(By the way, check out some of Mike Love's "white guy" dance moves in the video above. He'd fit in real well at one of my extended family's gatherings.)
I reminded him that when he was little he thought the lyrics "I'm makin' real good bread" referred to Brian Wilson's proficiency at baking superior loaves of marble rye.
We were even.
They told me, for example, about another famous resident of the town. (No, not Chris Montez.)
In some ways Hawthorne reminded me of the movie Back to the Future, and what the town of Hill Valley would become by 1985. Or Pottersville, the dystopian version of Bedford Falls in It's a Wonderful Life.
From a post I found about Hawthorne Plaza (spoiler alert: it's not a pretty picture):
Once upon a time there was a thriving aerospace community in south Los Angeles County called Hawthorne. Hawthorne was an “all American” town, in fact the town spawned one of the greatest musical groups in history, the Beach Boys . . . they went to Hawthorne High School. Hawthorne was a model of the middle class dream, where families would come to work, buy a house and raise a family and to fulfill the American dream.
In 1977 the Hawthorne Plaza opened its doors to meet the booming retail needs of the city. The Hawthorne Plaza was 900,000 sq ft . . . it was huge, two stories and had a five-acre parking area. The Hawthorne Plaza was an “indoor” mall so the residents did not have to brave the harsh Southern California weather in winter when temps would sometimes dip into the low 60’s!
The Hawthorne Plaza began to falter as several other large scale “shopping mall” projects were completed in nearby Torrance and Redondo Breach. The Hawthorne Plaza struggled to find and maintain quality tenants to occupy the location along with its anchor stores of “The Broadway,” “Montgomery Wards” and “JC Penny.”
The Mall was looted during the riots of April 1992 and from that point on went on a quick downward spiral into oblivion. The Hawthorne Plaza was put out of its misery and closed in 1999. It has sat, virtually untouched except by vandals for the last 13 years.
Googie architecture, is the local Fosters Freeze franchise.
From there I drove south on Hawthorne Boulevard, past two other businesses I thought may have been around in Brian Wilson's day.
It would be hard to overstate the importance of the Beach Boys' music in my formative years. As I mentioned earlier, I idolized my oldest brother and romanticized the mid-1960s. And although my taste in music has since evolved to include some classical and jazz as well as succeeding generations of rock 'n' roll (but not rap!), the Beach Boys were my first love, musically, and I'll always turn up the volume when one of their songs comes on the radio.