The unit’s new commander, Lt. Barry Koenig, told me this week that the state of California is eying three locations in Tracy for a new station. Two are bare ground, and the third includes a building that could possibly be remodeled for the office.
Koenig said it’s unknown if the state’s ongoing budget crisis could slow down the acquisition and construction processes, but within a few years, a new station will definitely be needed to accommodate the CHP’s operations — providing more room in an energy-efficient building.
No site-selection, design or construction time-table decisions have yet been made, he reported.
The present CHP unit headquarters at the corner of Grant Line Road and Buthmann Avenue was dedicated in February 1975. It’s hard to believe, but that was 35 years ago, and the local CHP operations have expanded since then to include 30 patrol officers, four sergeants, a lieutenant and support personnel.
The highway patrol’s first home in Tracy was at the front of the original Sierra Warehouse complex on Grant Line Road, just west of the Holly Sugar spur railroad line. The building now houses a dog-food factory.
That original CHP office was opened in August 1967 with a lieutenant, a sergeant and 10 patrol officers. Longtime Tracyites will recall that the commander was Lt. Ray Johnston, who was the pilot standing next to his homebuilt plane in last week’s Remember When “mystery photo.”
At the time of the opening of the first CHP office in 1967, construction was under way on the three legs of the “Tracy Triangle” of the interstate freeway system. Because of the new freeways and the Tracy area’s location connecting the San Joaquin Valley with the San Francisco Bay Area, it was decided a Tracy unit was needed under the Stockton office’s jurisdiction. In the past, CHP operations in this area came directly out of the Stockton office.
As I think back in those days in the 1960s before the Tracy office was opened, two Stockton-based CHP officers, George Nicholas and Elmer Harper, patrolled Tracy area highways and roads most evenings. The team of “Nicholas and Harper” became a well-known part of the Tracy scene in those days. Nicholas and Harper were usually there on the nighttime crash scenes, providing information to a Tracy Press reporter whose photo appears with this column.
The Nicholas part of the team shouldn’t be confused with Wendell Nicol, a CHP officer in Stockton who moved to Tracy in the mid-1960s to run for judge of the Tracy Judicial District.
Tracy trucker Art Affonso was first elected to the bench in 1960 in an upset win over Tracy attorney Al Souza. When Art was up for re-election for a second six-year term in 1966, Wendell, by then retired, was all over town hustling votes, counting on his CHP service and active involvement in the Elks to propel his campaign efforts. He thought he had a good shot at winning, but alas, the ever-resilient Affonso prevailed once again.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at email@example.com.