Clare Dunn Moran has an appreciation for preserving history.
So much so, that she has spent the better part of the past two decades compiling stories and information for her most recently published book “Ghost Towns of the Mother Lode Hills.”
The book is available for purchase at the Oakdale Cowboy Museum and will also be on hand at the 18th Annual Cowboy Christmas Gift and Craft Show, Saturday, Nov. 27. The event will be hosted at the Gene Bianchi Community Center. Doors will open at 9 a.m. and the author will be available to sign books from noon to 1 p.m.
Proceeds from the book go directly to the Oakdale Cowboy Museum.
Moran’s passion for history came by way of her late husband, Archie Moran. After 44 years of marriage and countless trips to various sites of historical significance, Moran developed her own appreciation for stories of the past.
“My husband was really the history person,” Moran stated. “He was a collector of things and quite the story teller.”
Combining her love of volunteering and history, Moran served as a docent for the San Joaquin County Historical Museum for over 30 years. She has also been a familiar face to Friday visitors at the Oakdale Cowboy Museum as a docent for the past 11 years.
“We call her our Girl Friday,” Oakdale Cowboy Museum Director Christie Camarillo said of the docent. “I feel like every Friday I learn something new working with Clare.”
Moran precedes Camarillo in tenure at the museum.
According to Moran her attachment with the museum was formed after stopping by as a visitor one Friday over 11 years ago.
“There was no one in there,” she recalled of her visit, “I thought it was a shame.”
Moran began filling her Fridays working as a docent for the museum and shortly thereafter was joined by Camarillo.
“I was so grateful that the Chamber of Commerce came up with Christie,” Moran recalled.
In addition to her work with San Joaquin County Historical Museum and the Cowboy Museum, Moran was also very active with Valley Days at Micke Grove Historical Museum.
In the early 1990s she began working on her book … long hand … in a notebook.
“I had a collection of stories that had never been told before,” the author said. “One of my main objectives was to put out names of people that had been around the Milton area … names of people related to the area.”
Camarillo shared that in spring of 2008 she and Moran began discussing the manuscript the author had been working on, which was still in long hand.
“I’ve always been a strong typist,” Camarillo said. “I love to type, so I said I would do it.”
In all, the museum director estimates it took her about three months to type what is now the 190-page book.
“There were words she used or phrases I did not understand, so I would highlight the notes and bring it back to review with Clare,” she said.
“Christie volunteered to type it and my daughter Anita really polished it off, or finalized it for the publisher,” Moran said.
“I really wanted it to get out for people so they could get their family history if they were interested,” the author added. “I tried to write it about the towns and the surrounding areas I knew about.”
While Moran does not think of herself as a writer, she has a constant interest in hearing other people’s stories.
“Everyone has a story that is interesting,” she said. “Everyone has a history.”
Proving that age need not be a barrier with anything in life, the author also expressed her sense of relief once the book was published, printed and shipped.
At the spry age of 91, Moran can now add ‘author’ to her ever-growing list of career titles.
“I’m 91 or 19, I can’t remember which,” Moran stated with a hearty laugh. “Much of my work has all been volunteer.”
That spirit has carried over into the book, which will benefit the community, not the writer.
“I didn’t write the book for the intention of wanting anything. It’s for the people and all the money can go to the museum,” Moran said.
“What is it they say, a jack of all trades, a master of none,” she added with a chuckle.
Camarillo, however, would not agree with Moran’s lighthearted view of herself, stating, “She knew what she wanted from the very beginning. She had it all figured out, even down to the size of the book and what she wanted the cover to look like.
“I am truly honored that Clare has been in my life, because she just knows things. She’s a very smart lady. We are very fortunate to have her here at the museum,” Camarillo said.