The drawing is taken from a Rich Wilken photograph of Dru Harrison at Waddell Creek, a spot unknown to me but probably not secret; that photograph from the 40 year “Surfer” anthology “The Perfect Day,” accompanied by a piece by Drew Kampion on “The Day They Walked on the Moon,” July 20, 1969. About that, and, of course, more. In this case, the story was also about radical, for the time, surfing at a Western Surfing Association (WSA) contest at Oceanside, and some perfect (and uncrowded) waves at Lower Trestles.
What I remember about the day, a Sunday, is that I went surfing, and the next day, I went to the accountant’s office in Oceanside to pick up my paycheck for the previous week’s work at Buddy’s Sign Service. Buddy’s real name, because almost no one, even someone in Florida whose son would end up learning sign painting in prison, would give a child the name Buddy when Lacey, Lacey Rollins, was available (Oh, maybe Buddy was a prison name).
Buddy, with his wife, Sandy, had recently moved from a trailer in the back of his first shop, in South Oceanside, which they had moved to from a shed, to one of three upstairs apartments at what had been the “Blade-Tribune” newspaper building, 1st and Tremont, home of his new shop. Big, high ceilings; quite Loft-like. The building was a block from the Greyhound bus station, a few blocks from the pier. With the Vietnam War still in full swing, and Camp Pendleton nearby, for a kid from what I thought was the suburbs but would now qualify as rural, this was a pretty scary/exciting neighborhood, with waves just beyond the railroad tracks.
Buddy seemed to hang out at the office a bit, and, in fact, was there, slouching in a chair, when I came in. The woman who was making out my check, I noticed, while I was waiting at her desk, had been practicing a signature on some scratch paper. Sheila Rollins (or some other first name I’ve forgotten).
Since I, freshly graduated from Fallbrook High, considered Buddy, at 32, old; and, in fact, thought Sandy, at 21, was a little oldish, and kind of (I’m being honest here) cheap; and definitely thought Buddy was pretty white trashish. He was good at lettering- a skill, practiced and learned; rather than in any way artistic (which is the reason I went after a job as a sign painting apprentice- high(er) art). I was a bit stunned that the woman might consider Buddy- I don’t know, desirable- maybe.
“Where were you… um… yesterday,” she asked. “Surfing,” I said, and probably went into some details of where and how good she, knowing I had seen the signatures and was probably judging her (I was), didn’t actually care to hear. “You know, you’ll always remember where you were when man first walked on the moon.”
Buddy nodded at me and smiled at Sheila, then sat up straighter when Sandy entered the office.
Sheila gave me my check for whatever balance remained, after taxes, from forty hours at $1.35/hr. I would routinely cash my check at the market on the way home, or, if it was early enough, before checking out a few surf spots, maybe surfing Tamarack or Grandview. Yeah, minimum wage was $1.65 an hour at the time. I found this out a month or so later when I found a required government poster in one of the bathrooms at the “Blade-Tribune” building; right after Buddy gave me a raise to $1.50.
“No,” I told the new bookkeeper, Sandy, “You actually have to pay me more.” Sandy looked at Buddy, lettering at a 4′ by 8′ easel, standing on one leg, like Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (so you get an image). “I can show you the poster. I mean…” Buddy looked at Sandy, looked at me, shrugged. “Next week, then. Okay, Kid?”
I’m pretty sure I surfed at the south jetty that Monday morning, but, can’t quite remember where I surfed on the day… you know, THE day.
NOTE: My printer is out of ink. I’ll do a color version of this later.