Special Report - Chinatown pg 2
Californian SPECIAL REPORT CHINATOWN Monday, November 28, 2005 fUl LTU rn ids?(mfnrn n ilk UUVJ once flourished here From Page lA The makings of a Chinatown It sprung up to house and serve Chinese farm workers who came to harvest wheat in the late 1860s, the wave of immigrant labor in the Salinas Valley. According to Sandy Lydon's book "Chinese Gold The Chinese Chinese in the Monterey Bay Region," Chinese workers also toiled in the 1870s to clear and drained many of the valley's sloughs to create valuable new farmland In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Exclusion Act was signed into law, restricting Chinese laborers and women from entering the country. Merchants, scholars and students still were allowed in, but they weren't eligible to become citizens. Salinas' first Chinatown formed off of East Lake Street between North Main and Pajaro streets. A fire in 1893 burned down the wooden dwellings, and the service center center for farm laborers moved one block east Eugene Sherwood, co-founder co-founder co-founder of Salinas, leased Soledad Street lots to six Chinese Chinese mea In 1910, 68 Chinese men and two Chinese women lived there, according to Lydon's book. By that point, a small Japan-town Japan-town Japan-town had formed on the north side of Lake Street, bringing more business for the 27 China-born China-born China-born merchants who were listed in a MO census. "The Soledad Street Chinatown Chinatown became the recreation center for the farm laborers who replaced the Chinese first the Japanese, and then the Filipinos, and even later the Braceros and "Mexicans," Lydon writes. The Bing Kong Tong and the Suey Sing Tong, which were and still are on opposite sides of Soledad Street, operated gambling halls. Chinatown's most well-known well-known well-known merchant was Lee Yin, known as "Shorty" Lee, who came to Salinas in 1908 and became the unofficial mayor of Chinatown in the 1920s. His store, called Hop Hing Lung, at 12 12 Soledad St, had a small gambling hall in the back. Lee also ran gambling halls in the rear of his cigar stores On Luck Guey Co. at 4 Soledad St. and International Co. at 22 Soledad St., said his grandson, Wellington Lee, in an e-maiL e-maiL e-maiL "Salinas' Chinatown and Japantown remained insulated, insulated, on the 'other side of the tracks,' making it easier for gambling and prostitution to flourish," Lydon writes. "Shorty" Lee was a member of the Bing Kong Tong, which was next door to his family's home. Recalling a visit to the tong in the '50s, Wellington Lee said "It seemed like I was at a temple temple because of its altar that included a painting of ferocious-looking ferocious-looking ferocious-looking ferocious-looking gods and strong-smelling strong-smelling strong-smelling lighted incense sticks." The tongs remain in Chinatown Chinatown and still serve as a place to play mahjong, a four-player four-player four-player game similar to gin rummy but with tiles instead of cards. Immigrants forced to rent American-born American-born American-born merchants like Ahtye's parents could be landowners, unlike many of the families who lived on Soledad Street. The California Alien Land Laws of 1913 restricted aliens ineligible for citizenship Chinese and Japanese from owning property. The loophole loophole was that the American-born American-born American-born children of immigrants could put land in their name or property could be leased to them. But in 1920, the land law was broadened to stop immigrants from leasing land "(The Chinese) had to rent and build on top of it," Ahtye said The 1924 Quota Act further limited the immigration of Japanese and Chinese, but a new immigrant work force was quickly identified Because the Philippines was ' irsfr5."l . TO HELP n fl . i:k: ui mm r j DOROTHY'S PLACE: Food and clothing donations can be dropped off at 30 Soledad St. Monetary donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 2027 Salinas, CA 93902. To volunteer, call 757-3838 757-3838 757-3838 VICTORY MISSION: Donations of clothing, food and toiletries can be dropped off in the alley behind 43 Soledad St. Monetary donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 995 Salinas, CA 93902. Information: 424-5688. 424-5688. 424-5688. SCOTT MACD0NALDTHE SALINAS CALIFORNIAN People worship Oct. 30 at the Buddhist Temple of Salinas. The original temple was built in 1926. This temple building was constructed constructed in 1976. I 5 i 5 M " i t 4-t 4-t 4-t km'1 WW U -It) -It) Jl.s f- f- 7 If. X' f j i J j- j- ' s . f ' ABOUT THIS SERIES SCOTT MACDONALDTHE SALINAS CALIFORNIAN Wooden markers bearing the names of those who contributed money in 1960 to Bing Kong Tong on Soledad Street in Salinas hang on the wall of the Chinese social club. Frank Tang, the house manager, said descendants occasionally visit the Tong to look for their family members' names on the wall. considered a protectorate of the United States, Filipinos were recruited to work in the fields of California and in the Salinas Valley in the 1920s. In the 1930s, PI Market, which was owned by Filipinos, opened on Soledad Street, Ahtye said In 1936, the Filipino Community Community Church was built at 21 California California St., said .Melchizedek Maraon Solis, executive director director of CyberBarangay, a Filipino Filipino organization in Salinas. Filipinos were the main customers customers for Chinese merchants, Ahtye said "Instead of participating directly in the Green Gold Rush of the 1920s and 1930s, the Chinese worked in the gambling halls and stores on Soledad Street, mining the pockets of the farm workers," Lydon writes. In 1937, the Salinas Confucius Church was built at 1 California California St., giving Ahtye and his childhood friends a place to play and attend Chinese schooL Before then, children studied in the downstairs of the Chee Kong Tong temple, which was at the corner of East Lake and Soledad streets. Filipinos came and went Five years after the Confucius Church was built, Ahtye's moth er, Lily Ahtye, opened the Republic Cafe at 37 Soledad St Ahtye's family family lived in an apartment above the cafe, one of the last Chinese busi nesses to close in Chinatown. The two-story two-story two-story restaurant had an upstairs for private parties and once held up to 150 people. But five large woks in the kitchen haven't been used since 1988. The cafe's front door boarded up. Uld menus scattered across a dirty floor. Once the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943 and alien land laws were abolished abolished in 1952, families started drifting away from Salinas' Chinatown to other parts of Wally Ahtye is are town or to other cities, Ahtye said. "Little by little, people just moved away," he said A sudden push in the decline of Japantown came in 1942, when all local Japanese residents residents were sent to an internment internment camp in Arizona after first being gathered together at the Salinas Rodeo Grounds. Before the war, the Salinas Buddhist Temple, which was built in 1926, had five ministers and a congregation of more than 800, said Doug Iwamoto, a longtime temple member. The Buddhist Temple now has about 200 members, Iwamoto said After the internment camps were closed in 1945, he said, "The only people who showed up back here (in Salinas) are people who had land a house, an asset" In Lydon's book "The Japanese Japanese in the Monterey Bay Region," he writes, "Salinas was the most anti-Japanese anti-Japanese anti-Japanese of the region's cities, with the issue of agricultural competition competition compounded by the large number of Salinas men who were killed in the Philippines early in the war." The Filipino presence in Chinatown Chinatown also has dwindled over the years. In 1955, a Filipino Presbyterian Presbyterian Church on California Street moved to 615 Leslie Drive and is now called the St Philips Church. The upstairs of the Green Gold Inn at 30 Soledad St. was once home to Filipino farm workers, he said, but there aren't any Filipino property owners in the neighborhood now. "They are not down there anymore. They didn't own the land" Solis said "They were not earning enough money. They were exploited farm workers." Saloons, prostitutes move in As soldiers were being trained at Fort Ord for World War II, Chinatown was a party spot for them, conveniently located near the train station to the west Soldiers were even banned from the area during the war SATURDAY: Chinatown offers services for the homeless, but there is a push to redevelop the area, which is a prime spot for crime. TODAY: Soledad Street north of Market Street has a rich history as a home to Chinese and other Asian populations. TUESDAY: A longtime volunteer, a Soledad Street property owner, a recovered drug addict and a woman still struggling with addiction tell their stories. WEDNESDAY: Social service providers want to expand homeless services in Chinatown while some property owners there want them to make way for redevelopment. years, said Ted Ponton, a Salinas Salinas native who has a glass shop at 141 E Lake St Ponton is the self-proclaimed self-proclaimed self-proclaimed mayor of Chinatown. Temporary workers from Mexico called Braceros, who labored in the fields from 1942 to 1964, also came to Chinatown. Chinatown. Wellington Lee, who grew up on Soledad Street and now lives in San Francisco, said most of the Chinese stores were closed in the '50s. "I remember shyly accepting coins from Braceros of the farm fields and uniformed soldiers soldiers of nearby Fort Ord who filled Soledad Street on a Saturday Saturday night," Lee said In 1957, the federal program of urban renewal came to Salinas, Salinas, he said "Chinatown was a main target target with its fading, shabby, wooden structures that were fire, health and safety hazards," Lee said A new role for the neighborhood neighborhood that of a refuge for the down and out began in 1959, when Victory Mission, a non-denominational non-denominational non-denominational Christian organization, moved to 43 Soledad St Forty-six Forty-six Forty-six years later, it still offers dinner and an overnight shelter to up to 52 men, who attend their nightly service. The bottom of the mission used to be a bar and the top of the building was once a brothel, said Robert Sanderson, Sanderson, a staff member at the mission. In 1961, Lee's family home at 12 12 Soledad Street and other buildings in the area were demolished Despite the efforts at urban renewal, Chinatown kept up its reputation as Salinas' "red-light "red-light "red-light district." "It was Mardi Gras," said Shirley Amelia Lewis, whose father Clyde Lewis once ran a brothel on the corner of Soledad Street and Market Way. Shirley Lewis, who now lives in Orange County, said her father was the unofficial mayor of Chinatown and ran Pop's Big P pool halL a card room and the Lewis HoteL In the '60s, the hotel housed and fed homeless mea Lewis said, but then transvestites took over. "You could walk down the aisle and you could smell perfume perfume and talcum powder," she said "Being a teenager and from conservative Pacific Grove ... being shown this new environment was great" By the 70s, the neighborhood's neighborhood's dynamics changed again when prostitutes and pimps from out of town starting starting doing business in the area, Lewis said As many as 50 prostitutes were in Chinatown, she said adding that women at her father's hotel charged $8 for 10 minutes. "I saw (the pimps) do some horrible things to women," said Lewis, who ran an upscale bar and nightclub called the Goal Post in the early '80s. "They had a quota where (the prostitutes) had to make $500 every night, and if they didn't make it, they couldn't 'go lags Meanwhile, the Salinas Urban Renewal Agency wanted wanted to revitalize the 100 block of Main Street which now is capped by the National Steinbeck Steinbeck Center but faced a major social obstacle. A 1980 redevelopment plan described the 100 block as the home of "an unhealthy mix of retired persons, farm workers, workers, transients... drug dealers, prostitutes and businesses designed to serve this market." market." The Cominos Hotel and the Ordway Hotel, both on the 100 block, had single rooms for migrant workers. The plan suggested solving this "problem" by relocating the Swinging Door, a drop-in drop-in drop-in daytime shelter on Market Street, to Soledad Street The Swinging Door was operated by Sun Street Centers. "The social behavior and the very presence of such people become a blighting influence which impedes economic development in the area," the plan said To the dismay of the Buddhist Buddhist Temple, in 1985 the Swinging Door and Dorothy's Kitchen moved to the corner of Soledad Street and Market Way, Ahtye's first home. In the late 1980s, Salinas police began a series of prostitution prostitution stings in the area, and the City Council made zoning changes to dilute the number ofbarsinthearea. In 1992, the council voted to make California Street a dead end at Market Way. They also agreed to make Lake Alley one ONLINE DOROTHY'S PLACE: www.dorothysplace.org SALINAS BUDDHIST TEMPLE: http:worknotes.com CASalinasBTS CHINESE AMERICAN CITIZEN'S ALLIANCE SALINAS LODGE: www.cacasalinas.org way and switched Bridge Street's one-way one-way one-way direction from south to north. "The one-way one-way one-way streets in Chinatown Chinatown were set up to control the prostitution and the drug trafficking," said Salinas Mayor Anna Caballero. At the same time, the city's move made Chinatown a crime-ridden crime-ridden crime-ridden island "They created a place to hold and contain the issue of prostitution, prostitution, the issue of drugs and contain the homeless people to a certain extent," said Jesus Armenta, former redevelopment redevelopment agency project manager and now director of fund development and marketing for Sun Street Centers. Chinatown is supposed to be Phase II of downtown redevd opment according to a 1987 plan. It outlines the need to reduce the number of bars in the neighborhood and relocate homeless services make way for improvement In the early '90s, a plan to move homeless services several several blocks east of Chinatown to Sun Street was shot down in public hearings. The Buddhist Temple and the Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra formed a partnership partnership in 1994 to move the Dorothy's Place soup kitchen to the former Green Gold Inn, temporarily keeping the hospitality hospitality center in the area The lease was only for 10 years, but in December 2004, the Franciscan Franciscan Workers got a two-year two-year two-year extensioa The Green Gold Inn was formerly formerly a crack house, said Robert Smith, Dorothy's director, director, and now the downstairs is a soup kitchen and the upstairs provides lodging for men seeking seeking a way out of homelessness. A year ago, La Fama Bar on Lake Street closed down after a narcotics bust That leaves the Copacabana, a nightclub that hosts Mexican bands on Saturday nights, as the only established place for nightlife in Chinatown. Meanwhile, Oldtown Salinas just blocks from the heart of Chinatown has been the focus of a celebrated effort at downtown revival. The 100 block of Main Street alone has had several renewal projects, including the Steinbeck Center, Center, which opened in 1998 and a 14-screen 14-screen 14-screen movie theater, Maya Cinemas, which opened in July. Redevelopment in Chinatown Chinatown has been delayed because of the slow pace of Main Street redevelopment and the difficulty of attracting a developer to an area plagued by blight, homelessness and drugs, city officials say. Ahtye said the city continues to treat Soledad Street, which is mainly Chinese-owned Chinese-owned Chinese-owned "like a minority." "When you talk to the redevelopment redevelopment people they say, After this is done, then well do Chinatown," he said "It never did happen. Nothing has happened" happened" Salinas Californian staff photographer SCOTT MACDONALD contributed to this report Contact Zachary Stahl at zstahlgannett.com. Contact Scott MacDonald at smacdonaldgannett.com.