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Volunteers have made museum a success
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Mayor Willie Weatherford, left, congratulated Lucille Harris and her son Marty Harris after they were recognized for all of the assistance they have provided the museum over the years. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Manteca Historical Society Museum.

It called for a celebration.

But it wasn’t about the building as much as it was the people who made it possible.

People like Quentin Bassett who faithfully washes the windows.

Volunteers like the husband-wife duo of Victor and Maria Gully. He oversees the Tuesday gang that does weekly cleaning and maintenance. She handles kitchen duties for fundraisers among other duties.

Craftsmen like Jim Lyberger who built display cabinets.

They were among the scores of volunteers who have given their heart, soul, time, and money to make the Manteca museum both a reality and a success.

“One should remember those who have passed and gone before us,” Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford told the gathering of more than 100 celebrants in the parking lot of the museum at 600 W. Yosemite Ave.

Ken Hafer - one of the founding society member who has devoted countless hours to not just the museum but preserving Manteca history - served as the master of ceremonies.

The desire to establish a museum was driven by the disappearance of Manteca landmarks that ran the gamut from the Manteca High mission-style tower to the Southern Pacific Railroad station. Back in 1989 there was a concern that Manteca would lose more than just landmarks if steps weren’t taken to establish a repository of sorts to collect and preserve historical items tied to Manteca and the surrounding areas.

The goal was simply to establish a place where people could gather to share memories and heritage; to preserve and store photographs and other artifacts for future generations to enjoy.

As word spread of the effort, the organizing group was soon inundated with people offering to provide historical items. That prompted a search for a building to store what was collected.

The first museum was the old Christian Science Room in the 200 block of Polar next to the tennis courts located across from the Manteca Library.

In the fall of 1991 Delicato Vineyards opened their warehouse to host a food and wine tasting event that ended up being the precursor to the annual Gourmet Sampler. The charter membership drive lured nearly 400 people and gave the museum effort a big boost.

In April of 1992, the society decided to purchase the old 1917 Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of Yosemite and Sequoia streets as it was clear the Poplar location was inadequate in size given the outpouring of offers to donate artifacts. The society took possession of the church in July 1992. It was badly in need of repair, including a leaky roof. The museum opened for business 10 days later as remodeling progressed.

A new roof was installed, 42 windows were closed in, and new steel entry doors were installed along with fire, smoke and burglar alarms. A new electric panel with much new wiring was added and then vinyl siding was used to cover all the blemishes.

This was all accomplished with volunteers, donations of labor and materials, and a one-time grant from the City of Manteca of redevelopment agency funds in the amount of $92,000 along with an anonymous cash donation of $50,000.

Within two years, the visitors’ census topped 10,000.

The visitor tally is now over 60,000. Besides dues and donations, the biggest fundraisers are the annual Gourmet Sampler in March and the Old Fashioned Summer Social barbecue in August. Both are in their 20th year. The Museum Gift Shop also plays an important part in fundraising.