British Columbia

40 years after their final show, Chinatown's Pender Guy radio is reuniting

On Saturday, members of the Pender Guy Radio Collective are coming together to reflect on their experiences producing community radio programs in the late seventies for other Chinese-Canadian youth.

Chinese-Canadian radio collective is back after four decades of radio silence

Pender Guy volunteers stand outside 15 East Pender Street in 1977. (Paul Yee/City of Vancouver Archives)

For 40 years, it's been radio silence, but on Saturday the Pender Guy Radio Collective will come together for a reunion show.

As a part of the LiterAsian Writer's Festival, members of the community radio team from the 1970s and 1980s will meet over Zoom to reflect on their time with the show and efforts to preserve its original broadcast tapes.

Pender Guy — Pender Street in Cantonese — was a weekly community radio show that ran out of Vancouver Co-op Radio Station from 1976 to 1981. Based out of Vancouver's Chinatown, the collective was formed by a group of Chinese-Canadian youth activists whose goal was to teach media skills to other young Asian-Canadians so that they could tell the stories of their communities.

On the show, listeners could expect a range of stories, from journalistic pieces on a controversial W5 program on foreign students and Chinatown's Barbecue Meats Protests, to humorous radio skits about Chinese-Canadian history.

"Before I joined, I was pretty ignorant of our own history, of my own family's story of immigration... I really didn't have a lot of curiosity at that time," Clarence Sihoe told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

Barry Wong, Clarence Sihoe, and Jim Wong-Chu working on Pender Guy in May 1978. (Paul Yee/City of Vancouver Archives)

Sihoe, who was a volunteer for Pender Guy from 1977 to 1981, said working on the show made him more aware of the history of Chinese-Canadians and connected him with others like him in Vancouver. 

 "Joining Pender Guy and meeting all these talented people who had much more experience than I did in dealing with community issues, I learned a great deal. And it serves me to this day as well," said Sihoe.

Most recently, this lasting curiosity led Sihoe to uncover the history of his own maternal grandfather, Yee Clun, who successfully sued the City of Regina in 1924 over racially motivated labour laws.

Keeman Wong, Clarence Sihoe, Jim Wong-Chu, and Becky Lum in the studio at Vancouver Co-op Radio in May 1978. (Paul Yee/City of Vancouver Archives)

After the show ended in 1981, many Pender Guy volunteers went on to become prominent figures in the Chinese-Canadian community. This includes literary figures such as award-winning author Paul Yee and the late Jim Wong-Chu, poet and founder of the Asian-Canadian Writers Workshop.

Earlier this year, a large collection of tapes from Pender Guy were digitized and added to the City of Vancouver Archives. According to Sihoe, it was important to Pender Guy that these tapes be safeguarded for future generations. 

On Saturday at noon, Pender Guy alumni will be joined by Rachel Lau, a radio producer who is working in Chinatown today. The reunion is being held over Zoom and tapes from the Pender Guy collection will be played during the event in celebration of Asian History Month.

To hear more about the reunion, tap here: