A travel moment on Manhattan Beach


I bit into the chunk of succulent white chocolate. It ravished my taste buds and sent a tingling sensation to the inner core of my right molar. Saliva trickled down the side of my mouth and I wiped it clean with my ragged t-shirt sleeve. Carefully calculating the five dollars in my pocket, I knew that, after the chocolate, I could still buy a grab-bag prize at the pier, a slice of pizza and coke later on.

I was twelve years old; a lanky pre-teen. Every weekend, my friend Nancy and I rode our bikes down to the Manhattan Beach strand- never missing the traditional stop at Joe’s Candy Cottage. Outside, the ocean breeze carried the scent of salty seaweed that filled the air; however, stepping inside Joe’s made any beachgoer want to savor the sweet, sugary, hand-dipped candy that made one’s head swirl.

In the 1960’s, Manhattan Beach, California could be described as a shanty beach town where homes were affordable and only ‘beatniks’ lived as far west as one could go. Inlanders equated those who lived there with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon; wild and carefree, and I guess we were, to some extent.

Today, homes sell for no less than a cool mil, and if you are paying close attention, you’ll run into a celebrity at the local grocery store. It is now a vacationer’s paradise, with breezy palms, a pristine beach with freshly-painted lifeguard stations every half a mile and a winding bike path fit for the fit. Tourists come, soak up some sun and then leave, recounting their ‘shore vacation.’ For us locals, it was simply a way of life.

. I miss Joe’s Candy Cottage, or quite possibly I miss the feeling it gave me when I stepped through the door and heard the tinkling of the bell signaling another customer. The family business has long since been replaced by a dress store as have many businesses from that era. But holding on to a pleasant memory such as this is a joy that can not be replaced by time. I now live in Henderson, Nevada with my husband and twin six-year olds. Every couple of months, we pack up the swimsuits and beach towels and visit Grandma Marge, still living in her ranch style house that, short of a paint job, hasn’t changed in all these years. I still enjoy sweets, but I haven’t eaten white chocolate since—it just doesn’t taste the same.

J Campbell

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