Though the star of the show was missing in action, the City of Riverbank and the Historical Society still took time on Friday, Aug. 17 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Community Center dedication.
The contents of the 50-year-old time capsule may still be gone, but that didn’t put much of a damper on the celebration at the Riverbank Community Center. The dinner-dance fundraiser went off as planned, with more than 100 attendees enjoying the barbecued food and the live music after dinner.
It was a recognition of the anniversary of the original dedication of the center, back on Aug. 17, 1968.
This current celebration was organized by a committee of volunteers from the Riverbank Historical Society and city staff, with Mayor Richard O’Brien acting as Master of Ceremonies.
Before the dinner, he welcomed those council members and other elected officials who were in attendance. It was a full house, council wise, with Vice Mayor Darlene Barber-Martinez, and members Cal Campbell, Cindy Fosi, and Leanne Jones-Cruz all present.
Also introduced were past mayors Charles Neal and Bill O’Brien, the current mayor’s nephew.
Organizations that purchased entire tables for the event were recognized, including the Historical Society, Lana Clayton’s Farmers Insurance office, the Riverbank Women’s Club, city staff, Galaxy Theatres and F & M Bank, among others.
Beverages were donated by Gallo and Constellation wines, Delta Sierra Beverages, and Starbucks.
Since the anticipated unveiling of the 50-year-old time capsule was not available at show time, key individuals from the original event, in 1968, took center stage that evening instead.
Riverbank Citizen of the Year for 1968 Dominic Genova was recognized and offered a few words on the history of the site. He noted that the city block area between Santa Fe and Stanislaus streets and Sixth and Seventh streets had been the location of “Victory Homes.” Workers at the nearby Army Ammo Plant on Claus Road lived there during the ‘50s and ‘60s, at the height of the plant’s operation.
Also present was Carolyn Faye (Mullin) Hendrix, Miss Riverbank 1968, who was crowned during the original dedication ceremonies. She told the crowd how, at first, she didn’t hear her name called during the ceremony.
She explained that she originally wasn’t interested in competing in the pageant, but her friend talked her into it when she found that the friend was the only contestant.
When the announcement was made, Hendrix explained, she hadn’t expected to win, thinking her friend was much prettier. Finally, though, she received the crown, and helped with the cornerstone dedication.
And she noted that she met her husband that year, just two weeks after being crowned. They married soon after.
Perhaps the most poignant moments of the evening came when then-councilman Allen Trawick addressed the crowd. He is the only surviving member of the 1968 Riverbank City Council that built and dedicated both the Community Center and the nearby Community Pool.
He spoke of the efforts, not only by the council, but also by just plain everyday residents to come up with the $400,000 price tag for the construction of the center. He said their work, added to governmental grants and funds donated by local businesses, made the center a reality.
Trawick spoke of the pride he felt in the efforts made by the community to bring the project to fruition.
When the time came, Mayor O’Brien led the crowd in a toast to the past, present and future of the Community Center. The audience hoisted glasses of sparkling wine, sparkling cider or just water, depending on preference. Then diners enjoyed dinner and a special cake, donated by the local O’Brien’s Market, was cut for dessert, with two phases of cutting.
First, Trawick and Hendrix, representing the past, made a cut, then Historical Society President Kristin Platts and Mayor O’Brien took a turn, symbolizing the present.
A variety of wines, beers and soft drinks were available for purchase.
During dinner, a combo call Funky Tim and the Merlots played soft rock music from the late ‘60s to early ‘70s, then turned it up a notch or two for dancing through the rest of the evening.
There were several displays around the room, built by volunteers from the Historical Society, showing newspaper coverage of the original 1968 dedication, along with maps of the city from that time. There was a display representing the first graduating class of Riverbank High School. It opened in 1967. A member of that class, Marina (Acosta) Campbell, wife of councilman Cal Campbell, brought her RHS Yearbook for those interested to view.
Display photos showed off what the original Victory Homes looked like before they were demolished. There are also pictures of varying stages of the construction of the site. At one end of the display table was the plaque that had been mounted on the cornerstone in 1968, along with the steel box from behind it. Officials had thought it would contain the time capsule materials. When preparations were being made for the opening, city crews found there was nothing inside.
However, earlier last Friday, in the afternoon, city officials held a brief ceremony recognizing the uncovering of the cornerstone, including a new proclamation from City Hall.
Both city staff and members of the Historical Society worked together to put on the event, as a joint fundraiser.
The city plans to use its share of the proceeds to help defray the costs involved in the remodeling work on the center, which will begin sometime in September, staff said. They’re hoping to be done sometime in January 2019.
During the construction period, groups like the Senior Lunch Program, the Women’s Club Christmas Luncheon and the Royal Neighbors’ Veterans Day Luncheon will have to find other locations for their events.
The Historical Society is planning to add its share of the money to the growing fund that is expected to help build an annex to the society’s Museum, on property adjacent to its current Santa Fe Street location. The expansion will allow the society to display more of its artifacts, including its Model T fire engine, River Red, the first engine the Riverbank Volunteer Fire Department owned.
In all the hoopla surrounding the missing time capsule, another special recognition slipped by city officials. Sunday marked the anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Riverbank. It was in 1922, on Aug. 19, marking 96 years since its incorporation so it will be just a few more to make it to the century mark.