Special Thanks to Our Sponsors

My sincerest gratitude to all the people have donated to this project so far. Here’s the current list of the This Date in Seal Beach sponsors. I’ll add more sponsor names as donation come in.
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This Date in Seal Beach History will return in 2024

This Date in Seal Beach History
(AKA The Seal Beach Founders blog)
January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2019

Thank you for a decade of your comments, questions, and interest. It’s been a pleasure.

– Michael Dobkins


Have you enjoyed this and other This Date in Seal Beach History posts? If so, please consider making a small donation of a dollar or more to help defray the online subscriptions and other research costs that made this blog possible. Donations can be made securely with most major credit cards directly through PayPal. Just click on paypal.me/MichaelDobkins to go to PayPal. Thank you.   

 

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The Seal Beach Limerick Contest Winner!

I’m calling it early because the votes have been overwhelming for one entry, and I won’t be available tomorrow to post the winner. So, with any further ado — drum roll please — The winner is:

REX STROTHER

Rex wrote a bio for the contest which reads:

“Raised” in Seal Beach (maybe “reared” would be more accurate); less talented nephew of Cynthia and Kay Strother (the Bell Sisters)

Ninety-five years ago, The Los Angeles Times ran a limerick contest that challenged readers to finish a limerick that started “There was a young man from Seal Beach…”

For kicks and giggles, I decided to reenact the Los Angeles Times limerick contest in 2019 and solicited new endings to the limerick. Rex’s winning finish to the limerick won an overwhelming 41.38% of the votes.

There was a young man from Seal Beach,
Who held on to his dough like a leech,
He once spent a dime,
All at the same time, …

… To get the hell out of Long Beach!

This Date in Seal Beach History does not endorse such anti-Long Beach sentiments, but the public has spoken.

– Michael Dobkins

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December 31st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1915, an all-night “big” masquerade ball was held in Seal Beach — a mere two months and a week after it had been incorporated as an Orange County city.

New Year celebrants were invited to “Come Down and Dance the Old Year out and the New Year in the Seal Beach Dancing Pavilion” where good music, good floor, good time, and free merry-making novelties waited for them. To sweeten the deal, a free lunch was promised at 2:00 am.

No one today knows what songs were played, who was in the band, or what musical instruments were used that night. The playlist would probably seem a little staid to modern ears, but I’d like to think that the excitement of the crowd and the energy of live musicians would have made the music thrilling even to our twenty-first century tastes.

No photographs or any of those “merry-making novelties” from that night survive. If they do, they’re hidden deep in boxes and albums stacked in the attics, basements, and storage rooms of grandchildren and great grandchildren, shorn of context and connection to any living memory.

We don’t know who attended that New Year’s Eve masquerade ball or what sort of masquerade costumes, if any, they wore. No one bothered to make a list of the attendees, so we don’t know if any city founders or any other local notables were there. There was probably a good mix of people: residents and out-of-towners, young and old, friends and families, couples and single folk.

But we do know they danced. Or at least most of them did. If 1915 was anything like today, some were there to listen to the music and watch the dancers while others held back from the “good floor,” yearning to dance but either too self-conscious or waiting in vain for the right dance partner.

Imagine what it must have been like in that pavilion that night.

It’s the final few minutes of 1915. Every new year brings new hopes and aspirations, but the impending 1916 feels especially optimistic for the people of Seal Beach.

The racing roller coaster, the scintillators at the end of the pier, and all of the Joy Zone amusements along the beach have been announced, and construction starts in a few weeks to be completed in time for the summer season launch. These exciting attractions are sure to bring crowds to Seal Beach, and once people experience all that Seal Beach offers, they won’t be able to resist buying homes and lots to build houses. Entrepreneurs will open shops and businesses. This new city on the beach between two bays will grow and bustle. The future is grand and shiny with promise. The place is on the cusp if greatness.

So they dance, and their hopes and dreams dance with them.

Maybe there’s a countdown before the clock struck midnight. Then the new year erupts with cheers and hugs and smiles and kisses. Champagne bottles are popped, toasts are made, and congratulations given. Everyone made it through another year.

The advertisements for the event didn’t announce any official firework displays, but I’m sure at least a few firecrackers are set off by amateurs — maybe even some Roman candles and skyrockets. There must have been.

Then the music starts again, and the dancers return to the floor. As the hour passes, the dance floor becomes less crowded as people start to leave, either tired or setting off for private celebrations elsewhere. Others sit down and talk and laugh and wait for that 2:00 a.m. lunch (not a breakfast! Not a dinner! A lunch!).

At some point, the band stops playing and begin to pack up. The few remaining dancers reluctantly leave the floor. A final round of drinks are served and emptied The crowd thins to a few stragglers, and then even they depart, lingering for awhile outside before bidding each other goodbye and happy new year. Inside the pavilion, the remaining staff probably does some cursory clean up and prep work, but it’s been a long day, so they rush through it and then turn out the lights and lock up.

Finally, the night is quiet, the city is dark, and the streets are empty. There are only a few hundred people living in Seal Beach, and most of them are asleep, except maybe for one or two weirdo night owls like me. Let’s leave them there in those first few hours of 1916 when their future existed only as possibilities, before it became our past.

This Date in Seal Beach History (AKA The Seal Beach Founders blog)
January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2019

Thank you for a decade of your comments, questions, and interest.

This Date in Seal Beach History will return in 2024

– Michael Dobkins


Have you enjoyed this and other This Date in Seal Beach History posts?

If so, please consider making a small donation of a dollar or more to help defray the online subscriptions and other research costs that made this blog possible.

Donations can be made securely with most major credit cards directly through PayPal. Just click on paypal.me/MichaelDobkins to go to PayPal. Thank you. 

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December 31st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1965, the Long Beach Independent reported that the Marina Democrats had elected new officers for 1966 and that club met the fourth Monday of each month in the Seal Beach city hall. New members were welcome.

Seal Beach City Hall – 1965

Robert L. Webb was the new president; Lois Briggs, corresponding secretary; Julie Dorr, recording secretary, Phyllis Lichenstein, treasurer, and Ann Caplicki, sergeant-at-arms.

The second vice-president was Bill Jones, and the first vice-president was a gent named Dean Dobkins.

Fancy that.

– Michael Dobkins


Have you enjoyed this and other This Date in Seal Beach History posts?

If so, please consider making a small donation of a dollar or more to help defray the online subscriptions and other research costs that make this blog possible.

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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, 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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December 29th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1923, the Santa Ana Register ran a detailed story on the political climate in Seal Beach as the city approached the end of the year. The provocative headline for this story read, “SEAL BEACH TORN BY INTERNAL STRIFE CAUSED BY ALLEGED LAWLESSNESS WHICH WOMEN LAY TO LOOSE LIQUOR CONDITION.”

Closed on Sundays?

Seal Beach residents were divided. On one side, some, including the city’s older and more established citizens, felt that a restrictive morality was preventing Seal Beach from taking full advantage of a Southern California boom. The other side felt that an out-of-town element brought a rowdy atmosphere of lawlessness and drunkenness to the city that was ruining the virtuous small town community that attracted many residents to the locale.

This long brewing issue came to a head when the Women’s Civic Improvement Club demanded that dancing be prohibited on Sundays which was the busiest night for the detested out-of-town element and its weekly carousing. The club’s campaign included calls for the removal of current city officers and employees, especially City Marshal Jack Combs who was accused of protecting bootleggers and providing lax law enforcement to the city. Combs denied the accusations, but still resigned.

Ultimately, the city council bowed to public sentiment and passed an ordnance prohibiting Sunday dancing in Seal Beach. The Bayside Land Company, owner of the dance pavilion, the roller coaster, and the rest of the beachside amusement zone retaliated by closing the entire amusement zone on Sundays. The Women’s Civic Improvement Club was also no longer permitted to use the amusement zone’s sun room for their meetings.

Most newspaper articles covering these events ended the the story at that point — with the Women’s Civic Improvement Club being hoisted by the petard of their own activism (even though they almost immediately had a new meeting place at a local church.) The Santa Ana Register dug a little deeper.

The article points out that the city had been incorporated eight years earlier as a resort town with the Bayside Land Company investing nearly half a million dollars in the roller coaster and the amusement. Now Tom Moore, who ran the dance pavilion had chosen not to renew his operating license, and the owner of the Jewel City Cafe had decided to relinquish his lease with Bayside Land Company.

City Recorder Clerk G. H. Morrison, an agent for the Bayside Land Company was interviewed about the situation.

“What will become of Seal Beach? We’ll be another Sunset Beach within a short time.”

“Seal Beach is logically a beach resort, and it a ‘one day’ town. That is, Sunday is the biggest day of the week, since the weekend pleasure seekers are the principal source of income for the city.”

Morrison admitted that there was trouble coming to Seal Beach. “It is true that there was a lawless element here on Sunday night, attracted by the sale of liquor. There were frequently as many as 200 sailors here, drinking and carousing, and the stench of liquor was obnoxious. Gambling was conducted openly.”

However, Morrison didn’t blame the dance pavilion or the amusement zone. He felt that the problem was with the ease with which alcohol could be obtained. Cars lined the streets on Sunday nights and bootleg whiskey sold almost openly. Fights were frequent.

Morrison himself, was a member of another Seal Beach organization of over 60 citizens, the Law Enforcement League that had called for the county attorney and officials to assist in shutting down bootlegging in Seal Beach that had resulted in three raids that Morrison claimed had all but completely shut down liquor traffic there.

Morrison and a group of 22 like-minded businessman had submitted a petition requesting that the dance pavilion be left open, but Morrison said the petition “was lost in the shuffle and was never read.”

There was even dissension within the Women’s Civic Improvement Club. Mary J. Washburn, president, shared that when the club’s resolution calling for the dance ordnance was passed, only sixteen of the twenty-two members were present, and five of those abstained from voting. Washburn said that the original purpose of the club when launched was to help clean up Seal Beach, to beautify the city, to urge cleaner streets, and promote civic pride.

Judge J. C. Old felt differently. “A number of property owners have told me that they are now willing to build homes in Seal Beach and bring their families here, since there is no danger of the lawless element congregating here once a week.

The articles closed with W.D. Miller, president of the California National Bank of Seal Beach and Sidney Ehrman, trustee of the Hellman Estate, making separate but similarly optimistic assessments of Seal Beach’s future as an ideal location for businesses and residences in Seal Beach.

And that was the state of Seal Beach was as it slid towards the end of the 1924 in the last few days of December.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 28th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1913, the Santa Ana Register ran another Henry DeKruif Seal Beach ad. This time a jolly seal works on his new year’s resolutions of which there is only one — “I hereby resolve to spend the rest of my days at Seal Beach.”

– Michael Dobkins


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December 27th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1924, the Santa Ana Register ran this photo of the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Company’s steam plant under construction at First Street and Ocean Avenue in Seal Beach.

The photo’s caption gave the following statistics on the new power plant. It was more than 200 square feet and would be 500 feet long when the next units were added to the structure. The main building was 100 feet high with an open steel structure to carry high tension electrical transmission lines 50 feet higher. The soon to be constructed smoke stack would be 375 feet high and would be the largest stack west of the Mississippi.

A view of the completed steam plant after the original smokestack was replaced by a much shorter smoke stack after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake

Click here for more posts on the steam plant.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 26th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1924, a box of Havana cigars was mysteriously placed on table for the Seal Beach city council meeting.

The Labourdette Building

Before we get to the reason for those cigars on the table, I’d like to remind you that this meeting did not take place in the current city council chambers or even the public meeting room that occupied the second floor of the city hall built in 1929. This meeting took place in on the first floor of the Labourdette Building that once served as Seal Beach’s city hall and stood on the east side of the 200 block of Main Street. I also need to remind you that this meeting took place long before any laws banning smoking in public places, and most public meetings had a London fog hovering above from all the publicly acceptable smoking.

So why was there a box of cigars on the city council table in 1924? Seal Beach City engineer, Captain Hilyard had just become the proud father of a baby girl, and he wanted to celebrate his good fortune by sharing cigars with the council and his peers. Wasn’t that sweet?

– Michael Dobkins


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December 25th in Seal Beach History

Have you ever noticed how most places are closed on Christmas? Well, throughout history some Seal Beach businesses have been open (or at least advertised) on Christmas.

On this date in 1942, you didn’t have to go to a Chinese restaurant if the Bumpus hounds had stolen your Christmas turkey — you could go to Sam’s Sea Food Cafe and enjoy “an adventure in Eating!”

On this date in 1976, the Seal Beach Church of Religious Science offered services led by Rev. Theodora “Dodie” Dyrenforth at 9 and 11 am.

On this date in 1973, the Belmont Realty staff offered a Christmas Wish in this Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram ad. Back in the seventies, The Belmont Realty had an office in what had used to be a very small residential house at 316 Marina Drive.

On this date in 1970, DeBenedictis Realty at 12131 Seal Beach Boulevard offered the Season’s Best to Seal Beach in yet another Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram ad.

On this date in 1955, Seal Beach Lumber offered to deliver dry firewood in this Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram ad, but it’s probably more a reminder for delivery on other days and it seems doubtful that they had a crack team of firewood deliverers eagerly standing by on Christmas waiting for your call.

And finally, on this date in 1919,  one Los Angeles Times ad imperiously commanded readers to come! to Seal Beach Cafes where you could live it up with dancing, entertainment, and the best of “Eats.”


And the Jewel Cafe reminded potential whoopee-makers to make their New Year Reservations. “Bring your own medicine” was a not so subtle code to bring your own booze since the Volstead Act had become effective less than two months earlier on October 28th.

Merry Christmas!

– Michael Dobkins


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