Thursday, June 4, 2009

Going Home Again – China Cove 1968- 1972

If you have ever driven down to China Cove you will certainly remember this sign. Despite its simplistic message that surly could be easily understood, the Newport Beach Police Department made frequent visits to ticket violators. Even in the early days the sign loomed large, when there was probably more sand than there were cars around. Later illegal parking did become a nuisance, but you know that just one of many pleasures of living on the beach.

You will know from my Prequel, the family beach house was built in 1939, I was just a year old, and thirty years later I would move my family into that house and call it home. The house, remodeled in the 50's, was pretty utilitarian, an extended box form, with four bedrooms, three baths and the smallest kitchen around. I think it must have been designed after a ship's galley, but you know it worked. You could stand in the center of it and reach everything without having to take a single step.

Of course the best part wasn't the house but rather the front yard. Sand and sea, except for one small strip of grass that rivaled the kitchen in size. It was that tough Bermuda grass, I think that's what it's called, that stuff was indestructible and it made a great doormat to use to wipe off the tar from your feet.

We had a community sand volleyball court on the upper part of the beach, which took quite a lot of work to finally get approval from the City of Newport Beach. Volleyball players thought it was the best thing since sliced bread but the sun worshippers took exception to being pelted by errant v-balls. A compromise was finally reached whereby no volleyball would be played during peak beach time. Wilt (Wooden Hands) Chamberlin even played on our court once.

For several years we held an annual clam bake. A huge pit was dug in the sand, and then lined with stones that came from Laguna Canyon, a roaring fire was built, wet burlap sacks and seaweed piled on, and delicious food ultimately came out of the pit. While all this was going on underground, we would crank up the old ice cream maker and make flavors that included fresh peach, peppermint, chocolate chip and fresh strawberry. The first few years it was fun and our next door neighbor joined in and co-hosted with us. Then one year the neighbor and I looked at each other and both said, "Who are these people?" Seems word of the event had finally reached out to great unknowns, affectionately called Freeloaders. That may have been the last year for the party as we knew it.

Early mornings were spent cleaning the sea air off the front windows that had accumulated during the previous day. Certainly having a water view is good incentive to have sparkling clean windows. It never seemed like a chore at all. Another almost daily routine was hosing off the sand from the steps and sidewalks which was constantly being tracked in from the beach.

I suppose, some thirty years after selling the China Cove house, I will have to put that event in My Life's Regrets column. Because now it is there in that house I would like to spend my remaining days, just sitting and looking out at the water, walking along the shore and feeling the tickle of sand crabs under my feet and hearing that moan of the fog horn on early mornings in June. But that is not to be because the really sad thing is the house no longer exists, torn down to a enormous hole in the ground and rebuilt bigger and bolder than before.

If I ever win the lottery I am going to buy that house on Way Lane and tear it down again. Then I will rebuild just as it was built in 1939. I know my neighbor, Dickie, will be happy to have his view back.


  1. I remember that house!!!
    At lest I know the aera well. Didnt Grandpa fight for that sand v-ball court on that beach?
    I thought it was because of him it stayed there. Is that true?
    I love that aera and miss that aera sooooo much, it was sutch a beautiful spot.
    Maybe some day you will be able to get that back. :-)
    I hope you do.
    Your storys make me miss californa.

  2. Sighed A.J. Loree