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A farmer created Manteca’s big drawing Card that led to Great Wolf Lodge resort
This 1970s era postcard photo shows the 725-foot waterslide at Manteca Waterslides that was the longest in California at the time.

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, you can imagine how “walk like a Man-tee-kan”

The 80-foot V-Maxx slide at Manteca Waterslides still holds the height record for a California waterslide.
came across on the radio.

My first exposure to Manteca was in the late 1960s through TV spots on KCRA Channel 3’s Bob Wilkins’ Late Night Horror Show.

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.

For years, if you told someone you were from Manteca, the odds are they’d say “waterslides.”

It is an exchange that happened over the years when people asked Manteca residents visiting cities from Los Angeles to New York to Paris.

Manteca became synonymous with waterslides thanks to a farmer — the late Budge Brown.

Brown created California’s first water park — where the gated Oakwood Shores neighborhood is today on the western end of Woodward Avenue — part out of necessity and part out of ingenuity.

He didn’t set out to create a brand for Manteca. But by the time the Manteca Waterslides ran its 31-year course before closing in 2004, Manteca and waterslides were inseparable in the minds of hundreds of thousands of people.

The drawing power of the Manteca Waterslides — in terms of visitors and on the community’s psyche — is what prompted then Mayor Willie Weatherford and council members Vince Hernandez, John Harris, Steve DeBrum, and Debby Moorhead to decide snaring an indoor water park was the ideal pursuit for 30 acres of city-owned land along the 120 Bypass.

Manteca Waterslides  — and Oakwood Lake Resort — came to be because of a big hole in the ground.

Back in the 1970s when Interstate 5 was being built, the state wanted to raise the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 through Lathrop to serve as an emergency flood levee that could be created by plugging in underpasses in the event the San Joaquin River levees broke.

Brown sold the state the dirt they needed. It left him with a couple of big holes that quickly filled with water due to the high water table throughout much of the Manteca area.

He was trying to figure out what to do with the holes.

About that time his family vacationed in Hawaii where he noticed a small water slide. He returned home to fashion one out of concrete.

The success of Manteca Waterslides was virtually instantaneous.

There was a built in clientele from Bay Area folks and international visitors making the journey through Manteca via the Highway 120 Bypass to reach Yosemite and the rest of the Sierra.

Water parks were a novelty at that time in this country.

It also helped that in order to get to Yosemite, you had to cross the Northern San Joaquin Valley where 90 degree days are the norm in the summer with the mercury often soaring past the century mark.

That may not be too much of a stretch for valley folks to handle and even a bit of heaven for many, but if you’re from the Bay Area or Europe the summer weather in the valley seems inspired by Dante’s Inferno.

The dry heat, tired travelers, and acres of water fun were the perfect combination.

Over the years, the waterslides became a major entertainment venue for concerts and other endeavors.

At one time, it boosted the longest waterslide in California at 725 feet. Manteca also was home of the V-Maxx — an 80-foot high slide whose record as the tallest waterslide ever in California still stands.

Brown, in an interview in 2010, said that one of his biggest joys was being able to help kids learn how to work and to give them jobs. During the 31 seasons Manteca Waterslides was open, Brown hired between 175 and 600 Manteca youth each year with summer jobs.

Brown was known in the waterpark industry as “The Father of the Fiberglass Waterpark Slide”.

He was the first to build a modular, fiberglass tubular waterslide. Waterparks around the world still have some variation of his original design.

He also built a number of waterparks in northern and southern California, Australia and New Zealand. The Water Park Hall of Fame, where Budge and wife Arlene were inducted posthumously in 2014, still rate his slides as some of the fastest ever built.  

While Great Wolf, with its massive indoor water park with a 500-room hotel promoted in social media, TV, and radio spots, has made 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 was pretty cool.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email