December 19th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1924, the Los Angeles Times ran another of its limerick contests, this time about “A young man from Seal Beach.”  The entry form is reproduced below, but, while today’s readers are encouraged to take their own shot at finishing the limerick and sharing it in the comments,  keep in mind that the actual contest with the cash prizes ended almost a century ago.

Back in 1924, Los Angeles Times readers had to wait until December 26th to read the winning entries, but you modern web surfers won’t have to wait that long. The $25 first prize winner was Gladys L. Hoskins, 514 Security Building, Los Angeles, with a holiday-themed rhyme:

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,
For Christmas gifts, one nickel each!

Five bucks and the second prize went to Mrs. L.H. Dustin, 316 Parke Street, Pasadena :

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,
Showing grief as it passed from his reach.

Other last limerick lines entered were:

Twas a sale of hot dogs — nickel each!

To buy a hot dog for a peach.

On a lemon he thought was a peach.

Twas a doughnut treating a peach.

The ad read: A prize goes with each.

Though he stretched it as far as ‘twould reach.

On stamps for last lines — five bucks each.

Money talks, ’twas a figure of speech.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 18th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1966, the Long Beach Independent ran a multi-page spread on that year’s Forty Miles of Christmas Smiles, including one photo of Seal Beach’s entry for the competition.

Forty Miles of Christmas Smiles was an Orange County tradition that lasted from 1932 to 1975. Businesses, residences, chambers of commerce, and entire communities along the coast “from Seal Beach to San Clemente” would participate in friendly competition by presenting elaborate holiday decorations and Christmas lights. Each year the Christmas decor was judged and prizes, gifts, and trophies were awarded, but the real aim was publicize all the cities along the coast with flamboyant displays of holiday spirit. For over forty years, touring the Orange County coast to view all the holiday decorations was a vital Christmas tradition for many Southern California families.

In 1966, Seal Beach won an award from the Orange County Coast Association, Inc. for the old-fashioned Christmas Village installation on the corner of Main Street and Electric Avenue. The installation was designed and constructed by Vern Leckman and Harold Chestnut (no jokes about roasting on an open fire, please!) on a vacant lot that is now occupied by the businesses at 224 to 250 Main Street.

Personally, I can share that the installation was wondrous. I was only 4 years old at the time, but it was magical and remains one of my all-time favorite Christmas memories.

It must have taken a few days to construct the entire village facade that faced Main Street like the real shops that line the street all year, but in my child’s memory, one day there was a vacant lot, and the next day this Victorian-style village mysteriously appeared.  There were no shops or buildings to enter, it was like a Hollywood exterior set in that only the fronts of the village buildings built and wooden beams braced the front facades from behind.

The Christmas Village was intriguing and had a magnetic draw on my imagination that culminated in an evening performance of Christmas carolers dressed in Victorian garb. There must have been performances every night that the Christmas Village was up, but I only witnessed that one night. To this day, anticipation, mystery, ritual, and festive theatricality is the best part of Christmas to me, and I learned to treasure those qualities that holiday season.

On January 16, 1967, the Seal Beach city council passed Resolution #1508 to recognize Vern Leckman and Harry Chestnut for their efforts as shown below.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 17th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1953, desperate Seal Beach shoppers with only one more shopping week left until Christmas to find the perfect gift for their loved ones could find inspiration in this Philco Clock-Radio ad from Raines Radio & TV at 127 Main Street printed in the Long Beach Independent.

This was a co-op ad from a bunch of local Philco dealers, so it wasn’t just Raines Radio & TV’s ad. Still, imagine walking down to Main Street to buy a cutting edge state-of-the-art clock radio!

– Michael Dobkins


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December 16th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1941, Nick Dovalis contributed to the war effort by donating all his receipts from noon to 9 pm at from his Long Beach restaurant, The Olympia Cafe, and his barely 5 months old Dovalis Ranch House Cafe in Seal Beach to the Red Cross.

Pearl Harbor was bombed on the morning of December 7th, and the United States suddenly found itself officially part of a World War. On December 12th, Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued a proclamation for the Red Cross to raise a minimum of $ 50,000,000 war fund and appealed to the American people to help make the campaign a success.  The $ 50,000,000 had been set by the Red Cross back on December 10th, so the proclamation was less an imperious edict and more an effort by FDR to use his bully pulpit to publicize the Red Cross campaign.

Orange County’s quota for the Red Cross was set at $42,500, and Nick Dovalis gave Seal Beach diners a tasty chance to contribute towards the quota.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 15th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1967, Hoyt Axton played at the Cosmos (formerly the Rouge et Noir).

Today Hoyt Axton (1938-1999) is probably best known as the inventor father in “Gremlins.” the father of Alex Ramsey in “The Black Stallion,” or as the songwriter of the Three Dog Night hit, “Joy To The World (Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog).” A charismatic and affable performer, Oklahoman Axton was cast regularly on TV shows (Bonanza, WKRP in Cincinnati) and movies throughout his life. His musical career started in the early sixties and included 26 albums with the last one being released the year before his death. Music and songwriting must have run in his family — his mother was Mae Boran Axton, who wrote “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Back in 1967, Axton was trapped in a seven year contract to the Nikas brothers who owned the Prison of Socrates in Balboa, The Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, and the Cosmos in Seal Beach. He was a charismatic hard-drinking wild man, and when he had misbehaved enough to incur the wrath of the Nikas brothers, they would punish him by booking him at the Cosmos, a small venue where the amount of his share of the gate was much smaller than at the Golden Bear or the Prison of Socrates.

Wherever he was playing, Axton was a popular performer and would pack the house with fans. To give a flavor of the humor and energy of Hoyt’s live performances from this period, here’s a recording made at the Troubadour in 1966. Warning: The language and sexual attitudes might offend modern listeners.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 14th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1980, the Los Angeles Times ran this ad for The Old Seal Beach Inn.

 

– Michael Dobkins


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December 13th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1959, the Los Angeles Times ran a profile of a do-it-yourself project that members of the Seal Beach Police Department were spending their free time working on.

The last time we visited the Seal Beach Police Department, it was part of the brand-new, state-of-the-art Seal Beach City Hall that opened on October 28th, 1929.

Now, over thirty years later, Police Chief Ray Harbour felt the department’s facilities needed to be modernized. This was a fine notion except for one annoying problem — there was no money in the police budget to modernize the police department.

So Seal Beach’s 17-member police force decided to do it themselves.

Well, mostly. Construction workers demolished and removed the outmoded and little used jail cell block, but policemen, under the direction of patrolman S.C. Anderberg, then remodeled the space into a detective bureau and squad room with partitions and built-in desks.

A coffee fund was used to purchase a pistol that was traded for pine paneling. A storage shed was converted into a darkroom. Another shed was remodeling to house an emergency electrical generator to power city hall during disasters.

The Seal Beach Police Department continued to operate in the old city hall building for another 18 years when it moved to its current location on Seal Beach Boulevard.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 12th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1924, The Captain’s Inn opened in building where the scandalous Tower Cafe once operated in Anaheim Landing on Electric Avenue and Bay Boulevard.

The Captain was Captain James Edward Brink, who served under General Pershing in Mexico. His father, also named James Edward Brink owned and ran a legendary restaurant in downtown Los Angeles called the Saddlerock Cafe. The Captain’s Inn seems to be Captain Brink’s attempt to follow in his father’s footsteps.


For a few years, the restaurant prospered, and even hosted live performances on a Long Beach radio station.  The prosperity didn’t last, and by the late twenties, the restaurant was gone, but the Captain’s Inn building continued to host picnics and gathering until it was damaged in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake.

Dow Brink may have been related to the Captain, but I haven’t been able to confirm it. He started his career singing ballads in Oregon theater in 1909, and later worked the vaudeville circuit as half of a musical act,”Brink and Camp.”  His partner, Warren Camp, wrote the music, and Dow wrote the lyrics for a 1911 song, “Rag With No Name.”

Alma Salmon started young in show biz as a seventeen year-old chorus girl in 1913.  She didn’t stay in the chorus and developed her own act as a comedy singer. Her career lasted well into the thirties.

James Edward Brink died in 1970 at the age of eighty. He had risen to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel while serving in World War II.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 11th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1965, engineers seeking employment could open up the help wanted section in the Los Angeles Times classifieds and hit the employment opportunity jackpot with this ad for openings at The Seal Beach Facility of North American Aviation’s space and information systems division.

– Michael Dobkins


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December 10th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1961, The Hilltop House at 1300 Crestview Avenue had its premier showing. This home was priced at $37,000 (about $300,000 in 2017 dollars), had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an all electric kitchen, cell heating with thermostat controls for each room.

This home was part of the Marina Hills development. The Marina Hills home typified a certain Mid-Century Modern verve that dominated residential architecture in the early sixties. The “Homes That Grow” designs were specifically created to allow for future expansion of the home as needed. The carport could convert into a garage, a rumpus room, or den and the sundeck space could be converted to additional rooms depending on the household’s future needs. This was considered one of the major benefits of the modular layout, and it felt very modern to 1961 home shoppers. Swimming pools were optional.

Another modern feature of these homes was the emphasis on the “ALL ELECTRIC HOMES.” As more electrical power plants went online  in the mid-fifties, the price of electrical power became cheaper, so a “Live Better Electrically” program was created to convince Americans to consume more electricity was started by electricity utilities and manufacturers. (Just reading that sentence should subliminally make you want to leave all the lights in home.)

Medallion Homes would bear this emblem as a plaque or sometimes on an electric doorbell.

In 1957, the National Manufacturers Association launched the “Medallion Home” campaign. To qualify as a “Medallion Home” (or later as a “Gold Medallion Home,” A house would need to be constructed to use only electricity for built-in lighting, heating, kitchen appliances, and power. None of the old-fashion and outmoded natural gas for these homes!

The Medallion Home campaign was a rousing success and lasted into the early seventies.

– Michael Dobkins


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