Me and Gillen at Lunch-Part 2

Vince and I had two Mexican restaurants that we really enjoyed. The first was Casa de Pico. It was located in the Bazaar del Mundo in Old Town San Diego State Park.    Old Town, San Diego, is where the Spaniards first settled back in 1757 or 1767, I forget which. Bazaar del Mundo is a collection of Latin America flavored shops surrounding Casa de Pico,  a patio or outside dining restaurant. The whole place is decorated in bright, festive colors and it feels good just being there.  On the weekends, there was usually a mariachi band circulating from table to table in the restaurant. The area is a favorite with both locals and tourists.

Pat was with me one time when Vince showed up with his mother and daughter. Vince’s mother, Nadine Gillen, had been our Cub Scout Den Mother. I believe we joined the Scouts when we were 9 years old so that would have been 1945. Considering that this lunch date was taking place between 1995 and 2001, a lot of water had passed under the bridge. It was a real treat to see Mrs. Gillen again.

I   hate to admit that I’m too dumb to remember the daughter’s name but it’s true. We only saw her once but she was/a real cute girl, and Pat and I liked her immediately. She had married a guy from New Jersey, and I think they lived in New York. She thought a lot of her mother-in-law, but couldn’t resist imitating her New Jersey accent. She did a whole routine and cracked us all up.

Another favorite restaurant was Las Ollas. It was located across from the public beach in either Solana Beach or Cardiff By The Sea. Those beach towns all run so close together, I’m never sure what town I’m in. Anyway, Las Ollas is located a little bit north of San Diego, up Highway 101. The restaurant is on the east side of the road, and you just turn off into their parking lot. On the west side of the road is the beach and the surf.

After eating at Las Ollas, Vince and I would jump in our cars and go a couple of miles north to Swami Beach. The parking lot for Swami is on top of a cliff, 30 or 40 feet above the beach. There is a stairway going down to the sand with more steps than Vince and I could navigate. There were concrete benches up on top, and Vince and I would just sit there and stare at the Pacific. It’s peaceful and mesmerizing. Vince’s son, Mitch, joined us at Las Ollas a couple of times. Mitch lived in Park City, Utah, where he tended bar in summer, and was a ski instructor in winter.

Pat and our friend, Judy, joined us for lunch at Las Ollas one time.

I think Vince’s mother was living in Joplin. His brother, Steve, had retired there after a career as a teacher and school principal. Vince’s sister, Kathryn, had been living in Anaheim. Her husband, Jim Stell, had already passed away.

Vince and I were both diabetics, and looked out for each other, and both of us had candy or glucose tablets in our shirt pockets to share in the event of a low sugar condition. Vince never complained or talked about himself. I didn’t know he was on dialysis until he told me he was tired of going to the dialysis center and was going to start doing it at home. He later told me it was a pain in the butt to deal with the buckets of fluid and all the tubing, but it was still better to be doing it at home.

Mitch and his girlfriend had come down from Park City to visit Vince. Vince had lost a lot of weight. He never was a big guy, and it looked like he probably didn’t with more than 120 pounds. On a Tuesday, I got a call from Mitch saying that his dad had passed away. So long, Vince, it’s been good to know you.

Dave Thomas


Me and Gillen at Lunch

A couple of days ago, I got a call from Keith Scholfield, back in Augusta, Kansas. He said he was updating the contact list for our class of 1954 at Augusta High School.  Keith said he hadn’t talked with everyone yet, but it looked like there were only 26 of us left of a graduating class of 72. As Keith filled me in on what he had learned from those he had spoken with, I enjoyed hearing where they were living and how they were doing. After seeing these kids every school day for 12 years, they just disappeared. By the time of graduation, you know so much about them, they are almost like distant cousins.  If you weren’t pretty close, you probably lost track of them.   I thought my classmates might enjoy hearing about our friend, Vincent Gillen and some outings that he and I shared. I’ve forgotten most of the dates but that won’t hurt the stories.             

Our 40th class reunion was held in 1994 and I went back to Kansas for it. While talking with Keith, he mentioned that Vincent Gillen was living in Oceanside, California.    That was good to hear as I lived in El Cajon, California which put me only 35 or 40 miles from Vince.  When I got back home, I called the information operator and asked if she had a number for Vince. She did, so that problem was solved easily enough. I called him and we had a nice visit and made plans to meet for lunch

During our phone conversation, Vince told me that he had lived in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and worked in Tulsa for Shell Oil Company as a manager in the credit card department. Due to a re-organization at Shell, Vince was offered early retirement. He jumped on it and being divorced and free as a bird, he headed for a warmer climate and ended up in Oceanside, California, a place his family had  vacationed at when he was a boy. Vince wanted to buy a home if he could find one near the beach and the price was right.  He said he looked at 130 homes before he bought one. I asked if his realtor wanted to strangle him. He said he was safe because the guy was new to real estate and was desperate to make a sale.

Vince and I met at Kono’s in Pacific Beach. Pacific Beach is one of San Diego’s seaside communities and is the location of Mission Beach and the boardwalk. It’s a fun place to be for both locals and tourists. Kono’s is located at the north end of the boardwalk at Mission Beach. It was originally started up as a place for the surfers to get breakfast. They start showing up at dawn and after a couple of hours swimming in a cold ocean they are starving. Kono’s has a deck overlooking the beach and the waves so you can sit there and eat while you watch the surfers. There is a full breakfast menu, but Pat and Vince and I liked the Breakfast Sandwich best. Two scrambled eggs, two strips of bacon, a slice of tomato, cheese, and some kind of sauce, on an English muffin. Mighty good.

Vince and I were on the phone one day, setting up our next lunch, and he told me he had gotten rid of the old Buick Riviera he had been driving and purchased a 1985 Chevrolet. I congratulated him on the buy but was having some serious doubts. Why would a smart guy like him get rid of an old heap and replace it with another that is already ten  years old?  Vince said he would show me the Chevy when we were at lunch. The next day, at Kono’s, we ate, and then went out to see the car. It turned out that Vince  was just being a smart ass. It was a Chevy, all right, a 1985 Corvette convertible.  The car was in perfect condition, and looked like it had just come off the showroom floor. Vince said the car had belonged to a doctor who had only driven it on weekends. The car was black and had no scratches or marks of any kind. Vince was a real convertible-type guy. I never once saw that Corvette with the top up.

Sometimes, Pat went with me to lunch with Vince. After eating, Vince and I would retire to a bench on the boardwalk to watch the surfers, waves, and sunbathers. Pat would go back to the car, put on her roller blades, and take off south, on the boardwalk (it’s actually a concrete walk).  The boardwalk extends for two or three miles down the beach, past the roller coaster, to the jetty that marks the inlet where the Pacific Ocean comes into Mission Bay. Pat would next go a block east to a sidewalk known as Bay Walk and head back north. Altogether, her course covered seven miles. Pretty good for a woman in her sixties.

Jo Lynn (Watson) Dennett, of Augusta, came for a visit. I called Vince and we scheduled a lunch at Kono’s. Pat and I wanted Jo Lynn to really experience San Diego by spending some time in one of the beach towns. Two of the words that describe Pacific Beach are “fun”and “energy.” On summer weekends, the ocean is warm, and there are plenty of surfers and swimmers. Every square inch of beach sand is covered by sunbathers and kids. The boardwalk is crowded with people walking, roller blading, and riding bicycles. A half block east of the boardwalk is Mission Bay Drive, a street that is populated with shops and small restaurants. Vince wanted Jo Lynn to experience all of it, so he gave Jo Lynn a ride in his Corvette convertible all the way down Mission Bay Drive, past the roller coaster, to the jetty and back. She got a charge out of it.

All of us got to see the Pacific Beach Flash. He’s a fun guy who dresses in costumes and roller blades up and down the boardwalk on weekends.

Pat had Jo Lynn put on her roller blades and try them out. That didn’t go so well, so we scratched that activity.  

This story is getting too long, so next week it will continue. Vince and I had some favorite Mexican restaurants, and we had some lunch guests such as his mother, his daughter, his son, and our friends.

Dave Thomas


We Would Like to Know

I was thinking of our Congress and how they are getting nothing done. They seem to be so conflicted by promises and contributors that they have lost all pretense of having any common sense. Who do they owe?

I’m reminded of a little story I wrote some time ago. As a kid, I saw a dog coming down the street one day. He was wearing a collar, so I caught up with him to see if he had a tag. Sure enough, he did. The tag read, “I am Ed Lietzke’s dog. Whose dog are you?”

Dave Thomas 2/10/22

Lunch Guests

Last year, I told you about some crows my wife, Pat, was feeding. It was an “on demand” kind of thing. They would squawk until she came out with some food. The way it worked was that the six crows would arrive, and five of them would settle in a tree across the street. The sixth one would land on the edge of our garage roof. Our attached garage forms a 90 degree angle with the rest of the house. The crow could perch on the edge of the garage roof and look across and into the picture window of the living room. When Pat heard the squawking, she would look out the window and make eye contact with the crow. When she opened the door and went out, the crow maintained eye contact at all times. It seemed to know that eye contact was an important part of getting your message across. Pat would put the food on the lawn or the driveway, and the boss bird and the other five would enjoy the feast. If they ate everything but were still hungry, the head crow would start squawking again and would keep it up until Pat brought more food.

Last week, after several quiet months with no crows, Pat thought she heard them out front. She went out, and sure enough, there were six crows on our driveway. Five of them were grouped at the foot of the drive, and a single one was closer to the house. The lone guy, the communicator, was yelling his fool head off. Pat said, “Okay, okay, I’ll get you some lunch,” and she turned and walked back toward the front door. The crow was following right behind her. Apparently, he didn’t want to lose sight of her. She went into the house and the quickest thing that came to mind was a handful of Cheerios. She took the Cheerios out and tossed them on the driveway. The six crows wasted not time in gobbling them up. After eating, they left, and we haven’t heard them around the neighborhood. I guess they were just passing through. I think that after all these months, it’s really strange that the crows knew which house to come back to for a handout.

P.S.- Here’s a little story Pat and I just heard today. Our grandson’s girlfriend, Meztli, says, “I just heard the strangest story. My grandmother feeds crows.” Our grandson, David, says, “There’s nothing strange about that- my grandma feeds crows, too!”

Dave Thomas