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Manteca Americana on parade
Manteca Police officer April Pliler does her best to hang with Fernando Duran, 6, and Jasmine Cruz, 9, on the tea cup ride at the Manteca community Independence Day celebration Friday at the Big League Dreams sports complex. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Walking around and talking to people is the best – especially on a holiday.

It’s amazing to me how easy it is to engage just about anyone in a conversation about their lot in life and their history in the community.

That was my beat Friday morning at the Manteca Kiwanis Independence Day Pancake Breakfast and the parade that followed.  Pulling into the parking lot at David and Sylvia’s Restaurant – site of the breakfast – I first saw a group of bagpipers getting out of their vehicles.

It was the new Ripon Police and Fire Department Pipe Band – 20 members strong.  Got to chat with piper Gary Speed who was totally excited about his group.  They meet every Tuesday night and offer free half an hour instruction to new comers at  the Ripon Police Activities Building in the downtown.  Speed’s phone number for anyone wanting more information is 505-7705

Walking into the breakfast area, I was surprised to find a healthy line waiting to get their ham, eggs, coffee and juice as they chatted with others in the line.   The Kiwanians served more than 500 people despite the fact the Fourth was being celebrated on a work day for many, the day before.

Every year I miss seeing the late Dr. Russell Carter who was a special part of Kiwanis.  It was Carter who would make the rounds of the adults making sure their orange juice glass was full with what they would most enjoy.  It was his orange juice that many recognized as having an extra little punch to the last drop.

Kiwanian and Union Bank manager Julie Rhodes said her club was fortunate to have 35 to 40 teenage volunteers participating this year from the East Union High School Kiwin Club and the fire department Explorers helping them this year.   Rhodes said of her group, “We’re a small club, but we’re mighty!”

The kids were getting some good experience in making pancakes.  Restaurant owner David Cushman was the silent cook – in the kitchen whipping up the scrambled eggs. Of course, Dick Prada, former Lieutenant Governor, felt he had to supervise Cushman.  Obviously he was there with the intention of chatting with an old friend.  It was interesting to see the club members in more of a supervisory role and the new generation of teens doing so much of the work.

The Manteca Kiwanis Clubs – morning and noon – have been serving Manteca for many years.  Their presence in the community, along with other service clubs, is vital to the health of Manteca.  However there are fewer and fewer citizens willing to step up to the plate in service clubs and give back to the community whether it is Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions or Soroptimists.

It was great to see former Manteca fire marshal Marvin Mears standing there pouring orange juice.  He was the chairman for the breakfast last year, but he couldn’t attend because he was fighting for his life on a breathing tube in a hospital ICU.  He had suffered major injuries in a boating accident in the Delta.  Good to see him as a picture of health at the breakfast.

Sizeable slice of Manteca’s Americana
A sizeable slice of Manteca’s Americana was at the breakfast with tales from the past.  Ernie and Vi Bobson were there as well as another longtime Mantecan Mabel Brocchini and several of her family members.  What newcomers to the community don’t know is how much of a “spark plug” in community events that lady of Ace Hardware fame was in her lifetime and business tenure.

Paul Valverde and his brother Pepe have been regulars for many years at the Kiwanis feed dating back to when it was held at Ed’s Patio, which is now Johnnie’s Restaurant in the 600 block of East Yosemite.  The breakfast moved from that location to Raymus Mobilehome Park on Yosemite Avenue east of the 99 freeway.

Valverde remembered  Ed’s Patio owner Ed Bumgarner telling him of a first cousin who visited Manteca on several occasions – actor James Garner.  He said after tumultuous teen years that included riding the rails with cousin  finally went into acting changing his last name – dropping off the Bum – leaving the sur name of Garner.

Valverde recalled  another famous singer and actor, Bing Crosby,  who made regular stops on his way to the Sierra from his home in the Monterey Bay Area.  In fact the restaurant had a Polaroid of Crosby mounted on the glass partition next to the counter for years.

Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford showed up in the breakfast line with his arm in a sling.  “You want me to make up a story or you can make it up,” he chuckled.  He said last Saturday was a drag with him going to a dentist in the morning to have a tooth chiseled out,  and then to the doctor in the afternoon for his arm.   “It’s all about old boy softball,” he said.

Norma Jean Bologna  added to the conversation about James Garner.  She noted that her husband Sam was a third cousin to Joe DiMaggio.  She came to Manteca from Lake County years ago when she married her husband.  She added that she grew up  a “prune picker” in her dad’s prune orchard.

Norma Jean told me that confusion reigns at the corner of Vasconcellos and East Yosemite Avenue – east of Highway 99 – where the street signs reads “West” Yosemite Avenue.  “That’s enough to confuse anybody,” she quipped.

Firemen from Manteca’s Station Three knew where a  good breakfast was waiting for them.  But shortly after they arrived they received a medical call over the radio – they had to go.

On the other side of the parking lot from the breakfast location the parade line of march was staging.  Councilwoman Debbie Moorhead was the only member in the parade sitting atop the back seat of her red convertible holding several American Flags.

She’s just had a brief breakfast at Baskin-Robbins 31-Flavors, she said pointing toward the nearby ice cream store.  “I had a Cappuccino Blast over there,” she said.

After the parade, Moorhead and her husband Brad were headed toward Redding where they would meet up with three of her brothers for a motorcycle ride to Burney Falls.

‘Doc’ Vasconcellos rides with McNerney
She said she would be riding on their Harley Electro Glide – it’s a big one.

Rep. Jerry McNerney was in the parade behind Moorhead.  I just had to ask him what he had for breakfast.  With a questioning broad smile he answered, “Oatmeal with raisins.”  Now there’s a man after my own heart.

Riding shotgun in McNerney’s truck was Manteca’s long famous recreation baseball and softball umpire “Doc” Vasconcellos.  Now many will remember “Doc” for his entertaining calls at the plate and on the bases where he would slide into the action raising that notorious arm shouting, “You’re out!”

McNerney said he knew of “Doc” history on the diamond, adding that he’s good on making telephone calls for him, too.

Gotta admit I was totally impressed with the Sikhs entry in the parade and their giving spirit along the parade route.  From two pickup trucks with beds filled with ice and bottled water –they handed out  the water to the crowds lining both sides of the street.

Dressed in traditional white robes the young Sikhs walked in the parade with a music truck demonstrating traditions of their culture.  “We believe God is everywhere , but that a wall of ego separates us from Him and the Truth,” they believe.
Another person who stood out in the parade was Kathy Krueger – a mother and helper with Cub Scout Pack 432, Den 8.  She was pulling up the rear in a battery operated utility cart while holding an umbrella to ward off the heat of the sun.  “It goes faster than I can walk,” she said.  The cub scouts were all on bicycles.

She said she didn’t need the cart, but it was there to “pull up the rear” and to provide an emergency vehicle for any of the kids who didn’t make it.  It also carried a supply of water.

Krueger is owner of the sponsoring Delarosa Board and Care Home in Manteca. She said often her senior residents will attend the scout meetings with one even going on a near six mile hike with them.

St. Anthony’s Church usher Delbert Webster – usually seen at the Saturday evening mass – was there on his tractor lawnmower with its trailer.  It was all decked out in American Flags for the parade.  Delbert has lived in Manteca for over 50 years.  He retired after 31 years at the Spreckels Sugar plant.  He said he entered the parade last year for the first time and has a lot of fun driving down the parade route.  

Warren White, a Mantecan of 71 years, was driving his blue 1966 Mustang convertible that he restored himself.  That was just one of 27 Mustangs he has restored while living in Manteca.  He had his blue Mustang decked out with an “Honor Our Veterans” theme.  That car just turned over the 100,000 mile mark, he said.

White retired from the Bureau of Reclamation in 1985 where he served as operations supervisor at the Tracy Pumping Plant, New Melones Dam and the Los Banos Pumping Plant.

A theatrical group of “gunfighters” of the Old West drew immediate attention as they fired their six shooters, long rifles and shotguns into the air.  Ten percent of the troupe lives in Manteca, 70 percent in Stockton and the remainder are from the Bay Area.   Known as “The Spirits of the Old West,” they will marching next  in the Tracy Bean Festival.

Chris Andrews was the polished Marshal Lee Canyon led the group.  Miranda and Dave LaBect were from Manteca.  They have a website for anyone interested in knowing more.

Marines just back from Iraq
Marine Corporal Toney Guthrie was one of half a dozen fellow Marines in the parade four of whom had just returned to Iraq.   They are with Bravo Company, Fourth Landing Support Battalion stationed at Sharpe Depot in French Camp.

The men said they appreciated the waves and cheers they received from the crowds along the roadway.   “They were just a nice group of people,” they said.  The Marines parked their Humvee and truck just off of North Main on Jason Street near Rite-Aid after the parade for public inspection.  The Marines were seen kneeling down low and talking with children who walked up to see them and their vehicles.

And after the parade was over and I was driving south on Main Street I came upon Bulletin photojournalist Hime Romero.  He had walked the parade route and was on his way back to the staging area where his car was parked – had to give him a ride.  Hime is one of the best news photographers I have yet to come across – very humble about his talents.