At one time it was a thriving community within a community on our state’s central coast. Several hundred people who had traveled from a far away land in search of opportunities in this new state called California. They worked on ranches and farms and built the railroads. They ran small shops and stores and raised families. And then gradually over the years they disappeared, but thanks to historians, archeologists and members of the Chinese community, the history and accomplishments of these early Chinese pioneers are being uncovered — literally.
In this very special episode of “California’s Gold” Huell travels to San Luis Obispo. There he meets Howard Louis, son of the legendary Ah Louis who ran the main store in Chinatown. Howard is full of stories and gives Huell a tour of the store which is the only Chinatown structure left standing. Huell also is treated to a Lion dance outside the store put on by the Chinese students from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and listens as a musician plays the music those early Chinese settlers would have played in the 1800’s. The day also includes a visit to the local historical museum for a look at 100 year old glass plate images made of the Chinese residents at the time. Then we watch as volunteers sift through tons of earth taken from the original Chinatown location and discover wonderful bits and pieces of the life that went on there.
It’s a rare look back and a rediscovery of a part of California history that is often overlooked or forgotten — the contributions made by those early Chinese pioneers — pioneers who were very much part of “California’s Gold.”