Doane Yawger: Old calendar holds treasures

August 4, 2012 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter


I love historical photos. They are instant evidence of times gone by and a great reference.

A few months ago, I noticed a 2011 calendar for the Merced County Historical Society on an office desk no longer being used.

Outdated calendars are about as useful as last year's bird's nest, but I instantly "adopted" the historical calendar and certainly will give it a good home.

The calendar definitely is a keeper, if for nothing else but the cover. It shows Main Street in downtown Merced, at West 17th and M streets. The narrative says the photos came from the Merced Sun-Star.

It goes to show newspaper folks are instant historians, just add some pictures.

I'm not sure of the date, but the calendar cover has to be about 1960 since I see a Falcon Ranchero parked on the right side of the street.

There's either a 1959 or 1960 Studebaker Lark stopped at the traffic light; those two years were virtually identical. That black and white photo also has a 1955 Buick four-door sedan turning right onto

M Street and just the nose of a mid-1930s Chevrolet making a right turn onto 17th Street, now known as Main Street.

Other vehicles spotted include about a 1950

DeSoto four-door sedan, another 1955 Buick, a 1956 Pontiac, Volkswagen and Studebaker pickups and a little Simca import put-putting up to the traffic light.

February's photo taken Feb. 23, 1957, shows 14th Street in Merced's now-

demolished Chinatown, between K and M streets. An English Ford and a 1952 Mercury hardtop are parked at the curb in front of the New China Café.

Another gem in the calendar is June, showing 1957 and 1960 Chevy four-door sedans parked in front of the Merced Elks Lodge, along with a 1955 Plymouth and a 1955 Ford sedan.

I couldn't help but smile at the July calendar picture, which showed two youngsters waving at two Merced Police Department officers getting into their 1960 Plymouth squad cars at the side of the police station at M and 22nd streets.

Fast-forward to the November calendar picture, which shows the Bear Creek Camp flood on Nov. 20, 1950. There's a 1935 Ford pickup up to its hubcaps in the water, along with a mid-1930s four-door sedan also mired in the muck.

The best of the bunch was saved for last.

December's photo shows the Merced Theatre at Main and J streets on Dec. 21, 1961. There was a theater Christmas party going on for 2,000 children ringing the outside of the building. Cars outside the theater included a 1957 Mercury station wagon, an early 1950s Pontiac fastback, 1957 and 1958 Chevies, a 1960 Ford sedan, 1957 Buick and a 1958 Ford two-door hardtop, among others.

J Street now is known as Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and the theater has been restored recently to its 1961 glory after many years.

Cars may be only a backdrop for some of these historical photos, but they are the star of the show for me. Don't throw out those old photos. Give them to the historical society so others may enjoy a glimpse back in time when DeSotos and Studebakers ruled the road.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or

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