Phillip Harper, Trish Harper, Ray Hicks, Bucky Davis, My Sister Suellen, My Mom, Bob Dylan, and The Endless Summer
Posted on February 16, 2014 by Erwin A. Dence Jr. under Uncategorized
“First of all,” I said, standing in the kitchen of Phillip Harper’s parents’ house, two bars of paraffin wax melting in a soup can on the stove, Phillip’s (second-ever, and not sun-browned like the first one) surf board, stripped and ready for a ‘pre-coat’, floating between two chairs and across the dining room table, “the theater was in no way ‘underground.’ Disappointing.”
Phillip and Ray Hicks seemed to be properly impressed that I, more country kid than either of them, had gone into the city for some other reason than to ride the escalators at Sears with my many brothers and sisters while my parents shopped.
It was at about this moment that Phillip’s sister, Trish (not my Trish- hadn’t met her yet), came in from the pantry (no one ever seemed to use the formal front door). She appeared noticeably disappointed that her brother and at least one of his geeky friends were there. Trish was followed in by her boyfriend, Bucky Davis. He was, perhaps, a bit less disappointed; a nod for Phillip, smaller one for Ray, even smaller one for me (standard cool reaction to over-amped groms). Bucky took a moment to check out the board (approvingly), then the wax melting on the stove.
“You have to be careful,” he said, both hands simulating an explosion. “A candle might be a better idea.” A single hand tipping an imaginary candle illustrated the point.
“Erwin went to see ‘The Endless Summer’ in San Diego,” Phillip said. “At an underground theater,” Ray added.
“The thing is,” I said, trying to be informative, and trying to be as cool as Phil and Ray “kind of disappointing; it wasn’t at all underground. Just a regular, um, theater. And…”
Phillip and Ray appeared less impressed than the first time they heard this. Of course; though they did seem to be checking Bucky’s reactions.
“On University Avenue?” Trish asked. I shrugged. I hadn’t driven. We’d gone down 395. It was somewhere near the Zoo. “Well,” she said, “I saw it at State.” She paused, possibly to see if she had to add ‘San Diego State.’
No, I knew she had been spending some time down there, preparing to attend ‘State’ in the fall of 1967. Bucky would not be attending. He was planning on going to Palomar Junior College; he’d have to go somewhere to stay out of the draft.
“When I saw it,” she continued, “Bruce Brown narrated it… himself. He was behind this curtain and…” She stopped because Bucky seemed a bit surprised at the news. At least that is what I thought, at the time, as if she had seen it without him. That would be sad, her and her new, big-city life and Bucky…
[Let me add here, fifty years after this incident, three years after originally writing this piece, that, among my first surfing friends, Trish and Bucky were the perfect surfing couple. That they didn’t remain a couple was, bits and pieces of the disconnection playing out over, and just beyond, my high school years, tragic; tragic in that teenager’s romanticized, love-lost way.
Part of the reason I started this blog was to record how I changed from total kook, over-stoked beginner, with Bucky one of my early surf heroes, to… I don’t know… over-stoked surfer out past high school, past the inside break; my friends scattered.
My opinion of surf heroes, with Bucky the best illustration, went, along with my connection to surfing, from a sort of ‘this is magic’ awe, to a more realistic view. Bucky had some serious life challenges. He was a real person.
Still, what I loved about Phillip’s sister, that seeming-self confidence, that willingness to stand up as an equal, is part of what attracted me to my Trish.
Still… still an over-stoked surfer, awed by the magic… still I, somewhere in the part of me that never got past adolescent romantic, I’ve held out a notion that Bucky and Trish could… yeah, maybe I just hope they, and all my scattered surf heroes and friends, including Phillip and Ray… have been, mostly, happy.
And, I am grateful, while I’m anxiously awaiting my next surf adventure, that I have such great memories of interesting, and real, people. And someone to share current adventures with.]
I’m sure I was mostly trying to hide being impressed. And out-cooled. Again. Always by her.
“Bruce Brown? In person? That’s… cool.”
After all, it had been impossible for me to be really, even passably, cool, at the above-ground theater, hanging with my older sister, Suellen, AND my mother.
Still, hoping to in some way to compete with Trish Harper, I said, “Yeah, well; they had these previews for a movie with Bob Dylan, and…”
“’Don’t Look Back’,” Trish said.
“Huh?” Phillip and Bucky and Ray asked, pretty much at the same time.
“Uh huh,” I said; “and Bob Dylan’s, like… he’s holding up these…”
“Cue cards,” Trish said.
“I guess. Yeah. And my mom starts laughing.”
“Laughing?” Phillip and Trish and Bucky and Ray all asked.
“Yeah, laughing; and… I mean, not even Suellen is laughing. No one’s laughing.”
“Because it’s Dylan,” Trish said, serious and almost indignant.
“Yeah, Dylan; Bob Dylan. But, pretty soon, someone else starts laughing. And then more people are laughing; and then everyone’s laughing. And Bob Dyl… Dylan, he just keeps dropping the cards. And…”
By this time, in the kitchen, I was also laughing. Phillip started to laugh. Ray, studying Bucky’s face, allowed himself to join in the laughter. Then Bucky looked over at his girlfriend (not laughing), maybe thought for a moment about how he didn’t see “The Endless Summer” at ‘State’ with her, with Bruce Brown personally narrating; and he laughed.
And then the wax exploded.
Bruce Brown, revealing the stoke and the magic and the awe to a larger world, stepping behind another curtain. Rest In Peace. And thank you.
If it’s of any value to the surfing community, I’d like to recite some first-hand oral history about Pt. Grenville.
I surfed there from 1967 to -69, when I was in high school. We just showed up with surfboards and camped for the weekend, without any fuss from “authorities.”
Then, in 1969, we showed up as usual, and a truck pulled up and a well-spoken, close-shaved Indian came over to us in an very authoritarian manner, and spoke to us ominously, “Where are you boys from?”
“Bremerton,” we said.
Then he looked at the rock cliffs covered in grafitti, and most of it was the names of various high schools painted in great big letters in a wide variety of colors.
He paused and said, “If I looked up at these rocks and saw ‘West Bremerton,’ or ‘East Bremerton’ written here, I’d arrest you and put you in jail. But as it is, you can just leave.”
So we got kicked out, and never went back. Good thing us Bremerton guys specialize more in thievery and violence, and “school spirit” was for “soces.” Besides, our writing skills were sketchy, anyway.
In 1970 I heard that some friends tried to go there, and the Quinaults confiscated their boards and they had to pay fines. I left the state in 1970, and have not heard anything about it since, except for your piece on this web page.
BTW, concerning Washington surfing at the time, I had the feeling that Pt. Grenville was the only place, because the waves were dependable. I wasn’t part of any big surfing “scene,” because there were so few of us, so I don’t know if there were many guys scouting all the coastline in the state, looking for a good break. In those days, I’d never heard of surfing at Westport. (What’s more, I lived the 1970s in San Francisco, and never heard of Mavericks, though no one else seemed to know about it, either.) People in Bremerton were always going there for more fishing. When we got out of high school, it seemed like everyone went to Hawaii, got jobs, and stayed for awhile.
Aside: We didn’t use wet suits. When I was aged 6 to 9, I spent the summers living in a tent and a beach cabin at La Push, because my father was a commercial fisherman out of there & Neah Bay. My mom told me, “Just wait till you get numb, and you can play in the surf all day.” She was right. Last time I did it was 2010.
So, I really don’t know anything about Mr. Burks except that he must be about my age, possibly another member of the class of 1969. And I have heard a few stories about Point Grenville in the mid 1960s, some which might explain why the beach was closed. Still, the image of some waves peeling off that point…
Here’s my latest illustration: