California’s Governor Newsom had just announced all non-essential businesses should close. Morro Bay would not escape a worldwide pandemic’s attack on small-town America’s economy. Businesses were shuttered, public events and previously planned family gatherings were canceled, Only take-out was allowed if a restaurant wanted to stay open.

Saturday, March 21, 2020 will be remembered as a day to celebrate and commiserate for Top Dog Coffee Bar’s co-owners, Pat Bietz and Suzanne Maury and their employees. The couple planned to surprise their family-friend and barista, Mike Nelson, on his birthday. Joyful festivities, however, were followed by an impromptu employee meeting.

“I remember Suzanne was giving food away – crying because they had never laid off employees before after fourteen years in business,” said Mike. “As she said goodbye, I took Pat aside and said it didn’t make sense. They should sell off what they had just stocked.”

Pat and Suzanne had traded their fast-paced lives in Southern California to purchase SLO County ranch-land. Pat “trained with one of Saucelito’s best roasters” before they opened a coffee-based business on Main Street, in the heart of downtown Morro Bay. Dog-friendly, it became a go-to place for wifi-work and friends and visitors to meet-up and solve the world’s problems – often with Pat included in the conversation.

Top Dog’s signature premium coffees were sourced worldwide and roasted fresh daily. The menu would expand to offer a wide variety of fresh-baked breakfast pastries, unique morning and lunch-time specialties, teas and chai, and several draft beers on tap. Pat and Suzanne had trained hundreds of high school students, graduated college kids, and gave meaningful work to single Moms and men who needed a second chance.

“NO! We will not give up! We will not give-in, This is your livelihood,” Lindi Woods recalled telling her employers.

Mike had convinced Pat to take it day-by-day. Suzanne encouraged anyone uncomfortable with the risks to apply for unemployment. Most did. They survived by opening mornings with a skeletal crew – Lindi , Mike, Pat and Suzanne.


Mike, Lindi & Elizabeth helping Pat & Suzanne keep the coffee flowing during COVID-19 LOCK-DOWN.

“In the restaurant business you need to be there for your customers to keep them coming back,” explained Pat. “Covid-19 has been a strange time. We thought we might focus on Rescue Me Coffee, our coffee subscription service. It had grown to hundreds of subscribers who were worried about us and ordering even more coffee. Then by being there every day, we learned It was our local customers who kept us going. They would come back day after day, buy more off our menu and tip generously.”

Suzanne explained few downtown businesses were open mornings. “They would find us and while waiting for an order would learn our story watching the New Life K9 video. Pat would explain how the dogs were trained by CMC inmates to become service dogs for Veterans and First-Responders. Team Cooper was another program that funded a puppy to train in the prison program.”

Once Mike called in with possible symptoms, the crew was down to three. “Lindi stepped up,” Pat said. “It was also Lindi who introduced us to the New Life K9 graduation at CMC that changed our lives. We developed Rescue Me Coffee on the way home. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Lindi loved and respected working with Pat and Suzanne. “I retired from 23 years with the California Department of Corrections.” Her last assignment was SLO’s California Men’s Colony where she volunteered for all CMC’s activities to help Veterans. “I have sons active in the military. One came home with PTSD. I know Vets need help.” Lt. Nolan is a Vet who also supervised the K9 program in a different unit than Lindi’s area of CMC. “I told him Pat and Suzanne were looking for a way their business could help. Who wouldn’t love dogs helping Vets with PTSD?”

Lt. Nolan hosted them for the New Life K9 graduation, Lindi continued, “We met Mike Nelson that day. His parole was due that day, but he asked to stay in to participate in the graduation of the dog he trained for two years. Giving his dog, Eddie, to a First-Repsonder and the other men giving up their two dogs to Veterans was very emotional. We were convinced the program helped the Veterans – and the inmates. I began to change my thinking that day. When I guarded inmates, I kept my distance. Mike would come work for Top Dog and is now a good friend.”

Once California reopened for socially distanced dining service, new protocols meant new training for all. “The rules kept changing daily,” said Suzanne. “Lindi got us through Memorial Day. She moved to Florida to be with family and we miss her every day, but Mike has come back part time.”

It is now August with California’s COVID-19 numbers skyrocketing. Governor Newsom closed inside dining again, but Suzanne and Pat know Top Dog Coffee Bar will stay open. “Our local customers are still coming in several times a week,” said Suzanne. “We’re back up to making our summer numbers. Our community proved to us they want us to stay.”

“The thing is, you never know when you are giving a lifeline to someone,” said Pat. “During COVID-19, we realized we created our own community – a family who loves dogs and are commited helping good people needing a second chance in life. That’s what Rescue Me Coffee is all about. I hope more folks in Morro Bay find us. We thank our local friends who have kept us in business during this time. They were our hope – our lifeline.”



Celebrating Sherrye Haynie in Morro Bay

Sherrye Haynie will be remembered Monday, August 12, 2019 at the Morro Bay Yacht Club from 3-5pm. Friends are welcome to bring their favorite stories, an appetizer if they would like to share, and tip a glass to Sherrye.  There were so many stories out there to tell.

The following is the 2nd story I wrote about Sherrye. The first one she had framed and kept prominently in her Morro Bay beach-designed home. It also got Bob and I invitations to all her wonderful gatherings — or maybe it was Bob she was inviting. She loved to flirt — harmlessly! Tom was the love of her life!

She might have been the first person I met at the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce when we moved to Morro Bay sixteen or so years ago. She was the ultimate Ambassador welcoming all with a big smile and encouragement to get involved. It was sincere. She wanted to sponsor us to join the Morro Bay Yacht Club, which we eventually did because the people were so friendly and Bob thought he might like to learn to sail. He did love to kayak with his new friends.


My favorite memory of Sherrye is what could have been. I wanted to work with my daughter Jody on a coffee table book that included Sherrye in one of the many outfits/costumes she had hanging in her garage-conversion into a mega closet. There had to be hundreds and she could fit in any of them. The text would be her memory of wearing the outfit for the movie or event it was designed for. I’m confident it could have been a best seller — at least in Morro Bay and maybe Hawaii where she still has family or even among Hollywood friends of Tom Selleck, Sherrye’s long time friend when she and Tom lived in Hawaii. We would have asked Tom to contribute to the Forward.

Oh well! Those chances pass us by if we don’t grab them. Marlene Duncan, a good friend always to Sherrye was willing to be her dresser on the project as Sherrye was definitely aging, but still had the memories to share and the body to model the clothes.  She would have been thrilled to do the project since she could always smell a camera in the room ready to preserve her smiles.

At the very least, enjoy my story of …

Sherrye Randall Haynie: A Morro Bay “Living Treasure”

By Judy Salamacha

Many community Chambers of Commerce take time out to annually recognize a worthy citizen and supportive business.  And thus, sincere congratulations are in order to Morro Bay citizen Bill Peirce and Albertson’s Sean Emerson for all they have done.

However, newly installed chamber president Andrea Klipfel was this year’s designee to announce the most cherished prize of all.  A regal nod is given to someone who has lived life to its fullest, yet continues to dedicate talent, time and devotion.  A better pick for this year’s ‘Living Treasure’ could not be found than former citizen of the year and ambassador extraordinaire – Sherrye Randall Haynie.

Still at every ribbon cutting and mixer the Chamber schedules, Haynie never meets a stranger and if she suspects the slightest inkling one might share some time with the Chamber, her winning smile and welcoming attitude builds a base for a strong future member and a new friend. She will “treasure” this newest honor and not just because she’ll get her picture in the paper again.

What an amazingly charmed life she has led so far!  However, probe a bit beyond the actress who’s Rita Hayworth-style locks and photogenic smile allowed her so many Hollywood experiences and she’ll humbly credit good parentage, a strong marital partnership, and her personal ethic to do what was expected of her as a daughter, wife, parent, and citizen of Hollywood and the world.

A voting member of SAG(Screen Actor’s Guild) Haynie’s bio sheet boasts 35 films as recent as 2008 working at 20th Century, MGM and RKO; 40 television commercials, 12 travelogues, and 10 soaps. Mostly an extra or walk-on she’s appeared in Cannon, Manix, Hawaiian Eye, Magnum PI, and Hawaii Five-0.

Johnny Weissmuller taught her to swim in the famed Fleishhacker Pool in San Francisco.  This skill got her many bits to swim in movies, including Baywatch and recently for the television series Lost.

She photographed for print ads for Camay Soap, Lucky Strike, Gordon’s Gin, and Black Label to mention a few.

“With my dark red hair and bushy eyebrows, I photographed better than I look,” she said pointing to portraits looking more like famed movie stars than the friendly Chamber ambassador.

Haynie’s done theatre in New York, Philadelphia, Hollywood, Hawaii, Laguna and Pasadena.  She’s performed in major events such as Las Vegas Tappers, USO Shows, the Hollywood Palladium and “the Academy Awards just before 911.”

Frank Sinatra personally picked her out of a show at the Surfrider Club in Hawaii to meet for a quiet dinner for two.  Some of her best buddies were Tom Selleck and William Holden.

“Bill asked me to get him into the exclusive Outrigger Club and I said I would if he got me into the Mount Kenya Safari Club.” When she fulfilled her end of the deal, she was invited on safari with her friend Bill Holden.

She’s worked with Bogart, Hepburn, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, Esther Williams, Betty Grable, Alice Fey, Sandra Bullock and the list goes on.

She adored her mother and father, but admits, “My mother was a stage mother. She was from Paris and beautiful.  She had an affair with Adolph Zukor (head of Paramount Pictures) to get me into the movies. In those days you had to be part of a studio and they taught you their way of tap dancing, voice and acting.”

Her first speaking part that determined her lifelong membership in SAG was in Song of Bernadette. She laughingly will perform her one-liner, “Hither she cometh.”

And yet her lifelong Hollywood flirtation has not defined her career. “I could never have been a stuck up movie star. Tom is more famous and has done so much for the country.  My career was fantasy.”

Tom Haynie’s achievements opened doors for the love of his life beyond her Hollywood associations. Holding the Michigan State NCAA 1937 and 1939 220 and 440 Freestyle records, he qualified for the Olympics in 1936 and 1940. World War II interrupted one of his appearances. He was also the acclaimed Stanford coach who won the PAC 10 ten times in a row between 1947 and 1960.

They enjoyed homes in Palo Alto, Laguna and Hawaii where they still maintain a home and visit annually when in good health. Ultimately, the beach beckoned them away from northern California.  He quit coaching to teach school at Panahou School in Hawaii, recently famed as President Obama’s school.

“How I met Tom is funny,” she said. Haynie interviewed Sherrye for a lifeguard position at a municipal pool in Palo Alto where she was living to help out her ailing mother.

“I dressed up in one of my film bathing suits and knocked on his door for the interview.  He just lived around the block from us. He answered, took one look and said ‘You’re hired’. We were married about a year later.”

With three girls and one son, their family and social lives centered on his coaching career at Stanford. Herself a member of the Crystal Plunge Swim Team of San Francisco where Esther Williams and Olympian Greta Anderson trained, Sherrye always loved swimming and enjoyed going to her husband’s meets.

She continued to dabble in film, commercials and even had her own television show in San Francisco, but her life was wherever Tom was.

As the daughter of a naval officer, her childhood wanderlust whetted her appetite for world travel. Due to his Olympic experience, Tom and Sherrye received some very interesting invitations to travel worldwide.  A member of the Mensa Society, she always researched the lands and people she visited and is actually a graduate of the American Institute of Foreign Studies.  The wildlife of Africa and Samoan and Egyptian cultures hold her fondest memories.

Sherrye enjoyed her childhood living in Samoa when her dad was alive. Her father was U.S. Navy Captain George Bertram Landenberger (Landy), who commanded the U.S.S. Indiana. He received the Navy Cross and served as the Naval Governor of American Samoa from 1934 to 1936.

“He almost married Lillian Russell,” said Sherrye pointing to a picture of the couple, “but he married my mother, Julianna Moody. They were very good parents. President Roosevelt appointed my dad governor of Samoa.  I remember sitting on Roosevelt’s lap in between the braces.”

Sherrye says life in Samoa ruled by the chiefs prepared her to deal with future Hollywood directors.  “I learned there is order in life. The director gives an order and you have to stand your mark…sometimes for hours.” She noted making movies is not always as glamorous or easy as one thinks.

Almost eleven years ago the Haynies invested in acreage in Paso Robles. They would travel back and forth to Morro Bay longing to be near the water.  Ultimately they invested in their “Hawaiian” hide-away in Morro Bay.

Life has been about getting involved in the Chamber of Commerce and the Morro Bay Yacht Club – enjoying new friendships and maintaining former relationships in Hawaii. Sherrye continues to do film whenever the opportunity presents itself.  And Tom recently was recognized for his support for youth swimming in San Luis Obispo.

When asked how she wanted to be remembered it was not for her many titles – Miss Teen Queen, Miss Santa Cruz, Miss Palo Alto, Miss Malibu, Miss Samoa, Miss etc. etc. etc., Morro Bay Citizen of the Year, and now Morro Bay Living Treasure.

She wanted to be remembered as a happy young bride surfing in Hawaii on her honeymoon with the love of her life – Tom Haynie. Congratulations to the happy couple today and many tomorrows.


Reach Judy Salamacha at or 801-1422.



Farmstead Ed: The Family Farm

Farmer Bill and Barbara Spencer love what they do. They produce organic fruits and vegetables at Windrose Farm, just east of Paso Robles, near Creston.  They also enjoy welcoming guests to experience farming the way it used to be – the only way they have tilled their land since 1990.

Recently, in collaboration with Lynette Sonne of FARMstead Ed, the Spencers held the 11th annual Heirloom Tomato Festival adjacent to their farmhouse surrounded by producing fields, barns, and farm-stand, which regularly offers whatever happens to be harvested for sale. Barbara set up several tables and cut toothpick sized samples of more than 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes for tasting. Favorites were picked by attendees not for top tomato bragging rights, but to bag up and take home for salads and sandwiches.

The Windrose Farm “festival” is too casual and comfortable to mimic most festivals. There are other collaborating FARMstead Ed partners set up with samples of their products like Templeton Beef Company’s “to-die-for” hamburger sliders, Wine Diva Jams and YES Cocktail Company’s tasty Sriracha Salt that Barbara set out near the tomatoes to offer another flavor to the heirloom tomato bites. It felt more like going back for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon food-fest visiting Gramma and Grampa’s closest neighbors.

And if you wanted to learn about rotating crops, organic farming, north county water issues or what makes the soil at Windrose Farm produce the best of winter and summer squash, potatoes, stone fruits or apples such as Gravensteins, Farmer Bill invited guests to listen and learn during his walk-and-talk-around-the-farm-tour.

Bill grew up in the area. Barbara is an active professional musician originally from southern California. The couple met on a blind date. In the 1990s Bill was selling north county real estate. “I was good at convincing people not to buy or not to sell,” he joked. “A friend had the (Huer Huero Valley) acreage fall out of escrow. The owner couldn’t make it with everything planted in baby’s breath and barely a market to sell an acre’s worth. Barbara and I were interested in organic farming. We have the finest property with sweet water in this county.”

Their website describes their back-to-basics lifestyle and sustainable farming advocacy. “The 50-acre farm consumes the unique Huer Huero Valley — 12 are in vegetable rotations, 6 are in apples and stone fruit and 5 are sheep pasture. The rest is habitat – full of animal, bird and insect life who usually help them…clean for 20-years (the farm was) certified organic from August 1999 to 2009 until they decided to transition to biodynamic culture!…For the first three years, Bill worked to bring life back to the soil with compost and cover-cropping yearly…

“The longer we farm, the more enthralled we are with the old traditional seeds and plants. We strive as much as possible to use open-pollinated or heirloom varieties and have begun our own seed-saving program. Every day brings us more knowledge and a stronger belief in the principals and practices of sustainable organic farming. It is complex and labor-intensive – but the burst of life in the soil and the habitat of our little valley is astonishing.”

FARMstead Ed ( offers seasonal events for the general public to learn more about traditional family farming. They produce a high profile display at the TASTE event the evening before the AVOFest coordinated by the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce. Early in December 3 is their annual Holiday on the Farm at Windrose Farm.

Sonne diligently gathers FARMstead Ed partners to bring their products out for talk and tasting events. Besides a Farmer Bill tour and Barbara-style product displays, vendors have included YES Cocktails Co., The Groves on 41 Olive Oil, Leo Leo Gelato, The Chocolate Stache, Talley Farms has produced interactive events. Making goat cheese and harvesting lambs wool has been a focus

close up photo of white baby goat sleeping

Photo by Couleur on

Check for more details.

Sonne has promoted locally grown & made products through “pop-up events” since 2014. The growing collaborative invites visitors out to the farms, ranches & production facilities where the food is grown or readied for distribution. Each FARMstead Ed event invites guests to mix and mingle onsite with the producers as they experience the products. And there’s always lots of tasting going on.

Indeed, Bill and Barbara love what they do, including taking their products to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market weekly, but Bill contends they’d love to find someone to buy their acreage who believes in what they are doing and will promise to carry on their legacy of sustainable farming.

“I often see folks inherit some money and buy a farm and then realize they have to work it,” Bill said. “Farming is an 8-day a week job. Barbara and I are sure someone got the calendar wrong.”








On The Road Yet Ever Close to Home

Reprinted from Biz Matters by Simply Clear Marketing & Media on September 12/13, I wanted to share the positive experience I had while traveling in the Chicago, IL area. A bonus is when you meet someone from home. The No-Hitter opportunity is when you discover a story that links to home — even marginally — that can be shared locally once home from vacation.IMG_0632

I have this thing about going to baseball parks. I don’t really watch most sports (except NASCAR) until the final series so I booked a trip where we would visit five ballparks within a week. It was a tour offered by America By Rail that allowed us to attend high profile games towards the end of the season and see several communities we had not yet explored. So with all handled except the extra time we spent in Chicago, we saw some great games and ultimately recognized names during the playoffs of 2018 that we had seen play. But the hit-it-out-of-the-park bonus was meeting Lowell Bassett — a treat and a memory to be shared.

Here’s the reprinted story:

You meet the most interesting folks while traveling – sometimes with direct connections to the Central Coast. This reporter traveled all the way to Chicago only to meet-up with Michael Motta, a retired elementary school principal from Fresno who spends half his time at his home in Cambria and then there were the Bassetts – Lowell, DeAnne and son Douglas. Over the years they have visited DeAnne’s cousins, Genie and Lee Pando in Cayucos. In fact, recently they checked out the Pando’s remodeled home near the Cayucos Community Church, but the couple’s most vivid memory was the year the Tsunami hit in 2011.

There were 43 of us on tour with In trains sporting dining and observations cars, we looped major-league baseball parks featuring the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals. Milwaukee and St. Louis have energized their downtown’s economies with new ballparks, while the “Cubbies” still play Wrigley Field, a modernized gem of tradition.

Our guide Dennis Fedor was a retired Amtrak conductor so knew how to navigate us through the summertime travel maze, but baseball history, stats, and even insider stories were shared by fellow-fans on tour particularly Dennis Smith, a retired librarian from Bowling Green, OH. He spent his early years playing college baseball at Miami, OH, then minor league ball, but never got the call to the majors. Additionally, John Baxter shared his baseball expertise, a lifelong student of the sport from Mendham, NJ traveling with wife Ellen.

But the most memorable story was told by Lowell Bassett. Once a year during the mid-1960s he began a 37-year history singing the National Anthem and America the Beautiful 48 times for the LA Dodgers. He recalled when Dusty Baker helped the Dodgers win pennants in 1977 and 1978 and became World Series champions in 1981.  Basset recalled, “Dusty once remarked how I had the brightest blue eyes not knowing I’d just gotten contacts.

Bassett continued, “I’ll always be a Dodger fan. They respected their people. Even singers got the good seats. The first 14 years I sat next to the dugout.” He proactively got the 40-year gig himself. “My son’s piano teacher knew the manager of the LA Lakers. After I passed their audition and sang for them, I decided why not call the Dodgers? Since I sang at the Lakers I was invited to give it a try. A favorite night was being there when Fernando Valenzuela pitched his no-hitter.”

Once they offered Bassett a perk to switch his annual singing date. He could invite 20 of his family and friends to a $3,000 Dodger hospitality suite with all the trimmings — Dodger-dogs and more. “I agreed. A Little League team was hosted that night. The kids were all introduced to the players on the field before the fans. Two of the kids couldn’t make it so they asked if my boys wanted to join the group.”

Whenever he sang, Bassett wore a coat and tie. “They’d show me on the big screen when I sang. One night a kid came up and asked for my autograph. I tried to tell him I was nobody, but he recognized I was part of the show.” His favorite players were 10-time All-Star Steve Garvey, nicknamed “Mr. Clean” for his wholesome image and famed pitcher Orel Hershiser, who helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1988. Why? Bassett said, “They were always friendly.”

Bassett loved sports and even played basketball on two teams that went to Nationals – one while studying education and music at Pasadena College and the other while serving in the U.S. Army, but he felt he got his biggest career break one semester in college when he met Ted Bahu. “I never heard the guitar played like that and he showed me how.” This brief encounter served him well for 48 years as a youth music minister and elementary school teacher in California and Oregon.

He has fond memories of teaching famed cartoonist Charles Schulz’s children. Schulz was head of the PTA and asked Bassett to be the spiritual advisor for the group. He agreed “only if I could do some good” so he regularly read a Bible chapter and sang. “For nine months,” he said, “there was standing room only at the meetings.” Schulz also created a treasured cartoon strip featuring Linus and Lucy at the PTA meeting where he delivered “joyous news.”

In 1993 Bassett retired from teaching. He and DeAnne relocated from Camarillo to Sun City, AZ and took their music ministry on the road through 38 states and three Canadian provinces. Most often they would be invited to participate in Sunday services. “We had no schedule, but always had a place each week to park our 40-foot motorhome. We met many kind and generous people.”

So it was on an Amtrak to Kansas City to watch the KC Royals play the Detroit Tigers that Bassett said, “I almost gave up on them (LA Dodgers) a month ago, but they’re coming back.” He smiled a smile that made everyone around him feel good. His blue eyes seemed to flash back to half a century of memorable moments at Chavez Ravine singing, “…And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!” Applause, Applause! Let’s play ball!
















Colonel Baker’s Field: An American Pioneer Story Reviewed…

Blog Author’s Note: Camille was a colleague and friend of mine in Bakersfield. However, she was always a journalist so it was, indeed, an honor to have her review our book when it was published in 2013.

Since then it has gone into 2nd print and based on multiple comments “this book should be in our schools, 1,200 copies were donated to the middle schools in of Greater Bakersfield in November 5, 2016 on Colonel Baker’s birthday with the support of many local contributors, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools and former Mayor Harvey Hall.

As Chris states in the last paragraph of this review, the story is far from over. The goal is to make sure all residents know Colonel and Ellen Baker as the namesakes of Bakersfield — today and tomorrow.

The book is available on Amazon, Russo’s Books in Bakersfield and Coalesce Book Store in Morro Bay or Volumes of Pleasure Book Store in Los Osos. The authors are available for presentations — just leave a comment!  

The real Colonel Baker: Writers sift fact from fiction

Col. Thomas Baker and Chris Brewer.

“Colonel Baker’s Field: An American Pioneer Story,” a new book on the life of our city’s namesake, is interesting in terms of its content, its structure and its genesis.

Primarily, it’s a biography of Thomas Baker, tracing his life from his birth in Ohio in 1810 to his death in Bakersfield in 1872 — and the man’s achievements as well as the obstacles he faced during the 62 years of his life.


Lead author Judy Salamacha has written the text in a style often referred to as “creative nonfiction” or “interpretative history.” Such a technique helps to make the story more readable than an ordinary textbook and gives life to its principal subjects.

In this case, it also makes it easier to present two stories — one that took place in the 19th century, the other in the 20th century and beyond. What readers will find is imaginary conversations based on personal diaries, newspapers and other documents as well as family lore and present-day interviews with Baker’s great-great-grandson, Chris Brewer.


It also corrects errors in previous treatments documenting the elder Baker’s life, Brewer said, like the fact that Baker was a true colonel in the Iowa Territorial Militia. Some historians have suggested the title was merely honorary.

“In those days (the 1840s), the United States didn’t have an army,” Brewer said in a recent telephone conversation about the book. “Each state was responsible for protecting its borders with its own army or militia.”


Also, as pointed out in “Colonel Baker’s Field,” before moving westward Bakersfield’s founder served in several elective offices in Iowa, including today’s equivalent of lieutenant governor. In 1841 the self-taught lawyer became the first U.S. district attorney of Polk County in Iowa Territory.


The book’s prologue begins with a rather formal dialogue between Baker at age 18 and his father, Nathan Baker. It takes place in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1828, and emphasizes the young man’s adventurous spirit and his love of books and reading.


In Chapter One, the time frame shifts to 1976 and a conversation between Brewer and Frank Capezio, a friend and fellow musician. It takes place backstage at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. During their talk, which is filled with lighthearted humor, Brewer tells Capezio he’s ready to give up his successful career as a trombonist with Paul Anka’s band and become a historian, devoting himself to researching his family’s role in the development of Bakersfield.


It continues with the introduction of Chris’ father, the late Harold Baker Brewer, who thinks that everything about their ancestor is already known and there’s no need to do any further research. Chris proves him wrong with a document verifying Thomas Baker’s standing in the Iowa armed forces during a border battle between Missouri and Iowa.


The book goes on to recount Baker’s experiences in California and the San Joaquin Valley, including being arrested for treason in Visalia — a charge that turned out to be false –and the fact he had been married three times and had nine children.

It concludes with the Baker family’s move to Kern Island, as our city was then known. It got the name because although most of the area was swampland, fed by the meandering Kern River, the only inhabitable place was a low-level knoll in the area of present-day 19th and M streets.


The book is enhanced by colorful artwork done by the author’s daughter, Jody Salamacha-Hollier. In an explanatory note, the artist said: “I used black and white historical photos as a base image, retouched and added color to the images, and then used Photoshop brushes to create a painted look.”


It also contains a timeline of the colonel’s life as well as an extensive bibliography that includes websites as well as written sources. However, the book has no footnotes or endnotes to acknowledge sources and it lacks an index, which would have been helpful.

Salamacha gives full credit to Sandy Mittelsteadt, president of a company that connects businesses to education, for coming up with the idea for the book and for guidance as it was being written.


The two women first met when they worked together on projects in Bakersfield. At the time, Salamacha held public relations and marketing positions with KGET-TV, Channel 17 and Castle & Cooke. She now lives in Morro Bay and writes a weekly column for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. She also is the director of the Central Coast Writers’ Conference at Cuesta College.


Obviously, much of the information in the book came from interviews with Brewer or from sources he made available to Salamacha and her collaborators. But according to him, there’s even more digging to do and more stories to tell.


“Although we worked pretty hard on the book, there is a ton of material that hasn’t been published,” he said. “The joy of this one is going to be the next book, with all the material in it that I’ve been gathering for years.”

Spencer’s Market: A Family Owned Business Who Cares & Provides Local

DSC05872John Spencer’s boyhood home was a cattle ranch in Santa Maria where his dad raised prime beef. One summer while in middle school, his dad taught him exactly where and how to plant cuttings for a cabernet sauvignon vineyard. At fifteen the Righetti High School student coveted a car. His dad expected him to earn it if he wanted it, thus, began his life’s career in the grocery business. His first job was “meat clean-up” at Williams Brothers Store #7 — the Santa Maria store that would become the first independent neighborhood grocery owned and operated by John and Beatrice Spencer.

“We just celebrated our 20-year anniversary owning Spencer’s Fresh Markets,” said Spencer. The couple currently own and operate stores in Santa Maria at 3580 Orcutt Road and Morro Bay at 2650 Main Street with approximately 100 employees. Note the word fresh in their name!dscf0752.jpg


But first Spencer would experience intensive on-the-job training to learn the grocery business inside and out. He worked his way up at Williams Brothers to store manager before he was promoted to operations supervisor overseeing 19 stores. “I preferred being out in the stores. When Vons purchased Williams Brothers they saw I knew first hand what was going on so kept me on.”

For four years Spencer did the forecasting and budgeting for The Vons Companies. When he realized a couple of the locations were not performing up to corporate standards, he worked out a deal with then CEO Phillip Hawkins to purchase the Santa Maria store.

Meanwhile, Young’s Market owners Phil and Yvonne Young wanted to retire from their Morro Bay store.  “They liked how I ran Williams Brothers when I was the store manager. We put together a handshake deal and they are still my landlords although we lost Phil a couple years ago.”

“My time spent with Vons is probably the reason we are still in business today,” said Spencer. He added his stores operate professionally using corporate procedures while remaining a neighborhood grocer offering many local products.

Spencer still prefers his time in the stores. “I like that our people are neighbors serving neighbors. Customers can talk to the store manager and request the products they want to see us carry.”

CCC Ewereka

Many local products got their start or expanded their popularity at Spencer’s Fresh Markets. “We develop personal partnerships with our local product owners,” said Spencer. “Darren’s Berries started in a fruit stand then approached us to be his fruit stand. Twenty years later we’re still carrying Darren’s Berries.”

Spencer’s was first to feature Central Coast grown avocados. Customers will also find a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, including early season strawberries. Santa Maria-style barbecue meats and products, Brian’s Bread made in Atascadero, Cayucos Hot Sauce and local wines can be found at Spencer’s.  Many partnerships started during the Thursday afternoon Farmer’s Market at the Morro Bay store.

Spencer noted Frank Bouget was a find for Spencer’s Fresh Markets. “He trained in French culinary schools and can bake anything. I met him in the late 1980s when he first arrived in the United States.” Spencer lured him to Williams Brothers and then re-hired him in 2010 to handle all the store’s fresh bakery items and special orders out of the Santa Maria store.

“We have fun, too,” said Spencer. “When we added Cal Poly Eggnog, Frank came up with Cal Poly Eggnog Cream Pie. He also created Raspberry Pinot Noir Cream Pie.“

The market produces its own salsas and a variety of sausages from a fully customized meat department. The deli features prime Boar’s Head products and creates fresh signature sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes and deep fried and roasted chicken.IMG_1145

Spencer gets teary-eyed talking about how he met and hired Doug Carroll, popularized on KVEC’s Dave Congalton Show as Pastor Doug. “It all started as Free Flapjack Fridays on Sunny Country. (From his wheelchair) Pastor Doug would cook with me during customer appreciation breakfasts. Then he created his own recipes pulling products off the shelves and serving samples in the stores.” All the while Carroll battled Multiple Sclerosis with a positive attitude, infectious laugh and stories that inspired all who met him until he succumbed at 54 in 2011.

Spencer can be heard regularly on KVEC-Radio promoting local seasonal products and Spencer’s Fresh Markets’ deals of the week.

Beatrice still works with her husband in the office. They married August 1, 1981 and have four daughters, Caitlin, Kristine, Kayla and Cameryn, each a graduate or current student of Cal Poly.

Note: John Spencer was also the exclusive market to support the Kelsey Wine Program that benefits the Morro Bay Maritime Museum.



A Hallmark Encouragement


In a couple weeks — April 5-7 to be exact — Morro Bay produces another Citywide yard sale. It has become a big deal since it began at least eleven years ago. Tourists visit to discover treasures or trinkets they can’t live without and some even bring trailers to take home furniture or larger items. Local use it as a time to spring clean and make a few extra bucks. There is a gentleman from Ventura, I think, that comes by every year and asks my husband if he has coins to sell. He offers a fair value and we make Bob buy the family dinner that night…or used to before the crab feed!!

The city garage company waives fees for hauling big items away the week after the yard sale. So everyone wins. And now groups are piggy-backing on evening opportunities for tourists to stay and play in Morro Bay.


Speaking of crab feeds!!! Morro Bay Rotary has an “all you can eat” crab feed with all the fixings on Saturday evening April 6. Proceeds benefit community groups needing a boost of cash. Morro Bay Tourism recognizes this event as a true tourism opportunity so pitches it to visitors.

Only a $60 a ticket and almost sold out!! But then where else can you get a dinner among friends and lots of crab from Tognazzini’s Dockside? My son-in-law consumed 6 crabs last year and we all ate our share. And Rotarian servers even break the parts up enough so lazy-pickers like me can enjoy.

The Community radio station The Rock also has a big night. They offer lots of good songs dancing and adult beverages at the Morro Bay Veteran’s Hall. Have to work off a big crab dinner someway!!

So why am I promoting here besides a couple good causes to enjoy? I’m getting ready for the Citywide Yard Sale. We’ve decided to help out Garden House of Morro Bay this year. Garden House is a a wonderful home a couple blocks from us that helps senior residents with all kinds of dementias. Our Aunt Stella spent several lovely years there and now my good friend Kasey Watson owns it and my mother’s granddaughter Jody is her administrative assistant. Just as Mom found her new satisfying life in Cayucos, Jody has found another career utilizing all her best talents. Mom would be amazed and so proud Jody has found her career-feeder!

Looking through my stuff I found a Hallmark birthday card to me from my mother, Pat McKaye. She moved to Cayucos when she was 80 and was totally involved in her adopted community. She ran the thrift store and coordinated the Cayucos Senior Volunteers, which donated so much back to the community. She made wonderful friends and found her new home away from home — a haven to feed on. She was also proud of me that I had found my first love — the career I wanted in high school. I was writing for the local newspapers. I had forgotten she had given me this story idea.


Mom was excited Jody and Mike were back permanently from Louisiana. He was from there and she was in school back there, but that’s another story. Somehow she linked that with  the Hummingbirds she loved to watch from her patio-slider door. At our house we would watch out of our kitchen window where we once saw a family of hummingbirds build a nest, birth their children and fly away. Having the kids close was a joy although she never hovered — visited, enjoyed the nectars offered and flew away…then back again another day.

She thought of names like Holly because it was close to their last name of Hollier. The villain bird or was it the hero bird was Anne, the middle name of both my daughter and I. She did mention another bird, a red necked bird who tried to steal the nectar from the feeder, but as you will see Anne protects it for her own.

Birds are jealous of each other, she wrote. “They love to sit on the feeder and chase each other off. They are very curious and love to play especially when the water hose is on. They also like things to stay the same.”

She told how once she got a new feeder and they refused to drink from it or play on it. She returned the older feeder to its roost and they were back again — playfully. Another time a storm was blowing hard even for her protected patio. The wind and the rain knocked over a large gardenia bush. “They flew in and around and around and chattered as if to say, ‘What’s wrong'”

Another time the wind was blowing the feeder sideways to and fro up and down. The hummingbirds would fly around and around begging it to stop. When it wouldn’t stop they finally took a risk and flew onto the branch. They rode it like a bucking roller coaster. When the feeder was empty they would fly to the window and hover as if to say, “We are out. We need more. We want to stay.”


One time a bird hid in the bush near the feeder or maybe it was refuge in the fallen gardenia bush. Whenever another bird would fly to the feeder, the stalking bird would fly out and chase it away. Contrary to popular belief, he or she would sit there for hours protecting his/her feeder from marauders.

Mom thought Anne was a good name for the bird who captured her favorite place and guarded it as if her own. After a time Anne was the only one using the feeder and one day Mom wrote she came out and there were all kinds of hummingbirds of smaller sizes and variations of green — lighter to darker green — feeding all at once from the same feeder. She wondered if Anne drive them away. Then she saw Anne. It looked like she would try to make them leave the feeder, but instead she joined them and flew around them. Mom thought she is protecting her own. Anne was saying, “Feed my babes. I have captured our safe place for them and you can help me nurture and grow to fly away to make their new home.”

This is the story Mom wanted me to tell — the circle of life — the love of a mother for her own. I’m sure Mom thought the story would most likely in a children’s book at the Cayucos Library and Coalesce Book Store in Morro Bay, but…..

This was about nine years ago when Mom flew away. She found her safe haven or heaven. Who then would have really understood blogging is also meant for storytelling.

And so it goes…..Thanks, Mom.





A Rare Travel Story

Editor’s Note: My first paying job was in high school –15-going on 16. That summer, I was in summer school at Bakersfield High School taking typing in the morning and my friend’s (Bette Lou Kane) father was the publisher of THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN He got me the job taking classified advertisements in the afternoons until I could be full time once summer school was over. However, it was Mr. Partridge, my immediate boss,  who literally taught me how to type, requiring I type the ads directly from the phone conversation with the client instead of writing it out and then typing. Somehow I did it, but that’s another story maybe for another time.

The job I really wanted was upstairs in the newsroom, but it took a career of teaching 4th graders, then high school English, then radio, TV, etc. etc. and moving to the Central Coast before I worked for a newspaper writing stories about the people and events that happened in Morro Bay, Cayucos and Los Osos.

Early in my journalistic career my husband and I vacationed in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire. I was excited about finally writing for the newspaper and picked up all the local free papers along the way to glean ideas. I was working for The Bay News at the time in Morro Bay and found a way to adapt our vacation to my new home town.

Might Morro Bay’s Sister City Be Kennebunkport, MN  By Judy Salamacha

Central Coast to East Coast – from sea to shining sea – people and places are so different yet so much alike.  While traveling the south-central coast of Maine recently, I noticed a New England accent couldn’t disguise the parallel lives shared by new friends met with friends back home on the Central Coast.  In particular I found three individuals that instantly reminded me of a Morro Bay counterpart.

Named the “Best Family Restaurant on the Maine South Coast,”Mike’s Clam Shack and Fish Market is located in Wells, MN.  Owner Mike McDermott has been in the family business forever and his philosophy and operations reminded me of Giovanni’s Fresh Fish Market.  Not just because Gio was awarded by the Morro Bay Harbor Festival “Best Clam Chowder” for three year’s running, but both Mike and Gio are popular with locals and tourists. Both pride themselves on featuring fresh fish and family friendly prices.  Walk in either restaurant and you’ll hear “Where’s Mike?” – “Can I talk to Gio?”

Mike has expanded four times growing from a 20X20 clam shack serving 125 on a good night to over 2,000 a night at the height of the summer season.  Gio is currently expanding again and likely serves almost as many on a good summer day.  Mike buys fresh daily at the Portland fish market, while Gio often buys direct from the fisherman right off his dock.  Mike and Gio cater to locals, who in turn recommend their restaurants to tourists.  Mike’s Clam Shack is well known for their Haddock & Chips, Lobster Rolls and, or course, like Gio, award-winning Clam Chowder.

Then there was Harbor Master Lee McCurdy of Cape Porpoise Harbor in Kennebunkport.  Like Morro Bay’s Harbor Master Rick Algert, McCurdy manages the dock and reports to the local advisory board.  Both supervise the harbor patrol and harbor leases. McCurdy handles the fisherman’s day-to-day off-loading of lobster traps while Algert is more involved in harbor management.

Although lobster fishing is still going strong in Maine, legislation is continually hampering the working fisherman. Both McCurdy and Algert are advocates for the shrinking number of fisherman still trying to survive in an overly regulated environment.  Just as Morro Bay’s fisherman continually fight for their right to fish, so it was with the latest issue for the lobster fishermen.   Due to two incidents of whale entanglements in the last couple of years, the fisherman might have to re-engineer their float ropes at thousands of dollars to the fisherman.

McCurdy, a former gill netter, enjoys being close to the water and industry without his livelihood tied to the sea, but with shrinking numbers of fisherman in his harbor he, like Algert, share concerns about life as they’ve known it.

The Noonan family was a local dynasty reminding me of the Tognazzinis. Richard Noonan, like Mark Tognazzini was a fisherman’s fisherman.  Richard works 800 lobster traps. Richard’s daily catch went directly to their restaurant, Noonan’s Lobster Hut, in Kennebunkport, just as Mark fishes for Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant when allowed to fish.  And just like the Tognazzinis, the entire Noonan family, including the patriarchs George Noonan or Wilmer Tognazzini, is involved in the restaurant.  And just like Mark, Richard works closely with other fisherman promoting fishing and consumption of fresh-caught fish and seafood in Maine and on the Central Coast of California.

Hoping to continue the family tradition Richard’s son, John, loved lobstering with his dad. He had just completed his first full year with his own traps and it was a good year.  At age 20, he hoped he could survive in the business, but was realistic enough to take construction management at the community college just in case times got leaner.  Another son, Ben, was a master boat mechanic.  His biggest client was the Secret Service based at former President Bush’s Kennebunkport estate.

Sister-city programs foster sharing commonalities and better business practices. The Central Coast could learn some tricks of the tourist trade from Maine’s tourism-based communities. Maine has many more than the two lighthouses in San Luis Obispo County, Maine, however, has preserved, protected and endowed their lighthouses in order to attract the tourists by car, tour bus, trolley or harbor cruise.  Portland alone offered multiple harbor cruises with picture-perfect views of five lighthouses.

Both coastal communities had a familiar variety of gift shops, shirt shops, art galleries, and nautical museums. One entrepreneur we visited had found his niche. The Lighthouse Store in Wells attracted busloads of tourists, which had basically the same products for sale as Central Coast gift shops, but it was marketed on-line and around the tourist communities as the “ultimate lighthouse destination” boasting 12,000 lighthouse products.  Tourists had to stop just to see if the shop really had 12,000 lighthouses.

Like Morro Bay, Maine had harbor dinner cruise vessels similar to Morro Bay’s Papagallo II or The Chablis.  Whale watching and sport fishing tours were comparable to Virg’s Landing.

However, the Central Coast might be missing one cruise opportunity.  Non-fisherman, most likely tourists, pay the lobster captains big bucks for a chance to crew on a lobster boat.  On the other hand, not this land-lubber. No, thank you,

In fact, Gio or Mark, can you take the lobster meat out of the shell before serving me, please?






Senior Care With a Personal Touch

Editor’s Note: This column first ran in INSPIRED HEALTH Magazine Volume 4 — published by

Inspired Heath — Dr. Steven Sainsbury

Dr. Steven Sainsbury hates meetings – except those face-to-face with his patients in San Luis Obispo County or some-wherever he is needed in the rest of the world.

Back in November, 2008 he transitioned from hospital emergency care to develop a unique mobile primary care practice — visiting his patients in their homes creating a true house-call practice.

Dr. Sainsbury served patients for 20 years chiefly as an emergency physician at Sierra Vista Hospital. He discovered he liked the night shift best.

“I could be off duty sleeping when staff meetings were held,” he joked.

The U.S. Census as of July 1, 2016 lists the SLO County’s 65 and over population at 18.9%. As Dr. Sainsbury contemplated retirement, he realized he had developed the skills to prepare him to advocate, diagnose and treat San Luis Obispo’s growing senior population. He realized there was a hole in patient care in the county and decided to consult with two north county practitioners, including his fellow medical director at Central Coast Hospice, Templeton’s Dr. Jeffrey Bourne.

“They liked their practices so I decided to try it,” he said. “I needed a saner lifestyle and serving seniors offered the best of what I liked about patient care – diagnosis and immediate treatment.”

Hospital emergency care had also established contacts with every doctor in the community so his fledgling practice grew quickly with immediate referrals.

The new practice offered two major surprises. “Paperwork,” he said. “I always had staff to take care of filing Medicare and insurance. I needed to carve out time to do it myself.”  He spends a minimum of three hours per day on paperwork.

“I also didn’t anticipate the number of phone calls. Now I’m working directly with the patients, families of patients and medical facilities where most of my patients reside.”

Dr. Sainsbury visits 25 private homes monthly and has 300 patients in a variety of homecare facilities. Typically, 250 are private Medicare patients with others under Hospice care. However, after eight years, he is finally in a place where he’s adjusted his schedule so he can sleep at night. He doesn’t take calls after 9pm. And he doesn’t take on more than the load he is currently carrying.

Why is such a practice valuable within a community? “It’s hard for many patients to leave their homes even to go to a doctor’s office and they are always more comfortable in their home environment,” Dr. Sainsbury explained. “At home I can also check their meds and eliminate what they shouldn’t be taking.” He mentioned many seniors are taking Lipitor or Statins. “Frankly, after 90 they don’t need them. The side effects could be making them uncomfortable.”

His biggest challenge is dealing with patients’ families. “The family wants the best or the most care needed for their loved one, but in-reality will a mammogram help an elderly patient in all cases? Should I diagnose chemo when I know the outcome would be the same anyway? When I know a treatment won’t improve quality of life should I recommend it anyway?”

Dr. Sainsbury’s stated his ethic. “I’m the advocate for the patient. All I care about is what the patient wants and his/her quality of life.”

He adamantly advises families need a clear DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) policy earlier than later in life and one that everyone must agree to abide by. All must do what the patient originally wanted. The DNR will not complicate decisions when emotional stress takes hold.

Family – his and others – have always been very important to Dr. Sainsbury. His personal life has been full raising children, volunteering as team football physician for Cal Poly and traveling annually on medical missionary trips to faraway places such as the Congo, Jordan, Guatemala and the Amazon with several different groups — Flying Doctors, Doctors on Call and more.

“It takes a certain personality to provide a house-call practice,” he said. “It is easier or at least much different when patients come to an office or to the ER. “There is plenty of work for others to come into the field, but I believe there are only a few doctors that are willing to do what I do.”

Editor’s Note: Dr. Sainsbury is loved by patients, families of patients, and administrators at the facilities he serves. I know this first hand. He cared for our Aunt Stella for the three years she lived and thrived at Garden House in Morro Bay after breaking a hip at her assisted living home in Michigan where the employee ratio was not sufficient to care for her so we were able to bring her to California and to Garden House.

Kasey Watson, Administrator/Owner of Garden House of Morro Bay, which is the first SLO County nonprofit secured home for patients of all dementias, works regularly with Dr. Sainsbury, which is how our family first met him. He regularly serves most of the residents at Garden House. There are fifteen residents living onsite at any given time. Garden House has a waiting list and encourages families to plan ahead, tour the home and if it will fit future needs, register on the waiting list.

Kasey Watson: “Dr. Sainsbury takes the time to listen to his patients needs and concerns, as well as their family members. He is available by phone and willing to meet with families when they have questions.   He collaborates with our care team by seeing our residents monthly which maximizes the quality of their lives by keeping him educated as to a resident’s current well-being. Our Residents needs can change dramatically in a short amount of time. When we need to inform or consult with him because of a change in a residents’ status he always responds quickly, either by phone, email, fax or text, whichever is most appropriate. Because he does this so quickly, it elevates our response times and ensures that best possible comfort and outcomes for the Resident.” Kasey Watson, Administrator, Garden House of Morro Bay

For more information: (805) 546-7650

To Contact Garden House of Morro Bay contact Ask for Jody Salamacha-Hollier or Kasey. Another note: After moving to Morro Bay and experiencing Garden House while Aunt Stella was there years ago, she discovered what a positive work-environment it could be for her and is now Assistant-Administrator after two years on the job.  Jody and Kasey are always on the look-out for caregivers to help fulfill their mission providing the highest quality of life and health and companionship for their residents. If you care and are looking for a loving place to work, give Jody or Kasey a call.




North County Adaptive Sports & Recreation Program

The North County Adaptive Sports & Recreation Program is an amazing program for a group of Central Coast citizens that needed to find each other to work and play together. Families network together and things happen within their communities. This story ran the summer of 2018, but was a long time coming to print, but well worth the wait since it merged groups together to play together. Enjoy and maybe you’ll want to get involved.

Image 2-5-19 at 2.24 PM

Photo by Tom Grant

Symbiotic Networking is defined as business and community representatives of like-purpose and interests coming together for mutual benefits. You won’t find it defined in the dictionary or listed as one of the top business practices in INC. Magazine, but it produces results – instantly or after years of nurturing relationships. And when it all clicks magic happens for all concerned.

For example, San Luis Sports Therapy, Morro Bay Councilman Matt Makowetski, North County Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program, Cal Poly University, the cities of Morro Bay and Atascadero and Project Surf Camp – just to name a few of the beneficiaries — realized Symbiotic Networking’s results when linking their business models to nonprofit community projects.

The magic happens again Friday, June 29, from 11am to 5pm at 890 Shasta in Morro Bay when the public is invited to the 6th Annual Benefit Barbecue for Project Surf Camp hosted by Clinic Director Michael Williams, owner of San Luis Sports Therapy (

“We move out the therapy equipment to become a cafeteria,” Williams said. “It’s a pre-holiday free lunch. I provide the Tri-tip and friends help barbecue and bring side-dishes. Local businesses donate gifts and we draw tickets all afternoon. Last year we gave $5,600 to Project Surf Camp. We’re hoping to give over $6,000 this year.”

Williams’ converted an annual appreciation potluck to a community event ultimately benefitting three nonprofits — Project Surf Camp, United Blood Services and the North County Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program.

“When I opened the business in 2002, I decided to thank everyone with a BBQ before the 4th of July holiday. We also offered a blood drive with United Blood Services. It grew every year until we were at around 200 guests.”

At the same time, Williams and Makowetski coached their children in youth recreation programs. A teacher during the school year, Makowetski spent his summers helping John Taylor, founder of Project Surf Camp, provide ocean experiences for special needs adults and children. When Makowetski explained the concept of Project Surf Camp to Williams, he realized, “It was right up my alley. More than 200 good-hearted people already enjoy our barbecue. Why not make it a community event?”

Williams admired that John Taylor enjoyed surfing with a prosthesis and created Project Surf Camp so everyone on the Central Coast might experience ocean recreation – especially those with varying disabilities.

The day camps are half-days at Morro Rock Beach near the Morro Creek outlet. Four paid specialists and many community groups and individuals volunteer to provide the instruction and safety support for the campers as they test out the waves.

Ron Vasconcellos is a longtime participant of San Luis Sports Therapy’s wellness program. He suggested to Williams the NCASARP ( participants, fondly called the Bulldogs, were a perfect group to benefit from a surf camp session. Ron and his wife Ruth started NCASARP in 2010 with several parents, Cal Poly coaches, and professors, students and community volunteers to develop a year-round, county-wide sports and recreation program for kids and adults who live with developmental disabilities.

“We were looking for more activities — sports and social activities — for our son, Chris,” said Vasconcellos. The program launched when Atascadero Parks & Recreation offered their gym one-day weekly all year long. Bulldogs’ families and board members operate the activities for the nonprofit. “It takes a village – so many partners have helped develop it into a county-wide program.  Kevin Taylor, Cal Poly Kinesiology Department (, Coach Faith Mimnaugh and Cal Poly students have made a big difference.”

The Bulldogs recently received the Paul Wolff Accessibility Advocacy Award during a Community Foundation Awards Night recognizing Cal Poly’s participation. At least 18-20 students participate weekly offering everything from strengthening skills to high-fives and friendship. “Many students have changed their career paths after their involvement in our program,” said Vasconcellos. “Our Bulldogs respond to those closer to their age.”

Regularly 35 participants from 13-70 years old show up to play basketball, volleyball, broomball, kickball or line dancing in Atascadero. Each Monday Kennedy Fitness in San Luis offers their pool for aquatics. Social activities like bowling, pizza parties, Blues Baseball, and Cal Poly sporting events become social get-togethers for Bulldogs and families. Discounted Ride-On transportation is available.

Thus, Project Surf Camp was a natural expansion activity for the Bulldogs and Vasconcellos had volunteers to help to support a day at camp.

Williams liked the idea. Not only could his business and patrons support Project Surf Camp financially, but his staff would benefit with on-the-job-training sea-side working with special needs campers. “Saturdays are the only days we can take off from our regular patrons,” said Williams. “This year our day with the Bulldogs is July 21.

Indeed, Symbiotic Networking makes things happen. June 29 meet the team at Michael Williams’ barbecue. Many will go home with a Coast Electronics-donated television, or a surfboard, or restaurant gift certificates or…..good vibrations for networking to help Project Surf Camp in 2018.

And now it is 2019…all the programs are ongoing through the year and then summertime Project Surf Camp will kick in again. Will your group be involved?