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1960 Olympic relay torch in place in front of museum
michael white torch
Longtime Ripon resident Michael White proudly stands by the replica Olympic torch Thursday in its new location at the Clarence Smit Museum.

In 1960, the Olympic relay torch run made its way through Ripon, stopping momentarily in downtown along Main Street.

Michael White, who was a high school student back then, was among 1,000 or so gathered in the driving rain on that historical day in February to witness the lighting of the flame in the replica torch holder.

The years past, the memories all but faded, and the cauldron representing the Winter Olympic Game in Squaw Valley – now known as Palisades Tahoe – became an anonymous fixture next to the Thiemann Athletic Park plaque on Fourth Street.

That was until White took it upon himself to rekindle this significant moment in his hometown.

Those efforts came to light in July when the Ripon City Council accepted his donation of the commemorative plaque, which read: “In 1960, Ripon was used as a waypoint for the Olympic Torch in its journey to Squaw Valley for the Winter Olympic Games – This is a replica of the torch holder in Squaw Valley.”

The replica torch holder with the five rings of the Olympic insignia on the tripod, originally constructed by Al Kamps and John Boesch, was also restored with the new dedication plaque, and moved to its original location at 430 W. Main St., which, fittingly, is in front of the Clarence Smit Museum.

According to Director of Public Works James Pease, it took about 30 hours for his crew to do the restoration, relocation, and installation of this project that was completed on Thursday.

“It took 18 months but it’s finally here,” said White, who is a 1962 graduation of Ripon High.

He was thankful to those who helped him along the way with this project, including Vice Mayor Leo Zuber, historian Connie Jorgensen, Pease and his crew, and others.

Jorgensen noted a few months ago that the relay torch run made its way through the San Joaquin Valley, arriving south along old Highway 99 to Main Street, West Ripon Road, and Durham Ferry enroute to Stockton.

Joe Grasso and Bob Nepote, both Ripon High track athletes, were part of that relay.

Ripon Chamber of Commerce President and Mayor Leonard Schemper, Vice Mayor Charles Friedman, Councilman Harvey Latcha, and City Administrator Art Clemens were among those who greeted the torch bearers that day.