LATHROP – The desire to give back to the community is quite often the response politicians give when asked why they threw their political hat into the political arena.
Not so for Mac Freeman, a former mayor of Lathrop. He entered the world of politics like a breached-born baby. “Feet first, kicking and screaming,” is how he describes his forced political baptism of fire.
But not even a hastily written application on a yellow pad – done under duress – and later showing up to the interview in a pair of shorts for a seat on the Lathrop County Water District Board were enough to discourage the powers-that-be in the late 1970s to pick him over the two other applicants who were both impeccably dressed in “suits with long pants.”
“I had never interviewed for a job before. My only two jobs were with a California state agency and the Federal Government, and neither required interviews. So here I was, 33 years old (and) making a fool of myself, just because I couldn’t say no to a person I liked and respected,” Freeman wrote in a the chapter that he plans to add to his self-published book, “Lathrop History.”
That is the title on the cover of his book. Inside, the continually expanded tome is sub-titled, “From the Mid-1800s to the Present.”
The book is now in its third printing. It started out as a gift project, with 20 copies printed to give as presents to family members and friends. When that ran out, he went to a “second printing” with about 30 copies made. As word of mouth spread the news about his book, more people wanted to have a copy which prompted a third printing.
The book’s title may refer to the history of Lathrop, but the bulk of the chapters are stories about Freeman growing up in Lathrop and his foray into politics in later years. Included in his easy-to-read story telling are many entertaining vignettes that many long-time residents will find amusing as well as informative. Actually, he calls the inside chapters Part I, Part II and so on, with each part dealing with a different topic or reminiscence.
But Freeman does include a lengthy chapter – that’s Part I – on the history of Lathrop which includes the infamous murder that made national headlines during the city’s heyday at the turn of the 19th century when Manteca was still a sand plain in the southern end of San Joaquin County. Freeman’s historical accounts of Lathrop go back to the early 1800s.
The book is interspersed with plenty of photographs, some of them from Freeman’s own family archives, several from the Manteca Historical Museum’s archives, and many from another longtime avid historian and photographer, octogenarian Roy Tinnin. Many of the photographs were taken by Freeman from a two-seater Piper Cub which he piloted from 1973 to 1992. Like his entry into politics, Freeman was also dragged into becoming a pilot because of acrophobia. Later, once he conquered his fear of heights, he flew his family from the former Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrop where he worked and where he joined the pilots’ club, to Arizona and Oklahoma. A chapter is devoted to this topic in his book.
The book’s foreword was written by Freeman’s sister, Lenora Bigelow, who helped edit his book.
Freeman also had the honor of writing the introduction to the recently published book, “History of Lathrop,” by Arcadia Publishing. Many of his personal photographs also appear in the book and attributed to him. However, Freeman clarified that many of those pictures should have been attributed to Tinnin who was the actual photographer.
One of the most interesting stories in the book is Freeman’s vignette about growing up in Lathrop and being referred to by his childhood friends as “Mayor Mac.” Freeman said he has forgotten that sobriquet from long ago until he was reminded about it. His sister, Lenora, writes in her foreword that she remembered her brother saying while they were children, “When I grow up, I’m going to be the mayor of Lathrop.”
Copies of Freeman’s books are available at the front counter of Lathrop City Hall, 390 Towne Centre Drive at Mossdale Landing.