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Local History Comes Alive At California Avenue School
City Councilman and Historical Society member Cal Campbell surprised the combined third grade classes at California Avenue School with an appearance with the societys antique fire engine, River Red, also known as Engine No. 1. The 1919 Model T vehicle was originally purchased and operated by the Volunteer Fire Department of Riverbank in the early 1920s. News Photos By Ric McGinnis

Third grade students at California Avenue School got a treat on the last Monday of the school year last week when Riverbank Historical Society member Cal Campbell rolled onto the campus in River Red, the 1919 Model T fire engine the society puts on display from time to time.

Campbell, also a City Council member, brought the engine to campus to help inspire the students to become interested in local history as part of their studies.

He also brought each student in the combined classes a copy of The Riverbank Story, Part 1, a pamphlet published for the society years ago. The students took turns reading the captions of the photographs in the book, each showing a different element of Riverbank’s early history.

The group assembled in the shade outside the cafeteria, adjacent to the playground.

Campbell reviewed the early history of the Riverbank area for the students, including the early days of the Burneyville Ferry, near where Jacob Myers Park is located, before the railroad came and put the town on the map, literally.

Amid the excitement of the visit, there was also some disappointment for the students. While it was hoped the youngsters would get to ride around the playground on the fire truck, liability issues prevented the school from allowing that indulgence.

The closest they came was watching teacher Ellie Oliveira ride with Campbell off of the campus and over to a parking spot at the end of the event.

A former school teacher himself, Campbell was at ease making the presentation to the classes, finding a balance in eliciting excitement and enthusiasm, along with a small bit of education.

River Red was also known as Engine No. 1 in the Riverbank Volunteer Fire Department. It was the first motorized engine purchased by members of RVFD. Before it, they used a hose cart to help fight fires.

River Red was named at the end of a contest held by the Historical Society in 2014. The contest was won by a third grade class at Crossroads Elementary School.

The engine has become the cornerstone of the Historical Society’s fundraising activities, preparing to build a new annex building adjacent to the museum that is at 3237 Santa Fe, next to and behind City Hall North.

It was a ‘Carnegie’ Library, constructed in 1921 with funds donated by Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, along with local contributions. The facility has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1997, when it was dedicated as a museum.

Visitors will find the small one-room facility jam packed with historical photos, books and other items of interest. As a result, much of what the society holds is in storage in a small shed behind the building. And the fire engine, as well as a few other larger items, are stored in a warehouse at the Riverbank Industrial Complex.

Building the annex will allow the society to display more of its holdings, including River Red, as well as presenting more room to build displays and make presentations to citizen and student groups. The society has organized ongoing fundraising events to support the new construction. The recent After-Mother’s Day Omelet Breakfast is the society’s annual event that raises money for weekly operational costs of the museum. The other events will help pay for construction and outfitting costs.

The Riverbank Historical Society is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1994 and has been operating the museum since it was dedicated as a historical landmark. Donations are always welcome, and are tax-deducible.

Anyone interested in preserving the history of the Riverbank area can become a member. Call 209-869-7161 to leave a message, or call during open hours. Those regular hours for the museum are 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. It is staffed by volunteers.