By Mike Henle
I have had many trails to follow in the past 60 years meeting new friends while enjoying every minute of my memories.
From the days when I was born back in the 1950s in Woodland California, Calif., to my current days in Las Vegas, where I work as a freelance writer, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the ride that I have experienced.
Like so many others that have had a full plate, I’m up early in the morning. Especially in Las Vegas during the dreaded summer months, the best part of a day for me is the cooler times.
However, one particular “stopping off point” in my life stands out among others. The period of time was when my parents decided to move to Carmel, California, which is about 200 miles south of the Bay Area. With special events such as the Bing Crosby Classic golf tournament to Ocean Avenue that runs from the east to the oceans to the west, I was on the run keeping track of the city’s many offerings.
One day in particular stands out in my mind. It had been announced at Woods Elementary School that paper boy were needed to distribute the weekly the Carmel Pine Cone. At the age of seven, I didn’t ask questions, and instead, got out of school in the afternoon and headed for the Pine Cone’s new edition. I had a second-hand cycle and was the first student out the door heading south past Ocean Avenue.
I picked up my 20 papers and headed north to wind my way in and out of various businesses that ranged from barber shops to drug stores and a long list of eateries. My mother worked in an open-air bank and suddenly heard the voice of her son saying “Step right up here and get your Carmel Pine Cone newspaper.”
I was hooked on my first love – the newspaper business, and I delivered the Pine Cone for a few years picking up new friends that I met at one of Carmel’s booming businesses. Just like my first day when my mom heard me through windows of the bank, I was in hog-heaven getting smiles from people who could not possible turn down the Carmel street hustler who was working the crowd every single Thursday afternoon.
In fact, every Thursday afternoon, I’d hear from my mom who loved the idea that I was working hard to make a living no matter what the challenge.
One of my customers” who captured my life as a newspaper boy in Carmel was world renowned artist Gus Velletri, who operated what I referred to as a beatnik’s studio in the beach community on Ocean Avenue.
Gus was my first customer of the day and he knew better than to let me get out of his studio without (a) listening to my story and (b) encouraging me to shake hands with his followers.
Oh, and of course, I was fully-aware that speaking to people would usually lead to a sale for me somewhere down the road.
And on this particular day on Ocean Avenue, Gus determined that it was time to take me to another level by doing an artist’s rendering.
I was amazed that Gus was such a nice guy that he featured Yours Truly. He told me to take the drawing with me. My parents loved Gus’ work which was created on in 1958.
Mind you, we have moved countless times over the next five decades, but Gus’ artwork followed me all over the western United States. In fact, a terrible house fire in 2002 destroyed countless items for our entire family that includes sons John, Joe and, Jeff and my wife, Carmen, but we were able save the artist’s rendering.
I’m told that Augostino “August/Gus” Velletri passed away on Feb. 19, 2016 and I will forever be thankful for his art work that has followed me all over the western United States.
You never know what can materialize with a pleasant weekly conversation like the one I had with Gus more than 60 years ago in the beautiful community of Carmel, Calif. I think of Gus every week when I go for a walk. I always say hello to everyone I see thinking that another conversation can lead to another long and meaning friendship like the one with Augostino “August/”Gus” Velletri.
EDITOR’S NOTE: MIKE HENLE is a long-time freelance writer who lived in California in the 1950s. He created an artist’s rendering of Henle, who has lived in Las Vegas since 1966.