May 10th in Seal Beach History

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,  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_adKnown 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 a good part of the lot now occupied by the entire Bay City Center on Pacific Coast Highway.

Here’s an aerial view of Seal Beach taken two years after this ad. There are plenty of long gone landmarks in the landscape, but we’re going to focus on the lumberyard just off the Pacific Coast Highway as it curves in a few blocks from Main Street.

Here’s the same photo with the footprint of the lumberyard highlighted in green.

And finally, here’s a magnified view of the lumberyard from the same photo.

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

– Michael Dobkins


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May 6th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1975, the Ranch House Restaurant at 1600 Pacific Coast Highway advertised their Mother’s Day menu specials in the Long Beach Independent.

May_6_1975_101_Ranch_House_AdWe had to balance out yesterday’s Mother’s Day post with something absolutely non-ironic.

Now I’m hungry.

– Michael Dobkins


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May 5th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1963, Jim Scully, owner of the Ivory Tower Bookstore at 113 Main Street in Seal Beach ran an ad for a book in the Long Beach Independent and enjoyed a semi-private joke at the expense of his fellow advertisers on the same page. This is the ad.

May_5_1963_Ivory_Tower_Books

I’ve seen this ad a few times while doing research on Seal Beach businesses, and it’s always been a bit of a puzzler. As an ex-bookstore clerk, I knew Philip Wylie’s name and a few of the titles of his novels and was vaguely aware that “Generation of Vipers” was a book of essays, but it seemed an odd choice to advertise, especially since this seems to be the only the Ivory Tower Bookstore ever placed an ad. For a little more context, here’s the page that the ad appeared on.

May_5_1963_Mothers_day_adIt’s a page of small ads for Mother’s Day fifty-two years ago, and the Ivory Tower Bookstore ad is the second one up from the far left corner.

So why advertise “Generation of Vipers” on Mother’s Day? Some quickie research on the book revealed that the book was originally published in 1942 and was a relentlessly vitriolic polemic on the mediocrity, hypocrisy, and corruption of American society.  

The book, of course, became a sensation. It outsold all of Wylie’s previous works and made him a bestselling author, a fact that perhaps supports evidence of the mediocrity, hypocrisy, and corruption of American society. Wylie attacks all facets of America living , but his most famous essay in “Generation of Vipers” is titled “Common Women,” in which he coined the term, “momism.” Here’s a sample of his dull humorless and plodding rant on motherhood:

Meanwhile, Megaloid momworship has got completely out of hand. Our land, subjectively mapped, would have more silver cords and apron strings crisscrossing it than railroads and telephone wires. Mom is everywhere and everything and damned near everybody, and from her depends all the rest of the U. S. Disguised as good old mom, dear old mom, sweet old mom, your loving mom, and so on, she is the bride at every funeral and the corpse at every wedding. Men live for her and die for her, dote upon her and whisper her name as they pass away, and I believe she has now achieved, in the hierarchy of miscellaneous articles, a spot next to the Bible and the Flag, being reckoned part of both in a way.

On it goes on and on and on, just like that, for pages. Bleh.

bleh

bleh

So Jim Scully had his tongue impishly placed in cheek when he advertised “Generation of Vipers” twenty-one years later on Mother’s Day. Columnists from the Long Beach Independent seemed to like visiting the bookstore in the early sixties, so my theory is that Scully came up with the gag, and one of his columnist pals dared him to place the ad.

– Michael Dobkins


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May 4th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1933, the Seal Beach city council took measures to balance the general fund  by instituting a new work schedule and pay for the city’s water, street, and janitorial workers. The modified schedule cut four weeks down to three weeks. The cost cutting measures did not affect the police department or elective offices.

The trouble with keeping the general fund in the black was no doubt related to the world being more than three years into the Great Depression. Local lore has it that times became so dire that many Seal Beachers were forced to illegally shoot jackrabbits on the Hellman Ranch to feed their families while sympathetic Seal Beach policemen looked the other way. 

– Michael Dobkins


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May 3rd in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1974, the much-missed Shore Village opened on Seal Beach Boulevard. 

May_2_1974_Shore_Village_Grand_Opening-3A local shopping mecca for years, the mall’s initial shops included The Shore Shop, Kid’s Korner, The Bread Board Gourmet Deli, the Ye Olde Ice Cream Parlour, Village Shoes, and J. H. Interior Metal.

– Michael Dobkins


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May 2nd in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1968, the Tastee-Freez chain published the following ad for its Tastee Two Fer promotion in the Long Beach Independent. For years the Tastee-Freez in the Seal Beach Shopping Center (listed as Pacific Coast Highway on Main St. in the ad) was a popular hang-out for teenagers, youngsters, and fans of affordable soft serv ice cream cones.

Three prizes were awarded on June 2nd at each Tastee-Freez location. Does anyone remember who won in Seal Beach?May_2_1968_Tastee_freez_contest_ad– Michael Dobkins


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May 1st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1940, it was decided that a movie set would not be built in the tidal flats just northwest of Seal Beach for the Alfred Hitchcock film of “Foreign Correspondent.”

The April 30th edition of the Santa Ana Register warned that on the next day Walter Wanger Productions would start building a road north of Bolsa Avenue and east of the Seal Beach Waterworks to simulate the Dutch countryside, complete with windmills, for their film, “International Correspondent.” The project was estimated to cost $1300, and the film crew was expected to work in town for three weeks.  

Unfortunately, the location scouting had been made during low tide, and the crew discovered that hide tide made the location impractically wet for filming. The only footage from the area that would make it into the actual film would be some second unit shots of a hat being blown along the flats into a channel of water.

Here’s a portion of the windmill scene that would have been filmed in Seal Beach with some quick inserts of the hat in Seal Beach (it’s a plot point, but if you blink you’ll miss it):

– Michael Dobkins


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