By June 2, 2014 Read More →

InterView – Bart Bartoni


Bart Bartoni
The Godfather of 10th St
By Chris Murphy

Bart Bartoni, grew up in Escalon from 1930-1941 and then moved to Modesto. As a kid, Bart was always creative. Sketches and ideas were all over his school books. He lived on River Rd. between Escalon and Ripon and he had very wealthy neighbors. Those neighbors entertained often and their guests would arrive in such cars as V16 Cadillac Phaetons, Deusenbergs, Cords and Auburn Speedsters. His love of cars began at that moment. His mom was in the fashion and jewelry industry and he continued in that business. In 1961 Bart opened Bartoni Custom Jewelers on 10th Street at Bartoni Lane with one of Modesto’s all time memorable jingles, “Go See Bart, the Jeweler with a Heart”.

Bart was always stylish and was friends with everyone. Bart and fellow Legend of the Cruise Pete Hischier were early friends of custom car creator Gene Winfield and became part of his team for years. Bart and Gene presented some of the best car shows in the USA here in Modesto over the years and Bart has designed cars with Gene Winfield. Bart and Lisa Lodi enjoy a life of cruising memories and they keep the Cruise and Classic car history going today. Bart will be Grand Marshall of the 2014 North Modesto Kiwanis Cruise Parade on June 6 and will be inducted into the Modesto Cruise Route “Legends of the Cruise” Walk of Fame on June 4. Let’s get to know Bart Bartoni.

ModestoView: What was it like graduating from Modesto High School in 1948 at the end of World War II? Bart Bartoni: Guys were getting back from the war and started building hot rods and custom cars and cruising 10th street was a big deal then.

MV: Your friend Gene Winfield also graduated from Mo Hi then, how did you meet? BB: Gene had his cool Model A V8 parked out in front of school one day and took me for a ride and we became friends immediately.

MV: What did you like better. Art or Cars? BB: Cars. Of course, when I was drawing it was usually cars!

MV: Or was it really girls? You dated Miss San Francisco, how did that happen? BB: Girls were a huge part of my life. I met Miss San Francisco at a dance in Angels Camp at the Jumping Frog Jubilee. We dated for about 4 months.

MV: You had a ring-side seat to the evolution of the cruise over the years. When did it really start getting popular? BB: In about 1944. Before I had my license I would watch the “big boys” cruising from my own fire hydrant on 10th St and I knew that I would be part of that tradition soon.

MV: You were in the fashion and jewelry business with Bartoni Jewelers during that time, did you have much time to cruise yourself? BB: I cruised quite regularly from 1947 through the 1960’s. When I opened up my jewelry store the cruising slowed down a little but I still made it a point to get out there every chance I could

MV: What was one of the most memorable experiences you recall from a night on the Cruise Route? BB: Once we left 10th many of us would meet up on Maze Blvd and race 4 abreast (usually about 12 cars). That definitely got the adrenaline pumping.

MV: It seems looking back that it was all pretty harmless fun and people where just out for a good time. BB: Absolutely. You never heard of shootings, stabbings and gangs back then. When people fought they used their fists and then it was over and they were friends the next day.

MV: In 1958 and 62 the people cruising were the next generation, how did you view cruising at that time and was it as it is remembered to be? BB: It was always fun but I enjoyed it more in the 40’s and early 50’s.

MV: In the 60’s, 10th St was jumpin with places like the Purple Turnip and even tough the cruise was going out McHenry, was downtown Modesto exciting? BB: Yes downtown was very much alive and jumping. There was a lot of nightclubs with great music playing and you can find many people, including myself, dancing through the night.

MV: Your downtown experiences went all the way into through the 70s. What was your perspective of the changes in downtown Modesto? BB: Everything started changing once Vintage Faire Mall and McHenry Village opened. Many people were moving here and the town was spreading out quickly. I think everyone is working real hard to bring downtown back to what it once was. There are outstanding restaurants and the Gallo Center has brought great entertainment to our town.

MV: How do you feel about the recent excitement and interest of American Graffiti and our Modesto History? BB: I think it’s great because I truly believe that Modesto was at the forefront of cruising. For this year’s parade, I am indebted to Bob Piccinini for allowing me to use his 1960 El Dorado convertible because out of my six cars none of them are convertibles!

MV: Do you still love classic cars as much today? BB: I love classics, customs, street rods, resto rods and hot rods. In fact, I’m currently finishing up a 1938 Alfa Romeo and a 1940 Cadillac La Salle Club Coupe custom. So I guess you can say one is never too old to enjoy these beauties.

MV: Describe your perfect Modesto Day today? BB: A perfect day is spending time with my family and friends. We go to many car shows and love eating out at the fabulous restaurants we have in Modesto.

MV: Ok, our final question. Beatles or Stones? BB: My musical preference is B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland and Frank Sinatra.

Bart will be inducted to the Legends of the Cruise along with Pete Hischier, Gene Winfield and others at the ribbon cutting ceremony, June 4, 10th St Place at 6:00 pm.

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