July 21st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1932 at 12:55 a.m., a southbound Pacific Electric interurban train struck a man and woman on a curve between Seal Beach and the Surfside Colony. Depending on which newspaper account you read, the couple was either sitting on or walking along the tracks when the accident occurred. 

This aerial photo taken on May 30, 1931 shows how the Pacific Electric tracks curve just after the Anaheim Bay bridge and then again as they approach the Surfside Colony. Either curve could be the location of the accident.

The Pacific Electric motorman, Lee Marshall, and conductor J. E. Beardsley told investigators they stopped when they saw what appeared to be a box on the tracks, only to discover the couple. Due to the early morning hour, the only other witnesses were the passengers in the street car.

The male victim was Jay P. Bassett, a 37 year old meat cutter, a prominent member of the Long Beach post of the American Legion and the father of three children. He was taken to the Long Beach Community Hospital where he died from a fractured skull at 2:30 a.m.. He never regained consciousness.

The woman was killed instantly and remained unidentified for hours at Dixon’s Chapel in Huntington Beach. She was described as approximately 25 years of age, well-dressed and wearing a dark brown coat and tan-colored dress, and having beautiful red hair. One newspaper couldn’t resist sharing that her body had been broken, with one foot completely severed and the other foot almost cut off, and that death was probably caused by a jagged hole in her skull.

Blood and gore sells newspapers.

She was identified later that night as Eloise Wilson at Dixon’s chapel by her ex-husband, Harry H. Wilson, and her 18 year old daughter, Marguerite, who fainted when she saw her mother.  Eloise was actually 43 years-0ld and the mother of four.

No reporter from any of the newspapers covering the accident bothered to report how Jay’s wife, Isabelle, reacted to the news and details of her husband’s death.

 Two days later, Coroner Earl Abbey’s jury exonerated Marshall and Beardsley of any wrong doing.

Whatever circumstances brought Jay and Eloise together on that last night of their lives, they’ve been kept separated in the years since. Jay is buried in the Long Beach Municipal Cemetery, and Eloise’s final resting place is in the Westminster Memorial Park. 

courtesy of findagrave.com

courtesy of findagrave.com

 – Michael Dobkins

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