From the e-mails and voice mails:
A FITTING TRIBUTE -- When Bette Belle Smith died at 88 in November, Modesto no doubt lost its greatest booster, humanitarian and most tireless advocate.
Whether raising money for a noble cause or coyly prodding others into joining her in civic activism, she seemed to be everywhere at once.
So there couldn't be a more fitting tribute than to canvass the area May 1 with fund-raising and civic improvement projects on the first Bette Belle Smith Day of Service.
The event is being organized by Leadership Modesto. Activities confirmed for that day include Relay for Life events in Patterson, Turlock, Tracy and Manteca for the American Cancer Society; a Bette Belle Smith 5K fun walk and run for Inter-Faith Ministries and the Redwood Center; working on a group home and sorting clothing for Sierra Vista Children and Family Services; and a children's book drive for the Stanislaus County Library. Other events will be added.
To register, go to http://1800volunteer.org or call the volunteer center at United Way of Stanislaus County at 524-1307. Information also will be available on the "We Love Bette Belle Smith" Facebook page.
SOCIAL CORRECTNESS -- You've probably never noticed the signs embedded in two old trees in downtown Modesto's Courthouse Park.
The larger of the two trees, near 12th and I streets, grew around its sign and is literally swallowing it up. The etching is barely discernible.
The other sign, on a tree closer to 11th Street, is still very visible.
"Reserved for Ladies and Their Escorts," the signs read.
How did they get there?
Modesto historian Colleen Stanley Bare might inadvertently have solved the mystery in her book, "Modesto Then And Now." She detailed how in 1906 the Women's Improvement Club asked the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors for permission to hold a band concert in Courthouse Park. The supervisors agreed on the condition that "everyone refrain from stepping on the grass," she wrote. Chairs were placed on the walkways.
Perhaps the signs were placed to keep the properly escorted women from having to mix with those known to, say, charge a fee for their company.
With these events, the Women's Improvement Club began Modesto's tradition of concerts in the parks that continues to this day with the summer series at Mancini Bowl in Graceada Park.
PARTY ON, PHIL -- Retired psychologist Phil Trompetter literally found himself all dressed up with nowhere to go in December. He'd bought a new tuxedo and wanted to debut it at a New Year's Eve party, but couldn't find one. So he decided to explore staging one this December, and he's recruited a group of local business folks and community activists to see what they can come up with. For their first go-round, they hope to stage a black-tie event, with live music and food, that would be open to the public. They hope to draw about 300 people to the inaugural party, probably at the Gallo Center for the Arts. They're in the process of deciding exactly what they want to do, establishing a budget and deciding what a ticket might cost. Updates forthcoming.
SMALL SCHOOL, BIG EVENT -- A team from one of the valley's smaller schools will compete in one of the nation's biggest scholastic events next month. Mountain View Middle School's Odyssey of the Mind team consists of sixth-graders Taylor Jordao, Alexia Nunes and Morgan Nunes; seventh-graders Kila Coffey, McKenzie Neves and Ileana Trujillo; and eighth-grader Seth Bewley. The school of 217 students is part of the small Chatom Unified School District in rural areas around Turlock.
Odyssey of the Mind is a competition that involves teamwork, cooperation, self-confidence, leadership and creative thinking. The students compete in a wide range of events, from plays to construction projects, that test their aforementioned teamwork skills.
The Mountain View team won a regional competition March 6 in Sacramento, then won the state competition March 27 in Brentwood to qualify for the world event May 26-27 at Michigan State University in Lansing. It will cost about $1,000 per student for travel and expenses, and they will be trying to raise the money over the next month. Call Tina Nunes at 678-2401 or Mountain View Middle School at 664-8515 to donate.