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‘This isn’t the Manteca I knew’: Is that really a bad thing when everything is considered?
yosemite main
The southeast at Yosemite Avenue and Main Street shows the old Manteca Bean Co. on the horizon, El Rey (Veranda Event Center) to the left, and a Chevron/Standard station in the foreground. It was the first intersection in Manteca to have traffic signals installed.

“This isn’t the Manteca I knew.”

It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard someone utter those words.

I get it.

People don’t like other people messing up their idea of nirvana.

And in their defense, these are not the “dump on Manteca crowd” that can get so vile you wonder what is stopping them from loading up the truck and moving to the hills or whether they believe there is a place on earth without crime, traffic, or people that are not up to their standards.

They’re not exactly NIMBYs — the not-in-my-backyard folks — given they’ve embraced a lot of the things that growth has brought that they like.

The lady who uttered those words happened to move here in 2000.

In some communities, that’s not long enough for one to be considered a “local” but that has never been the case in Manteca although this town has had its share of — shall we call them “haters” — who from time-to-time can show a streak of semi-cleverness with catchy little phrases such as “go home BATS.”

For those not blessed or cursed to have been in Manteca during the time period when half the graffiti around town was anti-BAT messages, BAT is the acronym for Bay Area transplant.

One of the people that keep sending anti-BAT letters to the paper for years I later found out had originally moved to Manteca from San Jose in 1960.

It didn’t surprise me to find out that people who were second, third, or even fourth generation Manteca residents by birth never joined in the BAT bashing. If they had, they would have had the ability to pull the plug on growth at a number of opportune times in the city’s history but didn’t.

They fall more into the category of people who yearn for part of the innocence that everywhere in this country has lost but at the same time understand change is inevitable and that Manteca has not gotten the proverbial short end of the stick from growth.

That doesn’t mean things can’t be better, it’s just that they tend to be a bit on the pragmatic side and love the place their call home unconditionally.

They get that the grass might seem greener elsewhere but they get that to a degree we are all part of the solution to problems we can’t stand.

Enough said about debating the pros and cons of putting down roots someplace where you can savory the good that comes with the changing seasons over the years along with the bad.

Just like roses are far from being the proverbial bed of roses given the beauty and smells we feast on also involve a lot of thorns, aphids, beetles, pruning, and even rust along the way, so is life no matter where you chose to live it.

A few minutes after the lady who commented “this is not the Manteca I knew” I was back home and getting ready for what passes these days for a long jog  punctured with stretches of walking.

I passed the Spreckels BMX track as I headed down Moffat.

Two decades ago, this was the back side of Spreckels Sugar with the distinct smells of sugar pulp and the Moffat Cattle Fed Lot coupled with the prevailing winds kept an area to the southeast devoid of houses.

I couldn’t help but smile knowing a set of grandparents who were happy that their grandson was heavily into BMX and could enjoy the sport in his hometown were among those that I’ve heard trash growth before.

To my left as I neared the traffic signals was the 360-acre reincarnation of Spreckels Sugar that morphed 120 jobs into 2,500 and brought the likes of Target to town.

I jogged to my right down a short stretch of Industrial Park Drive and then headed south down Van Ryn Avenue under the 120 Bypass.

The first seven years I lived in Manteca this was where you would find Spreckels Road — a narrow, washboard country lane lined from Woodward Avenue to the railroad tracks with almond trees. There were no crossing arms at the tracks — just stop signs. The road stopped at Moffat, lining up with the back gate to Spreckels Sugar, almost in perfect alignment with the four 15-story concrete sugar silos.

I knew Spreckels Road well. Almost all of my bicycle trips south and southeast of Manteca to places such as Knights Ferry, Woodward Reservoir, Oakdale, Ripon, and points south of the Stanislaus River ended with me returning via Spreckels Road. The last stretch of Spreckels was the high pitched crossing of the tracks that required careful maneuvering to avoid getting a tire stuck in endless potholes.

When you crossed under the 120 Bypass you hardly noticed the traffic given that almond trees crowded the narrow road cutting off views of the traffic. Jogging today you can see freeway traffic as you turn onto either end of Van Ryn Avenue.

The trees have long been replaced by a bumper crop of homes.

Woodward Park back then was a large 52-acre almond orchard. There was not a single production home south of the 120 Bypass.

Once you crossed the freeway and were headed south, you were in farm country with a splattering of hobby farms or rural estates. There were no freeway ramps at the Union Road overcrossing.

Tumbleweeds were the order of the day in the fall, followed by winters where the mostly exposed sandy loam generated some of the thickest tule fog in the Central Valley raising havoc in the 120 Bypass and sections of nearby Highway 99.

Summer and winds meant dust.

To be honest, I loved it all just like I love what is there today.

No, I did not crash my helmet encased head bicycling one too many times.

The homes south of the 120 Bypass are home to many people I know.

Some are the homes of the children of longtime Manteca residents. They were able to move back to their hometown to raise their families because of the homes built there.

Others belong to people who not only moved here to raise their families but have become significant contributors to the social fabric of Manteca, have opened restaurants and businesses many of us patronize, and have served as coaches and community volunteers.

This is also where the lady lamenting that “this isn’t the Manteca I knew” lives.

Her “Manteca” was one where several hundred homes surrounded a weed-infested 52 acres the city call Woodward Park. By the time she moved here, the almond trees had been removed to make way for her home and that of her neighbors.

Subsequent growth raised the money needed to develop Woodward Park.

It’s a place she cherishes for being able to take walks with neighbors as well as to watch her beloved grandchildren play soccer.

Perhaps the reality is that while this “may not be the Manteca many of us knew” we would have no problem cherry picking a truckload of things that growth has brought our way over the years.

It’s the way we are.

If a mechanic botches something servicing our car, we tell the next 30 people we see. But if they service it with no issues — which is the case the vast majority of the time — we may tell one or two people, if that.

I seriously doubt the lady lamenting about Manteca would be wild about living in a place that lacked soccer fields for her grandchildren, did not have theaters, lacked a Target, Costco and a host of other retail stores or if her home was downwind from a dairy.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.