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Lots of treasures on display at museum
Photos, postcards and even a replica model of the old Manteca High and its beloved bell tower are part of the collection at the Manteca Historical Museum. - photo by Courtesy Manteca Historical Society


LOCATION: 600 W. Yosemite Ave.
HOURS: Tuesday and Wednesday 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.
COLLECTION DONATION: If you have items you believe the museum may want to include in its collection, contact Ron Howe at 823-5641

The Manteca Historical Museum offers plenty of things for visitors to discover.

First, there are the “hidden treasures.” These are the rusty remnants of various agricultural equipment found in the “memorial building” just literally a skip and a hop away from the main museum. A visit to this adjunct display area is definitely worth the extra step and time you make to get there. Everything on display here came from farms in Manteca and surroundings.

The largest of the outdoor collection should make every Mantecan truly proud: an almond harvester. This was the first one of its kind ever invented, and the inventor was none other than a Mantecan named Ben Goodwin.

Another large piece of equipment, but nowhere near the size of the almond harvester, is a piece of machinery called a hay raker. It came from the Albertsen-Rieger ranch in Lathrop where it was an indispensable work horse until it was displaced by modern machinery.  The old ranch, located on Harlan Road between the Hampton Inn and the Camino Real Mobile Home Park, was developed a few years ago into a small residential subdivision of two-story homes. Before ground was broken for the new development, Willard Rieger and wife Frankie of Manteca who both grew up in Lathrop, donated the old hay raker to the museum. The Riegers both belong to pioneer families in the area. The raker was towed to the museum by Frank Mendes and son Ray, who are also members of a pioneer farming family in the Manteca and Lathrop areas. One of the smaller items in the farming machinery menagerie is a potato digger donated by the family of museum docent Victor Gully. The potato digger and the equipment on display were from the 1920s and 1930s.

Some of the families that donated these items have since quit their small family-owned farms, while a few others are still flourishing under the management of the families’ second- or third-generation members.

A part of the outdoor exhibit is impossible to ignore. It’s not a farm tool but it definitely was part of farm life in days of yore. It’s a genuine outhouse — cleaned up for display, of course — that was donated to the museum about two years ago.

More farming treasures that both delight and educate visitors are found inside the memorial building. They include scores of items that were once staples in area farms and dairies. There is even a replica of a milking barn complete with a life-sized plaster cow. While the barn is just a replica, the hand-milking apparatus is real. They are things that were actually used in area dairies. They include a milking stool, milking pail, and milk containers.

Among the donated agricultural items

Below is a short list of the donated items and their provenance:

• A circa 1918 cream skimmer used by Bertha Anderson to skim milk off a milk pan.

• A Jackson fork made between 1910 and 1920. According to the exhibit’s accompanying note, the pitching fork was used in stacking hay or for forking hay into the barn. The piece was donated by longtime dairy farmers Arnold and Laura Rothlin of Manteca. The Rothlins are now retired from farming – they sold their dairy business about two years ago – but their dairy is still in use as a leased facility for other farmers.

• A De Laval milking machine from the early 1950s owned and used by Albert J. Silveira.

• A milk bottle from Escalon’s old Hale Dairy. Although the dairy was located in Ripon, the company delivered extensively in the Manteca area. On the side of the bottle display reads in red graphics and letters: “Building Americans with Hale’s Pure Milk, Escalon, Calif.”

• A glass butter church, 1-gallon size, donated by Frank and Marge Nunes.

There are more treasures to discover inside the main museum. You have to keep track of the special events to view some of these, such as the collection of antique and vintage bridal gowns that is put on display in June, and the literally hundreds of antique Christmas tree ornaments – many of them handmade, one-of-a-kind and are extremely rare – that are used to trim the nearly-a-dozen old trees scattered throughout the museum during the holidays.

For a walk down Valentine’s Day memory lane, stop by the museum during the month of February. That’s when the museum presents its collection of romantic antique and vintage Valentine cards. Many of the items that are always included in the exhibit are from an extensive collection bequeathed to the museum by the late Ross Brown. They were cards that Ross gifted to his bride Elsie every year on Valentine’s Day in a span of six decades, starting when they were engaged.

The rare collection also includes Valentine cards from the 1900s or earlier.  What makes the Browns’ donation even more appealing is their pristine quality. For that, credit goes to the late Elsie Brown, a lifelong avid Valentine card collector and a member of an antique club, who amazingly preserved the delicate and ornate cards, especially the ones that she received from her husband.

Museum always in need of volunteers

The exhibits are not the only attractions at the museum, though. Also open to the public, in addition to the displays, is the monthly program meeting held every second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. and presented by the Manteca Historical Society.

Admission to the museum is free. Visiting hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m., and Thursdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

The museum is located at 600 West Yosemite, corner of Locust Avenue.

The Manteca Historical Society, which established the historical museum, was chartered in 1990 as a nonprofit organization

The museum is always in need of volunteers, “regardless of one’s age or length of time in the area,” who can volunteer a few hours each month.

The museum is also open to group tours by calling Mary Smith at (209) 823-0230 or Phyllis Abram at (209) 239-0744.

For more information about the museum, call during regular business hours at (209) 825-3021.