If you happen to line North Main Street today waiting for the approach of the Sunrise Kiwanis’ Fourth of July parade themed “Manteca, 100 Years”, you might want to take a close look at what is in front of you.
Manteca when it was incorporated a century ago only had one block within its city limits where the parade route is today. That’s the 200 block of North Main. Everything else was pure country.
The street itself was just freshly paved as part of Route 4 — the predecessor to Highway 99 that was one of the first roadways built with passage of the first state highway bonds in 1910. It was called Hogan Road through Manteca as opposed to Main Street. Eventually it became Highway 99 and stayed that way until 1955 when the freeway “east of town” was completed. It was in the early 1950s that Manteca got its first traffic light at Highway 99 (now Main Street) where it crossed Highway 120 (now Yosemite Avenue).
Manteca was in its infancy as a city.
The big issues were lack of sidewalks, speeding (people were going above the posted speed limit of 15 mph in the downtown area and also “failing to close their mufflers”), the need for fire equipment (back then it was four dozen buckets for the bucket brigade), water, the need for a sewer system, street repairs, and funding a marshal (as opposed to police officers today) who was also put in charge of collecting taxes and overseeing the streets.
The city was preparing to build its first sewer system that would break ground in six months at a cost of $21,496.11.
Ground was getting ready to break on a deal community leaders made to bring an economic game changer to Manteca — Spreckels Sugar. The newly minted city had less than 1,000 residents. And, by the way, the council got its first complaints about over-the-top celebrations on the Fourth of July leading the following year to a ban on firecrackers.
There are now 81,450 city residents. Illegal fireworks are a problem but city efforts re-enforced by $1,000 fines last year and $5,000 fines this year appear to be making headway.
The city is getting ready to celebrate the ground breaking of an economic game changer. The 500-room Great Wolf Resort and indoor water park starts construction next month.
Manteca is filling four new police officer positions at a cost significantly higher than the $100 a month paid to the first marshal who was a multitasker when it came to filling municipal shoes.
The city this month is wrapping up the rehab of 1.6 miles of sewer line at a cost of $2.8 million.
Manteca this week called for bids to repave Main Street from Yosemite Avenue to Atherton Drive as well as Yosemite Avenue from Main Street to Cottage Avenue for over $3 million as well as wrapping up work in overlaying dozens of other streets.
Speeding is still a huge problem. But instead of busting the posted speed limit of 15 mph a number of motorists seem to think it is OK to go 15 miles per hour over today’s posted speed limits.
There are still segments of missing sidewalks.
The city is saving up for a $500,000 fire engine as opposed to four dozen water buckets.
The 1927 American La France fire engine, that is helping bring up the rear of today’s parade, 91 years ago joined the first engine the city fire department purchased for $4,000 — a new 1920 Ford combination pump and chemical engine.
The American La France engine new was $10,800. The city almost lost the engine in June of 1934 when it found itself unable to make the last payment of $275.72 due to the impact the Great Depression was having on the municipal budget. A committee traveled to San Francisco to secure an extension with the debt holder. A flurry of dances, bake sales, an open house at the fire station, and door-to-door solicitation raised the needed money within the 30-day extension.
The American La France was finally joined by a second fire engine in 1946 and a truck designed to haul water the following year.
Summer 100 years ago also saw the city doling out fines for violation of one of the first ordinances adopted at the council’s first meeting — the failure of people to clear their property of weeds.
As for water, the city is set today thanks to the foresight of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District in 1909 to secure and develop water rights on the Stanislaus River watershed.
Manteca’s electricity provider a century ago was the Sierra & San Francisco Power Co. until they were bought out in 1920 by PG&E.
Even though the city is dealing with basically the same issues today as they did a century ago, the odds are Joshua Cowell — the man credited with getting the town site rolling in the 1870s and who served as the city’s first mayor — would be pretty amazed at what is along today’s parade route and in Manteca in general today.
Say what you want but basic needs never change.
But to argue retreating to the past would be better than what the city is doing today is nuts.
So as you go about celebrating our nation’s birth and freedoms today, keep in mind what has been created in Manteca over the past century is worthy of celebration as well.
And perhaps you might want to go to your kitchen faucet, fill a glass with SSJID secured prosperity, and make a toast to Manteca’s next 100 years.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.