When Maynard Heatherly was asked, “What he thought of the Sip n Surf?” all he could do was shake his head. Fact remains, he hated the joint, even though he was friends with the owner, Burt Alderson.
“Its not the competition,” he said, God knows he already had a ton of customers, he hated the place adding, “If you can’t find a place at the bar, or even be able to rest your arms on the bar rail, why bother.”
In 1952, attorney Max “Big Max” Ruffcorn was having breakfast with Burt and the conversation went to auctioning some bar equipment from this closed down pub. Big Max mentioned the pub, and jokingly suggested Burt to buy the place.
Mac Meda Editors Note: Attorney Max “Big Max” Ruffcorn was an La Jolla character. At 250 plus pounds, a huge handle bar mustache and boisterous voice, always dressed in loud clothes. He was one of the original owners of the the Surfer Hotel in Pacific Beach. His daughter Nora was one of the survivors of the the La Jolla Laughing Gas tragedy. In early 1970, a well known La Jolla anesthesiologist, Dr. Cornellius (oldest son Larry was one of the survivors of the Cave Cliff Plunge and seen in the Long Bar picture) and his youngest son were killed in a airline crash during a hunting/fishing trip in Alaska. Big Max was the attorney that sued the airlines and won. He retired and moved to Cabo San Lucas (with his wife, girlfriend, BJ … humm … wonder how she got those initials?) and died in the late 1980s.
Within a week Burt had leased the place for $150 a month. Alderson decorated the windows of the Sip ‘n’ Surf with burlap bags and hired La Jolla artist Michael Dormer to draw Tiki gods on the wall and paint a 27-foot Polynesian mural. He purchased some tables constructed from old surfboards, and the atmosphere was set for La Jolla’s Bird Rocks first iconic bar.
Alderson had a knack for surrounding himself with colorful, entertaining people. In his prime, he was a personality magnet. His penchant for recreation and leisure attracted celebrities and success wherever he went.
The Sip and Surf followed in the footsteps as Pacific Beaches Coral Inn and Night Owl, and opened for business every day beginning at 6 a.m. It gained almost instant success with a steady flow of mixed breed customers like surfers, secretaries, Navy pilots and football players, college students, resort owners and an occasional movie star. Yes, movie stars like Lee Marvin, Cliff Robertson (who later bought a home in La Jolla) and Keenan Wynn. It was even rumored that Richard Burton stopped in and powered down a half bottle and left a $100 tip, which back in the late 50s was like getting a $1000 tip.
Other customers included, Harry Handlery, (owner of the Stardust Hotel and Country Club) in Mission Valley, Pat Curren and Mike Diffenderfer (RIP), two Windansea surfers who later pioneered big wave surfing on the north shore of Oahu. Diffenderfer used to shape surfboards right down the street.
The biggest problem with the Sip n’ Surf was its size, the legal capacity was only 50. One night, Alderson claimed, the fire marshal counted 250 people sardined into his canned establishment when it popularity increased and was getting the overflow from the Red Mountain Inn across the street.
It was pretty common to see on Friday afternoon between 20- 25 kegs around the wall; by Monday, they were all empty. If any of the patrons ever got out of line, they had to answer to a pair of efficient yet eccentric bouncers: Big Frank, a former longshoreman from Honolulu, and a female body builder named “Tinkerbelle.”
As time went on, Sip n Surf got the nickname Slurp and Burp and soon it changed hands to many characters during the 1970s. At one time its name was changed to the Hungry Horse and then back to Slurp n Burp, excuse me Sip n Surf. For a while there it seemed owners changed faster then one could pop another keg until it finally closed down for good in the mid 1980s.
Historical content by Hoyt on WindanSea Facebook and Dean Burriston.
Did the Sip n’ Surf a lot early 60’s , sat on floor booths, $1.25 pitcher, play “noah’ on juke,
Was Navy, Miramar.
I was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Coronado during 1960-61. Loved stopping for a beer and listing to the Beach Boys at the Sip and Surf. Also used to go to Micky Fins on Saturday and listed to Micky play while guzzling brewskies on long tables. I suppose Micky,s has long gone.
paul cowie says
kingbiscuit blues band played the white whale also remember jaming w nova great don armstrong trombone wonderful times p cowie
William Sowles says
I went to Bird Rock recently and all the old places are gone: The Hatch (RMI), Sip & Surf (at one time run by Pat Shea former SD Charger for 5 years, Velvet Hammer, Pink Elephant (full of hipsters), Bully’s run by George and the best cook in town, Cookie Taylor, (also the best joint in town for a guy to get picked up by a great looking gal), and the shirts and shoes restaurant across the Blvd from the RMI. Only memories now.
Cynthia Shelley (Buggy Bath, LJ) says
Bully,s was owned by George Bullington. I was a hostess there for a few years, some fun!
I remember the Hungry Horse from my young,bachelor Navy officer days. I moved up to a LaJolla apartment with two other pals from South Mission Beach. We spotted what was the greatest logo ever of a stumbling horse and had to go in. Turned out to be out home away from home. Sure would love to find my tee shirt from those days!
Sadly, I had to retire my Hungry Horse T-shirt from 1969/70 around 1997. Treasured that. Was a Naval Officer stationed in San Diego and shared an apartment with 2 other officers across from the LA Jolla cove. Spent more time down at the Beachcomber in Mission Beach. Great memories!
Heidi Paul, aka Heidi Berg says
I was the first bartender Danny Walker hired at the Hungry Horse (around 41 years ago). I had some pretty interesting regular characters — I mean customers — such as David Callaway, Tom Dam, Eric Carpenter, Eber Linder, Denny Moore, Bob Barnhill, Donnie Tomlinson, and Jack MacPherson was the mailman. A guy named Danny and a woman named Bonnie also come to mind as afternoon customers. Those were wild days when abalone was plentiful and La Jolla was somewhat affordable. I have some pictures of the 1974 (or 75?) La Jolla Rough Water Drink that I wish I could somehow post on this website. Say, Danny — are you out there?
Tom Martin (POOP) says
I had a tab at the HUNGRY HORSE. I had the twins put a note in my tab which said Do not let me put another beer on my tab no matter what I say. I talked them out of it a few days later.
any idea what happened to the jackson twins? would love to know, was friends with them many years ago………. marty
Bob Baker says
Don’t forget the riot at the Pour House. I certainly won’t since I almost died from a beating in jail. Barbara Snell started it when she slapped a cop and Hederman also was a trouble maker as was I.
Tom Leech says
I vividly recall the legendary Sip ‘n Surf, starting in the summer of ’59. Loved that Mike Dormer mural on the wall behind the bar. Does anyone have a photo of that? Unfortunately Mike does not and it was destroyed later.
Debbie McIver says
Did anyone know Fran Pinckney. She may have referred to herself as Frankie. Beautiful blonde about 29 years old in 1960/1961
Bill Sowles says
Eric, I do remember the ‘Pour House.’ Do you remember, even tho it wasn’t exactly in Bird Rock, the “Upper Cellar” on Pearl Street on the south side just up from the Blvd? Boy, how the cops hated that place too.
Steve Gallagher says
In the early seventies, during one of it’s many facelifts, the paneling was removed from the north wall. Underneath was a mural painted in the late 50’s or early 60’s. It showed a group of people gathered around the hut at Windansea. I don’t remember who was in it. I may have been drinking.
I was 15 and with a bunch of skater guys at the park by my house. We were smoknig pot (not my first and not the last time)and Marlboro Reds.We got a homeless guy at 7-11 to buy our 40s and I got hammered.Those were the days!
when crabs roar says
Hey Eric thanks for the post about the Pour House, Bob Madrone (aka Bob Atkinson) and myself used to sit outside to listen to the music, I have fond memories of those times, as a footnote about the Trinidad Steel Band it seems they had some visa problems and the cops raided The Pour House and arrested the whole band.
Harry Marriner says
Dean Carlson was one of the early managers/bartenders at the Sip n Surf. Around 1963-64 at Halloween they’d give away free beer if you could squeeze your body through the door and make it to the bar. The music was so loud that during the hot summer months when they kept the door open, I could hear it from my open bedroom window about three blocks away.
Hoyt Smith says
Harry Handlery, who owned the Stardust Hotel and Country Club in Mission Valley, used to be a regular customer out at the Sip `n Surf, according to Alderson.
So too did Pat Curren and Mike Diffenderfer, two heavy Windansea locals who later pioneered big wave surfing on Oahu’s north shore.
Lee Marvin and Keenan Wynn were also familiar patrons, and would always stopped by the Sip `n Surf when they dropped down from Hollywood.
Beer was the only alcoholic beverage available at the Sip `n Surf. On Friday afternoons, Alderson and his crew would stack 25 kegs around the wall. By Monday, they’d all be empty. If anyone ever got out of line, Big Frank, the “Heavy Hawaiian,” was always around to restore the order. He was the Sip `n Surf’s self-proclaimed bouncer.
I also have to mention Tinkerbell, a female weightlifter that Alderson hired to handle the rowdy ones. If anyone can elaborate on her, I would love to hear it.
Alderson definitely had a knack for surrounding himself with entertaining people. At his prime he was a personality magnet with a keen sense of fun that attracted celebrity and success wherever he went.
His boldest effort may have been taking an old brick power station located on the beach just south of the Del Mar Race Track, removing all the boilers and generators and converting the building into a 1920s style speakeasy. Anyone interested in hearing more about that night club?
Eric Pilmore says
Hi Hoyt, I realize your posting here is fairly old, but was wondering if you’re still around. I would be interested in hearing more about the Roaring 20’s bar at the Powerhouse in Del Mar. Did you know Burt Alderson personally? Any chance you have photos of these old establishments?
Hoyt Smith says
Eric, I’m still around. Several years ago (maybe 26) I spent several evenings at the Black Angus in Point Loma interviewing Burt Alderson,, the owner of the Sip n Surf.. He shared all kinds of stories and I took copious notes.
Cynthia shelley says
Hello Hoyt – hope you are well, Cindy Shelley ( Toni,s mom)!
Hoyt Smith says
Burt Alderson told me that Maynard Heatherly wasn’t too fond of his bird rock bar.
“Oh that damned Sip `n Surf,” Maynard would lament. Not that he harbored any animosity toward Alderson. like you say, the two were close friends. It wasn’t the competition that bothered him either. Maynard’s bar, a few miles south in Pacific Beach, had a large enough drinking crowd of its own.
No, by Alderson’s account Heatherly said, “I hate that joint because you can’t get in. Then you can’t get to the bar. Then you can’t get your arms down to drink.”
The problem with the Sip `n Surf was that it was frequently way too crowded. According to Alderson, the legal capacity was 49. One night, he recalled, the fire marshal counted 250 people congregating elbow-to-elbow, all having a good time.
These days, I enjoy the occasional weekend scene at Beaumont’s; but it is a pale shadow of Bird Rock’s colorful past. I doubt we will ever see times like those again.
Max Ruffcorn part 2.
Max died in early spring 1989. Oklahoma billionaire Jim Milligan threw a memorial service for the big guy at Shelby’s, a swanky sort of place, across the street from Su Casa. Jack Macpherson was a guest speaker.
He came to pick me up wearing this: I’ll say this for Jack — he did wear an Aloha shirt. Cut off, powder blue cordoroy shorts, blue Nikes that had oil on them from changing the oil in his car…and 2 white socks, neither of which matched and had no elastic left…they were sort of bunched around his killer ankles.
“Jack,” I said, “you can’t go to Max Ruffcorn’s wake dressed like that. You’re the guest speaker!” And he informed me that this was it…and off we went to Shelby’s.
When we got there…here came Pell Mell. Another guest speaker. And dressed exactly the same…down to the mismatched white socks with no elastic.
It was a great afternoon…everyone was there…from high La Jolla society…to the beach crowd…to the bartenders from the Same Ole Place in Bird Rock.
On Max Ruffcorn…
Someone asked him, “Well Max, what do you do all day down there in Cabo?”.
Big Max replied, “Nothing,”.
“And what does BJ do all day?”.
“She helps me,”.
Eric Masterman says
I’m surprised that a couple of other bars that were located in Bird Rock have not been mentioned. There was BEER CITY, (on the west side) along with the tag line, “Dig”on the sign, and THE POUR HOUSE, which became BULLYS a few years later.
Beer City was quite a raucous place.The peanut shells that covered the floor stayed until they went out of business. Don’t get me wrong, they sold lots of beer for a long time.
THE POUR HOUSE was a bar of it’s own and the
founders, Lee Teacher and Dan Abrahms created the first coffee house/bar in San Diego county that offered estate wines, Tuesday night movies, and best of all, live jazz that featured many headliners. The most exciting event ever was when Lee presented the Trinidad Steel Band. When those guys started to play the crowd got into a frenzy with their majic on those drums. All this took place in 1960.
It was also an art gallery where Michael Dormer and other artists exhibited their works. Mike did a huge “house painting” of a nude that has been hanging there all these years until the demise of BULLYS. He has since reclaimed the piece. By the way,the cops hated the place. They ticketed people for jay- walking when they left, planted big under age people to buy drinks and intimidated patrons in the bar on a couple of occasions.They were total assholes.Things got so bad Lee had to close the place.
mac meda says
Eric that is why we did this website, a historical of the beach life and of Mac Meda, and why we have good people like you you who can jar our memory. Plus, I getting so much stuff, it’s getting hard to figure out what to post next and how to organize it. All I can say is thanks and keep commenting and most important, correcting!
Your site is an amazing find for locals interested in Bird Rock history & lore. Which is hard to come by!
The photos are great! The ovscraet sky may be the reason why they are so good. I have always thought that bright sunshine made photos too stark. You have accurately pegged John and Jill they are indeed very laid back!See you at the wedding!John’s mother,Sue Purcell