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Society restoring old Ripon jail
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Ripon Historical Society President John Mangelos stands between the two refurbished jail cells that he and Harrison Gibbs have worked tirelessly to bring up their original standards. - photo by GLENN KAHL

The restoration of the old 1925 vintage Ripon Jail is soon to be completed through the efforts of Ripon Historical Society President John Mangelos and Harrison Gibbs along with countless hours of donated labor to its roof and foundation.

The jail is located near where the police department was located years ago near the intersection of Locust and First streets that is now occupied by the Veterans’ Wall and Museum.

The museum building once housed the city offices and the court house where Manteca District Court Judge Priscilla Haynes would hear the weekend case load near where the suspects had been held in the city jail over the weekend.  Judge Duane Martin later came from the district court in Manteca to hear mostly traffic cases.

The jail cells and the office interiors have had the paint chipped and scraped off their walls by Gibbs before being repainted.  The prisoners’ bunks were made of metal and folded back against the walls of the building that held mostly drunks who had been in fights, quipped former officer and later chief Red Nutt.

Harvey Douma had been chief for two to three years when Nutt joined the force in 1965.  The jail had first been located on Walnut Avenue near the train tracks and moved to its present location in 1957 by Ceres house movers.  Nutt would later become a city council member and then Mayor of Ripon.

Nutt said when he first came to work there were only five officers on the force with him working graveyard and doubling back after four days.  Sgt. Paul Stevens was his supervisor. 

For those they arrested some 50 years ago with the small size of the jail, “We’d put ‘em in there and go back on patrol.  We’d go back and check on them later,” he added.

Nutt recalled the hobos they would jail for their own good in the rainy weather, because the officers felt bad for them.  The Ripon jail was first used by the town’s “night watchman” and by Sheriff’s deputies.  After the city incorporated in 1945 the Ripon Police Department was formed.

“You had to book them as a ‘sleep-in,’ he said of the hobos.  The next morning they were free to go, but at least they could bed down and be warm for the night, he added.

The next big expense in the restoration is a new outside door for the jail at a cost of $1,300, Mangelos said in bearing the cost with Gibbs.

Shirley and Jerry Jorgensen of Lil’ Nippers donated an office desk that fits the era and Janet Dyk of Magpie Antiques presented Mangelos with a 1930’s vintage desk telephone that still works when it is plugged into a wall jack.  It bore a price tag of $175.

The final accent to the jail is the replacing the window panes and the installation of bars over the front windows.