Wednesday, May 12, 2010

TULIE CLARK (1917-2010)

Calvin “Tulie” Clark was born December 2, 1917, in Azusa, California. He grew up in Redondo Beach, riding his horse to attend Malaga Cove School in 1926, when it opened in Palos Verdes Estates.

At age 10, Clark “began surfing in 1927, using a wooden ironing board liberated from the family laundry room.”

By age 16 or 17, Tulie was building solid wooden boards for Pacific Ready Cut Homes. Also known as “Pacific Systems Homes,” or just plain “Pacific Systems,” it was one of the first companies to produce commercial surfboards, and the era’s most notable in terms of volume and design. Two separate manufacturers of Tom Blake’s hollow boards had been the first. Pacific Systems, owned by Meyers Butte, in Vernon, in the Los Angeles area, was the next.

“When I was in Hawaii,” retold noted era surfer Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison, “I was paddling canoes all the time... When I came back from Hawaii with my first wife, we lived in Dana Point. I started fishing commercial, and then I got a motorcycle and rode it all the way to Los Angeles to work at Pacific Redi-cut Systems Homes for a summer.

“Tulie Clark and Carroll ‘Laholio’ Bertolet worked there too. Quite a few surfers worked there… We were shipping sixty boards a month to Hawaii...”

Shortly afterward, Tulie became a member of the famed Palos Verdes Surfing Club (PVSC).

“It started a little bit before I did,” remembered another noted surfer E.J. Oshier of the PVSC. “Adie Bayer and Doc Ball put that together. They started 9 months, maybe a year, before I got started… When I started surfing there [at Palos Verdes Cove], Tulie Clark was coming down and… we got along real well with Adie Bayer and Doc Ball and all the guys that were down there.

“The club decided the first two new members would be Tulie Clark and me. So, we were the first members that weren’t charter members; the first new members taken in. That probably happened in 1936…”

Tulie “was one of our big guys in the surfin’ club,” Doc told me, laughing at the thought of his old friend. “We got together a lot of times at Hermosa Beach… we’d always stack our boards all together in the back of my car or back ‘a his, or whatever, and take off for where we thought the surf was up!”

But, as a surfer, LeRoy “Granny” Grannis told me in 1999, Tulie's surfing was affected by his working. As a result, he could be somewhat “Hot and cold. He’d work and get out of shape, periodically. Most of the time, he was right up there and is in great shape, even today.”

Clark attended Central School in Redondo Beach and Redondo Union High School. After graduating from Venice High in 1940, he lived in Palos Verdes Estates and, later, Palm Springs.

In 1936 or ’37, “at age 20, Clark became the first surfer to beat legendary waterman Pete Peterson in a paddling contest” and successfully competed in paddleboard races on into 1942.

Surfer’s Journal founder Steve Pezman asked Granny about Tulie beating Pete. LeRoy’s response, while not completely accurate, reflected the attitude most all 1930s surfers felt about Pete: “I don’t remember anyone ever beating Pete.”

“Doc [Ball] told me,” Gary Lynch related to me, that “Tulie did not have to go to war. He was an only son and stayed home on the dairy I think it was.” After the war, and after San Onofre had become the epicenter of the Southern California surfer lifestyle, Tulie became a charter member of the San Onofre Surfing Club. He was featured prominently in Doc Ball’s seminal 1946 photo book California Surfers.

Tulie went on to become a real estate developer in Torrance, Lancaster, San Jose and the Palos Verdes Estates – building over 5,000 homes by the time he retired.

“He was one of the guys… not poverty-stricken, but very down, financially, in his early days,” Doc told me years ago. “Everybody used to get after me about him: ‘What are you doing – a doctor! – messing around with those bums; those surf bums?!’ Holy cow; about flipped my lid!

“The guy winds up being a millionaire – got a big house down at Palos Verdes Estates; lives in Palm Springs. He went from a ‘surf bum’ to a millionaire.”

As testimony to this, Gary Lynch remembered that “in 1986 [at the time of the PVSC reunion of that year] Tulie was showing off all his jewelry and fancy cars and such. He was wrapped up in material success.”

In 1964, Tulie became the main investor for International Surfing magazine, known today as Surfing.

Amongst his other notable accomplishments: He rebuilt the mining access road to Bluff Cove; was a Los Angeles County Lifeguard; and was entered into the Pioneer Surfers Walk of Fame.

Tulie passed on April 30, 2010 at a care residence, after lengthy struggle with Alzheimer's Disease.

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Tulie Clark Links

  • A great image from the 1939 PCSC @ San Onofre, featured in: Surfing in San Diego by John C. Elwell, Jane Schmauss, California Surf Museum:>">

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