I am pleased many of you responded to my latest column regarding our summer family Wavehog tradition of camping at San Clemente State Beach. You shared your own version of Wavehog-like summer traditions of special places you go to every summer with family and friends.
In case you missed it, in my last column I described how in 1985, my brother Ralph’s family and mine camped one summer at San Clemente Beach. Over the next 30 years, the camping trip would grow to include more than 80 Wavehogs, family and friends who would return to San Clemente each summer.
Ask any of my children, nephews and nieces. They will eagerly explain why camping at San Clemente with the Wavehogs is almost as important as other holidays we share together.
One call I received was from local entrepreneur Phil Rudnick. How best to describe Mr. Rudnick? He is a walking, talking study in how to succeed in diversifying business opportunities.
If you shaved Santa Claus’ beard, donned a Hawaiian shirt, put on a life guard beach hat with shorts and sandals…well, that would be Mr.Rudnick.
I have lots of respect for Mr. Rudnick. And that respect grew even more with his most recent telephone call.
Over the past years, I have received several calls from Mr. Rudnick. When I do, I put on my Star Trek Dr. Spock raised-eyebrow perplexed face. I just never know what to expect.
True to his form, he called me after reading my Wavehog column and surprised me once again.
“I like what you wrote about your Wavehogs. I have an idea I want to talk to you about,” said the spider to the fly, I thought.
One of Mr. Rudnick’s many business ventures is Airport Valet Express, which provides transportation to and from Bakersfield and LAX. He explained Dockweiler State Beach was one of Airport Valet Express’ destinations.
Dockweiler State Beach is located beneath the LAX takeoff path. He went on to explain that in the spirit of the Wavehogs, he wanted to take kids to the Dockweiler State Beach every summer Tuesday — on him, as in free, complimentary, no charge.
He asked if I would help organize his Tuesday beach trips. I explained that I would but my priority would be to identify youth who may have never seen the ocean, been on the beach or ever caught a wave. My vision matched his.
My first call was to the Boys and Girls Club, where I met Ana Martinez. Her business card says “program director,” but I know she is really an angel sent from heaven whose mission it is to help children.
She and I met with Mr. Rudnick and worked out all the logistics for the Boys and Girls Club to participate. The first bus trip was scheduled for the following Tuesday.
Mr. Rudnick had one more surprise for me. He called me on the Monday before the first beach trip and said, “I have made a decision.”
With my Star Trek Dr. Spock raised-eyebrow perplexed face, I held my breath. He went on, “Guess what I am calling every summer Tuesday here at Airport Valet Services?” He said, “I’m calling it Wavehog Beach Day.”
My heart melted and I tried not to let him hear that I was holding back my tears of joy on the other end of the phone. I still can’t explain why I became so emotional. I couldn’t wait for my children to come home and tell them the great news.
When I did, their response was just like mine. My children held back their Wavehog tears.
The following Tuesday, 15 youth with chaperones were on their way to Dockweiler State Beach, many seeing sea gulls, hearing crashing waves and feeling an ocean breeze on their faces for the first time — compliments of Mr. Rudnick.
Remember that description of Mr. Rudnick? There really is a summer Santa Claus who lives here in Bakersfield.
On the outside, he is disguised as gruffly, business-focused Mr. Phil Rudnick. Don’t let that fool you. On the inside he really is a summer Santa Claus.
And every summer Tuesday on Wavehog Beach Day, he is giving children the gift of a day at the beach, many for the first time.
Thank you, Mr. Santa Rudnick.
Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at email@example.com. His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.