About the Jade Restaurant
The Jade restaurant that opened in 1951 quickly became a Kingman landmark. Its location on Route 66 next to the Arcadia Lodge ensured that business was brisk. But its popularity and its success are owed to the amazing Charlie Lum.
Born in the Canton province of China in 1912, Charlie Hing Lum emigrated to the United States with his father Lum Sing Yow, and brother Wong Lum, in 1922. His grandfather had emigrated to the Arizona territory in 1884, settled in Kingman, and opened several relatively successful restaurants in that town as well as in other area mining camps. And so, Charlie, his father nicknamed “China Jack” and his brother also settled in Kingman.
Lum’s father bought the Boston Cafe on Front Street, now Andy Devine Avenue, the Route 66 corridor in Kingman. As with most Chinese owned businesses at the time, it was a family run enterprise. Charlie Lum quit school while in the eighth grade and went to work as a dishwasher. And he had a second job working in a café next to the Beale Hotel.
It was at that café on October 20th, 1926, that Charlie became a witness to assassination. At about 8:45 that evening a Chrysler touring car with a driver and four passengers, all members of the Bing Kong Tong, were cruising through the alley behind the restaurant.
The owners of that restaurant were Don On and Tom King, Chinese immigrants that had relocated to Kingman from California. It would later be learned that Tom King was a member of the rival Hop Sing Tong, that he had been a pit boss at an illegal casino, and that an attempt made by King to collect on a debt had fueled an escalating feud between the tongs.
While the driver waited in the car, the other men entered the rear door of the restaurant, one called out King, and then they opened fire. After assassinating King, they fled west along the National Old Trails Road in a running gun battle with Mohave County Sheriff Mahoney but were apprehended near Topock.
The trial became a media sensation as several of the assassins were under the age of 18, and they had all been given the death penalty. Charlie Lum was a witness at that trial.
In 1931, Charlie returned to China to care for an ailing mother. It was there that he met and married his first wife, Jan Gum Foon, and where his daughter was born.
He had planned on returning to Kingman, but his father had given the café to his brother. And so, upon his return to the United States he opened a restaurant along Route 66 in Williams, Arizona. A few years later he sold the business, moved to San Francisco, and opened the Shanghai Lil Club.
In 1951, Charlie sold that business, moved to Kingman where his brother was operating the Boston Café under the name White House Café, and opened the Jade restaurant. At the time it was the only Chinese restaurant in Kingman or northwestern Arizona.
The 1954 edition of the Western Accommodations Directory published by AAA noted, “Jade restaurant, air conditioned. Open daily 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM. Well prepared food with Chinese dishes, prime rib, steaks, southern style fried chicken, and sea food the specialties. Breakfast 65 cents up, luncheon $1 up, dinners $1.50 to $3.50; also, a la carte. Counter and booth service.”
Advertisement proudly proclaimed that the Jade restaurant was ‘The Pride of Highway 66.” It was also the pride of Kingman, and many social organizations held their meetings and hosted their patties at the restaurant.
But Charlie was more than just a successful businessman. He broke down prejudicial barriers and became a community leader. He was the first Chinese member of the Kingman Elks Lodge, and of the Rotary Club, and was an honorary member of the Lions. He served on the board of directors with the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored local softball and Little League teams. For many years during the Christmas school holiday, he would rent the State Theatre and host a movie party for the children.
In 1964, the year before he sold the jade restaurant to Tommy Choy, Lum opened the city’s first coin-operated laundromat. He also built Lum’s Apartments, a ten-unit complex.
Several years later he opened a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. In 1977, he was given the prestigious Franchise Service Award from the KFC head office for providing quality service for ten years. That long-closed building still stands just off Route 66.
In 1973, he built Lum’s Cocktail Lounge which offered cocktails, dancing, and pool tables, as well as a package goods section. Then in 1978 he retired and moved to Hawaii. His only daughter and her husband stayed in Kingman managing their restaurant, the House of Chan.
After acquiring the restaurant Tommy Choy transformed the Jade. To give it a more Polynesian theme he added a fake grass roof appearance to the façade, flaming torches inside and out, remodeled the main dining room, and expanded the menu to include American, Chinese, and Polynesian food. The Bora-Bora Room, a piano bar with Jess Parker on the organ, was added just off the main dining room.