California Dreaming

California Dreaming
Image provided by
Jennifer Morrow @

It was Mary’s post at 1950 Memories Of Suburban Adventures, Oceanic Inauguration that stirred up the recollections I have about seeing the Pacific Ocean. Back then, being able to go to California was just ‘the coolest’. This was true even when I was eleven. After all, Rickie Nelson had lived there. That’s where the story of Gidgit takes place along with Moon Doggy and the great Kahuna. There was the surfing at Big Sur. When I found out that my family was going to California for vacation, I could barely contain myself.

The trip to California is a story within itself and I leave it for another time. And the trip went past California following Interstate Highway 101 up to Washington. That too, will be written for you to read at another time. I wanted to focus on just what happened in California for this post.

Because of all that, I had heard about California, my hopes were high. Although I was told that you can’t see the ocean from Los Angeles, when my family came down the western side of the Sierras to the suburbs of the city, I felt the disappointment hit the bottom of my stomach. I was so wanting to get a glimpse of the water, the California dream. What I got was a blast of smog.

Back in the 1960s, society didn’t care about the environment. It was the peak of the prosperity era. It had to be because how else would a family in the category of being lower middle class be able to take two-week vacations in the summer?

By the time we got to my aunt’s house that was located in one of those many suburbs, we were hot and tired. My dad’s truck didn’t have air conditioning and neither did the camper that was attached. This is where my brother and I spend our time while traveling and sweating.

When we walked into her house, a breeze of cool air hit me. I had entered heaven. Now, when I think back on it, my aunt’s air conditioning was a unit on wheels that was moved for room to room. But that was the norm for California then. In Colorado, where I lived, no one I knew had air conditioning at all. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think it was that hot outside. Colorado had days over 90 degrees quite often during the summer.

The disappointment I felt overrode any feelings I had about the palm trees. The neighborhoods looked the same; the stores carried the same stuff, and on and on it went. Most of the beaches were privately owned, so any thoughts about surfing were nil and void. Los Angeles was a bust.

Once we left my aunt’s house and got onto Interstate Highway 101, I could at least see the ocean.

Our next stop would be another aunt’s house in a southern suburb of San Francisco. Her house looked odd to me. When I walked down the stairs to the basement, on the other side of the room from me I could go outside into the backyard. Being eleven, I’d never seen something like this before, not even in the mountains of Colorado.

This aunt did more than give us dinner and a bed. She and her family took us to see the Pacific Ocean up close. She took us to Half Moon Bay. Today that beach is privately owned but back then, it was there for everyone.

We walked down a steep incline to reach a beach of white fine sand. There was a path for us to follow down, but even with that, the slope was almost straight up and down like a cliff.

Once we were down on this wide beach, my brother and I started walk along the water’s edge. My brother got bored and went back up the slope to the camper. I wasn’t about to leave until I was forced. I just kept on walking.

Along the way, there was a huge log just a couple of feet away from the water’s edge. I stopped in front of it to look out over the water as the sun went down. Mom called for me to get back to the camper so that we could go get dinner. I turned around and almost ran into the log. I didn’t realize that the tide was coming in. I got soaked because I couldn’t get past the log in time.

The water was so cold.

Once I did get past the log, I ran up the slope. I was freezing. After getting my clothes changed in the camper and towel dried my hair, I thought about the run up the slope. I was flabbergasted about how easy it was for me to run up the steep incline. I told Mom about this. Of course, she had the reason that I was asking for. I was from the mile-high city of Denver where the air is thinner. My lungs were in tip-top shape for that short climb at sea level.

This was amazing to me because back home I wasn’t thought of as being athletic at all and yet here I did better than most. It was a real ego booster.

We stopped for half of a day in San Francisco. Because we still had so much to see going up the coast, time wasn’t spent on the Golden Gate Bridge or the Wax Museum. I did get a ride on the trolley car and I walked Fisherman’s Wharf. I bought a cup of fresh shrimp to eat as I strolled and I purchased a pickled squid. I kept the squid on my chest of drawers in my bedroom until I was a junior in high school.

Although I loved the Redwood Forest, being from Colorado, I was a little disappointed at how small the state park was. We got through it within an hour and a half. The state parks in Colorado are humongous in comparison.


California is interesting. There’s no doubt about it. Still, because of all that I had heard about California before I took the trip, I was a little disappointed. That is except for Half Moon Bay.


23 thoughts on “California Dreaming

  1. Elizabeth Potter, c.p.c.

    There were plenty of public beaches back then, still there I have to say. You would have had a blast!

    As for the smog. . . yes I remember growing up with major smog alerts not being able to play outside. School would cancel physical education classes because of it.

    I hope (keep your fingers crossed) to get back to So.Cal (home) come June. I haven’t been back since I moved five years ago.

    Thanks for sharing your memories. 🙂


    1. Glynis Jolly

      I’d love to see Half Moon Bay again. My husband has never seen the west coast. I’m hoping that some time we can take Interstate 101 all the way up from San Diego. The tide is so spectacular. My stepdaughter went to college in LA — USC. She said the smog isn’t as bad but there are still those days when they tell the elderly not to leave home.

      I hope you get to go back too. And I hope you have a fantastic time and write about it in your blog.

      Also, I hope your leg is healing well.


    1. Glynis Jolly

      I wasn’t one to get too upset when my parents would put limits on me back then. Although the lives of the ones who ran away from home were romanticized, I just couldn’t see any of that happening to me. I felt sure I’d be one of those who would get in trouble right away, so I just stayed put. 😉


  2. I love travelling down memory lane. The young people today can’t appreciate what we talk about. I wonder what today’s youth will leave for THEIR kids. Technological memories change at warp speed nowadays. What will be warm and wonderful memories in future?
    Wonderful post. 🙂


    1. Glynis Jolly

      Thank you Tess.

      My great nieces and nephews like traveling, but they’re kind of particular about where they want to go. My son’s generation didn’t seem to care and I know that my brother and I didn’t. Just the travel was fine with us.


  3. I love the way you wrote this story. I could totally get why the experiences would feel novel and interesting. Family vacations always seemed like an adventure when I was a kid. I remember sleeping through floods that had the adults talking and freaking. Then there was that time that a tiny kitten followed us home (slipped into the car unnoticed). They are just moments in time, but they were very defining.


  4. What memories this bought back to me.

    I remember a similar trip with my family at about the same time. It offered great bragging rights to say I was going and had gone to California. It was a magical statement. One all my friends wanted to hear. However, what I had expected and what I saw were very different. Disneyland was a blast. The ocean was cold and not what I expected at all. It’s funny, I now live in California and I love it. 🙂


    1. Glynis Jolly

      I don’t know if I’d like living there. The cost of living there is a little too high for my liking. However, I’d love to see Half Moon Bay again.


  5. I always wanted to visit different parts of California, but seeing as how I live in Denver and you said it’s nicer here, I may have to rethink going there. Small world. 🙂


    1. Glynis Jolly

      Denver isn’t the place that it use to be. Like everything else, it’s changed over the years. Because so many of my relatives still live in that area, I can visit almost any time I want. 😉


        1. Glynis Jolly

          I don’t blame you for not liking Denver. Whenever I go there to see family, I’m disappointed in the general attitude of so many of the people there now. With this said though, I’m not all that fond of California. Of course, I’ve only been a long the coast. Inland it may be great.


  6. Glynis, I’m so happy you got to run along the shore and touch the Pacific. And saving your pickled squid for such a lengthy time? You’re a kid after my own heart.
    Back in the 60s there were very few cars or homes that had air conditioning. We take it for-granted now. We thought someone was rich if their car had power windows.
    I’m glad my post stirred your memories.


    1. Glynis Jolly

      Believe it or not, Mary, I didn’t have a car with a/c until I married my second husband in 1990. BTW, I’m still happily married to this man. 😀


    1. Glynis Jolly

      I took a peek at your blog. I don’t even know what language you have it in. Some of it looks Spanish or French but I really don’t know. I hope you return when I post again.


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