Friday, May 4, 2012

Smoked fish and the Surfer stomp

Local Memories
   Surf City local Karen Jackle remembers coming from her home in Santa Ana to Huntington Beach as a little girl in the early 1950s.

Main Street Huntington Beach in the 1950s. (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

   "I remember coming down Main Street toward the beach.  There were smoked fish stands and my Dad liked smoked fish, so we would stop to buy some," recalls Karen.

   "My stepfather was a music teacher and he had an accordion band.  On July 4th, the band was in the parade," Karen continues, in the "mid-1950s, I got to sit on the back of the float in a pretty dress with several other girls who had a family member in the accordion band.  We wore white gloves and a hat (Sunday church dresses) and felt quite important waving to the bystanders in the parade."

   (Editor's note: being in the July 4 parade is still a pretty big deal here.  If you want some real Americana, a feel-good hometown parade, live music, street food and fireworks show, come to Huntington Beach on July 4.)

Huntington's South Sea Surf Club at the cliffs, 1964.  (Bruce Gabrielson, far right, The History of Huntington Beach Surf Clubs,

   After Karen's family moved to Long Beach in 1955, "I still came to Huntington Beach.  In my early teens, I would take the bus with friends to the end of the line in Sunset Beach, then we would walk from there to the cliffs where we would watch the boys surfing."

The Pavalon and fun zone at the pier (#3 on the Historic Downtown walking guide), circa mid 1940s, was still the place to dance in the 1950s This later became the location of Maxwell's Restaurant and now, Duke's, where you can dine and watch beach volleyball next to the pier (#2 on the Historic Downtown walking guide). (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

   Karen kept coming back to Huntington Beach.  After all, this was the place to meet the cool surfer boys and do a little dancing.  "I had a girlfriend with an old van and we would drive to Huntington Beach and visit the Pavalon...and dance the surfer stomp.  The Golden Bear was across the street and I remember (seeing) people lining up out front when I left the pier area, after I was all surfer stomped out."  (Editor's note: The former site of the Golden Bear is #27 on the Historic Downtown walking guide.)

Surfers Stomp on the beach with Dick Dale, Huntington Beach, 1963.  (Photo,

   Karen was still coming to Huntington Beach when she went to college.  "I would go to the Swedish smorgasbord---later, when my uncle moved here in 1980, he liked to go there because he like herring."  Karen's dad and uncle had a thing for fish.

   Read more about the former Villa Sweden at local historian and Orange County archivist Chris Jepsen's blog at
The kitschy Villa Sweden Smorgasbord at 520 Main Street later became the Shorehouse Cafe, and is now local favorite Cucina Alessa.  You can still get fish at Cucina Alessa, but not herring.  How about salmon with diver scallops and prawns? (Photo,

   It's Huntington Beach.  Dean Torrance, of Jan and Dean, still sings here.  Pioneer surfer Corky Carroll still runs a surfing school here.  And, that sharply-dressed businesswoman walking down Main Street?  She still knows how to do the Surfer Stomp.

   We leave you today with Surfer Stomp instructions.  Turn up the The Mar-Kets!

Editor's note: Special thanks to long-time local Karen Jackle for sharing her memories.  

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