1940s Modesto Time Line

1940s Timeline

1940 Modesto population is 16,379.

1941 The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 pushes the United States into World War II. Modesto and Stanislaus County put their emergency defense plan into effect on Dec. 8.

Modesto has its first blackout drill on Dec. 13.

1942 First California Relays take place at the Modesto Junior College Stadium. The relays are an annual event until 2008.

Hammond General Hospital, the largest military hospital on the west coast, opens in Modesto. Over 24,000 soldiers are treated there during World War II.

1944 The Hotel Modesto is destroyed by fire on May 3. The ruins will remain fenced-in until the late 1950s when a new city hall is built on the site.

George Lucas is born on May 14. Lucas will immortalize Modesto in American Graffiti in 1973 and launch the most successful film series in history with Star Wars in 1977.

1945 President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies suddenly on April 12 and is succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman.

World War II comes to an end. Japan surrenders on Sept. 2 after atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. It is the only use of nuclear weapons in war. The war in Europe ended earlier with Adolf Hitler’s suicide on April 30 and the surrender of Germany and its allies on May 8.

1946 First baseball affiliation in Modesto with the IBL (Independent Baseball League).

Gene Winfield starts Windy’s Custom Shop in a chicken coop behind his mom’s house. The same year

Maddox Brothers and Rose begin their recording career popularizing Rockabilly music across the USA and hosting a regular show on KTRB radio

1947 Burge’s Drive In opens at US99 and O Street feeding the hungry highway travellers and would quickly become a hangout for Modesto’s teens that were “Draggin’ 10th” Cruising in Modesto was born.

Gene Winfield and other hot rodders started the Century Toppers car club ushering the classic custom show car age.

Chester Smith begins broadcasting at KTRB radio at age 17 beginning a career that would attract country visits from music greats like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow and many more.

Neville Bros Service station opens by Willard and Willie Neville on Needham Ave. Larry Neville still owns and operates it today and classic cars are in process daily.

1947 J.C. Penney Department Store is built in downtown at a cost of $750,000. J.C. Penney’s nephew, Richard E. Penney, is the store’s original manager.

1948 President Harry S Truman speaks to a crowd during a September 23rd whistle stop at Modesto’s train station

1949 Modesto Band of Stanislaus Country moves to Mancini Bowl in Graceada Park



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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.