December 12th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1924, The Captain’s Inn opened in building where the scandalous Tower Cafe once operated in Anaheim Landing on Electric Avenue and Bay Boulevard.

The Captain was Captain James Edward Brink, who served under General Pershing in Mexico. His father, also named James Edward Brink owned and ran a legendary restaurant in downtown Los Angeles called the Saddlerock Cafe. The Captain’s Inn seems to be Captain Brink’s attempt to follow in his father’s footsteps.

For a few years, the restaurant prospered, and even hosted live performances on a Long Beach radio station.  The prosperity didn’t last, and by the late twenties, the restaurant was gone, but the Captain Inn building continued to host picnics and gathering until it was damaged in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake.

Dow Brink may have been related to the Captain, but I haven’t been able to confirm it. He started his career singing ballads in Oregon theater in 1909, and later worked the vaudeville circuit as half of a musical act,”Brink and Camp.”  His partner, Warren Camp, wrote the music, and Dow wrote the lyrics for a 1911 song, “Rag With No Name.”

Alma Salmon started young in show biz as a seventeen year-old chorus girl in 1913.  She didn’t stay in the chorus and developed her own act as a comedy singer. Her career lasted well into the thirties.

James Edward Brink died in 1970 at the age of eighty. He had risen to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel while serving in World War II.

– Michael Dobkins

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Bruce Brown 1937 – 2017

I’m sorry I have some sad news to share. Documentary and early surf movie filmmaker Bruce Brown passed away last night nine days after his 80th birthday. Seal Beach folk will probably know him best for The Endless Summer, the 1966 surf documentary that followed Mike Hynson and Robert August as they surfed around the world, but he continued to direct and produce films well into the 21st century.

There’s a good O.C. Register write-up on Brown here, and you can check out his IMDB credits here.

– Michael Dobkins

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December 11th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1965, engineers seeking employment could open up the help wanted section in the Los Angeles Times classifieds and hit the employment opportunity jackpot with this ad for openings at The Seal Beach Facility of North American Aviation’s space and information systems division.

– Michael Dobkins

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December 10th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1961, The Hilltop House at 1300 Crestview Avenue had its premier showing. This home was priced at $37,000 (about $300,000 in 2017 dollars), had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an all electric kitchen, cell heating with thermostat controls for each room.

This home was part of the Marina Hills development. The Marina Hills home typified a certain Mid-Century Modern verve that dominated residential architecture in the early sixties. The “Homes That Grow” designs were specifically created to allow for future expansion of the home as needed. The carport could convert into a garage, a rumpus room, or den and the sundeck space could be converted to additional rooms depending on the household’s future needs. This was considered one of the major benefits of the modular layout, and it felt very modern to 1961 home shoppers. Swimming pools were optional.

Another modern feature of these homes was the emphasis on the “ALL ELECTRIC HOMES.” As more electrical power plants went online  in the mid-fifties, the price of electrical power became cheaper, so a “Live Better Electrically” program was created to convince Americans to consume more electricity was started by electricity utilities and manufacturers. (Just reading that sentence should subliminally make you want to leave all the lights in home.)

Medallion Homes would bear this emblem as a plaque or sometimes on an electric doorbell.

In 1957, the National Manufacturers Association launched the “Medallion Home” campaign. To qualify as a “Medallion Home” (or later as a “Gold Medallion Home,” A house would need to be constructed to use only electricity for built-in lighting, heating, kitchen appliances, and power. None of the old-fashion and outmoded natural gas for these homes!

The Medallion Home campaign was a rousing success and lasted into the early seventies.


– Michael Dobkins

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December 9th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1960, The Los Angeles Times ran this photo of Seal Beach Mayor Norma Gibbs with her newborn daughter, Norma Jean.

Thanks to reader T. A.Harvey, you can catch up on what Norma’s been doing since 1960 in this 2015 L.A. Times profile commemorating her 90th birthday.

– Michael Dobkins

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December 8th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1916, the Orange County Board of Supervisors awarded a contract to Lee Garnsey to construct a road along the coast from Seal Beach to Huntington Beach. The price for three miles of road between Seal Beach and Huntington Beach? $16,900.

This was not a modern paved highway at this stage. It was a fenced dirt road that would be oiled to keep dust to a minimum. When ruts were worn into the road, they were filled with more dirt.  The road opened in August 1917 after Seal Beach removed 600 feet of sand blocking road access and repaired the bridge over Anaheim Bay that ran parallel to the Pacific Electric bridge and connected to Electric Avenue.

This stretch of road was the start of a movement to extend what was then called a coast boulevard stretching from Seal Beach to Laguna Beach.

A Huntington Beach Centric ad from the November 24, 1916 issue of the Huntington Beach News (Source: Chris Jepsen’s O.C. History Roundup blog)

– Michael Dobkins

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December 7th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1954, the Seal Beach city council voted to agree with a proposal to remove the Ocean Avenue bridge that crossed over Alamitos Bay from Seal Beach to the Long Beach peninsula. The removal of the bridge was crucial for plans to construct a marina in Alamitos Bay that could accommodate yachts and larger sea vessels.

Seal Beach had opposed the removal of the bridge as far back as 1938 for two reasons. First, the city’s water line came from a six inch pipe that crossed the bay on the Ocean Avenue bridge, Secondly, Seal Beach didn’t want to lose the Pacific Electric red car line that ran across the bridge.

By 1954, the Pacific Electric line’s importance to the city had diminished, and the bridge removal allowed Seal Beach to replace the old six inch water pipes with larger ones.

To sweeten the deal, Seal Beach would receive 500,000 cubic yards of material dredged from Alamitos Bay for the Marina to shore up its beach against high tides.

Ocean Avenue Bridge Demolition

– Michael Dobkins

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December 6th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1979, the following ad ran for La Vail Specialty Boutique in the Los Angeles Times. 

La Vail founder Marjorie Hobbs named the shop after her grandmother. The shop discretely catered to women with mastectomies, inspired by Majorie’s own battle with breast cancer. You can find out more about Marjorie and her husband, Bob, in this 2015 Gazette article commemorating their seventy years of marriage.

Later La Vail Lingerie would move to a new location in the the Seal Beach Shopping Center on Pacific Coast Highway before closing. La Vail’s last owner was Sherril Radtke. 

– Michael Dobkins

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December 5th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1933, the following ad ran in the Santa Ana Register.

This has to be the saddest and most equivocating piece of marketing I’ve seen for a Seal Beach business. 

“As perhaps most of you know” sets an ambivalent tone for this odd pitch and is immediately followed with “this was one of the most famous rendezvous in Southern California.” It is always great marketing to remind potential customers that a business establishment’s best days are past.

“It is our earnest desire to furnish you with the same high class entertainment and fun for which the this Inn was so popularly known.” They sincerely want to provide you with the same experience that once was commonplace at “The Famous Jewel City Inn,” but they’re not making any promises.

“You May Dine and Dance until Daylight if You Wish.” Or you may not. It’s really up to you. Sheesh.

  In little over two years, the Jewel City Inn and what remained of the roller coaster and the Joy Zone would be completely demolished.

– Michael Dobkins

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December 4th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1932, the Decatur Herald published this essay by John Richard Phillip, age 8.

Seal Beach Play-Spot For Ocean Wanderers

     Last winter I was in California. I went to Seal Beach. There is a bay there. The seals come into the bay. They rest on the sand. They are rather tame. I could go near them. But I could not touch them.  Once I almost caught a baby seal.

     Down the beach is a fishing pier. If the seals go there they shoot at them. They scare away the fish. But at Seal Beach no one can shoot at them. They lie in the sun and rest. The baby seals play. They bark, “Wak, Wak, Wak!” They flip into the water and out again. They cannot walk for they have no legs. They have flippers. And boy! How they can swim. They go to Alaska in the summer to care for their new baby seals until they are old enough to swim. I wish I could have a pet seal.

Seals contemplating the pros and cons of pet life in Illinois

– Michael Dobkins


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