This was the Friday before the first opening summer weekend under the Seal Beach name, and the newly incorporated city was presented at its most ambitious and boldly confident in a number of articles, ads, illustrations, and photos in testament to Seal Beach’s bombastically bright future.
I’ll be reprinting those articles from each page in eight separate posts today with the ads, artwork, and illustrations (and eccentric spellings) on each page together in a single post. This post will feature transcribed news stories from the front page shown above.
I’d caution readers to take many of the claims and plans enthusiastically proclaimed in these stories for the new city with a grain of salt. Many plans fell through, and shameless exaggerations were just as much a marketing tool then as today.
Still, this material is the closest we’ll ever get to experiencing what it was like in 1916 when Seal Beach was a brand new city and anything seemed possible. Hyperbole and grandiose claims aside, the excitement was real.
We started by tagging along as Bert St. John gives Santa Ana Register reporter C. Julien Kadau a tour of the amusement zone along the beach.
A Pool to Catch Your Own Fish, “Homemade” Fireworks; Famous Scintellators Among Exhibits
by C. Julien Kadau.
I had to cross a long board walk to reach a large building: then pass over a slippery floor, climb a set of high steps, walk again some distance to reach a door which opened out onto a balcony, on the extreme end of which was built an office chamber. Entering the chamber I saw, at the south end, that a keen-eyed, determined-jawed, clean shaven man of perhaps fifty sat looking over some architectural plans, it was another forty feet to his desk.
With the little breath not lost getting to him, I asked:
“Are — you Mr. — St. John?”
“Yes, sir,” said the man right cheerfully and cordially. “Have a chair; you seem tired.” There was a hint of humor in the offer. I continued to breathe fast in an effort to catch up. After I had rested a bit Mr. St. John i asked:
“Well, sir, what can I do for you?”
“The editor sent me down to write up the town. I’m to get ALL the information — that’s why he sent me to you.”
Mr. St. John is resident manager of amusements at Seal Beach. Together with Frank Burt, who was director of concessions and admissions at the P. P. I. Exposition. He intends to make of it the most attractive resort this side of Coney Island. To know the man even slightly makes one feel he has it in him to accomplish anything he might undertake.
THE TOUR BEGINS
After a few brief remarks Mr. St. John reached for his cap and we wore off.
It was a full five minute walk to the first concession at the end of the north front. As we walked along the manager said:
“This cement walk, called Seal Way, is thirty-five feet wide and four thousand long — four-fifths of a mile.”
At the extreme south end, several blocks away, I could see the cement workers laying the last few hundred feet.
THE AEROPLANE HANGARS
We had reached the north end.
“The aeroplanes in yonder shed are to have a permanent home here, known as the Aeroplane Hangars.” began Mr. St. John. “Amusement demonstrating as well as passenger-carrying planes will be maintained and flights made at regular intervals by experienced and careful aviators. A training school will also be conducted, and it is the aim of The Jewel City Amusement Co., the concessionaires, to have a U. S. army official detailed as chief instructor. The aeroplane will play a prominent part in our opening day program.”
WELL KNOWN AIRMEN
At this moment we were interrupted by a loud rattling.
“There goes Christofferson now for a test flight,” pointed out the manager as a plane swooped gracefully into the air.
“Then some of the planes have already arrived?” I asked.
“Oh yes. Christofferson has been here for some time. Earl Dougherty, Chas. Newcomb and Herb Hogan are other airmen whose services the Jewel City Amusement Co. have secured. They will arrive just as soon as the hangars are constructed. We propose to amuse people on land, on water and in the air.”
THE AMMUNITION PLANT
Again we were interrupted. This time by a loud report.
High in the air I could see the blue and white fumes of powder.
“Christofferson fire that?” I asked.
“No,” laughed Mr. St. John, “that came from the little building you see to the northeast; in other words, from our own ammunition and fireworks plant.”
“Preparedness measures, eh?”
“No, sir!” said Mr. St. John with strong feeling. “We don’t believe in war. We stand for life; a full and continual enjoyment of it to the end. That ammunition plant is for the sole purpose of manufacturing our own display fireworks. The men are testing some home-made skyrockets now.”
FREE PICNIC GROUNDS
We had started on our return and stopped before an enclosure of lattice work, painted in restful green.
“This is our free picnic grounds,” began Mr. St. John. “It is for families, and for those preferring to bring their own lunch baskets.”
We stepped on the inside. Neat tables, benches and chairs were set about in a space large enough to accommodate over five hundred people.
“And if those coming here desire coffee, milk or refreshments they can get them at the picnic price of five cents,” emphasized the manager, and then added: “Vines are to be grown along the lattice work, making of the grounds a beautiful arbor, all of which we are trusting will add to the coolness and enjoyment of pleasure seekers.”
WHERE MOST OF US EAT
Our next stop was before a large building alongside the pier. Entering, Mr. St. John said, “this is Rathskellers, or the place where the basket picnickers will want to eat. The Chantant Cafe, more exclusive in nature, is upstairs.”
“Let’s go up at once.” I suggested, knowing I would see enough of Rathskellers anyhow.
CHANTANT — SOMETHING NEW
The entrance to the Chantant is on a level with the pier.
“You’ve heard of J. W. Miller’s sunset dinners. I presume?” asked the manager; “they’re famous in New York and Denver.”
I answered, “Um, hum!” which is neither an affirmation nor a denial.
“Well, Mr Miller is the manager of The Chantant. The feature here will be a pool of water in the center where patrons may catch a fish and have it As cooked to suit on the spot. Another idea of Mr. Miller’s is to have a supply of table percolators on hand — for the ladies who prefer to make their own coffee.
“Now let me show you the kitchen.”
As we entered I noticed at once that special attention had been given to sanitary features. But the score of details and the enormous size of the brick ovens amazed me.
“What is the cost of installing such a kitchen?”
“About thirty thousand,” was the answer.
“The Chantant is no place for a man who writes for a living.” and I decamped to the next building, which was on the opposite side of the pier.
OLD BATH-HOUSE ENLARGED
It was the old bath-house, but entirely remodelled. The dancing floor is now one of the largest in Southern California. Below, bathing suits and other facilities have been added sufficient to accommodate 3000 bathers.
Fronting Ocean Avenue on the north of the pier is a large building de- and exclusively to billiards and bowling. The equipment is the very latest of land the floors are gems.
To the south of the pier is the new racing coaster. Mr. St. John called particular attention to its size.
“This Derby has a track nearly a mile long. I do not know of a longer in the country. It has been made just as thrilling and exciting as pleasure seekers can stand.”
We descended the stairway again and continued south along Seal Way.
“Here will be erected The Carroussel,” began my guide, “which we also brought down from San Francisco. It is so much better than the common Merry-go-Round that it was renamed. This is the exhibit which won the Grand Prix over all riding devices.”
“No amusement place would do without a merry-go-round,” I agreed.
We came to a large white, neatly painted stand with a lot of tables and chairs set about, also painted white. It was a cool, shady-looking sort of a place.
“Come in out of-the sun,” shouted a man who stood behind the counter. We entered “The Ocean Wave or Orange Blossom Candy Booth.” (It goes by both names.)
“Let me make you acquainted with Mr. Kaneen,” said Mr. St. John.
That part over I asked:
“What have you here, Mr. Kaneen?”
Proudly and eagerly the concessionaire answered: “Here’s where we make the great Salt Water Taffy,” and then added with emphasis on famous, “without which the San Francisco Exposition never could have become famous.”
“And that’s a fact,” chipped in St. John.
Mr. Kaneen then dwelt at length on his candy kitchen equipment the cost of which exceeded $7000, a large sum for a candy kitchen, indeed. The kitchen is visible from every corner of the Ocean Wave, so that patrons may watch the process of candy making.
R. W. Kaneen and John J. Doyle, who run the Ocean Wave, are former owners of the Orange Blossom Candy Shop in San Francisco, which place has a reputation.
The concession next the Ocean Wave is occupied by Cairo, the Palmist.
“We also brought Cairo down with us,” explained Mr. St. John. “He is descended from three generations of famous palmists and carries about him an oriental air all his own. He is likewise a well educated man, a master of languages and philosophy.
“His reputation at San Francisco grew with leaps and bounds.”
Cairo’s is the last concession on the south ocean front and we turned to go back. Mr. St. John had something else on his mind and stopped. Waving his arm over the ocean he said:
“Our greatest concession lies before your vision. Though we pay nothing to operate it we take from it much revenue. Without it we would have no better reason for asking people to visit Seal Beach than others have for visiting their beaches. Also, without it I do not believe we would have come here.”
“You refer to the boasted absence of undertows and tide-rips?”
“That is not a boast,” corrected Mr. St. John, “it is an absolute fact; and there is a reason for it.”
“You mean the hays on either side of Seal Beach?”
“Precisely,” he answered.
The natives corroborate that what the bather trembles at is wholly absent at Seal Beach. It is true that other beaches boast the same, but here they do not hesitate to wade you right out and prove it.
Somehow the breezes do blow gentler and the waves, broken by Alamitos and Anaheim bays, do creep in softly and smoothly.
When I first arrived at Seal Beach I was attracted to a battery of lights erected on the end of the pier. We could see them distinctly from where we stood. In answer to my question Mr. St. John said:
“Those are the scintillators, which were located on the water front at the Exposition. We purchased them intact and installed them here. It is difficult j to explain the spectacular colored lighting effect produced by this battery of lamps. I will give you a cut made from a photograph taken at night when they were lighted, but 1 am afraid that printed in black ink, it will not give your readers much of an idea.
“The better thing to do is to ask them to look into the heavens toward Seal Beach. The brilliant rays will be visible from any distance within forty or fifty miles.”
Seal Beach reminds one very much of Long Beach. The health giving sulphur water and the unique smelling hamburger booths are there. Both of which are bright indications that it will grow as rapidly as has its sister city to the north. Already Seal Beach is growing at a rate defying the speed laws.
But there is another strong factor in the growth of this amusement place — it is the only resort in Orange county. It belongs to Santa Ana, Orange, Anaheim, Fullerton and the other cities of the richest county in California — from an agricultural standpoint.
With a glass boulevard leading to Seal Beach from each of these places, a substantial patronage is assured from the more than 60,000 Orange county people, many of whom have been waiting eagerly for this home playground.
The next article was a rundown on the merchants plying their trades in 1916’s Seal Beach.
PROSPERITY IN EVIDENCE IN THE BUSINESS SECTION
The business section of Seal Beach is rapidly expanding. Several new .business blocks are in process of construction.
Among the merchants are the following: M. M. Litten, formerly of Santa Ana, is now proprietor of the Seal Beach Furniture Co. He makes a specialty of renting and selling low-priced furniture to resort visitors. He also rents tents to those who are strong for outdoor life.
Recently Mr. Litten has added a full line of paints.
The dry goods store you see on Main street, just off Ocean avenue, is Henry Anderson’s. Mr. Anderson has had a wide experience in his line. Visiting ladies need not truck along a supply of crocheting and tatting yarn. Anderson carries a well-stocked line of fancy work material. Men’s furnishings may also be had here. But the specialty of the store is Beach Apparel.
The A. B. Snow Lumber Company, M. H. Snow, manager, is doing a rushing business these days. Its yards are located just off the foot of Main street, or, to be exact, at Sixth and Electric.
Mr. Snow’s slogan is “Buy your building material at home,” and to this extent has stocked up with all that is required for building, namely, lumber,lime, cement, roofing, beaver board,etc..
O. O. Richardson, of Richardson’s Grocery, claims to be the first merchant in town. When he came to Seal Beach his store was a sort of general place where everything could be bought from matches to fire engines. As the city grew, Mr. Richardson gradually cut down his lines. Today he carries groceries exclusively and operates one of the busiest stores in town.
Everybody knows Walter Stortz, the plumber. The big sign over his shop cap be seen from any part of town and for some distance before you get to town.
Stortz is the only plumber there, and the building rush keeps him on the hum continually. A quiet fellow personally is Stortz, and a hard worker.
C. A. Little, owner of the Seal Beach Pharmacy, officer of the Chamber of Commerce and member of the Automobile Club of America, is a man of wide experience in his line. He was one of the first merchants in town, and has developed a busy drug store. Mr. Little carries a full line of beach comforts in addition to drugs and cigars.
The Seal Beach Garage, A. J. Morris, proprietor, is located at the foot of Main street. Mr. Morris has had ample experience in the automobile business. His assistants, likewise, are expert machine men.
Mr. Morris insists a garage is the place to leave you car — “safety first” — and keeps his place open almost continually.
J. J. Mottel, who operates the large and handsome undertaking establishment at Long Beach, has opened a branch at Seal Beach. Because of the nearness of these two places Mr. Mottel is able to give practically the same efficient service at Seal Beach as he does at Long Beach.
His offices are run in conjunction with the Seal Beach Furniture Co. A speedy ambulance service is a feature of the establishment.
Deveney and Rogers are the big teaming contractors of Seal Beach. They have seventeen teams in operation, and haul anything anybody wants hauled to or from any place desired.
Incidentally, it may be mentioned that seventeen teams in a city the size of Seal Beach indicates things are moving.
The Royal Dairy, soon to be opened by Chas. McAllister, will be all that the name implies, and more. Mr. McAllister is a versatile sort of business man. He expects to make the best ice cream in Seal Beach, and to specialize to the pint and quart trade, both wholesale and retail.
The Seal Beach agency for the Huntington Beach Ice and Cold Storage Co. I belongs to McAllister.
Seal Beach Dye Works, T. J. Fox, proprietor, specializes in French dry and steam cleaning. Mr. Fox is soon to move into a large new location, where he can serve patrons in the most approved style. He is a man of long experience, and the type of business man any community ought to be proud of.
Mr. Fox also operates an alterion and repairing establishment in conjunction with his cleaning and dyeing store.
In addition to the above mentioned merchants there are two grocery stores and a small restaurant in the Seal Reach business district.
The third and final story on the front story focuses on the incredible growth that Seal Beach was supposedly experiencing in 1916.
PHENOMENAL IS GROWTH OF SEAL BEACH
The growth of Seal Beach has been phenomenal. At this writing the population is 1200. At the next it may be double, taking into consideration the extensive improvements completed and those planned, and the character of entertainment offered at the beach front.
The fame of Seal Beach may spread far and wide during the next six months, and estimates of population one year hence are but guesses at best.
As a Home Place
Aside from the extravagant amusement features, Seal beach is an ideal place for a home. For one, it is beautifully located. There is a commanding view of the ocean. Alamitos Bay on the north and Anaheim Bay on the southeast.
For the growing of ornamental shrubbery the soil is just as rich as one finds throughout the back country of Orange County. It is a sandy loam.
Seal Beach is easily and conveniently reached from all parts of Southern California, either by electric line or by way of the improved county boulevard. The distance from Santa Ana is sixteen miles; from Los Angeles twenty-six.
Seal Beach is protected from the danger of high tides, or tidal waves. Very little damage was done by the terrific storms of last winter, when neighboring resorts suffered large losses. To insure complete safety the Bay Side Land Company has had constructed a special breakwater along the entire front of Seal Way, some four thousand feet.
The waters are free from the treacherous undertow, feared by bathers. This happy condition is caused by Alamitos and Anaheim bays on either side, which cause the tides to break while they are yet some distance out and to flow in almost as “still” currents.
The bays also offer an ideal place for canoeing, sailing, rowing, boating, and swimming. Anaheim Bay is four miles long and has some ten miles of navigable water. Shell fish are plentiful, such as oysters, cockles, scallops, soft shell and butterfly clams.
And that was just the first page. Check out the other seven June 9th This Date in Seal Beach history post. There are more ads, photos, and illustrations to enjoy.
– Michael Dobkins
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