Cayucos history: Last of the great story tellers

May 20, 2024


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, “The ballplayer’s Son” is currently on Amazon.

In this era of people existing like moles while playing video games, suffused in ear phones, or repeatedly checking smartphones while out in public, who in this world can carry on the art of storytelling and relating experiences in a colorful, even spellbinding manner?

Well, Ed Frawley Sr., who died some time ago, could. And when he got going on a story, I was stunned by his resemblance and delivery that reminded me of the great comedian George Carlin, whom, like Ed, was Irish and hailed from New York City.

I first came across Ed when my gal, Miranda, was renting a little stand alone one bedroom cottage in back of Ed and his wife Patti’s two story home/business—a real estate office she ran and a locksmiths/watch repair shop of Ed’s.

Ed was one of those guys who could fix just about anything and would do it for you for nothing. He abandoned his pawnbroker business down in a rough part of Whittier when he and his family moved to Cayucos in 1977, and I was curious about his experiences in that trade, and so, while talking to him one late afternoon, he invited me upstairs to share beers, and I took down these stories that occurred at his pawn shop, a large operation:

“There was this guy who kept hanging around the pawn shop, talking, and I knew he was sizing me up, feeling me out, probing for my weakness, and sure enough the bugger found it—a soft spot for animals. Now, I had a little area roped off from the shop, with a chain link fence, and over the years I had a goat chewing on the grass, I had a horse in there, a mule, and a goose. I got the goose from this guy who comes in holding it by the neck, and the damn thing was going crazy, thrashing around, so I took the goose from the guy and put it out in my little area.

“He wanted five bucks for the goose, but I gave him three. Helluva goose. Like a watch goose. Every time somebody walked by on the sidewalk, that goose honked his head off, gave ’em hell. I finally sold that goose and made a few bucks. Everything sells.”

I had to remind Ed about the guy who was feeling him out.

“So, anyway, this guy who keeps hanging around every day finally comes in with a cage with a monkey in it. He wants $25 for it and guarantees I’ll make $75 off it. Well, it’s the 1950s and $75 is a lot of money. So I buy the monkey. Now, I had all these cases up front, behind the bars. Out front it was like a shit-house, appliances and lawn mowers and such, so you had to find a path through them. In these glass cases, though, I had the good stuff, so what I did was put the monkey cage up on a couple stacks, near the register, so he was above everybody.

“I had him about an hour when this little Italian guy, around 40, one of these vain guys who liked to come in and take his shirt off and show me his muscles, a guy really full of himself, like Jack La Lanne on TV.

“So he comes in, and he sees the monkey, and he’s got his shirt off, and goes up to the monkey, and the monkey pees on him. The guy’s jumping around, violated, yelling his head off, so that monkey, he’s doing his job, running off people who don’t wanna buy anything and just hang around. So anyway, the Italian guy’s gone, and then this woman comes in, a middle-aged woman, very stern, dressed like a pilgrim, she goes over to meet him, and the damn monkey starts whacking off, and she goes screaming out of the place, and now I realize having this damn monkey’s not going to be that simple…he’s got a mind of his own.

“So I move the monkey away from the area near the register, because there’s no telling what he’ll do next. That evening my wife and I wanted to go down the road to a little pub where they had a good band, to do a little dancing and cock-tailing. So we get hold of Patti’s brother, who lives nearby, and he’s gonna watch the shop for us and close it early in the evening. Well, we go out and have a helluva good time, and when we get home after midnight, the babysitter is all worked up, and has me call my brother-in-law. Well, his wife tells me to come right over, they got the monkey. I guess there’d been one helluva scene.

Ed Frawley

“The cops called the babysitter, who called my brother-in-law and told him to come down to the pawn shop, because they thought somebody was in there robbing the place. What happened was the damn monkey, he was strong as hell, and smart, and he got his arm through the cage and opened the lock and got out, and he was jumping and swinging around the place, causing a ruckus. When my brother-in-law opened the door, the monkey tore out and climbed the chain link fence clear to the top and stood up there, and he had raided the till and put all these quarters in the little pouch they have under their chin, and he’s tossing them at the squad car, making a helluva racket—ping, ping, ping!

“Well, they couldn’t get him down, so my brother-in-law goes to the store and gets a bunch of quarters, and when the monkey runs out of quarters, he rattles them around in his hand and the monkey jumps down, and he grabs him and throws him in his car and takes him home.

“He puts him in the bathroom. Well, five minutes later he’s torn the bathroom apart. The shower curtain’s ripped down, and he’s into my sister-in-law’s powders and creams, he’s covered in powders and creams, a mess, so he takes him out before he tears the whole house apart and he sits down on a chair and holds the monkey in his arms on his lap. He had to sit there for almost two hours like that, his wife calling our babysitter over and over, until we got home and I came and got that monkey and put him back in his cage.

“After that I made a new fool-proof lock to keep the little guy in there, and I rigged up a raised area outside by the fence and put the cage out there, but damn if the monkey didn’t whack off every time a lady came out of the beauty parlor next door and walked by. Finally, I sold the monkey for a $100 to a mechanic who worked at the Powerine Station across the street. Soon as I sold it, the guy who sold me the monkey was back with three more monkeys, and he told me I’d make $225 off them, so I bought them, and sure enough I sold them all for $100 a piece.”

Besides having all these animals, and birds, Ed had a fish. A piranha fish.

“He was one of those man-eaters from the Amazon in South America, and I had him in a big tank, and it’s funny, because he liked me. He was a male. I could stick my finger in there for a minute, and he wouldn’t do anything, but if a woman went by, he went crazy, swimming back and forth, all worked up, acting the devil, wanting that woman. Well, what I did was I cooked up this deal with some guys who hung around the pawnshop and lived in the area. They were all fascinated by the piranha.

“So what I did was offer anybody a hundred bucks in cash if they’d hang their dong in the tank for a minute. I knew I could get a lotta guys to buy tickets, and make some money, but I couldn’t find any takers, only bettors. Finally, this really tough looking guy comes in and he scoffs at the piranha and says sure, he’ll do it.

“So now everybody’s getting excited, anticipating the Saturday night when the guy’s gonna hang his dong in the tank with the piranha. I start selling tickets to the Saturday Night Dong Dipping Event. But first I wanna let this guy know what he’s in for. I tell him, ‘Look, you better check this fish out before you stick your dong in the tank.’ He probably felt, well, it’s not a shark, or a barracuda, just this little fish, and he’s cocky as hell, a real tough guy, but he agrees to come down and check out the piranha on a Friday night.

“Now, at first I was gonna put a rat in the tank, but that would’ve been too bloody and gory, so I found one of those long black fish, I’m not sure what it was, and I drop it in there, and the piranha, his jaws just open up, like he’s all jaws, and he pounces on that fish, and in seconds that fish is disappearing, and this guy, he looks like he’s seen a ghost, he turns pale, grabs his crotch, and starts sinking to the ground, and that was the end of the Dong Dipping Event.”

Ed had more stories—running off some bikers with a shot gun and certain predatory personalities who took his courteous, friendly nature for weakness. Ed was a street guy. A military vet. He achieved the full ride and took his bad health late in life in stride.

Once in a while, he donned his little Irish drinking cap and visited the Cayucos Tavern, and within minutes a crowd gravitated to him, because he had that charismatic storytelling aura. He had that twinkle in his eye, that zest for life, an appreciation of life’s more bizarre experiences, in which he often dwelt.

And telling a good story means you’ve lived the life, out in the open and fearlessly, instead of hunched over a computer or walking around with your eyes on a smartphone while all of life circulates around you, and, worse yet, studying your goddam smartphone when you’re sitting beside somebody in the Schooner’s Wharf who could end up being Ed Frawley Sr!

Rest in peace, old friend.


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Everyone loved my dad. I don’t doubt that Dell cared for my precious dad and admired his excellent storytelling skills, however, this article and at least one other Dell had published have taken the original (well known in the family) stories and embellished them in an inaccurate and often offensive manner. My father was a kind, generous, colorful, funny and very thoughtful human being. He was a loving husband, wonderful father and respected businessman. While I’m sure you had fun with this story, it would have been just as entertaining if it had been recounted it exactly as told.

HAHAHAHAHA I’m crying I’m laughing so hard reading this story. Good one Dell. One of your best.

Bad part of Whittier, two blocks from my Grandparents house!!!

Went there with my uncle many times, who was a friend of Ed’s when I was a little tike:)

You know the adage, “Monkey see, monkey whack”