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Manteca in the 1961: 7,000 people, no Bay Area commuters in town

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Manteca in the 1961: 7,000 people, no Bay Area commuters in town

Sharon and Dino Cunial


POSTED January 7, 2012 2:06 a.m.

Sharon and Dino Cunial bought their first home in 1964 on the northern edge of Manteca.

They had hoped to buy a slightly bigger house for $18,000 but Realtor George Dadasovich told them point blank all they could qualify for was a $16,000 home. Both of them were working but back then banks wouldn’t count the annual income of a wife if she was of child-bearing age.

After moving into the home on North Fremont, Sharon recalled that they were “worried” about making the monthly payment - a steep $149. It was back when Dino was working at Manteca High pulling down $5,200 a year teaching two classes of social studies and four orientation classes that gave students a smorgasbord of subjects.

One more thing about that house on North Fremont: It was close to the newest elementary campus in Manteca that had just opened - Shasta School.

“There was no road to it,” Sharon, who later would become vice principal of Shasta, recalled.

Kids had to walk through farmland to reach the campus. That prompted the community to get together and cut a road in place.

Dino and Sharon have passed the 50-year mark as Manteca residents.

They purposely picked Manteca for Dino’s first teaching job.

“It was close to the size of the town we grew up in,” Dino said in reference to his hometown of Susanville that was about 7,000 at the time as was Manteca.

Actually, Sharon is from a nearby Lassen County community of Westwood.

“Back then (1961) teachers were in big demand,” Dino recalled. “You could go just about any place you wanted to.”

Just shortly after Dino accepted the Manteca High job, he got a job offer from Ripon High that he had to turn down because he had just signed a contract.

Dino was part of the original East Union High staff that was out in place in 1967 before the Union Road campus was completed. EU students shared the Manteca High campus until the new school was finished. The first graduating class was in 1969. Dino makes sure that he attends every five-year reunion of the Lancers Class of 1969.

Dino retired from East Union High after serving as teacher, coach, and athletic director. The football field is named in his honor. Sharon taught then served as the Shasta vice principal before working eight years as the George McParland School principal and then retiring.

Sharon said there was a strong bond between teachers with the established ones taking younger ones under their wings. And since Manteca primarily had young teachers at the time, they were able to socialize with fellow instructor who had children in the same group that they did,

Sharon said Bill Pinto was her mentor. Dino said he was helped along by a slew of “older” teachers including Phil Rodoni, Artie Fairbanks, Phil Harmon, Ken von Rueden, Ed Williams, and Ron Pecchenino, among others.

Sharon admits that it took a little getting used to Manteca given it was flat compared to the mountains near Westwood and the fact the seasons here aren’t as marked as she was used to growing up.

But after a few years Sharon said she “grew to love” the weather, land, and the numerous crops ranging from almonds to Walnuts.

“Manteca is a wonderful place to raise children,” Sharon said.

Manteca was a bit different when they arrived back in 1961.

There were no traffic lights in town just a flashing signal where Highway 120 (Yosemite Avenue) crossed Main Street that was once Highway 99.

Commuters didn’t

go to Bay Area in 1961

Highway 99 was in place in terms of the “bypass” which is today’s route although it was far from true freeway status with a lot of cross streets. Highway 99 still went through downtown Modesto and downtown Stockton at the time.

“Back then when people commuted they went 12 miles to Stockton or Modesto,” Dino said. “No one commuted to the Bay Area.”

Both Dino and Sharon loved downtown Manteca that had three men’s clothing stores at the time plus a slew of women’s apparel stores. They can rattle off the names of the owners.

“No one had to go out of Manteca to do their shopping back then,” Dino said. “They were pretty competitive (in terms of prices).”

Housing was tight when they arrived in 1961. They looked in vain for a house to rent but couldn’t find one. It was when Powers Tract was “the subdivision” and work was under way on the Sheridan Avenue apartments.

They ended up settling on the Sheridan Apartments although they’d have to take a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit until such time the two bedrooms were completed. They had a child at the time.

But they never moved in. That’s because on his first day of orientation a fellow teacher - Bill Forbes - had a house for rent.

That was the same year St. Anthony’s Catholic Church was between churches. The original church had burned in 1959 and the new one was being built on North Street. The Sunday services alternated between the MRPS and FESM halls.

“We sometimes would get mixed up about what hall the services were being held at in a particular week,” Dino said.

Football, Dino noted, was big in Manteca back in 1961 with home games standing room only affairs.

“The wives would all get together and cook a big dinner on home game nights and everyone would get together with their families after the game,” Sharon recalled.

— Dennis Wyatt

managing editor

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