There have been countless folks in Manteca who have touched my life and those of others in Manteca who are no longer with us.
They are people that I will long remember.
Among them are the long-time manager of Bank of America John Gatto, the much beloved Manteca Police officer Tillie Delnero and Manteca Chamber of Commerce Manager Gladys Brock. Their passings as well as that of others have left an empty spot in my heart.
Father Clinton Farabaugh — an assistant pastor at St. Anthony’s in the ‘60s — left his imprint on my heart at a wedding I was photographing. He admonished the bridal couple to always go the extra mile for each other. Remember in the tough times to do what is needed to be done, whispering, “for you my love” when something seems to be just too much of an effort for its worth, he said. In recent days I have said that often to my wife Mary Lou as she struggles with an illness, “for you my love,” when I feel a little overwhelmed.
Many of those lost contacts have come from my years at the Manteca Bulletin along with the countless families and individuals I came to know during the 35 years of operating my photography studio. They are still loved and respected through my memories.
Among those I knew and respected was George Murphy Sr., former longtime owner of the Manteca Bulletin and his son George Murphy Jr. who hired me on two occasions — once from my position as secretary-manager of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce. Initially he hired me away from my general assignment reporter slot with the San Bernardino Sun-Telegram in Southern California.
Outliving your friends and associates in the community who had been there for you over the years and realizing they are no longer with us can be brutal reality.
Charles Bergthold is another man I still miss along with George Lauritson. Both were instrumental in operating the Manteca District Volunteer Ambulance in its early years. Bergthold and his wife Betty operated Bergthold Mortuary on Center Street across from the Post Office and Lauritson with his wife Kathryn ran Lauritson’s Variety store in the 100 block of East Yosemite Avenue. It was at Lauritson’s dime store where Manteca children knew they could reach into the large candy jars for a taste of the best for any sweet tooth.
Lauritson died from a heart attack after responding to three fatal highway crashes, one after another, collapsing when he returned the ambulance to a garage adjacent to the mortuary. Both men were highly respected in the community.
Directly across the street from the variety store was the El Rey Theater that opened in 1937. George and Chris Peters took over the operation after the death of their father who owned a number of movie houses in other small communities in the region. The brothers would make regular trips to the Bay Area to purchase movies for their theater. George was the familiar face to children throughout the area as they bought their popcorn, candy and sodas.
It was heartbreaking to see Chris Peters leaning against the front of the Lauritson store in 1975 as his theater burned after the last showing of “The Towering Inferno.”
Manteca Union High School Superintendent Joseph Blanchard was another star in my life along with Congressman John J. McFall who had also served as a mayor of Manteca. I will never forget Manteca Judicial Court Judge Priscilla Haynes who held court upstairs in the old Manteca City Hall on Sycamore Avenue in downtown. She was an outstanding jurist for this small town. She also served on satellite courts in Ripon and Escalon.
Another special friend was California Highway Patrol public information officer Elmer Harper who was definitely from the old school of law enforcement. It was Elmer who was responsible for the reflectors seen on the freeways on the fog line telling motorists they were only three-tenths of a mile, two tenths of a mile and one tenth of a mile from the off ramp — a must for a life saver on foggy days. Elmer was my right hand and I was pretty much his but he too has passed away. In his early years he was chosen to chauffeur Governor Pat Brown around the state.
Portrait photographer Dale Johnson who came to Manteca in 1949 and served the community well during his tenure was a challenging competitor with my own photo studio is now in his 80s and continues showing special talents in caring for his wife Pat who is suffering from an illness. Dale is always there for her and still takes time out to work the flowers at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church as a volunteer. Dale has proven he is a man among and above other men who I respect to the nth degree.
The portraits of Mantecans elevated to the Hall of Fame are framed on the walls of the Manteca Transit Center on Moffat Boulevard. They are men and women who have served well with ethics, heart and professionalism. Taking the time to take a look at them is always worth a special few minutes in anyone’s day.
And so is remembering those who have gone before and helped make Manteca what it is today.