Now They’re Just More Bricks in The Wall

Images of The Week

Seal Beach Elementary School – March 11, 1933

Thus far, March has brought Seal Beach tsunami warnings, flooding, destroyed piers, and now earthquakes.

77 years ago this Wednesday, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook Southern California at 5:54 P.M., killing 115 people and bringing an estimated 40 million dollars of damages and destruction to homes, businesses, buildings and roads.

The heaviest damage was in Long Beach, but Seal Beach was also hit hard on Main Street and, as you can see below in these photographs taken the day after the earthquake, at Seal Beach Elementary School, later renamed Mary E. Zoeter School.



One of the gentlemen surveying the damage in the third picture is Seal Beach school district superintendent, Jerome Hickman McGaugh, one of the truly great personages of Seal Beach history.

McGaugh went to Sacramento and successfully lobbied for funds to rebuild Zoeter school.  Bricks from the damaged buildings were used to build a brick wall around the rebuilt school, and it still stands around the Zoeter property today.

Blowing up a portion of a 1931 aerial photo doesn’t give us many details, but it does offer a glimpse of the pre-earthquake layout of Zoeter school.

Shifting tectonic plates couldn’t shut down Zoeter School, but dwindling student enrollment in the 1990s lead to the grades being consolidated at J. H McGaugh School (named after you know who), and Zoeter’s administrative offices were then converted to retail use, leaving the playground for recreational use.  In 2007, the remaining empty Zoeter classrooms were razed due to asbestos concerns.  The asbestos-free Sun-N-Fun Preschool classroom at 12th Street and Landing Avenue is now the only part of the property still used for education.

Time permitting, I’ll share some more photos of earthquake destruction in Seal Beach (and perhaps an ironic tale of Seal Beach’s sinful past) later this week.

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.

– Michael Dobkins

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2 Responses to Now They’re Just More Bricks in The Wall

  1. Lynne Pranter Phipps says:

    Zoeter School who was named after Mary Zoeter and was Seal Beach Elementary School when I went there. I was born in Long beach, but only due to the lack of a hospital in Seal Beach. We lived behind the bleachers on 10th St on the alley between 11th and 10th at 316 1/2 10th St. My mother Norma Reed Pranter also grew up in Seal beach from 1919 until her death in 1998. My Grand parents Everett and Jessie Reed had the Tent City on Ocean Av near 13th St. I have fond memories of growing up there.


    • Lynne,

      Thank you for reminding me of the earlier name. I’ve received some additional materials about the school, and I’ll correct the name when I update this entry some time in May.

      Take Care,
      Mike Dobkins


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