Thursday, July 12, 2007

THE GRUNION RUN….on a Southern California beach, 1952



One of the most memorable nights that I can remember was at a beach just north of Ventura, California. My friend Gayle and I were there during our summer break from college. The year was 1952 and we were working as waitresses at The Pierpont Inn.

Our work schedules were quite full but we did manage some fun excursions and this one topped the list. It was close to midnight and a group of us had lit a blazing bonfire on the sand. There was a full moon and the waves were very active, crashing rhythmically on the beach. A feeling of tension was in the air. We had no idea if we would be lucky enough to see the grunion, or if it would be another night climaxed by disappointment.

Suddenly a great cry went up, and was heard to echo down the length of the beach: “the grunion are running”...and there they were. Thousands of small, silvery fish were riding a wave to the shore. As the wave receded back into the ocean, the grunion remained on land, the females drilling grooves into the sand as they twirled on their tails, depositing eggs. The male grunion would curve around her in order to fertilize the eggs and the spawning was accomplished before the next wave appeared to return them to the depths of the ocean. It was a sight to behold.

Suddenly all bedlam broke loose as old and young alike raced for the fish, trying to catch them by hand. They were considered a great delicacy and it was a challenge to harvest them because they were on land for such a short time. The smell of fried fish soon filled the air and I realized that those bonfires were used for more than just alleviating the chill.

Observing the grunion, however, was more to our style than trying to catch them. Gayle and I watched in fascination as the show played out in front of us.. As I understand it, the southern coast of California and the Baja Peninsula are among the very few places where the grunion run so we were fortunate indeed.

12 Comments:

Blogger Anvilcloud said...

What a remarkable world we live in!

5:45 AM  
Blogger Melly` said...

Haha! I have fished all day - caught the "prize" fish everyone wants - taken it home live because everyone knows the fresher the better... lost my nerve and taken it back to the water to the absolute frustration of my partner, family and friends so many times! Fought with other "fisherpeople" who insist on recovering a hook to the detriment of a fish,... when a hook costs $1 - The beauty is exactly what you say - the wonder that they are there and are so beautiful. They may be tasty - but sometimes... that isnt the important thing!

5:53 AM  
Blogger KGMom said...

I've read about this, but never in such detail. Thanks for sharing.
Do they still run?

1:36 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

AC is right, it IS a remarkable world.

3:46 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

I have always wanted to see that - and eat the fish!

7:04 AM  
Anonymous colleen said...

I hope I get to see this someday!

2:12 PM  
Anonymous gawilli said...

I think I have seen this on television. It reminds me of when the Smelt come in from Lake Michigan. Those were good eats!

5:44 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

How interesting! You have had such grand adventures, Ginnie.

5:30 PM  
Anonymous caroline said...

Hi Ginnie,

How amazing and magical, like something out of a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I love these old stories Ginnie. You bring the past alive in such vivid colors. I actually thought of you this weekend when I watched "The Lost Weekend." Partly, I thought of your praise for AA. But I also wondered what kind of clothes you would have been wearing in 1948.

Was life really in black and white? Kidding.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Ahhhh, what a sight that would have been, and I so love fishing and fish :)

11:50 PM  
Blogger Beryl Ament said...

I saw it too. Venice Beach? 64 or 65. It was magic, like swimming in a sea of quick-silver.
Amazing how a few hours of an evening so long ago can live with you for ever.
The guy I was swimming with? Dear reader, I married him.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Being an east coast girl, I wasn't familiar with grunion until I read Lauren Bacall's autobiography....she talks about it there.
Nature continues to mystify me...I can only imagine what a sight that was to witness and to think you were there!

2:05 PM  

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