March 5th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1948, the Long Beach Independent ran this photo from the “Seal Beach navy and ammunition depot” with the explanation that it was not a missile. It was actually a 4000 gallon cylindrical tank that had been mocked up with a faux missile head and used the rear of a caboose for a tail. The tank had been installed on a flatbed railroad car to be pulled by a diesel locomotive along the 55 miles of track in the depot, spraying waste petroleum to kill weeds on and along the tracks.

There had been a contest on the base to name the tank, and Peggy Rickard, secretary to ordnance officer Lt. J.H. Kelly, submitted the winning name. And thus the tank was dubbed “Miss Hush.”

There was a later Long Beach Independent story on Miss Hush in May 1957. This time Miss Hush was referred to as a “W-Bomb.” She was still being used on the railroad, but was now used as a water tank held in reserve to prevent intentionally set weed-burning fires from spreading beyond the tracks. Curiously, no one in 1957 remembered the origin of Miss Hush, but the favored theory was that she was built for display during World War II.

As a side note to this story, it should be mentioned “Miss Hush” was a 1947 pop culture reference that will be lost on modern readers.

Long before it was a television game show, Truth or Consequences was a popular radio show during the forties. One of its more successful contests was the 1945-46 Mr. Hush campaign. A secret celebrity would whisper clues to his identity in doggerel. It was five weeks before a contestant correctly identified Mr. Hush as Jack Dempsey. A follow-up contest ran from January to March in 1947 with new prizes added each week Mrs. Hush was not named. Finally former silent film star Clara Bow was finally identified as Mrs. Hush.

The final hush contest ran in the last two months of 1947 and ended with Miss Hush being revealed as dancer Martha Graham. It seems a safe guess that Peggy Rickard was remembering the recent Miss Hush campaign when she submitted her name for the contest at the base.

– Michael Dobkins

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