November 23rd in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1921, Los Angeles and Seal Beach realtor F. L. Flack’s $12,000 home at Seal Way and Dolphin Avenue burned to the ground while members of the Seal Beach Fire Department watched helplessly.

The cause of their helplessness was due to the department’s fire truck being stuck in wet sand. The water pressure from the city’s mains had been insufficient to fight the flames, so the firemen drove the fire truck on to the beach in hopes get an adequate supply of water from the ocean. A service car from a local garage attempted to pull the truck from the sand, but it also became stuck. Ultimately four teams of horses managed to pull both vehicles from the sand, but by that time the teams were done, the house had been consumed completely by flames.

– Michael Dobkins

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November 22nd in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1913, the Santa Ana Register reported that a land dredger, a rarity in 1913 Southern California, had started work on the sand dunes of Seal Beach.

A mere four posts ago, I made fun of the dredger being mentioned as an attraction listed in a Seal Beach advertisement, but after stumbling across this article, it really does sound impressive.

It used an electric pump to remove sand from the beach and disperse it across the Pacific Electric tracks and throughout the town to fill in “swales and low places” in preparation to grade the landscape for installing sidewalks, cement curbs, parking, water pipes, “and ornamental shade trees.”

The Guy M. Rush Company shared that all this activity was a prelude to replacing the dunes with a promenade and a seventy foot and twenty foot cement promenade.

No pricetag for this project was mentioned, but the irony is that Seal Beach has probably spent millions over the decades to replace sand due to beach erosion and flooding.

– Michael Dobkins

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November 21st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1913, the Guy M. Rush ran this ad in the Santa Ana Register reminding potential Seal Beach real estate buyers that a special Pacific Electric red car was leaving for Seal Beach (actually still named Bay City) the next morning at 9:30 a.m.

I have no idea what the yawning baby and “Little Seal Beachers” have to do with selecting a lot, but two bits got you a round trip and a lunch.

– Michael Dobkins

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November 20th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1928, The Santa Ana Register announced the first members of the newly established Seal Beach Junior Police. The new members were Jay Goade, Harry Scott, James Wheat, Junior Morris, Edward Howard, and Ellis Winterstein.

The Seal Beach Police force in 1929 with the Junior Police on the steps of the Seal Beach Elementary School (later renamed Mary E. Zoeter School). This is four years before the 1933 Long Beach earthquake damaged the school buildings. (Photo courtesy of Stan Berry)

Quoting Stan Berry from an earlier post about the Seal Beach Junior Police:

This is a 1929 group photo of the Seal Beach Police Department under the command of Chief A. G. Johnson. One of the programs that Chief Johnson was instrumental with was the organization of a juvenile police force of six (6) members.   These boys were chosen from their school because of the record  they held for trustworthiness, faithfulness to duty and the ability to work successfully with their schoolmates.  The duties of the juvenile police  were to protect little children at all times and to see that vacant property was not vandalized.  The boys met with the Chief each Saturday to discuss any problems.

The Seal Beach Junior Police badge (courtesy of Stan Berry)

– Michael Dobkins

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November 19th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1965, The Los Angeles Times reported that the Woman’s Club of Seal Beach was “the largest federated woman’s club in Orange District” with 579 members. The Tustin Area Woman’s Club took a close second place with more than 500 members.

The oddly constructed phrase, “largest federated woman’s club in Orange District” terminology is probably taken from the California Federation of Women’s Clubs which is divided into districts. One interesting note is the unnamed reporter cites Mrs. Robert Bidwell Jr., district president, and Mrs. Clyde G Reinoehl, club membership chairman in the story, but still made the mistake of claiming the Seal Beach club had only been organized two years before. The Woman’s Club of Seal Beach was formed in 1923, so he was only sixty years off.

Factually errors aside, the story was accompanied by this nifty photo highlighting one of the WCSB’s 1965 projects — the beautification of Seal Beach during its 50th anniversary year. Mrs. Hubert Taylor, dressed in 1915 garb, Mrs. James Facer, working the shovel, and Mrs. Leonard Flint, making an odd gesture with her hands, are shown about to plant a tree at J. H. McGaugh Intermediate School.

– Michael Dobkins

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November 18th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1914, the Santa Ana Register ran this lovely ad featuring more of cartoonist Howard DeKruif’s seals with eccentric anatomy. In this ad, the seals are gliding across the dance floor just like Seal Beach was “gliding right along.”

The ad exhorts the reader to “See the Seal Family. See the two beautiful still water bays. See the beautiful twin pavilion. Swim in the surf without an undertow.” This is all laid out in regular-sized type, but above that copy in larger type and capital letters is “SEE THE BIG HYDRAULIC DREDGER,” which must have really been something to see.

Also note that you could buy a lot 3 blocks from the sea for only $550.

– Michael Dobkins

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November 17th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1963, the Long Beach Independent ran a story about the new craze, folk music. In two mid-sized columns, the unnamed reporter covered the growing popularity of folk music on college campuses, Hootenanny, the ABC network’s musical variety show that featured many folk acts, and the perception of folk music as do-it-yourself music. The article quickly covers important figures in traditional folk music such as Leadbelly, John and Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, and The Weavers. The story even touches briefly on folk music’s subversive reputation.

While all that is interesting as a snapshot of folk music’s position in the mainstream culture in late 1963, it doesn’t really have anything to do with Seal Beach history except that the story was accompanied by this photo:

The caption for the photo confirms something about Seal Beach’s musical history that I’ve heard before so I’m going to quote it fully:

JOAN BAEZ, wears the long hair and high-necked female folk singer’s trademark costume. Miss Baez, not the example folk singer purists would point to as authentic, has built up a considerable following since strumming and singing in a Seal Beach coffee house some two and one-half years ago.

The coffee house in question is almost certainly the Rouge et Noir. If we count back that two and one-half years, Baez played on Main Street Seal Beach in May of 1961, give or take a few months.

In September 1963, Vanguard Records released her second LP album, imaginatively titled, “Joan Baez, Volume 2.” Here’s “Old Blue,” a song from that album. Perhaps Baez tested it on a Seal Beach audience in the Rouge et Noir some night over fifty years ago. 

On a unrelated note, I’ve occasionally griped here about how awful microfilm was as a medium for archiving newspapers and magazines. Please not the truly lousy quality of microfilmed photo above the quoted caption and then compare it to the actual image it taken from:

I hate microfilm.

– Michael Dobkins

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November 16th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1960 at 12:30 p.m, the drama group of both the Seal Beach Senior and Junior Woman’s Clubs of Seal Beach presented “Boudoir Memoirs,” a 15-act show of fictional and historical romances in the city hall auditorium as part of their annual “fun day” luncheon.

The Los Angeles Times wouldn’t even mention the women’s liberation movement until 1969, so it’s not too surprising that the players were listed thusly (L-R): Mrs. Donald L. Hadley as Cleopatra, Mrs. C. L. Smith as Caesar, and Mrs. Sven Lindstrom as Mark Antony

The show was directed Mrs. Walter Swift and Mrs. David Wolfe. The players were Mrs. Ken Birchard, Mrs. Sven Lindstrom, Mrs. Lester Davis, Mrs. Benny Rapp, Mrs. Allen Denton, Mrs. Bill Shafer, Mrs. Conrad Feierabend, Mrs. Leo Khury, Mrs. Arthur Berke, and Mrs. Claude Smith.

– Michael Dobkins

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November 15th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1958, a massive auction of earth-moving equipment from a completed Navy project was held at the site of the then-closed Airport Club.

Most locals remember or have heard about Seal Beach’s notorious gambling venue, the Airport Club.  Gambling was banned in Seal Beach in the early 1950s, and the Airport Club was closed, only to reincarnated itself as a music and dancing spot for teens called the Marina Palace in the 1960s until it was shut down in the 1970s.

Both business ventures and Bill Robertson, the owner of both the Airport Club and the Marina Palace, remain controversial for Seal Beach residents with long memories. Some remember Seal Beach’s gambling era and/or the musical hot spot with fond nostalgia, but others remain bitter at what they saw as corruption and behind-the-scenes ruthlessness that violated the values of Seal Beach’s residential community. 

What most people don’t recall is that between Airport Club era and the Marina Palace era, the site was used for other purposes, most notably a boat storage and sales facility.

And a Big! Cat! Auction! in 1958.

– Michael Dobkins


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November 14th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1962, John’s Men Shop ran the following ad ran in the Long Beach Independent. 

John’s Mens Shop was a long-running Long Beach business that opened in 1959 in the Los Altos Shopping Center and lasted into the 1980s with a location in the Marina Pacifica Mall. For a brief time in the early 1960s, John’s Men Shop had a store in Seal Beach at 322 Main Street. It had nothing to do with John’s Food King.

Also, props to the unknown copywriter and artist for finding a way to connect cablegrams with cable sweaters. That’s precisely the sort of whimsical wordplay one would expect from the “home of Tailoring by Umberto.”

ADDENDUM: Thanks to commenter Merle Asper, we know that Umberto is Umberto Autore, who opened Umberto’s Mens Wear across the street from the Los Altos Shopping Center in 1972. The Umberto’s web site leaves John’s Mens Shop out of Autore’s bio, but we’re too obsessive about trivial details about local history to not mention it.)

– Michael Dobkins

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