Saying goodbye to "Cheerful Al". Al Kaye ran the Union War Surplus store in San Pedro, California for 63 years. Al ran a quirky store that carried such items as helmets, knifes, camping gear, shot glasses, portable toilets, bandannas, coats, pants, cigarette lighters, sleeping bags, tents and tarps, paintball equipment and oh so much more.
Standing on a ladder to review the stock piled on the highest shelves of his teeming Union War Surplus in San Pedro in this 1999 photo is the store's owner, "Cheerful" Al Kaye. (Daily Breeze file photo)
Al died in February of this year at the age of 87. A pretty good run if you ask me. In 2009 he had to close shop due to health complications.
A recent Daily Breeze article (San Pedro local paper) informed me of some things I never knew about Al. Apparently he graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's and master's degree in animal husbandry. He also served in World War II in the U.S. Navy.
I remember feeling very sad when the The Union War Surplus store closed. It is a piece of Pedro history and carried great memories. As a teen and an early adult I would head down to 6th St. in downtown San Pedro to purchase Dickies pants. While "Girl Dickies" came around at some point, I stuck with the men's pants. A little boxy if you didn't get the right size. They weren't made for a woman's hips.
Al Kaye was indeed a cheerful and peppy guy. Always welcoming to his customers and willing to engage. I remember feeling a little thrill every time I saw one of his commercials on TV. A little piece of Pedro had made it to the screen inside my living room. He referred to his treasure trove as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
I loved the man's scruffy beard and happy eyes. I am sad to hear that Cheertful Al has left us. I am grateful to have had him within the small Pedro community.
We'll miss ya Al.