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SJ Museum is showcasing Stockton Chinatown history
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LODI –  A special exhibition on Stockton’s Chinatown opens Jan. 29 with various activities at the San Joaquin County Museum at Micke Grove Park.
“We asked people for a penny. When we had scraped together 10 cents, one of us would pay to get into the movies. Once inside, that kid would open the exit door of the theater for the rest of us to sneak in. I would find a couple and sit next to them, pretending to be their child. Sometimes we got caught; other times we didn’t.” — Qloun Cho Low-Poon, 88, and her little brother “Chungie” Chung Cho Gong, 87, recounted tales like this to illustrate how they grew up as the youngest of nine children in a poor family in South Stockton during the 1930s and ‘40s. “Poor, but happy,” they said. Through tenacity and drive, they both ultimately graduated from UC Berkeley.
Beginning on Sunday, Jan. 29, from noon to 4 p.m., visitors to the San Joaquin County Historical Museum in Micke Grove Park can go back in time and relive Stockton Chinatown when it was a colorful, bustling business district in the area now traversed by the Crosstown Freeway that links Highway 99 and Interstate 5. Washington Street:
The Heart and Soul of Stockton Chinatown is a special exhibition that will continue at the museum through May 28. The exhibition is a collaborative effort between the museum and the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA) of Stockton. Research has included a series of “Show ‘n’ Tell” sessions with members of the Greatest Generation and their descendants. They delved into their memories and dusted off storage boxes, painting a remarkable picture of a time and a culture in Stockton that is in danger of being forgotten.
Memories and artifacts from the bygone era will be preserved and shared, thanks to the efforts of Julie Blood, the museum’s Collections and Exhibit Manager, with the aid of museum docents (volunteer educators) and community members. Washington Street: The Heart and Soul of Stockton Chinatown will chronicle Sam Fow (Cantonese for “third city”) from the early 1900s through redevelopment in the 1970s.
The exhibition Opening Day on Jan. 29 begins at noon. The museum will come alive with Chinese cultural activity stations, including a costume photo booth for cell phone pictures; local Chinese authors and cooks ready to answer your questions and sign their books; a market display of Chinese cooking ingredients; and chopstick training. Learn about Mah Jongg, Tai Chi, and the Chinese zodiac.
 The first 200 guests will be able to purchase a $5 Chinese plate luncheon. At 2:00 pm, the thunderous beat of the lion dance drums will beckon all visitors to the Erickson Building for the exhibit ribbon-cutting ceremony. After the opening ceremony, until museum closing at 4p.m. the exhibits may be viewed and tea and home-baked cookies enjoyed in the adjacent Tea Room.
The exhibit is auspicious for three reasons: (1) Chinese New Year (Year of the Rooster) begins the day prior to Opening Day; (2) The last Chinese exhibit at the museum, Golden Mountain, took place in 1981, also the Year of the Rooster; (3) The exhibit coincides with the museum’s 50th anniversary year and the beginning of the Chinese Benevolent Association’s Centennial Celebration.
The museum is located within Micke Grove Park at 11793 N. Micke Grove Road, Lodi. The entrance is near the corner of Armstrong and Micke Grove Roads. A parking fee of $6 per vehicle is charged at the park entry station, but the museum admission fees will be waived for the Opening Day.