Surfer boy far from home

Chris WohlwendFeature

Last week’s snow and deep freeze led to a missive from a cousin who lives in southern California, reminding me that she did not have to worry about 0-degree temperatures. Of course, she just laughed at my retort about earthquakes. But her note reminded me of my first trip to southern California when I was a teen-ager.

Three of my mom’s brothers ended up in the Los Angeles area after World War II and in the mid-1960s it was decided that we would take a cross-country trip to visit them. And for this East Tennessee innocent, that led to an eye-opening excursion to Malibu Beach.

My surfing cousin Donnie invited me along when he and a friend decided to take their boards to Malibu. None of us had driver’s licenses, but Donnie assured me that would not be a problem even though we were about 30 miles from the beach. “We’ll just hitch,” he said. “We do it all the time.” I should point out that my cousin had classic surfer-boy looks to go with his beach-bum tan.

So, even though he and his buddy were toting their long boards, we found ourselves at Malibu after only two rides, one in a street-rod pickup truck, the other in a land-yacht station wagon. As Donnie and his friend surfed, I ogled the bikini-clad girls that they attracted. And my pale skin slowly turned pink, and then red.

Finally, late afternoon, it was decided it was time to head back to the Valley. As we were exiting the parking lot, a black 1957 Ford convertible pulled alongside us. Two cute girls occupied the front seat, the driver a blonde who, to me, embodied the star of the Beach Boys current hit song, “Barbara Ann.”

“You guys headed to the Valley?” she asked, and we were soon clambering aboard, long boards providing an exclamation point to the scene.

A half hour later, the girls dropped us off and a hitched ride later we were back at Donnie’s. I had sun blisters as my souvenir. Donnie? He had Barbara Ann’s phone number.

Chris Wohlwend is working on the second volume of a memoir, tentatively titled “Remnants and Reflections … of a half century in the writing trade.”


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