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20 years of working & living in heaven
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People thought I was crazy when I told them I was moving to Manteca.

It would have been insane not to.

Twenty years ago today I moved to Manteca from Placer County and went to work at the Manteca Bulletin. People in Roseville and Lincoln thought I had lost it. Manteca - and the San Joaquin Valley - to them was nothing more than a hell hole.

It’s funny how we perceive other places and people. If Manteca is hell then hell has a lot of friendly people who care about others -even complete strangers - enough to open their hearts, wallets, and give of their time.

I’m a fifth-generation Californian from families that have basically lived and worked in Placer and Nevada counties since before the Gold Rush. I might as well as have been moving to a foreign land south of the Tehachapi Mountains as far as they were concerned. Others thought it was backward to forgo the small-town atmosphere of Lincoln where I lived or the vibrant economy of Roseville where I had worked at The Press-Tribune for 18 years.

Manteca is a complete package. It has all of the elements and location to be vibrant and dynamic economically. It is within an easy jaunt of a kaleidoscope of outdoor recreation and urban attractions. And it has a heavy concentration of orchards and vines with a solid source of water cultivated and secured by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District for over 100 years that assures the viability of farming even as growth occurs.

Manteca’s growth also is unique in that it is geo-centric with Main and Yosemite still being the heart of the community 137 years after Joshua Cowell built the first house and farmed on what is now the southeast corner of that intersection.

Darrell Phillips had offered me the job after he interviewed me in a luxury box at the original Arco Arena before a Sacramento Kings game I was covering as a correspondent for Associated Press. I wanted to see the Bulletin first. He told me that wasn’t necessary but I insisted.

I had driven past Manteca before on the way south - primarily to reach Death Valley as Interstate 5 is the quicker route to LA - but had never stopped.

One time when I had to travel to San Jose at night during the heavy fog season I was told to take Highway 120 by a friend who said you could tell when you were nearing the exit because of the smell in Manteca.

That smell, of course, was Spreckels Sugar. I ended up buying a home two blocks away where you could see the sugar silos from the front window including the signature Christmas tree on top during the holidays.

I still remember getting into Manteca a few hours early before checking out the Bulletin office so I could make sure it was the right fit. I walked down Yosemite Avenue and stopped in ACE Hardware. My dad owned a hardware store for years so I figured that was a good place to get a feel for the town. As I walked in the front door, Dale Bordenkircher happened to be at the front counter. He greeted me like I was a long lost friend. When he asked how he could help me I told him I was just trying to decide whether to move to Manteca and was trying to get a feel for the community. Dale told me if I did move to Manteca it would be the best decision I ever made. He was right.

I continued walking down Yosemite and came across an elderly gentleman who was sitting on the porch of the old Cottrell house near the museum. I waved and he responded with a friendly “hello.”

Manteca had everything as far as I was concerned: A solid economic base, great potential, as well as friendly and caring people even if you were a stranger.

It was heaven, not hell.

I was sold.