Welcome to This Date in Seal Beach History

This blog project is devoted to exploring Seal Beach’s past one day at a time.  It is individually run and maintained and is not affiliated with the City of Seal Beach or the Seal Beach Historical Society.
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February 20th In Seal Beach History

On this date in 1924, The Santa Ana Register announced that work was to begin within two weeks to build a spur line for delivery of materials into the Los Angeles Gas and Electric property where the power plant was being constructed. The spur line connected to the Pacific Electric tracks that ran into Seal Beach from the Long Beach peninsula along Ocean Avenue. These tracks could still be seen at First Street for years after the power plant was demolished in 1967.

– Michael Dobkins

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February 19th In Seal Beach History

On this date in 1969, Don Kirkland of The Long Beach Independent wrote about a sad letter Navy Maintenance Controlman Daniel Sundquist wrote to his parents. “We had another tragedy a few days ago. A great pilot we will all miss,” Lundquist wrote.

The pilot Lundquist was missing was Lieutenant Junior Grade Paul Swigart Jr., son of Paul Swigart, co-owner of the Glide ‘er Inn. Paul Eugene Swigart, Jr. had died on February 5th when his jet fighter slammed into the deck of the USS Hancock and then crashed into the sea off Vietnam. Swigart was 25, a prep-medical student, married three years to his wife Kathryn, and father to 2-year-old Brant Paul. 

Daniel Sundquist’s parents contacted Paul Swigart Sr. at the Glide ‘er Inn. The elder Swigart had received a telegram with news of his son’s death. “Paul loved flying, the Navy, and his country. He didn’t expect to give his life, but we knew if he had to, he would.”

Paul Swigart Jr. joined the Naval Reserve in 1965 and saw plenty of action in Southeast Asia. Once he ran out of fuel while pursuing two MIGs and had to eject into the sea where he was rescued fifteen minutes later.

According to his father, Paul Jr. was looking forward to the end of his tour of duty. His enlistment would have ended five days after the fatal crash. Paul’s body was never recovered, and his name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.

Four years later, Paul’s father would passed away at the age of fifty-eight.

– Michael Dobkins

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February 18th In Seal Beach History

On this date in 1959, the Long Beach Independent dropped the curtain on the finale of a typical show biz story.

We’ve all heard weepy tales about a young, first-time actress, just bursting with natural talent, getting cast in a play and then outshining the more experienced actors and actresses playing the lead roles. And then it all goes sour, the young actress takes her success for granted, misses performances, and is finally replaced. The actress plunges back into her hum drum everyday life, never to step into spotlight again. It’s happened hundreds of times.

Don’t worry we’ll get to the Seal Beach connection in a moment.

Over the years, many Seal Beachers have probably seen a play or two at the Long Beach Community Playhouse on Anaheim Street in Long Beach. The playhouse hit its sixty-ninth anniversary at that location earlier this month, but The Long Beach Players have performed since 1929, first putting on shows at the Union Pacific’s Long Beach depot and then at the Unitarian Church on Lime Street when the depot was condemned. 

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Back in September, 1958, the playhouse held try-outs for a production of Gore Vidal’s “Visit to a Small Planet,” a cold war satire about an outer space tourist who visits Earth and ends up staying with a 1950s newscaster and his family in their suburban Virginia home. (Yes, “My Favorite Martian,” “Mork and Mindy,” and “Alf” borrows a lot from this play.) The visitor is a smug and arrogant fellow with telepathic abilities and superpowers, including the ability to converse with the family’s pet cat, Rosemary. 

This is when our actress and the Seal Beach connection finally makes an entrance into our tale. Cast as Rosemary was a year-and-a-half old, silky black, half-Siamese cat named Gregarious, owned by Seal Beach police officer Alfred Chafe. Gregarious was trained to meow on cue, had her own dressing room with her name on it, and developed a rapport with actor Salvatore Mungo, playing the alien Kreton. The two wowed playhouse audiences by having “conversations” about hunting mice and the propriety of shooting dogs as punishment for chasing “Rosemary.”

Gregarious as Rosemary with Salvatore Mungo as Kreton

Gregarious as Rosemary with Salvatore Mungo as Kreton

Alas, the tale does not end with Gregarious becoming a star. Between the show’s opening on November 14, 1958 and closing on January 17th, 1959, the Chafe family moved to a different part of Seal Beach, and Gregarious was too fond of her old neighborhood and kept returning to the old house. Towards the end of the show’s run, it became more and more of a challenge to find Gregarious in time for the opening curtain. Ultimately, she couldn’t be found in time, and a white Persian played Rosemary in the last three performance.

According to the Long Beach Independent, Gregarious was still having trouble adjusting to the move a month later and seemed to prefer the life of a small town free range kitty to the glamour of the stage. There are no reports of other Seal Beach pets ever being cast in any other Long Beach Community Playhouse production, but that’s certainly just a coincidence and not their judgement on the reliability of Seal Beach critters created by the flakiness of a diva cat named Gregarious.

– Michael Dobkins

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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.

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This Date in Seal Beach History also has an online store hosted at Cafepress where you can order shirts, tote bags, stationery, and other gift items imprinted with vintage Seal Beach images. Visit the online store by clicking here.

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February 17th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1938, the Seal Beach City Council discussed a petition from the Seal Beach Improvement Association asking the council to support efforts to build a new bridge over the entrance to Anaheim Bay. The petition requested that a telegram be sent to Congressman Harry Sheppard for help obtaining government funding for the proposal and that the city engineer work with county engineer to make a survey of the project. Ultimately, the council decided to send a wire to Congressman Sheppard in spite of City Attorney Burr Brown’s objections.

– Michael Dobkins

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This Date in Seal Beach History also has an online store hosted at Cafepress where you can order shirts, tote bags, stationery, and other gift items imprinted with vintage Seal Beach images. Visit the online store by clicking here.

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February 16th In Seal Beach History

On this date in 1914, the Santa Ana Register proclaimed that earlier in the week the Mercer Construction Company had begun strengthening the pier with new pilings and renovating it with “electroliers at short spaces and resting seats.” The Guy M. Rush Company, which was managing the oceanfront property in the yet-to-be officially named “Seal Beach,” also announced the style of the pier was to be match the proposed cement promenade that was to extend along the entire beachfront. Less glamorously, work on cement sidewalks and curbs would begin the next week.

– Michael Dobkins

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February 15th In Seal Beach History

On this date in 1924, the Santa Ana Register published a frustrating human interest story under the tantalizing headline of “Science Restores Use of Legs To Seal Beach Boy.”

According to the story, Miles Fandrey returned home with use of his legs partially restored after treatment at the children’s hospital in Los Angeles, and, even though Miles would have to use crutches in the short-term, the long-term prognosis was for Miles to be able use his legs completely without assistance. The article makes passing mention that medical science made this remarkable transformation possible for a boy whose legs were expected to remain useless. It also mentions that Miles came home with a collection of books, games, and other gifts from the hospital, but he happily set those aside when his “Seal Beach chums” showed up to celebrate his return home.

What is frustrating about this story is, while it tugs heavily on the heartstrings, it greatly lacks any substantial information. Who were the doctors treating Miles, and what did those treatments entail? Physical therapy? An operation? Drugs? We have no way of knowing at this point. The parents are not included in the story at all, and neither is any background on the boy’s exact disability. Was it due to an injury or had he never walked before? How old is the boy? 

One is left with the impression that the nameless reporter of this piece had very little information and was vamping as best he could to fill a column space.

Further attempts to get more information about Miles Fandrey are equally frustrating. A newspaper database search for Miles shows only one entry — this 1924 Santa Ana Register story. You would expect there to be a follow-up story to chart the rest of his recovery or at least a hope-filled story about his going into the hospital for treatment, but, no, this is all we get.

Ancestry.com lists only one Miles Fandrey, and he would have been a youngster of eleven on February 15, 1924. Unfortunately, all the records for this Miles lists him as living in North Dakota in both the 1920 and 1930 census and also in the North Dakota census in 1925 — a mere year after the Santa Ana Register story. Nowhere in the records for this Miles is there even a hint of a Seal Beach residence. There is a report of Miles’ father, Ira Fandrey, leaving for a trip to California in the November 26, 1903 Jamestown Weekly Alert, but this is a full nine years before Miles was born and there isn’t a clue about where in California Ira visited.

Perhaps the Jamestown Fandreys stayed in Seal Beach in 1924 when Miles was brought out to the west coast for a special medical treatment, but we’ll never know.  North Dakota Miles passed away in 1997 at the age of eighty-four, so we can’t ask him.

– Michael Dobkins

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February 14th In Seal Beach History

On this date in 1929, the Seal Beach City Council awarded the contract for a new city hall to architect W. Horace Austin after considering preliminary plans presented by local architects.

Austin’s plans included a fire station, a police station, a city library, offices for city staff, and a second story assembly room for public meetings. Austin himself would supervise the Spanish style construction as soon at the city closed a deal to purchase the future city hall site.

W. Horace Austin was a prominent architect in the area during the first half of the Twentieth Century, and many of his landmark designs still stand today, including Wilson High School, the Press-Telegram building, the downtown Farmers & Merchants Bank, and the Long Beach Airport.

And, of course, the old Seal Beach City Hall, still located on the corner of Eight Street and Central Avenue today. It was officially opened and dedicated eight and a half months later on October 29th, 1929. City bureaucracy move faster in those days.

– Michael Dobkins

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February 13th In Seal Beach History

On this date in 1924, the Santa Ana Register reported a number of Seal Beach related items. First and foremost was the announcement of a meeting that evening of the chamber of commerce where the committee on publicity was expected to… “have some suggestions to offer.” The reporter also teased that “other matters of interest would be” … duh-duh-dah… “taken up for consideration.”

After that dynamic and exciting announcement, it seemed almost anti-climatic to mention that the Ladies’ Aid Society would rather unconventionally serve dinner from 11 am (in the morning!) until evening (the customary time for dinner under most social circumstances). 

On Main Street, A new manager, Mrs. E. H. Anderson, took over The White House Cafe,  but for some reason, she did not follow the “dinner in the morning” trend that was sweeping the city that day. Further down the street, Miss Humeston opened the Colonial, a business specializing in general merchandise.

On the social scene, Mrs. Cargill was to be the hostess for a cards evening held in the home of Mrs. James Loftus. A few days earlier, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence J. Smith were visited by weekend guests, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. McCord of Santa Ana and Mrs. Elda Barmes of Gardena.

But it wasn’t all mingling and entertaining in Seal Beach that day. Henry Gade and his daughter, Mrs. Thelma Edmunds, were spending their last day in town before leaving for a new home in Anaheim. This sad news was balanced against the announcement that Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Conway had taken a cottage in The May Court on 7th Street. (Mrs. Conway was a cousin of Mrs. Quinn, don’t ya know.)

The article ended on a happy note. Mrs. C. B. Conner had recovered enough from a long illness to be able to sit up for several hours a day.

And that was the news in Seal Beach for February 13th ninety-five long years ago.

– Michael Dobkins

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February 12th In Seal Beach History

On this date in 1922, the Santa Ana Register reported that Dr. J. N. Bartholomew had recovered his stolen car.

Dr. Bartholomew’s Studebaker had been taken in broad daylight several days earlier in Santa Ana.  On February 11, he had passed the thief brazenly driving the stolen car on the boulevard between Seal Beach and Santa Ana (probably today’s Westminster Boulevard or possibly Bolsa Avenue), but when he lost the thief’s trail while turning around on the street to make pursuit. It was impossible tell whether the thief had escaped to Huntington Beach or gone further down the road towards Long Beach.

The next day, the intrepid doctor, now accompanied by his wife, searched through Huntington Beach without a glimpse of the purloined Studebaker. Expanding their search towards Long Beach, they soon spotted their stolen car and chased it into Seal Beach when the thief had to stop due to a flat tire. Rather than face the good doctor (And who can blame him? Dr. Bartholomew was one determined medico!), the thief skedaddled away across a mud flat.

The original news article didn’t mention any details about the year or model of Dr. Bartholomew’s car, but earlier in 1922 Studebaker was publicizing its latest line of automobiles with this illustration:

– Michael Dobkins

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February 11th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1973, a two-week series of deadly storms came to an end according to the Long Beach Independent. These violent storms resulted in deaths and damage throughout Southern California, but the last storm in the series created a landslide that stranded four Seal Beach residents in the Mt. Baldy area. Kenneth and Jackie Springer and their two-year old daughter, Wendy, and a ten-year old neighbor, Gigi Maitland had to be escorted six miles to safety by the San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team.

– Michael Dobkins

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