Reminiscences About Ocean Beach

by on May 13, 2014 · 8 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach

Gary Buckett who ran the Paisley Pelican with Steve Bright. The girl is Patty Smith. OB’s first head shop, the Paisley Pelican sat on Newport Ave.

Editor: For some reason, we recently received emails from two guys who used to live in OB and are willing to share their reminiscences about the town. Both Greg Koerwitz and Steve Bright give us some of their memories which give the rest of us some appreciation for the depth of passion that’s out there about our little village by the sea.

Greg Koerwitz wrote:

I recently read an article in your publication on the web site by the Scripps scientist on the certain sea rise expected in years to come and had to look at some of the pics on the site.

I lived there in 1966 to 1968 in an apartment for $90.00 a month that was only a few years old at the time and this was only a half block from the beach.

I was in the Navy stationed in San Diego at the time and was in heaven living in Ocean Beach. For a small town boy from Nebraska this was wonderful. The beach was wide and clean and very beautiful. I believe the Pier was built while we were there and the World Surfing Olympics was held there in 1967 or 68.

I fondly remember Pete’s Pizzeria on main street, it was probably the greatest restaurant in Ocean Beach. That and the fact my first vehicle was a 1957 VW which didn’t have enough compression to get up some of the Point Loma hills that I had to find a flatter route at times.

Anyway many fond memories of Ocean Beach, was last there in 1990 and watched the fireworks on the Pier, wanted to come back every year but hasn’t happened. It was a wonderful place as the whole city is, I truly loved the whole San Diego area and many times wished I had moved there after getting out of the Navy.

Hoping that the predictions for future years are wrong or can be corrected to stop some of the environmental changes. Although as we live in Nebraska they say that the tornado seasons will cause increasing damage over the years also and it appears it may be happening already after the past couple of years. Thanks for the time and enjoy the beauty you have there.

I remember my first earthquake when we lived at the apartment in Ocean Beach, it was on a Saturday and was a 5.3 and did some pretty good shaking of the building and we rushed outside not sure what was going on at first and realized it was our first earthquake.

Just a footnote, we had 13 tornado touchdowns in Nebraska yesterday, doing damage to 3 small communities, by small I mean small. A couple of the towns do not have over 1000 people and the other has about 3000. Quite a bit of damage to all three unfortunately.


Steve Bright wrote:

I was called “the OB Hobbit.”  Have Lots of memories to share. I was a co-partner of the Paisley Pelican head shop.  I would enjoy sharing stuff if anybody is interested as I don”t see much shared about the late 50’s through late 60’s.

My Grandparents came from the dust bowl to OB in the 20’s from North Dakota. My grandpa built many OB homes as well as the old wooden roller coaster in Mission Beach and the San Diego city Jail. After a roaring rowdy drunken night he was one of it’s first inmates.S o as you can see I can go on and on with OB stories, although more of its seedy side.

I was forced to leave or go to Jail, so I went north by way of San Francisco to Mendocino, to Oregon. Never made it back to OB.

Was born in OB in 1942 and I Grew up up in OB from 1942-1968.

The police gave me an option of leaving OB or go to jail. My life went to the drug culture in the summer of 1963 when I smoked my first joint. Also that summer I picked up guitar and later became a part of the reformed Rosie and the Originals.

So music and drugs led me to hippies and the opening of the first head shop in OB. The Paisley Pelican Trading Co. on Newport, in middle of the the last block, south side.

After I was asked to leave and my partner Gary Burkett went to prison, Pat O’Connor took it over. I was gone, but as the myth reads Patrick changed the name to the Black, which is still there.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie May 13, 2014 at 10:45 am

Received via email from Greg:

Probably the first and last time i will ever be published, lol. Thanks, i never expected that. Looks like mine and Mr. Brights article shared both sides of the times. The downtown seemed to be just so quaint perked into a little village that was part of a much larger city. We made a few good friends while living there but of course lost contact after moving from there.

I believe it was in 1967 or 1968 we had the San Diego riot sqaud marching down our street on the 4th of July as things were getting out of hand, hippie culture had moved in. There were people throwing bottles off roof etc. and all kinds of people were discovering Ocean Beach.

We had a one year old daughter and though it best to move so we moved to Imperial Beach after that and lived there until i was stationed on the Kitty Hawk the last year and then my wife and child moved back to Nebraska. I worked downtown at the Main Finance Office for the Navy and then at the Naval Station and was a disbursing clerk there for two years. Of my 4 years in the Navy i went to boot camp there, went to school there, and was stationed there and then received a duty change for my last year to the Kitty Hawk which San Diego was the home duty station for the Hawk. I was on two short tours overseas as i caught it in between times it was already at sea when i first reported and was back in port three months later, then went out again i believe in 6 months and then was discharged three months later.

Currently still working although i have been off because i had thumb surgery. i have had two jobs over the last 30 years, one working full time for the US Post Office and also as an insurance agent. Will be going back to work shortly and then looking at retirement in about a year and a half. Well thanks for the reminiscing i guess, if we get out there some time perhaps i will stop by. I was married to my first wife for 19 years and just entering 25 years with my second wife who i think has decided she has me trained by now. We have 7 kids between us and 19 grandkids and looking forward to touring the USA in our new 5th wheel we just purchased and going south for the winter.


Mike James May 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Hey Frank,
I forwarded you the picture above, but that ain’t me. That is Gary Buckett who ran the Paisley Pelican with Steve Bright. The girl is Patty Smith. I was 12 in 1968. I didn’t get a Zig-Zag T-Shirt until 1974.


Frank Gormlie May 14, 2014 at 7:48 am

OKay, Mike, made some changes to the caption. You didn’t get a zig-zag t-shirt till ’74??? – Wow, dude, what kept you?


Mike James May 14, 2014 at 9:08 am

Hey Frank,
A little side note: My brother Rich James had the first head shop in the Redding, California, the town I grew up in. The shop was called Leatherhead, he brought a lot of leather goods in TJ and sold them in the store. Lots of fringe jackets ala Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider. My introduction to the Zig-Zag man was a poster in the black light room of Rich’s store. It was also where I read my first underground newspaper, the Berkeley Barb.

I had never heard of the Paisley Pelican until now. Funny my daughter’s middle name is Paisley in honor of her O.B. roots.


Frank Gormlie May 14, 2014 at 10:53 am

The Berkeley Bard was great! Had a subscription to it while in OB. Was definitely inspired by the Barb to publish the original underground newspaper called “the OB People’s Rag” in Sept 1970. There was another head-type shop on Voltaire where Gary Gilmore got his start in OB; it was more than a head shop, had leather goods, antiques, hippie garb. Was later busted for drug sales (after Gilmore had moved out).


Frank Gormlie May 14, 2014 at 7:49 am

I get a real kick out of making fun of my good friend Mike James everywhere and everytime I can. You should have heard what I said about him during OB’s Holiday Parade (we were both announcers).


Darice Murray April 6, 2019 at 2:50 pm

My memory of the Paisley Pelican was working there with Pat O’Connor and Pat Campbell during the summer of 1968. Other people worked there; Wesley?
Pat O’Connor opened another shop: the Stone Front later.
I do not remember the lack or the change to that name and have always wondered at the Black’s claim to be San Diego first and oldest head shop.


Mark Osterloh May 16, 2020 at 11:50 am

In 1968 3 Corpsman stationed at the USN Hospital Balboa. When we received our orders to Nam we decided to find a place off base and rented the apartment above the Paisley Pelican for 2-3 months. We weren’t sure whether we would come back from Nam or not. We did however I haven’t seen or heard in more than 51 years. I recall the rent being $65.00/mo and it took all 3 of us to afford it. It was a fun time and am remembering all the surfing I did prior to heading to SE Asia. We had a few people climb the rain gutter down spout and didn’t know who they were but all was cool. They would leave beer or wine for their evening rent. Thanks fo the memories.


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