No end of interest in perusal of past
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Feb 21, 2013 | 1167 views | 1 1 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
Ron Swift
One of the true pleasures I enjoy weekly is writing the “Patterson’s Past” column that appears in this newspaper.

The column was initiated back in the early 1930s by Editor R.C. Fleharty, who titled it “15 and 30 Years Ago.” Local scribe Dorothy Harrison took over the column when Fleharty retired in 1948 and called it “20 and 45 Years Ago.” After Dorothy’s death in the early 1980s, I inherited the job, changed the name to “Patterson’s Past” and wrote tidbits of local history from 10 to 75 years ago.

In the fall of 2011, this newspaper quietly observed its 100th birthday. That’s when “100 years ago” was added to the column.

Writing “Patterson’s Past” is not a time-consuming task, unless I let it be. The latter often occurs because I become engrossed in reading about news items — some of them trivial, others of historical importance — that were recorded in print a century and even 75 years ago.

The task has afforded me the opportunity to read more than 6,000 issues of the Irrigator, the early ones tattered and yellowed and sometimes in several pieces. These are stored in Patterson’s library, from where I take home a month’s worth of issues — currently from February of 1988, 1963, 1938 and 1913.

Most interesting, of course, are those 100-year-old editions. Homes were under construction, businesses were opening (and closing), churches were in their infancy, the elementary school was open and a high school was under discussion, and organizations were — well, organizing.

Patterson had a theater, which of course showed only silent films, but also drew live performances.

There was no city government — it didn’t come along until late 1919 — but the Chamber of Commerce was active. If something was needed in the community, Irrigator Editor Elwyn Hoffman usually promoted it on the editorial page. And within weeks, a civic organization or committee was formed to tackle the project.

Those must have been exciting days in Patterson, whose in-town population was less than 500. Prospective land-buyers were arriving daily from both elsewhere in California and out of state.

Several passenger trains a day served the West Side, even providing twice-a-day mail service at the local post office, which was in what was called the Administrative Building (now Patterson’s downtown museum in the circle).

The community’s streets were still unpaved in 1913, and the automobile and the horse and buggy shared the roadway, traveling in both directions around the circle. That brought complaints from citizens who experienced not-too-uncommon horse runaways.

Much of Patterson’s early-day history was recorded in photographs, hundreds of which are on display in our museum. They represent a different time, when businessmen wore coats and ties even on the hottest of summer days and women were decked out in long dresses.

And I get to step back in time every week. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Let’s be thankful

Although Patterson can’t financially support its own local hospital or even a late-night emergency clinic, we do have excellent paramedic service.

I checked out that service early one morning last week. (Actually, I don’t consider 2:30 to be morning, but that’s my hang-up.)

The ambulance arrived at our house very quickly — living only a block away may have contributed — and was accompanied by a fire truck. Both vehicles brightly lit up the neighborhood but, because of the hour, didn’t use their sirens. For that, my neighbors sincerely thank all personnel involved.

Except for a few rough patches of Patterson’s roadway (hint, hint), the ride to Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock was uneventful and was the first time that night I was reasonably comfortable. And at Emanuel, the staff was somewhat entertained upon discovering it was my birthday.

Thanks to all involved, I was home in a few hours and ready to undertake what people of my age often do — take a nap.

I don’t recommend taking unnecessary ambulance rides, but when necessary, just relax and enjoy. Know you’ll be in good, professional hands.

Stay in style

Last Sunday’s Chronicle displayed an ad for a distinctive-looking woman’s high-heel shoe — the kind leaving men to wonder how anyone could walk on them.

But these had historical value. The wedge-shaped heel was made of Douglas fir that previously served as a brake shoe on a famed San Francisco cable car. Apparently the brake shoes are changed after 72 hours of usage and are converted into high heels.

Ah! How’s that for conservation.

Let’s hit the books

Those readers using this weekly column for educational purposes (you are, aren’t you?) should come to order for a short lesson on political science:

Many people have attributed the following quote to John Adams: “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by sword. The other is by debt.”

Smart guy, that Adams.

For the sports fan

They say anything can happen in the world of sports, and occasionally it does.

Just 50 years ago this month, in February 1963, the Patterson High wrestling team traveled to San Andreas for a dual meet with the Calaveras Redskins, always tough in athletics.

The Redskins rolled to a 28-5 lead with only the five upper weight classes remaining. As a fall was worth only five points on the scoreboard back in those days, that meant the Tigers had to win each of the remaining matches with a pin.

And that they did. All five pins were recorded in the first period, by Larry Mancebo, Bob Callahan, Bob Mears, Mike Germolus and Roy Hall. That gave the Tigers a 30-28 victory, ending their season with a 4-9 record.

One sidelight: For Germolus, it was the first match of the year.

As they say in sports: Never say never.

And finally...

Let’s end on a positive note.

At the Federated Church, a weekly list of U.S. war casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq is read during the Sunday service. Last Sunday marked the third consecutive week in which the list was blank.

Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

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February 21, 2013
My Thursday morning Irrigator reading runs in this order: Patterson's Past, Fast Talk and then I pop over to Obituaries. Every once in a while a relative or friend shows up in one or the other.

Don Johnson

East Greenbush, NY

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