I live in the Sierra Foothills and am surrounded by gold-mining history. I can’t go anywhere without seeing a water cannon or an ore cart in front of a restaurant. And people love to share colorful stories about the gold miners during the middle 1800s. I’ve heard some amazing stories, including the one from the usher at the movie theater who told my husband (and showed him) a tunnel under the street that led from the theater to a brothel on the other side of the street. The story is that a man could be watching a movie with his family and excuse himself to go to the restroom and instead scurry through the tunnel for a quickie. How factual that is, I don’t know but my husband really did see the tunnel. But the story that surprises me the most is not about a quickie, it’s about the long time that goldminers had to wait to get clean shirts. Six months. Yes, you read that right… six months. Why? Because their dirty laundry was sent to the closest laundry and that was in Hawaii. Sure, a man could always wash his clothes in the river and hang it on a tree limb to dry but if he wanted his shirts washed, ironed and starched, he had to wait six months while they were sent by ship to Hawaii. Finally, in 1851 a laundry was established in Oakland. But that was still quite a distance. Today, using the freeway it takes me two hours to get there so the gold miners still probably had to wait weeks for their starched shirts.
Suellen Ocean is the author of the Early American love story, Evaline’s Fiddle. Available here: http://www.amazon.com/Evalines-Fiddle-Early-American-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B00KCC48NQ