Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Underground Living

In the late 1800's the Chinese who came to the United States didn't find the riches they came seeking. Instead they found menial jobs with little pay and discrimination. That is after the railroads were through using them. Many of the towns they tried to live in didn't like having them around or had rules. One being they weren't allowed on the streets after dark.

In some towns they created underground communities. One such place is in Pendleton, OR. Today they give tours of the tunnels, living quarters, and businesses that thrived in the late 1800's and early 1900's in that town.

If you remember a few months back when I wrote about some of Oregon's notorious characters one was a man named Hank Vaughn who rode his horse into saloons and kept the town on it's toes. Pendleton was a community of about 1500 people and had 18 bordellos and 32 saloons. It was the hub of the area.

The Chinese worked for above ground businesses during the day then slipped into the tunnels and basements after dark. Underground they worked in illegal gambling houses, brothels, and saloons in basements. The tunnels connected the basements and led them to areas where they slept, lived, had their own business, and opium dens.

One Chinese who did well was Hop Sing. He had a laundry and bath service. He drew his water from a well in the basement of his business. Which was good until he had to throw the water out. Then he had to pack it up the stairs and toss it out in the alley. To save himself work, he sold the first bath in a tub for 10 cents then drop a penny for each consecutive bath in the same water, adding a hot bucket of water to each new bather.

They give tours of the underground city and the brothels that were thriving up until the 1950's. One of these days I'm headed there because it has piqued my interest and needs to be in a book. It is also only 4 hours away.

Paty Jager

Photos by David Jennings


Tanya Hanson said...

Fantastic blog, Paty. We visited the railroad museum in Old Sacramento a few weeks ago and it was clear about the horrible treatment of the Chinese. The "Big Four" even said the railroad wouldn't Central Pacific would never have been completed without their hard work.

Have fun researching. I was intrigued by the name, Hop Sing, of course. oxoxox

Paty Jager said...

Thanks Tanya!

Kathy Otten said...

Fascinating stuff. Ingenious thinking to come up with the network of tunnels. I'm curious to see what kind of story you'll come up with.

Susan Macatee said...

Wow, Paty! I'd never heard of this. Interesting post!

Paty Jager said...

Thanks, Kathy! I'm curious too! LOL

Susan, there are tunnels in several major cities as well.

Lauri said...

I've heard of these towns under towns before, and would love to visit one! Can I go with you? :)

Also, I take it the Hop Sing on Bonanza wasn't the same one you refer to. What an enterprising man!