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Time for sweet talk about Manteca

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POSTED August 13, 2016 12:24 a.m.

Ready for some sweet trivia?
Famed author John Steinbeck worked in 1924 at the Manteca Spreckels Sugar plant where Target is located today.
The author of “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Cannery Row”, and other classics worked on Spreckels Sugar’s Coast Empire ranches and plant laboratories as a young man.
In Manteca Steinbeck worked 12-hour days in the warehouse stacking100-pound bags of sugar before moving to the factory where he worked the metering station. Steinbeck’s infamous temper didn’t suit him too well working long hours in the valley heat. He ended up getting in a fight and leaving the Manteca operation.
Steinbeck also had been working at the Spreckels Sugar factory and living in a “company house” in Spreckels near Salinas. He used Spreckels, California as a setting for his novel “Tortilla Flat.” Spreckels was used as a location for the filming of “East of Eden”, the screen adaption of Steinbeck’s novel by the same name.

He was a real
sugar daddy
Adolph Spreckels — the grandson of Claus Spreckels — made the decision to locate a sugar beet processing factory in Manteca.
He married Alma Charlotte Corday in 1908 five years after he first became smitten with her during the vetting process for what ultimately would be the Dewey Monument gracing Union Square in San Francisco. Alma modeled for artists Robert Aitken’s entry that barely made the cut due to Adolph’s crucial vote as chairman of the citizen’s committee in charge of the monument project. The monument top piece is also known as “The Goddess of Victory.”
Since Adolph was 24 years her senior and head of Spreckels Sugar, Alma often referred to her husband as her “sugar daddy.”
Alma — the driving force behind her husband’s decision to build the Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum as a gift to the City of San Francisco — developed a live of art while growing up in The City and enrolled in the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art to study painting. It was there that her notoriety started after numerous stints as a nude model.

Manteca, Spreckels
grew up together
Manteca and Spreckels Sugar literally grew up together.
The plant was operational by 1918 — the same year Manteca incorporated.
For the first two thirds of its 79-year run in Manteca, Spreckels Sugar was the largest private sector employer in the community. By the time its pending closure was announced on Jan. 9, 1996, it has slipped to the fifth largest private sector employer with 100 full-time workers and 120 part-time workers.
On the plant’s 40th anniversary, Spreckels paid its workers in $2 bills.
Merchants working with the Manteca Chamber of Commerce placed large glass jars in their stores where the $2 bills were placed after receiving them from customers. The ploy effectively demonstrated the impact Spreckels Sugar had on Manteca’s economic well-being.
 
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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