perils with writing and whatnot
It was Mary’s post at 1950 Memories Of Suburban Adventures, Oceanic Inauguration that stirred up the recollections I have about seeing the Pacific Ocean. Back then, being able to go to California was just ‘the coolest’. This was true even when I was eleven. After all, Rickie Nelson had lived there. That’s where the story of Gidgit takes place along with Moon Doggy and the great Kahuna. There was the surfing at Big Sur. When I found out that my family was going to California for vacation, I could barely contain myself.
The trip to California is a story within itself and I leave it for another time. And the trip went past California following Interstate Highway 101 up to Washington. That too, will be written for you to read at another time. I wanted to focus on just what happened in California for this post.
Because of all that, I had heard about California, my hopes were high. Although I was told that you can’t see the ocean from Los Angeles, when my family came down the western side of the Sierras to the suburbs of the city, I felt the disappointment hit the bottom of my stomach. I was so wanting to get a glimpse of the water, the California dream. What I got was a blast of smog.
Back in the 1960s, society didn’t care about the environment. It was the peak of the prosperity era. It had to be because how else would a family in the category of being lower middle class be able to take two-week vacations in the summer?
By the time we got to my aunt’s house that was located in one of those many suburbs, we were hot and tired. My dad’s truck didn’t have air conditioning and neither did the camper that was attached. This is where my brother and I spend our time while traveling and sweating.
When we walked into her house, a breeze of cool air hit me. I had entered heaven. Now, when I think back on it, my aunt’s air conditioning was a unit on wheels that was moved for room to room. But that was the norm for California then. In Colorado, where I lived, no one I knew had air conditioning at all. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think it was that hot outside. Colorado had days over 90 degrees quite often during the summer.
The disappointment I felt overrode any feelings I had about the palm trees. The neighborhoods looked the same; the stores carried the same stuff, and on and on it went. Most of the beaches were privately owned, so any thoughts about surfing were nil and void. Los Angeles was a bust.
Once we left my aunt’s house and got onto Interstate Highway 101, I could at least see the ocean.
Our next stop would be another aunt’s house in a southern suburb of San Francisco. Her house looked odd to me. When I walked down the stairs to the basement, on the other side of the room from me I could go outside into the backyard. Being eleven, I’d never seen something like this before, not even in the mountains of Colorado.
This aunt did more than give us dinner and a bed. She and her family took us to see the Pacific Ocean up close. She took us to Half Moon Bay. Today that beach is privately owned but back then, it was there for everyone.
We walked down a steep incline to reach a beach of white fine sand. There was a path for us to follow down, but even with that, the slope was almost straight up and down like a cliff.
Once we were down on this wide beach, my brother and I started walk along the water’s edge. My brother got bored and went back up the slope to the camper. I wasn’t about to leave until I was forced. I just kept on walking.
Along the way, there was a huge log just a couple of feet away from the water’s edge. I stopped in front of it to look out over the water as the sun went down. Mom called for me to get back to the camper so that we could go get dinner. I turned around and almost ran into the log. I didn’t realize that the tide was coming in. I got soaked because I couldn’t get past the log in time.
The water was so cold.
Once I did get past the log, I ran up the slope. I was freezing. After getting my clothes changed in the camper and towel dried my hair, I thought about the run up the slope. I was flabbergasted about how easy it was for me to run up the steep incline. I told Mom about this. Of course, she had the reason that I was asking for. I was from the mile-high city of Denver where the air is thinner. My lungs were in tip-top shape for that short climb at sea level.
This was amazing to me because back home I wasn’t thought of as being athletic at all and yet here I did better than most. It was a real ego booster.
We stopped for half of a day in San Francisco. Because we still had so much to see going up the coast, time wasn’t spent on the Golden Gate Bridge or the Wax Museum. I did get a ride on the trolley car and I walked Fisherman’s Wharf. I bought a cup of fresh shrimp to eat as I strolled and I purchased a pickled squid. I kept the squid on my chest of drawers in my bedroom until I was a junior in high school.
Although I loved the Redwood Forest, being from Colorado, I was a little disappointed at how small the state park was. We got through it within an hour and a half. The state parks in Colorado are humongous in comparison.
California is interesting. There’s no doubt about it. Still, because of all that I had heard about California before I took the trip, I was a little disappointed. That is except for Half Moon Bay.
Text+Sound by Wayne Mason
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