A wasted, empty gym in Cayucos

June 16, 2019

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted weekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 


The middle school built this state-of-the-art gym a few years back and later replaced the outdoor basketball courts bordering Birch Avenue with schoolrooms. As a long time basketball player, I relished the idea of a gym in Cayucos. I could go down there and shoot around, and a few of us grown up locals could start games with the teenagers in town who loved the sport.

When the gym was completed, I went there one afternoon with my ball, and a woman of official standing at the school ordered me out, claiming the gym was for students only, and I was not permitted. I asked if the gym would be open on weekends for citizens of Cayucos to play on, and she said “absolutely not.” The gym was “for the kids.”

Later, I ran into a longstanding member of the school board and broached the idea of opening the gym on weekends for locals to play on, informing him that I grew up in Compton across from Roosevelt Junior High and many of us local kids hung out in the gym and learned to play under the mentoring of older players; and this is where we learned to compete and understand sportsmanship, as well as the brotherhood of team sports.

I told him that the school paid a student athlete from the local high school to make sure nobody wore street shoes in the gym, or brought in food or drink, and that he also kept the peace.

It was a way of life growing up, and it kept us out of trouble.

The member expressed enthusiasm as his eyes appeared doubtful and he mentioned insurance problems and injuries and law suits, and I told him a sign could be put up that said “people play at their own risk involving injuries.” He expressed more enthusiasm and that was the last I heard about it.

I went to a school board meeting and realized that the longstanding member didn’t want to listen to questions about opening the gym for locals. He ran the meeting like Stalin, while female members who looked like they could chew their ways through the Berlin Wall concurred with his dictatorial manner, and their only aim was to raise money and more money and boast of raising money and boast further of their accumulation of new hi-tech equipment for students who mostly had their own hi-tech equipment at home.

I soon realized furthermore that a school board was not about the community, or the children, but appeasing wealthy parents in a wealthy district, and when I asked around about the gym what I gathered was that it was used sparingly for the brief basketball season (if there is a team anymore) and mostly for plays and student activities and a venue to raise money and more money and more money.

This has been going on for years now, and when I was walking my dog Wilbur past the downtown coffee haunt one morning, I ran into big old Pete Schuler, the newest and more liberal member of the school board. Pete, a college water polo coach and former All American at the sport, said, “The gym just sits there, empty most of the time, a waste. I’m going to see what we can do about opening it up to the kids, to the community.” He added: “It won’t be easy.”

I said, “It’d be a perfect place for fathers and sons to go down and play on weekends. This used to happen at the outdoor courts back in the 1990s.”

His friend Nick, a hulking former basketball player, said, “The problem is, there aren’t hardly any fathers and sons around here anymore. This isn’t the 1990s. Hardly any kids play hoops. Mostly they surf.”

“Well, it’s worth a try,” I said. “Maybe if they opened the gym, they’d come to play.”

Fact is, I’ve seen more than a few kids walking around town dribbling basketballs. I can see where the breed of over-protective parents moving into Cayucos would be terribly fearful of allowing their kids to play a violent contact sport like pickup basketball, especially, God forbid, if it is unsupervised by school authorities and parents.

I can understand why parents would want to deter their teenagers from playing basketball in a gym where they might fall and scrape a knee and get a boo boo or twist an ankle and have their parents sue the city or the school board and force the stuffed shirts to live in a world of prevailing terror over lawsuits and injuries to whomever wants to play one of the great American athletic pastimes.

I recall a few years back when the school board successfully sued my friend Dan Chivens (lawyers fees were in the thousands), a working class man wanting to put his two boys through college, over a petty infringement of his property on the school district’s alley beside the bus barn, and he was so infuriated he actually ran for the school board.

Yet, once in the cavernous veteran’s hall, where debates were taking place among candidates, and he realized if he won he’d have to break bread with this crew of reptiles, I told him I’d vote for him and hoped he’d lose. After the debates, he whispered, “I hope to God I don’t win. Please don’t vote for me.”

“Then I won’t vote for you.”

After he lost, he said, “Thank God. I’m no politician.”

Neither is Pete Schuler, but, as a coach and teacher, he’s smart enough and experienced, and certainly tough-minded enough to do something about opening that gym, or at least getting after the reptiles, so that it’s about the kids, and not the parents, and not the goddamn money all the time.


Have you people looked outside lately? There are dormant outdoor courts all over the SLO Coast. It’s not enough that you have near-perfect weather and sunshine and ocean views, no, you want gyms! More, more, more! I had to move to Missouri because of the skyrocketing rents there in Morro Bay/Cayucos. I used to play basketball at the outdoor courts in Pismo, SLO, etc, with people of all ages. Know where I play basketball now? I DON’T! I play freaking waterpolo! Our streets are creeks! It’s humid and hot one day, cold and windy the next. We had to replace basketball with water polo!


Obesity rates are at epidemic levels for children and adults. Video games and iphones are allowed by those lazy parents that vote for these brain dead board members. Basketball is estimated to be played by 300 million people world wide. Not opening that Gym so players of ALL ages can play the greatest game in the world is downright shameful.


Ever thought of Badminton? Badminton and soccer are the two most popular recreational sports in the world. There’s also Ultimate Frisbee.


With the total price tag we pay in taxes in this state there should be a public Gym and swimming pool in every city in California….if we are going to pay for some of us to have free healthcare in California we had better build more Gyms and pools and courts and bike trails…..just sayin…


Yeah. It would be a shame if you all would have to go outside and run and bike and hike and surf and play Ultimate Frisbee in that dismal climate you all are enforced to endure. Sorry. I’m a little bitter. I miss my SLO. I was a good SLO Liberal while I lived there. Missouri’s not so great.


Amusing in a sad way, the Butterfly Stompers who see the upvote I gave you for this sensible comment, and downvote it so it disappears as if it never happened. A deceiving game, the one of allowing downvotes to cancel upvotes, bad business that. Yeesh. Would that this forum showed ONLY upvotes, we’d have a better grip on what readers really think.


Well said, slophocles. Since my upvote is disappeared by a cranky resident of paradise, I must pen my total agreement. Of ALL PLACES where indoor gyms are a minor minor priority, it’s here!!! Mind boggling.

I have after a few decades of considering myself very fully one of the following (I won’t say which), concluded that “a good Liberal” is as oxymoronic as “a good Conservative.” Both, these days, are just different brands of tyrant in denial.

I feel for you, slophocles! Maybe you’ll be able to move back someday.


I was one of the BEST! BEST, I tell you!


Empty? Really? That would be a real shame if true. While I’m not contesting your complaint, I find it hard to believe this gym gets no use. First off, I’m sure the PE department uses it vigorously every day of the school year. Plus, junior high volleyball season goes on in the fall with both boys and girls teams practicing or playing just about every night. This would be followed by basketball season, again, boys and girls teams every night and probably on Saturday as well.

Guessing that in the summer it goes empty quite a bit but it’s just not in the school’s interest to open it up to adults for some kind of shoot around, pick up game thing. With insurance sky-high and electricity costs it makes no sense. Those days are long gone Dell. Sorry. But, not surprised your column has elicited remarks about the poor tax payer being somehow cheated. Total rubbish.


In any other area of the nation, PE classes should have a gym available. Why are these Cayucos kids indoors for PE? A fogbank rolling in? What do you think the kids of Maine or Alaska or the hell-hot South would do with your weather? They’d run out into it and play Ultimate Frisbee!


I honestly believe the average kid now days would rather play video games in front of their TV or their face glued to their cell phone than shoot hoops. And baseball…. forgetaboutit.

Ben Daho

TAXPAYERS built a gym that isn’t being used but can’t use it because of Liability. They didn’t mention liability when they were asking for money.


It’s the same as a sportsball stadium, except smaller!

Taxes buy both the sportsball stadium and the sportsball gym

Taxpayers who wish to watch sportsball need to buy tickets, even though they paid for the building

A very small number of people benefit from the stadium/gym, whilst everyone else is kept out so no lawsuits erupt from hang nails, sunburn, twisted ankles or fence-climbing injuries, etc.

But hey! It provided “jobs” for a few months back when it was built! Yay!


More of this please! I really appreciate and enjoy your writing style and wit, Mr. Franklin.

Your sentiments resonate.


I agree, Dell’s a gem, a great writer, brilliant at catching in words the fleeting character of a town and era. He’s adopted it as his own and some of it has adopted him, too.

Look, I love a good meaty obscenity as much as the next guy. But come on … why end with one, an adult complaining about how grownups don’t get to use this thing built with school/tax monies for the kids of the small town where SURFING has pretty much been king for the last three generations? He is legit and right of course in his complaint, that it’s better to see father and son, elders and youngsters, jamming together no matter what, on the waves or on the court.

What pains me more are homeowners association neighborhoods, which exist in the first place because excessive government regulation made it the only way contractors could build homes and profit by it while still making them affordable to buyers, that ban parking one’s own vehicle in one’s own driveway or on the street in front and using the garage for something else. If Dad wants to buy an old beat up classic car and restore it with his son and pals who are interested in mechanics, as a great project, forget it!! Why, you can’t even hang around on a Sunday afternoon with the garage door open and drink beer without breaking the rules in those ‘hoods. It’s against the law to be an eyesore, sidewalks apparently not qualifying as such, when sidewalks in at least 70 percent of residential neighborhoods are pure blight that also severely limit parking and street safety every time. It boggles the mind.

Ol’ Bill Cattaneo said it once: It isn’t how many people there are in a place, it’s how they treat each other. I live for the day that people in stifled manicured places rise up and tell the nanny state naggies to stuff it. Here of all places … live-and-let-live like free humans.




I’m baffled at the sight of people walking on treadmills, eyes fixed on a flat screen above them, during a gorgeous beautiful day only about a mile and a half away from a beach that stretches for MILES.


Cattaneo sounds familiar. Who did he coach?


Bill, a wonderful broad-minded guy, lamented some 30 years ago, when SLO Co began to be seriously invaded by folks from other places, a lot of retirees among them, who brought with them many demands and expectations and tyranny, that it wouldn’t matter how packed or populous we became. The real key, he said, was how we treated each other. He was right. I refuse to tyrannize my neighbor just because I don’t like his taste or lack of it. That is treating folks right.

He came from an old SLO Co family, arrived in the 1920s and created Cattaneo Bros Jerky, the best store-bought REAL TRUE jerky around, and now Ray C has his Ray’s Own brand that is just as incredibly good in a different kind of cut, and my personal favorite. It is a stone cold necessity in any pantry or vehicle.

I have eaten lots of cowboy jerky, made by cowboys who made jerky from venison, beef, whatever, the same way their dads and granddads did, with salt, pepper, and sun pretty much that’s all. NONE had sugar in it, I had never even heard of jerky with sugar in it until Teriyaki .. now you go to any store and look at 7 dozen different brands of gourmet “real” cowboy jerky and it is loaded with sugar, sugar, sugar.

That’s why the best storebought, hands down, is Ray’s Own and Cattaneo’s, both brands, run by great families who respect tradition and real jerky. My opinion, anyway! No relation, just a longtime fan.


Note for accuracy: the Cattaneo Family started the jerky company, Bill is a member of that family, but lives elsewhere now, as far as I know.


Ah yes, now I remember – jerky. That stuff was good. I miss it. Know what we eat here in Missouri for snacks? WHATEVER THE GOVERNMENT GIVES US, THAT’S WHAT!! Anyway, thanks for the novella.


Today’s “novella” is a different time’s brief.


When I saw the Title I figured that Dell would want to fill the gym with his Homeless homies!!!

Cayucos School is such a great school that it’s like sending your children to private school, that doesn’t happen by accident:)

You can get the man out of LA, but not get the LA out of the man:(

Their is one thing I do miss about Dell’s old newspaper, a picture and comment on some local beautiful woman, Titled Cayucos Babe of the Month!!!

Come on Dell, bring back what made Dell Great Again:)


My dad would say, “Dell, you’d complain if you were hung with a new rope.”