La Jolla Pumphouse Crowd – Beach Life

La Jolla Pumphouse Crowd

In this typical Meda prank and with an diverse crowd at the Pumphouse, Bill Decker has an embarrassing moment, his trunks are pulled down just as the picture is taken: Front (L-R) Robert Merril, unknown, Thomas Hendicks, Donnie Tompson, Bill Wilhelm, Kip "Pinky" Ives, Mark Edwards, Michael "Otter" Woods. Back: (L-R) Tom Jones, Lindi Person, Kathy Sanchez, Richard Krug (in back of Krug, Rupert Fellows RIP), Bill "Smack" Decker (in back of Decker the prankster) Jeff Junkins (RIP). Photo provided by Bill Decker and taken by Dean Burriston in mid 1970.

Just for starters, Tom Wolfe’s book, The Pumphouse Gang,” which he claimed immortalized the Mac Meda Destruction Co, ” … was a bunch of Bullshit,” MacPherson said during a winter 2006 conversation he had with a San Diego Magazine writer in 2006.

According to many that who was interviewed in the article, the writer misquoted and will say (even today) that Tom Wolfe was a dork and a person not to be trusted. In the mid 1960s when Wolfe was doing research on this book, and when he first walked on the WindanSea parking lot asphalt, he stood like a bottle of Ripple at a Dom  Perignon tasting.   Faster then one could pop a beer, he was 86ed from WindanSea (people thought he was a nark). So low-faced, he cruised the beach, where he stumbled on the Pumphouse, which he found a more talkative and underage crowd.

In the eyes of Jack McPherson, there was at lot of irony that Wolfe named his book after a building designed for pumping shit into the ocean.

La Jolla PumpHouse #21There was an array of characters that hung out at the infamous Pumphouse #21, a semi-secluded spot of beach that was not visible from the street – an iconic way of those under 21 who could drink on the beach without fear of being hassle by the police if they were doing it at the lot or WindanSea’s wall. The Pumphouse also provide one of the best beaches to body whomp at.

It was a tight-knit group of kids that orbited a central nucleus of beach life, which, when push came to shove, formatted their own version of what  their overall lifestyle of Mac Meda Destruction Company was like.

Age, lifestyle, rich or poor, geek or jock the Pumphouse was just another niche environment of La Jolla’s Meda beach life. In 1977 the Pumphouse sponsored the grand finale of Conventions that was comparable to the Mexico Convention – over 1000 people conversed on the beach in a last display of Woodstock lifestyle.


  1. this just in: what in the world does this outsider have that in any way gives him the right to pretend to have a voice? I’m one of a very few housepainters that had the incredible lucck to paint Mr. Cavanaugh’s HOUSE in front of the windn parking lot . he hands me his credit card and says come back with my ccard or I”ll knee cap ya. a great health minded business man with a respected wife a lady who cccalled me on leaving a drop cloth on the sidewalk. ah, that’s the peak of my existence. the outsider.

  2. My brother-in-law Ron painted (air brushed) a famous and beautiful crashing wave on the west facing wall of a pump house in that area back in the day. He and his wife moved to Hawaii for surf and jobs…locals would keep up the pump house from vandals, the city etc. We were all really grateful to the locals for that. Thank you for that. Eventually the city tore it all down.. the pump house, everything. Ron became a research PhD, his wife an editor, my husband and I became teachers.. my best friend from high school became a guidance counselor at La Jolla High, my hubby and I raised 3 skaters/surfers 🙂 Love to you All!

  3. Evelyn Hill says:

    John MaGrue painted the Pumphouse pink one night, remember??

  4. mike elder says:

    I just found out who Ruppert Fellows was. I have a Hank Warner surfboard that is a Ruppert Fellows model. I never knew the guy, but his board took me through some amazing big wave sessions in the early 90’s. Thanks Ruppert! RIP

  5. Roadster10 says:

    LJWomper– You are right about Jeff Junkens, he was not only a Green Beret in Viet Nam but on my team. He was a true hero. We were assigned to SOG from the 5th Special Forces group and Jeff was a great recon man. He went on many missions and always performed with tremendous courage. I loved the guy. Unfortunately, the war and the drugs caught up with him and he took his own life in the late 90’s in San Diego. I attended his funeral.

    If you have any questions about Jeff, I can be reached by e-mail: Tim Schaaf

    • jess reynoso says:

      Tim,i knew jeffrey through another green beret,they were both close friend burt living in chula vista then,now hawaii.didn’t make it to his funeral,but often visited his and moms grave site.hope all is well with you,

  6. Arne Spennare says:

    Hi. Im looking for a Jack Wilhelm that I meet in Australia 1974. This is a long shot but his latest adress was La Jolla.
    My name is Arne and lives in Sweden.
    Any tips would help. Thanks.

  7. Tom Jones (RIP) died in Hawaii in the late 90s.

  8. Kerry Carnohan says:

    One summer morning when there was no shore break I concocted the First Annual Pump House Breakfast. A bunch of us dressed up in white shirts and ties to look respectable — which worked until you realized everybody was barefoot — and brought hurricane hibachis and a bunch of eggs & potatoes and we set up a kitchen on top of the pump house. We actually made a killer meal that morning — it was real early and we were all hungry.

    But someone yelled “Who’s bringing the vodka?” and a neighbor must have called the cops because they came from both directions, slowly, stopped and got out of the patrol cars, and I swear the officers looked at all of us, looked at each other and one of them said “Sarge, if I didn’t see it I wouldn’t believe it.”

    We made TV news that night; wonder if that clip is sitting on a shelf somewhere.

    I did it all in a hopeless attempt to impress Tracy Gary.

  9. Ron Brown says:

    Jill Wagoner–
    I remember Frank Hetzel as a good friend at La Jolla Hi. He and I used to “hang” at Wind`n`Sea & La Jolla Shores. I lost contact with him when I joined the Coast Guard right after high school. I heard he worked at Scripps Institute as a diver. He was a great guy.


  1. […] writer who brought surfing to the masses with his wildly popular essay on the Windansea crew, The Pumphouse Gang, died on Monday May 14, 2018, according to a […]

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