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MJC set to celebrate its history, future

POSTED September 16, 2011 10:12 p.m.

On Monday, Modesto Junior College will turn 90 years old.

And to look back, MJC will unveil a documentary of the college’s past, present and future, edited by MJC video specialist Wes Page.

“It’s been a labor of love for me, but I’m glad it’s finally done,” Page said Friday as he finalized the film.

The film draws from old 16 millimeter film, dating to the late 1930s. Students are seen milling about in the quad, and participating in the old “spring frolic” – a tug-of-war competition with a trench of water awaiting the losers.

One segment highlights Frank “Pop” Swallow, an MJC icon of the 40s and 50s. The then-elderly man once appeared on the game show “I’ve Got a Secret,” for being the oldest living cheerleader.

 “I really value the history of the college,” Page said.

Page, a 38-year employee of MJC and a former student of the college, recalls some of the history firsthand, like buildings which no longer exist: the old Greek Theatre, and the North and South Hall. Those collegial, historic buildings were torn down when they failed to meet earthquake standards.

“The wrecking ball almost couldn’t do it, they were so well built,” Page recalled.

The documentary will be shown as part of Monday’s festivities, which kick off at 3 p.m. in the East Campus Quad with the unveiling of a large, brass MJC seal which was refurbished for the 90th anniversary. That seal, mounted in stone, will be permanently on display between two benches donated by the class of 1939.

After the seal’s unveiling, the event will proceed to the Main Auditorium of the Performing and Media Arts Center where Page’s documentary will be shown for the first time. After the documentary, a reception with light refreshments will take place in the lobby.

Page hopes to entice some attendees to come upstairs to the on-campus TV studio during the reception, where Page will record their memories and experiences at MJC. The footage won’t make this documentary, Page said, but may well find its way into a centennial documentary, just 10 years away.

And despite the budgetary challenges which sometimes dominate the news, that long history – and MJC’s future – are worth celebrating, Page said.

“I think everyone is experiencing challenges right now, but we’re focusing on the positives,” he said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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