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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Each post has a comment section, but you can contact me directly at mike@sealbeachhistory.com
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March 21st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1944, The U.S. Navy formally established an ordnance depot at Anaheim Landing.

The Orange County war housing commission chairman, Philip Norton (who also had a real estate office at 710 Ocean Ave), announced the seizure of thirty-five thousand acres of beach and tidelands in January of 1944 for the construction of the twenty million dollar ordnance depot. Real estate would be purchased, bridges would be demolished, Anaheim Bay would be dredged to a depth of fifteen feet, and the Pacific Electric line that crossed Anaheim Bay into Surfside would be rerouted.

The decision meant approximately 2,000 people living in Anaheim Landing would need to vacate by March 21st. The housing commission helped residents relocate, and many Anaheim Landing homes were moved to lots in Westminster and Seal Beach. The popular Glide ‘Er Inn would move a few blocks east to 14th Street. The Seal Beach Airport would be permanently abandoned.

The speed and urgency applied to the project is understandable considering that the United States military was engaged in a worldwide conflict. Today the outcome of World War II seems inevitable, but in 1944 the future was uncertain, and wartime efforts required full commitment. For most of 1944, the Navy would be transforming what had been a casual small boat harbor into an efficient first class naval installation.

And Anaheim Landing’s time as a civilian port and recreational attraction came to an ended. The seventy-five year history of what is now known as the Seal Beach Weapons Station was just beginning.

– Michael Dobkins


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March 20th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1920, Santa Ana Register published the firsthand account of James Ott describing his days working as an agent for the Anaheim Landing Company.

The reporter who interviewed Ott wisely let Ott’s own words make up most of the article. Ott tells a tale that is vivid, exciting, and harrowing. It is probably the closest any of us will experiencing and understanding what risky and dangerous life it was to work at Anaheim Landing when it was a port.

It’s also interesting to note that stubs of the pilings left from the first Anaheim Landing on Alamitos Bay were still visible in 1920.

Here is the full story exactly as it was printed forty-nine years after James Ott started working at Anaheim Bay:

Flirted With Death on Treacherous Anaheim Bay Bar Four Years, ’71-’75

There was a time in the history of what is now Orange County that the location of the shipping of the section from Los Nietos to San Juan Capistrano and as far inland as San Bernardino was done through Anaheim Landing.

The man who was agent at the Landing during the height of its business now lives in Santa Ana. He is James D. Ott of 433 South Sycamore street.

Many a time did he risk his life in the treacherous waters over the bar of Anaheim Bay.

Up to the time the Southern Pacific reached Anaheim, Anaheim Landing was a place of commercial importance. The railroad finally put the Landing out [of] business.

An Anaheim company, called the Anaheim Landing Co., instituted and carried on the business. August Langenberger, one of the pioneers of the Mother Colony, which was founded in the late fifties, was the secretary and general manager of the business. Others interested in the enterprise were J. P. Zeyn, F. A. Korn and Ben Dreyfus.

The company first established a warehouse on the bay above Seal Beach, but soon afterward moved to Anaheim Landing, having decided that the bay entrance there was better suited to the management of lighters plying between the land and steamers coming as close inshore as they dared.

Sees Stubs of Piles.

“The stub ends of the piles of the original wharf are still to be seen in the mud near the paved road crossing the tide flats,” said J. D. Ott, referring to the original landing place.

“The stub ends of the old warehouse piles are also to be seen on of the the ocean side of the bridge at the Anaheim Landing’s entrance. I became the agent at the Landing in 1871, after I had worked there awhile, and I remained as agent there until 1875 when business began to drop off by reason of the railroad’s competition, advances in wages were impossible and I quit.

“Yes, I risked my life many a time. I took great chances and in those days did not think much about it. Now, I wouldn’t take those chances for any amount of money. I came near drowning a number of times, but luck was always with me. While I was there not a man was drowned. Three days after I quit three of the longshoremen lost their lives.

“The Anaheim Landing Co. had a little wharf and a warehouse at the Landing. Langenberger and Blockman had a lumber yard there and did a good business. There was a freighting business that covered a wide territory inland.

Lighters Are Used.

We had four lighters, each capable of carrying fifty tons. We had a three-inch rope running from the wharf out to a big buoy about 300 yards from shore. This buoy was firmly anchored. Steamers would come in, anchor, unload what they had for us and take on what we had for them. The steamers came about twice a week, sometimes three times a week.

“The lighters were big flat-bottomed barges or scows. At each end was a heavy wooden bight-head through which the rope passed, and by pulling on the rope the sailors moved the lighter in or out. We had a captain of the lighters crews and generally employed from six to twelve men. We had the rope buoyed along the channel, which changed with nearly every storm.

“I was made agent after Capt. Wolfe was fired. I had just taken a job at the place when a big shipment of wool arrived. Wool was away up in price then, worth forty cents a pound. We were loading up the lighters, taking them out beyond the bar and leaving them there for the next steamer.

“I saw Wolfe was starting to load a lighter that I felt sure was leaky, and I told him the lighter was not safe. He pooh-hoohed the idea, and loaded it anyhow. The lighter was taken out about dusk. The next morning I climbed up on the lighthouse, which stood at the Landing. It was a structure built like an oil derrick and had a big coal oil lamp in it for use at night.

Lighter Is Sunk.

“From the lighthouse I saw that only a few of the topmost bales of wool were in sight.

“I called Wolfe and for a while we were a busy lot. A bale of wool was heavy enough without being wet, and when it was wet it was certainly hard to handle. Finally, Wolfe decided to drag the lighter through the breakers to shore. We hauled the ‘ wool out on to a grassy hillside, back of where Seal Beach now is, and spread it out to dry. The wetting took all of the oil out of the wool, and cut its value down tremendously. The company had to make good the loss. It sold the wool in San Francisco for seven cents, dug up over $3,000 to make up the loss, fired Wolfe and made me agent.

“I’d have to [go] out to the vessels to turn in my bills of lading and sign the papers. I couldn’t swim. That is, I couldn’t do anything more than a stroke or two, and how I escaped drowning is more than I know. That bar was mighty treacherous, and in rough weather it was exceedingly dangerous.

“The closest shave I had came just a little while before I quit. We had never lost a man, and we took more chances than were necessary.

A Dangerous Ride.

“One Sunday morning I rode horseback over to Westminster, where my cousin, John Anderson, lived. He was the first settler of the Presbyterian colony at Westminster. I had no sooner gotten there than I heard a shot and I knew a steamer had come in. I turned back and rode to the Landing. The lighter crews had gone out to make the exchange freight, and there was no way for me to carry the papers out unless I took chances in a little skiff that belonged to Fred Langenberger.

“There was only one man left on shore, a sailor named Billy. The bar looked bad, but Billy said he would risk it if I would. We started out. How we ever got through I don’t know. There was just one pair of oars, and Billy worked like mad. I baled. That boat filled up a dozen times. Half the time we were two-thirds full, and waves throwing us around like a chip. The bucket I was using was washed out of my hands. I had a brand new hat that I had put on to wear to church at Westminster, and I used that hat. Believe me, how I did work that new hat!

“Finally we got through the breakers, and the lighter crew saw us and came to get us. Poor old Billy was all in. He was so exhausted that when we got to the lighter they had to tie a rope around him and pull him up. I wasn’t much better off.

Boat is Capsized

“When the loading was done, we decided that it wouldn’t do to try to take the lighters in. It was too rough, and they were well anchored and would ride where they were.

“We started ashore in the big row-boat, a heavy sea-boat as good for taking the breakers as anything we had. There were eight of us aboard, and I had the steering oar. I was a husky those days and I thought I could stand up against anything. We reached the bar, and when the water hit that oar and the boat just right I was pitched off.

“I had on a heavy overcoat, and in the inside coat was my long pocketbook in which I carried my shipping papers and paper money. How I did what I did I don’t know. When I came up I had shed my overcoat and I had that pocket-book gripped in one hand. I shoved it inside my coat pocket, and grabbed a rope.

“The boat had been turned completely over. I yelled, and one man answered. By shouting we finally got everybody located but Jack Westerling. We couldn’t locate him hanging to the boat anywhere, and thought he was gone. I yelled to the men to hang on, as the tide was going into the bay and we would be carried in.

“That boat was bucking like a cayuse horse. The breakers were all around us, pounding the boat and breaking all over us. There was an awful roar. It is a wonder we weren’t all killed by the boat.

“Pretty soon, we were carried inside the bar, and it was not long before we got our feet on sand.

“When we lifted the boat, we found Jack. He had come up under the boat, got across a seat with his head above water. He clung on to keep his brains from being beaten out, and was saved. |

“It was right after that that I quit. I quit on a Sunday. The next Wednesday the men were crossing the bar when a toll pin, the oar rested between two toll pins, broke. The crew had neglected to fill the bag with pins, and there was not an extra pin in the boat. The Boat swamped, and three of the men drowned. One of them was Jack Westerling.

“I was in Los Angeles when I heard about it. I rode down, and found that they had recovered the bodies. The three men were taken to Anaheim and were buried in the cemetery there.”

James D. Ott passed away on February 20, 1922 at the age of  80. A Civil War veteran of Company H, the Virginia 14th Calvary Regiment, he is buried at the Santa Ana Cemetery.

ADDENDUM: Something was niggling in the back of my mind about today’s post, so I checked my Anaheim Landing bookmarks and clippings and found these contemporary accounts about the three men who drowned after Ott left the Anaheim Landing Company.

Their names were Jack Westerling, Tom Lloyd, and James Garabraith. Attention must be paid.

– Michael Dobkins


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March 19th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1925, Seal Beach wife Emma Huftile filed suit for the annulment against her husband, Claude Merlin Huftile.

Marriage end for all sorts of reasons, but this one was ending under unusual circumstances. And it wasn’t exactly ending, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

So why was Emma suing Claude for annulment?

The sad fact was that her husband was still married to a elevator operator gal named Clara still living back in Minnesota. Claude and Clara had married back in 1920, but marriage life with Claude did not meet Clara’s expectations. She filed for divorce the next year, and Claude wasn’t too happy with Clara because he choose not to contest it. The story told in Santa Ana Register is that Claude and his lawyer saw a notice in a newspaper that Clara had won her decree. He left Duluth for California and became an oil worker.

One year later, Claude met Emma, and they enjoyed a July wedding in 1922. This time Claude’s marriage worked. In 1924, Claude and Emma had a son named John. All seemed well and on the way to the proverbial wedded bliss famed in song and story.

Until word came from back east that Claude’s divorce to Clara had not truly been granted. Claude and Emma amicably separated, and the annulment was filed to avoid legal complications while Claude untangled the marriage knot to his previous wife for good. When that was done, Claude and Emma could remarry.

The Santa Ana Register story about the situation made this sound easy-peasy, but there must have been complications. The 1928 California voter registration shows Claude living at 119 Main Street and Emma living at 132 Tenth Street. Fortunately, the 1930 Census shows the two of them living again under the same roof at 332 Eighth Street with six-year old John and an infant daughter named Betty.

Claude and Emma lived in Seal Beach for the rest of their lives. They and their family moved to 123 Fourteenth Street and stayed there until the end of their lives. Emma passed away in 1974, and Claude joined her just two years later in 1976.

– Michael Dobkins


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March 18th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1956 at 2 p.m., on the spot where Bay Boulevard met Electric Avenue, a dedication ceremony was held for a monument designating Anaheim Landing as a historical landmark. The marker read:

ANAHEIM LANDING After the establishment of the Mother Colony at Anaheim in 1857, a wharf and warehouse were constructed at the mouth of Anaheim Creek to serve the Santa Ana Valley. Treacherous entrance conditions caused several disasters, but steamers loaded with wine, wool and other cargo continued to dock here regularly. Use of the seaport began to decline in 1875 with the incursion of the Southern Pacific Railroad into the area. By 1890, the landing was no longer in operation.

(This was not the first Anaheim Landing. The landing was originally established in 1864 on Alamitos Bay, a more ideal port for shipping, but when an 1867 flood filled the bay with silt and severely limited ocean access, the landing was relocated to what is now known as Anaheim Bay. Local historian Larry Strawther has established that the original landing was approximately where the Island Village tract is today.)

Eleven years earlier almost to the day of the dedication ceremony, Anaheim Landing’s days as a civilian shipping port, a recreational destination, and residential neighborhood ended when the U.S. Navy took possession of Anaheim Bay and Anaheim Landing to install a weapons depot. On the other side of the fence behind the marker, munitions were loaded and unloaded to and from Navy ships serving in the Pacific Ocean.

On the civilian side of the fence, a crowd celebrated Anaheim Landing’s past. Perhaps some in that crowd had been Anaheim Landing residents and felt wistful recalling earlier days of swimming, boating, and fishing in the bay before the Navy removed their homes and cottages and dredged it.

Installing the marker had been a community affair. The project was instigated by the Senior and Junior Women’s Clubs of Seal Beach. Mrs. Bernice V. Smith and Mrs. Sven Lindstrom researched the historical data. Buell Brown designed the seven-foot high monument. Frank Curtis poured the foundation. The local Girl Scout and Cub Scout troops and Veterans organizations gathered the stones that were used in the monument, and surplus stones formed a crescent shaped rock garden on either side of the monument.

The theme for the ceremony was “Preserve the Past for the Future.” Scout troops presented mixed colors, Mrs. Noel Chadwick gave the devotional, and the Woman’s Club chorus sang a musical piece under the direction of Mrs. Clyde Spencer.

Officiating the ceremony were Willis Warner, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Lee Winterton and William Gallienne of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, Admiral John McKinney, William Hynds of the recreation development committee, M.K. Hillyard of the marker committee, and Mrs. Albert Sylvia of the Woman’s Club of Seal Beach, and Mrs. Larry Howard of the Junior Woman’s Club of Seal Beach.

It must have been fine and proud Saturday event for all parties involved.

The Anaheim Landing monument still stands today, but somewhat diminished. Bay Boulevard is now Seal Beach Boulevard, the monument was moved to make room for a public works lot, and the rock garden is gone, replaced by a couple of bushes and a bus stop.

– Michael Dobkins


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March 17th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1971, lucky diners in Seal Beach could treat themselves to the St. Patrick’s Day special of a halibut sandwich and beer all day at Walt’s Wharf according to this ad that ran in the Long Beach Independent.

The next St. Patrick’s Day in Seal Beach would be less ideal for quiet and relaxing dining, but that’s a story for later.


– Michael Dobkins


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March 16th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1980, the Los Angeles Times ran this ad for the Rossmoor Park Condominiums at 12200 Montecito Road.

It may be just a nostalgia for earlier times speaking, but real estate ads became very dull and unimaginative towards the latter part of the Twentieth century.
– Michael Dobkins


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March 15th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1959, The Teeple’s Garden Center advertised its new Seal Beach location in the Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram.

W.J. Teeples and Sons started in 1924 in Wilmington and then shifted retail operations to West Long Beach in 1934 while still using the old Wilmington location for growing grounds. Finally, the company moved to Seal Beach at 600 Bolsa Avenue (600 Marina Drive today).

Many long-term Seal Beach remember this nursery location fondly, both as Teeples and then in the seventies under new owners as the Growin’ My Way Nursery. Today the nursery lot is occupied by the Pacific Inn.

– Michael Dobkins


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March 14th in Seal Beach History

On this date, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on eighteen year old John L. Scott and the baby seal he adopted.

Earlier in March, John had been working in his hot dog stand when he noticed a shimmering shape in the surf. Assuming it was a fish, John, apparently an intrepid soul, charged into the surf to capture it. When he swam closer and heard plaintive bleats, John realized he was not tracking a fish, but was after a baby seal. He took the baby seal home and began nursing it by feeding it milk every two to three hours. John’s theory was that Pat’s mother had been shot by fishermen.

In the days that followed, “Pat” as John named him, would follow and play with his rescuer both on land and in the sea. Their antics attracted local attention and word-of-mouth publicity, and the Santa Ana Register sent a reporter to cover the the unlikely pair on March 5th. That story mentioned that Pat and John would swim together three times a day off Dolphin Avenue between 9 and 10 am, again between 1 and 3 pm, and finally between 4 and 5 pm before retiring to John’s home for the night.

Not to be outdone and knowing a good human (and marine mammal) interest story when they saw it, the editors sent a reporter and a photographer to Seal Beach. Neither the Register or Times saw fit to ask John’s mother or the rest of the family what they thought about his new pet.

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it appears that Pat didn’t have ear flaps, which would make him a seal and not a pet seal lion as featured in this 1917 post.

There was also never a follow up story covering Pat’s eventual fate, but any marine biologist worth his or her salt water will tell you that adopting a seal or seal lion as a pet is not a good idea and will likely not end well for the critter. We can only hope that at some stage Pat moved on to have a full normal life in the ocean.

(Incidentally, John seemed to be prone to car accidents. When he was fourteen, John broke his leg in Naples when he was thrown from a reckless friend’s car when it overturned while passing another car. In 1933, John was behind the driver’s seat this time and narrowly escaped when the delivery truck he was driving was clipped by a Pacific Electric train at Electric Avenue and Seventeenth Street in Seal Beach. The truck spun around and was knocked 50 feet down the road.)

– Michael Dobkins


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March 13th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1957, Los Angles auctioneer Ted Gustafson was in Seal Beach to sell the 9-unit motel at 257 Bay Boulevard (Seal Beach Boulevard today) to the highest bidder.

Not described in the Los Angeles Times ad was how the south building of the motel had been built at an angle to the boulevard to accommodate the adjacent Pacific Electric right of way.  When the U.S. Navy took possession of Anaheim Landing in 1944, the red car tracks were rerouted from Electric Avenue at Fifteenth Street to meet Pacific Coast Highway past Bay Boulevard. By 1957, the Pacific Electric red cars were no longer running on the track, but the supply trains used the track as a spur for loading well into the sixties.

There are no details to share of how the auction went, but someone must have won because the motel is still there, converted into apartments under the cozy and inviting name of Snug Harbor.

– Michael Dobkins


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March 12th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1939, the Los Angeles Times featured this photograph of the Seal Beach pier titled, “Sea Patriarch” by Los Angeles Times staff photographer Robert Jakobsen for its Camera Corner photography column. The photo was highlighted for its artistic composition in “eye-arresting silhouette mode” and was shot with a yellow filter to create the effect.

This was most likely taken during 1929 construction of the pier weeks prior to the grand opening in May. The railing had not yet been constructed, and the nubs of the old pier’s pylons are still jutting up from the sand next to the new pylons.

– Michael Dobkins


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