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Chinatown

This week on Valley Edition: Our Thanksgiving show! We serve up some of our favorite stories from the past year including a profile of a young mariachi singer from Delano, who at the age of 18 released her first album. She's at Harvard now.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Ofelia Hemme used to run Ofelia’s Cocina, a Mexican restaurant on Kern Street with red and yellow tablecloths and sunny wall murals of beaches and palm trees. Her specialty was chiles rellenos: Stuffed peppers. “Every other place, they have chiles rellenos in Mexican restaurants, but ours were different,” says Hemme, smiling. “They were served in some kind of juice, like a juicy sauce, and it was really really really good.”

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

One popular stop in Fresno’s Chinatown is Kogetsu-Do, a Japanese shop with a long history over on F Street.

Lynn Ikeda-Yada owns the shop, whose name means "lake moon," and she’s the third generation to do so. Her grandparents migrated to Chinatown from Hiroshima, Japan.

There’s even a blown-up photo on the wall of her grandparents and uncle in the same space Ikeda-Yada’s shop occupies today.

“My grandparents started it in 1915,” says Ikeda-Yada. “That picture was taken in 1920 and they had two sons: Roy, who’s the little boy there, and my dad, Mas.”

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

When it comes to fulfilling the needs of a neighborhood, the neighborhood grocery store fills a big role. In Fresno’s Chinatown, that store has been Central Fish. It’s been in the community since 1950, carrying the usual kitchen staples one might expect. But the place also has some unexpected treasures.

 

Listen above for an audio postcard about this grocery store that has outlasted a few of its Chinatown neighbors.

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: We take you to Fresno’s Chinatown where we meet the new owners of a century old Buddhist temple.

Plus, high-speed rail construction has closed off three roads leading into this historic neighborhood. Local business owners tell us what that means for them, today and into the coming decades.

And what does $70 million in cap and trade funding mean for Chinatown? We also tell you about Japanese pastries, shrimp and grits, sukiyaki and a longing for chile rellenos.

Laura Tsutsui / KVPR

Chinatown is one of Fresno's oldest neighborhoods, and it's now facing changes and challenges. Two of the state's highest profile projects, high-speed rail and cap-and-trade, call the neighborhood ground zero. We spoke to business owners old and new to hear what they have to say about all the activity in a story on Valley Edition. The videos below include more thoughts from business owners mentioned in the story, and other voices from Chinatown.

Laura Tsutsui / KVPR

Chinatown is one of Fresno’s oldest neighborhoods. From the city’s earliest days as a stop on the Central Pacific Railroad, to the 21st century, Chinatown has been a diverse community made up of immigrants who, in many cases, weren’t welcomed in other parts of Fresno. Locked in by railroad tracks on the east and Highway 99 to the west, the neighborhood is also the subject of renewed attention this year. Two of the state’s highest profile projects, high-speed rail and cap-and-trade, call it ground zero.

Today on Valley Edition we hear a report about changes looming in Fresno's historic Chinatown neighborhood. Many roads in the area are already closed with construction on high-speed rail, and that's causing some concern among business owners. Yet others are optimistic about a brighter future ahead, with new community improvements, millions in cap-and-trade funding, new housing, and the future rail station. We also hear a report about the role the U.S. military has played in researching valley fever, much of which has taken place at Lemoore Naval Air Station.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The United States is dominated by box office hits played at megaplexes with sometimes as many as 21 plus screens, but no more than a few decades ago film venues looked very different especially for the Latino community. But today in Fresno, one young woman has taken on the task to reopen the region’s only Spanish language theater.

Thirty years ago, the main hall of Teatro Azteca in Fresno’s Chinatown was filled with the sounds of famous Spanish language actors, singers and comedians.

Think Cantinflas, the Mexican Charlie Chaplin. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Generations of Fresno residents have heard stories about the mysterious underground world of Fresno's 19th century Chinatown. Was it a world of illicit activity, with a network of subterranean tunnels? Archeologists with the state's high speed rail authority are hoping to shed some new light on this dark and forgotten part of Fresno's history. 

Last week archeologists gathered in Fresno’s historic Chinatown to sift through soil with a hope of unearthing century-old artifacts just yards from the future bullet train.