People are creatures of place. People who live west of the San Joaquin River, on the West Side of Stanislaus County, are especially aware of their place. It is relatively easy to identify the West Side because it is mainly a string of cities along the railroad tracks and Highway 33.
Into the 1950s, most people in Modesto knew where the West Side was and, in particular, knew Patterson and Newman. A lot of them used to come over here for Saturday night dinner and dancing at Patterson's historic Del Puerto Hotel. Believe it or not, there were not that many places to dine in Modesto in the '50s. We also had our own member of the Board of Supervisors.
Now, most of those living east of the San Joaquin River have no idea what the West Side is about or even where it is. That started to change when the Board of Supervisors wanted to increase the Fink Road landfill by importing waste from other parts of the state and the expenditure of $14 million to buy a chunk of land for that purpose. We also had a tire fire near Westley and $8.3 million in misplaced checks which attracted attention to Patterson. The proposed development of the Crows Landing air facility has brought us further notice, with its potential effect on the whole area.
Much of the uniqueness of the West Side lies in relationships. There are many examples of marriages between members of communities on the West Side. Many seniors who have lived here from near birth have family or close friends in the other communities.
Farmers are also a unifying factor. My father farmed land from Vernalis to south of Crows Landing over decades. That trend continues. This extends to other business relationships up and down the train tracks.
Interstate 5 has added its own little twist to our identity. Because of the sharp ascent of the Diablo Range behind much of the West Side, we really are a strip of land defined by the river, the railroad, Highway 33, I-5 and then the minimal transition into the hills.
But after living in other places, I suspect there are other reasons why many of us feel that the West Side is special. The vistas of palm trees, our unique historical buildings, the vastness of our farms, the summer smells of crops, and even our weather are all different from what exists on the east side of the county. All these contribute to the place we call home.
Even those here just a few years see it as a special place to live.
It's not possible to go to a meeting in one of our communities without knowing others there. And newcomers are becoming familiar faces. This is our unique home country — the West Side.
Delphia has been a resident of Patterson and the West Side off and on since a few days after his birth. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.