View From the Woods

By JJ Gasparotti
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By JJ Gaspaarotti
By JJ Gaspaarotti
Charity Begins At Home

The place in Laguna to fill your sweet tooth breakfast cravings is a gem of a bakery located in the back of a center near the alley. This bakery also makes the best sandwiches since Accord’s Market. That’s all I’m allowed to disclose.

It’s a one-man operation. There’s never any day old pastries or sandwiches for sale. Just everything fresh baked. What happens to the leftovers?  At the end of the day right into the garbage they go. Covered with eggshells and coffee grounds they are. That’s what happens to the leftovers.

Couldn’t they go to some charity instead? Oh, he had tried that. He gave his leftovers to a local nonprofit. But then came the call. Somebody was wondering if they could get more bear claws and fewer bran muffins. You already know the end of this story.

The beauty of small town giving is knowing exactly how your donation is being used.  We are lucky to have a large number of charitable nonprofits operating in Laguna.

The Boys Club, now the Boy’s and Girl’s Club is one.  Serving youth in Laguna since 1952. The club house used to be right on Main Beach about where the lifeguard headquarters is now.

You could step out the back door and be right in the middle of the Southern California beach culture of the late ‘50’s and ‘60’s.  Which ranged from gymnastic equipment and muscle men at the north end of the boardwalk to a raging Fire Island lifestyle at the south end with everything else in between.

The club’s programs have helped a lot of young people gain the skills to deal with life. Testimony to the success of these programs is that members of the club back in the day are successful community members who now serve on the club’s board. Some of those folks will tell you the club saved their life.

Two characters you were likely to encounter on the boardwalk were Willie and Mr. Kendricks. Both had a special treat for the boys of the day.

Willie had a Charles Atlas spring hand exerciser that he was always squeezing. He must have worn one of those contraptions out a month. He would invite you to choke him. Now and then somebody really stupid would take him up on the dare. When they were done choking Willie he’d say, “Now it’s my turn,” and out would come that Charles Atlas spring loaded hand.

Mr. Kendricks was a more pleasant experience. When he was in the area there was always a crowd of boys around him begging for another question. Mr. Kendricks was all about positive reinforcement. All youthful achievement, no matter how small, was worthy of a reward. Could you do a back flip, hold your breath or ride your bike up Third Street? It was worth real money to him. If you caught some fish he’d buy them from you.

Mr. Kendricks special was the riddle or question. They paid anything from a nickel on up. His most expensive one was, “What is a sky flea?” His pockets bagged from all the coins he kept on handing out to those with the answer.

He lived by Victoria Beach in the house with the pirate tower stairs to the beach. This tower had money hidden all over the inside. Including a thousand dollar bill. Any money you found in the tower you kept. If you had a note from your parents you could visit him. In the living room was a niche covered by a curtain. Behind this curtain was the most terrible sight a person could see. You too could see it but only on Friday the 13th on a full moon at midnight. Don’t peek though. Because if you did you would be changed forever and he would see it in your eyes and be forever banished from his company.

We can’t all be Mr. Kendricks but we can support our local nonprofits.  There are a lot to pick from. It’ll make you feel a lot better than a choking from Willie.


JJ Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11. He has loved it ever since. This column is the latest of his efforts to repay this home town that has given him so much and allowed him to take even more.


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  1. Great article John. I remember going to his house, which was a lot like a ship. The tower was really fun to go into and hunt for money. David Reddy


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