Crossroads

photo by Leslie Layton

photo by Leslie Layton

Manteca, 148 miles south of Chico on Highway 99, is on the route motorists have traveled for years from the Bay Area to Yosemite National Park.

by Lindajoy Fenley

Dave Gordon’s mural in downtown Manteca harks back to the early 1900s, when trains steamed through fields of bright yellow sunflowers, and watermelon and pumpkin crops made this San Joaquin Valley farm town prosperous. A huge watermelon rides in a small child’s wheelbarrow, tall gray canisters fill the milkman’s truck, a mother with kids in tow holds a couple of sunflowers, and wispy white clouds hover in a clear blue sky. read more

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The Grove

photo by Mike Donnelly

by Mike Donnelly and Leslie Layton

The nine-unit Grove Motel north of Willows on the old Highway 99 has been in the family of Gene Del Pape since 1957. Its sign is a rusting relic with peeling, powder-blue paint and unlit neon.

“They don’t make signs like that anymore,” says Del Pape, noting that it was featured in a historical book. When his father bought the motel on what is now called County Road 99W, it was a four-unit building, a motor court where cars parked between units on a well-traveled highway.

Remnants of these classic American icons from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s can be seen up and down the old motoring routes. “No Vacancy.” “Eat.” “Cocktails”, they call out — if you can still read them as they decay in the crumbling ruins of road stops. Weary travelers now stop at fast-food restaurants and corporate hotel chains on the Interstate. read more

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Cemetery Tells of Culture Crossings

Cemetery_500_375

photo by Denise Minor

by Denise Minor

South of the town of Knight’s Landing off Road 113 sits Mary’s Chapel and Cemetery. The white church is stoic and plain with a narrow steeple that punctures the sky. The graveyard behind it has thick grass and ancient tombstones clustered by families.

Names on the stones are decidedly German and English. The Longs, Kennedys and Glascocks all boast “Native of England.” Interspersed among them are families with names such as Shneegas, Zimmerman and Clausen. Some read “Native of Germany” and others “Native of Bavaria.” In a clearly demarcated plot rests Henry Clausen 1826-1901 on one side and Catherine Clausen 1840-1922 on the other. Between them are the gravestones for Charlie 1870-1888, Julia 1869-1871, and Minnie 1875-1895. Did this man and woman suffer three times what many of us would consider the worst experience possible — the death of a child? Were there other offspring who survived? read more

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99 Words, Almost

School Mural

photos by Denise Minor

Editor’s note —

ChicoSol Adviser Denise Minor writes the second story in our Highway 99 series on Knights Landing, a northern outpost of Yolo County, on the Sacramento River. Knights Landing was an ancient gathering place for Native Americans and later a steamboat landing. Minor describes the town, about 10 miles from Highway 99 as the crow flies, on a morning in 2009.

by Denise Minor

School’s Out

The playground equipment is covered with a fine coat of dust at Grafton Elementary School in Knights Landing. A few plastic grocery bags are caught in the shrubbery. In front of the mural of white and Hispanic farmers shaking hands are empty parking places reserved for “Principal” and “Secretary.” At picnic tables, two older men wearing cowboy hats sit in the shade of large trees and chat in Spanish. read more

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