Saturday, November 17, 2007

Huntington Beach - The City of Walls

An OCThen reader named Stan Chamness submits a very enjoyable story of a kid who grew up in Huntington Beach in the 1960's. This story reminds me of the years when I was a little boy in San Diego, between 1971-1978, and venturing out with my friend Mark. It was a time when kids could turn their curiosity into an adventure, get into a little trouble, and at bedtime, stay up all night thinking about what you wanted to do tomorrow...

Orange County to me was growing up in Huntington Beach as my father did. I lived in a housing tract like everyone else at Adams and Bushard. It was one of the first to go in and the frontal houses faced the main streets with olive trees lining the frontal border.

Crop fields surrounded our tract and made it a great place to dig holes, build forts and best of all to make tracks and jumps to ride our stingray bicycles around in. The grass would grow higher than we were tall during the winter so we would make our own maze to get lost in playing.

The empty fields soon gave way to more housing as Huntington grew at a record pace but all the new tracts faced inward with their backyards to the main streets and so grew the city of walls.

At around the age of 10 (1966) I mustered up the courage to get on my bike and head to the beach, alone. Bushard didn't even go through as a paved road at the time. You had to ride through farm fields before coming back to the pavement. That would give you a chance to eat a little something, for they grew melons, tomatoes and corn, just to name a few of the crops that I would borrow on my ride.

Once I knew how easy it was to get to the beach, I spent most of my energy as a kid and high school days trying to get back there. At around 13 I peddled my way down to Corona Del Mar with my best friend Kenny and bought my first mask and fins and went diving. I think of that now and most kids of 13 aren't allowed to leave their block let alone ride 15 miles or so away and swim in the ocean alone. Of course I wasn't either, I just did it.

I remember Kenny and I would grab some lawn chairs and ride our bikes at night to the Fountain Valley drive in over on Brookhurst. We would ride through a trailer park located behind the drive in, park our bikes, then toss the chairs over the fence then climb over ourselves. We would also make sure it was an R rated movie showing so we could hopefully get a glimpse of nudity and catch a nipple or two. We became friends with the security guard who didn't seem to mind that we had snuck in.

We would also at the age of 12 and 13 hop on the bus at Adams and Bushard. Ride it up to Harbor the get a transfer. Ride up Harbor to Disneyland then jump over the exit gate and play in Disneyland all day and then go home. All for 50 cents. It was only a quarter each way. I remember my parents asking where I had been and I would just say "oh, over at Kenny's house."

At the age of 15 my old man kept coming up with stuff for me to do, so it became harder for me to get to the beach. I needed a good reason to be there so I tried out for Junior lifeguards. Gotta be there everyday for that. I remember riding down Main St. everyday to get to the pier. There were great shops like Grandma Bean with tapestries, backlight posters, incense and beautiful girls working inside. Man, my hormones would rage! Then down a little further, Robert August would be shaping boards and who knows what else. I would stop at Jacks to get a t-shirt now and then.

The whole town was completely different in the 60's. I guess nothing stays the same.

When I was real young my parents owned a beach concession just north of the Huntington Pier that made burgers and rented surf riders. So at the age of 3 to 5 I spent a lot of time walking around in the sand with a big burlap sac collecting Pepsi bottles for 3 cents each. Today there is an apartment complex built right on the sand where our concession was located.

I went to Edison High School shortly after it opened and I remember checking the flag in the late summer to see if there was an offshore wind. If so, it would mean no school today (at least for me). And when the surf wasn't good it would mean the water visibility was, so we would head down PCH to Laguna to do some diving and spear fishing. Once past Corona there was an area called the horse pastures with this little shack in the middle of nowhere. The sign read Date shakes. And even if you didn't like dates you would most likely like these shakes, I still try to make them myself to this day.

Well I could go on and on but I think I have rambled enough for now! Late.....

Stan Chamness


  1. amazing dad!!! Its sooo wierd now growing up in huntington and the OC in 2007... almost wished i did it back in the 60's... xoxoxo

  2. Hey Stan...don't forget the tomato field fights behind Wardlow! Doing our own version of "Speedway" at the little park around the corner. Shooting arrows at the goldfish in "The Ditch".

    Good story my friend!!!


  3. I don't know if we met but I lived in the continentals. My name is Mike. I went to Wardlow school and then to Bushard when it was built. I'll bet you were a junior fireman too. Probably got your badge from the guys at the little fire station on Bushard. I walked through those same fields across Adams to the Beach. And my dog fell in to one of those oil pits and it hours of scrubbing to get the junk off of him. I was supposed to go to Edison too but we moved to Mission Viejo. My Mom was a nurse at Fairview Hospital. We had forts in the swamp. Anyway as you said before we could go on and on. And thats good because there are only a few of us that remember what a magic place and time it was. Hell, We were the last to see open land for two miles two the beach. Were pretty damn unique if you ask me. Cheers!

  4. Hey I lived in the Continentals at the same time (still do!) I went to Wardlow in 1st grade, Newland in 2nd grade and Bushard the rest of grade school. I can remember super dense fogs in the winter and the annual invasion of bugs after they harvested the tomato fields across Adams. I enjoyed having the semi rural experience growing up in the 60's before all the housing tracts were built.

  5. hey stan
    before those appartments were there, there was a salt water plunge next to the pier. great place. 25cents all day, play in the surf, go in the plunge. great big green building. had 2 pools. one large one with 2 diving boards and a small one for little kids (like i was) water supplied by the ocean. anybody remember it??????
    Robby Robinson

  6. great story I lived on providence lane it was great place to live. went to wardlow and edison and hbhs. MY friends dad was a captian at the fire station.

  7. Ok Stan, I guess I will join in the fun. I was looking up your site for your beautiful photos and Googled you. THIS was the first thing that popped!
    Anyway, Remember the tree frogs? Every Saturday Wait...This is same years as Stan as I went to Wardlow and then Edison also! Anyway, we lived on Lotus Lane, right down the block from the school. So Saturdays my dad and my brother Darrell would get to mow the lawn and weed and stuff outside while I had to clean the bathroom, dust and stuff. So I would be done about the time my dad would be hosing down the side walk by the front door and I would step out and the little tree frogs would be climbing up the little bushes out front.
    Yes I remember the Ditch...Used to catch pollywogs and but them in jars and watch them grow feet! Our house backed up to the ditch and I used to jump the wall and smoke.
    I remember going to some place where there was water with my brother Darrell and his friend John Ryan. They would tell me the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland was there and I would chase after it. We built a little raft and I was the only one light enough to float on it in the water. So I was Becky and they were Huck and Tom! I want to say it was at the bottom of Huntington Hills??
    Another time my brother and I rode our bikes all the way down the ditch to Orange or Santa Ana...It was really far. I was 8 years old. He was ten.
    I had a sting ray bike and had Gumby and Pokey on the handle bars. Pokey always fell off.
    My brother had all the monster models on his dresser. Frankenstein, Vampire, The Monster from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy and a Gullitine that really worked! He painted blood on the blade. yuk!
    The Tomato Fields were across Adams from us. I remember watching the hippies with their long hair playing in the tomatoes like little kids.
    every day I had to go to the Alpha Beta for my mother or TG&Y or HiLo
    Coarse later when I got older I had a major crush on a box boy! No not you KW.
    And I will bet everyone that has written here had at least one badge from the Presidential Physically Fit thing.. That was Kennedy started that my mom says.
    Wow those were good times. Thanks everyone for sharing! More More!
    Donna Durfee

  8. Hey Stan,

    I was everywhere you were and then some, mostly from the north side,..ur-mmm Marina High School, H.B.-Harbor, Kooks Cove-Tower #17, the Beaches along the north side of the Pier? When my parents bought their first House off of Edwards Street, I remember I could watch/see my Dad drive to Beach Blvd. I was a Grimmy in the 60s and hung out at the Pier. It was a great life!! Everyday was-early session surf, classes, chores at home, more surf, work, scarfing out at Mario's or Big-O Pizza, hanging with ur Bud's, ur Girlfriend, then crashing the Bed. The Surf Theater was in and a great place to see a Flick and win contests for Surf Sticks and things. Main Street was a great place to be and just hang. I was tan, a long blond dew, shapely, and the chicks dug it. Yes, it was all cool then.

  9. Our family moved to HB in 1960 when I was 4. I started school at Ocean View Elementary on Beach Blvd, long ago torn down, moved to Brookhurst and Adams in the summer of '64 and stayed there for many years. We watched the new buildings push back the oil rigs and farmlands, checking out each new store and tract as it popped up, but development took much longer to make the morning fog recede a bit. We collected frogs during the amazing plague circa 1970, coming from right behind our house next to the Santa Ana river bed - the marshes looked like lakes of frogs. It was a magical place to grow up, with the beach a bike-ride away and open fields and wild areas everywhere. Even our misspent teens were full of fond memories of being chased out of "smoker's field" near the new Edison High School, until the school gave up and let us have the field. And it was more than just tempting to skip class and walk a few more yards to the beach.

  10. I, too, remember fondly the saltwater plunge by the HB Pier...My Aunt, Johnnie Belshe, taught kids to swim there...her son grew up to be a life guard in HB as well....Remember the 4th of July parade? My aunt lived on a corner on the street the parade passed by...our extended families always brought food for a picnic lunch after the parade in my aunts back yard...all us kids waited anxiously for the fireworks show off the pier! Swell times...(1950's & 60's)

  11. Hey Stan..... Didn't mention any girlfriends.... Did you Date at all ???? Guess who ???????

  12. Well hello stan I sometimes think back of those days growing up in h.b. and how my friend stan is doing kenny m


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