Published on Sep 19, 2014  Music video done while I, Beaver Brown, worked at KDJK Modesto/Stockton. This was a parody done to the tune of "Funky Cold Medina". The year was 1988 or 89.
The Aroma From Manteca

MANTECA The redevelopment of the area where Spreckels Sugar once stood did more than help avert an economic funk. Those who take a whiff on Highway 99 in Manteca today might smell french fries or Chinese food, but years ago it was a much more unpleasant experience.

Travelers who knew Manteca as a blip on their travel radar screen remembered the town for two things the large silos of the local sugar factory and the pungent odor produced by the sugar beets processing plant.

The stench was the punch line of many jokes for this Central Valley town, as well as the catalyst for a song parody.

"The joke used to be in driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, 'When you get to the smell, turn left,'" Councilman John Harris, a Manteca resident since 1949, said. "It was very overpowering and disgusting."

Mayor Willie Weatherford said, "For years, we were known for the smell. I guess you can say our aroma has improved."

"We killed 'Manstinka,'" said Mike Atherton of AKF Development, the developer of Spreckels Park, a mix of businesses and retail shops.

The odor was produced by the processing of raw sugar beets as well as by the pulp byproduct fed to cattle in nearby feed lots.

"It really wasn't that noticeable to those in the city because they lived upwind. It was more noticeable to people passing through," said Evelyn Prouty, a local historian.

Prouty said that the Moffat Feed Lot was a clean feed lot and that plenty of Central Valley towns have cattle lots, thus the smell was mostly from the pulp.The smell often blew downwind, assaulting travelers as they drove by.

The aroma led a pair of local radio personalities Jeff "Beaver" Brown and Richard Perry to write a song to the tune of "Funky Cold Medina" by Tone Loc called "The Aroma of Manteca." Brown said the idea came to him in 1988 when he was driving home from a softball game and heard the tune on the radio while passing by the factory.       "I had to pull over; the lyrics just started pouring out," he said, adding he went right to the station to record it.

Brown said that with all the changes that have taken place in Manteca, the aroma has vastly improved.

"The people who weren't around then can't imagine what it was like to drive through there," Perry said. "You would hope to hit a skunk to improve the odor."
Former workers at Spreckels, such as Mark Abram, argue that the smell was "just the smell of money."

"It really wasn't noticeable in the city itself; the prevailing winds would push the odor to the southeast," he said, adding it would often waft across the freeway.

Others in the town had a different opinion.

"Oh, it stank to high heaven," said Alberta Silva, 93. Her husband processed sugar beets in the Manteca factory for 41 years. "Part of it was the beets, but then the dairy next door didn't help either."

The odors, or threat of odors when the sugar beets were out of season, made the area south of the Highway 120 Bypass undesirable for development. However, since the Spreckels plant was demolished, several developments have been built or are in the planning stage for the area.

Oak Valley Community Bank recently had plans approved by the city for a six-story office tower just south of Highway 120 and Moffat Boulevard.

AKF Development also is working on building a business park that Atherton said would exceed Spreckels Park, 550-acre Austin Road Business Park.

Both sites would have been downwind of Spreckels.

(Courtesy and Jeff Brown)