December 30th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1926, Parry’s Cafe advertised a special New Year’s Eve program of dining, dancing, and entertainment in the Santa Ana Register. It would be the last time this business would advertise.

Parry’s Cafe’s launch started out auspiciously enough with a grand opening earlier in the year with a grand opening on June 10th and two pre-launch nights of radio broadcasts on Long Beach’s radio station KFON featuring the Knickerbocker Orchestra and other Parry’s Cafe acts.

The Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted the July meeting of the Associated Chamber of Commerce of Orange County at Parry’s Cafe on July 29th, so the future must have looked rosy to cafe owner George Parry headed towards the end of the summer season in 1926.

And then city politics got in the way. The details are hazy and contemporary sources are vague, but a recall movement against city trustees R.E. Dolley, J.O. Hohn, and C.O. Wheat was initiated due to extravagant use of public money, removal of city employees to hire non-residents in the now vacant positions, and holding secret meetings and “steam rolling tactics” in regular meetings.

Parry seemed to be in the middle of the recall or perhaps he joined it when the council passed an ordnance to raise cafe fees and prohibit music and dancing after midnight. Either way, on two petitions were filed with the city on October 22. The first petition asked for a special recall election, and the second petition was for a referendum election on the ordnance.

At the same council meeting, Marshall Foster submitted a report of the number of arrests made at Parry’s Cafe, and that the cafe’s license be revoked. Parry countered that the report was retaliation for his allowing recall petitions to circulated at his cafe, and that many of the arrests in the report occurred in the vicinity of the cafe, but not actually in the cafe itself.

For the rest of the year, recall supporters, Parry, and the city government were locked in a tactical battle to get the special election held. Burr Brown, the city attorney, decided the petitions weren’t valid on technicalities and recommended that they be filed without action. The recall election and Parry’s Cafe losing its license without due process became matters for the courts. In the meantime, Parry’s Cafe continued to operate throughout December in spite of the council’s efforts shut it down.  Optimistically, the cafe promoted Christmas Eve and Christmas entertainments and advertised for New Year’s reservations.

Finally a special election was held on January 7th, 1927. The recall failed, the city trustees kept their seats, and Parry failed to get the dancing and music ordnance revoked. By January 20th, George Parry gave up legal efforts to prevent the city from interfering from his business and decided to shut down his cafe.

– Michael Dobkins

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