Stan Aldrin was someone who hated to slow down. You could ask him to please stand still, but that’s all you could do – try.
You’d think he had a green thumb by the way his garden grew – but it was all hard work. Knowing Stan, though, he would not go that far. He’d say he was just having fun sticking small seeds or cuttings in the ground, watching the grass grow, mowing the lawn, pruning the roses, and aerating the soil. What he would not admit is that he was honing his memory and brain power by staying active.
If he was not puttering in the yard planting berries, deadheading the roses, and making cuttings of his roses to give to Jill and Janet at Delta/AC next door, he’d be inside his shop – an oversized shed that he built with his own hands, turning out creations such as the two-dozen or so unique wood boxes and coasters that he gave away as Christmas presents one year. These are not simple square wood pieces glued together, mind you. These were mosaic wood pieces arranged to create designs unique of each other. The wood were recycled from pallets discarded from the business next door, which means he had to dismantle the pallets first, remove the nails, smooth the wood slats, then cut them down to sizes.
Two Christmases ago, he became even more ambitious, although he refrained from using that word. He wanted to have more fun, is what he’d say. He made a coffee table to give as surprise gift to two of the people he most admired and was truly proud to call friends – Joan and Mel Kauffman of Manteca.
This time, he didn’t just put together the wood mosaic pieces, using only the natural hues of the wood as his guide for his design. He arranged the tiny wood tiles so that the names MEL and JOAN were right in the center of the tabletop.
With the help of a couple of friends, Stan made the surprise delivery to the Kauffmans at their home in Pine Mountain Lake where they were staying at that time.
That generous gesture was not an isolated case for Stan. He delighted in the joy of giving. And the gifts were straight from the heart. Furthermore, any gift from this rare Jack-of-all-trades survivor of the Great Depression and Coast Guard veteran of World War II is guaranteed one-in-a-million. Well, actually, truly one of a kind. You will not find anything like it anywhere. It was guaranteed patented Stan Aldrin.
Sometimes Stan gave his plants and shop tools a break and ventured off to his favorite fishing holes in the Delta and other popular angling destinations. That’s how he stocked up his freezer to keep grocery expenses down. Florene, the love of his life, has always been a good cook which probably inspired Stan to try and catch as many wiggly gilled critters he could to bring home.
When he was not doing all of the above, he kept his mind constantly keen by popping in next door at Delta A/C to check out what the guys are working on which usually led to discussions about shop tools.
If he looked like he felt too much at home at Delta A/C, it’s because this place is home to him. Where Delta A/C is located on the north side of Yosemite Avenue, plus his trailer home and shop next door and the agricultural fields across the road where there are two or three houses, were all together at one time belonged to him. He farmed the fields that straddled Yosemite – I can’t remember how many acres. He lived in a house on the south side of the road – it’s not there anymore. On the north side, he built a roadside structure where he sold his fruits and vegetables. One could say Stan was a pioneer roadside fruit and vegetable vendor, now a common site along main thoroughfares like the Yosemite Avenue-Highway 120 stretch that begins at the Aldrin spot and ends in Yosemite National Park.
Yet another local history trivia – before Stan came to own this farm land, a Filipino family or families raised vegetables and fruits here.
Stan raised his family farming this plot of land between Manteca and Lathrop until he decided to retire and sold the property to Mel Kauffman when the latter moved his business from the Bay Area to the Manteca-Lathrop area.
But Stan never really retired. He just downsized. He could have settled down by sitting pretty in his rocking chair watching the busy Yosemite Avenue traffic or listening to the ring-necked doves in the giant trees in his front yard, especially after two knee-replacement surgeries and a plague of arthritis. But that wasn’t Stan’s way. When he turned 92 three years ago, you’d think he had just begun to live. The band saw and avocation tools in his shop never took a respite from Stan’s presence. And the ground around the modest trailer he shared with Florene never lay idle. Stan may have divested the farm, but the farmer stayed with Stan. All around his property were grape vines, blackberries, tomatoes, fava beans, among a host of the year-round vegetables he planted, plus a rainbow of flowering annuals and perennials – stocks, irises, thick carpets of ice plants that hugged the trees in the front yard, jasmines, trumpet vine, all kinds of daisies, chrysanthemums, snapdragons, roses and more roses!
Born in Turlock, Stan grew up in Ripon. He was one of six children. Like his late father, Stan was also a Jack-of-all-trades. He was not just a farmer. He was a mechanic, an inventor, among his numerous skills. He was also a great conversationalist with a keen memory. He remembered the popular night club along the short stretch of West Yosemite between McKinley Avenue and the 120 Bypass to the west. The name of this night spot fails me at the moment. The Coconut Grove? The Copacobana? One of the big names that performed here was supposedly Tommy Dorsey, the famous trombonist and bandleader. Of course, one has to remember that Highway 120-Yosemite Avenue was once THE major thoroughfare taken by motorists on their way to Yosemite National Park and other historical and tourist attractions in the foothills and high country.
When I wrote this column several months ago, Stan asked me not to run it in the paper. His reason: he didn’t want his time interrupted by people asking him questions and historical tidbits about the old homeplace where he lived for more than half a century. He shied from being the center of attention. He didn’t talk about himself. He talked about events that happened during his life. I didn’t even know until a week ago that he served in the Coast Guard – he was a mechanic – and served his country during World War II.
On Sunday, April 6, Stan got up early as was his lifetime habit, dressed up and got ready for another day of watching his garden and the traffic whiz past his front deck. But he didn’t feel good all of a sudden and went back to bed – then slipped the surly bonds of earth quietly and peacefully. He was 94 years old.