germany. The first year, fine. After 15 years, you feel, "Well, I like being with the other Americans. I like juicy steak."

So I came to Chicago in 1987 to set up the first Chinese bank, New Asia Bank. That's a big thing. A banking institution in a minority community is very, very important for economic development. Look at here. What do you see? This is called the Chinatown Square. Before I came up here to set up the Chinese bank, empty land. The reason is because the people don't have financial backer.

They came to me, the first Chinese bank. I say, "First develop a small piece." One hundred seven store in the first phase. I say, "You don't do it like a mall. You do it like condominium. You find people to buy each unit itself. Get those, and then come to me, and my bank will make a commitment to finance that building.

I sold the bank about three years ago, but I am still adviser. I'm very active in the Asian community. The Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, every year they have a big annual meeting. They have about maybe a thousand people in Hilton. Usually they invite famous singers from Hong Kong to come and perform. One year I say, "Oh, by the way, I can sing myself." After they see me sing one or two time, they say, "We have a cultural event, can you come and sing to us?" and then I say, "Fine." Since about ten years ago, I perform three or four times a year at community event.

You know why I sing Elvis? Because my wife like Elvis. I only know old song. I don't know new song, OK? Tom Jones, that kind of song—that is my way of singing. My most favorite song is "It's Now or Never," because that song have a very good rumba beat.

I have strong point and I have weak point. My strong point is that I have very good analytical skills. So I use my strong point to do a lot of thing. If you can analyze a little bit better than the other people, then you will be able to make good money. Then when you retire, you analyze how can you make your life more enjoyable. It's a good way to give yourself fun, OK? To do some singing.

Find out how you can help

Tags


Daily Curiosity


Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment
 

Add a comment