From the time that I was about 7 years old until I was about 13 years old, my family had a small RV camper. I have great memories of traveling the California coast, meeting amazing people, and learning life-lessons. When I was about 8 years old, we spent most summer weekends camping in Carpinteria, CA – a sleepy beach community that is known for having “the safest beach in the world”.
Surprisingly, as an 8-year-old boy, my parents gave me the freedom to explore the small town on my own. I would get up in the morning, grab my bike and make every day a new adventure. I remember leaving the campground one morning in the summer of 1971, riding up Palm Avenue and noticing a small bait-and-tackle shop about a block up the road that simply screamed at me to stop and explore it further. It was covered with signs selling fishing gear, soda, beer and artwork by the proprietor – Reggie Reynolds. The sign that caught my eye was a small sign on the door that said, “Join my Free Fishing Club”. I parked my bike, walked up and opened the door.
Having a larger-than-life grandfather who told non-stop stories about fishing in Minnesota, I couldn’t help but take a liking to the owner of the store. Reggie was a crusty old sailor/fisherman who sold more stories than he did product. As I entered the store, I couldn’t decide whether to take in the overwhelming clutter of fishing paraphernalia, beer/soda signs, candy, and general junk, or to keep my eye on Reggie who was busy introducing himself. He immediately asked me if I wanted to join his Rod and Reel club and began explaining that I would have to pass his “initiation”. While intimidated by the process, I immediately said “yes”. With this, he shook my hand, and as he did, he tugged on it as it I had a fish on the line and said, “Hey lad, you have a big one on the line!” He laughed hysterically and said, “you have just been initiated”. We walked to the counter where I signed his membership book, while he filled out an official membership card. We both signed it, and it was official. I carried that card in my wallet for years. Reggie claimed to have over 49,000 members in his club. I didn’t doubt it for a minute.
Each time we visited Carpinteria, I would go visit Reggie and we became good friends. We would sit and talk and he would tell me stories of fishing, running a business and general life’s lessons. He made a huge impression on an 8-year old boy. Unfortunately, one trip a couple of years later, I rode my bike over to meet him and the door was locked. Reggie had died.
Over the years, I have thought a lot about Carpinteria, the family fun and specifically Reggie. As we planned our family vacation this year, we decided to rent a beach house in Carpinteria. As you can imagine, it has been a walk down memory lane. As I sit writing this (with my feet in the sand), I am realizing that I haven’t been here for 35 years. While purchasing candy at Robattaille’s Candy shop today, I met an elderly gentleman who remembered Reggie and we shared a moment laughing about his “initiation handshake”. He pointed me to the local museum where, to my surprise, I found a postcard showing the front of Reggie’s Bait and Tackle shop (see above). The museum official told me the building had been on Linden Avenue but was torn down many years ago. I explained that I remembered it being on Palm Avenue, but she corrected me. I purchased the post card and decided to walk down Palm Avenue to see if I could find the location where I remembered the bait shop. Amazingly, I found the condemned building exactly where I remembered it – 40 years after first meeting Reggie. It had been re-painted and turned into a family residence. However, the building was unmistakably the same. Even the address – 586 was still over the doorway (click on the image below). I walked up to the front door and saw something that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Someone had written with their finger in the dust on the front window, “Reggie’s Gone Fishing!” Reggie died over 35 years ago and many other families lived in this house. But after all these years, someone walked up to the house and wrote this on the window. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who Reggie made a huge impression on.
Action Item: Be sure to make your mark. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a large company, a professional athlete, a mid-level manager or the proprietor of a bait and tackle shop. Be amazing at what you do. Do it with style, authenticity and sincerity. People may remember you much longer than you ever thought they would.
Thank you for the lessons Reggie. I hope you are enjoying the fishing.
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