No, this not a story about Jack Benny or anything to do with age. 39 is a California Highway that can provide a local resident or a tourist with everything you want to know and see about Southern California. It starts at the Pacific Ocean, ends in the San Gabriel Mountains, and gets lost in the middle. The majority of Highway 39 is in Orange County. A small blurb about Hwy. 39 was in the paper this morning and I thought about my 18 years in Orange County and how many fond memories took place on and around Highway 39. In fact, so many memories and stories came to mind that I need to spend more than one blog on it. So, I’ll start writing and remembering and see where we go.
I imagine if you ask someone in Orange County directions to Hwy. 39, they would draw a blank. In Orange County it is only know as Beach Boulevard. It ends at the sand in Huntington Beach. What a place! My first 15 years in Orange County were a few miles south of Huntington Beach in Newport Beach. My morning jogs were always along the water’s edge to Newport Pier and back, a little over 3 miles. My last few years in Orange County I moved north a few miles and then my morning run took me to Huntington Beach pier, through the downtown area and back home; same distance, new views.
Huntington Beach is known as Surf City, USA. The US Open Surfing Championships are held right next to the pier every year. The waves are consistently very good. It’s caused by Catalina Island, 26 miles due west. The Island causes an edge-diffraction of the ocean swells and produces beautiful consistent sets of surfing waves. The high tides each day bring out the surfers. The hi-tide time changes every day, so morning surfers are late to school a lot. Jogging along watching the wave-riders, I was always envious of those surfer-dudes. I wished I had grown up in that community and learned to surf when I was a kid. In two decades of running along the ocean front, I never saw a fat surfer.
On January 18, 1988 I was having breakfast with my oldest son Michael, at a restaurant at the very end of Huntington Beach Pier. I know the date well, because in Huntington Beach history, it’s called Big Monday. I believe Mike and I were eating the same breakfast item, the Pier Scramble, when the owner approached us at the counter and said, “Boys, we’re outta here.” We were the last two customers to be evacuated ahead of a huge Pacific storm bearing down on Huntington Beach. There was no rain, no wind, just the aftermath of a huge storm somewhere out in the Pacific. We stood on the shoreline and watched the 20-25 foot waves totally destroy our restaurant and twist off the last 1/3 of the huge pier. A photographer was standing right next to us and I have that remarkable print still hanging on a wall. Standing next to the photographer, watching those devastating waves, was the mayor of Huntington Beach, Jack Kelly. You old-timers will remember him as Bart Maverick on the TV series Maverick.
For those of you who have waded this far through this dribble, I now bring to you a live beach cam showing the pier today. The view of the sand is where Michael and I stood watching the storm. The view of the Pier will show the newly built domed restaurant out at the end.
More journeys and memories down Highway 39 continuing tomorrow.