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Ceres had influence on Billy Graham
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Billy Graham has passed at the age of 99.

Now he's with Cliff Barrows, who went to glory on Nov. 15, 2016.

Many of you remember that Graham and Barrows were inseparable as ministry partners and that Cliff was a 1940 graduate of Ceres High School. The Courier carried the front-page story of Cliff's parents' nuptials in 1922. It was at Ceres High School where Charles Tilson Barrows met Harriet Maurine Griggs, a 1922 Ceres High School graduate. The June 8, 1922 edition of the Ceres Courier carried an article on their wedding. The marriage produced five children including the oldest, Cliff, born in 1923. The Courier article described the bride as a "charming young lady and an accomplished musician and numbers her friends by the score." The groom was described as a "prominent rancher of Smyrna Park." For clarification, Smyrna Park referred not the well-used Ceres park but a tract of farm land in the Faith Home Road area. Charles Barrows both farmed the ground and worked as a buyer for the Thornton Canning Company in Sacramento.

Many of you probably do not know that when Graham and Barrows carried out the celebrated Modesto Crusade in 1948, they stayed at a motel on South Ninth Street - an area any respectable evangelist would steer clear of for lodging today. Graham visited Barrows' parents' home at the corner of Faith Home and Service roads. It is said that Billy practiced his oratory skills in the barn behind the house - still standing - and that the lectern he used had been stored there until it was later restored and presented to Graham as a gift. It was most recently the location of Juda's Country Gathering, a craft store which closed in 2012 after an 18-year run.

Ceres played a significant role in the history of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Barrows was responsible for bringing Graham to Modesto for the crusade. By the way, Modesto was the fourth crusade of what would become 417. Helping to organize the first night of the crusade - held under a tent at La Loma Avenue and Burney Street in Modesto - was Cliff's brother-in-law, Ben Jennings. Graham drove to Ceres and the plan was for Barrows and Graham to meet in Texas and drive their respective Buicks to the Barrows' home at Service and Faith Home roads. Graham, however, arrived at the Ceres ranch of Charles and Harriett Griggs Barrow about an hour behind Cliff. Also visiting the Ceres home was George Beverly Shea, the singer who would gain fame with his rich baritone voice at the crusades, and his wife Irma.

The Barrows' ranch house was too small to accommodate everyone so the Sheas stayed in the Ceres ranch house while Graham, it has been reported, stayed at the Don Pedro Motel, on South Ninth Street.

When Graham was in the April 1997 crusade in the Bay Area, I interviewed Barrows on the phone. He explained how he wished he could slip over the hill to visit Ceres but there was too much to do. He explained to me how the so-called Modesto Manifesto came about. With the movie "Elmer Gantry" popular at the time, there were fears that sexual scandals could bring down a successful ministry so Graham and his team designed a plan to head off the potential for scandal.

"We met in the (Ceres) orchard for prayer on a couple of occasions. Bill had asked us to consider the pitfalls of evangelism which we should guard against. We didn't know what God was going to do with the ministry and we were just going to take the invitations that came. We wanted to guard against the pitfalls that befell many others. We prayed about them.

"There were four items on our lists. There were integrity, accountability - accountability to others and to a board - and morality to walk before the Lord, stay pure to our wives and guarding against the temptation to compromise in this area. The fourth was in encouraging local pastors in the ministry."

The group gathered a bit later, prayed about the concern and came up with a plan of action. One steadfast rule was that men and women were never to be alone behind closed doors.

"We called it the Modesto Manifesto," Barrows told me. "And we prayed about this and it was really on my father's (Ceres) ranch that we committed these tenants. That's why that place has such significance to us."

During the two-week crusade in Modesto, an estimated 10,000 persons attended, many responding to an altar call for salvation. Former Ceres resident Mary Ellen Martinez (later Pitts), along with Virginia McCulley and Sue Munday, were invited by Barrows to sing a trio during the Modesto Crusade. Pitts - who is now living in Redding - told me that occasionally she glanced over at Billy Graham, who was waiting to speak, thinking, "What a wonderful older man." She laughs now at thinking 30-year-old Graham seemed old in her teenage eyes.

What a legacy!

* * * * *

Last week I spoke about the knee-jerk reaction to the Florida shooting with the predictable boilerplate calls for gun control. Kenneth Legg posted a message on the Ceres Courier Facebook page so I am relating what he said here with my comments added.

Legg writes: "Can't you also say before the bodies are cold in the grave, conservatives immediately start shouting about their right to own a weapon that can kill hundreds in minutes? (Well, Ken, that's only because the liberals instantly capitalize on acts of evildoers and focus not on why defective people are desirous of killing lots of people and focus on the tool instead. We had a Federal Assault Weapons Ban during the Clinton Administration and it did nothing to stop mass killings, according to the 2003 Task Force on Community Preventive Services, an independent, non-federal task force which examined an assortment of firearms laws. The Florida shooter used an AR-15. It is not an automatic assault rifle. AR stands for the original manufacturer, the ArmaLite Division of the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation). This gun does not spray bullets with a single pull of the trigger. It was one pull, one shot - anything any semiautomatic handgun will do. Anyone strolling through classrooms with a regular handgun and multiple clips could have killed as many people in the amount of time it took police to arrive on scene. That's why the only effective means to neutralize a shooter would be to have adults on campus with concealed weapons.

Legg continues: "Then they (conservatives) immediately blame it on the mentally ill, even though their (sic) are lots of stats that prove them wrong." (Really, Ken, you are arguing that a person who wants to kill lots of innocent people is mentally stable? Please give us the "lots of stats" that prove us wrong. We can debate all day about whether psychopaths are mentally ill or morally bankrupt, take your pick, but the fact remains that THEY use guns to kill; guns don't kill on their own. If it were possible to take the 350 million guns from America, then mass murderers will find another tool - like a car or pressure cooker bomb or a rental truck full of fertilizer). Need I remind you that the biggest mass murder of all was committed on Sept. 11, 2001 with four airplanes?

Legg goes on: "We need walls, guns, more nukes, and a parade to show it all off."

Well, Ken just laid all his cards on the table. He suffers from Trump Derangement Syndrome. The libs have made this school shooting political - and about Trump of all people! Clinton was president during the Columbine High but the gun grabbers didn't blast away at Clinton. Why not focus on the governors - like Jerry Brown - who don't even want guns in the hands of good people on school campuses? All students are sitting ducks for any deranged lunatic out for his months of fame.

Yes, Ken, we do need a wall to protect America from unauthorized people from getting in - just like you have a lock on your front and back doors. Borders and walls are meant as protection.

More nukes? I suppose our arsenal needs to be better than the one being developed by that pot-bellied Korean dictator who has said he wants to destroy every American. Won't our arsenal be a comfort if North Korea launches a nuke on Hawaii or San Francisco?

A parade to show it off? Well I suppose a display of military might signal to the dictator we mean business. Why is the left so threatened by our country having an effective defense against military madmen?

Legg writes: "Unemployment is at an all-time low but immigrants are stealing your jobs."

Two very different issues but let me have a crack at it, Ken. Thanks for acknowledging that the unemployment rate - especially in the black community - has dropped since Trump became president. Part of it is from reducing regulations and job expansion from the anticipated lower tax rates for corporations. But it is also true that illegal (Ken left that word off) immigrants have taken our jobs. While it is illegal to hire illegal aliens, many employers break that law and operate under the table. Defenders of illegal aliens - including ethnic advocacy groups, employer groups, and church-based groups - often assert that illegals only take jobs unwanted by U.S. workers. This is patently false as they are working in jobs in which U.S. workers are also employed, such as construction, agricultural harvesting or service professions. The Pew Hispanic Center recently estimated that 8 million illegal aliens are in the workforce out of an overall population of 11.2 million illegal aliens, or, 71.4 percent. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, illegals have taken 1,887,695 jobs in California alone!

Hundreds of retailers are closing but we must save the coal miner? Again, different issues. Nobody likes seeing retailers shrink, because that means lost jobs. But hundreds of brick-and-mortar retailers have been closing because of the internet and the rise of giants like Amazon, Apple, eBay and other online shopping outlets. Coal mining means jobs but Trump's increase of jobs spells disaster for the prospects of replacing him by the Democrats in 2020. I support cleaner forms of energy, like hydroelectric plants, but even the Democrats in California are against the building of more dams such as Don Pedro so what is an American to do to stay warm?

Thanks, Ken, for opening the door to let me explain the common sense of conservatives - something you call conservative syndrome on display.

Fred Randle hit the nail on the head about the gun problem when he posted his comment on the Courier FB page: "There is a serious downward spiral in moral decay. Buckle up. It's going to be a rough ride."

* * * * *
I grew up in Oakdale in the 1970s and there were no school shootings in America. Guns were everywhere but nobody mounted assaults on students like they do today. You have to ask the question: What changed?

An increase in fatherless households? For sure. In 1960, 9.1 percent of American kids had one parent in the house. By 2012, it was 20.7 percent. In the black community, it's 55.1 percent.
Ever increasing violence in video games? Absolutely. While leftists poo-poo the idea that video games can lead to violence, what was Matthew Nicholson doing right before he shot his mother in the head last month? Brad Bushman, Ph.D., stated in Psychology Today that studies show that "violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others." Nikolas Cruz was obsessed with violent video games.

A lonelier generation because of smartphones? The year 2012 marked the first time cell phone ownership hit 50 percent in America. "The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers' lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health," wrote Jean Twenge in the Atlantic Daily story, "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?" She concludes: "Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It's not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones." She notes that kids are going out of the house, being with friends less, dating less, and aren't working as much. Twenge concludes that teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy and more depressed.

Looser morals? Absolutely. Remember those kids with cell phones can stream tons of porn which can warp viewers' ideas about sex, gender and relationships.

Gun controls increased and the school shootings continue - Stockton (1989), Jonesboro (1998), Columbine (1999), Sandy Hook (2012), Santa Monica (2013), Umpqua Community College (2015), Tehama (2017) and more.

We did have our tragedies, such as students killed in car and motorcycle accident deaths. Way too many. I remember one classmate named Terry Smith of Waterford was accidentally shot and killed on Dec. 4, 1977 when a loaded shotgun discharged as he was going through a fence near the Oakdale Sportsmen's Club.

The tragedy which affected me most was the abduction and murder of a brunette named Vivian Laughlin who sat like two or three chairs behind me in Robin Edgerton's class. She was a cutie, sweet and innocent looking. One winter weekend - either 1974 or 1975 - Vivian was with a friend, Lonnie Merritt, and hitchhiking. They were picked up by some scumbag who drove them to a rural location and tried to rape them. When Vivian broke free and ran off, he blew her away with a shotgun. I never thought about blaming the gun for it was a man who picked it up, aimed it and pulled the trigger.

None of us became activists and rattled the columns of the State Capitol to ban shotguns. Our anger was against the moral degenerate who did this heinous crime, just as we did toward William Archie Fain who put a Knights Ferry teen in an early grave.

Do you have any feedback about this column? Let Jeff know by emailing him at He will read it, promise.