Museum lures residents, new and old
By DENNIS WYATT
The 209 staff
It’s the ultimate time machine for everything Manteca.
There’s the old switchboard for the Manteca Telephone Company.
A 1910s era kitchen decked out with every modern convenience of the time is part of the collection.
And so is everything imaginable from military uniforms from as far back as World War I, replica model of Manteca high and its beloved tower as well as an out-of-service old-fashioned outhouse.
The Manteca Historical Society Museum has bene faithfully preserving and sharing the history of Manteca and the surrounding countryside for nearly a quarter of a century.
It is more than just a repository of old photos, dated clothing, antiquated farming implements, old newspapers, and tidbits ranging from the “Manteca” sign from the Southern Pacific Railroad station that once stood near today’s Library Park to the desk from Congressman John McFall’s Congressional office.
The museum — or more precisely the Manteca Historical Society — serves as a social club of sorts for old-time and newcomers alike show share a common love for Manteca.
Whether it is talking over old times, socializing or doing volunteer work the membership is the largest in Manta save church congregations and quasi-religious organizations such as the Manteca Ripon Pentecost Society and the Fiesta ESM. The most high profile volunteers are the docents who greet visitors at the museum located in the converted historic Episcopalian-Methodist Church at 600 West Yosemite Avenue across the way from the restored 1919 building that serves as Manteca’s first hospital and now is the HOPE Family Shelters just two blocks from downtown.
A surprising number of newcomers make their way to the museum where admission is free and the doors open Tuesday and Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m. as well as Thursday and Sunday from 1 to 4 pm. They are eager to find out more about their new home and never go away disappointed. In fact some of the static exhibits such as a century-old kitchen, an old-time barbershop, and other as well as farming equipment in the museum annex and rotating stage displays of everything from military clothing, Christmas trees, and Valentine’s to the Fourth of July are reflective of not just of Manteca’s past but of the country as a whole.
The old church and annex are crammed with display cases, photos you can slip through much like browsing at carpet samples, and knick knacks including advertising gizmos for local businesses.
There is literally no trivia that has gone untouched right down to the display of the poster that was hawking the current movie playing when the El Rey Theatre burned down on XXXXX, 19XXX — “The Towering Inferno.”
If you go to the museum expecting a musty, disorganized hodge podge you will be disappointed.
Great care has been taken over the years to save and display artifacts in a professional manner.
And, with a little luck, you an engage a docent in conversation about the history of the various items in such a manner that it can take you back to Manteca’s younger days.
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 first museum was the old Christian Science Room in the 200 block of Polar 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 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 system 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.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org