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Just a Thought - A Touch Of History
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A Touch Of History

In the recent past, the door to the area's history closed slightly with the passing of some longtime residents, among them Helen Polhemus, Elsie Alfieri, Bill Stroble and Guido and Sylvia Piccoli. Here are just a few recollections of these notable local residents.

Helen Polhemus

Helen Polhemus was raised in Escalon along with two sisters, Bonnie and Betty by their parents, the Thompsons. Helen's husband, Harold Polhemus, preceded her in death. The couple had three children, Ron, Patti and Bill, plus a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren. My first impression of Helen was her smiling, friendly manner with customers at the community's Bengston's store (now the local Historical Society Museum) in Escalon. She always was helpful and knowledgeable in assisting with customer's selections. After her retirement, we continued as friends and spent time together as members in Red Hat Dolls and Grandmother's Club. In addition, we had fun talking on the phone about our families and other issues. Also, having lived here all her life, Helen's stories about Escalon were so vivid and informative it almost made it a reality for me. She always had a spark and joy in her life. Additionally her pride and love of her family and life in Escalon was a special element of her personality. As a lifelong fan of this community, she also supported the Escalon Historical Society and its programs.

Elsie Alfieri

I came to know Elsie while attending the St. Patrick's Church and Young Ladies Institute. She was a wealth of information on history in the area and served as Escalon Historical Society's first president. She also assisted Frank Thornton in writing the history of Escalon, plus a number of other historical publications on St. Patrick's Church, the Atlanta Region near Escalon, and other publications. Elsie was a member also of Van Allen Mother's Club, San Joaquin County Ag Women and others. Following the passing of her husband, Joseph, a number of years ago, she took over management of their farm holdings and became a successful businesswoman in agriculture. Her insight about farming and local history was invaluable. For many years, her voice was among those heard on Sundays in St. Patrick's choir. She contributed much of her time to many church projects. Elsie and her husband had four children, Joseph, Gary and twins, Cynthia and Lawrence.

Bill Stroble

Bill Stroble was born in 1920, lived in Escalon all his life and was a product of local schools. He was associated with his dad William in the Escalon Water Company. After the passing of his father, sometime later, Bill took over the business and maintained it until retirement, selling it to the city. He was an active member of the Ski Patrol, Escalon Sportsman's Club and the Escalon Historical Society. Bill and his wife Rose raised two children, Gretchen King of Escalon and Garth Stroble of Colorado and have three grandchildren. His wife Rose, passed away in January, 2004. The couple had been married 60 years. In recognition of Bill, as the oldest resident in Escalon, he was honored at the 2007 Park Fete Celebration as Parade Grand Marshall, and at the city's 50th anniversary of incorporation ceremonies.

Guido "Pic" and Sylvia Piccoli

Sylvia arrived in the U.S. from Italy with her parents, the Betties, at age two. The family eventually consisted of nine children. Guido was a native of Stockton and also came from a large family. Pic and Sylvia owned and operated the Valley Inn on Main Street in downtown Escalon for 45 years. Pic retired at 80 years of age and sold the business. Sylvia passed away prior to her husband at age 86. The couple, married 66 years, is survived by three daughters, Dorothy, Judy, and Karen, plus a number of grandchildren. Pic held membership in Escalon Volunteer Firemen, Sportsman's Club and Lions Club. Sylvia was a member of the local Y.L.I. and Escalon Volunteer Fireman's Auxiliary, and both were supporters of the Historical Society and a local area Italian Club.

All of those mentioned are among many who are no longer with us but have left an indelible mark on Escalon's history.

Sheila Arellano is a retired reporter for The Escalon Times and a longtime local resident. She continues to contribute occasional columns.