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


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