Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Beach

My uncle worked for an oil company in Corpus Christi which gave us a free place to stay during our 1950s summer vacations to the Padre Island beach. The beaches were pristine, the surf small, some hammerheads, and there were very few people out there.

You could drive for miles directly on the beach at surf’s edge until you found a completely empty spot without another car in sight. I roasted myself on every visit and searched for treasures amongst the sand dunes. You took a couple of big ice chests full of food and drinks and cooked over an open fire. At day’s end, you couldn’t wait to get into a shower to wash off the sand and salt. These were the days before kids had the resources or permission to go to places like that on their own, so the parents were always along.

Meanwhile, out in Hawthorne, the Beach Boys were growing up and going to their own beaches…the ones just down the street a short distance from their house…and starting to write songs about it. Their LA county beaches were different in several ways. There were abundant hamburger stands nearby, much larger waves, a few Great Whites, and a ton of people out there…upwards of a half-million beach goers some summer days.

Without doubt the first culture shock a sixties Texas kid got after walking out on a sixties California beach was the clear recognition that you weren’t in Texas any more. The first thing you noticed was that there wasn’t a funky swimsuit in sight. Unlike our demure Texas girls at that time, the California girls had embraced the relatively new bikini, and everywhere you looked was a sea of skin and long, straight hair, much of it blonde.

It wasn’t a complete nirvana though. There was a lot of jailbait which was difficult to accurately identify. Nevertheless, the scenery was striking and the waves were often large and powerful. It was a good place at a good time and the Beach Boys had it right in their songs. Understanding the surfer slang was something else, though.


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