I wonder how you’re feeling
There’s ringing in my ears
And no one to relate to ‘cept the sea
Who can I believe in?
I’m kneeling on the floor
There has to be a force
Who do I phone?
The stars are out and shining
But all I really want to know
Oh won’t you show me the way, every day
I want you to show me the way, yeah
Peter Frampton — Show Me the Way, 1975
▲ click to hear the music ▲
In September 1975 I started college at Cal Poly and I was terrified. I only knew two people in San Luis Obispo, both of which I rarely saw the five years I was there; my parents lived in Virginia and my brother in San Diego. I didn’t have a car and I didn’t really know why I was there, except for the waves. For me, college was an afterthought, not a planned endeavor, and I went largely because my cousin Greg said it would be fun … and it was. The irony is that I am writing this after spending 15 years in college, getting a Ph.D., and now nearing my 25th year as a Professor of Marine Biology.
But on that day I was shaking. As I walked into my dorm room in Sierra Madre, Peter Frampton blasting out of almost every room and “Show Me the Way” became the song that always reminds me of that time. It was a wild time and I quickly met people, got rides to the beach with friends and girlfriends, and had one of the best years of my life.
After a year in the dorm I moved to Shell Beach where I lived until I left in 1982. Central California, and Cal Poly, in particular, was a sleepy, quiet place back then: no traffic, lots of places to surf, a friendly crowd, and some outrageous parties. People would say “Howdy?” and “Where ya from?” and most of my dorm mates from the valley — Fresno, Visalia, Merced — and came to Cal Poly to learn agriculture; most of the rest were from the Bay area. I quickly confirmed that I had made the right college choice: the number and quality of surf spots was amazing: St. Ann’s, Sewers, Pismo Beach Pier, Hazards, Morro Bay Rock, Point Sal, Jalama, Cayucos Pier, Moonstone Beach, Killers, Pico Creek, Fullers, the list goes on. When it was too big and blown out we would drive down to Santa Barbara; too small, drive up to Big Sur.
It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the area was “discovered” by Southern California, which slowly changed the character of the area. It is still a wonderful place but not the magical town I remember from those days. So here are some photos from this time. Most all of them are black and white because I developed my own film back then; color was a luxury.
17 responses to “Best Years of Our Life: Cal Poly 1975”
Brian, thanks for this email. You have had a wonderful life…loving mother, loving father, followed your interests, did what you wanted to do. I enjoyed seeing the picture of your mother. She was a good friend. Charlotte mcd
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Thanks Charlotte. I agree!
I remember your mother leaving a navy wives gathering such as a coffee or tea in order to get home because you boys would be coming home from school. She was a loving, caring mother. Very pretty, also. Charlotte mcd. If you have any more pictures with her in them, please post them. I enjoyed seeing her once again. Remembered her with fondness. We navy wives had a strong bond.
I remember your mothers passing. However, I have forgotten why. Was it the kidney problem? She was such a lovely person, very attractive, friendly. Is your daughter as pretty? Resemble Millie?
Your father was a naval officer. I think he still is. What did he think about your long, abundant hair? Charlotte mcd
Thanks. You had a wonderful mother. She was beautiful, intelligent, a loving mother. She loved you. You were fortunate in your parents. Charlotte McDaniel. You don’t remember me, but it remember you as a young boy. You came to our house several times with your mother. We lived up 395 .
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[…] My 7′ 2″ Lopez Lightning Bolt, Fall 1975, when I started college at Cal Poly. I loved that board and rode it for several years. See Best Years of my Life, 1975. […]
Came across your blog. I was in San Luis Obispo visiting a lot and surfing some during that time. I has a few friends going to Cal Poly. My Friend was Brad Chamberlain’s room mate for a bit at Cal Poly. Went surfing a few times with Brad. Small world. I was also in Indonesia around the same time 1980. Grew up in Santa Barbara. Loved the pictures so great, Good times and Yes was a highlight in my life also. Loved all your photo’s. Brought back good memories as I surfed many of the same places during that time. Great blog 🙂 Jamie
Thanks Jamie for your comments. It is such a small world and we all intersect in ways seen and unseen. Glad you also got to experience those great times. Take care, Brian
[…] surf. Naturally, when I went off to college the primary criteria was good surf, so I ended up at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo; a wonderful school near great waves, and lucky for me, excellent professors in […]
[…] to leave my surfing life in California. To me it was California Lost until I moved back to start college in 1975.Then, in the film, my van pulls up into an empty parking lot. I still remember that day […]
[…] Best Years of Our Life: Cal Poly 1975 […]
Your post about cal poly hits home. My father also attended cal poly and graduated in 75. BSc comp sci. I have a lot of pictures from his time there and your pictures are wonderful!
Thanks for bringing back the memories.
[…] an undergraduate student at Cal Poly (SLO) in the mid-1970s I was educated in the shadow of the giants before me, Gary and Richard […]
[…] Best Years of Our Life: Cal Poly 1975 […]
I was surfing U tube and came across your 1975 surf trip video and i was friends with Frank Dorenkamp and saw that he passed in Dewy Beach,Del. I was good friends with Pat Fulks and his brother Tom.
I was also friends with Dave Bentz and his brother Alan. The video brought back many memories.
I remember coming out to California and I went to Santa Barbara to look for frank,I knew he had a sale boat in Santa Barbara. After going to the Harbor master’s office he told me what slip Franks boat was docked. I waited until some one came and opened the gate and walked down the pier and sitting on the front of a sailboat was Frank in his birch well bathing suite with his sun glasses on. He said Chip what are you doing here and I told him I had a job in San Rafael and I was looking for him. He said to go buy a six pack and he was going out with friends on their sailboat and for me to join them. At the time he was working taking supplies back and forth to oil rigs.
I enjoyed your surf video and I graduated from Fort Hunt in 1974. Nice memories and I loved to hear Wishbone Ash.
Chip Schelhorn. Where is Tom Fulks now? When I saw him last he said he was living near the beach and could walk to the beach.
I was recently trying to find out whatever happened to Frank Dorenkamp, and came across your blog. I remember you, because you were friends with Frank and Dave Bentz, made surfer movies, were actually a surfer and not just some poser with year round surf racks, and you and Tom went to Cal Poly.
If Chip Schelhorn is a big guy, then I remember him from Ft, Hunt. And I remember the Fulks brothers too, but hung out with Allen, Corky and Frank the most. Really enjoyed watching your ‘A Hatteras Oddyssey’ movie on YouTube. Just found out that Frank had passed. And Dave passed away this past December (career naval pilot, illness). That’ what got me to checking out “what happened” to old HS friends.
While I am sorry that some of my old friends have passed away – and passed away far too early. It does make me smile to know that some of you actually got to live out your surfer dreams.