The Manteca Historical Museum receives a lot of phone calls practically every day from people having an old piece that they would like to donate.
“We get people calling all the time saying they have something and they don’t know what to do with it. And we try to look at it,” said museum director Evelyn Prouty.
The first thing that they do when that happens is to determine if the item is “local,” she said. “It has to have a connection to Manteca.”
One of the museum’s latest acquisitions is an antique furniture set donated by the late Dora Anderssen Mortensen.
“Dora Mortensen donated her parlor set; now we have a new parlor,” said Prouty.
The set, which was actually given to the museum by Mortensen’s daughter after her mother passed away on Nov. 21, 2011 at the age of 93, included a love seat, two chairs, a trio of marble-top tables and “two gorgeous lamps,” Prouty said.
One of the lamps is “covered with roses” which were done in reverse painting. Another item in the donated collection is called a candlestick phone, so named because of its similarity to the candlestick. It’s an old communication contraption that was used a lot in 1930s movies, Prouty said. To use it, the caller had to grab the candlestick part of the phone, with the other part, which was the receiver, held close to his ear. This early version of the telephone came from Mortensen’s parents.
“A very nice donation,” Prouty called the antique set from the Mortensen family which is displayed in the museum area where an exhibit that shows how a kitchen in the olden days looked like is also located.
Mortensen’s connection with the local area spans decades that go back to the turn of the 20th century when her mother, the former Bertha Eva Schmiedt, came to California in 1900. She came to Manteca by wagon in 1904. Her father, Jens Andersen, came to Manteca by train after the turn of the 20th century. A plasterer and bricklayer by trade, he had a hand in the construction of most of the brick buildings in the old downtown of Manteca on Yosemite Avenue and Main Street. He also served as director of the Manteca-Lathrop Fire District for more than 30 years from 1930 until his death in 1963.
Mortensen herself was heavily involved in community service. She was the charter president of the Manteca Hospital’s Pink Ladies which she organized after the hospital opened in 1962. She was also a charter member and a board director when the Manteca Historical Society was organized. Her other involvements include being president of the Manteca Women’s Service Club and the Manteca Federated Women’s Club.
“She was involved in everything, and everybody knew her,” Prouty said.
For questions about how to donate an item to the museum, or about items on display, call (209) 825-3021 or log on to www.mantecamuseum.org. You can also visit the museum at 600 W. Yosemite Avenue. It is open four days a week: Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m.; Thursdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.
The museum also presents a monthly program meeting every second Thursday of the month starting at 7 p.m. The presentation is free and open to the public.
To write to the museum, send letters to P.O. Box 907, Manteca CA 95336.