I went to high school at Tracy Joint Union High School, the last class before West High opened. After graduation I took a year off and worked the kitchen at the Great Plate. It was a wonderful establishment: dozens of microbrews on tap from the local and Central/Northern California area, and also a venue for local bands to perform. I have many great memories from this place.
Then there was a matter of the history, which few people in this town, Tracy, care to acknowledge: a rich and interesting history not only revolving around railroads, brothels, Prohibition-era shenanigans, a town that was boosted as being bawdy and known as Poker City, back toward the turn of the century. As the Tracy Press itself has reported, there are the unsubstantiated reports of secret tunnels leading from the Grand Theatre underground to the Great Plate, where railroad men would go during Prohibition-era times and sneak to the brothels and bars across the street. The Tracy Press itself reported on this some 20 years ago.
This little bit of history alone should deem the site of the Great Plate a historical landmark. I cannot believe that the local Tracy government is not willing to work with these people. They should be bending over by backwards and offering their own assistance and financial support to keep this place alive and designate it a historical landmark along with many other buildings in the Tracy area. What is next? Are they going to tear down the old fire station? The old jail? The original bank of Tracy which has the same flag post upon its top as does the Great Plate location?
As a local history fanatic, this drives me insane. I feel like, and I don’t even live in Tracy anymore, that the voices within the Tracy community, especially within the Tracy Press, are not loud enough.
Furthermore, it seems like Tracy is trying to build up the downtown area as a cool type of place to hang out with a bunch of new restaurants and bars, which I think is awesome. But at the same time, I think a lot of the growth is shortsighted and without real vision of what possibility there is to turn downtown Tracy into a destination location. But I am just a fanciful dreamer and an optimist by nature.
A friend of mine sent me this article and I wish I hadn’t ever read it. I wish it wasn’t a real article. I wish the local government cared enough about its local history to embrace it and furthermore do everything in his power and capability to secure and establish Tracy‘s history as not only an enduring legacy but a real, provocative, and educational institution for why the town exists and how it helped shape California’s tumultuous history.
Railroads, prostitutes, underground tunnels and poker, Tracy‘s real history uncovered, if that doesn’t get the fires burning, I don’t know what does.
Gregory Krueger, former Tracy resident