Choy’s China Clipper Restaurant

Never give up hope!  I have to remind myself those words from time to time.


I recently had the pleasure of visiting Journal Square in Jersey City, New Jersey a few weeks ago and time sure has had its impact on the location that hosted Wah Sun Choy’s China Clipper Restaurant (lower left corner under the Jacob Ruppert billbord).  Choy was a very well liked entrepreneur in both New Jersey and New York City in the 1930’s and was even noted by respected murder mystery novelist Darwin Teilhet as a “pleasant gentleman.” He should know – Teilhet shared the Hawaii Clipper’s spacious cabin with Choy on the Pan Am Airways flight #229 San Fransisco to Honolulu leg and even noted the infamous black satchel bag containing the alleged three million dollars worth of gold-backed bank notes from Chase Manhattan.

In the postcard above is a rare glimpse of his signature China Clipper Restaurant with a distinctive curved window wall looking out into Journal Square.   I always hoped to find a remnant or something tangible from this particular location as it seems to be one of the most interesting and quite possibly most important clues as to the reason the Hawaii Clipper was hijacked in 1938.   Last week it happened!


Watson used his charm, whit and intelligence to open the successful restaurant enterprises and win public favor with anyone that knew him, even the upper class Caucasians of New York City.   To his credit, he was active in the plight of equal treatment for his fellow Chinese and was even a volunteer fireman and card carrying Republican.


In the photo above, an outline of the Martin M-130 flying boat China Clipper is seen suspended above a China Clipper sign and over the bustling crowds of the city.  Today, this is how the location looks from the same vantage point.


Interestingly, I was fortunate to secure an actual menu from the restaurant with a personal note on the inside from a customer dated one month prior to the vanishing of Wah Sun.


Over an unknown amount of time, “Watson” raised a reported three million dollars from charitable giving of his patrons, friends and connected social elites to help the embattled Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Zhongzheng) via brother Frank Choy, a Lieutenant in the Chinese Air Force.

Choy Brothers

The plan was Frank would see to its safe transportation behind enemy lines once it was delivered to China.  In my humble estimation of this very dangerous plan, both Choy’s were courageous in their efforts and journeys.  It is interesting to note that Frank did come back to the United States later in 1939 aboard the Netherlands steamer ship Nieuw Amsterdam when he accompanied Madame Quo Tai-chi (wife of Chinese Kuomintang Ambassador to London Quo Tai-chi and son Merlin), Chiang Wei-kuo (adopted son of Chinese President Chiang Kai-shek from Chinese Journalist Tai Chi-tao and Japanese wife Yamada Juntaro) on October 23rd on a diplomatic passport.



5 Comments Add yours

  1. JK W says:

    What a Story!! Thanks! I was researching some vintage swizzle sticks on ebay, you sold me on this one!


  2. Bruce Becker says:

    My Brother Baron and I,( Bruce Becker) grew up with the Choy family.
    Eugen and Frankie went to school with us. PS#11. I have many fond memories of after school going to the (Clipper) and put to work making Wanton’s etc. Frank eventually moved to Clifton and opened his own restaurant, The House of Choy. Much more, much more


    1. Guy says:

      Thanks so much Bruce for your insight and I have sent you an email to review upon your first opportunity.


  3. Hello Guy! I came across this page and article because I have, in my possession, an original, hand-blown, green glass, swizzle stick w/spoon end that came FROM the CHINA CLIPPER! There is info etched upon it that says:
    Because of it, I searched the name and here I am! How interesting to read this story and see not only the postcard, but an actual pic of the place! I will be listing it online and having accurate info is great.
    Thanks for a great article and helping me learn more about this iconic place!


    1. Guy says:

      Hi Cathy, did you ever list it? I would love to see it. 🙂


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