FROM PAGE 6 Manteca Canning Company also had its share of labor problems. The cannery, located at Oak and Vine streets where the brick winery warehouse still stands today, had let houses southeast of its plant that had been built in the 1920s for migrant workers fall into disrepair. During the 1930s after years of neglect, the shanties became known as Manteca’s own Hoovertown. Labor organizers built on the plight of the migrant workers, low wages and long hours in a bid to form unions. Labor strife was common place up and down the Central Valley. Manteca was no exception. Farmers felt the “radicals and communists” of the movement should be stopped at any cost. Farmers had their trucks overturned. Several South County farmers were injured in the most violent flare-up in the county at Stockton Food Products when they tried to cross the picket lines to take their crops in to be processed. Eventually, many South County farmers were deputized by Sheriff Harvey Odell to keep the peace. The strike was finally settled on April 9, 1937, when the labor movement agreed to leave the canneries. The American Federation of Labor eventually ended up representing most cannery workers, including those in Manteca, after the strike ended. Manteca got its first taste of a major flood of the 20th century in February of 1930. Levees failed near River Junction 10 miles southwest of Manteca near the Airport Way bridge where the 1997 floods occurred. Boats were used to aid marooned families along the river while cattle were driven to higher ground near Manteca.
Most roads were closed with the only access to Stockton being via French Camp Road. The Paradise Cut levee broke on Stewart Tract on March 17 of that year. It closed Highway 50 and made travel to the Bay Area impossible unless it was by boat. The water level at Mossdale measured at 20.45 feet, the highest ever recorded. Barricades at Main Street and Yosemite Avenue directed traffic to Stockton. Fires also were a major concern in the 1930s with one of the biggest in Manteca history happening on June 1, 1939 when flames engulfed the Diamond Match Lumber Yard on South Main Street and then spread to a nearby Southern Pacific packaging shed and threatened the downtown district. The blaze brought SP railroad tank cars full of water. Manteca volunteers Jack Orr and John T. Smith were commended for bravery after they risked injury by rescuing a Manteca Rural engine which almost become engulfed in flames. Volunteers stayed on the scene all night to contain the blaze. Damages hit $30,000. The decade also saw the fire department almost lose the 1927 American LaFrance engine currently on display at the Manteca Historical Society museum. The department in June of 1934 found itself unable to make the last payment of $252.72 on the LaFrance engine. A committee went to San Jose and arranged an extension with the mortgage holder. Volunteers and their wives began a furious round of dances, bake sales and a door to door solicitation enabling them to clear the account by the Aug. 9 deadline. Community cooperation also led to the formation of the Manteca Library Association in 1939 that secured funds to keep the library open 66 hours a week in subsequent years. MANTECA CENTENNIAL
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