Washing the California Zephyr in the rail yard in Portola in 1956.

What did Portola look like 60 years ago?

The Portola High School graduating Class of 1956. Photos by Bertha Miller

There have been a lot of changes in the town of Portola over the past 50 years and we have to listen to our grandparents to know exactly how different the community looks today, and how it has transformed as a society.

C.L. Neeley’s new book, “1956 Bertha Miller’s Photos and Newspaper Articles,” reminds us how things used to be back then. Things we forget, like the time women of the town got together and convinced their neighbors and friends that Portola needed a facelift. During two weekends in July 1956, 70 faithful citizens got together and tore down buildings that were deteriorating, built picket fences to hide vacant lots on Commercial street, and painted the buildings along this main street in town. Organizations thrived in the community back then, likewise the schools and Scout troops for the children.

Using over 300 photographs and even more newspaper articles, Neeley brings that year back to life. Remembering how the community joined together to help gather funds to fight the dreaded polio; how they put on a shindig of a dance to help send the local school band to the state musical festival in San Francisco; and how proud the community was to finance a new water system, only to have disaster destroy their project.

Bertha Miller was a photographer in Portola in the late ’50s and a newspaper correspondent for the Sacramento Bee and Reno Evening Gazette. This is the third book Neeley has presented using her mother’s photos and newspaper articles. The other two books cover 1954 and 1955 and are available on Amazon .com or at the William’s House Museum in Portola. The is the 13th book published by the author.

For more information, contact Neely by email at [email protected] or at 85 E. Canyon Road, Fillmore, Utah, 84631.

The community cleanup of Commercial Street in 1956.

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