May 13th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1916, the newest and latest of all cabaret and dance cafes, the Wilcox Casino had its grand opening! Connie Conway and six other noted dancers from Los Angeles and San Francisco will introduce the newest dances of all the latest dances! Conway himself created this new dances exclusively for the grand opening!

The newest and latest casino has a kitchen with its own refrigerating plant under the management of one of the most famous of Chefs (unnamed, however), a 67 foot by 29 foot dance floor, tables for eight hundred people, and, wait for it, a new SEAL BEACH song –complete surprise! (Even though it was announced in the ad.)

May_13_1916_Wilcox_Casino_grand_opening

Wilcox Casino didn’t last long under this breathless management. By August, H.W. Wilcox had enough unhappy creditors, including his wife who sued him for non-support, to fill the dance floor. The casino was closed under attachment, and that was the end of the casino under the Wilcox Casino name.

But, boy! Parking Space for 1000 Cars!

– Michael Dobkins

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May 12th In Seal Beach History

On this date in 1932, the U.S.S. Akron was sighted off the coast of Seal Beach at 2:00 p.m on its way to an airbase in Sunnyvale. The Akron reached Sunnyvale at midnight, but weather conditions prevented it from mooring until late May 13th.

Today this U.S. Navy helium airship is best remembered for an April 1933 air disaster when it hit bad weather off the New Jersey shore and went down into the Atlantic Ocean, killing 73 of the 76 passengers and crew members. The Akron was designed for reconnaissance and could launch and retrieve scout biplanes in midair, but its full potential was never fully explored. In its brief 20 month history in the air, the USS Akron met with many accidents and mishaps, not the least of which happened the day before it passed Seal Beach in 1932.

The Akron had been sent on a coast to coast tour and arrived at Camp Kearny in San Diego County on May 11th.  While attempting to moor, the Akron unexpectedly lifted up, carrying with it three sailors from the ground crew hanging from the mooring line. Aviation Carpenter’s Mate 3rd Class Robert H. Edsall and Apprentice Seaman Nigel M. Henton lost their grip and fell hundreds of feet to their death while thousands watched. Apprentice Seaman C. M. “Bud” Cowart managed to secure himself to the line and hung on for two hours until a separate line winched him into the dirigible. The Akron safely moored at Camp Kearny later in the day and departed up the coast May 12th, just a few hours before the Seal Beach sighting. 

Here’s a clip on the Camp Kearny accident from a Discovery Channel special:

 

– Michael Dobkins

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May 11th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1962, the new Seal Beach branch of the Orange County Library was dedicated in an afternoon ceremony at 8th Street and Central Avenue.

In May 1973, the Seal Beach City Council unanimously passed a resolution requesting that the Orange County Board of Supervisors rename the Seal Beach library the “Mary Wilson Branch Library.” Mary Wilson had recently passed away, and the new name was in honor of her thirty years of service as Librarian of the Seal Beach Branch Library and how “in that time, Mary Wilson opened up the ‘wonderful world of books’ to generations of Seal Beach residents who will ever be in her debt.”

A ceremony making the new name official was held on November 3, 1973. The Central Avenue location was closed in December 1977, and the library collection and the “Mary Wilson Branch Library” name moved to the current library location on Electric Avenue, opening on January 9th, 1978.

– Michael Dobkins

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May 10th in Seal Beach History

JH McGaugh

Jerry Hickman McGaugh

On this date in 1940, District Superintendent of Schools Jerry Hickman McGaugh gave Seal Beach schoolchildren extra cause to celebrate. Since the Memorial Day holiday fell on Thursday, May 29th that year,  J. H McGaugh announced that the school district would make Friday a day off and thus giving students a four-day weekend. Surely they must have spent the extra free time studying for their upcoming end-of-the-school-year final exams.

– Michael Dobkins

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May 9th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1975, Gina’s Italiano Restaurant advertised its Mother’s Day specials in the Long Beach Independent. 

May_9_1975_Gina__039_s_Italiano_ad Don’t drive down to the Rossmoor Center to look for Godmother Gina or Lady Chef Sylvia this Sunday. They, the Italiano restaurant, and those 1975 prices aren’t there anymore.

– Michael Dobkins

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May 8th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1965, local theater-lovers of all ages could stroll to Main Street and treat themselves to a Saturday show (or two) at the Peppermint Playhouse.


In the afternoon, there was a matinee of “Sleeping Beauty” for the kiddies. a few hours later in the evening, the Peppermint Playhouse presented an evening performance of “He Ain’t Done Right By Nell,” an old-fashioned melodrama in one act written by Wilbur Braun in 1935 as an affectionate pastiche of the broad, over-the-top plays that were so popular in the 1890s.  (The title was taken from a 1920s novelty song made popular by Irving Aaronson and his Commanders.) 

Quoting the synopsis in the Samuel French edition of the play:

Little Nell Perkins lives in the hills with her grandmother, Granny Perkins. Nell never suspects that she has no claim to the Perkins name or that she is a foundling who was left outside the Perkins barn 20 years ago. Hilton Hays, the villain, overhears Granny Perkins discussing the matter with Lolly Wilkins, a nosy old maid. When Nell repulses Hays’ advances and tells him she knows he is paying attention to Vera Carleton, a city gal, Hilton threatens to tell the true secret of Nell’s birth to the world.

(The Cad! Boo! Hiss!)

Poor Nell is much too honest to wed Jack Logan, the manly hero, and she cannot stay in the mountains and have the finger of shame pointed at her. She says good-bye to the mountains and prepares to roam the cold, cruel world, seeking a refuge for her broken heart.

(Oh, the shame! How will luckless Nell survive?)

Just as she is about to depart, Burkett Carleton, who owns the mill, calls at the Perkins cabin in search of Hilton Hays. Hays has stolen money from the mill and is short in his accounts. The wealthy Mr. Carleton unmasks Hays and discovers by the locket worn around her neck that Nell is his very own granddaughter, who was kidnapped when but a babe. A happy reconciliation occurs and Nell is united in matrimony with Jack Logan, who is poor, but honest.

(Virtue once again triumphs over wickedness!)

According to Ralph Hinman’s review the next day’s Long Beach Independent Press Telegram, the play worked magnificently.  He especially praised Ronald Chaffee’s sneering and leering performance as the villainous Hilton Hayes with his “black cape twirling evilly below top hat.” Susan Taylor starred as Nell (in a virtuous white dress), her stalwart love interest, Jack was played by Kennedy Bond, Sue Ofstedahl was Granny, and Brigit Bond played bad big-city girl (with a secret heart of gold), Vera Carleton, and Thomas Stewart played her father, Mr. Carleton. Lucille Kiester did double duty as Lollie, the old maid gossip and also directed the show.

Tom Stewart and Birgit Bond examine Sue Taylor’s locket

The evening’s entertainment climaxed with an “olio — a polite vaudeville,” as Peppermint impresario Kay Carrol put it in the review that ran the next day. “We’re trying to create a ‘fun’ thing, a place where people can come just to enjoy themselves.” Marie Davidson, Bob Mitchell, Pat Plechner, Mary Ann Kingsland, Karen Hutchison and Roger Richards sang, recited sad verses, and danced to a band accompaniment of piano, banjo, trombone, fiddle, guitar, and musical saw. The musicians were Stella Macintosh, Sophie Waldman, Seth Tracey, George Ulz, and Manual Romero. Disappointingly, the review didn’t list which one played the saw.

The Peppermint Playhouse location in 1965 is today’s location of Endless Summer at 124 Main Street. The current management’s policy on hissing the villain is unclear.

– Michael Dobkins

 

 

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May 7th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1950, Duff Lumber Company advertised in the Long Beach Independent.

May_7_1950_Duff's Lumber_Yard_ad

Known to locals simply as the lumberyard, Duff (under one name or another) was the go-to spot for construction materials in town into the seventies. It took up most of the lot now occupied by the entire Bay City Center on Pacific Coast Highway.

If anyone has photos from the lumberyard, please contact us.

– Michael Dobkins

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