MODESTO — With Modesto's centennial celebration coming up in 1970, the city made many plans for the event. The July 9, 1969, Modesto Bee noted one such plan was for a "centennial souvenir book."
The book would be "100 Years," a pictorial history of Modesto covering its early days to the time of the book's publication. That date, however, was a very fluid thing since a myriad of problems arose that continually put off the date before it finally reached the public.
The book was edited by local author Jeanette Maino, who early in the process of research requested that current and former residents send in their pictures of Modesto. According to the July 16, 1970, Bee, they responded beyond her expectations: Modesto's "old-timers ... came forward with some of the yearbook's best pictures. And the book had to be revamped to include them."
Projected for an early June release, the influx of pictures would delay the project, as would "illness, which sent virtually half her committee to the hospital at one time or another during the writing stage, which began last October. In addition, a strike delayed production of the hard covers, and the hard cover copies still must be sent to San Francisco to be bound."
Once the books were bound, they had to deal with "the problem of obtaining a truck to transport them" to Modesto.
While dealing with all these issues, Maino set out to promote the book and drum up early sales. Appearing on KTRB radio's "The PTA Hour," she talked about her role in the writing of the book with Mrs. Jack Morey.
Maino's efforts were met with great public interest; however, the Modesto Centennial Committee complained that "it is receiving checks for the centennial book at prepublication prices. These orders cannot be honored, a spokesman said."
By early June 1970, the book was nearly finished and an early August release date was set to coincide with the county fair in Turlock. The fair came and went, and still no book was to be seen. In spite of the delays, half of the 6,000 copies were sold by the end of July. On Sept. 21, 1970, The Bee announced in a headline "Centennial Yearbook is Being Printed."
On Oct. 20, 1970, 2,000 copies of the long-delayed "100 Years" arrived at the centennial souvenir store at 10th and K streets. The next day's Bee decried the work as "illustrated with hundreds of pictures, the 173-page volume makes no pretense of being comprehensive, although the research was extensive. The sheer mass of material suffers for lack of a table of contents or rudimentary index, but those who 'remember when' will find entertainment for many an evening."
The book breaks Modesto's history into chapters covering education, fire department, police, churches, schools and recreation. Illustrated with anywhere from three to five pictures a page, it does an excellent job of re-creating Modesto's past. As The Bee wrote, it isn't the definitive work on Modesto that has yet to be written but it does its job of providing the reader with a better grasp of the city's origins and its evolution from a rough and ready rail town to the growing community it was becoming in 1970. In spite of all the struggles in getting "100 Years" to the public, in the end it was worth the effort.
Sources: The Modesto Bee: July 9, 1969; June 5, 1970; July 1, 1970; July 16, 1970; Sept. 21, 1970; and Oct. 21, 1970.
James McAndrews Jr. is a docent and board member of the Great Valley Museum. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.