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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December 24th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1955, Seal Beachers seeking to relax and get away from the Christmas hubbub could spend their Christmas Eve at the Bay Theatre watching a Saturday double feature of “To Catch a Thief” and “Jupiter’s Darling.”

photo courtesy of Bob Robertson

The Bay Theatre photo above was not taken on Christmas Eve 1955, instead it was taken during the previous weekend when the double feature was “We’re No Angels,” starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray and “How To Be Very, Very Popular,” Betty Grable’s last film.  If you look closely at the “Now Playing” display in photo, it has a poster for “We’re No Angels.” 

I still haven’t been able to hunt down the film for the poster in the “Bay” display. It doesn’t seem to be “How To Be Very, Very Popular.”

In the “Next Attraction” displays in the photo, you’ll see posters for “Jupiter’s Darling” and “To Catch A Thief.” This was the double feature showing at the Bay from December 23-26 in 1955.

“To Catch a Thief” was 1955 feature film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

“Jupiter’s Darling” was a 1955 historical musical set in Roman times, starring Howard Keel as Hannibal and Esther Williams as a captured princess who falls in love with him. The movie was a notorious box office flop.

And yes, that’s the manager, Mr. Cobb, standing next to the box office in the Bay Theatre photo, which was previously featured in one of our earlier posts from 2010, Mermaids and Jewel Thieves. If you click on that post, be sure to read the comments for more Seal Beach folk sharing their memories of the Bay and Mr. Cobb.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 23rd in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1938, Vivian Laird made sure that Seal Beachers knew that they didn’t have to stay home on Christmas because they had dining and entertainment options with this ad in the Santa Ana Register.  At her South Seas restaurant you could get a complete Christmas turkey dinner for 90 cents, but why bother? For a dime more, the Garden of Allah in Seal Beach offered that same complete Christmas turkey dinner plus “two snappy bands for dancing” and “music played the way you like it!”

– Michael Dobkins


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December 22nd in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1949, the Seal Beach Baby Shop at 306 Main Street (next to the post office) opened its doors at 9:30 am to launch a massive sale devoted to “CLOSING OUT OUR ENTIRE STOCK to the PUBLIC at TERRIFIC PRICE REDUCTIONS.”

Forgive us for introducing you to a long forgotten Main Street Seal Beach business just as it’s announcing “Soon We Close Our Doors Forever, ” but it is only at the end that there is any record of the Seal Beach Baby Shop. All there that remains is this one full-page ad in the December 21st Long Beach Independent announcing the “Quitting Business Closing Out Sale” starting the next day.

It’s hard not to admire the elan and gusto that the owners put into the ad copy:

Terrific Price Reductions Throughout This Stock… To Insure A Quick Close-Out To The Bare Walls… A Complete Liquidation Of This Business Must Be Accomplished… Regardless Of Loss

It’s The End… The Finish.

We Are Going Out of Business. Thousands Of Dollars Worth of Fine Infants’ And Children’s Wear… To Be Thrown On The Market… And Sacrificed… At Tremendous Markdowns.

All Prices Slashed 
At Cost! Near Cost! Below Cost!

Our Purpose Is Clear… We Are Quitting Business… It is the End of This Fine Infants’ and Children’s Wear Store… We Go Into This, Our Farewell Sale, With But One Aim… TO LIQUIDATE THIS BUSINESS… NO MATTER WHAT THE LOSS MAY BE… For We Realize That Low Price and Low Price Alone Is the Only Thing That Will Turn This Merchandise Into Cash… Within the Time We Have Allotted Ourselves to Close This Store.

There Will Be No Let-Up to This Sacrifice Until This Store Is Swept Clear of Every Last Dollar’s Worth of Stock… Everything Must Be… Has to Be Sold… This Is One Sale That No Thrifty Buyer of Infants’ and Children’s Wear Can Afford to Pass By Unheeded… This Is a Sale That Will Include Every Dollar’s Worth of Merchandise in the Store… Only Our Own Regular Stock Will Be Presented to You… Nothing Has Been Added for Sale Purposes.

I think the meaning they’re hinting at is that they might be going out of business and that the prices might be a smidge lower than usual. Redundant ad copy and eccentric… punctuation… aside, you have to give the owners credit for not using a single exclamation point in the entire ad.

Kidding aside, I know it’s late by at least seven decades, but let’s wish the owners and employees of the Seal Beach Baby Shop the best of luck in their future endeavors. (even if their future is our past.)

– Michael Dobkins


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December 21st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1913, the Guy M. Rush Company ran a Christmas themed ad for Seal Beach in the Los Angeles Times, starring Henri DeKruif’s indefatigable seals.

This time the aquatic rascals are stuffing the entire Seal Beach tract (complete with the pier) into the “Los Angeles” stocking because, as we all know, “A Seal Beach lot is a gift that grows in value always.”

And remember: No Undertow!

– Michael Dobkins


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December 20th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1946, 25 judges for the Orange County Coast Association’s “Forty Miles of Christmas Smiles” announced the award winners for the various categories for Christmas decorations along the Orange County coast.  Seal Beach did not go unrecognized.

Seal Beach shared with San Clemente the Best Lighted Small City award.

Seal Beach’s shrine display at the pier shared the Best Shrine Small City award, again with San Clemente.

The Glide Er Inn was one of the winners in The Best Decorated Business Place category.

The South Coast News award for the most artistic display went to R. W. Bender of Seal Beach.

– Michael Dobkins


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