Living Columns & Blogs

Sarah Lim: Museum Notes

Grazie America! From Italy to Merced County

Columnist’s Note: After more than a year of preparation, the Merced County Courthouse Museum opened the “Grazie America! From Italy to Merced County” exhibit on March 16, 2017. The exhibit collected personal stories from more than 130 contributors. As this successful exhibit came to an end on August 6, the process of documenting and preserving their stories continued. This resulted in the publication of a 2-volume book with the same title which will be released this Saturday, July 14, at the Courthouse Museum at 1:00 p.m. The following is Ezio Sansoni’s story, one of the many sweet memories and enduring struggles of the Italian Americans in Merced County.

Merced Life

Blue Collar jobs disappearing

My dad, who died in 2004, was a typical blue-collar man of his generation. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade and when he was 17, he took the GED, joined the Navy, trained as a mechanic, and spent the next 20 years in the Seabees, eventually retiring as a chief petty officer. He was stationed near Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a suburb of Paris, when he met my mother in a bar one night. She also had ended formal schooling after reaching the age of 13, after which she trained as a domestic.

Sarah Lim: Museum Notes

Singing California exhibit opens at the Courthouse Museum

What do George Lucas and Joseph Meyer have in common? They are both Modesto-born artists who made the San Joaquin Valley famous. While Lucas brought Modesto into the national spotlight with American Graffiti (1973), Meyer gave California an unofficial state song titled “California, Here I Come” (1921), which became singer Al Jolson’s signature tune.

Merced Life

Reclaiming the person I once was

As I raised my children, somewhere along the journey I seemed to forget that I was ever a person in my own right, and then at some point I realized that, over all of those years, I had stopped doing many of the things that had once brought me joy. Before I became a mother, one of my favorite pastimes was meandering in the outdoors— sometimes on foot, sometimes on horseback— discovering trails, and places off trails, that often held surprises. Though I was never an intrepid world traveler, I was the kind of person who wandered close to home, finding the small hidden places that were easily accessed, even if no one else bothered to look for them. For a period of time in late spring one year, I rode my horse every evening to a spot less than a half-mile from my home, in the middle of a suburban neighborhood still being developed, to watch an owl tend to her nest. I had a favorite weir in a canal just a few minute’s ride from my house, where I enjoyed letting my horse eat a little grass while I sat by the cascading water. Sometimes I hiked the roads in the designated wetland parks, stopping to watch waterfowl through my binoculars. Occasionally, I enjoyed trips into wilder, more remote places, although I do not want to give the impression that I was ever an experienced backpacker or hiker.

Merced Life

Enjoying the Lake Yosemite Sailing Club

Twenty-six years ago, when my husband Matt and I were still newlyweds, we launched our Santana 21 at Lake Yosemite for a day of cruising on the water. We intended to put the boat back on the trailer after we had finished sailing, but just as we were coming up to the ramp, a man flagged us down.

Merced Life

Why I’m excited for the Merced Mall renovations

Recently, I have been thinking about shopping malls. You might have caught on to this if you read my last two articles for this column. I think this interest began when I visited a couple of upscale malls in southern California; if you have seen these malls, walked around in them and realized that there isn’t really one single thing you can afford to buy, you might have begun to think that everyone in southern California lives better than we do here in the Central Valley.

Merced Life

I’m pulling for the Merced Mall. And I’m dreaming big!

Go to YouTube, type in “Dead Malls,” and you will be able to view a series of depressing videos featuring dying and already dead malls throughout our country. Ask anyone under the age of 30 about the popularity of malls in America today, and you will receive confirmation that malls are no longer the social hubs of commerce they were just 10 years ago.

Sarah Lim: Museum Notes

Women Making a Difference

March has been an exciting and reflecting month. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we also mourn the loss of our beloved community members and museum volunteers Maggie Randolph and Barbara Hale. Maggie is best known for her dedication to the founding and growth of Merced College. Barbara was an outstanding reporter and editor for the Merced Sun-Star until her retirement in the early 2010s.

Sarah Lim: Museum Notes

Merced Falls: Water, Power, and Mills

One February day in 1913, Hugo Barrett, a local farmer, dropped off a postcard at the Merced Falls Post Office in the Yosemite Lumber Company. It had a simple message to his wife, Emma Alice, who was visiting her sister in San Francisco: “Dear Alice, you had better stay down until Sunday anyway. Everything is OK here.” Hugo missed his bride and was excited to share with her a postcard image of something that had made Merced Falls, once again, the industrial center of Merced County.

Merced Life

Nutria rats are the stuff of nightmares

I consider myself a gentle lover of wildlife. I do not like to kill flies, literally, because who am I to determine the fate of a fly? The value of a fly’s life might be infinitely more significant to some superior being than we mere mortals might suspect, and it is certainly important to the fly, even if flies are incapable of conceiving thoughts such as “important” or “I think that newspaper hovering over my head means I am about to die.”

Merced Life

Cursive penmanship’s decline into obscurity. I don’t miss it.

It is almost certain that if you attended elementary school at any time after 1950 in the United States, you learned cursive writing from a teacher who was wholly unqualified to teach it. That’s because stodgy Mr. McCullen, with his runny nose and squeaky shoes, or crazy Mrs. Vierra, apt to become apoplectic at discovering a wad of chewing gum on the floor, would have attended a university where formal penmanship was no longer taught, a development that began in academia around the 1930s, when most professors began to accept only typewritten work from their students. Thus, if you are inclined to look with nostalgia upon the days when you were required to write in longhand “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” — a sentence which contains all the letters of the English alphabet — over and over again, until you got all the loopy letters right, then you will need to go back about nine decades to pinpoint the moment at which the art of cursive writing began its slow decline into obscurity.

Merced Life

Marriage is easier than owning a home

This coming week, my husband Matt and I will have been married for 25 years. This is the same number of years we have lived in our house, and so we are left with the question of which anniversary is most worth celebrating. We never anticipated 25 years of marriage or home ownership, but here we are, 25 years having passed by without our ever taking much notice of time marching along.

Mariposa Life

Picking up the pieces after the Detwiler Fire

Rob and Rhonda Falany of Hunters Valley were one of the first families to be evacuated during the Detwiler fire. After the fire was contained in their area, a firefighter told them their house was destroyed, but their garage and storage shed were still there.

School stories, a new Sun-Star column from Sara Sandrik

This new column comes in the wake of my own personal “breaking news.” After nine incredible years as the North Valley reporter and weekend anchor for ABC30 (and 16 years in television news altogether), I am excited to now be the first public infor