A relic of Chinatown tells its story, and his (San Luis Obispo)

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As San Luis Obispo officials work with developers on plans to dig up and preserve the historical Chinatown district to make way for new building, there is a living, breathing artifact from that era who loves telling its story.

Howard "Toby" Louis — at age 98 the last living child of Chinatown pioneer Ah Louis — remembers working as a youngster in the Ah Louis Store. It still stands at Chorro and Palm streets as a landmark reminder of the time.

Howard Louis remembers crawling between buildings and collecting discarded opium cans to resell the metal for 10 cents a pound for bullet-making during World War I.

He remembers the particularly lucrative business of collecting small baby pigeons called squabs from nests in the stables behind adobes sprinkled around downtown. He could turn around and sell the squabs in Chinatown for 25 cents each as a delicacy.

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