Chocolates, Ciggies & Cheroots

Image of The Week

Seal Beach Joy Zone – August 3rd, 1916

This intriguing little photograph shows a rare close view of the The Joy Zone with a man standing in front of two concession windows. This is probably late in the afternoon, judging by the shadows.  In the background, there is a glimpse of the four month old Derby roller coaster midpoint along the right hand edge.

These concession windows were located near what is now the center of the pier’s east parking lot.  They were housed in a wooden building immediately east of of the dance pavilion as shown in this postcard.  This building didn’t last long.  It had already been demolished by the time a 1921 aerial shot of Seal Beach was taken.


The actual size for the original photograph for this image measures only 1.33 inches by 1.9 inches.  This is much too small to allow even a viewer with the sharpest of eyes to discern many details.  Thanks to the wonders of modern technology however, this  image can be scanned at a high resolution and blown up to reveal details that would have been once been impossible to see in such a small damaged photograph.  Thank you, modern technology!

A minor but interesting detail is the light bulbs underneath the awning fore each concession window, indicating that this building was wired for electrical power and the concessions could remain open after sundown to serve the night time crowds.  One hopes they only had to stay open nights during the summer and off season weekends because the beach could get mighty chilly and lonesome during the winter.

A closer look at the the window on the right reveals that this concession was a game of chance.  Inside the window, rectangular boxes of chocolate are stacked at an angle.  A banner reads:



If anyone reading this is an ex-carny, let us know what this game was and how it would work.

Here’s an indication of how much times have changed in the past 94 years.  In 1916, tobacco were sold right on the beach.  The concession window on the right specialized in cigars and cigarettes.  Non-smoking beach goers can sigh a deep breath of relief.

Inside the cigar and cigarette shop,  advertisements for Fatima and Obak brand cigarettes can be seen.  Before bubblegum companies licensed baseball cards, brands like Fatima and Obak included baseball cards in their cigarette packs.

A tin sign advertising London Life Turkish Cigarettes has been installed just on the edge of the cigarette shops window.  Ironically, this brand was manufactured neither in Turkey or England, but in New Jersey.

Here a color picture of the same tin from an eBay auction in 2008.  Tally ho!

And finally, a larger image also reveals that there are actually two men in this photograph.  We can now see a clerk behind the counter next to what is now an antique cash register.  It looks like he is reaching into the glass counter display case for whatever high quality tobacco product his discerning customer in the jaunty cap has just chosen.

Imagine the world these two gents lived in.  Judging by their looks, they were both old enough to be born in the nineteenth century. The Wright Brothers had first flown at Kitty Hawk only thirteen years earlier.  The last war the United States had fought had been the Spanish American War in 1898.  The Civil War was still within living memory, and these two men probably were acquainted with old but still living Civil War veterans.  The Boy Scouts of America had just incorporated.  The Saturday Evening Post ran its first Norman Rockwell cover in 1916.  Monet had started painting water lilies in January.  And the Chicago Cubs played their first game in what would later be known as Wrigley Field. (And they won!)

Three months after this photo was taken, President Wilson would be re-elected as a man of peace committed to keeping the U.S. out of the European war.  In early 1917, Germany introduced a new policy of unrestricted submarine warfare that also targeted neutral ships, and American finally entered the war.  Would either of these two men fight “over there” in European trenches?

Three years later in August 1920, American women would finally get the vote.  The twenties would bring flappers, the Volstead act, the rising popularity of that wild sinful jazz music, talking movies, broadcast radio networks, and Wall Street boom times.  And, ultimately, quite a few years in the future, laws that prohibited smoking in public places.

But for the “now” in the moment of this 1916 photo, all of that existed only as possibility.  One can’t help wondering how these two men, names lost to history, would feel about all the changes their future would soon bring.

We’ll share more historical pictures and photos of Seal Beach as the year progresses.   Be sure to check back every Monday for a new Seal Beach image.

Bookmark and Share– Michael Dobkins

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