Charlie Nye & The Reefs: Part III

Me at Charlie Nye’s Reefs II. Photo Suzanne Meek

In 1980 I interviewed Charlie Nye, whose father, also called Charlie Nye, had owned a wonderful restaurant called The Reefs in Moss Beach. It was unique, a foundation-less building with piers stuck in the sand. People came from all around to boat, collect shells and enjoy a bowl of ab chowder. The Charlie I talked with lived on the cliffs above the spot where the Reefs once stood. His place was called the Reefs II and across the way was another building that served as the Moss Beach Hotel.

Mother Nature kept reminding Charlie Nye, Sr. that the Reefs was a temporary building. Every time the tide was high the waves splashed against the Reefs. When it was stormy they lashed angrily at the building, wearing it down and tearing into the cliffs behind it, too.

Charllie Nye, Jr.: Finally there was a tidal wave and it lifted the Reefs off its pillars.

But Nye had anticipated this moment and already built the Reefs II on the safer cliffs above.

Charlie Nye, Jr.: This was completed, I think, in about 1926. Rooms were rented out to fishermen and people from the Valley who came when it got too hot. The Valley wasn’t air conditioned in those times. They came down for a month at a time.

Getting to Moss Beach from anywhere in the 1920s was frustrating.

Charlie Nye, Jr.: The road coming over Pedro Mountain was terrible, just awful. Words can’t describe it. It was just impossible. It went around turns and more turns, hairpin turns, short turns, backward turns. There were potholes on top of potholes. When you come down here today and complain about a few earth-slides on Devil’s Slide, well, that’s nothing compared to that old Pedro Mountain Road.
The way to Moss Beach via the Pedro Mountain Road

June: Any other memories of transportation in those days?

Charlie Nye, Jr.: I remember my father talking about the horse and buggy days. He said it took a full day to ride from San Mateo to Moss Beach. He said it could take four to five hours with a horse and buggy to haul lumber from Half Moon Bay to Moss Beach.

Charlie’s father loved his work.

Charlie Nye, Jr.: He ran the Reefs II until he was so blind that we forced him to stop. That was in 1967. He stopped serving food in 1965.

When I interviewed Charlie in 1980 the Reefs II was open on Saturday and Sunday–not for food but for conversation in an eccentric, historic environment.

Charlie Nye, Jr.: Curiosity seekers are coming in constantly. They say, ‘I didn’t know this was a bar. It doesn’t look like a bar. I often wondered what this place looked like. It looks like a curiosity shop’.

The Reefs II, as many knew it, doesn’t exist anymore–and I believe Charlie Nye has moved to Mexico.

Big waves brought The Reefs down: