Chico crib sheet

The trivia you need to know about your new town

John & Annie Bidwell are considered the founding couple of Chico.

John & Annie Bidwell are considered the founding couple of Chico.

So you think you know Chico. Newcomer, you don’t know beans from almonds. But no fear. We’re here to inform you, in the form of a simple quiz. So put on your thinking cap, sharpen that No. 2 pencil and get crackin’ with the CN&R’s Chico crib sheet. With these bits of trivia under your belt, you’ll be sure to impress locals and visitors alike.

1. Highway 32, Nord Avenue and Walnut Street are…
A. Chico’s red light district.

B. closed to foot traffic.

C. paved with gold.

D. the same thing.

Answer: D
Just to confuse you, this stretch of road through college town has three different names. Sorry.

2. Bidwell Mansion was the first home in Northern California to have…
A. indoor plumbing

B. six-carriage parking garage

C. ceiling fans

D. paid servants

Answer: A
The Bidwells were the first to introduce indoor plumbing to the Northstate. John Bidwell, of course, is considered Chico’s founding father. All around town you’ll see the Bidwell name, on everything from a junior high school to a title company. In their time, they were thought to be progressive because they hired Indian laborers and taught them how to read and sew. Now, many people see that as pretty condescending.

3. Guests of the Bidwells couldn’t expect…
A. to be allowed to sleep past 7 a.m.

B. to find lodging for their livestock.

C. to be served alcohol.

D. to witness a make-out session between John and Annie.

Answer: C
Annie is perhaps even more beloved than her husband, because it was she who bequeathed the land for what is now Chico State University and Bidwell Park. But the 4-foot-8 Mrs. Bidwell was a stern woman, and she sure didn’t let anyone drink in her mansion. And, in giving the park land to the city, the tiny teetotaler specified that there was to be no drinking there, either. Legend has it that her sober ways offended Gen. Ulysses S. Grant when he visited. Her husband was also a prohibitionist and even ran for president on the Prohibition Party’s ticket in 1892.

4. If you ask for a Scrappy Dog in Chico, what will you get?
A. a punch in the face

B. a late-night hot dog

C. a shot of cinnamon schnapps

D. a visit to the local pound

Answer: B
When it’s late at night and hunger strikes, look for the famous “Scrappy Dog” hot dog cart that sets up shop on various downtown sidewalk locations. There are many imitators around town but only one Scrappy Dog.

5. Who lives in the President’s Mansion?
A. nobody

B. it is rented out to former members of Phi Kappa Tau

C. President Paul Zingg

D. former President Manuel Esteban, who bunks under the stairwell

Answer: A
There is no official occupant of the mansion, which was designed by famed architect Julia Morgan back in 1923. It used to be called the Julia Morgan House, but a sizable donation by Marilyn Warrens in honor of her late husband resulted in its being renovated and renamed the Albert E. Warrens Reception Center. Accordingly, it’s a place where special events are now held—but usually not those involving students. Beginning in the 1940s, Chico State presidents lived there, but when Manuel Esteban arrived in 1993 he found it too rundown for his liking and sought accommodations elsewhere.

6. Chico State President Paul Zingg has expertise in the area of…
A. sensual massage

B. baseball history

C. animal husbandry

D. quantum physics

Answer: B
Zingg, who came to Chico from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2004, brought with him a curriculum vitae (that’s fancy talk for résumé) boasting a knowledge of baseball history, including a couple of books on the topic. If you want to talk Pacific Coast League, Zingg is the heavy hitter for you.

7. University Police Department Chief Leslie Deniz is also known for…
A. moonlighting as a recruiter for the CIA.

B. her undercover work.

Ishi, whom California fourth-graders know as “the last wild Indian,” was not one of the area Native Americans to work for the Bidwells.

C. appearing on a Wheaties box.

D. a walk-on role on Law & Order.

Answer: C
Deniz alone graced a Wheaties box back in 1984, on the heels of her silver medal in the Olympics for discus. She was the first American woman to medal in the sport since 1932. The top cop is herself a Chico State graduate and has been in the job since 2002.

8. In the wake of rioting in 1987, what did then-President Robin Wilson “take out back and shoot in the head”?
A. Chico State’s mascot, Willie the Wildcat

B. Pioneer Days

C. mountain lions

D. a professor ("publish or perish” takes on a whole new meaning).

Answer: B
Pioneer Days, an annual celebration since 1924, had evolved (or devolved) into a week of drunken revelry by 1987, when it culminated in rioting. Folks still wanted an annual celebration and created Rancho Chico Days. Rioters struck again in 1990 and people confined their major partying to Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day and, to the embarrassment of the culturally aware, César Chávez Day. The Halloween revelry has steadily decreased since a police crackdown began, and the university moved Spring Break so that it covers St. Patrick’s Day.

9. Robin Wilson is also known for trying to shut down which college at Chico State?
A. agriculture

B. business

C. nursing

D. hard knocks

Answer: A
This was a bum move. Understandably, the local agricultural community was in an uproar. After all, almonds and rice are the lifeblood of Butte County. After the Wilson administration cut the program’s budget by nearly half in the early 1990s, the College of Agriculture emerged stronger than ever and continues to thrive. Take that, Mr. Wilson.

But in the early ‘90s, some thought its demise was inevitable, that an area where farming forms a huge part of the economy would embarrassingly and tragically be without an agricultural college.

10. What happens if you get caught picking a rose from the university rose garden?
A. You’re put on academic probation.

B. You must help landscape the university for a year.

C. You are fined $1,000.

D. You are fined $50.

Answer: D
If you got this one wrong, don’t feel bad. We’ve repeated the urban legend ourselves a few times. While $50 is the fine last time we checked, the university could always choose to put you through the same campus judiciary system as anyone else breaking the rules. Picking the flowers in the Petersen Rose Garden is strictly forbidden.

11. The university was originally named Chico Normal School because…
A. only students of “normal” intellect and appearance could attend.

B. that’s what they called state teaching schools back then.

C. it was founded by the owner of Normal Street Bar.

D. they couldn’t think of anything else to name it.

Answer: B
It was originally a state teaching school. After the school burned down in 1927, the state built what is now Kendall Hall, the administration building.

12. Hooker Oak, the huge tree and namesake of Hooker Oak Park, was named after…
A. hookers who used to congregate under the tree looking for nightly prospects.

B. an English botanist.

C. Jesbel Hooker, who was the biggest madam in Chico in the Wild West era.

D. John Lee Hooker, who performed a concert beneath it.

Answer: B
The Hooker Oak, named after English botanist Sir Joseph Hooker, was said to be the world’s largest oak tree and hundreds of years old. When it was struck by lightening and later finally fell in the 1970s, scandal erupted as it appeared actually to be two trees growing together. The stump still sits in the Hooker Oak Recreation Area on Vallombrosa and Manzanita. Chico’s mayor’s gavel is carved of wood from the tree.

13. Bidwell Park is…
A. the largest wildlife refuge in the nation.

B. a race track.

C. the third-largest municipal park in the nation.

D. none of the above.

Answer: C … or is it D?
Pretty cool, huh? Unless some other city has butted in since we last counted (some sources tab it as a paltry 10th largest), Bidwell Park is the third-largest municipal park in the nation, up there with the likes of New York’s Central Park. Annie Bidwell kicked down 2,238 acres when she donated it back in 1905, and Chico’s City Council added to it in the 1990s, purchasing another 1,380 acres.

The Chico mayor’s gavel is carved of wood from the Hooker Oak

14. One-Mile Recreation Area in Bidwell Park is so named because…
A. it’s a mile in geographic area.

B. it’s one mile from Bidwell Mansion.

C. a walk through its trails equals one mile.

D. it’s one mile from downtown Chico.

Answer: B
The ego of those Bidwells. Yes, the part of the park with Sycamore Pool is so named due to its distance from the mansion. By the same token, Five-Mile is, you guessed it, five miles from Bidwell Mansion.

15. “Underground Chico” refers to…
A. a top-secret haunt where fake IDs are produced.

B. a CD store and smoke shop downtown.

C. tunnels used by Chinese immigrants to traverse the downtown area.

D. none of the above.

Answer: D
The “Chinese tunnels” legend, which maintains that Asian immigrants took to the tunnels to get around town, perhaps stopping to smoke some opium, is untrue—and racist. Similarly, the rock walls along fields in southeast Chico were not built by the Chinese, as rumored, but rather by Portuguese laborers. What people are talking about is the bottom floor or basement rooms of downtown businesses. In the early part of the 20th century, a small part of the downtown used to be 10 feet lower than it is today. Also, some commonly owned businesses were connected to one another.

16. Setting off a nuclear bomb in Chico could get you…
A. killed.

B. fined $500.

C. a lot of attention.

D. all of the above.

Answer: D
But the real law enacted by Chico’s City Council back in 1983 isn’t what the one-liner “dumb law” books would have you believe. Section 9.60.030 of the city’s Municipal Code calls nuclear war unsurvivable and unacceptable and states, “No person shall produce, test, maintain, or store within the city a nuclear weapon, component of a nuclear weapon, nuclear weapon delivery system, or component of a nuclear weapon delivery system.” City infractions cost violators $500 at the time the ordinance was enacted.

17. Former presidential candidate Bob Dole fell from a stage in Chico because…
A. he was drunk off his ass.

B. the railing gave way.

C. he was tripped by local Democratic operative Bob Mulholland.

D. his Viagra kicked in at the wrong time.

Answer: B
Poor Bob Dole. He couldn’t catch a break. During a whistle-stop visit to Chico in 1994, he took a header from a stage set up at the Chico Elks Lodge when the railing proved not-so-sturdy. The Republican’s plunge was captured on film and broadcast nationwide.

18. The bells that seem to ring from the bell tower atop Trinity Hall are…
A. the tardy bell.

B. reconstructed from molten pieces of the original Liberty Bell.

C. hauntingly beautiful.

D. pre-recorded.

Answer: D
Sorry to burst your bubble, but those melodic tones ring out courtesy of a recorder.

19. If you ask for “aaa-monds” in Chico, what do you want?
A. almonds

B. a boot to the head

C. walnuts

D. speech therapy

Answer: A
Almond growers joke that, in shaking the nuts off the trees, they knock the “L” out of them. That’s more interesting that saying it’s some funky, regional pronunciation. Why does “almond” rhyme with “salmon” in Chico? That, we don’t know.

20. Warner Street is named for…
A. Justice Earl Warner.

B. Warner Bros. Studios.

C. the loud bells that “warn” passersby of Union Pacific trains.

D. none of the above.

Answer: B
Always a sucker for fame and a buck, the city decided to rename part of Ivy Street after the movie studios after the filming of The Adventures of Robin Hood back in 1937.