Jeff Jardine: Modesto’s parade will go on without its first Fourth of July baby

jjardine@modbee.comJune 30, 2014 

From the emails and voice mails:

INDEPENDENT SORT – For 23 years, Doris Scanlon embodied Modesto’s Fourth of July parade. It celebrates the nation’s birthday.

Hers, too. She was born July 4, 1930.

“She was a patriot by birth,” daughter Melinda Kopp said. “It meant a lot to her. She loved to celebrate with other Yankee Doodles.”

Scanlon rode in her first Modesto parade as a solo act in 1990, when she was 60 years old. This year’s parade, the 140th annual, will be the first without her since she died at 83 on Jan. 23.

“She decorated her Volvo, but she really wanted a float,” Kopp said.

From that first ride came a tradition: Fourth of July babies riding together. A friend of Scanlon’s, former Modesto Mayor Peggy Mensinger, loaned her a truck from American Lumber, which the Mensinger family still owns. Scanlon and husband Loren decorated it in red, white and blue and invited other “Fourth of July babies” to join her in the parade.

Scanlon was much, much more than a parade entry, though. She volunteered to watch the sky for enemy planes during World War II. She and Loren raised their family, daughters Lucinda and Melinda, in Modesto. She volunteered with numerous organizations including the Girl Scouts and LARC (Ladies’ Aid to Retarded Children) and the inmate advocacy group Friends Outside Stanislaus. She parlayed the latter into a job as education coordinator at Jamestown’s Sierra Conservation Center and later at the San Joaquin County Jail before retiring – well, not quite. She continued to volunteer, this time with the Central California Art Association and Mistlin Gallery.

“She was always doing a lot, but always under the radar,” Kopp said.

Except during the Fourth of July parade, which she looked forward to each year with an eye on new born-on-the-Fourth talent to ride along on the float.

“It was a way of connecting themselves to their birthday, which was Independence Day,” Kopp said.

Scanlon turned over the organization of the float to others a couple of years ago. Last year, she just went along for the ride, so to speak.

This year’s parade will be without a familiar face among the “Yankee Doodles.”

TALKING TRASH – Many young boys are mesmerized by fire engines, bulldozers and other pieces of heavy equipment. Five-year-old Henry Guldenpfennig of Modesto likes garbage trucks.

He’s up at 6 a.m. every Thursday, when the Gilton truck makes its rounds of the family’s central Modesto neighborhood.

“And he watches it at (Garrison Elementary) school on Fridays,” mom Lacey Guldenpfennig said.

So for his birthday June 22, she called the folks at Gilton Solid Waste Management Inc. and told them how excited Henry would be if one of their garbage trucks were to pay a special visit during his birthday party.

“I just called them and told them my son is in love with garbage trucks, and that it would be an awesome surprise if one could come to his birthday party,” Lacey said.

The garbage truck arrived in time for the 3:30 p.m. party and let all of the kids sit in the driver’s seat, honk the horn and and have their photos taken with it. The driver also demonstrated how the big claw picks up the cans and empties them into the hole in the top of the bin.

“He (the driver) stayed for about 45 minutes,” Lacey said. “Henry was thrilled. It was nice that they took time out of their busy schedule.”

HONORABLE MENTION – Proceeds from Livingston’s Fourth of July festival will benefit Central Valley Honor Flight, which takes World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II and other memorials. In April, I accompanied my father-in-law on one of those trips, albeit through NorCal Honor Flight (a different chapter). It was an incredible experience for all of the 30 veterans and for the guardians who went along to assist them. Livingston’s three-day festival will include fireworks, a carnival, bands, food and crafts vendors, and a car show. It also will feature a raffle for a car or $10,000 in cash.

EXHIBIT A – Each year, a committee formed by the McHenry Museum and Historical Society researches, selects and recognizes one area building from each of the following categories: residential, commercial and institutional. This year’s choices are on display in the form of enlarged photos in an elaborate exhibit at the museum. Featured are the Storer home in Turlock, built circa 1920, as the residence. The recently renovated Modesto El Viejo Post Office, completed in 1933, was selected as the commercial building, and the Mar Addai Assyrian Church of the East in Turlock, built in 1948, as the institutional. The committee includes Al Menshew, Loretta Menshew, John Zehnder, Bill Rose, Barbara Parrill, Bill Wemyss and Howard Neyens.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, from noon to 4 p.m.

AN A-LISTER – Last week, I wrote about Nancy “Boots” Lee, a retired teacher from Modesto now living at Bethel Retirement Community, and how some of her former students stay in touch or drop in unannounced to visit. She attended a birthday party for one of them, Chuck Merenda, on June 27.

Duane Huff of Oakdale read the note and sent me an email: “Nancy is a popular person. She is intending to attend my mother’s 100th birthday party next month as they have been friends for many years.”

Except that next month is now this month. Helen Huff hits the century mark July 8. Her family moved to the area in the 1870s and farmed several hundred acres on Warnerville Road near Stearns Road.

As for 86-year-old Lee, she keeps her social calendar full, indeed.

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! – Modesto native Ellen Cummins’ new novel, “Lizbeth,” is available on Amazon in e- book form. Geared toward young adults, the plot is described by the author as a “story about courage and sacrifice in an uncharted world that is linked to the heavens.”

Published by Keith Publications, the Kindle version sells for $4.99.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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