By John Murphy
It was less than a year ago I interviewed at the Hanford Sentinel and was surprised by how big the building is. It reminded me of my first workplace, the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian — another small-town publication that once thrived, but now has a skeleton staff in these difficult times for newspapers.
Following my Sentinel interview, I looked over downtown Hanford and got a distinct Watsonville vibe, considering its beautiful landmarks, impressive architecture, and Hispanic influence.
Newsflash: Within a week I’m retiring from full-time journalism and moving to still another quaint town, Redlands. Before I do, I decided to drive through downtown Hanford with a notebook and my cell phone camera and chronicle what I saw.
A personal favorite is the Hanford Fox theater which was built in 1929 and shows old movies like “Pretty in Pink” and hosts occasional concerts, such as the Marshall Tucker Band. I didn’t partake in either, but I love the neon of this building, the old ticket booth and what I could see of the interior.
A stone’s throw away from the Fox is Court House Square. The square boasts the Civic Auditorium with its stately pillars, the Kings County Courthouse which opened in 1896 and the Veterans Memorial with its ornate cannons.
Not to be forgotten is the nearby Superior Dairy, a 1920s ice cream parlor that serves portions large enough to clog the healthiest of arteries.
Tooling in my Corolla toward the outskirts of town, I re-visited venerable China Alley. Chinese immigrants arrived in Hanford in the late 19th century to help build the railroads. They also built a thriving Chinatown that has now faded but has not completely vanished.
Remnants of a bygone era include the shuttered Imperial Dynasty restaurant and the Taoist Temple erected in 1893. The Imperial Dynasty was once a five-star restaurant so renowned that folks from San Francisco and New York flew into the Central Valley to experience it. At least that’s what my esteemed colleague Stephani Mahon-Jones said and she hardly ever makes anything up.
Arianne Wing writes a fascinating column for the Sentinel about the history of Chinatown. At the end of each column is a recipe, sometimes culled from a noodle house one of her elders owned. It’s an interesting read about a unique corner of Hanford, an underrated city with much to offer.