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4th of Julys: Past & future?

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POSTED May 15, 2014 12:41 a.m.

One of my earliest memories as a kid in Manteca was watching the day’s events on Fourth of July. I ran into Josh Hebert in Home Depot on Wednesday. He remembered how the fields behind Lincoln School were filled with what seemed like the entire town. Blankets, picnic baskets, Frisbees – and most importantly – events. Teams of fireman would compete in a Muster Competition: Ladder climb, hose roll, bucket brigade plus a waterball event that involved a ball suspended from a cable 15 feet off the ground, with teams at either end attempting to spray the ball across the other’s goal. 

There was a tug-of-war organized by June Cunningham. She got farmers Jack Riella and Manuel Teicheira to organize two teams of North vs. South farmers to compete for town supremacy. I recall one year when Manteca’s Strongest Man Larry Lathrop was recruited to be a “farmer” for the day on the South squad – basically guaranteeing victory. The day would come to a crescendo as “Ohh’s” and “Ahh’s” were shouted during the fireworks display at Guss Schmeidt Field.

It has me and my friends thinking “Why can’t we have a day like this again?” I believe we have the perfect venue in Big League Dreams. People fill the BLD fields to watch the fireworks on that night – why not add a little bit of old school Manteca into the mix? I’ve spoken with a few of my fireman friends who have said they would love to compete amongst the other companies in town. How about Farmers vs. Construction Workers tug-of-war or Policeman vs. Sheriffs or a softball game between town dignitaries? Who wouldn’t want to see Willie Weatherford strikeout Steve DeBrum or Toni Raymus and Jack Thomson competing in a potato sack race? 

I hear over and over that this town needs to get back to its roots – and this is something that would include everybody while utilizing and showcasing our town’s grandest venue. So let’s turn my spitballing in a column into a reality. Besides, it makes much more sense for me to have my Softball Showdown against Tisha Herzfeld that day on an actual diamond, instead of the center of town. I can’t afford to pay for a broken window at Bank of America after taking her deep.

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The Great Taco Bell bell Mystery: .In the mid-1970’s someone stole the bell that adorned to top of the Taco Bell building. Finally after 40 years Bob Lyberger says he did it. However many people have questioned Bob’s motive to come clean after all these years, and others have doubted he is being honest. Bob even claims he knows to this day the location of the bell – in the Bernacchi Building. I speculate that’s no doubt one of the many reasons I have not been granted access to the upstairs. Former Manager Judy Peoples Haskins claims she replaced 100 bells over the years, but that they were of the fiberglass variety, and that the original bell was made of pure 24 karat gold. Who took the original?! I have appointed myself the head of the Manteca version of a Taco Bell Warren Commission to find the truth. I recently dug up an old Bellbeefer wrapper from 1974 hidden in the grassy knoll across the street. The plot thickens.

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Ahoy, Ripon: I’ve received a few messages asking why I don’t give a little love to Ripon. One Riponian, or is it Riponite, reminded me that the column ends up in their Ripon Bulletin. I let the kind gentleman know that it’s Manteca to a T, not Ripon to a D. (D as in Dutchman, get your minds out of the gutter). I’m willing to compromise. After all I have a large group of family and friends that have transplanted to our sister city. I’ll do an entire Ripon column, provided the Dutch advance in this year’s World Cup farther than the Portuguese. I’m even willing to make side bets – a case of linguica against...well whatever Dutch people eat. Until then keep your haircuts square and your clogs on tight.

• • •

Jack’s Famous Salsa: Former school board member and city chaplain Jack Coldren has been whipping up batches of his homemade salsa since 1978. Those lucky enough find a jar or two on their doorstep at Christmas time – or when Jack feels you’ve earned it. Now he is looking to take his salsa global, but is taking the baby steps necessary to get there. He’s launched a Kickstarter account in order to gather the funds needed for a company to properly manufacture the salsa with his own secret recipe. I grew up with Jack’s son John, and can personally attest that during times of our bachelor careers his salsa saved our lives. Jack has spent his life helping the people of our town – it’s time to “dip” in and help him out...A video and accompanying donation board @

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Bernacchi Watch 2014: It’s been 2 weeks since I made my opening plea to enter our town’s most hallowed of grounds The Bernacchi Building and I’m no closer to getting in. If it makes anyone feel better, there are many places that I’ve never been. The Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the moon, Coeur d’ Alene Idaho. These places all have one thing in common: None of them are in a building smack dab in the center of our town. The waiting game continues..

• • •

The Retraction Faction: The frequency with which I receive emails regarding a screw up in this column is alarming – and heartwarming. The self imposed Grammarnazi in me actually enjoys when someone points out a piece of questionable grammar in the column. It means not only are you reading, but dare I say caring at least enough that you attempt to correct me through a brief message. Poor grammar is my biggest pet peeve, and friends and family love nothing more than to call me out when finding such improprieties on my part. Some have made note of my overuse of the ellipsis (…), or the fact I invent new words “Haskellesque”. I try to remind them that I’m writing a newspaper column and not the Magna Carta and that certain writer’s liberties are necessary in order to create a flow and readability, in order to avoid writing what essentially reads like a high school term paper. I can live with being a Grammarnazi that is often guilty of the very crimes he seeks to punish but I hate it when I flat out get information wrong. Last week I accidentally used the wrong name in reporting an upcoming fundraiser – I stewed all day in the tractor on that one. My favorite screw up to this point was very innocuous, yet I received nearly 10 emails on it. I wrote that Aaron Goodwin (Randy “Bubba” Black) was an Manteca High School Class of 1985 grad – he’s actually 1986. The strange part was that none of them explained their position. Were they fellow Class of 86ers wanting to claim Aaron? Was it a disgruntled yet proud 85er needing me to know “He’s not one of us!” My initial thought was to respond with “thank you and who cares?!” but I soon realized regardless of their angle, they were right. I’m a proud Class of 1991 grad. If somewhere it was reported that I was Class of 1992 I’d be insulted – they were the human equivalent of a pile of mini tomatoes on the deli tray of life – just sort of there but not much attention paid their way. I apologize to the Classes of 1985 and 1986, and anybody that was bothered by the Great Goodwin Class Screw Up of 2014. Most importantly, thank you to everyone taking the time to read the column, and thank you to those willing to help me improve it. Your participation is truly appreciated.

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Meet and Greet: This Sunday afternoon at The Pub and Lounge, Janell Freeman Somera will be on hand for a little “Q&A” session. The attorney-at -law is currently running for a spot on the San Joaquin County Board of Education, and will be on hand discussing the priorities she looks to institute as a board member. This is a wonderful opportunity to bend the ear of someone looking to make a difference in our area. Tri-Tip sandwiches go on sale at 1p.m. See you there.


It’s not where ya do, it’s what you do.

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