Faces in the Crowd

Fridays on The Pier – 1920

The Seal Beach pier has been a favorite subject for photographers throughout its 95 years of history.  Every Friday between now and the end of the Seal Beach Founders Celebration, we’ll be posting an image of the pier.

Here’s a beach level view you don’t see too often of the Jewel City Cafe from the east side on the pier in the early afternoon, judging by the shadows.  Something just off-camera seems to be catching the attention of most of the crowd in the lower left corner, but we’ll never know what it was.

There’s a couple interesting details to note in this photograph.  First is that there’s a sign inside the entry structure to the pier with an illustrated hand pointing to the “BALL ROOM.”

Some sort of a concession has been set up under the stairs for “EXPRESS MOVING.” I’ve tried to make out the rest of the words on the sign, but I just can’t.  Whatever it was, it was busy enough to justify having two guys working the counter.

But for me, the most intriguing aspect of this image is the people.  When we blow up the photos to get a closer look at the individuals, you can discern little touches of personality in each person — even when the image is a little blurry.  Like this couple sitting on a bench up on the pier.  Is he saluting the photographer or pulling his hat down to avoid being recognized?  She seems calm and unflappable.  Also, that’s one great mustache.

Next to the couple is a young woman and child.  If you walk down the pier today, you’ll see at least one kid like this leaning over the rail that’s too tall for them.

Bored with each other?  Bored with the beach?  Who knows?  One thing is obvious.  They are not having a good time.

On the ground below the pier, the crowd faces away from us, but I like this gentleman’s cap and those big hands behind his back.  And look at the detail on her dress and collar.

This fellow is eying the photographer with a hard to read expression.  Note the watch chain hooked to his lapel.  None of those sissy wristwatches for this guy.

Behind him is this spitfire with her hands on her hips.  I get the impression you would not want to get into an argument with her.  What is she thinking?  Women finally got the vote in 1920, and I’d like to believe that she was the type of woman who once she got to vote never missed an election for the rest of her life. 

Maybe I’m projecting.

And finally, this little girl peers out from an oblivious crowd directly at the photographer and at us from ninety years ago.  All this from one snapshot moment in 1920.

That’s all for this week.  Have a great weekend, and be sure to check back each week for more historical photos and stories of Seal Beach.
– Michael Dobkins

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3 Responses to Faces in the Crowd

  1. Gina Warner says:

    Mike, your blog and pictures are fantastic, but I especially enjoyed your commentary.


  2. Beth Yates says:

    The little girl in the last blow up shot is my great aunt, I do believe. Her name was Gladys Coalson and I have her diary from when she was about 8. It’s from Sept. 1916. She talks about coming down to Seal Beach from Huntington Park with her papa and family and going on the rides and watching the “aeroplane”. I have a photo of her and her sister in a dress and hat just like this… anyway, I like to think it’s her 🙂

    Beth Yates


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