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History yields to museum over Yellow Freight

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POSTED September 26, 2010 2:47 a.m.
For years, there were those who contended the event in Manteca in 1989 that had the longest lasting impact was the controversial split City Council decision to say no to Yellow Freight. The freight firm wanted to convert residential land near what is today Woodward Park into a massive freight terminal.
    
It looked as if they may have been right - at least for a decade.

That decision which sent Yellow Freight to Tracy and made “jobs, jobs, jobs” a campaign rallying cry and poisoned the well in Manteca city politics for a good 10 years is now merely a footnote in the annals of the Age of Rough and Tumble Politics in Manteca that started with the bruising recall of Mayor Trena Kelley and fellow council members Rick Wentworth and Bobby Davis in 1981 and ended with barely a whimper eight years ago at the start of what some critics have called Manteca’s Andy Griffith Era.

If you really want to know what the biggest long-term event in Manteca was in 1989, all you have to do is make your way down to the Manteca museum at 600 W. Yosemite Avenue today from 1 to 4 p.m. Unless, of course, you have tickets to the ever popular 18th annual Manteca Historical Society BBQ Social taking place today in the expansive backyard sandwiched between the “new” Victorian and “old” Victorian on Mick and Kristen Fonts’ rural acreage.

The year 1989 was when a group got together and decided something should be done to preserve Manteca’s history before it was lost. That led to the Manteca Historical Society being chartered in 1990. Twenty years ago, the society bought the former Methodist/Episcopalian Church at Yosemite and Sequoia avenues on the edge of downtown to serve as the museum.

The building, however, isn’t just a vault of artifacts, photos, and articles.

Its membership has made the museum a community asset where people share the past, learn about their community’s roots, and get a better understanding of what made Manteca what it is today. It has involved reaching out to school children with organized tours and presentations to staging free monthly programs. They also take an active role in other endeavors to promote Manteca history and culture such as the Manteca Mural Society. They also have incorporated a living history effort that involves listening to those who reminisce about Manteca’s past.

The society is a true reflection of Manteca. Just like the community as a whole, the society embraces everyone - natives, long-time residents, people who have been here 10 years and newcomers. The make-up of its roster of 412 members reflects that inclusiveness.

It makes sense given Manteca has never been shy about developing its resources and location to try and build a vibrant economy to support businesses and families.

Of course, the question one might ask is why bother?

History seems so quaint to so many in a culture that worships any new technology device that may propel us at hyper speed into the future.

While it does give you is a sense of belonging and an appreciation of what went before and how we got here, it also offers perspective.

If you think you’ve got it tough, go down and see what it was like to live in Manteca during The Great Depression. Flu scares are no sweat today. Back in 1918-19 it killed three people in Manteca and 500,000 nationally. It practically shut down Manteca due to public health quarantines as churches cancelled services, schools closed, and the old two-story Yosemite School was turned into a makeshift hospital for severely ill flu victims.

Bummed because you don’t have the latest kitchen appliance? Then check out the kitchen on display in the museum from the 1910s. You may never complain again about not having a double-door refrigerator or the latest culinary appliance.

You also might come away knocking down your view of just how great your generation is a notch or two when you see what generations did that came before from creating the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to planting the seeds for a new town that continues to grow geo-centric around the site of the original house on the Sandy Plains - Joshua Cowell’s farmhouse. It once stood where Bank of America does today at Yosemite and Main.

For 21 years, the Manteca Historical Society has never strayed from its mission.

It is a true community asset.
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