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Coming home to a place called Man-teee-kaaa!
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It’s been 25 years since I came home to a place I’d never been before.
Manteca was never on my radar.
Like most people, I had heard of Manteca. But it wasn’t the Manteca Waterslides. It was the late Bobby Davis’ late night TV commercials pitching RVs with his signature sign-off of “Man-teee-kaaa!” that was forever imbedded in my adolescent brain.
For 35 years of my life I would occasionally pass through Manteca at 65 mph on Highway 99. The one time I was on the 120 Bypass I was traveling to San Jose on a particularly foggy night. Worried about finding the exit, a friend advised me that I’d inhale a distinct smell as I neared it. That smell I found out later was sugar beet processing at Spreckels Sugar. Four years after that trip, I could open the living room drapes of our home on Pine Street during the holidays and view the Christmas tree of lights atop the 15-story sugar silos through the naked branch of our neighbors’ trees.
No one ever thought I’d leave Lincoln. I was the fifth generation of my immediate family that had been around Placer and Nevada counties since arriving at Camp Far West before the Gold Rush.
You grow up thinking home is home.
It was until 25 years ago that the concept was upended. Not by the simple fact I was taking a job in Manteca but by sage words offered to me by Myron McIntyre upon hearing I was leaving The Press-Tribune in Roseville after a 17-year-run.
There were on a card where he had written, “Good luck. You now get a chance to be who you are.”
At the time what he wrote didn’t make sense. Myron, who was a long-time turkey rancher that was extensively involved in both the Roseville community and the Mormon Church, was considered by those who knew him a smart, thoughtful and deliberate man.
Before I left I had a chance to ask him about what he wrote.
He told me I’d find out soon enough as I would soon be judging myself by my own standards and not those of others.
Over the years what he wrote started to make sense. Many defined me by my parents — and by my grandparents. As the third of three brothers I was being judged by others by how they perceived my brothers. Early on I took to being low-profile in many ways to the point that by the time I reached 18 many were surprised that I was related to either. That’s a hard trick to pull off in a community of 3,600 in the heart of a rural agricultural area of 15,000 people overall.
It’s not that I disowned my brothers, it’s just that I had different interests, a reluctance to partake in most of their shenanigans, and different goals. While they weren’t exactly jocks, I couldn’t exactly throw or catch a ball. They had tons of friends, I kept pretty much to myself. They were coordinated and could put together models with ease, I was only skillful with a sledge hammer. They had a sense of balance and coordination, I was still riding a bicycle with training wheels when I was 7 and still hadn’t figured out how to tie my own shoes.
But then again when they were 15, each had a paper route delivering The Press-Tribune. When I was 15 I was a sports correspondent for The Press-Tribune. They both were elected student body president at Lincoln High. I lost my bid for that office but then a year later I was elected to the Western Placer Unified School District board.
In Manteca, nobody had expectations of me except the man who hired me — Darrel Phillips. I had a clean slate with everyone else.
Rest assured after 25 years in Manteca more than a few people have a strong opinion of me and not necessarily a favorable one.
Manteca has been — and continues to be — a place where you can grow. You are not locked in by geography or the parameters of an established hierarchy. You will still come across people that can’t believe how friendly people are that live here or how you can get virtually any community endeavor started. That doesn’t mean Manteca is not without its malcontents and narrow-minded people who are hell-bent to find the rain clouds on a sunny spring day. For some reason people connect here a lot more than they would in many smaller cities and towns and definitely more than  in larger locations.
It’s kind of a unique melting pot of Californians with one foot in the high tech Bay Area, one foot in the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley, one hand in the majestic Sierra, one hand in the meandering Delta, and their heart in the community.
Most of Manteca is looking forward and not back.
And at the same time even if it is just a stop on the journey they don’t act as if that is the case.
Home, they say, is where the heart is.
And nowhere is that as true as in Manteca in the heart of California.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.