Remember When is a series of photos and stories of South Orange County; what it was like growing up here and the stories that shaped our lives. There is much history and individual stories that make up the fabric of the communities we live in. We welcome new stories and pictures from any of you that were fortunate enough to have grown up in an area where there was open space at the end of every street and an adventure just around the corner.
San Onofre, 1930's
Whitey Harrison

The automobile had helped increase surfers' ability to go on surf safaris. At places like Long Beach, Palos Verdes and most importantly San Onofre, surfers established the Southern California surf culture. Following their trips to the Hawaiian Islands, guys like Whitey Harrison and Pete Peterson were major influences in helping foster a love of Polynesian culture. Both men were instrumental in helping transplant elements of Polynesia and Hawai`i onto the beaches of North America's Southern California.

"The Hawaiian beach boys taught us to love their music and instruments as well as their waves," explained Whitey. In Hawai`i, it had been "so hot during summer nights that we'd sit out in front of the Waikiki Tavern and make music till we fell asleep."

Whitey was part of the early crew at San Onofre, where Southern California surf culture's roots are most firmly embedded. "I was surfing [at Corona del Mar]... with Willy Grigsby, Bob Sides and Bill Hollingsworth... Sides traveled between San Diego and up here frequently and he said, 'Hey Whitey, there's this neat spot down south where the waves break way out.'"


Photo Credit: Most likely Don James.

"So," Whitey said of their first trip to San O, "we loaded up a whole bunch of people into touring cars... and we went down there and tried it out. We went clear down to where the atomic plant is now and surfed that spot. Then we came back up the beach and tried it right where the main shack is now. That's where we found it was always steadiest. The surf was always pretty good. In one day we surfed all the different breaks. The entrance to the beach was just across from the old San Onofre Train Station. You'd drive across the tracks and down the dirt road. At that time Santa Margarita Ranch owned the beach there along with another ranch that owned the land north of the point. We weren't the first people to go down there, people had been going fishing down there for years and stayin' all night. The ranchers didn't seem to mind. In fact, the first time we went there, they were making a Hollywood movie. They had built this big palm thatch house right on the beach. We slept in it the first night we stayed there. This was about 1933/34. By 1935, Corona del Mar was over with, and San Onofre was our main spot."

By 1939, the San Onofre crew included the likes of Tulie Clark, Jim Bixier, Don Okey, Dorian Paskowitz, Lloyd Baker, Gard Chapin, Vincent Linhberg, and, of course, Pete Peterson.

The scene at San Onofre was influenced in this way and colorful in its own right. As Nat Young put it, "They were an incredibly healthy lot, spending long days down at the beach, engaging in friendly competition, encouraging their girls to surf, and partying long into the night. They successfully combined normal working-class lives with the excitement of being the first group of [California] surfers."

Beginning around 1935, San Onofre became the major "meeting place for surfers up and down the California coast -- from Tijuana Sloughs [south San Diego] to Steamers Lane in Santa Cruz," wrote Dorian Paskowitz, one who was there. "Friday and Saturday nights were always gay 'ole times, with Hawaiian guitar, Tahitian dances and no small amount of boozing. But come Sunday morning, it was serious surfing for the true beach rats."

Courtesy of Legendary Surfers.com

If you have a story you would like to share with our readers please send the story to
jim@habig.com with a picture if you have one. Thanks goes to those that have documented this magical place.

South Laguna History El Camino Real 1957
Del Mar 1958 San Clemente Pier 1927

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