People in Your Neighbohood: Meet Bart Crawford, a friendly face in The Shores

Bart Crawford of La Jolla is who you would legitimately call a “people person.” Every morning, he goes down to La Jolla Shores to sit, watch people, hopefully have a chat or two and appreciate the ocean. You can usually find him there between 6 to 9 a.m. (for those with a four-legged friend in tow, he is also one to have dog-treats).

A one-time member of the La Jolla Town Council and the historic Bottom Scratchers diving club, Crawford worked in a La Jolla shoe store for decades before retirement.

Why do you sit at the Shores every morning?

“I used to run a lot and would end up at the Shores and I started meeting different people. Then as I got older, it became a lot of walking rather than running, then it was walking and talking. Now it’s sitting and talking. It’s such a healing place to be and the people you meet there are wonderful. I’ve always been a people person, so I like to be around people.”

Why is it a healing place?

“In 2003, I got bone cancer and I spent a lot of time in hospitals (a poster from one of his hospital stays sits in the corner of his home bearing dozens of signatures and well wishes) and it’s nice to be able to go someplace where everything is peaceful and calm. And there is ocean air. I feel closer to our Lord when I’m there. The people who are there made me feel good when I needed it, so I try to reciprocate. I like to be good to people.

“I talked to someone once who said she was having a terrible day; she gave me a look and asked what I was so smiley about. I told her it was a beautiful day, and pointed out the seagulls, the ocean and the people smiling and walking by. I told her you can have good days and better days, maybe she wasn’t having a better day, but she was still having a good day because she is alive. That seemed to make her feel better.”

What brought you to La Jolla?

“My dad brought me here when I was 8 years old and I fell in love with the water. I used to swim a lot in Lake Michigan, but there was nothing like this. I always came back here. There was a diving club called the Bottom Scratchers and … they taught me to respect the ocean and all the wonderful things the ocean could produce. I would get abalone — only the amount that was allowed — and brought it home to feed my parents. As I grew older, I started feeding seafood to my kids. They taught me to respect the ocean, pick up after yourself and take care of it.”

What was your line of work?

“My neighbor in Kensington, before I moved here, had a shoe store that sold foot-gear for women and children with post-operation needs or who had problems. I liked that because I like people and anything I could do to help a kid was good in my book. So I worked for him and eventually I was going to buy the businesses, but I ended up with the Buster Brown shoe company. With them, we built Huggins Shoes and set a shop in La Jolla. My business partner died and an Italian man named Niccolo Rangoni wanted to buy out the business, but wanted me to stay on board. So I developed 20 shoe stores across the United States, including what is now Rangoni Shoes on Girard Avenue. I was here for 55 years before Mr. C (cancer) got me and stopped me from doing what I wanted to do.”

Has La Jolla changed much?

“Oh yes, it’s still heaven on Earth, but people don’t treat it properly. The ambiance of La Jolla has changed. They let things go on that you’d never see happen in the 1950s and ’60s, like those sandwich boards and bright neon signs. I’m all for retail and I know we need to progress, but I think people don’t have respect for those around them or where they live; it’s just me, myself and I. I see people walking within a few feet of a trashcan and throw cigarette butts on the ground. I think when you don’t take care of your surroundings, it can be pretty bad.”

Besides time at The Shores, what do you do for fun?

“After returning from The Shores in the morning, I read a lot of books and newspapers, and there are a few shows I like on the boob tube. I have a group of friends and we go to The Lot on $10 Wednesday. But I mostly enjoy people and being around people.”

Editor’s Note: Welcome to La Jolla Light’s “People in the Neighborhood” series, which shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile through “People in the Neighborhood,” send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

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