Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Mike Wong, Cartoonist

Michael Lucas “Mike” Wong was born on June 14, 1931, in Siskiyou County, California, according to the California Birth Index at The 1930 United States Census recorded the Wong family in Yreka, California, so it’s likely Wong was born in that city. His parents were Lee Hong Wong and Jew Shee (Miss Jew). The 1930 census said Lee Hong Wong’s second, third and fourth children, Bobby, Arthur and Helen, were born in Oregon, and the fifth child, Herbert, in California. Lee Hong Wong was a cook.

Wong’s father was born in Yreka in either 1894 or 1895. The different years are from his World War II draft card and the California Death Index. On May 24, 1917, Lee Hong Wong arrived in San Francisco from China where he married Jew Shee and started a family. A few years later, his wife and daughter joined him in Oregon. 

Lee Hong Wong’s address in Oregon was 619 Main Street in Klamath Falls. He owned an automobile, a 1926 Nash sedan, that was registered in the State of Oregon Automobile, Motorcycle, Dealer and Chauffeur Registrations, January 1928.

Lee Hong Wong was listed at 619 Main Street in the 1936 and 1938 Klamath Falls city directories. 

When the 1940 census was enumerated, Lee Hong Wong had divided his family. He and sons, Robert and Arthur, lived in Klamath Falls, Oregon at 619 Main Street. His wife and four children resided in the Chinatown of Newcastle, Placer County, California. 

The 1949 Klamath Falls directory said Wong was a student, and his father, Lee H. Wong, operated the Oriental Cafe. Their home address was the rear of 619 1/2 Main Street. 

According to the 1950 Sacred Heart Academy yearbook, Atrian, Wong enrolled in the high school in 1948. He had transferred from San Francisco, California. Wong graduated in 1950.

The Oregon Journal (Portland, Oregon), January 31, 1950, said Wong was one of 185 Oregon students awarded Scholastic Arts Award gold keys. 

The 1950 census counted Wong and his brother, Herbert, at 623 1/2 Main Street, room 10, in Klamath Falls. 

The 1951 directory said Wong resided at 319 Main Street. He was a stockman at the Walgreen Drug Company. His parents were still at 619 1/2 Main Street and operated the Oriental Cafe. 

The Klamath Falls Herald and News, June 1, 1954, reported Wong’s break into syndicated comics.
Mike Wong, young Klamath Falls cartoonist, is now associated with Hank Ketcham, who syndicates the cartoon series, “Dennis the Menace,” which started this week in the Herald News. Mike is the son of Mr. and Mrs. L.H. Wong, owners of the Oriental Cafe on Main Street. He was introduced to Ketcham by Scott Newhall, cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle, when he went to San Francisco to market his work. He is a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and is 22 years old. He recently sent an autographed copy of “Dennis”, to Maurice Miller, circulation manager of the H & N.

Editor & Publisher, June 12, 1954, also noted Wong’s new job. 
“Mike Wong is now associated with Hank Ketcham, who does “Dennis the Menace.” Mr. Wong is an ex-parttime cartoonist for the Klamath Falls Herald and News.” 
It’s not clear how Wong assisted Ketcham who lived with his wife and son in Carmel, California. 

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said the strip, Romulus of Rome, debuted April 10 1961 in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was written by J.P. Cahn and drawn by Wong. 

Editor & Publisher, January 5, 1963, said Romulus of Rome would be syndicated in early 1963. Editor & Publisher, March 2, 1963, reported how the Chronicle was promoting the strip locally. 
The recipe for the Kooba kiss is being offered San Francisco Chronicle readers in promotion featuring the “Romulus of Rome” historical adventure comic strip released through Chronicle Features Syndicate. This is the drink all Kooba enjoyed in the days of Romulus, according to the strip’s creators, J. P. Cahn and Mike Wong. (E&P, Jan. 5, page 42). The promotion copy described the beverage as “a delectable potion which changed all history.” The Chronicle declares the recipe is available—by mail only—to Kooban Information Bureau, Room 303, Chronicle. A self-addressed, stamped envelope is required.

The series ended on December 20, 1963. Its demise was described in Editor & Publisher, January 11, 1964. 

Wong’s artistic skills were noted in the Oakland Tribune, August 8, 1966.
Mike Wong, the hot Berkeley artist, was commissioned by John Von Weisel of the U.S. Treasury Dept. to do a certificate (that will be presented KRON-TV for public service selling Savings Bonds) showing a $75 bond with the award information in the center. Wong finished the design, rushed it to Oakland National Engraving and—whoa! “No chance,” they told him. “It’s against the law to make engravings like that.” Wong has to get a note from Von Weisel saying it was NOT a counterfeiting attempt. …
So far no additional information about Wong has been found.

Wong’s father passed away May 22, 1969. The Oakland Tribune, May 25, 1969, said
Wong, Lee Hong, in Berkeley, May 22, 1969, beloved husband of Jew Shee Wong; loving father of Mrs. Lucille W. Toy of El Cerrito, Robert R. Wong of Berkeley, Arthur T. Wong of Honolulu, Hawaii, Mrs. Helen W. Gee of Orinda, Herbert L. Wong of Portland, Ore. and Michael L. Wong of Berkeley; also survived by 11 grandchildren. A native of Yreka; 

Friends are invited to attend services Monday, May 26 at 2 p.m. at the new Sunset View Mortuary, 101 Colusa Ave., Berkeley El Cerrito. Evening services Sunday, May 25 at 7 p.m. Rev. C. M. Lee officiating. Interment Sunset View Cemetery.
Wong’s mother passed away on January 17, 1974. The San Francisco Chronicle, January 19, 1974 said
Wong, Jew Chee—In El Cerrito, January 17, 1974. Jew Shee Wong, loving mother of Robert R. Wong of Berkeley, Arthur T. Wong of El Cerrito, Herbert L. Wong of Portland, Ore., Michael L. Wong of El Cerrito, Mrs. Lucille Toy of El Cerrito and Mrs. Helen Gee of Orinda; also survived by eleven grandchildren and one great grandchild; a native of China; aged 78 years; a resident of El Cerrito since 1970.

Friends are invited to attend services Monday, January 21 at 2 p.m. at Sunset View Mortuary Chapel, Colusa Ave. & Fairmount, Berkeley-El Cerrito. Officiating Rev. Ching Ming Lee of Berkeley Chinese Community Church. Interment, Sunset View Cemetery.
Wong passed away on April 15, 1988, in Alameda County, California, according to the California Death Index at 

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(Next post on Wednesday: Lum Fong’s New York Restaurants)

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