Club Notes: Third-generation railroad man leads historians
by Sam Matthews
Dec 20, 2012 | 2910 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Exploring history and taking part in historical activities have been a major part of Larry Gamino’s life since he was a student at Tracy High School.

This coming year, that involvement takes on a new turn as he becomes president of the West Side Pioneer Association, the Tracy area’s historical organization.

Gamino and other officers of the group were installed Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the Tracy Historical Museum, which is operated by the West Side Pioneers.

Serving as officers with Gamino, who succeeds David Lee as president, are Bill Carter, first vice president; Celeste Garamendi, second vice president; Judith Lee, recording secretary; and Wes Huffman, treasurer.

The officers were installed before the annual Christmas at the Museum open house, which featured many members in Victorian-era holiday costumes.

Gamino, 60, is a native of Tracy and a third-generation Southern Pacific employee, following in the footsteps of two grandfathers and his father, Santos “Sam” Gamino.

In the coming year, he wants the association to develop programs that will include new ethnic groups in the city and attract younger members.

“People from all over the world have moved to Tracy in the last half-century,” he said. “We need to involve them and their cultures.”

He also believes the association should explore possibilities of acquiring its own building, preferably one with historic significance, for a location of an expanded museum. The museum is currently housed in a former post office.

“We are fortunate that the city of Tracy has restored the old post office building for a museum, but space is limited,” he said. “We can’t keep turning away artifacts that people want to give us and should look to the future.”

His interest in history was ignited by hearing stories of the lives of railroad workers of Mexican descent in Tracy and by a U.S. history class at Tracy High.

“Howard McCuistion, the teacher, was really energetic and made history come to life,” Gamino said. “He had served in the Marines in World War II, and he often told stories of his service in the war.”

After graduating from Tracy High in 1970, Gamino enrolled in California State University, Chico, as a history major. He transferred to University of California, Berkeley, as a junior and continued studying history, concentrating on European intellectual history.

After graduating from Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in history, Gamino was a graduate student at Marquette University in Milwaukee for two years, concentrating on the western movement in the U.S. and receiving a master’s degree.

While attending college, he also worked summers for the S.P. as a brakeman, and he became a year-round employee upon returning from Wisconsin.

He was a brakeman and switchman in freight service in Tracy, Roseville, San Jose and San Luis Obispo and also served as a conductor on the commuter rail service on the San Francisco Peninsula before retiring in 2002 after 30 years.

During those years, he took leaves from the railroad to attend history and business classes at several universities and community colleges and also participated in a transportation system study program at San Jose State University.

Gamino returned to Tracy 10 years ago, and he and his wife, Carolyn, live in the original Gamino home on West First Street.

After returning to Tracy, he became a member of the West Side Pioneer Association, serving on the Historical Landmark Committee and as a board member.

He has taken special interest in researching the development and decline of railroading in Tracy and is one of the founders and president of the South Side Community Organization.

• Contact Sam Matthews at 830-4234 or
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