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Waterslides founders plane missing in Sierra
Robert Budge Brown

Robert “Budge” Brown - the farmer who started Manteca Waterslides in 1973 - is missing somewhere in the Sierra after his airplane apparently went down.

The former Manteca resident was reportedly en route in his single-engine aircraft from the Minden-Tahoe Airport in Nevada to Tracy Airport to meet a friend to go fishing.

The Civil Air Patrol says a search was concentrating on northeast Amador County after radar traces last showed the aircraft southwest of Lake Tahoe.  Radar indicated it made a rough, rapid descent.

 Budge Brown spent 31 seasons spreading joy among hundreds of thousands of people who stopped by the Manteca Waterslides before they closed in 2004.

The farmer who gave birth to the modern water park in California and helped make Manteca Waterslides a household name for generations in the north state has spent the past three years helping fund cutting edge breast cancer research.  He was doing it by giving 10 percent of the gross sales of his Pope Valley-based Cleavage Valley wines to help combat breast cancer. It’s in honor of the woman he described as “phenomenal” who passed away in 2005 from breast cancer - his beloved wife Arlene.

Brown has farmed for over 60 years. The Manteca Waterslides was born part out of necessity and part out of ingenuity.

The dirt sold to the state to helped provide a raised southbound lanes of Interstate 5 through Lathrop to serve as an emergency flood levee by plugging in underpasses  in the event the San Joaquin River levees broke left home with a couple of big holes.

He noticed a small water slide on a trip to Hawaii and returned home to fashion one out of concrete.

With that Manteca Waterslides and Oakwood Lake Resort was born.

During the 31 seasons Manteca Waterslides was open, Brown employed between 175 and 600 Manteca youth giving them summer jobs.

“It was very rewarding to be able to help kids learn how to work and to give them jobs,” Brown said of the experience during an interview with the Bulletin in November.

Brown moved to Nevada after selling the waterslides. He still ran into people from all over the world who had said they visited the Manteca Waterslides on their way to Yosemite. The farthest from Manteca that he ran into someone who knew of them was while traveling in Italy.