The Four Chee Sisters were a headline act at the South Seas Club on Kalakaua Avenue and McCully Street in the early 1950s. From left to right in the front row are Noreen, Juliette, Jo-Ann and Betty-Lou Chee. CLICK FOR LARGE
Hula dancer starred at club in Waikiki
Betty-Lou Chee Gin / 1932-2006
Betty-Lou Chee Gin, one of "The Four Chee Sisters," a popular hula dancing act at the swinging South Seas nightclub in Waikiki during the early 1950s, died July 17 at the age of 74 at her home in Salt Lake City.
Servicemen and local celebrities filled the former South Seas on Kalakaua Avenue nightly, and the Chee sisters were a favorite headliner for five years, says her sister, Jo-Ann Chun of Los Angeles.
"During those days, hula was the thing. And we were different, the four of us (being sisters)," Chun said. They ranged from 16 to 4 years of age when they first began performing, accompanied by an orchestra, from 1948 to 1953.
Their grandparents, Eddie Ching Wan and Ching Mun Shee, owned the South Seas and the former Hoffman Bar and Cafe in Chinatown. It was their grandfather's brainstorm for the sisters to develop an act, and also his idea that they work for free -- "we just did it for love," Chun said.
"Betty always had to keep an eye on us, but we didn't always listen to her. She was too quiet and too kind, and we always took advantage of her goodness. She was like a mother hen, making sure we had our make-up on properly.
"She was always the obedient one, the good girl," Chun said.
Gin was born in Honolulu to Nora Ching and Albert Noa Chee. In 1948 she entered the first Miss Hawaii contest and was one of five finalists. The same year, she also entered the Narcissus Queen contest in Chinatown.
She was a 1950 graduate of McKinley High School and attended Woodbury College in Los Angeles. While in L.A. she met her future husband Thon Gin, who she married in 1955. They made their home in Salt Lake City and raised three children. They traveled extensively together and recently celebrated their 51st anniversary.
Chun described Betty Gin as "truly a 'golden' child, daughter, sister, mother (and) wife. ... She was a true friend to all who met and knew her. Never an unkind word about anyone was ever spoken by Betty."
Chun continued: "Betty was a perfect homemaker and great cook, baker, gardener and creator of ceramic figurines and household treasures. She made hundreds of ceramic favors for her children's weddings and birthday celebrations."
Gin is also survived by children Cindy (Rick) Foley of Utah; Mark (Lori) Gin of California; and Greg (Ginger) Gin of Virginia; sisters Juliette (Tom) Araki, and Noreen (Clarke) Teruya; and brother, Albert (Jeanne) Chee, all of Honolulu; and eight grandchildren. She was preceded in death by brother Clifford.