The Plant

Where is this? What kind of factory is it? We called it just "the plant", in short, and all of us would know what we were talking about. Since 1916, when it was established by Anthony R. Gangi Sr., in San Jose, it went under one name, until September 1, 1993 when it cut operations and later was sold to Del Monte Corporation. The name of the street, that used to run through the middle, before the expansion is: Matmor Rd., which to this day extends South of the plant. A very strange name, I think. The plant dramatically expanded during the 1970's and '80s, to the size you see in the picture above. During those years, tomato varieties were developed for mechanical harvesting, with tons / acre increasing dramatically. Harvesters were designed and built. Because of their firmness, canning tomatoes can be hauled in 6x6x4 bins, instead of the crates used in the hand-pick days. 

Originally the plant only operated during the summer season for 100 days, but later added re-manufactured sauces, like Sweet and Sour sauce, Italian sauce, Taco Sauce, and many more, outside of the processing season. The 300 gallon boxes of 32% paste were re-opened and made into these sauces. The plant handled up to 6,000 tons / day during those 100 days of operation and the whole town smelled it and heard the hissing sound of the steam, coming from the evaporators. Why all those warehouses? Operating only 100 days a year, customers do not all have the warehouse capacity to store tomato products for the rest of the year. You cannot see it in the picture, but behind the warehouses runs a railroad track, where railcars are loaded, throughout the year.

Going back to the first plant established by Gangi in San Jose, it soon expanded to Woodland and Riverbank because the plant in San Jose became surrounded by city blocks so could not expand anymore. 

There it is, the first plant, with a picture of the plant manager, always with a grin on his face! The plant was blocked in by city streets, so to get to the office, you had to cross a busy street, and behind the office a freeway emerged. I am telling this, because the plant is long gone; replaced by apartment buildings. 

Do you remember the advertisement?

All that is left of Contadina today, is an office in San Fransisco, which purchased the name and has its products made by other canneries, just like Contadina used to pack tomatoes, and tomato paste for Safeway, and other stores. Oh, ... the street name Matmor Rd? It is a contraction of the names Matalone and Morici. Morici was the wholesale grocer who bought out Contadina in 1933, and sold it to Carnation Company in 1967. Jimmy Matalone was the sales manager.

The Woodland plant had a softball team in the city league. The city had a nice description of all participants, including Contadina:

A Drop in the Bucket, a lot of drops! Water is used to convey tomatoes from the truck into the plant, water is used to create steam for the evaporators which condensed tomato juice into tomato paste; from about 5% solids to 24%: thick paste, you buy in the grocery store. The waste water takes out the residue which is pumped up to a tower where the solids are separated from the water, collected in a hopper from where trucks haul it off to the fields as fertilizer. The water goes to the city water treatment facility for further treatment before it can be returned to the Sacramento River.

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