SurfRider71It was the best years of our life
When we were children remember what it’s like
To bring back memories of the good things we once knew
To be right, there’s so much we gotta do.

— Iron Butterfly, Best Years of Our Life, Metamorphosis

▲ click to hear the music ▲

Listening to Iron Butterfly transports me to the back of a van in 1971 heading down to the beach to go surfing. The music was so loud the walls of the car vibrated with the bass which you could feel a block away. Thinking back on those days in San Diego reminds me of how great they were and how perfect life seemed. Eight grade, and Junior High in general, for many people is either heaven or hell. For me it was the former as I ended up going to two different high schools and never really caught by stride again until many years down the road. Of course life is full of great times and memories and certainly many adults ones, but I think back on those days with fond memories and a major touch of nostalgia. Life at the age was simple, I had few commitments, and the weather was ideal.

During a recent move I re-discovered my 8th grade yearbook, which reminded me of why those times, and Pacific Beach in general, were so great. In the early 70s I lived close to the beach and on most days, after I ran my paper route in De Anza Trailer Park delivering the San Diego Union, I would head down to the beach with my Friend Neal Unger and surf Crystal Pier or Diamond Street before school. After a morning session we’d head to PB Junior High where I was the school photographer, an aspiring drummer, and just an all around surfer dude. Here’s a few pages from my yearbook to give you a sense of the times.

The eight grad lineup, with Neal Unger in the lower right.
PB Junior High 1971: part of the eight grad lineup, with Neal Unger, whom I have known since 4th grade.
Drummer in the band, 1971. Inspired by Ron Bushy (Iron Butterfly’s drummer).
With my favorite teacher, Mr. Buh. He also taught graphic arts and was a huge influence.
With my favorite teacher, Mr. Buh. He pushed me to take lots of pictures and was a huge influence. My favorite place was the darkroom in his classroom. I must have liked that shirt!

What I remember the most is how nice everyone was, how supportive, and as is common when you know your time with someone has ended (I moved the next year), how much they really liked me. If course this is par for the course in year book chatter but here are a few comments which I hold dear. Thank you Andrea, Laurie, Jacki, and Cristina! You haven’t been forgotten!!




But my memories are of more than the sappy notes: those times were unique. As anyone who has lived in San Diego can tell you it is radically different these days and the 70s, like the 60s and 50s before them, are just a memory. Here are some things I miss about 1971:

easy going, twin fins, miniskirts, Creedence Clearwater, long straight hair, 45s, corduroy, sunrises, Guess Who, Belmont Park, saltwater in my nose, wetsuit rash, hard rock, “bitchen”, beach fires, shooting the pier, my first leash, riding my bike, “far out”, Soda Pop, double features, Windansea, early mornings, the Doors, sand in my ears, hamburgers at the beach, steel wheels, vinyl records, sunburn, San Diego Sports Arena, zinc oxide, KGB Boss radio, Zog’s sex wax, Hairmos, resin, milkshakes, sleeping on the beach, fiberglass, hanging out at the seawall.

8 responses to “Best Years of Our Life: Pacific Beach 1971”

  1. Brian, my daughters attended clairmont schools. It was an irreverent time. I recall their showing me the year books and comments. I still remember one: pray for sex, you can surf anytime. Charlotte mcd

    Sent from my iPad


  2. It was a great time! I lived in the Plaza at Diamond and Lamont. Went to h.s. at MB. Every day at the beach and lots of parties on the bay side. Do you remember Sunday breakfasts at Tug’s?

    • I sure do.Born in La Jolla at the old scripps clinic.I was seventeen in 1971.Spent most of my time going to every concert I could.Spent most of the time at the beach,use to eat at Maynards,they used to have Thursday night spaghetti for 35cents,and sunday morning breakfast.I got a fake id and used to party at tugs from 1973 on.Life was perfect,but to many people moved to san diego,and the times were changing.I remember all the keg parties down at mission beach.It got to the point where I couldn’t stand all the people,and the police were turning into assholes,breaking up the parties and all.I moved away in 1977,to a small rural town in the pacific northwest.Alot of my friends still live in pacific beach.It blows my mind when I now see how the place has changed for the worse,when I come for visits.I remember when almost any apartment in pacific beach was about $160.00 per month.At the bottom of Balboa ave I used to get gas at a one pump grocery store,near where the Sentinel newspaper office was and gas was .25cents or regular and .29cents for ethel,100 octane ethel.I really miss those days and will never forget them.

  3. I went to PBJH at the same time you were there, only I was a year ahead of you. I lived on Felspar not far from Crystal Pier. I haven’t been back to PB for many years now, and I know it’s nothing like it used to be. You are so right that is was a different world in those days. PB was a sleepy little beach town, a family-oriented, neighborly place, and I feel very lucky to have lived there at that time. I miss the sounds of the ocean singing me to sleep, the smell of the salt in the air and visiting old familiar place like the Food Basket, Newberry’s, and the 19th Hole.

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