Cruzin’ Coast Boulevard



My dad was the mayor in Laguna Beach back in the early ‘50s. He was a part of that group of city movers and shakers who instigated the Window to the Sea, then happily or otherwise led it to reality.

Possibly it was because it would look better on a postcard than Merles barbershop, Bentons Café, Curries Ice Cream, and the infamous bowling alley, but maybe because my dad’s grocery store (known in town by its previous owner, Carpenters, was immediately across the Coast Highway from this envisioned “window.”

Carpenters was next door to the South Coast Theatre (we called it The Big Show). The Laguna Theatre around the corner was called The Little Show. And across the Coast Highway from the bowling alley, Curries, as well as the Donut Kettle, a favorite gathering spot in the morning for locals.

I worked in my dad’s store and had a unique view of the local daytimes. Weekends in summer with the hot-rods down from Pasadena or San Marino, muscle men like Steve Reeves and Eric Pederson, movie stars like Janis Paige and Lana Turner, John Garfield, and, yes, Jimmy Dean at the Hotel Laguna.

I watched Jimmy Flynn go to work, tending bar at Christian’s Hut, fins in hand, dripping from a rescue at the main beach (daytime, he lifeguarded), Otho Pettyjohns from Glendale, who called me “Cornnuts” (because of my habit). He was headline news in the South Coast News because he backed his apple-green model A hot rod into the festival grounds and pirated the grand prize picture to parts unknown.

I was called to the beach to watch Hev’s (with a women’s bathing cap) surf the biggest wave we’d seen in Laguna. He was a guard, and they were heroes. Still are.

I watched Chad Burton and his brother, Steve, at Christmas time, selling mistletoe they’d collected in the canyon, and Emilio Hilario knocking the hell out of a showgoer who’d insulted his Indian mother. Good ole Tex or Shoulders, a construction worker perennial, drunk like the guy in “Mayberry.” Norday Rhodes and others with chopped and lowered cars with sand bags in the trunk, Mercs, Fords, and Chevys mostly dual pipes for effect and to bug the ever-present cop, Vic Sagan or Eddy Hernandez.

I was so honored to wait on and ring up guys like Joe O’Sullivan, Jimmy Flynn, Brennan McClellan, Peanuts, and Viking, and Terry Neptune, and Army football stars Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard and lifeguard captain Charlie Plummer.

To me, the past is not dispensable. It’s a blessing.


Bill Sorrells, Laguna Beach

The author is a graduate of the LBHS Class of ’51.

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