Cars and trucks were used to transport farmworkers from the hotels of Little Manila to the outlying fields in Stockton. Trips were widely available for the price of gas which was cheap during the mid-20th century. The low price of gas was central to Filipinos’ ability to convene in the Little Manila community. Automobile stations were also a place that friends, employees, and customers would socialize with one another.
"I used to come down there, get my haircuts, and uh, and visit the gas station cause... while I was growing up, we used to hangout at the gas station, and he’d put up a basketball, oh, you know. Ring her up there we used you play around here and spend our time there.” -Albert Juanitas
Cleaners and Tailors
Despite backbreaking labor and crippling low wages Filipinos invested in quality, fitted clothes. They dressed up for photos to send back to their families to mask the shame of performing harsh manual labor to maintain a small sliver of dignity. Cleaners in Little Manila helped Filipinos always look their best when they came to the city as well. Due to strict labor and immigration rules, there was an overwhelming gender imbalance within the Filipino community, favoring males. In order to make a good impression on white women and the few Filipinas in town, it was imperative to dress in the finest most fashionable attire. Tailors were especially important because most high end clothing was made to cater only to white men, who generally had taller and larger frames than Filipinos. There were also many social activities for Filipinas, such as beauty pageants, that required women to don beautiful ornate Filipina dresses that needed to be kept in their best condition.
“Every single Filipino was, very, extremely proud of their appearance, even the asparagus cutters. They’d cut asparagus till maybe 11 or 12 o’clock in the morning, take their baths, and go into town, their clothes were immaculate, . . .[I]f you look at old pictures you’ll see many of them with full dress suits and hats, their suits were tailored. They went to the tailors and had their suits made because they wanted to absolutely look the best, and they did. They would go downtown and even if they were just standing around talking to each other, they would all look very very classy. It was amazing. And if you look,almost everybody wore a hat and suits, and even the young people like my husband, he used to have his slacks tailored, you know and I’m going, ‘but you're just going to El Dorado Street.’ Sorry, it was done.They just wanted to look super and they did, you know. And if you look at any old pictures of Filipinos they’re dressed to the tees and they look wonderful. Yes.” -Virginia Velez Catanio
“Talk about self-pride, it was one way that they maintained that dignity, even if they were working in the fields. You know, they had that kind of dignity.” - Minnie Liwanag-Eichele
“You talk, you go get a haircut, you go eat, you know, so there was a lot of mingling.” - Albert Juanitas
Due to 1913 California Alien Land Laws, Filipinos were not allowed to own land or property; they were only allowed to lease properties on a yearly basis. As a result, businesses in Little Manila were often short-term ventures. However, barber shops were exceptions. Barbers, one of the most popular professions in Little Manila, did not require much capital to start and sustain business. The shops were always full of Filipino men waiting to get haircuts and hanging around talking with other members of the community.
Pool Halls and Billiards
Billiards establishments or Pool Halls dotted the streets of Little Manila mid-twentieth century. Though many Filipinos were dedicated to sending money home to their families and generally stayed home after an exhaustive day of work, others were eager for an opportunity to make more money or blow off some steam. On weekends and after a week in the field, they would gather to test their luck at pool, gambling games and other leisure activities and used these spaces to unwind, bet, and socialize. Pool sharks and gamblers would gather to participate in small tournaments and try to make some extra money and socialize with other members of the community. As a result, Pool Halls and Billiards became an extremely popular business venture. Businesses like the Stockton and Kalibo Pool Halls were frequented establishments in Little Manila and were well known to the community.
“The pool hall was more like a social hall, I don’t remember anything bad or dangerous going on there at all, they were just playing pool. It was a game, they’d just go and visit and talk and just be there. It was just a social place to be.” - Minnie Liwanag-Eichele & Virginia Velez Catanio