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Manteca Waterslides still live on 15 years later
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

I can say that I once “walked like a Man-tee-kan”.

If you listened to radio back in the mid-1990s anywhere in Northern California you might have a clue of what I’m talking about.

Manteca Waterslides had appropriated the chorus and accompanying music of the 1986 hit “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles for a radio spot where the “walk like a Man-tee-kan” line has been permanently recorded in my head. (If you’ve never heard The Bangles and how catchy “Walk like an Egyptian” is and can’t imagine how “walk like a Man-tee-kan” came across on the radio, Google a music video on You Tube.)

My first exposure to Manteca was in the late 1960s through TV spots on KCRA Channel 3’s Bob Wilkins’ Late Night Horror Show where the late Manteca Camper and Trailer owner Bobby Davis signed off on his commercials selling RVs with him standing in front of his East Yosemite Avenue dealership tipping his cigar and arm wrapped around a stand in for his wife Shirley as they said “Maaan-teee-ka!!!” That was followed up in the mid-1970s by the first of a series of annual radio spots promoting the Manteca Waterslides. Between the two commercials I knew of Manteca even though I never got off the freeway here until 1990. Then six months later I moved here.

This trip down memory lane was brought up by the fact 15 years ago the Manteca Waterslides closed, a victim of skyrocketing worker’s compensation costs and new state water reclamation requirements. Those two impediments made it impractical for significant investment for Manteca Waterslides — the first waterslides park when in California when it opened in 1974 — to keep pace with modern era waterslide parks opening throughout Northern California.

While Great Wolf when it opens its massive indoor water park with a 500-room hotel will air TV and radio spots in what corporate folks say will be a multi-million dollar advertising blitz to make Manteca synonymous with waterslides for a new generation of Californians, it will be next to impossible to dislodge the Manteca Waterslides “walk like a Man-tee-kan” radio jingle from my head.

It was so persuasive it got me to actually head out to Manteca Waterslides at age 40 for my one and only visit to a waterpark.

Cynthia, who usually had no trepidation trying things such as parasailing and sky diving, passed on trying the V-Maxx speed waterslide. At 80 feet it was — and still holds the mark — as the tallest waterslide ever erected in California. 

The platform on top around Halloween was used for pumpkin drops which were literally a big smash.

The hardest spot was walking up the equivalent of eight stories of stairs. I admit I’m not wild about heights even though in recent years I have purposely put myself in precarious spots on mountain peaks and on narrow ledges hiking in the Sierra. By the time I got to the top I was having second thoughts. I noticed those who were in front of me and behind me were all between a third and half my age. The staff member at the top looked as if he wasn’t yet out of puberty.

The kid told me to lie down on the slide and cross my arms in front of me on my chest. I started getting nervous as my feet came up against a sheet of plastic that was the only thing keeping me from plunging 80 feet down covering perhaps 140 feet or so of waterslide in the process.

The bizarre thing is after the chute opened I felt serene as I rode the water down and ended up making a big splash when I came to a stop in the “trough” below. It was over in a matter of seconds.

After that I was game for anything.

Remember how I said I had never been on waterslides before? My mood quickly changed from triumphant to a feeling like Dr. “The pain, the pain, the pain of it all” Smith of Lost in Space fame after I went down one of the original concrete water slides on a mat. I was a newbie but had been emboldened by my V-Maxx experience not to ask for advice on how to use the mat or observe carefully how more experienced 7-year-olds were going down the slide.

Within seconds I was in excoriating pain, mostly in my arms and wrists. When I ended up in the pool below, there was blood in the water — mine. Since then I’ve gotten some world class road rash while crashing while bicycling — including one time  going downhill at 45 mph when I hit a dog — but nothing matched the pain of the scrapes I got that day.

To be honest when I crashed on the bicycle I was knocked out each time until I came to in the back of an ambulance on  a backboard. But at the Manteca Waterslides I was wide awake as kids around me, were pointing and laughing their heads off. That included a blonde haired kid of about 10 who played the role of Captain Obvious telling me, “Dude, don’t you know how to waterslide?”

I was banged up pretty bad and was nursing plenty of bruises that included my ego.

As I pulled myself out of the water and ended up trying other slides after Cynthia urged me to do so — I had been ready to call it quits — I really got into it.

Walking like a Man-tee-kan is pretty cool.

I can hardly wait to get the chance to do it sometime next year after Great Wolf opens.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email