I was continuing with my efforts to sort and re-file Mom’s papers when I pulled an envelope out of its folder and was instantly transported to that cold winter morning with fog so thick, it was almost a drizzle.
The envelope was a first day cover, which is an envelope affixed with a stamp on the first day it is made available to the public. The envelope is stamped with a postmark and cancellation indicating the date and location that the envelope was received into the postal service. This particular commemorative envelope honored the Lunar New Year of the Monkey stamp that was unveiled in Hanford’s China Alley on Jan. 23, 2004.
Ever since the Lunar Chinese New Year series began in 1993, with the issuance of the Year of the Rooster stamp, having a stamp unveiling in China Alley was on Mom’s bucket list. In the early 2000s, she became determined to cross it off and contacted Hanford’s Postmaster at the time, Joan Darling.
I remember vividly still the flurry of activity that surrounded Mom and me, along with the rest of the China Alley Preservation Society, in the days before the event. The unveiling took place in front of the Taoist Temple Museum. It was only fitting, as the Temple had been a place where the early Chinese settlers in the Hanford area could pick up their mail.
The China Alley ceremony drew a fairly sizeable crowd, which included U.S. Postal Service officials, government representatives, and local city officials. Earlier that morning, all still shrouded in fog, the City’s Recreation Department had set up chairs in the Alley, but most of the people elected not to sit on a cold metal chair. Instead they huddled in front of the buildings across from the Temple.
The fog began to lift by time the ceremony was underway. After a few speeches, the 37-cent stamp, which featured a colorful paper-cut design of a monkey by Honolulu artist Clarence Lee, was unveiled. Joan Darling, presented Mom with a framed collection of all of the Chinese New Year stamps.
After the ceremony, in an interview with the Hanford Sentinel, Mom said, “I just felt that in historic Hanford, we certainly deserved to have it here. This is a good place to have it because of our history. Hanford has a lot of history in itself, but the Chinese were here early on.”
After I finished reminiscing over the unveiling, I wanted to reach out to Joan because I wanted to know how they made that day materialize. I could only remember how busy Mom was in the days leading up to the unveiling. It so happened that prior to becoming Hanford’s Postmaster, Joan was the Director of Marketing for the U.S. Postal Service and she, as she said during our phone conversation, “had the connections.”
Mom and Joan worked together for almost a year. There were months of preparation for the special cancellation envelope. The postmark and cancellation note: Year of the Monkey; China Alley Station; January 23, 2004; Hanford CA 93230. The artwork includes depiction of Chinese railroad laborers, appropriate as many of the Chinese pioneers who settled in Hanford worked on the railroads.
Joan concluded our chat by saying, “I knew how much your mother wanted this, and I was going to make sure that it happened.”
And I am so happy and grateful that she did and for all of her and Mom’s efforts to make it so.
Our garden has been very generous with its supply of butternut squash. I was in search of something else to do with the squash besides soup, pizza, and ravioli. I found a recipe written by three siblings, Andrew, Irene, and Margaret Li in their book, “Double Awesome Chinese Food,” for Three Sisters Dumplings. The dumplings’ name pays homage to the indigenous agricultural tradition of growing corn, beans, and squash together. The plants thrive in this symbiotic relationship, also known as inter-planting. This recipe definitely has my stamp of approval.