Gail's Art & Writing Blog


Early morning on Pismo Beach brings out the surfers with their colorful boards. They protect themselves from the icy Pacific Ocean with wet suits. As far as I can remember, the locals living in the area around Oceano, Grover City and Pismo have always enjoyed surfing. Usually there is enough wave action along this area of the coast to provide a good time for the casual surfer. The Beach Blanket movies starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon were immensely popular in the early 60’s decade. I remember tagging along with my best friend when her oldest brother was forced by their mother to take us along with him and his friends as they surfed. I don’t know how good they were; my friend and I were about eight and we spent our time there getting sunburned and playing near the shore.

Despite the early hour Pismo beach usually has plenty of visitors, Families are setting up shade canopies for the day, couples are enjoying a morning walk, and children are already braving the cold water to splash in the waves. Pismo is a ‘doggy” town. There are always plenty of canine citizens being taken for walks along the beaches by their human friends. As a child, I spent a lot of time playing in the water either while my father surf fished or dug or clams. Since both of these things are not allowed near the touristy area off the Pier, we usually did our thing further down the shore where overhead casting from fishing lines couldn’t endanger beachcombers walking on the shore. The Pismo Clam of course is now on the forbidden list.  A great deal of this can be attributed to the fact that the clam is a favorite food of sea otters, which are now on the protected list (in case you didn’t know putting a species on this list sometimes also includes the food they eat). When I was a child, there was also an outbreak of domoic acid poisoning, also known as amnesic shellfish poisoning in the local clam population, which led to the banning of harvesting not only the Pismo Clam but the local razor clams as well.

The history of people at Pismo Beach starts at least 9,000 years ago with the Chumash Indians, who referred to the area as a place to find pismu, or tar. The Pismo Beach region has an interesting history going back in time to 1769, when Don Gaspar de Portola and parties camped in the area. According to the diary of Costanso, a member of the Portola party, "The party continued over the sand dunes and then descended to the beach, along which they walked for several miles before camping for the night. Near their camping place was an Indian village of some forty people." Undoubtedly, the beach walked upon by the Portola party was that known today as Pismo Beach. The 1900s were wild times in Pismo Beach. Pismo was noted for having many saloons, along with several notorious brothels. Besides the hotels, 0ther amusement type businesses offered a variety of entertainment, including a skating rink, a bowling alley, and a dance hall. The property directly south of Shell Beach now known as Dinosaur Caves, was the site of an amusement park, with a giant cement dinosaur to gather attention. H. Douglas Brown started building the dinosaur in 1948 and was stopped by local opposition. The headless dinosaur remained a local landmark until it was torn down in the late 1950s. Pismo Beach was also known as a place to find booze during the Prohibition Era.

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