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Nearing 100, Wayne Salter still quite active
Wayne Salter, tanned from virtually a lifetime of working his orchards, certainly isn't acting his age. Within two years of reaching 100, he golfs twice a week and drives his own car everywhere - even to vacation spots like the deserts of Southern California.

That's not all. His memory is razor sharp.

And - get this - he's on Facebook.

To say Wayne Salter has led an amazing life - and continues to lead one - would be an understatement. He is truly one of the last connections to a Ceres that has long passed by.

"I've had a good life," he tells people who are interested in his story.

Wayne graduated from eighth grade at Ceres Grammar School in 1927 and received his Ceres High School diploma in 1930. Today he is quite possibly the oldest surviving graduate.

After Ceres High, Wayne studied at U.C. Davis and returned to Ceres in 1933 to farm and raise a family. His children are Claudia Grubeck and Jeanne Lackey, both of Ceres, Hughson farmer Jim Salter, Judge Tim Salter and Pastor Tom Salter.

A believer in community service, Mr. Salter served on the San Jose Christian College board and the Ceres School Board for 12 years, retiring in 1961. Wayne was also a 40-year elder at Ceres Christian Church and a treasurer for a decade. He also taught Sunday School. While on the Ceres School Board Mr. Salter said he "always tried to treat the teachers as professionals and treat them right."

Salter helped to organize the Ceres Peach Festival which later evolved into the Ceres Street Faire. The Ceres Chamber of Commerce honored Wayne as Agribusiness Man of the Year in 1993.

Mr. Salter was also quite involved with the California Peach Association, California Cling Peach Advisory Board, Agricultural Council of California, California Almond Growers Association and Diamond Walnut Association.

His first wife, Florence, passed away but he's remarried today to Peggy, 79.

"He's golfed and worked hard his whole life," said daughter Claudia Grubeck. "He has God in his life and that has to do with a lot of it."

Salter's parents, Frederick and Annie Salter, came to Ceres in 1902 after leaving Holister. They purchased land at $35 an acre at the corner of Service and Faith Home roads. There they raised four children - Gertrude who is 91, Myrtle, Effie who died at age 100, and Wayne. Myrtle and trudy were farmers' wives and Effie married a pastor.

Wayne came along in 1912.

Though he was a country boy, Wayne often spent time in town. He attended the Christian Church when it was located at the southeast corner of Third and North streets. Like most boys, he'd occasionally find himself bored and getting into mischief while at church.

"We've always gone to church our whole lives," said Salter. "I probably should have been kicked out from time to time."

Like the time he conspired with other 12- to 14-year-olds in the church to lift up the car of a man who parked between a narrow lane formed by the north outer wall of the church and a fence. The boys managed to turned the car 90 degrees to where one bumper was against the church and the other against the fence, making it impossible for him to back up to leave.

"He was unhappy," said Salter with a big grin. "We caught thunder for it, too. A lot of church members smiled - a lot of them."

Wayne recalls getting into his share of trouble in class, too, with school teacher Mae Hensley.

"In those days we did a lot of jack rabbit hunting. We had some .22 shells in my pocket. I pulled the bullet apart and the powder ignited. I got attention."

Wayne was a bit more evasive in recounting a story handed down to his kids, perhaps out of his desire to not sound as if he were a hellion. The story has him and friends placing a car on buckets like makeshift jackstands to prevent the car from going anywhere.

He does confess to riding his bike down 99 (then it wasn't a freeway), with a little siren. One driver actually pulled over.

"They pulled over and I was embarrassed. They just laughed and went on."

Wayne remembers free entertainment offered in the form of outdoor Saturday night movies shown in a lot east of Fourth Street and south of Lawrence Street.

He also remembers when the dirt streets of Ceres were first paved with concrete.

"You'd go shopping and you'd be walking in mud. They had wooden sidewalks. They would pave a strip about 10 or 12 feet wide. They had to shovel the aggregate into the mixer and pour the strip. They poured whatever they could during the day. It was quite a project."

Florence's parents, Pina and Velvia Western, had a shoe store in the ground floor of the Odd Fellows Hall at the corner of Fourth and Lawrence. The back of the store served as a gathering place for the men to visit and play checkers. Wayne remembers seeing Mr. and Mrs. Burt Service drive to downtown and park in front of Clinton Whitmore's building on Fourth Street where they would sit all day or Burt would make his way inside for a game.

Mr. Salter doesn't have an answer for his longevity but credits a role of play and vacations.

"All my life I've tried to relax and go fishing or hunting," Salter said.

Wayne said his father believed in vacations. When trout season opened they'd go to fish. If deer season opened they would head to the mountains - he hunted in Lassen County for over 20 years - for camp outs.

Another favorite vacation was when Fred Salter took a wagon to Holister for his annual camping excursion. Wayne remembers making it as far as the irrigation canal south of Gustine where they'd camp for the night. The second night they would push over the Pacheco Pass and make it to water in a canyon east of Casa de Fruita. The third day they made it to Holister.

"I remember the first time we took an automobile," he said. "They must have had 10 or 15 tire punctures. While dad fixed the flat us kids would go walk ahead and they'd catch up with us."

Last year Wayne Salter's name figured in the community flap concerning the naming of the new junior high school. Claudia nominated her dad as the school namesake and many lobbied for the suggestion. The School Board, however, parted with tradition of naming the school after a local person and picked Cesar Chavez. Wayne said being glossed over wasn't a big deal to him but humbly said, "I could think of other people more worthy than me." Homer Vilas, for one, who poured blood, sweat and tears into the Ceres High School swimming pool project in the 1960s.

There will be other schools for so noble a man.