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Manteca: From belly dancers & Look magazine to a horse in bar
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I became a Manteca resident 24 years ago this week.

I’ve met a  lot of great people since then who have shared interesting stories.

But I have to admit the stories of what many folks did before 1991 are some of the most interesting including a council candidate arrested for bank robbery in the middle of the campaign.

Back in the days when Wayne “Cowboy” Cummings was staging the Manteca Rodeo on pastureland where Bass Pro Shops stands today, he’d do anything to promote it including riding his horse into the 133 Club downtown.

Patrick O’Leary was a man many said never refused a free meal or a chance to hobnob with the community’s famous and not so famous. He’s the one who helped growers organize Manteca’s first Pumpkin Fair at Library Park and arranged for belly dancers as the main entertainment.

O’Leary could swear like a sailor but had a heart of gold. Wording on his business card would make a nun — his sister was one — blush but he’d go to bat for someone struggling to find a job or help an immigrant desperate to learn English to pass the citizenship test.

Then there was the infamous stag nights staged once upon a time by the Lions Club at the FESM Hall. Apparently they were Manteca’s worst kept secret. What brought them to an end was a women’s service group that wanted to bring male performers — think Chippendale style dancers — to town as a fundraiser. Unlike the Lions they wanted to make sure they had the proper permits and asked the council during a public meeting for permission to do so noting the stag event was allowed. As the story goes, three council members at the time said they knew nothing about such a show in Manteca although the word was all three had attended them.

There was Frances Bynum who graced the pages of LOOK magazine receiving national attention for her efforts to help the downtrodden.

She started by cooking meals for the less fortunate and then took to collecting food and clothing for them distributing the items out of her home. Eventually Antone Raymus provided her with a two-story home on Center Street next to the railroad tracks where Love Thy Neighbor for nearly three decades helped thousands of people each year keep food in their stomachs, clothes on their back, and arranged for help during financial emergencies such as their power being cut-off.

There were those who never hesitate to relive the glory days of the Manteca-Tracy football rivalry. Almost the entire city would show up whether it was at home or away as Manteca’s pride was riding on every snap. Stores would close early. Many would arrive to the stadium two to three hours early just to secure a seat.

Of course, the Bulldog loyalists referred to Manteca as “Manstinka.”

But as Bob Leatherwood readily shared the Buffalo faithful knew Tracy as “Trashy.”

Marge Craig — the grand dame of the Manteca Bulletin for over 30 years where she worked as the classified advertising manager — and her husband Joe gave up living on Fifth Avenue in New York City where she modeled and taught piano to come to Manteca to help establish what is today Calvary Community Church. When they came into town on Highway 99 (Main Street) there were 7,000 souls here, she recalled driving by where the Moose Lodge is today and being aghast to see Manteca had a topless bar.

She was ready to flee the “god forsaken” town then and there. But as Manteca’s good fortune had it she stayed and helped spread style, acceptance, and unconditional love.

Her partner in crime of sorts when it came to encouraging people to embrace fashion, culture and the arts was Clarese Anderson who epitomized the Bohemian spirit. She dabbled in everything arts related, staged a community wide fashion campaign to get ladies to dress better, studied with Ansel Adams, helped launch the first Miss Manteca pageant, and built the first Manteca home with a heavy oriental influence complete with an indoor atrium back when they were a rarity even in homes in larger cities.

There was Mike Barkley who waged a one man war against graffiti back before there was an organized effort through Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police. He’d come home from his job in the Bay Area, load up his VW pickup with paint and drive around town covering over graffiti. He wasn’t about to let his adopted home of Manteca suffer blight that graffiti caused in the community he fled in the Bay Area.

Harold Hughes was the soft spoken Manteca Unified School District whose attention to detail and work ethic set a new standard. When he got wind off the state having enough money to fund 10 elementary schools on a first-come, first served basis with an extremely short window of several days, he lassoed every principal and administrator he could to work over a weekend and then delivered the applications to Sacramento first thing that Monday allowing the district to secure funding for four campuses.

There are countless other folks with amazing stories who made Manteca a better place with their hands, money, and time. Don Stewart. Paul Narcisse. Charlie Giles. Mabel Brocchini Marion Elliott. Bobby Davis. Al Fonseca. Albert Brocchini. Gladys Brock. The list goes on and on. And just like Manteca, it never stops growing.



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.