Special Thanks to Our Sponsors

My sincerest gratitude to all the people have donated to this project so far. Here’s the current list of the This Date in Seal Beach sponsors. I’ll add more sponsor names as donation come in.

– Michael Dobkins

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October 17th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1986, this following ad ran in the Los Angeles Times for the Bayou St. restaurant at 320 Main Street.

John and Carolyn Fagot brought recipes to Seal Beach from their native Louisiana in 1984 and served flavorful creole and cajun food there for nearly two decades. (Alligator was once offered on the menu.)

320 Main now occupies the Bayou St. John spot on Main Street.

– Michael Dobkins


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October 14th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1970, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial was formally dedicated on what would have been his eightieth birthday in the park at the base of the Seal Beach pier after a short parade down Main Street to the dedication site.

The former president had passed away the previous year on March 28th, and park itself also served as a memorial for the thirty-fourth president by being named “Eisenhower Park” by unanimous vote by the Seal Beach city council on August 4, 1969.

Mrs. Frank Clinton, president of the Seal Beach Republican Women’s Club, the organization that sponsored the memorial, acted as master of ceremonies to a crowd of over a thousand people that overflowed beyond the capacity of the temporary grandstand erected on Ocean Avenue.

Seal Beach Mayor Pro Tem Harold Holden, standing in for absent Mayor Mort Baum, formally proclaimed the date as “Dwight D. Eisenhower Day.”

The Eisenhower family was represented by David Eisenhower, the former president’s 22-year grandson and son-in-law of current president, Richard Nixon.

“The Eisenhower family is grateful for the dedication of this memorial, and I personally am grateful,” he told the audience. “This dedication has taught me that I was very fortunate in having known this man, and I am glad that so many others have known him.”

The president’s grandson was not the only speaker with a personal connection to Dwight Eisenhower.

The invocation and benediction was given by Dr. Dean Miller, pastor of the church the Eisenhower family had attended in Palm Desert.

California State Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest spoke of her time serving as U.S. Treasurer in the Eisenhower Administration.

“His administrative genius, the great devotion to duty and his ability to keep people working together is well known, but his humanness, his personal warmth, and his love of all people were qualities I was privileged to know to a greater degree than most.”

Rear Admiral Robert Salazar described Eisenhower’s military career for the crowd.

Rounding off the program was the J.H. McGaugh Intermediate School band providing music with vocals by the Marina High School Mariners.

The highlight of the event was the unveiling of the memorial itself by the current Miss Seal Beach, Jill Shelton and Jack Olsteen, director of parks. The memorial was a sand painting portrait of President Eisenhower created by artist David Villasenor (1913-1987) with sands from each state in the United States.

Born in Guadalajara, Villasenor came to the U.S. when he was sixteen and lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he learned the physical craft and spiritual symbolism of sand painting from local Navajos. Sand painting was usually a temporary creation done on the ground and usually lasting barely a day.

(I had the personal privilege to witness Villasenor create a sand painting by this method using only natural colors from materials like sulphur and garnet on a school field trip in 1978. It was enthralling to watch.)

Villasenor discovered a method to mount and preserve his sand painting, and his works have been displayed in the Southwest Museum, the Plaza de la Raza, and the Los Angeles County of Natural History. He also taught and wrote books on sand painting and Indian symbols.

A visit to Eisenhower Park today will reveal no sand painting memorial to Dwight Eisenhower. In the one single instance of sand erosion in Seal Beach not due to high tides, the moist sea air and outdoor elements weakened the lacquer preserving the sand portrait of Eisenhower and it began to crumble. At some point a second portrait by another artist was substituted, but now even that is gone.

– Michael Dobkins


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October 13th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan made a speech at a closed-to-the-public campaign stop at Seal Beach Leisure World.

Ronald Reagan greets enthusiastic supporters at Leisure World

Speaking to a crowd of approximately 2,500, Reagan affirmed his support of the Social Security program, promised to tighten Medicare so the elderly could get more benefits from it, and received great applause when he criticized earnings limitations on people drawing Social Security.

This was not Reagan’s first visit to Leisure World. He gave a speech there in 1966 while campaigning for governor.

– Michael Dobkins


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October 12th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1958, the Long Beach Independent Press Telegram ran a profile of Seal Beach resident Clark Pettingill of 205 Fifth Street and what he called “The Pettingill Apple Tree.”

Clark Pettingill and his famous front yard apple tree

Seal Beach is not famed for its fruit-producing trees, but this tree was special. The Pettingill Apple Tree produced such phenomenal apples, that the tree had been patented with grafts being distributed by Armstrong Nurseries.

Twenty-five to thirty years earlier, Clark separated two apple trees that had started growing in his front yard. Clark believed the two trees probably came from the same apple core. The second tree was replanted in the backyard, but only produced fair apples.

The Pettingill Apple Tree in the front yard, however, produced a large crop of big red apples, ranging from 10 to 12 ounces. Clark shared that he once picked a 22-ounce apple.

We close with a cautionary note for modern-day apple poachers. While a tree does grow today in the front yard at 205 Fifth Street, that tree is not The Pettingill Apple Tree. It, like Clark Pettingill (1884-1964), is gone, but continues to leave a legacy as this Google search will attest.

Birthplace of the Pettingill Apple

– Michael Dobkins


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October 11 in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1948, the Long Beach Independent ran a human interest story under the attention-grabbing headline of “Free Blood Keeps Her Alive.”

Helen Black, Mrs. Arilla Phillips and Red Cross volunteer, Edna Lipman

The story was about 52 year-old Seal Beach widow Mrs. Arilla Phillips of 1305 Electric Avenue. In November 1947, she had been diagnosed as suffering from aplastic anemia –the first case of this rare condition in Long Beach and the vicinity, according to Dr. H.E. Bicknell of Seaside Hospital. Mrs. Phillips had a rare blood type only found in one out of 80 people, which made the blood transfusions she needed to stay alive too expensive.

Lucky for Mrs. Phillips,  blood donors for the Long Beach chapter of the Red Cross were able to provide what she needed free of charge. “As long as I can get free blood through the Red Cross I get along fine. I could never have purchased the blood I need at commercial rates totaling $1725 up to this time.” The previous week, she had received her 69th transfusion.

– Michael Dobkins


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October 10th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1942, The Danville Morning News ran chapter one of a prose adaptation of the MGM movie, “Maisie Gets Her Man,” starring Ann Southern and Red Skelton. It was once common practice for newspapers to run serialized novels in their pages over the course of a few days, and, if the novel was based on a popular movie, the added interest from movie fans would increase the newspaper’s circulation while also increasing the audience for the movie’s local release. Today we’d call that marketing synergy.

“Maisie Gets Her Man” chapter one runs in the 10/10/42 Danville Morning News…

… the movie opens one week later at the Capitol Theater in Danville, PA

 

“Maisie Gets Her Man” was the sixth in a series of ten films (plus a radio show spin-off) that starred Ann Southern as Mary Anastasia O’Connor, stage name Maisie Ravier, a plucky showgirl with a big heart who would get caught up in all sorts of shenanigans and hijinks while pursuing a show-biz career. This time out Maisie’s involved with a goofy comedian played by Red Skelton.

What does this have to do with Seal Beach history? I’ll admit the Seal Beach connection is tenuous and trivial, but too much fun to just slip by without noting it. In chapter one of the adaptation in The Danville Morning News, Maisie is once again seeking show biz work, but is having no luck at a theatrical office. On her way out, she bumps into the office building’s manager, and the two of them have encountered each other before under unusual circumstances — in a place called Seal Beach.

I checked the scene in the actual film, and the dialogue is similar in both the book and the film — complete with the reference to an incident in Seal Beach. The scene isn’t available online, so I present the dialogue between Maisie and Pappy Goodring, played by veteran character actor, Allen Jenkins, below:

Screen actors and screenwriters from this era would know Seal Beach because the best route down to Newport Beach (where many Hollywood types kept their yachts) went through Seal Beach. Local legends say that Humphrey Bogart regularly stopped by Art’s Drive-In (the same spot on PCH where Subway now operates) on Fridays after the week’s filming ended.

It’s not a large leap of logic that one of the screenwriters had taken this trip to Newport Beach once or twice and maybe even popped into one of the revues that used to run in the restaurants on Pacific Coast Highway. When she needed the name of a place for where Maisie would be doing a hula number, “Seal Beach” probably just popped into his head. (Maybe she did it in Sam’s Seafood’s new addition.)

– Michael Dobkins


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October 9th in Seal Beach History

On this date on the 1936, Chief Sperry Knighton and the Seal Beach fire department used the city’s hook and ladder truck to rescue a cat from a palm tree in front of 124 11th Street.

124 11th Street – Over 80 years after the emergency. The address remains, but the perilous palm tree is long gone.

The reason why this event was significant enough to warrant a story in the Santa Ana Register is that, after 15 months without a fire call within the city, this emergency call from residents concerned by the mewling of the trapped cat finally broke the department’s dry spell of no emergencies. 

Not the actual rescued cat (or even a cat that actually needs rescuing.) Also, not an actual palm tree. The only thing actual here is our pandering to the internet by posting a cute cat pic.

This is exactly the sort of thing a cat leash law would prevent. 

– Michael Dobkins


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October 8th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1961, International Gifts ran an ad in the Long Beach Independent Press Telegram announcing their new location next to Brock’s Drugstore. That week’s specials were Swedish candlesticks, basketware, imported glassware sets, hats, bags, and international Christmas cards!

International Gifts was part of the Seal Beach Main Street for most of the sixties. Its first location was at 322 Main Street, and then it moved briefly next to Brock’s Drugstore before finally operating its third and final Seal Beach location at 142 Main Street. There was a shop in Naples that went by the same name, but I haven’t been able to confirm whether or not it was connected to the Seal Beach store.

The wiser followers of this blog have already ignored these words and examined the ad to discover something fishy about the address 709 Electric Avenue. This address, if it actually existed, would be in a residential area.  The real 1961 address for International Gifts was 907 Electric Avenue, later home to Cape Cod Coiffures and Studio 907. Time travelers, please update (or backdate) your address books accordingly.

– Michael Dobkins


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October 7th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1941, the Long Beach Independent reported that Sam’s Seafood at 2501 Pacific Coast Highway had recently opened a new building in the back to handle its overflow crowds of weekend diners. The new 30 by 94 feet addition could accommodate 200 patrons and also featured an orchestra and a floor show. The new addition would be christened The Neptune Room.

Sam’s Seafood – Now with more room around the back (just half a block from the red car tracks) 

– Michael Dobkins


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October 6th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1963, the Long Beach Independent Press Telegram’s Women’s section ran a profile of the posh Larsen Hall off-campus women’s dormitory at 1310 Electric Avenue in Seal Beach under the breezy headline, “Larsen Hall — Books ‘n Bathing Caps.”

Coeds Judy Delulio and Jeannine Merril studying in the library at Larsen Hall

Larsen Hall was previously seen here in this post covering February 21, 1964 – a scandalous post filled with shame, dishonor, ignominy, and disgrace. (I may be overstating a bit.)

Ah, but what a difference four months makes! On October 6, 1963, the situation still appears sunny at Larsen Hall, inspiring the unnamed reporter to observe, “Dorm living today is like camping in mink.” The reporter felt that the two-story dormitory, “just a bikini-brief walk from the beach,” had “nearly all the the attributes of a resort hotel.” These attributes included a dining and lounge area, a central pool patio, a sundeck, a separate snack room off the kitchen, a secluded library, an intercom system, and an automated laundry. The entire facility could accommodate 37 students.

Some of the current students did homework and dangled their feet in the pool the day the reporter visited.  Judy Delulio from Lake Tahoe shared that “You’re never lonely here. We stick together — there’s always something fun going on: a popcorn party, a starfish hunt at the beach, a special excursion. Best of all, we have neat management.”

Ah, yes. The management. At this stage, there’s nothing but praise for Frank and Joan Silone. Frank drove the “girls back and forth to school in the hall’s private bug of a bus” and did the cooking, “turning out menus that would please a gourmet.” Joan helped with sewing and the evening song fests. 

Just another poolside day in coed paradise – Sherry Delulio plays catch while Jan Petersen strums a guitar and Terry Suffet tries to read

But there was trouble (and poorly reproduced from microfilm photos) in the sad future of Larsen Hall.

– Michael Dobkins


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