Growing up in Old Sacramento
I know it’s not politically correct to call them Winos. But in 70’s Sacramento, that was what we called them. It was more a warning not to bother them than it was an indication of danger. The term seems almost kind in retrospect. We viewed it more as a lifestyle choice than something to pity or rescue. My grandmother called them ‘Rummy’s’, like the card game. I saw sweet, smiling Grandfathers with red noses. They shuffled about in scuffed brown shoes holding beverages in paper sacks. I don’t remember them panhandling like today. Maybe because I was a kid then and they figured I didn’t have any money.
My parents opened a restaurant in the 1970s in the Adams & Co. Building. The Elegant Noodle made gourmet dishes brought back from my parent’s honeymoon in Italy. They were constantly pushing fancy dishes in front of my unsophisticated nose for dinner. A process I absolutely abhorred. I would’ve killed for a chicken nugget or a box of Lucky Charm’s when I was a kid. Something I still liken to child abuse whenever my Mother will listen to it.
The Queen is In
The building sits proudly in the middle of Second Street in the heart of Old Sacramento. Because those are my earliest memories, I decided this street belonged to me. I was to be it’s Queen, waving my magic wand over the heads of my loyal winos. Demanding Lucky Charms in a gilded bowl. Unfortunately, none of that ever happened except in my little kid head. The carefully groomed streets and Old Town facades had not been placed on the buildings yet. Beautiful horses dragging carriages were not there to pick me up. It was more like a cleaned up hopeful job site. Under construction and kind of empty.
Behind The Veil
The reconstructed exterior of the building looks like New Orleans to me. It is painted white with blue accents and ornate metal porches. I’m not absolutely sure but I don’t remember it having that many floors on it. And I am sure my parents parked in a vacant lot to the side. You see, behind it, in the alley is where the Winos were. Now I was pretty small. With constant deliveries, the back door was constantly opening and slamming. They would prop it open to get some air. I’d shyly linger at the back to get a peek, and Mom would pull the door shut telling me not to play with the Winos.
As the restaurant was up and running, my stepfather would reserve special treats just for me. He was probably bribing my silence for feeding me baked zucchini, but I took it anyway. We would arrive early to prepare for the weekend. I was usually sat on a barstool with a doll I don’t remember. That way I couldn’t easily wander off. If I was good I was set on the floor and my stepdad would pull the cigarette machine out. You see, the payphone was located over the top of the machine. The woozy patrons from the night before would fumble change, dropping it behind the machine. I got to crawl down and gather it. Whatever I found was mine to keep for Lucky Charms or Winos.
We don’t need no water
My parent’s restaurant burned one day. Not to the ground but definitely gutted. I watched as my Mother sadly surveyed the gilded tile ceilings she had carefully hand-carried home from Europe. Black burn marks marring their delicate gold carvings. Water from the fire hoses dripped down the ornate wallpaper onto the floor. The sad drip seemed to mimic my Mom’s sad face. We had a few pieces from the restaurant in our home for years. Until my Mother’s second marriage dissolved like the restaurant. The Queen, however, can still be seen straightening her imaginary crown as she shuffles down Second street.
Casey Saumure is a writer and ghost hunter from Northern California. Preservation Ghost Hunts is her paranormal travel company. Her team is currently working on an Augmented Reality app that will allow visitors to experience stories from the past. For AR film locations and scheduling contact Casey directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (916)759-7880. http://preservationghosthunts.com/