Take a Look at Historical Seal Beach – Late 1958

If you belong to a generation who lived during the era when black and white series still aired on broadcast television, chances are you fondly remember the television show named “Sea Hunt.” This was an immensely popular syndicated half hour action and adventure show that enjoyed a top-rated four season first run from 1958 to 1961 and then went to reruns for decades.

The series starred Lloyd Bridges as hyper-competent ex-Navy frogman and freelance scuba diver, Mike Nelson. Each week (or every afternoon once the show went into reruns), Nelson’s steadiness and ultra-reliability made him the go-to guy for the military, law enforcement, charter fishermen, or anyone who needed assistance with a marine crisis or seabound adventure. For 155 episodes, Mike Nelson tangled with bank robbers and crooks, consulted on top-secret military missions, recovered underwater treasure, fought dangerous sea critters, rescued distressed seagoing folks, and solved other underwater crises. The stories were lean and straightforward pulp narratives with no room for subtleties like deep characterization, subplots, or subtext. Bridge’s gruff and matter-of-fact narration of the underwater sequences makes the series oddly diverting, even when viewed with jaded twenty-first century eyes.

What makes the show especially relevant for local history is that much of it was filmed on location in the Bahamas, Florida, and, for a couple seasons, the Long Beach area — especially Naples, the Long Beach peninsula, Alamitos Bay, and the newly built Long Beach Marina. The above-water locales in many of the show’s episodes serve as a visual catalog of the Long Beach area as it existed in the late fifties. I’ve never seen an episode filmed specifically in Seal Beach, but Seal Beach landmarks are often featured prominently in the background in scenes shot on the Long Beach Marina.

One episode did feature a Seal Beach landmark prominently, so much so that it appears in the episode’s title card.

In the second season’s “Underwater Security,” Mike is hired by the military to go undercover to test the security of a seaside rocket fuel plant and ends up foiling the plans of actual saboteurs. Seal Beach residents tuning in to that night’s “Sea Hunt” episode on January 19th, 1959 would have been surprised to see the Seal Beach power plant passing itself off as the rocket fuel factory. The episode itself was probably filmed in late 1958.

(There’s a very mild irony in that an actual rocket assembly facility would be constructed in a few years on the other end of town to build the second stage of the Apollo program’s Saturn rockets.)

You can watch “Underwater Security” below.

And here’s a link to a YouTube playlist for all the “Sea Hunt” episodes. If you see Seal Beach appearing in any episodes, please share the show’s title in the comments section. I don’t have time to go through all the episodes, but if we all crowdsource the project, maybe we can create a comprehensive index of Seal Beach appearances in “Sea Hunt.”

Other films using Seal Beach include the silent version of “Ten Commandments” and the first Billy Jack movie, “Born Losers.”

– Michael Dobkins

I won’t resume daily blogging here until 2024, but I’m trying out a new feature that I hope won’t take as much writing, researching, and prep time. For lack of a better title, I’m calling this new feature, “Take a Look at Historical Seal Beach.”

If you have unique photos from Seal Beach’s past that you’re willing share on this blog, please contact me at mike@SealBeachHistory.com. What I’m looking for are high resolution scanned images in either a tiff or jpeg and a few words to provide a little commentary and context on what is being shared.

I hope to share a new post of photos (or just one photo) from a single donor each month. Currently I have images stockpiled for the rest of 2020. That leaves thirty-six months to cover from January 2021 to December 2023. With luck, there will be enough interest and response to fill those thirty-six months.

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Take a Look at Historical Seal Beach – January 1959

I’m conducting an experiment.

I still won’t be resuming “This Date in Seal Beach History” daily posts until 2024, but I also don’t like leaving such a large gap of time without some historical Seal Beach content. Ideally, this content would not require time and labor intensive research or writing on my part because I’m devoting most of my free time to other writing projects. It took a few months, but I think I’ve stumbled upon a plan that fulfills these requirements.

The solution came in the form of an e-mail from Dave Gibbs, son of former Seal Beach mayor, Norma Gibbs. Back in January, Dave was kind enough to send an e-mail to me with some Seal Beach photographs from his mother’s estate. I’m sure you agree that these are fantastic photos.

Looking at these photos, I realized they’d make a great post just on the visual appeal of the images. I also realized that there must plenty of unique and personal photos like these tucked in the photo albums and boxes of current and past Seal Beach residents that can be shared with a minimum of research or writing from me.

So here’s the experiment. If you have unique photos from Seal Beach’s past that you’re willing share on this blog, please contact me at mike@SealBeachHistory.com. What I’m looking for are high resolution scanned images in either a tiff or jpeg and a few words to provide a little commentary and context on what is being shared.

For lack of a better title, I’m calling this new feature, “Take a Look at Historical Seal Beach. I hope to share a new post of photos (or just one photo) from a single donor each month. Currently I have images stockpiled for November and December 2020. That leaves thirty-six months to cover from January 2021 to December 2023. With luck, there will be enough interest and response to fill those thirty-six months.

If not, it will be a long content-free hiatus of no posts until 2024.

So without further delay and in celebration of Seal Beach’s 105th birthday today, here’s our inaugural “Take a Look at Historical Seal Beach” with a few words from Dave Gibbs:

I thought you would like these…check out the guy with the duckfeet fins ready to go body surf the big swell, love it!  I appreciate all the work you do on the Seal Beach blog on Facebook. I put these on my Facebook and I also shared the article you posted about my Mom Norma from 1960. I was born in 1959 and Mom climbed over these sandbags to get to the hospital. I think my Mom or Dad took these pics, not sure who but I found a ton of them in her estate. Feel free to share these and if I find any other gems I’ll send them to ya. Dave 

Note the serene Sphinx surveying the surf it has bestowed upon the Seal Beach shore.
The aftermath of an East Seal Beach storm flood – A Seal Beach tradition since before it was Seal Beach
Another iconic Seal Beach moment
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Quick Update.

Next month, I’ll have some Seal Beach history fun to share that I think few people have had a chance to see. With luck, this will be followed by similar monthly posts until I’m ready to restart the daily date-by-date posts in a couple years. More details later.

Also, I’d like to thank Jillian Gallery for making a donation last week. While I’m not officially writing any new “This Date in Seal Beach History” posts right now, I’m still researching and subscribed to online archives, and every bit helps. Thanks, Jillian!

– Michael Dobkins

Have you enjoyed this and other This Date in Seal Beach History posts?

If so, please consider making a small donation of a dollar or more to help defray the online subscriptions and other research costs that made this blog possible.

Donations can be made securely with most major credit cards directly through PayPal. Just click on paypal.me/MichaelDobkins to go to PayPal. Thank you

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Hmm.

1967 Seal Beach Steam Plant from Central Way & Second Street (Dobkins family collection)

I’m considering a way to continue bringing new Seal Beach history content to the blog that won’t require my doing research or writing anything new. I’ll share more details later in the month, but I thinking of launching it in August or September on October 25 (Seal Beach Founder’s Day).

Sorry, folks. Non-Seal Beach concerns continue to dominate my schedule.

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This Date in Seal Beach History will return in 2024

This Date in Seal Beach History

January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2019

Thank you for a decade of your comments, questions, and interest. It’s been a pleasure.

I’d like to also extend my sincerest gratitude to the fine people who have donated to make this project possible.

– Michael Dobkins

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December 31st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1915, an all-night “big” masquerade ball was held in Seal Beach — a mere two months and a week after it had been incorporated as an Orange County city.

New Year celebrants were invited to the “Come Down and Dance the Old Year out and the New Year in the Seal Beach Dancing Pavilion” where good music, good floor, good time, and free merry-making novelties waited for them. To sweeten the deal, a free lunch was promised at 2:00 am.

No one today knows what songs were played, who was in the band, or what musical instruments were used that night. The playlist would probably seem a little staid to modern ears, but I’d like to think that the excitement of the crowd and the energy of live musicians would have made the music thrilling even to our twenty-first century tastes.

No photographs or any of those “merry-making novelties” from that night survive. If they do, they’re hidden deep in boxes and albums stacked in the attics, basements, and storage rooms of grandchildren and great grandchildren, shorn of context and connection to any living memory.

We don’t know who attended that New Year’s Eve masquerade ball or what sort of masquerade costumes, if any, they wore. No one bothered to make a list of the attendees, so we don’t know if any city founders or other local notables were there. There was probably a good mix of people: residents and out-of-towners, young and old, friends and families, couples and single folk.

But we do know they danced. Or at least most of them did. If 1915 was anything like today, some were there to listen to the music and watch the dancers while others held back from the “good floor,” yearning to dance but either too self-conscious or waiting in vain for the right dance partner.

Imagine what it must have been like in that pavilion that night.

It’s the final few minutes of 1915. Every new year brings new hopes and aspirations, but the impending 1916 feels especially optimistic for the people of Seal Beach.

The racing roller coaster, the scintillators at the end of the pier, and all of the Joy Zone amusements along the beach have been announced, and construction starts in a few weeks to be completed in time for the summer season launch. These exciting attractions are sure to bring crowds to Seal Beach, and once people experience all that Seal Beach offers, they won’t be able to resist buying homes and lots to build houses. Entrepreneurs will open shops and businesses. This new city on the beach between two bays will grow and bustle. The future is grand and shiny with promise. The place is on the cusp of greatness.

So they dance, and their hopes and dreams dance with them.

Maybe there’s a countdown before the clock struck midnight. Then the new year erupts with cheers and hugs and smiles and kisses. Champagne bottles are popped, toasts are made, and congratulations given. Everyone made it through another year.

The advertisements for the event didn’t announce any official firework displays, but I’m sure at least a few firecrackers are set off by amateurs — maybe even some Roman candles and skyrockets. There must have been.

Then the music starts again, and the dancers return to the floor. As the hour passes, the dance floor becomes less crowded as people start to leave, either tired or setting off for private celebrations elsewhere. Others sit down and talk and laugh and wait for that 2:00 a.m. lunch (not a breakfast! Not a dinner! A lunch!).

At some point, the band stops playing and begins to pack up. The few remaining dancers reluctantly leave the floor. A final round of drinks is served and emptied. The crowd thins to a few stragglers, and then even they depart, lingering for awhile outside before bidding each other goodbye and happy new year. Inside the pavilion, the remaining staff probably does some cursory clean up and prep work, but it’s been a long day and an even longer night, so they rush through it and then turn out the lights and lock up.

Finally, the night is quiet, the city is dark, and the streets are empty. There are only a few hundred people living in Seal Beach, and most of them are asleep, except maybe for one or two weirdo night owls like me. Let’s leave them there in those first few hours of 1916 when their future existed only as possibilities, before it became our past.

– Michael Dobkins


Have you enjoyed this and other This Date in Seal Beach History posts?

If so, please consider making a small donation of a dollar or more to help defray the online subscriptions and other research costs that made this blog possible.

Donations can be made securely with most major credit cards directly through PayPal. Just click on paypal.me/MichaelDobkins to go to PayPal. Thank you. 

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December 31st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1965, the Long Beach Independent reported that the Marina Democrats had elected new officers for 1966 and that club met the fourth Monday of each month in the Seal Beach city hall. New members were welcome.

Seal Beach City Hall – 1965

Robert L. Webb was the new president; Lois Briggs, corresponding secretary; Julie Dorr, recording secretary, Phyllis Lichenstein, treasurer, and Ann Caplicki, sergeant-at-arms.

The second vice-president was Bill Jones, and the first vice-president was a gent named Dean Dobkins.

Fancy that.

– Michael Dobkins


Have you enjoyed this and other This Date in Seal Beach History posts?

If so, please consider making a small donation of a dollar or more to help defray the online subscriptions and other research costs that make this blog possible.

Donations can be made securely with most major credit cards directly through PayPal. Just click on paypal.me/MichaelDobkins to go to PayPal. Thank you. 

 

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The Seal Beach Limerick Contest Winner!

I’m calling it early because the votes have been overwhelming for one entry, and I won’t be available tomorrow to post the winner. So, with any further ado — drum roll please — The winner is:

REX STROTHER

Rex wrote a bio for the contest which reads:

“Raised” in Seal Beach (maybe “reared” would be more accurate); less talented nephew of Cynthia and Kay Strother (the Bell Sisters)

Ninety-five years ago, The Los Angeles Times ran a limerick contest that challenged readers to finish a limerick that started “There was a young man from Seal Beach…”

For kicks and giggles, I decided to reenact the Los Angeles Times limerick contest in 2019 and solicited new endings to the limerick. Rex’s winning finish to the limerick won an overwhelming 41.38% of the votes.

There was a young man from Seal Beach,
Who held on to his dough like a leech,
He once spent a dime,
All at the same time, …

… To get the hell out of Long Beach!

This Date in Seal Beach History does not endorse such anti-Long Beach sentiments, but the public has spoken.

– Michael Dobkins

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December 30th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1926, Parry’s Cafe advertised a special New Year’s Eve program of dining, dancing, and entertainment in the Santa Ana Register. It would be the last time this business would advertise.

Parry’s Cafe’s launch started out auspiciously enough with a grand opening earlier in the year with a grand opening on June 10th and two pre-launch nights of radio broadcasts on Long Beach’s radio station KFON featuring the Knickerbocker Orchestra and other Parry’s Cafe acts.

The Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted the July meeting of the Associated Chamber of Commerce of Orange County at Parry’s Cafe on July 29th, so the future must have looked rosy to cafe owner George Parry headed towards the end of the summer season in 1926.

And then city politics got in the way. The details are hazy and contemporary sources are vague, but a recall movement against city trustees R.E. Dolley, J.O. Hohn, and C.O. Wheat was initiated due to extravagant use of public money, removal of city employees to hire non-residents in the now vacant positions, and holding secret meetings and “steam rolling tactics” in regular meetings.

Parry seemed to be in the middle of the recall or perhaps he joined it when the council passed an ordnance to raise cafe fees and prohibit music and dancing after midnight. Either way, two petitions were filed with the city on October 22. The first petition asked for a special recall election, and the second petition was for a referendum election on the ordnance.

At the same council meeting, Marshall Foster submitted a report of the number of arrests made at Parry’s Cafe, and that the cafe’s license be revoked. Parry countered that the report was retaliation for his allowing recall petitions to circulated at his cafe, and that many of the arrests in the report occurred in the vicinity of the cafe, but not actually in the cafe itself.

For the rest of the year, recall supporters, Parry, and the city government were locked in a tactical battle to get the special election held. Burr Brown, the city attorney, decided the petitions weren’t valid on technicalities and recommended that they be filed without action. The recall election and Parry’s Cafe losing its license without due process became matters for the courts. In the meantime, Parry’s Cafe continued to operate throughout December in spite of the council’s efforts shut it down.  Optimistically, the cafe promoted Christmas Eve and Christmas entertainments and advertised for New Year’s reservations.

Finally a special election was held on January 7th, 1927. The recall failed, the city trustees kept their seats, and Parry failed to get the dancing and music ordnance revoked. By January 20th, George Parry gave up legal efforts to prevent the city from interfering from his business and decided to shut down his cafe.

– Michael Dobkins


Have you enjoyed this and other This Date in Seal Beach History posts?

If so, please consider making a small donation of a dollar or more to help defray the online subscriptions and other research costs that make this blog possible.

Donations can be made securely with most major credit cards directly through PayPal. Just click on paypal.me/MichaelDobkins to go to PayPal. Thank you. 

 

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December 29th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1923, the Santa Ana Register ran a detailed story on the political climate in Seal Beach as the city approached the end of the year. The provocative headline for this story read, “SEAL BEACH TORN BY INTERNAL STRIFE CAUSED BY ALLEGED LAWLESSNESS WHICH WOMEN LAY TO LOOSE LIQUOR CONDITION.”

Closed on Sundays?

Seal Beach residents were divided. On one side, some, including the city’s older and more established citizens, felt that a restrictive morality was preventing Seal Beach from taking full advantage of a Southern California boom. The other side felt that an out-of-town element brought a rowdy atmosphere of lawlessness and drunkenness to the city that was ruining the virtuous small town community that attracted many residents to the locale.

This long brewing issue came to a head when the Women’s Civic Improvement Club demanded that dancing be prohibited on Sundays which was the busiest night for the detested out-of-town element and its weekly carousing. The club’s campaign included calls for the removal of current city officers and employees, especially City Marshal Jack Combs who was accused of protecting bootleggers and providing lax law enforcement to the city. Combs denied the accusations, but still resigned.

Ultimately, the city council bowed to public sentiment and passed an ordnance prohibiting Sunday dancing in Seal Beach. The Bayside Land Company, owner of the dance pavilion, the roller coaster, and the rest of the beachside amusement zone retaliated by closing the entire amusement zone on Sundays. The Women’s Civic Improvement Club was also no longer permitted to use the amusement zone’s sun room for their meetings.

Most newspaper articles covering these events ended the the story at that point — with the Women’s Civic Improvement Club being hoisted by the petard of their own activism (even though they almost immediately had a new meeting place at a local church.) The Santa Ana Register dug a little deeper.

The article points out that the city had been incorporated eight years earlier as a resort town with the Bayside Land Company investing nearly half a million dollars in the roller coaster and the amusement. Now Tom Moore, who ran the dance pavilion had chosen not to renew his operating license, and the owner of the Jewel City Cafe had decided to relinquish his lease with Bayside Land Company.

City Recorder Clerk G. H. Morrison, an agent for the Bayside Land Company was interviewed about the situation.

“What will become of Seal Beach? We’ll be another Sunset Beach within a short time.”

“Seal Beach is logically a beach resort, and it a ‘one day’ town. That is, Sunday is the biggest day of the week, since the weekend pleasure seekers are the principal source of income for the city.”

Morrison admitted that there was trouble coming to Seal Beach. “It is true that there was a lawless element here on Sunday night, attracted by the sale of liquor. There were frequently as many as 200 sailors here, drinking and carousing, and the stench of liquor was obnoxious. Gambling was conducted openly.”

However, Morrison didn’t blame the dance pavilion or the amusement zone. He felt that the problem was with the ease with which alcohol could be obtained. Cars lined the streets on Sunday nights and bootleg whiskey sold almost openly. Fights were frequent.

Morrison himself, was a member of another Seal Beach organization of over 60 citizens, the Law Enforcement League that had called for the county attorney and officials to assist in shutting down bootlegging in Seal Beach that had resulted in three raids that Morrison claimed had all but completely shut down liquor traffic there.

Morrison and a group of 22 like-minded businessman had submitted a petition requesting that the dance pavilion be left open, but Morrison said the petition “was lost in the shuffle and was never read.”

There was even dissension within the Women’s Civic Improvement Club. Mary J. Washburn, president, shared that when the club’s resolution calling for the dance ordnance was passed, only sixteen of the twenty-two members were present, and five of those abstained from voting. Washburn said that the original purpose of the club when launched was to help clean up Seal Beach, to beautify the city, to urge cleaner streets, and promote civic pride.

Judge J. C. Old felt differently. “A number of property owners have told me that they are now willing to build homes in Seal Beach and bring their families here, since there is no danger of the lawless element congregating here once a week.

The articles closed with W.D. Miller, president of the California National Bank of Seal Beach and Sidney Ehrman, trustee of the Hellman Estate, making separate but similarly optimistic assessments of Seal Beach’s future as an ideal location for businesses and residences in Seal Beach.

And that was the state of Seal Beach was as it slid towards the end of the 1924 in the last few days of December.

– Michael Dobkins


Have you enjoyed this and other This Date in Seal Beach History posts?

If so, please consider making a small donation of a dollar or more to help defray the online subscriptions and other research costs that make this blog possible.

Donations can be made securely with most major credit cards directly through PayPal. Just click on paypal.me/MichaelDobkins to go to PayPal. Thank you. 

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