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A free trip down memory lane, Manteca-style
New volunteer Natasha Cook looks over the Old Yosemite Grammar School replica at the Manteca Historical Society museum. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin
A visit to the Manteca Historical Society’s Museum is a trip back in time - back as far as 1829.

Some 30 docents are ready and anxious to lead tours by appointment during the museum’s hours including Tuesday and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. until 3 in the afternoon and on Thursdays and Sundays from 1 until 4.

Two buildings cover some 11,000 square feet house and depict the changing decades in Manteca showing how the community has evolved from its early days with some 10,000 photographs and artifacts  that have been donated by farm and city folk alike.

The contents of the museum cover the gamut from clothing to tools and furnishings.  There is even a section that displays a dental office from years past.  There is a medical doctor’s office and a parlor which is reminiscent of the early 1900s.  A kitchen from the early 1900s has also found its place in the historical society’s choice of displays.

A stage area in the heart of the main building is updated on a regular basis to be in sync with the annual holidays such as Christmas and Memorial Days.  A military section follows the wars from World War 1 through the Vietnam conflict.  There are also police uniforms that have been placed on mannequins tracking how they have changed in the community over the decades.  

“The kids seem to be taken by the old telephone switchboard on display,” according to a museum founder, Ken Hafer.  He added that the dial system didn’t come to Manteca until 1957 while the larger cities in the state had moved to the dial operation years earlier.  It was then known as the San Joaquin Telephone Company.

Also of great importance, Hafer added, is that there are countless artifacts from the various high schools and grammar schools along with thousands of photographs of the school years in Manteca.  

There is also a section in the museum devoted to the evolution of The Manteca Bulletin newspaper that is now 102 years old.  And next year the museum is planning to focus on the 100th anniversary of the Odd fellow’s organization in Manteca.  Its building was not constructed until later in 1913 in the 100 block of West Yosemite Avenue.

The smaller Memorial Building on the museum site,  at Yosemite and Sequoia avenues,  holds a full sized bovine mannequin complete with a connected milking machine along with a 1927 LaFrance Fire Engine – the first new engine to be purchased by the city.

Also in that building is a restored farm tractor that was used at the Mendes Family Farm. Other artifacts were donated by early 4-H members in the community, the SSJID irrigation district, and the Spreckels Sugar beet operation.  Many artifacts are also on display from the early days of the volunteer fire department.

There is also a huge safe that was the original Wells Fargo safe that was in Ed Powers’ office in 1916.  Powers started the first telephone company in Manteca, operated a feed and seed business and in his later years sold small appliances.  His vast farming operations of melons caused him to be named the “Watermelon King” in the region.

Hafer routinely takes interested residents on tours of historical sites throughout the community that  work to enhance the historical facts, legends and overall charm of the those early days in and around Manteca.