Tan on roller-skates - R.2020-30


Tan on roller-skates

Maker: Unknown
Medium:Dye coupler print
Geography: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date: 1978-1979
12.3 × 8.8 cm (4 13/16 × 3 7/16 in.)
Object number: 2019.52.1
Credit Line: Gift of Chi Tan Thai. Courtesy of The Family Camera Network
Not on view

This is an image of Chi Tan Thai (Tan) as a young man and it is one of a few photographs of Tan in his youth. It was taken shortly after Tan arrived in Canada after escaping from Vietnam. He is wearing a pair of roller-skates that he borrowed from a friend and he is standing on a wide sidewalk that runs along a beachside park in Toronto. The sidewalk is lined with hydro poles on one side, and in the background, groups of people can be seen walking, having picnics in the grass, sitting on the beach, and playing on playground equipment. Looking at this photograph, Tan recalls how he and his childhood friends used to make their own roller-skates in Vietnam.

Tan (b. 1959-) is ethnic Chinese and growing up, he and his family lived in District 5 of Saigon (Cholon, or Chinatown). He remembers vividly how, two weeks after the fall of Saigon in April 1975, he helped his father burn all the family photographs, so the images could not incriminate them and make them vulnerable to persecution. In the fall of 1978, Tan escaped Vietnam on a boat with two of his siblings. They were aboard the Hai Hung, which was a large freighter transporting over 2000 refugees fleeing Vietnam. The ship was turned away in Malaysia and the boat drifted for 30 days until the International Red Cross intervened.

Tan and his siblings were among the group of 200 refugees that were resettled in Canada. They landed in Montreal in December 1978. After two days in Montreal, they relocated to Toronto, where his siblings went to school and Tan worked to support the family. Within a year, Tan helped his father and his youngest sibling escape Vietnam (his mother had passed away in 1977). Tan became a husband, a father, and a small business owner with shops located in Toronto (Chinatown and mid-town).

This image is part of The Family Camera Network public archive at the Royal Ontario Museum, which includes photographs and oral histories, among other objects from family photo collections.

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