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The Community of Locke

C an Tin-san is commonly credited as the earliest resident of Locke. He was the first Chinese to construct a building on the Locke brothers' property, where he realized the business potential of the Southern Pacific wharf and warehouse (1). After the October 1916 fire which destroyed the Walnut Grove Chinatown, a number of Chung-san District people moved to the area and Locke was officially established. Lee Bing, the leader of the group, financed nine of the buildings.
The Southern Pacific Transportation Company warehouse was built in three stages, the first in 1906. It grew to over 800 feet in length. During the harvest season a half dozen or more fruit packers used to rent space in the warehouse, among them were Scobel & Day, Simons & French, Earl Fruit Company, and the California Packing Corporation. A rail spur served the warehouse and connected with the Walnut Grove Branch line. The warehouse operated two freight elevators which raised produce from the decks of the riverboats.

The Star Theater (2) on the River Road hosted performances of traditional Chinese theater offered by traveling companies. Underneath the theater on Main Street was a gambling hall.

The Joe Shoong School (3), built in 1926, was one of many schools established by the National Dollar Store millionaire Joe Shoong. He endowed Chinese language, art, and culture schools for Chinese youth.  The Chinese children would attend public school in Walnut Grove or Courtland, then study at the Joe Shoong School until dinnertime.  The school is open to the public and houses a public restroom.

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Yuen Chong Market

(4) literally means "flourishing source" market,but can be more freely translated as "horn of plenty" market. It was established in 1916 by a Chinese cooperative which had hitherto operated a store in Walnut Grove. It was a grocery store and butcher shop. During World War II, it was primarily a dry goods store.

The Dai Loy Gambling House (5) is now a museum of local Chinese gambling and culture operated by the Sacramento River Delta Historical Society. Dai Loy translates as "big welcome" and the museum is open Thursday through Sunday, 12-5 p.m., entry is $1.00 per person. The Delta gambling houses were magnets for the Chinese farm laborers where they visited with each other in a familiar old culture atmosphere.

The Jan Ying Benevolent Association (6) is located next to the Dai Loy. The name translates roughly as "Good Industrial & Commercial Association". It was a social center for men who trace their lineage to the Chung-san District of China. The association was characterized as a benevolent tong.

Al's Place (7), has been known colloquially as "Al the Wop's" since 1941. The building originally housed Lee Bing's restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner everyday.


The River Road Art Gallery (8) is located in the old Owyang Tin-Git Drygoods Store. In 1928 the drygoods store was sold and transformed into a grocery, pool hall, and ice cream parlor. Locals recall the soda jerk played keno or pool right behind the patrons backs and when he had a break, he'd move back to the soda fountain and serve his patrons. On display in the rear of the gallery is the original kitchen. Since 1973, it has been the River Road Art Gallery, a cooperative, specializing in local art. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 to 5.

Text prepared by the Sacramento River Delta Historical Society Produced by the Walnut Grove Area Chamber of Commerce Coordinated by Mogavero Notestine Associates

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