Everyone connected with food service in the Marines was working on Thanksgiving day. It is the most important meal of the year, and every Mess Hall or Officers Mess would go all out to prepare the classic meal.
In 1965 I was off duty at the rifle range and free for four days of liberty. All of the stewards were working except my friend Ed McCann. He was a baker and had worked all night making dinner rolls and pumpkin pies. Neither of us wanted to stay on base over Thanksgiving so we hitched a ride to Laguna Beach.
“Mac” (as we called him) was depressed because his girlfriend had dumped him. They had been sweethearts in Jersey City and she found another boyfriend in his absence. I witnessed him ripping the receiver out of the phone booth when he got the news. It was really bad and ended with him getting very drunk and being restricted to the barracks for a week.
We arrived in Laguna in the afternoon on Thanksgiving, and the town was shut down. Nothing was open, and there was little traffic. We made it down to the boardwalk and sat around just watching the surf. Mac was still depressed and finally he said, “I wonder if Goldies is open.”
Goldies was a lunch counter in the back of a drug store on Main Beach. It was like a 10-seat Johnny Rockets with a black and white tiled floor. It was open but empty, and Goldie was busy cooking for a crowd that would never show up. She was old enough to be my mother and had frizzy golden hair and gold fillings in her teeth. We didn’t have much money so we ordered coffee. While we were sipping our coffees, Goldie was dishing up two big Thanksgiving platters. She set us up and served the dinner. We couldn’t pay, and she wouldn’t have accepted our money even if we could. We thanked her and finished our plates, only to have the meal topped off with pumpkin pie. It was a Thanksgiving to remember.
Mac announced that we would help her clean up and close the place. She said, “No, no,” but Mac was insistent. He took the inside, and I took the outside. We scrubbed the floors and polished the stool bases. The place was cleaner when we finished than it had been in a while.
Goldie had a radio, and the Beach Boys song “Help Me Rhonda” came on. Mac took Goldie in his arms and started dancing with her from behind the counter. The two of them danced through the song. They were both good dancers, and it ended with them in a big embrace. Goldie was blushing, and Mac was cured from the blues of losing his sweetheart.
We frequented Goldies for two years after that Thanksgiving. It was the only place to have a sit-down meal in a bathing suit and bare feet. I think she worked at least twelve hours a day (every day). Jenny and I ate lunch there during the summer we met, sharing a burger, fries and a milkshake. Goldie’s diner was within earshot of Eiler Larsen, “The Greeter” of Laguna Beach. “Halloo-oo-oo!”
In 1968 the city of Laguna purchased 1000 feet of property on the Main Beach to make a new park, “Window to the Sea.” The diner was closed in the process, and we never heard from Goldie again.