Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Reuben E. Lee

The Reuben E. Lee was a 19th Century style paddle wheel boat docked in Newport Bay, right along Pacific Coast Highway, between Dover Dr and by Bayside Drive, as you cross over the bridge. The boat is still there, though it's no longer named "Reuben E. Lee". In 1995, it was renamed "Pride of Newport".

But the REL was a floating restaurant. It opened in 1964. It closed up for service probably 10 years ago. There is a similar "Reuben E. Lee" in San Diego, that shut down in 2003. Today, it is home to the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum. There is still a restaurant inside called, "Anthony's Riverboat Restaurant".

Below are memories of REL submitted to us back in the old days of OCThen.com:

By: Curtis Lofgren, 11 Aug 2002

Worked at the REL from 82-83...worst possible place to work in the entire world, universe, galaxy and...you get the picture. 100 degrees in the summer, 40 below in the winter and the plumbing?....there was none....just flush and see it go overboard....the powers that were placed hidden tapes of frog noises outside the gangplank...overall, the most amatuerish and scummiest of jobs...oh yeah, and the fish?...FROZEN!!!

By: Terry, 2 Apr 2002

I remember driving by the REL and seeing it tilted to one side. My husband stopped the car and we watched while the fire department tried to figue out how to get a VW bug out from UNDER it. Well, they waited for the tide to change a pulled it out with one of those really big tow truck What I always wanted to know was ...How it get there in the first place

By: Andrew Musselman, 29 Nov 2001

My friend scott Hollender and I used to pull a small boat up to the Ruben E Lee and have a meal. Great times!

By: Jerry Parker, 12 July 2001

In 1967 I was a buss-boy at the Ruben E. Lee, for a short time. It was quite a boat. When the Newport Beach Fire Boat zoomed past, the whole restaurant would rock and sway. I never saw any plates slide off tables, but the patrons would stare intently at their coffee or water glasses.
If you have any memories of the Reuben E. Lee, please click on "Post a Comment" below and share them with us here.

70 comments:

  1. I remember my mother working at the REL in the mid to late 70's as a cocktail waitress and I use to come over and have shirley temples often. The entertainment was great, the food was exceptional and the co-workers were so sweet! I have fond memories there and remember every day I drive by!

    Dawn K

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  2. I was a drummer for "Main Street" band and I had a great time playing there. I remember the good food and the great service at the bar and nightclub, It was I believe in 1970. We used to play Tuesday thru Saturday. I do remember leaving my leather jacket over a weekend and when I returned it was gone. The reason I remember is that I havent't been able to find one just like that one. It seemed to me that the REL was the place to be for locals and tourists. I have great memories of the place...

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  3. Here's a partial napkin of REL with a drawing of me, while I was singing on stage.. you can see on the side the boat and the name.... and now I know, it was 1971...

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  4. I worked at the REL in the late 70's. I worked as a cook at first and then as a barback and bartender in the lounge. I remember the band Young,Cole and Paugh would pack the place. I left there to work at a nightclub on Fairview and Warner called Gatsbys Rendezvous. Great memories both places . Keith Buy

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    1. THE Keith Buy? lol I worked with you on the boat. was manager on the Sternwheeler John Wagner

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  5. I was a regular at the REL from 1976 to 1980. Young, Cole and Paugh (just Cole and Young in the beginning)were great and kept people coming back night after night to hear the same great songs over and over again. I purchased their one and only album and still, on ocassion listen to it and smile. Those were some great times at a great place to hang out.

    Donna R.

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  6. As a kid passing by it going to and from the beach, I used to dream of eating there some day. I was thrilled to finally do so for my Senior Prom dinner in 1988. I think it's wonderful the structure has been preserved as part of the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, instead of being torn down for development.

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  7. Childhood memories of the 70's .... Being a Canadian my family spent every summer in Laguna Beach area and every year we had to dine out the the REL. It was always my favorite place to go and the best shirley temples.

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  8. My best memory was going there to see Skiles and Henderson, and seeing Richard Carpenter's Ferrari parked outside. License plate "SONG4U". Richard's arm was in a cast, but played a few numbers anyway. I think S&H are still around - funniest guys on earth.

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  9. I was a Matre'/bouncer at"the boat" in the summers of 70 and 71. We would have a 2 hour wait for the fish house, sternwheeler and bar. The people were stacked up into the parking lot. Skiles and Henderson would always keep the place booming. When things got really bad in the kitchen the busboys would chuck the dirty dishes into the bay. After the Nautical Museum took over the boat they set upan underwater camera to let the kids see the flora and fishes in the bay. Guess what they discovered.....plates and silverware...

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  10. My husband often recalls terrific memories of going to the Reuben E. Lee with his family, and eating fantastic lobster thermador. Does anyone have a recipe that is close to their original one?

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  11. Many years ago my wife and I dined in the steak house part of the REL. During the meat the waitress kept filling my water glass. Each time I took a sip or two of water she would refill the glass with water. I never drank so much water at a restaurant. When I mentioned that it would have been more enjoyable if she had served me some water during the meal. She smiled as she quickly said, "Next time I will bring a garden water hose to your table". I have always cherished that fun experience at the REL.
    Chet

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  12. Back in 1980 & 1981, I was in a band called Head Over Heels. The Rueben E. Lee, or the "boat" as it was affectionately called, was one of our regular stops. I have many great memories of all of the nights we preformed there, but one in particular stands out.One night after the place closed, myself and a couple of band mates snuck back on board and fished off the side of the "boat" until the sun came up. So many great times & memories.

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  13. Elizabeth in DCJuly 16, 2007 7:57 PM

    In 1970, driving across the country from Hawaii (car shipped) to San Francisco down to LA, we had a family dinner at the REL. None of us will ever forget the man at the next table who ordered three baked potatoes! Everyone else was having delicious steak and seafood dinners. That Christmas, we all sent each other potatoes. One of my brothers dragged my husband and me into the men's room to show us the chalkboards on the walls - so one wouldn't deface the place. A fun memory. Sorry it's gone as I'll be in Newport Beach in a couple of weeks and googled it to see if I could go there again.

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  14. It was sad when the Old Boat "Reuben E. Lee" went away! In other words taken apart this last month...Yes folks it is no more! Thanks in part to the Irvine Co. I was a cook there in 81' but transfered to the Then Gordile' down the stree.

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  15. Drove over the bridge the other day and the Reuben not there, anybody know what happen to the boat.

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  16. Jack from MemphisJune 23, 2008 1:15 PM

    The Reuben E. Lee was absolutely my most FAVORITE restaurant of my childhood. As kids were able to run around the ship and dock and had the greatest time! The music was entertaining and the food was out of this world. I always looked forward to going there when dad had to entertain clients. Later, I took the girl of my dreams there for a belated prom date (we lived in two different states) and it was magic. Loved that place and will always remember it so.....

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  17. We also were big fans of Young, Cole and Paugh in the late 70s at the REL and showed up weekly to hear the same songs. I recall one of them claiming he wrote "Leader of the Band". I wonder...

    Doug & Sharon

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  18. The Ruben E Lee is where my husband and I went on our first date in the early seventies. A couple of months ago we celebrated our thirty-seventh wedding anniversary. Cherished memories of this magical resturant will always hold a special place in my heart.

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  19. The memories of "The Boat". I know it was disassembled and there were rumors about the "hull" which was actually a barge being sunk in deep water off the coast, I don't know if that part happened though, being a diver, I would have loved to see it in shallower water. I remember seeing Young, Cole & Paugh as well, what happened to them anyway? I went to their farewell gig, as I remember it at the Crazyhorse. I was also working at the Corp offices of Grace Restaurants at the time and I got to "see" the problems they had there. All that news many years ago about "sewage dumping into the bay" were true. Turns out the place was designed (long, long time ago) with the idea that IF there was too much sewage to "pump up" to the street, it just dumped it into the bay. Turns out none of the brass at Corp knew about it and they had the fines from Newport to deal with ($7M +). It made big news back in the 80's and not to defend the brass of the corp, they really did not know about that design. But it was a great place to see YCP and I thought the food was very good, the brunch was second to none.

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  20. Yup, saw Young, Cole and Paugh there, or just Cole and Young. Also saw Randy Cobb there. He and I got to be great friends. In fact, I was engaged to his old roommate, since Randy introduced us.
    Thanks for the memories.
    BTW, any idea where Young, Cole and Paugh may be these days?

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    1. ran into Phil Cole in Denver in 1988..was a maintenance man at a health club he had gone down hill..he remembered me because I was a manager at the boat and fed the band drinks til the wee hours

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  21. I, too, remember seeing and sometimes sitting in with Young, Cole and Paugh. At first, it was just Roy and Phil. What a duo! I was sharing my apartment in Costa Mesa with a duo called "Mesa" from Bartelsville, OK. We were all playing at the Sawdust Festival in Laguna and they had no place to stay. One night, Joel McCall comes home and says, "I have just seen the best duo I have ever seen" down at the REL. I went the next night and for years afer that. Later, YC&P had a drummer, Jay Amos, who used to play with "Nobody" down at the Cannery. He went on to marry Karen who was a cocktail waitress on the boat. I would dearly love to get in touch with Roy and Phil again.

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  22. Roy here...

    I have not heard from Phil or Dave in many years. I do know that, after his second wife (Kathy) died, Dave
    moved back to upstate New York, where, I believe, he still performs as a single.

    Phil got into the restaurant business where, given his amazing energy, I'm sure he's a CEO by now.

    Jay Amos is coaching women's tennis at an S.C. junior college. I've read that he was chosen "Coach of the Year" for the conference. I guess that all those years of "steady strokes" have paid off!

    I work for Home Depot, in the store and as a regional paint trainer. Sheryl (who I met at the REL) and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. We have 2 children and still live in Orange County.

    The REL was a great, fun-filled place. I'm very sad to see it's passing. There were a lot of memories made there.

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  23. my memories of the REL are different than others. maybe some of you from the mid 70's might remember the coin divers that would ask guest to throw down coins into the water from the walkway that goes across to the restaurant me and my brothers were those divers. those were some of the best times for me as a teenager.does anyone remember us?

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  24. By the way, and this is a nit I pick wherever I find it. The Ruben E. Lee in Newport (and San Diego) was NOT ever a boat.

    It was a floating building, designed by Bill Blurock for John McIntosh and his Far West Services company (Snack Shop, Coco's, Ruebens).

    It was dismantled because it was not a boat, and could not be moved.

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  25. Roy - so glad to hear you chime in. We can never sing "cheeseburger in paradise" w/out the annotated line, "reminds me of waitresses at Newporter Inn.

    It is possible you still have cds available, and/or will be on Itunes soon?

    I know some who would kill for your rendition of "house at Pooh corner.

    Please...help me start my xmas shopping early.

    Cindy
    S.F. Bay Area

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  26. Hi Roy,

    Marti here. Debbie and I got together last montb and were going over the "good ol' days of Young, Cole and Paugh at the REL and various locations around the OC. Wow, 30 years! Congratulations Cheryl..nice job! Good to hear from you. Nice to hear what Phil and Dave were up to, the last time you heard from them. I hold my record from you guys in a shrine (HA!) Another one of your forever enamored fans.

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  27. Cindy...

    Unfortunately, our album was recorded before there was such a thing as "cd's". I have two copies of the album, one well-used and one unopened. I hope to (someday) record the unopened one to cd's to leave to my children, provided there's still such a format by then.

    Marti...

    Talk about a "Blast from the Past!" How are you? Where are you? How is Debbie doing? Please get back to me @ RoyY51@hotmail.com and let me know. I'm dying to hear from you!

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  28. The years that Far West Services overtook the entire restaurant industry with the simple concept of giving people more than they expected-the unexplainable feeling of the good life all wrapped up in an easy, almost casual dining establishment where time could just wait. The management, staff, and therefore the customers engulfed themselves in a sense that we all were better off, happier, and the future brighter than ever before, and probably would be forever.

    It was the Best of times, and will be long remembered and missed.

    It remains for anyone to take up that task again, but it is sorely needed, especially at this time.

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  29. Young and Cole had the best tambourine player I've ever heard!!!

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  30. I gotta tell you. The Reuben E. Lee was the best for me and my wife. We went there every year for New Years. Everyone so friendly. We always had a great time. What took us both by surprise was the Maitre D. He always remembered us. Very impressive indeed. Lots of fond memories of the REL. I'm living back east now in Tennessee. Places like the REL don't exist anymore and that is a shame.

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  31. I was a waiter at the rel in 1984-1986, They had the best cobb salad around. I worked special lunches and dinners up in the top deck small room but I forgot the name of that room?

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  32. It was the Captain's Nest, I believe, or Captain's something or other. I worked there from 84-89. Actually my last day as a wairtress was there, 12/31/89.
    It's wild to read all these memories from guests and employees of the boat. I think I was there during the sewage scandal. I'm not sure the place ever recovered. Thanks for your memories.

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  33. I spent countless Friday and Saturday nights at the REL with friends enjoying YCP. You guys were great. I hope to see you again sometime Roy, to say hello and thank you again for many great memories. Scott K.

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  34. Thank you Scott. It's nice to know that there are still some people out there who remember and participated in those wonderful times at the Boat. Considering how hard we partied, I'm surprised that there's any of us left at all!

    Roy

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  35. My Dad is a retired Navy Chief (1992 last stationed in San Diego.) The REL was one of his favorite places for seafood. He always mentions the Lobster Theodore and follows by saying no one has made it that good since. It's sad to see so many comments about approved proposals and new designers approved to renovate the REL but no on until this day has done a single thing.

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  36. My Dad is a retired Navy Chief (Chief Evans; Ret. in 1992; Last stationed in San Diego) He would randomly mention how great the food was at a place he used to eat at called the "Reuben E. Lee". He said his favorite dish was the "Lobster Theodore". He would follow by saying, no one has done it right since. I am disappointed on how many written articles describing approval on the renovation of the REL for years and still this day nothing has been done. The REL is a part of San Diego's history. Please don't forget it! LJW.

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  37. I was living in Newport and 10 years old when the REL opened. By the time I left Newport ten years later I still had not met a resident who had ever set foot in the place.

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  38. My family and I would go to Balboa Island on Sundays and swim and then go to the REL! It was a fun place and I have great memories! 1965-1080s

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  39. Does any one have a receipe for the Reubon E Lee's Bouillabaisse..If so would you please email me. robert@carlsbadsports.com Thanks Robert

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  40. My Father was an entertainer on the Reuben E Lee in Newport when it was owned by Far West Services. He had the Kenny Laursen Show in the 70's

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    1. I remember your father well. The best damned one-man show that I have ever seen! More than just a singer and guitar player, he was a true entertainer. His jokes, anecdotes, comedic timing and ability to memorize the names of everyone in the room (every single night!)made him a local legend. Phil and I learned a lot from watching him. When you see him next, please remember to thank him for us!

      Roy

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    2. Hey Roy! Thank you for the kind words. Your act and my act set some pretty amazing sales records. I never got to see you perform because I was always working. I heard your show was a killer. Wonderful memories from the boat. I met my latest wife at the REL. We are in our 28th year. I retired from performing in 1992 and opened Aladdin video productions in Las Vegas. It is still going and I'm resurecting the act with my daughter, Miss Las Vegas 2011, to do senior centers. They're the only ones that can relate to my material. Later, Dudes.

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    3. Glad to see that you're keeping the flame alive! So many people of our era (including myself) have fallen by the wayside. It doesn't matter if it's The Reuben E. Lee, Daddy's Money or the senior center, you're still doing what you love! Kudos!

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  41. My father Kenny Laursen's "The Kenny Laursen Show was also there I believe in the late 60's too

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  42. What an answer to prayer-my friends and I spent sooo many truely happy times at The Boat thanks to the friendships and music of Phil and Roy.
    Remember the softball games ? The late nite breakfasts ? Shopping for jeans at Debbie's shop on PCH ? the house in CDM ( I lived on Acacia street)What happened to Sunny Dalton ?
    So manny wonderful memories-Mary Jo mjkirtz@gmail.com

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  43. We would come to see Phil and Roy at the Reuben E Lee as often as possible after our 3-11 hospital shift.I remember so many good times, softball games, shopping for jeans at Debbie's store on PCH in Newport, the CDM house, Acacia street, and lots of truely perfect harmonies and music-it was so much about the music and good friends for me.Anyone hear from Sunny Dalton-singer ? Mary Jo Kirtz

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  44. Loved going to the REL. we went almost weekly with our parents during the late 60's & 70's. remember good music & the maiter'd. Remember they had the hardest rolls in the world. we couldn't eat them, but would take them out & rip them apart to throw to the fish from the gangplanks. Was hoping it was still there to show my kids. fond memories.

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  45. I met my wife Kathy at the REL while listening to YCP in the late '70s. We have been married now for over 32 years and have 5 grown children. We spent many weekend nights going back to hear this great trio. Lot of fond memories!
    Roger and Kathy Elliott
    Seal Beach

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  46. w.k.burt
    i too worked at the Reuben E Lee !!! Loved it !!!
    Worked a year brunch and lunch line cook...Split my days with Reuben's Steakhouse across the way!
    Night shifts @ the best steakhouse in O.C. ahhhh!
    The end of the 70's and the beginning of the
    HOT 80's...THE GOOD OLE' DAYS IN NEWPORT...

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    1. i worked at rel and ruebens as a cook waiter kitchen manager bartender than a manager at cocos i hated coffee shops

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    2. sorry from 1975 to 1979 oh yea whats your first name wk my mane is bill martin

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  47. Back in the 1980s on a date this very tall elderly lady with a deep voice and big red fingernails sat near us. My girlfriend was pretty drunk and she started saying rather loudly that she thought the lady was a man!! I had to remove her, not before she sat in her Baileys and Cream drink. Have you ever seen a woman remove her panty hose in the front seat of a car? It must be the eighth wonder of the world. Ah, the memories.

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  48. My dad, Pete, and his partner Bill were the comedy team Skiles & Henderson. I remember running around as a little boy catching the shows with mom and family friends. It was a classy place and miss seeing it there now.

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    1. Young, Cole and Paugh were fortunate enough to share the stage with Skiles and Henderson for a KOCE telethon at the Cannery Restaurant in Newport Beach. Very classy gentlemen and two of the funniest people I've ever met, both on and off the stage. I feel honored to have spent an afternoon with them.

      Roy

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  49. Ah! I was a bus boy in 69-70 when in high school. remember becoming really good friends with Young Cole and Paugh, Dave was my tennis partner for quite sometime. Best times there, lots of talent coming thru. Remember Jay Amos (another tennis bum) playing drums for them. Met my wife there. Good times.

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  50. Nick B. Boise, IDJune 06, 2012 4:59 PM

    I ate at the REL years ago when visiting CA. Had the BEST Bouillabaisse (fish stew) in the world.

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  51. I remember having steak and lobster for two plus drinks and entertainment for $20 in early 70s.

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  52. I worked at a few restaurants in the area in 1963-1965: Reuben's at Orange County Airport, The Newporter, KONA Hawaii, Mr. C's (Long Beach/Sunset Beach), (Schroeder's) Chef's Inn (CdM), The Hurley Bell/Five Crowns, The Reuben E Lee and also a few specialty delicatessens.

    The REL and Sid's Blue Beet were my favorites though.

    I also took a prom date there for the Senior Prom Huntington Beach UHS/Marina Class of 1964. My date was Sherri Anne - and she knows who she is.

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  53. Does anyone recall a waitress by the name of Donna Dugas? Donna, her husband, Don and kids lived in the trailer park in the corner of PCH and Dover - she was a waitress on the REL for years....I can remember her leaving in her waitress uniform to walk to work!

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  54. Worked parking cars as a valet for the REL and Ruebens at the other end of the parking lot in the late 60's and early 70's. Striped red and white jackets, straw hats and white slacks, what a sight!

    Remember the "2-hour" waits for dinner that were really 3 plus, the great bar crowd, and all the personalities that came out after having "one too many".

    The best dish was the abalone ($25 in 1972) in the Seafood restaurant. The fondest memory was walking the cute waitresses to their cars under the Hwy bridge to the lot near the boat ramp.

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  55. I was living in Tustin Ca. and as kids we would go into the bay under the bridge of REL and yell at the patrons while they were going into or out of the resturant and yell "coins for the coin divers" we would load up with maybe 20 bucks in coins,alot of money back in 1973

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  56. used to catch a bunch of mackerel off the jetty at newport and then head to the reuben for some shark fishing after they closed up back in the 70's

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  57. Love the REL, and spent many weekend nights watching Young, Cole and Paugh when he joined the duo. Followed them to the other ruben's in the area. I worked for Disney at that time and had had a Talent booking agent go and see them and he signed them to a summer deal to perform at Disneyland.
    steve

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    1. Hey, Steve! Thanks to you, we accepted that gig, had to shave all our facial hair and wear crushed velvet maroon jump suits. We spent 30 minutes out of every hour in an underground locker room, staring at each other. We got so sick of staring at each other that, at the conclusion of the gig, we broke up for a while. Thanks a lot!

      Just kidding!

      Actually, we had a great time at The Tragic Kingdom. We were definitely out of our comfort zone for a while but that can be a good thing. The money was the best weekly income that we had made to that point and, once we had gotten back together, I think we appreciated each other even more. Plus, we had a really interesting entry on the YCP resume.

      So, Steve...thank you for your efforts on our behalf!

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    ReplyDelete
  59. What great times. Lived at The Apple apartments in HB back then, and a big group of us would go to watch YC&P all the time. They would usually invite me up to sing a couple of tunes (Mack the Knife, and my own version of ATeenager in Love). Very fond memories... Dusty

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  60. I guess I was one of the orginal workers on the REL back in the 60's. My father drove the delivery truck for Far West Services an I was allowed to "assist" him during the heaver time of the the year to keep up with the demand. I remember being onboard fro the first day opening and it was a very exciting experence for me. I later went to work at the Bakery down the road during my high school days (1968 - 1971). When Mr. Macintosh passed away the company just went down the tubes. It was a great place/company to work for at one time.

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  61. I remember working on the REL as the foreman for the air conditioning company. It had many challenges as the spaces were very tight. It was a very interesting job. I was a young man then and just starting my career. They had a kitchen fire once and I had to go there on Father's Day and work to get them back in business that day.

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