Friday, December 16, 2011
Chapter 9: Life in Modesto, California: 1969-1974
Citizenship Party, The Modesto Bee, May 17, 1972
From Kansas City, Missouri we moved to Modesto California, when a head hunter found me a job as Research Chemist at Shell Development Company, Agricultural Research Division. I was not unhappy with my job at Chemagro Corporation. But the lure of warmer climate and a 20% automatic salary increase were enough incentives to uproot my family from our comfortable new home in Platte Woods , Missouri. My boss at Chemagro wanted to retain me by offering me a 10% raise. I told him I will get a 20% salary increase and he said he will not be able to match that and wished me good luck in my new position. All our moving expenses were paid by Shell Development Company.
Six months after we settled in Modesto, Macrine and I organized the MABUHAY CLUB, a Filipino-American organization in Stanislaus County involved in social, educational and civic activities. There were only twelve of us( 6 couples) and they elected us the first couple President. Today, the organization has more than 400 members.
The 4 D's with Kimberly Jambalos Williams Lamarre
The whole family were also involved with community fund raising activities for the needy. The kids were active in the community theater ( music and folk dancing) and Macrine and I were involved with country club activities, party bridge and tennis. I taught cathecism classes (CCD) to high school students in the evening. In 1972, Macrine and I (and Dodie) became United States citizens. Our citizenship party was published in the May 17, 1972 issue of the Modesto Bee. Excerpts from the article is as follows:
Katagues Are Proud to be American Citizens by Laurelie Mullen
“ The party was as American as apple pie....everything was red, white and blue and the honorees were pleased as punch to tell the world they are a part of Uncle Sam's family. Instead of singing “For He is a Jolly Good Fellow” when the star-spangled cake was cut, everyone sang “ God Bless America” ...with feeling and a proud tear or two.
The occasion ? A citizenship party given by Dr and Mrs Dave Katague of Modesto, who are so delighted at finally becoming American citizens, after living in this country for more than 12 years, they just had to have a party to celebrate.
The Katagues and their oldest son Dodie, 13, all were born in the Philippines, but their other three children were born in the United States. “ It's such a joyous thing for us all to belong to one country”, Mrs Katague said to her 40 party guests, whom she had fed an authentic homed-cooked Filipino dinner consisting of six courses, not including the American cake, a gift from Nilda Valdez, herself a Filipino.
Katague is a research chemist for Shell Development Company near Salida. Their other children are Dinah, David III and D'Macrine.”
My career with Shell Development ended in 1974, when the company decided to close the facility and moved to Houston, Texas. It was time for me to look for another job.
During our five year stay in Modesto, we have purchased two homes. The last one was a country house at Skittone Road with a pool where Macrine had also a gift shop specializing in Philippines handicrafts and goods.
On August 1974, we gave a farewell party – a Hawaiian Luau complete with lechon( roasted pig) to the neighbors and friends. The party was published on the August 2, 1974 issue of the Modesto Bee. An excerpt of the party is as follows:
FAMILY LEAVES WITH ALOHA LUAU
“Saying “Aloha” is never easy, but Dr. and Mrs David Katague, made it easier for themselves by giving a farewell luau for some 60 friends.
The Katagues residents of Modesto for 5 years are moving to Pinole , where Mrs. Katague will soon open a gift shop, similar to the one she has just closed here and her husband will join the staff of Stauffer Chemicals. He has been with Shell Development Company in Salida since moving to Modesto.
The gardens of Katague home on Skittone Road were lighted with tiki torches, setting the scene for a typical Polynesian feast, which included a pit roasted pig and several Filipino entries.
The Katague Children entertained with traditional dances. They are Dodie, 15, Dinah, 13, David III, 11 and D'Macrine 9. The article include 3 photographs, two of the lechon and Dave and Macrine in their Hawaiian outfits.”.
Addenda to this Chapter: Dated 11-24-11
New Years Eve in California's Central Valley Tule Fog and our new-found friends
New Year's Eve of 1970 was one of the most unforgettable event in my life here in the US. In mid September of 1969, I found myself relocating my family ( wife and four young children of grade school ages) from Kansas City, Missouri to Modesto, California. The move was not that traumatic, since relocation expenses, including packing and repacking expenses/activities were paid by my new employer, Shell Development Company.
Modesto, California is the county seat of Stanislaus County, right in the heart of the central valley of California- Land of Fruits and Nuts. The area is famous for its tule* fog during winter. The locals called it the “soup”.
As a newcomer, I had no idea how it feels driving in the soup. I have a feeling though that it could be dangerous, but had no idea how nerve-racking an experience it was. Driving in the “soup” with zero visibility that new Year's eve night of 1969 is not an experience, I want repeated in my life. I remember, how I felt. I thought, I will run out of breathe and feel like suffocating. I felt trapped and claustrophobic inside the car. The fog was so thick, my car fog lights was of no help. The drive from Modesto to Stockton normally takes less than 30 minutes during the day. But that night it took me an hour because of the dense fog.
Why was I driving on New Years Night in Highway 99 in the middle of the worst valley fog in Central California?. Read on.
My move from Kansas City, Missouri to Modesto, California was a stage in my professional career, I called my “pre-midlife crisis career move”. I loved and enjoyed my job at Chemagro Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri. However, when I received a job offer from a job hunter with a 20% raised in salary, I accepted it without fear and hesitation. In addition, I have always preferred living in the West Coast of the US than in the Midwest, where the winters are milder. Little did I know that the winter fog was horrible in our new home. I would compare driving in the fog with zero visibility here in Central California in the same category of danger as driving in a blinding rain storm or snow storm of the East Coast( Maryland and Virginia) and of the Midwest ( Illinois and Missouri).
During the last four months of 1969, my wife and four children were busy adjusting to their new surroundings and in their elementary schooling. We did not have time to join any local organizations and have zero friends except our next door neighbor. With my new job, I had no time making new friends except with my co-employees. So when New year Eve came, Macrine and I were desperate for some social interaction. We decided to go out for a late dinner on New Years Eve in one of Stockton's 4-star restaurants. Stockton is about 25 miles north of Modesto along Highway 99. The teenager daughter of our neighbor baby sat for the kids.
We arrived at the restaurant at about 9:30PM. The restaurant was filled to capacity. We waited in the bar for available seats. In the bar was another couple also waiting to be seated. They were a little bit older than us. The lady was of Asian ancestry and the man was Caucasian. Macrine and I were desperate for company, and the couple appeared very friendly, so I initiated the conversation. I do not remember what exactly happened, but we decided to get a table for four instead of two tables for two.
Our dinner of steak and lobster was excellent. Conversation flowed freely oiled by two bottles of wine. From our rapport and conversation, it appeared the four of us were long time friends. We learned that the lady had Filipino ancestry. We also learned that they are also Roman Catholics and have resided in the Stockton area for the last 10 years. They have no children and have plans of adopting an orphan from the Philippines.
Their house was in the housing development very near to the restaurant and only about a 3 minutes drive. We finished dinner and dessert at about 11:30PM. Our new found friends decided to invite us to their home for an after dinner drink, so we will not be driving in the highway at New Year's eve. With our adventurous spirit, Macrine and I accepted their invitation without any fear or hesitation.
When we got out of the restaurant, the fog was already thick with only a few feet of visibility. The couple's residence was in the area of middle and upper-middle class homes. The house was tastefully furnished and decorated with several Philippine antiques that the lady had inherited from her Filipino grandparents. We stayed at their home until 1:00AM. We had a bottle of champagne at midnight. I just took a sip, because I know I will be driving through a thick fog on our way home.
Our baby sitter was glad to see us at 2AM after an hour of slow driving because of the fog. The drive was so nerve-racking, I vowed I will never drive in a fog if at all possible or unless there is a medical emergency involving a life or death situation.
Reflecting back to this experience, I can not believe, that Macrine and I allowed ourselves be picked up by complete strangers who later became our close friends. We continued our friendship with the Stockton couple, until 1974 when we moved to the San Francisco bay area after I lost my job from Shell Development Company(SDC). SDC closed their agricultural research facility here in Modesto because they wanted to get out of the pesticide business.
Indeed, this is one New Year Night's escapade that Macrine and I will always remember as long as we live.
*Tule fog ( /ˈtuːliː/) is a thick ground fog that settles in the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley areas of California's Great Central Valley. This phenomenon is named after the tule grass wetlands (tulares) of the Central Valley. Accidents caused by the tule fog are the leading cause of weather-related casualties in Central California.(From Wikipedia)
Note: this blog will continue with life in Pinole, Ca and my new employer Stauffer Chemicals of Richmond, California