“A second look. This was the title of the late Doris Robertson Polley’s column that the Hanford Sentinel published throughout the 1990s. A native of deep-rooted Hanford, Doris and her husband, Donald, returned to Hanford in 1989, where they have decided to spend their golden years after retirement. She wrote: “We rediscover the tree-lined streets, the elegant old houses that were here when we were growing up, the charm of old Chinatown and the beauty of the downtown buildings, restored, primed and painted. This was the essence of his chronicles, past stories woven into the present. Of course, mom saved every column.
As my work of sorting out Mum’s papers continues, I occasionally pull a column cut from the “Robertson Polley File” and walk through it. Last week a particular paragraph caught my attention. Doris wrote: “The early Chinese brought their special brand of cuisine to this region a long time ago. The Wing Dynasty started in Hanford in 1883. Camille Wing tells me she has an old photo, circa 1913, which shows a Chinese restaurant in downtown Hanford. Some local historians also believe that the small building behind Bill Banister’s stationery on Sixth Street once housed a Chinese restaurant.
I immediately contacted Steve and asked him about the building behind his father’s store. He confirmed that he had heard of the Chinese restaurant, but that was all he knew. Since mom is not there, I couldn’t confirm the downtown restaurant, but the tiny bit of information caused a very faint ripple in my memory. But I just couldn’t place it, or remember the photo Doris was referring to, so I kept sorting through a large box of paperwork.
I picked up a binder labeled “Chinatown Pictorial 1” and, rather than now expected, the winks, woo woos, and mom messages continue. The first page I looked at was a copy of an advertisement promoting noodles and chop suey at Opera restaurant. Mom had written next to the ad, “Journal, January 11, 1913”, and underneath, “120 N. Irwin Street”. A quick Google search told me that the address is the current home of the Kings County Economic Development Corporation. I needed to find this photo.
I carefully leafed through the binder, but no photo of a Chinese restaurant in Hanford town center appeared. I ripped another binder from the box. Yes you know what happened, I opened the filing cabinet and found myself looking at a photo of a major event happening on Irwin Street. In the upper left corner of the photo, there was a sign for the Opera Café, chop suey and noodles written under the name.
And so my research continues. I find it interesting that a Chinese restaurant is located outside of Chinatown at this time. All I have learned so far is that the owner of the Opera Café was Jack Saito. I’m also trying to find out more about the Chinese restaurant behind the stationery.
In April 1997, a compilation of The Chronicles of Doris was published in book form by the Hanford Carnegie Museum. Mom kept her signed copy of “Another Look at a Second Look” near her desk. In the preface to the book, Daniel Humason, charter chairman of the Hanford Carnegie Museum, wrote: “For many years Doris Robertson Polley has written the history of citizens and past and contemporary events, some recent and others. date back to the earliest days of Kings County. Names and places bring back memories of people and incidents that we tend to forget. These stories should be made a permanent part of the story and available to the public. She deserves our thanks for her dedication.
She certainly did. Like mom, of course, in all of her preservation work. For my part, I will continue, case by case, case by case, to keep an eye on the Opera Café and any other historic Chinese restaurant, without forgetting to keep an open mind as to when and where things are going and to go out. off the beaten track.
After my last column’s recipe for dumplings which used the bounty of butternut squash provided by the garden, some of you have asked for the butternut squash pizza recipe. I don’t have a regular recipe, I change it each time according to the other ingredients I have on hand. Sometimes I mash the squash and use it as a sauce. In Melissa Clark’s cookbook, “Dinner,” she has a great butternut squash pizza recipe that includes sage and caramelized Meyer lemons. The last time I made a butternut squash pizza, I used Valérie Bertinelli’s recipe. It has an herb crust and is topped with a brilliant arugula salad that hit the nail on the head. Hope you enjoy it too.
Arianne Wing is co-author of “Noodles Through Escargots” and co-owner of the LT Sue Co. Tea Room and Emporium, benefiting the restoration and preservation of China Alley. She can be reached at [email protected]