Cookbook marks SSJID’s Centennial Year
Margo Van Voorst, an employee at South San Joaquin Irrigation District, holds a copy of the commemorative cookbook.
By Rose Albano-Risso
City Editor / The Bulletin
May 19, 2009
A recipe book has become an inside joke among the women employees and general manager of South San Joaquin Irrigation District.
During a special appearance Thursday for the monthly program at the Manteca Historical Society Museum, Jeff Shields said that when his female staff proposed printing a commemorative recipe book to celebrate the water district’s centennial celebration, he told them he thought it was “a goofy idea.” He even said that to his wife that evening while they were enjoying the scrumptious dinner she had prepared, he laughed.
Of course, his wife said the recipe book was a great idea, Shields said with a laugh.
But his female office workers are the ones having a good laugh over his “goofy” comment.
The 152-plus book may not be selling like hot cakes – yet – but the project has generated a lot of buzz among customers of the district including many local farming families who were more than enthused to share some of their gastronomical family favorites to this effort. The rest of the recipes came from SSJID staff, including many of the men, as well as district board members and friends in the Manteca, Ripon and Escalon areas that SSJID mainly serves.
The entries range from tried-and-true recipes that have been with the contributors’ families for generations, to quick meals for the busy mom.
And there’s something for every ethnic palate, personal taste, and for every family and office occasion, from the formal to an extemporaneous gathering al fresco. Busy moms will find plenty of recipes to help tide them over during hectic days. In fact, one entry called “Settlers Beans” from Toni Raymus of Raymus Homes in Manteca, comes with this note: “Great potluck dish. Freezes well for up to six months. Just reheat and serve.”
The spiral-bound book, which is illustrated with nostalgic Victorian-style pictures of different varieties of fruit, also contains multicultural favorites such as Portuguese sweet bread – there are a few variations offered – and several Mexican, Dutch, and Italian comestibles fit for both small and large gatherings.
By all accounts, the book was a fun project for the SSJID employee committee that started working on it in September when they sent out recipe solicitation letters to farmers and district employees. Announcements were also placed in the employees’ and customers’ newsletters.
Robin Giuntoli, a member of the six-member cookbook committee, said they came up with the idea of a commemorative recipe book because “a lot of events here at work revolve around food.”
She added with a laugh, “A lot of people here love to cook and we all love to eat.”
It was also a way to get the district’s customers involved in the centennial celebration.
“We figured it would be something where they’ll find somebody they know” when they leaf through the pages of the recipe book, Giuntoli added.
“We got close to 300 recipes. Surprisingly, none of them were exactly the same so we didn’t throw anything out,” she said.
A lot of them came from “old-school farmers who don’t have computers and don’t want one” and sent their recipes the old-fashioned way – handwritten.
There were only 700 copies of the recipe book that were ordered so anyone who wants to have a commemorative piece of SSJID history should run, not walk, to the district office and obtain a copy. Cost is $6 each. Not all of the copies will be available for sale; some were set aside for special giveaways. Those who are planning to attend the Wednesday, May 27, open house celebration at the district office from 4 to 7 p.m. could buy their copies at that time, too.
The celebration, to be held at the SSJID main office at 11011 East Highway 120 just east of Highway 99, will include a formal program with local dignitaries starting at 5 pm., followed by tours of the facilities, a scavenger hunt with prizes and gifts, and appetizers showcasing the best restaurants of Manteca, Ripon and Escalon.
Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to area food banks, Giuntoli said.
The vote that changed Manteca
SSJID formed 100 years ago today to deliver water, prosperity
By Dennis Wyatt
POSTED May 11, 2009 2:37 a.m.
Manteca was anything but a prosperous bustling community back in early 1909.
Area farmers were struggling to produce dry land farm corps. Wheat and water melon yields were strong at first but with each successive year the sandy plains produced less and less.
The Manteca town site had just a handful of homes with a couple of stores. It was a mere wide spot on the road and a rail stop for fledgling dairies.
There had been several previous attempts to bring water from the Stanislaus River to Manteca via private ventures but none got very far off the ground either due to squabbles or farmers refusing to spend money to buy water convinced it wouldn’t be that beneficial.
The first system to actually bring water to the South County was established by the San Joaquin Water Company formed by H.W. Cowell and N.S. Harrold. They put in a series of ditches covering 47 miles from the Stanislaus near Knights Ferry to the center of Manteca in 1895.
The main conveyance – the Tulloch Ditch – was completed in 1905 and provided water to just 3,000 acres.
Its impact was much bigger and set the stage for the formation of the SSJID as farmers saw how much higher the yields were from neighbors who had irrigated water. Alfalfa started to be grown and a major dairy industry grew up overnight to supply the growing market in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The support that irrigation had at that point prompted F.A. West and Joshua Cowell to petition the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in March of 1909 for the formation of the SSJID.
The formation of the SSJID on May 11, 1909 on a 396 to 67 vote literally gave life to Manteca as well as the cities of Escalon and Ripon. Voters also embraced a $1,875,000 bond issue and elected to the board C.M. Carlson, Fred H. Kincaid, B.A. Goodwin, W.J. Woodward and C.T. Wiggin.
District formation triggers boom in real estate sales Virtually overnight, Manteca turned into a boomtown. Lots were selling for between $300 and $1,000 apiece – more than quadruple the value of prior years. By the time SSJID released its first water, the South County had grown from 3,000 to 15,000 residents as people from throughout the state and the West came to buy irrigated land to farm.
The dedication of Goodwin Dam on April 6, 1913 included Gov. Hiram Johnson opening the head gate before a crowd of 4,000.
The dam completion was followed by the construction of 300 miles of ditches, flumes, and tunnels to bring the water to Manteca , Ripon, and Escalon.
The first water released on Aug. 13, 1913 by the SSJID was on the E.N. Pierce Ranch on the southeast corner of Austin Road and East Highway 120 less than a quarter of a mile from the present-day SSJID headquarters.
The first full year of irrigation in 1914 had water delivered at a rate of 35 minutes per acre about 30 days apart.
The initial year there were 14,195 acres irrigated with the top three crops alfalfa (7,889 acres), vines (3,189 acres), and corn (1,154 acres).
By the second year 24,210 acres were under irrigation with the top three corps alfalfa (11,549 acres), orchards, (3,100 acres) and vines (2,495 acres).
Farmland triples while production per acre jumps The impact of the SSJID on farming and the South County ’ prosperity can’t be overstated. In 1909 with dry land farming there were 15,539 acres in farm production. Delivering water to every 40 acres increased farm production to 51,095 acres.
The next step was building a reservoir for in-district storage. Walter J. Woodward chose the site in 1916. Woodward Reservoir added 36,000 acre feet of storage.
The SSJID leaders wanted to build one more dam as protection against flooding as well as a hedge against drought. The proposal was rejected. Then the drought of 1924 struck.
Voters approved bonds the second time around for the Melones Dam. Melones Dam was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1926 and added $700,000 in annual agricultural production after the first year it was completed. Melones Dam was credited with saving farmers in the SSJID several times over the next 20 years when drought periods devastated farm production in other parts of California .
In the late 1930s, SSJID directors – in conjunction with Oakdale Irrigation District – made plans for three dams – Donnells, Beardsley, and Tulloch – along with three power houses and a seven-mile tunnel carved through solid rock.
Nothing happened until after World War II when the Tri-Dam Project actually started taking shape. Financing for the $52 million project was secured when Pacific Gas & Electric signed a contract with the two districts to buy electricity from the three dams through 2005.
The Tri-Dam Project gave the district three times the amount of water the original dams supplied and added 120 megawatts of power production.
The project was dedicated on June 15, 1957 at Beardsley Dam. It was hailed as a remarkable project since it was completely financed by the SSJID and OID without any aid from either the state or federal governments.
At the time it was completed, it was the largest irrigation project ever undertaken by a local district in the western United States .
The Bureau of Reclamation built the 2.4 million acre-foot capacity New Melones Reservoir at the site of the original Melones Reservoir. Part of the agreement for the two districts giving up the dam site was to assure them of a set amount of water – 280,000 acre feet in a typical year – based on their historic superior water rights on the Stanislaus River .
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail email@example.com
By Rose Albano-Risso
The South San Joaquin Irrigation District is pulling out all the stops to mark a major historical milestone.
That red-letter day, after all, is a milestone that happens just once – the district’s centennial birthday.
Some parts of this historic celebration have been launched months back, leading up to the official celebration on Wednesday, May 27, at the SSJID main office at 11011 East Highway 120 from 4 to 7 p.m.
Thursday evening, a major stop in the celebration preparations was pulled when SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields gave an overview of the district’s history and some of its highlights to a full room at the Manteca Historical Museum . He was the featured guest speaker in the Historical Society’s monthly program which is open to the public.
“Very informative” was the audience’s consensus about Shield’s thorough presentation which was complemented by the museum’s SSJID photographic display that served as the appropriate backdrop for the evening program.
“The district has accomplished a really great thing here. You, guys, who have been here and supported the district really should be the one to get the cake,” said Shields, referring to the SSJID birthday cake that was served with punch to all the guests at the conclusion of the program.
While Shields touched on all the major aspects of the district’s history, its water rights, dams and reservoirs, he especially sang praises – even waxed poetic – for the Goodwin Dam, how it was built and the structure’s overall integrity.
“It’s a phenomenal facility. To me, it’s one of the finest pieces of public art in Northern California ,” he said of the dam which was completed in 1913, one year earlier than the three years it was originally estimated to be built.
“It’s a fabulous public architecture,” Shields added, and described the “movement of the water” spilling over the gigantic concrete structure as “just beautiful, …like Niagara falls .’
“It’s extraordinarily functional but so aesthetically amazing,” he said.
Members of the historical society could have a firsthand look and experience of what Shields was talking about. Shields offered to organize a tour of the Goodwin Dam for the historical society members with the district providing the transportation.
During his presentation, Shields also gave away DVD copies of the making of Goodwin Dam and the history of SSJID, commemorative refrigerator magnets, plus a complimentary copy of a commemorative recipe book put together by the district employees and members of the district. The recipe book is available at the district office at $6 a copy. The commemorative refrigerator magnet features the winning art work in a poster contest sponsored by the district. The winner was Payden Schmelebeck, a fourth grader in Manteca .
Centennial celebrations at the SSJID main office on Wednesday, May 27, will include tours of the facilities, historical and fleet displays, a scavenger hunt with prizes and gifts for guests, and appetizers showcasing the best restaurants of Manteca , Ripon and Escalon, areas that are served by the district.
Additional recommended readings about the history of SSJID include an article in the May 11 edition of the Manteca Bulletin (and May 13 in the Ripon Bulletin) and in the book, “ Manteca : Selected Chapters from its history” authored by Manteca Historical Society Museum director Evelyn Prouty.