Posted by: kevinliebl | July 24, 2010

The Importance of Making a Memorable Impression

Reggie's Bait Shop Carpinteria CA

Reg's Bait and Tackle Shop, Carpinteria, CA ~1971 (click image for larger view)

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.

Reggie's Bait and Tackle Shop, Carpinteria, CA

Reg's Bait and Tackle Shop, Carpinteria, CA - 2010 (Click image for larger view)

Thank you for the lessons Reggie.  I hope you are enjoying the fishing.

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Responses

  1. Kevin,

    Amazing story about how Reggie made a great impression on you when you were 8 year old. I remember great memories of people from my childhood and few from recent years … most have common theme – they are genuine and warm to others with no agenda … they are truly helpful and seem to mentor others … I agree that there is an importance to making a memorable impression.

    Dipak

  2. Kevin,

    What a great story to help us think about what we want our legacy to be. Reggie would be very happy, I’m sure.

  3. Kevin,

    Great story, amazing. Thank you very much for sharing with us!

    Ed Siatti
    Brazil

  4. Great reminder to generously share our strengths with the world, Kevin, thanks!

    Best,
    Christine Hueber

  5. What a wonderful way to turn a compelling human interest story into a branding lesson. Kevin, I smell the makings of a book…

  6. Thank you for sharing a wonderful memory

  7. Kevin, very cool story and it brings back mancy childhood memories and is a very important lesson for everyone. Your first impression is always the most memorable and can define you.

  8. Hey Bro, For the last forty five years I’ve wondered what in heck happened to Reggie. My family also camped at the beach back in the 60’s. Thats when my Love for fishing got ignighted big time, when I also shook his hand and joined his club. I’ve been up and down that street several times in my life. I’m so glad you had a burning desire to do something with your curiosity! What ever happened to all those books that were signed? The Lord works in mysterious ways. I hope to hear from others.

    • Scotty,

      Nice to hear from you. Yes, Reggie touched many people and I am sure a lot of adults wonder from time to time what happened to Reggie. It is very nice to hear from others who feel the same way about the great memories of the Carpinteria campground and Reggie’s bait and tackle shop.

      All the best,

      Kevin

      • Yes ,we also camp there in the 60’s & 70’s. Reggie and his shop were differently one of the highlights of our vacation.

  9. Kevin,

    Just made reservations today for our annual trip to Carpenteria! It’s been a family tradition even more so since my parents passed away. My parents took my siblings and I often back in the 60’s and never stopped. We used to stay for two weeks at time. We keep the tradition going, taking our own kids and remember all the good times we shared. Reggie is one of those good memories. He will forever be in our hearts. My sister has a book he wrote called, Termites To The Rescue. Thank you for posting the picture of the bait shop. Priceless!

    Stella

  10. Kevin,
    Thank you for the trip down memory lane…. Today my train passed through Carpenterra, 43 years and a day since I was there last.(July 20,1969). Memorys of Reggie came flooding back. same handshake, same membership card, just a totally “Groovy” place to visit. I remember that trip so vividly because it also happened to be the date of the Moon Landing. Camping with about 50 People gathered around a 12 inch B/W TV. how COULD you forget that? Thanks Reggie, you made this 12 year old feel special.

    Jeff

  11. I miss old Reg! He would stop at the Carpinteria Police Dept. every morning
    so we would know he was OK. My ex husband did a short film that was
    put on the local TV Station in Santa Barbara, Ca for an assignment as he
    was a student at Brooks Institute of Photography. We left in 1974 & Reg
    gave me a book he wrote called Termites to the Rescue and alot of his
    hand drawn post cards. He also sold me his 1951 Potiac which I drove
    to Seattle. It only had 2000 miles on it and alot of mildew. Upon my arrival
    in Seattle I was stopped by the police as a bank robbery had occurred &
    the get-a-way car was the same as my 1951 Potiac. I loved Carpinteria
    and Reg will always have a special place in my heart.

    Rita

  12. I also camped at Carpenteria State Park in the 50s & 60s. Used to buy “drop lines” from Reg and fish off the pier. I also had the book “Termites to the Rescue.” I remember his outgoing personality and still have lots of great memories of time spent playing at the beach and running all over the place.

    • Do you have a photo of the old pier? I used to fish from it with a drop line….

      • I wish I did… When we vacation there with the family I walk them down and show the where it used to be.

        – Kevin

  13. Just found a copy of his book, “Termites to the Rescue”, so I am so happy to find this page and find something out about the author. I have been to Carpenteria many times, but didn’t know Reggie. However, his address is printed inside the front cover of the book: 586 Palm. And the book I bought is signed by Reggie. A great memory of old California.

  14. Kevin….and all the other Carpinteria faithfuls,

    My family too made the annual pilgramage from the valley (San Fernando) to Carpinteria every Easter vacation and every summer…..usually more than once. I remember signing in with the ranger and on occassion found the park full. The routine was always the same…..park along the traffic island in the day use area then each morning (8 o’clock) gather at the rangers office and wait for a ranger to tell us how many spots were available and who would be moving to a permanent site…..hoping not to get the “overflow”, you know the campground across from the day use area.

    I could probably write a book on this place. I had many “first time” experiences right there; first kiss, the first time I ever heard the term “beaver shot”, my first cigarette, which by the way I bought at Reggies when I was 16 years old. So many memories; hearing the whistle blow announcing the arrival of the Helms bakery truck, Coney Island hot dogs at “The Spot”, fishing with drop lines off the old pier, and of course my daily visit to Reggies Bait Shop for Necco Wafers or wax lips or pixie stix, or to open the bait freezer and make my frozen shrimp purchase which signaled it was time to head for the pier with my Dad and watch him cast the big pole into the surf.

    I guess I was probably in diapers when we started going up there. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t go to Carpinteria. This is no doubt a familiar progression for beach kids; we start out playing at the waters edge, then we venture in up to our waist (with Mom hovering nearby and leaving her perch under the beach umbrella to warn when we got too far out), then comes the first air raft (full size), then one of those blue and yellow half sized things you could get on your knees riding waves if you really pumped it full of air, then a home-made skim board, then…..finally….a surfboard found under the Christmas tree and an Easter trip to Carpinteria to break it in….forget that the water was 55 degrees….never even felt it! Then the followiing summer began those magic days hanging out (all day) on the south side of the pier surfing with all the other white nosed (thanks to zinc oxide) dudes and trying to cozy up to the chicks.

    Anyway even at age 65 Carpinteria is never far from my thoughts, it’s a part of my life that makes me believe I grew up in exactly the right place (San Fernando Valley) and at exactly the right time. I’m convinced Los Angeles in the 50’s and 60’s was the absolute center of the universe.

    Oh and one last thought about Reggies……I can still smell that smell today…there’s only one Reggies and there’s not another place in the world that smells like Reggies….that bait/candy/cigarette/damp/musty/hole-in-the-wall combination that was the one destination I could go on my own at a very young age….that sort of 6-year-old road trip….absolute magic!

    I could talk about Carpinteria all day so if anyone wants to swap stories I’m available.

    • Ron,

      Amazing how similar many of our lives were. There are so many of us the lived elsewhere, but “grew up” on the Carpinteria beach. I can relate to 95% of the items you mentioned. You and I probably hung out together on the beach. We also lived in the San Fernando Valley (Canoga Park and Chatsworth). Great memories…

      – Kevin

  15. Hey, thanks for the story. Not sure how I stumbled on this but I’m glad I did. I moved with my family to Carpinteria in 2007 and we used to live just down the street from that house. I’ve seen the “Reggies gone fishing” marks and I’ve always wondered what the story with that was, because its always been there. Really interesting stuff and great to know. Thanks again! -ben

    • Ben,

      Thanks for the comment. Funny that you lived down the street from the house and didn’t know the story behind the “Reggie’s gone fishing” in the window. Glad you found the blog!

      – Kevin


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