Rob, my son, was visiting from the UK. As he had never been to Locke we decided to take him for a day visit. The weather was not kind to us at all, in fact it rained for most of the time.
We also had a task to do. Cathleen made a comment on our Delta Eco Tour asking about an abandoned building on Ryer Island. We have never noticed any such building on the island but decided to see if we could find it.
(Click the images for larger versions)
Our first stop as ever was for breakfast. As Babs Delta Diner in Suisun City is the best breakfast place we have been to, we decided to take a detour and introduce Rob to their wonderful breakfasts. Babs didn’t let us down. I went for the oatmeal again and Tom, who has always had the corn beef hash in the past, went for the sour dough French toast. Rob, on the other hand, ordered the Short Haul which was two hotcakes, 2 eggs and 2 slices of bacon served with country potatoes. When he was asked how he would like the eggs he said ‘fried’ but of course over here that is not enough information. Did he want them sunny side up, over easy, over medium or over well? Rob was speechless and didn’t know what the server was talking about. After we explained he opted for the sunny side up. We were all amazed when Rob’s meal turned up on three plates – potatoes on one, bacon an eggs on another and two enormous hotcakes on a third plate served with butter and hot syrup. He was so impressed he even took a movie of it. And he very nearly ate the lot!
To reach Locke we took the scenic route by crossing the river on the Real McCoy Ferry over to Ryer Island. We were hoping to ask the ferry operator about any abandoned buildings on Ryer Island but he never ventured out of the cabin. Who could blame him as the rain was coming down hard. Once on Ryer Island we turned left. Usually we turn right and go round the southern tip of the island to reach the next ferry but decided to take a different route to look for any old buildings. We drove across the island on Route 220. At one point I thought we’d struck gold. Ahead was an abandoned building and it looked like there was a wooden cross on one end. Cathleen mentioned she thought the building could be a church or a school. But I was deceived. When we got a little closer I realized that what I thought was a cross turned out to be the top of a telegraph pole. So we were unsuccessful in our endeavors Cathleen.
In Locke we parked on Main Street. There were a lot of cars but nobody was walking around. None of the shops were open so where was
everybody? We walked up and down Main Street, peering into shop windows. Some had signs saying there were open but the doors were locked.
Outside Al the Wop’s bar a man was smoking. He called across to us from the other side of the road and made some comment on the weather and then said it was the only place open and if we’d never been inside (which we hadn’t) it would be a good way to warm up. Nothing daunted we ventured inside. Al the Wop’s history goes back a long way. When the building was originally built it was a Chinese restaurant. In 1934 it became the first non Chinese business in town when Al Adami bought the building. He opened a bar and restaurant and called it Al’s Place, which became affectionately known as Al the Wop’s. Inside it has a long bar and tons of memorabilia on the walls. The biggest novelty were the dollar bills hanging from the ceiling. I asked the barman how they got there and he said it would cost a dollar to find out. Tom handed over a dollar bill and the barman stuck a tack through the bill and folded the bill in a specific way. He then put a Tahoe slot coin (in the past they used a silver dollar) and covered it with the folded bill with the sharp end of the tack sticking up. The next step was to throw the whole lot up to the ceiling. Tom went first but it all fell back to the ground. Then Rob tried and failed and so did I. Rob had another go and he succeeded. The tack attached the bill to the ceiling and only the slot coin fell to the floor. The guy with the cigarette said that once a year all the bills are taken down and donated to charity. It’s a very special occasion when this happens and the bar serves a liver and onion supper and they have a big fundraiser at the same time.
I did ask the only other group of people in the bar if they knew of any old buildings on Ryer Island. They were not locals but came regularly to the area on their boats. None of them knew of any abandoned buildings at all.
Tom and I had Irish coffees to warm ourselves up. Rob declined as he was still full from breakfast. At the back of the bar is a small restaurant where the food is apparently very good. The boaters recommended the cheeseburgers.
When we left the bar the rain had eased off a bit. Rob found a shop open and so we all went inside. It was a sort of antique shop though most of what was on sale would be classed as collectibles. This sort of shop is always interesting to browse around. I was absorbed in the books and found a small book of very short one act plays. Tom was perusing the old vinyl records where he discovered albums by Earth Wind & Fire, The Mamas and the Poppas, Joan Baez and many more. Rob was searching for license plates or old tin advertising signs but he drew a blank.
We then took a walk to the back of the town and showed Rob the toilet bowl garden. This is where Connie King, the unofficial mayor of Locke, used to live. She died a couple of months ago. Our last stop in Locke was to the museum in the old boarding house. We were the only visitors and the docent on duty was very interesting to listen to. He told us that most of the people living here now are not Chinese. Most of the Chinese moved away from Locke as soon as they earned enough money to move on. The museum has only been open eighteen months and it cost over a million dollars to bring it up to code. In the 1940’s it was owned by a Japanese family. They lived downstairs and the upstairs was turned into small bedrooms which had two beds in each. It is difficult to say how many bedrooms there were because I’m sure some of the rooms have been made into larger rooms but there must have been at least 8 bedrooms. There was just one tiny bathroom. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese family, along with thousands of other Japanese families, were forced to leave their homes to live in isolated concentration camps. They were never able to return to their property (a shameful bit of American history).
Before starting the long journey home we stopped off at Mel’s Mocha and Ice Cream for a vanilla malt. We can’t bring Rob all the way here without giving him the pleasure of tasting one of the best malts around. I got talking to another customer there and asked her if she was a local. She said she had live here for ten years. I asked her about any abandoned buildings on Ryer Island and she couldn’t think of any but she suggested I go next door to the realty office and they might be able to help. I did just that but the office was closed.
It was great to visit Locke again but such a pity the weather was not perfect. We could have done so much more if it had not been raining so hard. And sorry Cathleen we could not solve the mystery of the abandoned building. Maybe if you let us know exactly where it is we can have a look next time we are in the area.