On this date in 1924, the city of Seal Beach was to launch the summer season with a weekend celebration starting with a Friday night Grunion Dance, according to May 28 reports in both the Santa Ana Register and the Los Angeles Times. The night of June 6 was pinpointed by an almanac mentioned in both stories that predicted high tides and the arrival of a grunion run.
It didn’t happen that night.
As announced in those May 28 reports, Seal Beach’s Boosters’ Club planned to hire a brass band to arrival of grunions on the shore. Bonfires would would be lit, free marshmallows would be distributed, and a fun Friday night would be had by all but the grunions captured by beachgoers to be cooked and eaten.
Grunions are two species of fish found off the California coast from Baja to Point Conception. They are slender, tiny fish with silver sides and bellies. From March through August, grunions spawn for a few hours on nights after a full or new moon by swimming as far as possible on high tide waves up on the sandy shores of California beaches. Without getting into the specific details, male and female grunions mate, leaving eggs buried in the sand before returning to the water minutes later. This is known as a grunion run.
Consider a grunion run for a moment from a grunion’s point of view. You’re about to have the time of your life and fulfill your biological destiny when suddenly large creatures grab you and you get eaten. The human equivalent would be if a couple who had just paired up in a singles bar was grabbed and devoured by a great white shark in the parking lot on their way home to get lucky.
So one cannot really blame grunions for not being punctual.
In 1924, a predicted grunion in May run didn’t happen. Thousands of people with sacks showed up on Southern California beaches, but the grunions stayed in the water, perhaps exchanging the fishy equivalent of abstinence rings.
Come early June, the predicted June 6 grunion run was adjusted for one date earlier at 10:30 pm on Thursday, June 5th.
According to the June 7 Santa Ana Register, early in the evening, a mock wedding party left the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and made its way to Seal Beach. At the border, the party was met by the Seal Beach Mayor and city council and escorted to a raised platform at Central Avenue and Main Street where Miss Sealette Beach and Mr. L. Beach were married by Judge G. R. Morrison. This was a purely symbolic act commemorating the good will and co-operation between the two cities.
The bride, played by Miss Elsie McClellan, “wore a lovely gown of orange and black, with an elaborate veil of lemon chiffon, pinned by orange blossoms symbolic of Orange County.” The groom, played by W. E. Mellinger, wore black.
The best man was J. A. Armitage of Huntington Beach, and the matron of honor was Mrs. Walter Hilliker of Seal Beach. Flower girls were Seal Beach pupils and members of Miss Doris Greenwald’s dance class. Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Armstrong played the father and mother of the bride, and representatives from various beach cities were the maids of honor.
After the ceremony, the wedding party moved down to the pier where three minute talks were given by local and visiting officials. Then the amusement zone boardwalk was transformed into a dance floor with Glenda Boston Smith’s orchestra providing music at one end of the boardwalk and an unnamed boys band at the other.
Thousands of free marshmallows were handed out by a committee of Seal Beach women. Thousands of grunions also showed up in what was described as “one of the best runs of the season.” Reportedly hundreds of Seal Beach visitors left with bags of fish, and one assumes that a larger percentage of romantic and randy grunions successfully made woo and then escaped with their lives.
So Thursday’s celebrations probably continued into the early morning of June 6th, and the participants probably spent the rest of the day resting and recovering from the event, no doubt to be ready for the upcoming weekend.
– Michael Dobkins
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