Q: Can you find anything on the history of Ming’s Restaurant at Van Ness and Floradora? My parents and I went there back in the late 1950s and they had the best chow mein and boiled noodles.
Mark Caglia, Fresno
A: Ming’s Restaurant, still in business at 1414 N. Van Ness Ave., began as the Paris Café at 921 F St. in Fresno’s Chinatown in the 1930s. In spite of its French name, the restaurant specialized in “chow mein, chop suey, fried rice, water chestnuts and countless other Chinese delicacies,” according to a 1935 advertisement in The Bee.
The restaurant was managed by Henry P. Wong, who opened his own restaurant, then called Wong’s, at Van Ness and Floradora in 1951 serving “a complete line of Chinese food,” according to a Bee story.
A 1960 Bee story said two former employees, Henrietta Fown and Kenneth Jue, would operate the restaurant following Wong’s retirement.
In 1970, Ming Lum became the new owner of Wong’s and renamed it Ming’s in 1973. Lum had previously worked at two other Chinese restaurants, including Wong’s. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Lum's name as Lum Ming. Also, the earlier version incorrectly reported that Wong ran an unsuccessful bid for Fresno mayor in 1981. Another man with the same name was the candidate.) Wong, the former restaurant owner, died in 1986.
Leslie Shao has owned Ming’s since 2005. The menu still features several variations of chow mein. Some of the “Ming’s specialties” on the menu include black bean fish, orange or black mushroom tofu and mu-shu pork or chicken.
Q: Our teacher, Mr. (Michael) Swezey, told us that Roosevelt Elementary School in the Central Unified School District used to be a small two-room school house built in 1910. Is that true?
Fourth Grade, Room 20
A: Although I couldn’t find information that the original Roosevelt Elementary School was a two-room building built in 1910, I suspect your teacher is correct. And here’s why.
According to the book “History of Public School Organization and Administration in Fresno County, California” by John A. Dow, published in 1967, the Roosevelt School District was organized on Feb. 8, 1910. So it appears your school is nearing its 108th birthday.
The book says that the first teacher was Miss Georgia Capps, who taught an average of 25 students “that year,” which may refer to 1910.
Also, an undated photo of a small Roosevelt school building shows the date “1910” on the front of the bell tower. Although the number may apply to the founding date, it’s likely that a school was built in the same year the district was formed. It was common in the early days of Fresno County for schools to be erected quickly when rural school districts were formed, so children could have a school to attend as soon as possible.
The district’s first trustees were J.W. Arnold, H.C. Sorensen and C.H. Richardson, an alfalfa farmer who owned land in the district.
As Fresno County grew, more farms were started, and as the rural population grew, more small school districts were formed. Those small districts began joining together, too.
Roosevelt Elementary joined the Central High School District in 1922, which meant its students attended Central High. Roosevelt remained a small school for many years. By 1954 there were only three teachers. That same year the Roosevelt and McKinley elementary school districts merged.
Call for memories: I’m hoping our readers can help Fred Clark of Fresno find information about a rest stop and café called Shady Rest that used to do business on Highway 168 northeast of Academy.
As Clark recalls, “They sold hot dogs, snow cones and drinks. When we would return from camping it was a relaxing stop. The old ramshackle building is still standing.”
If any readers can shed light on the history of Shady Rest, please contact Ask Me.
Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.