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Bill Baratta beat the rap

For The Madera Tribune

Bill Baratta is shown here on his 100th birthday. in 2021. A few days ago, he added one more year to that as he celebrated his 101st.


Bill Baratta has done something no other Maderan has ever accomplished. At the age of 100, he beat the rap. He convinced a judge to believe him, rather than the cop who gave him a ticket for running a red light.

Bill was just a few days past his 100th birthday when he took this writer on a tour of old Madera. Bill was driving south on Gateway, and I was taking notes. As he passed 7th Street, he saw the police car; the cop immediately pulled out and followed him closely. Bill came to the stoplight at Olive. It was green, so he made a left turn and crossed the railroad tracks. That’s when the red lights came on. The cop got out and came to Bill’s car. He gave him a ticket for running a red light. Bill denied that he had run a red light. He insisted the light was green, but it was no use. For the first time in his life, Bill Baratta got a traffic ticket. So he decided not to take it lying down. He would go to court and plead not guilty. A couple of weeks later he was standing before the judge. When it came his turn, Bill rose to plead his case.

After greeting the judge, Bill explained that he had just celebrated his 100th birthday and that he had been driving for the past 85 years. He told the judge that he had been a teamster and was certain that he had more hours behind the wheel than anyone in Madera. Standing tall and straight, Bill told the court that in all of his years of driving, he had never been cited for a traffic violation. Then he engaged the judge in some give and take.

“Do you think, your Honor, with all of my driving experience that I would run a red light knowing that the Highway Patrol was on my bumper?”

“No, I don’t think you would,” came the reply. “This case is dismissed.”

As Bill prepared to leave the courtroom, the judge told him that his driving record remained unsullied; he still had a perfect record.

Bill Baratta was born in Madera and just celebrated his 101st birthday. With the exception of the three years he spent fighting for his country in World War II, he has lived all those 101 years in Madera.

He first drew breath in a little house that was located where Sierra Vista School is now located. His father, Guiseppe (Joe) Baratta worked for the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company to support his wife Rinalda, sons Guido, Bruno, and Jack and daughter Adriana. On April 20, 1921, Bill made the fifth child.

After his discharge from the Army, Bill returned to Madera to begin driving a truck and work his two vineyards. He drove 12 hours a day and worked the vineyards the rest of the day.

With his retirement, Bill settled in to enjoy life; little did he realize that he would have so much left to enjoy and share. Visiting with Bill is like walking into a library. With the crispness of a memory that can slice through the layers of time, he can open up the doors of the past to let one see first-hand what life was like in Madera from the 1920s to the present.

That alone makes Bill Baratta a 101-year-old treasure. Happy Birthday, Bill, and congratulations on your perfect driving record.


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