San Miguel




In Torremolinos town itself the main pedestrian street is Calle San Miguel.
It links the main road with the top of the stairs to the beach and remains relatively unchanged in the past 25 years.
Calle San Miguel seen from Calle Casablanca. (aqueltorremolinos.com)
The only notable change being that in 2008 the Second Hand Book Shop which opened in 1971 moved to the street behind it, on Calle Cauce, to bigger premises (and you no longer need to have climbing gear to get up those incredibly narrow, steep steps). 
The shop is now run by Carina Welsh, the daughter of the original owners.
I recently saw an old postcard of Calle San Miguel. 
The only things that gave the game away that it was not a current photograph were the 70s flares of the shoppers pictured.
On April 1 1971 , two days before I was born, Calle San Miguel was pedestrianized.
Calle San Miguel c.1965 before being pedestrianized  (pic. aqueltorremolinos.com)
San Miguel still has the same tobacco shop, the same half dozen Indian-owned jewellery shops, the same San Miguel ice cream parlour on the corner half way down, the same Govez stationery store, , the same Lepanto coffee shop... The list goes on.
A few doors up from the tobacco shop is a liquor store crammed with an insane variety of spirits, some of which, with sunlight faded labels, probably been there for 30 years.
Calle San Miguel c. 1968 (pic. aqueltorremolinos.com
In about ’89 me and my friend Mike Pettis, whose mother owns the school I went to, bought a bottle of Absynthe from this shop. I had no idea what
Absynthe was but Mike being older than me told me how artists and writers would drink it for its hallicunogenic properties. It contained Wormwood poison he said, which literally made you see the walls wave. We took it to Cheers and guzzled the whole thing. The walls didn’t not wave, but the hangover the next day was brutal, even for an 18-year-old such as I. Turns out
Pasaje Begoña was once a wild and hip alleyway of Torremolinos.
they no longer used the psychoactive ingredient.

The small alleyways or pasajes which connect to Calle San Miguel are now a strange, depressing, mish mash of strange shops selling anything from replica pistols to flamenco dresses, surrounded by even more empty shop units with orange se alquila (to rent) signs on the windows.

In the 60s and 70s these passageways were once crammed with bars, bustling with hippies, artists and film stars.
By the late 60s the permissive attitudes and lifestyles of Torremolinos was starting to make headlines in what was still a dictatorship and still a very conservative and extremely devout Catholic Malaga.
By 1971 the provincial and local authorities had come under massive pressure to act against the den of iniquity which Torremolinos was, a scandalous place where drugs and homosexuality were commonplace, they said. By day many of these ‘amoral hairy hippies’ hung out in some of the bars in Plaza Costa del Sol such as Bar Central.
Meanwhile, by night, the Pasaje Begoña (now the incredibly dingy Pasaje Gil Vicente) was the main hotspot of this activity which concerned the authorities. It was in Pasaje Begoña where legendary Dutch pianist Pia Beck’s ‘Blue Note’ was located.
On June 24, 1971, police raids would officially mark the end of the hedonism which had made the town a magnet for young people from around the world seeking drugs, sex and rock and roll.
Police swooped into Pasaje Begoña and the surrounding area arresting more than 100 people, people, mostly foreigners. Many of those arrested were homosexuals. The Spanish gays were jailed and the foreign ones deported.
The crackdown had started days earlier resulting in several bars and ‘salas de fiestas’ (night clubs) being fined and at least two closed.  
In his excellent webpage 'Torremolinos 70s' a Canadian called Michael who was working in a Carihuela bar the night of raids says La Carihuela was not exempt. 
"I had finished a day shift at the Pussycat and was standing in the doorway of the Figaro next door when I noticed a group of police officers heading our way. A few were in uniform and a couple in plain clothes were obviously high-ranking pooh bahs.
"For some reason I was holding a pocket knife in my hand, and muttering something about 'What do these clowns want?' I then bent down and stuck the knife into one of the calf-high boots I was wearing. (Why I was wearing calf-high boots in mid-June in southern Spain I still don't know.) I walked back into the Figaro to order a drink, when suddenly both my arms were seized and pinned behind my back by two of the uniformed officers. A third yanked up my pant leg, thrust his hand into my boot and came up with... the knife. There was a moment of silence until one of the plain clothes officers looked at it, shook his head and said 'Es nada'. Whew. They asked for my passport, which I told them was up in Mijas where my parents had built their finca. Still holding on to me, they began moving down the bar demanding passports. Of the dozen people there, not one spoke Spanish. I ended up as their interpreter, still being held. No one, of course, had, or would admit to having, their passport on their person. 

"The last guy at the end of the bar was a gnome-like Belgian with long hair and a beard. He was stuffing Drum tobacco into a pipe when his turn came. He spoke only French, and when I told the cops he didn't have his passport either, they grabbed him and hauled the two of us out of the bar.
"We began walking down the street when a group of obvious foreigners (long hair and all) came ambling along towards us. The officer who appeared to be in charge looked at me and the Belgian gnome, then at the approaching hippies, then at his men. He jerked his head towards the on-coming group. The two officers holding my arms let go, and boss man said, 'Buenas noches'. For some silly reason I started to ask him if he needed help interpreting... but he barked 'I said, Goodnight!'. I didn't need a second hint and dove into Duffy's Bar completely bewildered.
"The next day, of course, we found out what had gone down. One of the people detained was apparently a police chief from Norway and another a Member of Parliament from Britain. Headlines in foreign newspapers screamed bloody murder and advised readers to stay away from fascist Spain. We later heard some heads rolled at police headquarters for what became to be known as 'la grande redada', the big roundup," he writes.
The Torremolinos raids made news around the world, reminding many that Spain was still under a dictatorship, even though it had not been noticed in the area for decades.
The clampdown was covered by German magazine Der Spiegel, and under the headline ‘Tourists held in nightclub raids in Spain’ Britain’s The Times newspaper reported “Spanish police, in a drive to clean up morals in this holiday resort, raided nightclubs here over the week-end and detained 139 people for questioning.”
For many this marked the end of an era, and although General Franco would die four years later, Torremolinos nightlife never returned to its wilder days, making room for a new type of tourists less concerned with bohemian lifestyles than with pints of bitter, and fish and chips: the predominantly British package tourist which in less than a decade would effectively ruin the image of the town to this day.
Calle San Miguel ends at the Cuesta del Tajo, the steps which lead down a long winding route to the beach below in El Bajondillo, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the town.
Along the descent  the steps are lined with souvenir shops and boutiques. For those less adventurous there is a lift hidden away behind the very popular Matahambre restaurant  at the bottom of San Miguel. The lift costs 50c.

All along the watchtower

At the top of the stairs stands the generally unnoticed 14th century Moorish watchtower or Torre de los molinos, or tower of the mills, from where the town’s name came from. 
Cuesta del Tajo (the steps) with Torre Pimentel looming above.
This is because of the abundance of watermills which existed in the area centuries earlier due to the presence of springs or manantiales.
It later became known as Torre de Pimentel. Suposedly aster the Spanish Catholic Monarchs cave the tower to Rodrigo Alonso Pimentel as a 'thank you' gift for services rendered to the Crown.
An in-depth study by Carlos Blanco, the historian behind historiatorremolinos.com has revealed this is probably not accurate as the records show the land given to him was in Malaga. Leaving the theory that The
 Quitapenas moved from Calle San Miguel to the top of the steps in 1963.
tower earned its name Torre de Pimentel because of the sweet pepper bushes that grew along the stream which ran by it (pimienta means pepper).
Opposite the tower, tucked under the top of the stairs, is the Bodega Quitapenas a small traditional local fish and sweet wine restaurant. It moved there in 1963 from its former location midway down Calle San Miguel where it was known to be one of the best in town.
Until recently I didn’t know its proper name, as we knew it as La Bodega o bodeguita. This was and still is somewhere where one can sample a variety of locally produced fortified wines.
In our day, the mid to late 80s, beer was so cheap here we used to go there for a few drinks before going to the 100 peseta a beer bars. During the day the serve reasonably price and decent quality pescaito frito (fried fish) and other seafood dishes.
I ate there with my wife Jess when we moved back here in 2008, a fritura malagueña (a big pile of assorted deep-fried fish) was about €15 and there was enough to feed another two people. 
Although i suggest you also ask for a salad or you will get greased out.
In 1975 the massive hotel and apartment complex called the Castillo de Santa Clara opened. 
It is next to La Roca apartments and is perched above the sea on an imposing rocky outcrop or peñon known as la roca (the rock) locally but apparently called Punta de Torremolinos.  
Must admit I'd never heard it being refered to as Punta de Torremolinos.
The rock  splits two of the oldest fishing neighbourhoods in Torremolinos: El Bajondillo and La Carihuela. 
Until the promenade was extended around the base of the rock, these two communities were cut off from each other except during low tide.

But everyone has their own special memories of the town, and the idea behind this blog is to share these memories, so email me your story and pics or leave it as a comment.

19 comments:

  1. Re: the photo of mid-60s pre-pedestrianized San Miguel (2/6 on this page) which has a great shot of La Tortuga with its low windows onto the street.
    As a kid one of the most fun things one could do was hang out near la Tortuga in the evening when the US Sixth Fleet was making a stop in Malaga.
    The Tortuga was particularly popular with the sailors and after curfew the MPs would show up in jeeps to haul off the drunks or the awol ones and it was a hoot to watch the sailors literally diving out of the windows and running off to escape or the MPs arresting them.
    D.

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  2. For about 2 years '65 - '67 we lived in the house Molino Alto del Rosario behind the church and it had access to the Torre del Pimentel.

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  3. I wonder if anyone has ever been in or photographed the interior of the "Tower"? I have looked at it often and while the ground floor access has been sealed up, there seems to be a door about 5 meters off the ground. Who controls/owns this monument?

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  4. Wow, superb Torremolinos photos. I am totaly amazed.

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  5. I was a go go dancer in Pipers Bang Bang 1970-1971 often danced in a cage with 2 monkeys. I believe they died later. I went out with a waiter from La Tortuga. His name was Juan from Valadolid. I'm still in touch with the DJ from Pipers who now owns a bar in TTown

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    1. Hi, how fun. I was there too in 1970-1972 and went to Pipers quite often with friends. To get free drinks we often danced as go go dancers in the bird cage. We werent very good, but what the heck it was fun. Im Danish so do you remember any of the people coming there. I remember Andy who also was a dj, but if I remember correctly it was only once in a while. Do you remember Camillo who had the small leather goods shop at the bottom of the steps coming down into the club??He is living here in Denmark since 1974. regards Jessie

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  6. Bob, this is Chuck Pettis; how are you? You started training me at the gym in Las Barcas at the age of 17... am 57 now and have never stopped training. I hope you read this and make contact; would love to catch up. e mail: pettischuck@yahoo.com. hope to hear from you my friend.

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  7. The first bar I had a drink in Torremolinos was Harry's bar, American music and 15 Pts San Miguel's!

    This year I have had an email with a James Stewart who was in Ttown at the same time as I and, while I don't think we ever knew each other, share a lot of memories. This is Stew's recollection of Harry's Bar:

    "I Was A friend of Dave Black. He told me the whole story on Harry's bar. After the war [WW 2] Dave, Matt Carney and another american [all vets.] got a job building an air strip in Morocco. They visited T-town and decided to start a Bar. Dave had a small Sail boat and was married to a Russian girl, Clair. They lived on the boat and Dave built the bar. He called the bar "The Dirty Old man's" it was in Plaza Gamba Allegre. Harry met Dave there. Harry was working at Bar Restaurante El Bagote as a waiter. They all were friends. Well Dave went off the wagon too much and since Matt had the controlling interest in the bar he Hired Harry to run it. Harry had just been kicked out of the Bar Central [that he started] by the Spanish owners of the building. And "The dirty old man's" was re-named Harry's bar."

    I have tried to encourage Stew to get his memories down on this site, but Stew claims he is not much or a writer. Maybe this will encourage him?

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    1. This is the same story I, more or less, heard from David Black. He was a binge drinker and when he was sober, and painting which he dabbled at but never kept at it, he was as lucid, coherent and entertaining as the best. He and Teddy were Virginia Wolff, but only when he were drinking. Teddy paced herself and was not difficult. Once, David came to me and said they was shooting movie in Almeria out in the boonies. He thought maybe we could get some work as an extra. We drove there in the morning and watched the camera line up a shot, then two men (one black, one white) who were chained together walk across the set yelling at one another. I think the black guy was Richard Roundtree (Shaft) but there was no work so we headed back. We passed through Almeria and got behind two Guardia Civil on horses so we were going slow with a car in front of us. Suddenly, one of the police had his gun come loose and bounced out of the holster and on the road. The car in front of us slammed his brakes on, went out in the street and ran after the two horsemen. When they saw him and what he was carrying, they were freaked out. The one officer whose gun was missing from its holster was gesturing to the other that he didn't realize that he had lost it. They looked at us but saw we were foreigners so moved off the road and let the two cars go past. David and I laughed about that all the way back to Torremolinos and into the evening.

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    2. This is the same story I, more or less, heard from David Black. He was a binge drinker and when he was sober, and painting which he dabbled at but never kept at it, he was as lucid, coherent and entertaining as the best. He and Teddy were Virginia Wolff, but only when he were drinking. Teddy paced herself and was not difficult. Once, David came to me and said they was shooting movie in Almeria out in the boonies. He thought maybe we could get some work as an extra. We drove there in the morning and watched the camera line up a shot, then two men (one black, one white) who were chained together walk across the set yelling at one another. I think the black guy was Richard Roundtree (Shaft) but there was no work so we headed back. We passed through Almeria and got behind two Guardia Civil on horses so we were going slow with a car in front of us. Suddenly, one of the police had his gun come loose and bounced out of the holster and on the road. The car in front of us slammed his brakes on, went out in the street and ran after the two horsemen. When they saw him and what he was carrying, they were freaked out. The one officer whose gun was missing from its holster was gesturing to the other that he didn't realize that he had lost it. They looked at us but saw we were foreigners so moved off the road and let the two cars go past. David and I laughed about that all the way back to Torremolinos and into the evening.

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  8. I spent three months in Torremolinos from Nov '64 to Feb '65 and Quitapenas and Mike's Bar were the two main hangouts. "Artie" played the bongo drums at Mike's many nights and others brought their own instruments to entertain the gang, some of whom were Tom and Jerry, Al, Gord and Doug (me), Denny, Bob, Paul, Dianne, Betty and Philomena (sorry my memory isn't perfect). Booze was cheap as I recall, a liter of wine for about ten cents, if you filled your own bottle, and a joint was a nickel already rolled. Wonderful time. dougflett@rogers.com

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  9. I was there from 1972 to 74. I guess Harry's Bar wasn't open yet so you knew a much younger TTown. I still hear from a few friends who still have a place there. But I don't think I will get back again. It's better to remember it the was it was. Where are you Doug? Still traveling the world ? Have a good day !!

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  10. I was living in Torre from late 1965 to the beguining of 1968. Bar El Toro was located in the corner of San Miguel and the railroad tracks. Next door down San Miguel street was the Quitapenas, so, sorry to contradict, it didn't move to the later location in 1963, but 2 or 3 years later. A few doors later anothe bar, I thisn it was La Tortuga, with its most famous customer, an Irishman named Hammy... Calle Cauce was also very popular among the residents, with El Gallo bar, belonging to an American ex football player... Aquel Torremolinos!!!

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  11. We lived in Torremolinos Jan to Oct 1966. My wife worked in Mike's Bar. Balthazar was the barman. I worked at the Gran Hotel Nautilus. Lots of young people from Malaga came to Mike's to play guitar, sing and have fun. Remember the movie "Rififi in Amsterdam "'being filmed in a bar. Great times. Bizonte cigarettes were 1 peseta from the kiosk on the main road. Tapas (sardines) from Bar El Toro. We lived on red wine & bread rolls.

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  12. Hi. Something reminded me of TTown and decided to look up old pics. I lived there for about a year. Dated Balthazar even tho I didn’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English we muddled through. I was in two scenes in Rififi. Worked at The Yellow Submarine and was a bartender in a “trendy bar in the new Soho” section.

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  13. I met 'captain" David Black in Tangier on Easter morning, 1965. On his boat. He had a bet with a friend who owned a bar there (can't remember the name, sorry) that he would have his boat, which was docked in the harbor, out in the bay on Easter morning. The night before he drank with his friend until the friend passed out, then went down and single-handedly put up the sails, sailed out of the harbor, into the bay and anchored. I swam out to the boat to say hello and invite whoever was aboard to a party I was having that night at my house in the casbah. Do you want to go for a sail? said he, Sure. So we did. When we came back he dropped anchor but the line broke or came untied, and it was on the bottom with no way to retrieve it. I'm a good swimmer so I dove in, found it and brought the line back to him. So that made us friends. Later we sailed over to Gibraltar. His engine wasn't working so we sailed into Gibraltar harbor with its expensive boats surrounded by some very nervous harbor police, but he docked it with no problem and then we went on extended two or three day toot. (I remember having breakfast at Smokey Joe's Cafe; some places had sighs that said "No Uniformed Personel" meaning sailors. Smokey Joe's had a sin that said "open To All forces.". We were thrown out of one bar, it as decorated like a log cabin, I remember. And when they locked the door so he couldn't back in he gathered some paper and wood and lit a fire against the door. I remember the faces at the windows like settlers besieged by Indians. The police, who seemed to know him, came and took him away. Quite a guy, strong personality, and smart. A few years later when he was in Torremolinas and had opened the 'Dirty Old Man" bar and barber shop. I was on my way back to Mallorca, stopped in and hung out for a week or two. I remember seeing a dog there that I knew in Tangier and he remembered me (name of Sidney, I think.) I slept under fishing boats at first, then I found a vacant villa up on the hill that I could get into and slept there. One night, I was awakened by footsteps in the house coming in the direction of the room I was in. Turned out to be a couple of Spanish guys and a woman. No tienes miedo, I said but they spooked anyway at first. They had wine that we drank and watched the woman dance by candlelight as they sang and we clapped. A night to remember. A year of two later I helped David's Russian wife (no girl, she) sail his/their boat from Malaga to Marbella to keep it from being impounded.. That's another story.

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    1. This might be the best thing I've ever read on the internet.

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  14. Great story, Tomas! It's typical of some of the craziness that went on back then.

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