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Ten Random Memories of Portsmouth Square in SF Chinatown*

1. I remember when I was a kid, the old Portsmouth Square had a huge sloping hill of grass. I played and rolled on that grass.

2. One time when I must have been about six years old, we chased some kids and we ran right onto Kearny Street and into Manilatown. Everything seemed like we were in another country. My friend said we were in Luzon. We got scared and ran back to the park.

3. I remember there were a bunch of kids catching bees with a jar. They brought the empty jar up to the bee and closed the lid on them. I was biting some skin off my thumb and went to Lawrence's granduncle to show him my thumb. The other old men commented that I must've been stung by a bee.

4. Kids played firecrackers during the Lunar New Year at the old Portsmouth Square. I remember seeing these kids playing with lighter fluid at night. From the back, it looked like they were peeing onto the floor and their pee turned into fire. I was amazed!

5. I was there when the old park was getting bulldozed on the first day of reconstruction. It was more than fifty years ago. I must have been seven years old. I remember running over to the Clay Street side to feel the freshly overturned soil. It felt like clay. No wonder they called it Clay Street!

6. They built an observation deck on the Washington Street side with bleachers for people to watch the construction. I went often to watch the progress. They had this giant jack hammer to drive the pilings into the ground for what appeared to be a very long time. We heard it through the school day at nearby Commodore Stockton elementary school. The whole construction felt like more than two years.

7. I remember the new Portsmouth Square's grand opening fifty years ago. And how so many kids were playing in the play area. Particularly the concrete mound, Where they played King of the Mountain.

8. During the summer months, we stayed out late and played King of the Mountain late into the night. Playing past ten o'clock. With a head of sweat.

9. In my college days, I looked at the construction of the bridge from the Holiday Inn onto Portsmouth Square as an encroachment from the Financial District into Chinatown. We protested during the grand opening of the Holiday Inn and ruined their grand opening.

10. The Kuo Lien Yin taiji school practiced every morning at Portsmouth Square. Sifu Kuo Lien Yin used to walk around with a rope dart. He walked around dragging the rope dart...hearing that sound of thie dart clinking on the floor. He would practice shooting his rope dart at the wooden wall at the bridge construction site.

*Today they held a 50th Anniversary event at Portsmouth Square, which got me flashing back to these little scenes.

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Tags: chinatown, memories, portsmouth, square


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