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End of the End Cafe
End of the End Cafe
A Powerful and Dramatic End
Painted on location in the rain in March 1983, this pen & ink watercolor captures the tense moments as powerful wind driven waves battered the Huntington Beach Pier, with the End Cafe ready to fall into the ocean at any moment.
Early that windy and wet March morning, I had emerged from my 5th & Walnut corner studio/home adjacent to the old Surf Theater planning to run an errand in the Ford pick-up. Turning the corner from Walnut on to 5th St., I couldn't believe what I saw. Huge waves were crashing up and over the pier's end. The churning, dirty, green brown sand filled "white water" raged along the pier's underside as it rolled to shore, tearing away pilings and leaving the End Cafe dangling precariously, ready to fall into the surf at any moment.
Seeing this I immediately returned inside to get my oil painting gear and set out to capture the scene on a Masonite panel from the old upper parking lot. People lined the high ground sand waiting to see what would happen as the exploding and surging surf carried water and pier fragments towards them as pieces were carried up to pools that had formed behind them as far inland as the bike path. An NBC News Bell Jet Ranger helicopter hovered for hours with the camera trained on the scene, hoping to catch the moment when the pier would give way and the historic restaurant would crash and sink into the pounding waves. It would fly away for a few minutes, and then return to wait, and wait, all the while buffeted by the turbulent air.
After painting for two hours while struggling with the wind and rain, a tornado-like waterspout suddenly passed overhead and launched my paint box, easel and weighted umbrella that flew over 30 yards away. Already soaking wet from wind driven rain, I had grabbed the panel just in time and saved the painting. After gathering up the broken paint box (my first ever paint box from 2nd grade - that was then repaired) and other pieces, I went back to the studio and returned to the scene in dry clothes with my watercolor set, capturing the piece seen above while standing wrapped in a raincoat.
But the End Cafe held on through the day and remained on the pier as the storm subsided. Yet the damage was so severe that the old restaurant would have to be removed and replaced by a new End Cafe that was not so lucky. In January, 1987, one month after I finished my painting of the old Huntington Beach Pier, a storm blew in and the new End Cafe and part of the pier completely disappeared overnight. All that remained of the restaurant were chunks of wood strewn along the beach."