The Manteca Museum marks its 25th year this July.
Not only has it become one of the most prolific repositories of local history in the Northern San Joaquin Valley but the Manteca Historical Society actively engages school children and community members to provide them with a deeper understanding of how a discarded box car that served as the de facto first train station in 1870 ended up morphing into a city of 75,000 some 147 years later.
The museum run by volunteers is located in the now 100-year-old church that once housed both Episcopalian and Methodist congregations. It is arguably the best entertainment value in Manteca. It is easy to spend an hour or so browsing the collection — and return later to take in more. Doing so won’t break the bank given there is no admission.
You will find the museum at the corner of two streets named after nearby national parks — Yosemite and Sequoia avenues — just over a block west of downtown. The museum is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. as well as Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.
You will find things on display that are unique to Manteca. At the same time there are artifacts that represent daily living dating back a century and more that resonates with those whose roots are in other communities.
Some of the Manteca touches are:
uThe Towering Inferno” movie poster that was in the sidewalk display window of the El Rey Theatre (now the shuttered Kelley Brothers Brewing Co.) that burned after a screening of the film on Aug. 6, 1975.
uArtifacts from the old Southern Pacific Railroad station that once sat near the edge of what is today’s Library’s Park including the station’s “Manteca” sign that was saved and donated to the museum by the late Howard Shideler. He was the owner of a turkey ranch where appropriately today sits the Lathrop-Manteca Altamont Corridor Express station.
uThe late Congressman John McFall’s desk from his office in the House of Representatives. The former Manteca mayor whose father Hope McFall who died in World War II before the birth of his son rose to the second most powerful positon as House Whip behind the House Speaker in the 1970s.
uThe restored 1927 American La France fire engine that was the City of Manteca’s second fire engine.
uReplica models of the current Yosemite School (Manteca Day School) that replaced the stunning two-story brick Yosemite School destroyed by fire on Aug. 7, 1948 as well as a replica of the beloved Manteca High bell tower destroyed by a wrecking ball on Oct. 3, 1969.
Among the universal American history are:
uMilitary uniforms dating back to World War I
uA dental office and household kitchen from the dawn of the 20th century.
uA manual telephone switchboard.
uFarm implements for the late 19th century.
The museum’s collection goes beyond what is on display in the main museum and the annex. It also has an extensive collection of old photographs as well as a gift shop.
Concern that Manteca’s
past would be forgotten
& lost spurred effort
The desire to establish a museum was driven by the disappearance of Manteca landmarks that ran the gamut from the Manteca High mission-style tower to the Southern Pacific Railroad station. Back in 1989 there was a concern that Manteca would lose more than just landmarks if steps weren’t taken to establish a respiratory of sorts to collect and preserve historical items tied to Manteca and the surrounding areas.
The goal was simply to establish a place where people could gather to share memories, heritage; to preserve and store photographs and other artifacts for future generations to enjoy.
As word spread of the effort, the organizing group was soon inundated with people offering to provide historical items. That prompted a search for a building to store what was collected. The group was officially launched in 1990.
The first museum was the old Christian Science Room in the 200 block of Poplar next to the tennis courts located across from the Manteca Library.
In the fall of 1991 Delicato Vineyards opened their warehouse to host a food and wine tasting event that ended up being the precursor to the annual Gourmet Sampler. The charter membership drive lured nearly 400 people and gave the museum effort a big boost.
In April of 1992, the society decided to purchase the old 1917 Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of Yosemite and Sequoia streets as it was clear the Poplar location was inadequate in size given the outpouring of offers to donate artifacts. The society took possession of the church in July 1992 even though it was badly in need of repair, including a leaky roof. The museum opened for business 10 days later as remodeling progressed.
A new roof was installed, 42 windows were closed in, and new steel entry doors were installed along with fire, smoke and burglar alarms. A new electric panel with much new wiring was added and then vinyl siding was used to cover all the blemishes.
This was all accomplished with volunteers, donations of labor and materials, and a one-time grant from the City of Manteca of redevelopment agency funds in the amount of $92,000 along with an anonymous cash donation of $50,000.
With two years, the visitors’ census topped 10,000.
The visitor tally is now over 75,000 and the activities keep growing. Besides dues and donations, the greatest fundraisers are the annual Gourmet Sampler in March and the Old Fashioned Summer Social barbecue in August. Both are in their 25th year. The Museum Gift Shop also plays an important part in fundraising.
Clancy Rogers is the museum manager while Dave Winegarden is president of the society Tommie Gallardo serves as the first vice president while Marvin Brocchini is the second vice president. Mark Abram is the treasurer and Sally Mendes is the secretary.
The historical museum also holds free monthly pragmas touching on Manteca history at the museum on the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. The next program features Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion on Feb. 9.
Annual membership dues are $5 for students, $15 for individuals, and $25 for couples, and $50 for families among various levels.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org