Phil and Ralph Mehan 1949

The Seaside Service Station

When I returned from my trip back East I attended Palos Verdes College for a year or two where I met John Howard. I actually attended College with the intent of expanding my literary skills so I could write about my overseas experience.

Needing to generate income, I sold a parcel of land in which my folks had invested some of my overseas money. With the proceeds, I purchased a gas station where we could harness the talents of my mechanically orientated younger brother, Ralph.

We then purchased a franchise with a gasoline distributor called Seaside Gas. A local developer at Portuguese Bend Club had been using an amphibious Jeep-like vehicle called a Seep to take clients on excursions along the coast. After sinking several times, the developer decided a Jeep would be more practical. With the Seaside name, we thought it might be a good publicity ploy to purchase the amphibious Seep.

We struck a deal with the developer where he refurbished the Seep, and we purchased a Jeep, which was easier to find, and then we traded vehicles. In those days, many of the beach communities were rather primitive, with areas along the seashore that had never been paved. We picked up quite a bit of extra cash towing those who wandered off-road seeking a few “private moments” away from civilization.

Before the local municipalities developed storm drains to properly handle run off during rainy season, there was also much flooding. While recovering from an injured leg resulting from a hit and run accident on my Harley Davidson motorcycle, a large storm caused a lot of flooding in the Culver City area.

Ralph wanted to see the flooding and invited me to accompany him on a tour in our Seep. We wandered upon a street where Hughes Aircraft employees leaving work were threading their way home. The water was over a foot deep, so the cars were moving very slowly to avoid creating waves and being swamped.

Ralph decided it would be funny to roar past the slow moving cars creating a large wave. Our wake surged at least an additional foot above the already too deep floodwaters. Most of the cars were swamped, and some no doubt stalled in the deluge. That day I learned Volkswagens float as several of the bug shaped vehicles washed off the road when our trailing wake passed under them.

With my bum leg hanging over the side of the car, I was in no condition to run or fight. If the Seep had stalled, we probably would have been killed by a mob of irate Hughes employees judging by all the fists and gestures they displayed.

Stories of Philip A. Mehan - Written by Scott Dawes © 2005-2009

Seaside Seep