Gung Hay Fat Choy! It’s Chinese New Year, the Year of the Pig a year of fortune and good luck. It’s the most important holiday in China and to Chinese people all over the world. The Chinese calendar combines solar, lunar, and the 60 Stem-Branch counting systems (which uses yin and yang elements – metal, water, wood, fire, and earth) and twelve animals to rank the sequences. The five elements are connected to five colors – white, black, green, red, and brown. The 2019 Chinese New Year animal sign is the Brown Earth Pig. Happy celebrating!
There’s even more to celebrate this month.
Almost catty-corner to the Tea Room is another building that I pay homage to each morning – the Kings Hand Laundry Building, which was built by the Tagawa family in 1911.
This building is not only another reminder of the power of place and sense of home, but it is also a standing memorial of the sizeable Japanese population that was part of our neighborhood. Earlier editions of the Hanford Sentinel and Hanford Journal refer to this area as “The Oriental Quarter.” The National Park Service’s web site has a list of historic sites dedicated to the “History of Japanese in California.” The Kings Hand Laundry building is included on the list.
Sakutaro (George) and Tazu Tagawa immigrated to Hanford from Japan in the early 1900s. They worked at the Vendome hotel for years, finally saving up enough money to purchase property and start their own boarding house. The Tagawas were able to purchase five land parcels for one gold coin worth $600.00. Carpenters helped to construct the laundry building, although the original barn was already there and when the property was purchased, there were horses galloping the grounds.
Tazu grew tired of cooking for the boarding house, and the building was converted into a laundry in 1916. The Koda family, who owned a laundry in Coalinga and grew rice in Dos Palos, helped the Tagawas learn the ropes of the laundry business.
Their daughter, our dear friend Naomi, took over the business in 1962 and continued to work until she retired at age ninety-six. She can map out all the former businesses that were once located in Hanford’s “Oriental Quarter.”
But, back to the present and on to the festivities – Naomi’s 99th birthday celebration, hosted by the China Alley Preservation Society and the First Presbyterian Church will be held on Saturday, February 23, 2019 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at the First Presbyterian Church in Hanford.
To honor Naomi’s 99th birthday, the China Alley Preservation Society is launching a “Save the Laundry Building Project.” The Kings Hand Laundry served Kings County for over a century and now desperately needs our help to repair and preserve it as the treasured landmark it is. Phase One of this effort is to raise, or “lift,” the building so a foundation can be installed. Currently there is no foundation and the building is sitting on dirt. The front porch and steps will also be repaired. The goal of the China Alley Preservation Society and the Presbyterian Church is to raise enough funds ($100,000) in order to complete Phase One by Naomi’s 100th birthday. In lieu of birthday gifts, now or then, please consider a tax-free donation for this project. We hope to create a museum and learning center to keep history alive and to honor Naomi and the Japanese participation and contribution to our community.
Let’s begin this celebratory month with something sweet. Maureen Fukuda brought these delectable bites to us a few weeks ago. When I asked for the recipe she snorted and laughed. “Well, it’s hardly a recipe. I mean, really, you just microwave and mix.”
But she acquiesced and here it is. Yes, it is easy. And sometimes that’s what one needs, something sweet, something easy. Snip. Snap. Bon Appetit. Enjoy these sweet, fudgy melts. I look forward to seeing you at Naomi’s birthday party.