In the late twenties and early thirties one could stand at the county line early in the evening and see crowds of people getting off of the streetcars. They would walk down a boardwalk along the county line creek until they arrived at a large building on the west side of Carlson Boulevard, which was just outside the city limits of El Cerrito at that time and inside the "No Man's Land", county area.
When you walked into the building you were in a Chinese restaurant which they called the Sunset Café, and if you walked towards the rear of the restaurant one would go through a door into a large hall. In one corner of the building were people playing Chinese lottery, and in another area were the dice tables. Scattered about the room were roulette tables, blackjack, chuck-a-luck, and other gambling games of change. This building was later remodeled and made into a nightclub called "The Cave", and later burned down to the ground.
Directly west of this building on Yosemite Street was another gambling building called the Eagle Cafe, and this was also run by a Chinese group.
At San Pablo Avenue and Lassen Street on the southwest corner was a building called the Vee Club. This club was used for the public to play bingo and later was made into a card club.
At the site of the present Pastime Hardware building on San Pablo Avenue was another bingo club run by a Chinese group who later moved their business to the state of Montana. There were quite a few other gambling houses in the unincorporated area. Every time anything went wrong they always referred to the gambling as being done in El Cerrito but actually most of it was in the unincorporated area outside the city of El Cerrito. They even had gamecock fights out at Point Isabel but this was in the city of Richmond.
For excitement kids would get a big kick out of going down to one of the Chinese lottery buildings just about the time they were having a drawing and the building was crowded. They would pound on the doors with clubs and blow a police whistle and the patrons thinking it was a raid would run out the back door and the Chinese, with their long queues flying behind, would scatter in all directions.
The Chinese quickly got tired of having their drawings and patrons disturbed so they hired look-outs to keep the kids away. The look-outs, in order to keep the good graces of the children, would give them Chinese candy to eat or give them a few pennies to buy their own candy.
Copyright Mervin Belfils, October 1975
PO Box 304, El Cerrito, CA 94530