A Cayucos Christmas at Schooner’s Wharf

December 23, 2021

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

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


There was a genuine feeling of cozy, festive togetherness at the Schooner’s Wharf Christmas party Sunday evening the 19th of December, an event partaken by local regulars who eat and drink at the Wharf and those that just plain regard this place as their drinking club and have stools named after them for their boozing longevity or charismatic personalities, like Randy “The Pirate” Crozier and the elegantly clad unofficial mayor of Cayucos, Tag Morely, in his imported Italian shoes and stylish sports jacket, holding court beside the Snuffy Smith-dressed, bushy-bearded Pirate at the corner of the bar beside the serving station (where Tag always stands and Crozier sits).

Upon entering at the top of the stairway leading to the patio and bar inside, the other unofficial mayor of Cayucos, in his North Pole togs, sat alongside his wife and collected ten dollar minimums for entrance fee tickets for a raffle, or, as many tickets as one wished to buy to support the restoration of the Cayucos Vet’s Hall that was condemned a few years back. In other words, a fundraiser.

The crowd was rewarded with comfort food–Tri Tip, salmon, pasta, mashed potatoes and veggies, and all the booze one could hold, which flowed from the bar and produced a line out onto the patio where every table was taken by those of us warding off the very chilly evening in layers of winter attire.

Dressed differently in a loud, garish, red plaid suit and tie was the Wharf’s owner, Brendan, who made the rounds of those sitting at tables or squished into the bar, where the Schooner’s full time happy hour regulars held down their long-established stools.

Admittedly, Schooner’s Wharf has been my watering hole for well over a decade; it is where I go when I need a drink and the opportunity to discuss urgent, meaningful nonsense with fellow barflies. The Schooner’s Wharf is where I met one of my main drinking pals, Hazel, and it was she and her husband Greg with whom I attended the bash and shared a table close to the bar entrance.

How did Hazel find the perfect table? We arrived just early enough to sit down with a couple friends of hers (Bob and Lisa) who, after living here in Cayucos for only two years, have immediately adopted Schooner’s as their close-enough-to-walk-to social headquarters.

“I love this bar,” said Bob. “The bartenders, the people, the food…the pandemic lock-down was tough, so when they opened this bar I came in and started meeting everybody, including the Pirate!”

To this couple, Schooner’s has become a “home away from home.”

As I looked around, the scene struck me as a kind of house party for old friends, and surprisingly, the crowd consisted of young folks and old, all commingling. Waiting in line for drinks, familiar faces waved or came over to talk and catch up, for the pandemic was cruel to barflies, who don’t like drinking at home or alone but savor the saturation of atmosphere, into which one can lose themselves in the talking and laughing and surprising hugs.

As the suave unofficial mayor inside the bar said, “I can stand here all night and just watch people and be totally entertained. It’s never dull.”

Many of us, after eating, milled around and visited (The Pirate and I had an at least twenty minute discussion and retelling of a fight we were in with bad people in the Cayucos Tavern in the early 1990s when the sheriffs came and refused to take Crozier to jail because they were sick of booking him and doing his paper work and put me, very drunk, in charge of him), until Brendan stood up on a bench on the patio to thank everybody for their contributions, for coming, for supporting his establishment, and to hand out raffle awards.

But before starting he praised a few people associated with the fundraiser, and especially the bearded unofficial mayor collecting money at the entrance, a retired high school teacher born and raised in Cayucos and who, quietly behind the scenes, has done more for this town than anybody over the past decades. During Brendan’s praise, he tried to hide under the table—a turtle withdrawing his head into the shell—while his wife beamed.

As Brendan awarded prizes from the raffle (Greg won three after buying well over a hundred dollars worth of tickets), I gazed at my drink, which had to measure an entire large cup of straight vodka on ice, a good thing since the food kept me from becoming too drunk or wobbly or slurring and the half mile walk home accompanied by Hazel and Greg would be warm and relatively numb.

It was a perfect party: Nobody too drunk or stupid or offensive, but buzzed just enough to be mellow and embracing and joyous at the freedom of having their social headquarters back.

Two days later, Hazel told me she and Greg still felt the glow of the night.


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