Tehama - The Magazine

Fall 2013

Tehama - The Magazine - Red Bluff Daily News

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Page 16 of 31

The Chinese lived mostly is a very small area and there would be little need for tunnels connecting the homes. Digging under Main Street businesses assumes that local merchants had no idea what was happening under their businesses. "It just doesn't make any sense," said Sky River Music owner Dan Massie. "Business owners don't want people messing around in their basements, and I don't care what race they are." The Chinese in particular, he said, were "kind of outsiders, not a social people, and not very well-received around here back then." Massie believes some downtown businesses may have had passageways that interconnected adjoining shops for various reasons, and his own business has brick archways that indicate doorways between businesses. It's also important to remember that, in the years before electricity, air conditioning and refrigeration, cellars served a very vital function in preserving food and products in cooler temperatures from the Red Bluff heat in homes and businesses and many downtown merchants had gated cellars in which to keep food, produce, wine, and cigars. By the time electricity came along, the Chinese population was already in serious decline. Minch Property Management owner and local historian Robert Minch agrees. "Most old-timers said that those underground areas under businesses were the places where you'd put your stuff to keep it cool in the summers. They used to call them 'fruit cellars' in the old days." Also, he added, some of the mysterious archways in the basements of local businesses that seem to lead nowhere can probably be explained by the fact that some downtown streets used to be much lower, but have been built up over the years, covering up what used to be old basement delivery entrances. "I've lived a long time and talked to a lot of people," he added, "and if these tunnels ever existed at all, I have no knowledge of it, and have never heard of anyone with any solid evidence." It is also not unreasonable to assume that some Chinese dug what might be more accurately called "alcoves" under their shacks to store food, possibly to escape from the Red Bluff heat as their cabins were not elaborate or well-insulated, or perhaps even to smoke opium -- a practice that was not as widespread as is commonly believed, as most Chinese considered it immoral. But the stories of tunnels just don't make any sense, according to Red Bluff history buff and city firefighter Larry Snell. "I just can't make it work," Said Snell, who has examined city buildings as part of his job for years, and who contends that the idea of tunnels creates far more questions than it answers. "Chinatown was right on the river," he said. "If you need to get to the river, why build a tunnel? Why not just walk a few feet over to the water? "If they were really smuggling slaves and drugs, where did those things come from? Red Bluff was the northern head of navigation, so they would have had to come from the south -- but have you ever tried rowing up river from Sacramento to Red Bluff? The Chinese certainly didn't own their own steamboats. "And the Sierra Pacific Lumber mill was directly across the river. Why would no one there ever see any suspicious activity going on? "And how do you get these massive amounts of dirt dug out from under downtown businesses and then haul in massive amounts of brick without business owners knowing? "People back then weren't any more stupid than they are now," Snell said. He agrees with Massie and Minch that stories of tunnels, like the tales of human trafficking and drugs and smuggling, are likely exaggerated relics of a bygone age of rumors, prejudice and misunderstanding. "There used to be an old radio show called, 'I Love a Mystery,' and that's my explanation for it," said Minch. "Everyone loves a good mystery." Wild Willy's Smokehouse Featuring Traeger™ Wood-Pellet Smoker/Grills as seen on Pitmasters ✓ Guaranteed lowest prices on Junior, Lil-Tex, Lil-Tex Elite, Texas, and Select models – ready for you to take home! ✓ Alder, Apple, Cherry, Garlic, Grapevine, Hickory, Maple, Mesquite, Onion, Oak and Pecan pellets - 20 lb - $13.99! ✓ Electric 5-minute auto-start and automated auger fed fuels using full range digital or smoke-medium-high controls! ✓ Multi-functionality for smoking, grilling, and convection cooking with automatic drip removal and no flare-ups! ✓ Operating costs as low as 25 cents/hr is less than electric, propane, or charcoal and requires < 50 watts of power! ✓ 3-year warranty, virtually fool-proof & maintenance free, free cooking assistance every day by phone and on-line! "Taste the Difference" (530) 200-0656 www.wildwillyssmokehouse.com We have the widest regional selection of outdoor cooking and serving equipment with rubs, shakes, sauces, cookbooks, and accessories to satisfy every taste and need. Showroom is open Saturday from Noon to 5 and by appointment Located at 8570 HWY 99E about one-mile north of Los Molinos October, 2013, Tehama - the Magazine 17

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