Looking Closer at Main Street

Main Street Mondays – 1917

Main Street in Seal Beach  has been a favorite subject for photographers throughout its 95 years of history.  Every Monday between now and the end of the Seal Beach Founders Celebration, we’ll be posting a different image of Main Street.

click on the image for a larger view

This is probably my favorite historical photo of Seal Beach for a number of reasons.  Firstly, this was the photograph I first blew up in Adobe Photoshop to discover new details not immediately apparent at the original size.  The wealth of information waiting to be discovered in this image was enthralling, and I became obsessed with collecting more historical Seal Beach images and using computer imaging to uncover more hidden secrets and connections in each photo.  Looking closer became my mantra for this new hobby.

For example, this photograph was undated when I first encountered it while I was editing the Seal Beach Historical Society’s newsletter. Judging by the vintage automobiles, it’s obviously from the teens, but pinpointing an exact year seems impossible.  However, if one takes a closer look at the billboard behind the parked cars on the right:

click on the image for a larger view

“Your country needs your help!” narrows this down to after the United States had entered World War I, but the “Sunday July 15” allows us to check a calendar to find a specific year in the teens when July 15th was on a Sunday.  So we can now date this photograph to some time in the Summer of 1917.

That’s not all.  The billboard is also advertising dancing, a fireworks display, and the scintillators, the spotlight display which were installed on the end of the pier (we’ll reveal more about those in the next few weeks).  The mention of the “Screen Beauties Bather’s Parade” connects this billboard with another famous Seal Beach photograph from panorama photographer Miles Weaver:

click on the image for a larger view

It looks like the parade ended at Anaheim Landing where all these winsome misses posed for a photo-op in front of the Anaheim Landing Bowling Alley.

Moving on from the billboard, let’s take a closer look at some of the details on the left side of the image:

There’s this building with some sort of odd metal work on top.  When we flip the image:

We now see that the metal signage spells out “Lodge Cafe” to advertise the business to motorists and pedestrians at the other end of Main Street.  Here’s a couple of postcards for the Lodge Cafe:

A wildly inaccurate view of Main Street obviously draw by someone who had never actually visited the location or seen a photograph of the building.  I love all the trees and how Long Beach and Wilmington have been artistically removed from the landscape between Seal Beach and San Pedro.

Here’s a more accurate view of the interior of the Lodge Cafe showing the dining tables and the dancing floor.

When we move up closer to the foreground on the left side of the image, we see a business that was also featured in the background of the photo from last Friday’s post:

The Seal Beach Pharmacy once filled the storefront that Clancy’s Saloon now occupies.  In 1917’s Seal Beach, it was your one stop shopping destination when you needed drugs, ice, Kodak film, Coca Cola, and a scale to weigh yourself to see if you were trim enough for the next screen beauties bather’s parade.

Judging by the flags flapping above, it seems like it was a windy day when this photo was taken. Is the women being escorted by the gentleman is holding her hat to prevent it from being blown off?  Or perhaps she is camera-shy and doesn’t want her face captured on film?

Along the bottom of this close up, you can see two grooves in the road, which leads us to our last magnification of this Main Street image:

Saving the best for last, this is one of the three images showing a Pacific Electric red car traveling down Main Street that I’ve been able to find after years of searching.  Those two grooves were actually the trolley tracks for the trolley.

– Michael Dobkins

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7 Responses to Looking Closer at Main Street

  1. Libby Appelgate says:

    That is a big hill in the background. Isaias Hellman owned this piece of property. That is why “the hill” residents call it that but several feet were carved off when the developers built the homes. I am surprised at how much by the looks of this photo.


  2. D Asahina says:

    Based on the appearance of the the image on its fuel tank and discernible engine features, the parked motorcycle that is on the right side of this photo appears to be an Excelsior, much like the one in the following photo:


    • Thanks, D Asahina. I’ve been looking at this photo for at fifteen years (it’s actually my desktop background), and I’ve been taking it for granted that there’s nothing new to learn about this photograph. Nice to know I was wrong.

      Hmm. Where was the closest Excelsior dealer was to Seal Beach in 1917?


  3. D Asahina says:

    First, thank you for posting the photo. I truly enjoyed reading your article and examining the photo details. Studying historic photos, especially of familiar places, to discover something worthwhile is a favorite pastime of mine.

    Figuring out the location of the closest Excelsior seller would be terrific. Long Beach, being the nearest big city with its big city needs and big city resources, would be my first guess.


  4. D Asahina says:

    Here’s a photo looking up Main St. circa early 1970s:
    Seal Beach Main Street early 1970s


  5. Larry Bourland says:

    Any chance you have any 60’s photos of Dave’s Place hamburger stand at the corner of Seal Way and Dolphin St. ? Or the surf may rental space under the pier? I can’t find any and it would complete my hometown photo album.
    Many regards,


    • Michael Dobkins says:

      Sorry,Larry. I don’t have any photos of either. Some months ago, I think someone shared a photo of Dave’s Place on one of the Seal Beach pages on Facebook, but I couldn’t find it again. Perhaps you can contact the folks at Dave’s Other Place on PCH ((562) 596-2833) to see if they have any photos of the other location.


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