Drifting fog, a bell rings over the dunes a cold clam fork in hand…
On Sept. 7, 1989 Telegram-Tribune reporter Carol Roberts wrote about the clam bell.
OCEANO — Betty Boyd had a few friends over last weekend to ring a bell.
The bell once rang atop her dad Bill Lovern’s store on Pier Avenue, where he rented out clam forks and fishing gear.
The friends came and went all afternoon Sunday to commemorate Lovern, who died in September 1977. They listened to 1950s music, had some cake, then hung the 300-pound bell in Boyd’s front yard. And that’s where it will stay, bearing a plaque that states: “In loving memory of Bill ‘Willie’ Lovern.”
The bell is rare because it has two clappers. Boyd’s parents, Bill and Ruby, bought it in the early 1950s from an antique dealer who told them it had been cast in Switzerland. It was brought to California in 1900, Betty said. The dealer bought it from someone on the Carrisa Plains where it once called in cowhands.
“It could be heard a mile away,” said Betty.
Ruby Lovern (now 75 and still an Oceano resident) and their kids were her dad’s life, Betty said, along with deep sea and surf fishing and pulling stranded motorists off the state beach. His business was the family’s business.
Bill and Ruby Lovern were childhood sweethearts in Texas. They moved to Oceano in 1945. They had a fishing gear rental stand in Pismo Beach and later opened their clam and tackle shop and towing service in Oceano.
After her father did, Betty rented out clam forks and fishing tackle in another building in Oceano, where the Place Restaurant is now. She gave up the business in 1980. For a while the bell hung over her store, too.
It was fun growing up as Bill Lovern’s daughter, said Betty, who worked in the fishing store. “I used to love Memorial day and Labor Day weekends because of all the people here.”
She also enjoyed getting to talk with celebrities Ben Gazzara, Broderick Crawford and James Arness. “They came real often. They were nice people, just like everybody else.”
Her dad helped transport film crews into the dunes to shoot movies and commercials. He had converted a 1929 Model A Ford ice truck into the “clam taxi.” He added benches, a ladder shaft and power winch.
Mist customers, however wanted rides to and from their favorite clam digging spots. If they didn’t have some, Bill Lovern offered advice.
Life centered around the ocean.
Lovern and his son, Skip, occasionally rescued a swimmer or clammer from the surf. They pulled up vehicles from Pirate’s Cover and hauled motorhomes from the mouth of Arroyo Creek.
As a teen-ager, Betty learned to drive on the beach.
“You could drive all day and never pass another car,” she said. “It’s different now. I definitely prefer the old days.”
The Lovern family once lived in the house across McCarthy street from where Betty’s home is now. Her sister, Barbara Reed, lives down the road. They still walk the beach together.
Hanging the bell was something she’d been meaning to do for a long time. Its stand is blue and the bell is orange. “Those were dad’s colors,” Betty recalled. He painted everything those colors.”