Pier Avenue Junior High School
By Mike Purpus
As long as I can remember Pier Avenue Junior High School, now the Hermosa Beach Community Center has been the most important landmark in Southern California.
I was born and raised two blocks west of Valley Drive right over the hill from Saint Cross Church when the train ran right through Hermosa Beach dropping off fabric for the textile mill and lumber for Learner Lumber with the station being across from Hermosa’s Post Office.
I started surfing when I was 10 in 1958 and was hooked at 12 when I started Pier Avenue Junior High School along with famous South Bay Surfing Walk of Fame inductee’s like Dru Harrison and John Baker. Pier Avenue was known for its hot surfers like Sparky Hudson, Don Craig, Mark Roberts, Billy Ray James, Mike Stevenson, Bill Collins and Alfred Laws. We all dressed the same in Levi’s, Pendleton wool shirts that you could only buy at Knot’s Berry Farm and the original Huarache leather sandals that you could only find in either Tijuana or Los Angeles’ Olvera Street. Those sandals lasted forever with slick one-inch hard leather soles perfect for sliding down the hallways meeting new girls as you knocked them over along the way.
All the boys were forced to take Mr. Turner's Wood Shop class (now the new HBHS Museum expansion area) the first year. Your first graded project was making a paddle that you got spanked with if you screwed around in school. If it didn't hurt when you got swatted with it you got an “F” and had to make another. The two best paddles went to the boy’s coach, Bryant, and girl’s coach, Strange, who always had the best paddle to give the hardest swats that left big welts as a reminder not to screw up again.
Mr. Boston was the school principal and played bridge with my parents once a week. It was very hard for me to be a rowdy surfer without getting constantly swatted around my friends. I was crucified in front of everyone when I was caught by girls coach, Strange, trying to peek through the glass into the girls shower room after PE. I became a model student after ten swats.
Once a month there was a school dance that cost 35 cents to “Twist and Shout” or do the “Surfer’s Stomp” in the gymnasium while the teachers took turns playing DJ spinning big stacks of 45’s. Everyone was too shy to be the first to start dancing so principal Boston would begin every dance by having Janie Miho, the only girl in the school smaller than me, and I rock and roll to Neil Sedaka’s “Run Around Sue”. Janie was an excellent dancer and the United States Junior Tennis Champion.
I was totally blown away when Stephen King used my two favorite spots from Pier Avenue Junior High School, the girls shower and the gymnasium, in his movie “Carrie”. I became all misty-eyed screaming out “I went to school there” in the packed theater. It was almost worth the swats bragging to my date about the girls shower room.
Pier Avenue was the most important Southern California landmark because during the 60’s and the 70’s all the surfers sold out the auditorium — waiting in lines running past the police station to see the best surf movies. Pier Avenue was the only stop on the surf movie circuit between Huntington Beach and the Santa Monica Civic. It was a giant surfer party with the sounds of beer bottles rolling down the isles, enough licorice and sunflower seeds to make you sick. It wasn't’t like going to a movie. It was like going to the best party of your life with your best friends.
From the HBHS Newsletter of March, 2007
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