Editor’s note: An occasional series on the people who have helped build Manteca as the city gets ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of incorporation this year.
The iconic Mendosa’s Menswear clothing store that was built in the 100 block of West Yosemite Avenue by John August Mendosa two years before Manteca was incorporated as a city in 1918 served the community well for 74 years according to his daughter Lucille Harris.
The senior Mendosa had come to America in the steerage lower deck of a steam ship and entered through Ellis Island in New York City.
Lucille and her late husband Bill owned and operated the large Tuff Boy Trailer business located south of Manteca. They had three children of their own — Marsha, Melissa and Martin — along with seven grandchildren.
“We were the original 3-M Company,” Harris chuckled.
Lucille was one of six Mendosa children – the youngest of the family. She admitted to being spoiled in the process. Her brother John worked with his dad in the store after school and on weekends before he and his wife Eileen took over its operation years later. Lucille was born in 1932 in a home made into a hospital in the 100 block of North Lincoln Avenue just next to the alleyway. It now serves as a care home.
She was delivered by Dr. Trethewey at the old hospital. If you were a Trethewey baby you would get a birthday card in the mail every. That stopped when he went into the military during the war as a medic.
The senior Mendosa immigrated from the Portuguese island of Madeira. He bought the vacant lot at 159 West Yosemite Avenue in 1915 where he would build his store and open it a year later. He also built a home in the 200 block of North Maple Avenue – just north of Center Street.
Harris recalled that the carpenters that built the Spreckels Sugar houses for their employees in the 800 block of East Yosemite Avenue played a major role in constructing his new frame home with the same floor plan as those for the workers.
There were no curbs and sidewalks in front of the Maple Avenue home so a grandfather from Oakland, Joe Silva who was a cement contractor, came to Manteca and poured concrete sidewalks and walkways around their house.
When he opened his men’s store he had men’s and women’s shoes in addition to men’s shirts, jackets and suits along with a small section set aside for shoe repair, Lucille said. The cobbler who worked for him was John Pinto – father of Manteca educator Bill Pinto.
Mendosa was a member of the Manteca Board of Trade, the forerunner to the Manteca City Council. He was the one who initiated the large group photo of that organization being taken that now hangs on the wall of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce. The photo was donated by the Harris family.
Mendosa’s wife Mary was a resident of Oakland when John met her. He found that she had come from the same island in the Azores he had once called home. She had two children Genevieve and Laurence (“Larry”) – 6 and 8 years old – who Mendosa later adopted as his own. They were married in 1922 in a Catholic Church in Oakland. In addition to John and Lucille there was also Marie and Dorothy who had been the manager of Raymus Real Estate and had Dot Way in Manteca named after her near Yosemite Avenue and Fremont Street. All of the six kids graduated from Manteca High School.
Lucille said her mother could look out her kitchen window and see the back of her husband’s store. A dirt path through an open field would take them to Main Street and the downtown intersection. When their home and store were built the Post Office had not yet been located at the corner of Maple Avenue and Center Street and the stores along Maple Avenue had not been thought of yet.
When going to the shop in the winter rains she remembered her dad driving his Graham Paige Flat Top four door sedan to work down the street from their home.
She said her mom’s first sight of Manteca when she was being driven over the Altamont was shocking to her because of all the open land. Lucille said her mother was so lonely for her Oakland home and the noise of the street cars and the cars on the street that she would stand by the kitchen window and cry with tears streaming down her cheeks.
Lucille’s oldest sister Genevieve and a friend Muriel Miller Prouty took her with them to Manteca High for a day of classes. The sister had been told to stay home from school and take care of her younger sister but the pair decided to take her to classes with them and the teachers didn’t object, Lucille remembered. Their mother had a doctor’s appointment that took her to Oakland for the day.
She said her mom was also the standby “poppy lady” at the Post Office after it was built on Maple Avenue where she would stand and collect donations until someone would usually come across the street with a chair for her to sit down.
Brother John had volunteered to go into the Navy during World War II. Like many kids he had talked his parents into letting him leave high school for military service in the war effort enlisting after the Pearl Harbor attack, Lucille said.
She added that her high school class had a wonderful journalism teacher, Miss Aiken, that the late Ken Hafer kept in contact with over the years. She would attend our high school reunions because of Hafer, Lucille remembered.
“My high school years were dominated by Ken Hafer who ran the show and was a cheer leader with Glen Elkins and Wally Shirk – Ken was a doer,” she said.
She and Aldo Brocchini owner of the Hardware Mart had a bet going years ago, Lucille recalled. Neither could remember years later what the bet was about other than it was for $10. To make a point, Brocchini created a large check, two feet by four feet, and paid her the winnings.
Not to be undone, and feeling he had been the winner of the bet, she returned the $10 on her personal check and had son Marvin slip it into his pocket at his funeral. That check is now with him for eternity at St. John’s Cemetery in Ripon, she said.
“We had a contentious relationship!” she noted, “but always friends.”
Lucille had warm memories of a neighbor who was constantly worried about her only son Bert Buthernut having gone into the war and was frightened he would be killed. The woman would often be at the Mendosa home reading letters from her son about his bombing runs over Germany but he returned home safely losing his life in a Stockton area traffic accident.
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