Thursday, May 2, 2019

Long Beach’s Golden Spike

Promontory Summit, Utah, May 10, 1869
On May 10th the nation will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental rail line at Promontory Summit, Utah.  On that day Leland Stanford drove a 17.6-karat gold final spike into the tracks connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads.  But did you know that Long Beach also had a final gold spike marking the completion of the Los Angeles Terminal Railroad? 

            On November 7, 1891, twelve carloads of people flocked to the Long Beach seashore to witness the opening of the Los Angeles Terminal Railroad (known locally as the Terminal Railroad).  Flags were flown from housetops and a large crowd of people awaited the visitors.  A stop made at Pacific Park (today's Lincoln Park) allowed many more to board the train before it reached the terminus on Rattlesnake Island (later renamed Terminal Island in honor of the railroad).
Los Angeles Terminal Railroad
            At the end of the line, passengers disembarked. They were given time to see the site of the city’s proposed new wharf.  They then returned to Long Beach, got out and mingled with the crowd.  A dedication ceremony followed with a golden spike driven into the rail line by Miss Lucia Burnett (no relation to the author), daughter of the general manager of the rail line.   

           The spike was a facsimile of the regulation railroad spike, but made of solid gold, according to the Los Angeles Herald; it was engraved with the inscription: “Last spike driven by the Terminal Railroad at Long Beach, Cal.” The mallet then passed to W.H. Goucher, President of the Long Beach Board of Trustees, and Mayor Hazard of Los Angeles, each of whom gave the spike a couple of blows and drove it home. 
            Edward Lockett, Secretary of the Long Beach Board of Trustees, gave a welcoming address.  He was followed by C.M. Wells, President of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce who spoke about the importance of transportation to a region.  T.E. Gibbon, general attorney for the Terminal Railroad, followed Mr. Wells, thanking the people for their good will and welcome.  As legal counsel, he pointed out the Terminal Railroad was building a rail line all the way to Salt Lake by themselves, but was working with other rail lines to secure as direct a route as possible to form another transcontinental line.
San Pedro Bay - 1897
            Talk then turned to building a harbor at San Pedro to carry the sea bound cargo of the new rail line.  Mayor Hazard said that $500,000 would be sufficient to make a harbor at San Pedro big enough to hold all the shipping on the Pacific Coast.  Judge Savage of San Pedro reminisced about landing in San Pedro in 1866 when there was only eighteen inches of water over the sand bar. Since that time $800,000 had been spent on improving the harbor. He felt that a few hundred thousand dollars more would make the harbor perfect.  Long Beach’s Dr. J.P. Widney told those gathered that it was now time for the people to wake up to the fact that San Pedro had been chosen by government engineers as the best place for public harbor improvement and that both cities should leave behind their differences and unite in one great effort to secure adequate appropriation for the establishment of a deep-water harbor (which they successfully did in 1899).
Long Beach 1890
            After all the grandiose speeches came what everyone was waiting for --- the barbecue.  A hungry crowd of 1500 rushed from the speaker's stand to the large tables set up in Pacific Avenue alongside the park.  Two plank tables resting upon piles of railroad ties extended 200 feet along the thoroughfare.  They were heaped with smoking meats, stacks of white bread, coffee and apples.  The men carved meat while dozens of boys and girls carried the portions to the eager guests.  There was plenty of meat (beef, mutton and pork), bread, coffee and apples to go around.  The Long Beach band and Ahrend's band of Los Angeles furnished the music.  The festivities ended with a grand ball.  Some visitors even brought home the bones from the barbecue as souvenirs!  (Los Angeles Times 11/8/1891)

A Trip Over the Terminal Railway Described

           A preview run of the rail line was held October 23, 1891, when manager Thomas B. Burnett arranged a trip for 200 farmers in Los Angeles for a convention to travel over his new line to Long Beach.  The line, just completed the day before, was ready for a trial run.  Nine cars were comfortably filled with the farmers, their wives and children as they anxiously anticipated this unforeseen honor.  Burnett had promised to make the trip in 30 minutes, the fastest time ever made to Long Beach.  But after the train had gone three or four miles at this high rate of speed, Burnett called a halt and ordered the train to go a little slower.  It seemed the farmers were not used to going at such a high rate of speed as the railroad men and some were getting a little squeamish.  As it was, the trip was made in 50 minutes and everyone arrived healthy and happy.  The farmers were greeted to a rousing reception; the band played and crowds cheered as the farmers left the train for their complementary lunch.  Following lunch, carriages were available to give those who did not care to stroll on the beach a ride about the city.  When it came time for the train to leave, the farmers gathered on the depot platform and gave the new road and the people of Long Beach a round of cheers that could be heard for blocks around. (Los Angeles Times 10/24/1891)

             A July 1898 article in an issue of Terminal Topics, the monthly magazine of the Los Angeles Terminal Railway, described a rail trip from the Terminal Station in Los Angeles to Long Beach and on to Terminal Island.  The cost of the fifty-mile round trip from Los Angeles to Terminal Island was 50 cents.  There were two terminals in Long Beach, one at First and Alamitos, the second on the northeast corner of Ocean and Pacific.  Passengers who did not leave the train at Long Beach found themselves whirling along the ocean to Terminal Island, described as “a new and very attractive resort, where neither money nor labor is being spared to make a most charming place of amusement and recreation for the people.”  From Los Angeles the train passed through “a luxurious country of gardens and dairies, acres of blackberries and strawberries, green alfalfa fields and waving corn, passing flocks of sheep and herds of cattle.”  Four trains daily and five on Sunday made it easy for a businessman to summer at the beach and continue to work in Los Angeles.

            In November 1900 the Los Angeles Terminal Railroad became the Salt Lake and Los Angeles Terminal Railroad when it was decided to extend the line to Salt Lake City (San Francisco Call 11/27/1900).  On January 29, 1901, the board of directors of the Salt Lake and Terminal railroads formally transferred the Terminal to the Salt Lake, Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad. (LA Herald 1/29/1901).  It was William Andrews Clark, a Montana mining baron and United States Senator who was the main investor in the project, giving the rail line the informal name of “The Clark Road.”  The railroad operated independently until April 1921 when the Union Pacific acquired Clark’s interest in the rail line.
            Clark County, Nevada, was named for W.A. Clark bringing the railroad through the state and creating the city of Las Vegas. Clark also had major investments in the Long Beach area. For more on Clark, and the railroad read my January 2014 blog - A fortune, an heiress and sugar beets.

And my September 1914 blog - the Burnett District and the Terminal Railroad. 

What Happened to the Gold Spike?
            The 17-5 karat gold spike from Promontory Summit is now displayed in the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. But what happened to the Terminal Railroad spike?  If it was indeed “solid” gold as reported in the press it would have been too valuable to leave in the track and would have soon been removed, turned over to the railroad company and replaced.  Most likely the original or replacement spike had little gold and may have just been painted a gold color.  In any case, around 1911 two boys pried the 8 inch long spike out of the rail track, thinking it was pure gold.  The police recovered the spike and placed it in the junk room at police headquarters where it was discovered in 1913. It was then put on display at the Chamber of Commerce. (Los Angeles Times 4/13/1913) What happened after that remains a mystery.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Pearl Harbor

            December 7, 1941, is a date few will ever forget, for on that day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The United States was at war.
            Following news of the attack, Long Beach along with the rest of the world was stunned. Hundreds of church goers leaving their places of worship at noon gathered before the windows of the Press Telegram to read late news bulletins.  Many Navy wives residing in Long Beach were visibly shaken, for practically every one of them had a husband serving in the Pacific.  The Army asked the city to loan them a sound truck so they could cruise the streets and broadcast orders for enlisted personnel to report to their stations, but no truck was available.  It turned out OK, the truck was not needed --- most servicemen, on hearing news of the attack had already reported back to base to find out what to do next.  At the Long Beach police station all was routine, yet tenseness could be detected as department heads kept near phones to find out more about the tragedy and a possible invasion of the west coast.
Japanese village of Fish Harbor on Terminal Island
Federal agents and Army troops rushed to establish a blockade around Terminal Island where several thousand Japanese, chiefly engaged in the fishing industry, made their homes.  Their fishing boats were turned back into the harbor and not allowed to proceed to the off-shore fishing grounds. Frank Ishii, president of the Long Beach chapter of the Japanese-American Citizens League pledged support of the United States in its war with Japan.  He mentioned that thirty local Japanese youths were serving in the U.S. armed forces and that the entire community would give their support to the United States.  Despite Ishii’s assurances everyone viewed any Asian as a possible spy or saboteur.
            At the Municipal Airport, which was next to the Douglas Aircraft plant and the U.S. Army and Navy air bases, action was immediate.  Because of its vital military importance, civilian aircraft were notified that they would not be allowed to fly over or near the air field.

            On December 8th the City Council was asked by the Navy to issue an ordinance requesting a complete, all night blackout.  This meant all illumination which could be visible from the air or street be banned --- blinds drawn and any outside lights turned off.  Many, including all city agencies, complied by painting their windows black.  Merchants announced stores would close at 4:30 p.m. daily and open a 8 or 8:30 a.m. to take advantage of daylight hours.  All outdoor advertising, street lights, traffic lights and auto headlights were banned from dusk until dawn.
            December 9, 1941, the evening of the first blackout, was tragically memorable: one was killed and six injured in auto crashes on darkened Long Beach streets.  Harry Riggs, a tourist from Walla Walla, Washington, died when he was hit by a car while he was crossing Ocean Boulevard near Chestnut.  Because of the darkness, witnesses were unable to determine if the pedestrian was in the cross walk or outside of it.

Long Beach and Signal Hill Dead at Pearl Harbor
            By December 13th families began to receive word of casualties at Pearl Harbor.  Josephine Smith, of 234 Prospect, was the first wife to receive word of her husband’s death.  Albert J. Smith had recently been promoted from warrant officer to lieutenant in the Navy; he had been killed in the early attacks on the Hawaiian Islands by the Japanese.
            Mrs. Fae Crawford of 3216 Vista Street was especially worried because both her husband and son were on duty on the same ship “somewhere in the Pacific.”  On December 18th she heard her son, Richard, had been killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, but her husband, James, had escaped unharmed.
Long Beach men: Isaac C. Kidd, Franklin Van Valkenburg,
 Samuel G. Fuqua, Edward J. Hill. Other man Paul McMurtry
            Word followed about the deaths of John Connolly and Wilbert F. Yost (5906 Brayton Ave.) , but many more men were missing.  Anxious family members didn’t learn until late January 1942 that Carl R. Brier (17 Neptune Ave.), Robert R. Clayton, Clyde Brown and Frank Head (1052 ½ E. 5th St.) had been killed in action.  Further anxious moments awaited four other Long Beach families who didn’t learn until the end of February that Ludwig.F. Weller (122 E. 52nd St.), Ralph A. Derrington (5640 ½ Cerritos), Allen R. Teer (270 Newport Ave.)  and Robert L. Kelly had been casualties in the bombing attack at Pearl Harbor.
            The 160 widows of Navy men killed at Pearl Harbor who resided in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area were offered jobs at the Lockheed owned Vega Aircraft Company in Burbank.  It was a chaplain from the Navy Relief Society who approached the Lockheed Company with the idea.  The Navy Relief Society was not subsidized by the government, but supported solely by contributions.  It realized the widows would need more help than their agency could provide.  Nearly all the women took the basic tests for Lockheed: for now, with their husbands dead, they needed to support their families themselves since no government aid was authorized.

           On February 22, 1942, marking the 210th birthday of George Washington, nearly 6000 people packed the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium to attend memorial rites for the Pearl Harbor victims.  The stage, draped with a blue backdrop, was centered by a huge white cross.  Masses of American flags stood at the sides of the stage and on the stage sat men in Army and Navy uniforms.
            As the Long Beach Municipal Band began to play religious melodies, the sound of sobbing could be heard throughout the auditorium.  Unannounced, actress/singer Jeanette MacDonald appeared from the wings, moved across stage singing “Ave Maria.”  California governor Culbert Olson followed her moving rendition and talked about the historic tragedy.  U.S. Navy chaplain John Johnson then led the audience in prayer.  Everyone in attendance had a lump in their throat and pledged that America must go on.

For more about Long Beach and Signal Hill's role in World War II, you'll find more in my book Fighting Fear.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Veteran's Day

Why we celebrate November 11th

          At 9:06 in the morning of November 7th, 1918, the Long Beach Daily Telegram received a United Press wire---the World War in Europe had ended. The armistice took effect on November 11th, at 11 o’clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. In 1926 November 11th would officially become a U.S. holiday. In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor all U.S. veterans.
           But festivities in Long Beach began on November 7th with news of the German surrender. The war was over!! The newspaper staff immediately got on the telephone and spread the news throughout the town.  The bathhouse siren roared, automobiles everywhere began to honk their horns, street cars and trains set bells and whistles going.  In an amazingly short time the streets were jammed with autos and trucks draped with flags.  Businesses closed.  Thousands of people, despite the influenza forced ban on public gatherings, paraded down the streets yelling, weeping, and waving flags.
Long Beach celebrates the end of the war.
          A semi-official parade began at 2 o'clock from the corner of Fourth and Pacific.  One automobile in the procession had a representation of the Kaiser's goat mounted on the hood; another carried the Kaiser's coffin.  Patriotic adults distributed packages of firecrackers to kids on the street.  At 3 P.M. three German flags were burned.
          Cecil W. Ayers, formerly a member of the British Royal Flying Corps, was part of the celebration, but it nearly killed him.  During the festivities, Ayers rode about Long Beach in an automobile of the British Ambulance Service, waving a large flag and shouting with his friends. A few hours later Ayer’s experienced what the Los Angeles Herald described as a “mind lapse” that led him back to the war and the battle trenches of France. He had been severely wounded during the war when his airplane was shot down in a battle with German aircraft.  In addition to suffering from shell shock, Ayers’ spine was injured by the fall and to make matters worse he had lost his wife to influenza three weeks before Armistice was declared. He was just one of the many who would suffer from this new form of illness called “shell shock” back then, but now recognized as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

          An "official" celebration to commemorate the end of World War I had to be delayed because of the influenza quarantine. 
"Victory Day" was eventually held on Sunday, December 8th. 3,500 people thronged the Municipal Auditorium for the three hour program.  Allied nations were represented by speakers from Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, and America.
          Another celebration was held the following year, when 400 men and six women were welcomed home to Long Beach on September 9, 1919.  All were given bronze medals following a parade in which the latest war veterans were honored. 
Veterans welcomed home.
That evening eulogies were spoken for those that died.  The weather-stained city service banner, which had flown over the city since the war started, was retired.  Attached to the banner was a mammoth gold star inscribed with the number 50, signifying the number of local men who gave their lives in the war.  A blue star bore the numbers 2437 showing that 2437 Long Beach men and women had stood willing to die, if necessary, in the cause of humanity.  

The Long Beach Service Flag  would have looked
 like this but the numbers would have been different.
    The first local casualty was Donald Edward Erickson (7/3/1896-6/13/1918) who died on a battlefield in France.  He was wounded in action at Chateau Thierry on June 9, 1918. Four days later he died as a result of his wounds. His mother, a widow, was supported by her three sons---Donald, Derrell and Fred---before the war. 
   When her sons approached her about enlisting she readily gave her consent. When asked by the Long Beach Press to express her feelings about having three sons in the war and Donald’s death, Mrs. Ada Lulu Erickson replied: "Each must die in time. None can die a more glorious death than this; but, oh, it's hard to feel it all, all the time." (LB Press 6/20/1918).
          Donald’s body was returned to his mother. Marines at the San Pedro submarine base were in charge of the funeral service at Sunnyside Cemetery. His brother Derrell (1886-3/26/1920) is also at Sunnyside. Derrell died in 1920 from wounds and exposure incurred during the war. Brother Fred survived and helped support his mother, he died in 1964 (3/9/1890-9/17/1964) and is buried at the Los Angeles National Cemetery. 
Named for Arthur Lincoln Peterson,
killed September 12, 1918.
     Many of those Long Beach/Signal Hill lads who died are buried in France and Belgium. Five are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D. C. Long Beach American Legion Post No. 27,  was named for Arthur Lincoln Peterson who was killed on September 12, 1918, while leading a voluntary advance to cut barbed wire before a troop invasion. Corporal Peterson is buried in the Saint Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial in Lorraine, France.  
   Some Long Beach men never made it to the war. Homer T. Rathbone (7/25/1894-1/23/1918) died at Camp Greene Hospital in North Carolina. Walter Lawrence Wickham  (9/29/1897-10/8/1918) died while on a ship in the harbor at Liverpool, England. Harold Moughan Ketels  (9/16/1896-10/29/1918) died just prior to receiving orders to report to Nautical School, at Washington D.C. Charles Edwin Livingstone  (11/18/1891-11/4/1918) was receiving training in Delvin, Washington, when he passed away. Mundie Woodard, George Tupper, and Theo Robinson also never made it to the war. All seven men had one thing in common. They all died of influenza. 

Walter Wickham
Howard Ketels
Charles Livingstone

          Following a tribute to the returned war heroes and to those who would never return, the Mayor adjusted a white silken streamer diagonally across the banner, partly obliterating the numbers on the service stars, indicating the closure of this chapter in the history of the City of Long Beach.  For sixty seconds, the three thousand people in attendance stood in silent reverence before the service banner, bidding unspoken farewell to the flag that for more than two years had stood as a constant reminder of the sacrifices made by residents of Long Beach during the Great War.
          As indicated on the blue and gold banner, 2437 Long Beach men and women had gone to war; 50 of them did not return.  In comparison, 9000 cases of influenza were reported in Long Beach between October 1, 1918 and February 1, 1919; 148 Long Beach residents died.

         The flu buried more than 50 million people throughout the world in eighteen months.  The death rate stunned physicians.  It took the battlefields of France four years to kill 15 million men but the flu did the same work in much less time.  In the United States alone more people died of the flu (550,000 adults) in 1918 than the U.S. military lost to combat in both world wars, Korea and Vietnam.  In Alaska, whole Indian villages disappeared while India lost more than 12 million people.  Adults with flu finished a poker game or army drill one minute, only to drop dead the next.  Although the epidemic initiated the biggest plague die-off in world history, it is remembered, when it is remembered at all, as no more than a bad outbreak of "the flu."
          So remember to get your flu shot!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Early Long Beach African Americans: George W. Hawkins

            In researching a possible new book on African Americans in our community, I came across a California State Office of Historic Preservation report (An Ethnic Sites Survey for California) that mentioned that most people seemed to believe that before 1940 there were virtually no African Americans in the State. But there were. Of the forty four of the original founders of the city of Los Angeles, twenty six were of African descent. Africans had been brought to Mexico, many as slaves, in the 17th century, and their descendants were racially mixed by the time of the colonization of California in the 18th century. People of mixed race were actually the majority of the population in several Mexican states. California governor Pio Pico (1845-46), the last governor of California under Mexican rule, has been described as Afro-Mexican. In the 1900 U.S. Census those that identified themselves as Mexican were classified as Black, along with African Americans. .
            I found 7,858 African Americans living in California in 1900, with 21 of that number (who lacked Hispanic surnames) living in Long Beach. Let me tell you about one of the more prominent members---George Washington Hawkins.

These image are from the Los Angeles Herald (11/4/1898). The one on the left shows Hawkins in a checked suit . The seated gentleman is J.J. Neimore, president of the California League of Afro-Americans. In the other image Hawkins'
 head is portrayed above the dog. These are the only image I have been able to find of Hawkins. The article, reporting on a "Colored Republicans Jubilee," like many from the time made fun of African Americans. This one discussed the dog who interrupted the conference more than the conference itself. 
            One of the leaders in the Long Beach and Los Angeles community was George Washington Hawkins, a Los Angeles furniture dealer who also owned a ranch in the Los Cerritos area of Long Beach. Hawkins was born in Alabama in 1845 and had been married to wife Carrie (born in Wisconsin in 1854) since 1875. Not much is known about George’s early life, though he may have been a slave born to a black mother and a white father, since he listed himself as “mulatto” in the 1910 U.S. Census.  He was referred to as “Captain” and may have served in the Civil War, though I can find no records to that effect.  He was first listed in Los Angeles City Directories in 1891 and continued having a residence in Los Angeles until 1913. He was one of the most successful African Americans in Los Angeles, according to a Los Angeles Herald article published in March 1902. His Los Angeles home was on the corner of 16th Street and Central Avenue and was located in “a refined aristocratic white community.”
            Hawkins had been active in the California Republican Party since his arrival in Los Angeles in 1891 and quickly gravitated to the California Afro-American League and its platform which stressed education, political involvement and helping each other. He was also instrumental in forming the Colored Business Men’s League of Los Angeles in 1901, which frequently met at his business at 242 E. Second Street in Los Angeles.  At that time Los Angeles had several African American physicians, a dentist, a veterinarian, tailor, plumber, nurses, pharmacist, blacksmith, cabinet makers and carpenters and there were several grocery stores and other businesses run by African Americans. The city also had two local African American newspapers. At the inaugural meeting Hawkins stated there was a need for such an association so African American men in business could come together and become acquainted with each other. There was a need to “instill into the race a desire to branch out in various commercial lines and to be better known among their people that they might obtain a good share of the trade that now drifted to other firms.” Hawkins also pointed out how an increase in patronage would enable African American owned businesses to employ others of their race. 
            In 1903 the Colored Business Men’s League took a firm stance against proposed school segregation in Los Angeles. Hawkins told the Los Angeles Herald (10/15/03)

           We are American citizens and taxpayers and our children are entitled to the same privileges as those of the whites. There should be no race distinction, particularly in a section where the differences that cause so much trouble in the south are lost sight of. It would be fully as unjust to isolate the Spanish, the Germans or any other nationality, as to exclude the Negro from the public schools. If there are unruly spirits among the Negro pupils there is a very simple remedy. Put them out of the school, just as is done with white children. No Negro parent will object to such a measure. I have talked with 20 or 30 men of my race within the past 48 hours, and I have not found one in favor of separate schools.” 

            Hawkins was elected state vice president of the California Afro-American League in 1904. The organization was one of several African American political groups formed in the United States after the Civil War. The California League started in San Francisco in 1891 with less than 150 members; by 1896 it had a chapter in all major cities of the state. Initially the members were all Republicans who espoused the belief that none but responsible and honest men should be nominated and elected to public office. After the first meeting on August 10, 1891, those present decided to form an association that would uphold the principles of the Republican Party and by doing so benefit their people in maintaining their political rights. It was also understood that as membership in the League increased, efforts would be made to obtain employment for those looking for work, and in this and other ways “establish a fraternity of interest and good will toward each other.” Women were allowed membership and voting rights in the organization and supported universal women’s suffrage, as did the men in the League.
T.B. Morton
Theophilus B. Morton founded the California Afro-American League and served as its president for seven years. Born in Virginia in 1849, he escaped from slavery in 1862 and in 1864 took part with the Eighth Illinois Regiment in defense of Washington D.C. Morton settled in California in 1875. He believed the highest duty a man owed himself was the love of a home, and in order to have a home and have it properly protected he must be involved in the political affairs of the state and nation.
       The League had a hard road ahead of them because of dissension among the members. Many felt that the pioneers and native born California African Americans were being slighted by those who had come from the south. There was also a prejudice of the black men against those of lighter color, according to the San Francisco Call (8/6/1895) 
           Morton had high ideals for the African American race. He told those in attendance at the 1896 congress held in Los Angeles:

            The young people of the race will be encouraged by the congress to cultivate their talents so that they will be fitted for the various callings in the business world, and not be contented to live from hand to mouth. We need to show our ability, and we have considerable, and thus receive the recognition we deserve, and disarm many good men and women who wish us prosperity of any lurking prejudice that remains. (San Francisco Call, 7/5/1896)

            In 1896 the League supported McKinley for president and were very happy to receive a letter from McKinley thanking them for their support. At that conference they appointed a committee of five to consider the best way to get legislation passed to end discrimination against their race. The most urgent measure related to section 60, article I, of the California Civil code, commonly known as ‘the black law,” which read: “All marriages of white persons with negroes or mulattoes are illegal and void.”  (This law would remain until the California Supreme Court voided the ban on interracial marriage in 1948). They also pushed for a bill which would allow “full and equal accommodation, advantages, facilities and privileges of inns, restaurants, hotels, eating houses, bathhouses, barber shops, music halls, public conveyances on land and water and other places of public accommodation or amusement.” If anyone committed the offense they would pay a sum of not less than $100 or more than $500. (This too would remain a dream not achieved in their lifetimes).
            The League also called mass meetings to denounce the lynching of African Americans in the South by lawless mobs and demanded proper action by the law in finding those responsible and punishing them. The League raised money to assist in defraying the cost for lawsuits in the states where the outrages occurred.
            In a speech Hawkins gave in August 1904 to the Afro-American League in Los Angeles he said the Negroes of the day were in reality slaves, kept down by the white people. He believed the Negro had to do better work and work longer hours than the white man to keep his position. He urged the race to turn to agricultural pursuits; own farms and their home life would be far happier.
            Hawkins took his own advice and purchased property in the Los Cerritos area of Long Beach. With the arrival of the Pacific Electric railway in 1902 he could easily commute between his ranch and his used furniture store in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles Herald article detailed his sentiments:

            The colored man who owns an orange ranch is treated by his white neighbor with vastly more consideration than one who owns none. The former, when he goes to a packing house to sell his oranges, finds the color of his skin no barrier. The latter goes to the same packing house to get a job and finds to his sorrow that none but white men are employed. Now, these two black men differ only in the fact that one had oranges to sell and was entertained, while the other, who had nothing to sell had a race problem on his hands.... The number of this class is happily on the increase, this pursuit carries with it an independence and dignity that the poor man finds nowhere else. To employ himself should be the ambition of every laboring man. In this lies the-hope for the colored race of Southern California. (LA Herald 3/2/1902)

            I haven’t been able to find anything more on George Washington Hawkins. I have had to rely on Los Angeles and San Francisco newspapers for information, though there were a few Long Beach newspapers from the early 1900s that have been preserved. In March 1903 the Long Beach Evening Tribune mentioned the Reverend P. Robertson of the Second Baptist Church of Los Angeles had established a mission in Long Beach at Tenth between Elm and Atlantic. Though not mentioned by name, I am certain it was thanks in part to George Washington Hawkins.
        According to census records Hawkins and his wife Carrie had no children whose descendants might know more about this remarkable man of many achievements. If any readers have additional information, please let me know.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Stories of Love Remembered

      What would Valentine’s Day be like without stories of love? Tales of romance abound in Long Beach. Let me share a few tales from the past with you.

Lost Love Found
    It was a story that brought many a tear to the eyes of many Los Angeles Herald readers the morning of August 28, 1898. It appeared that Leslie Newlin, one of the crew of the on the yacht Dawn, had found a long lost wife and she a long lost husband.
    Five years earlier Leslie was first officer of an English vessel engaged in trade in the tropics. He fell in love with the captain’s daughter, also traveling on the ship, and married her. Three weeks after marriage the vessel sank in the English channel, Leslie witnessed what he thought was the death of his wife —a huge wave washing her overboard—but unknown to him she was taken aboard one of the ship's life boats, he himself being in another of the life boats. The tempestuous sea drove the boats widely apart, after several hours Leslie’s boat was picked up by a passing vessel. The other boat which held his wife was also rescued after a long ordeal. Diligent inquiries on the part of both husband and wife failed to reveal any trace of either, both finally giving up all hope of ever seeing each other.
    While visiting Long Beach Mrs. Newlin, went for a sail on the Dawn. The couple met, looked at each other, and couldn’t believe their eyes. It couldn’t be; each thought the other dead. They chanced to meet again the next day on the wharf and he went to her and asked her who she was, and she told him. About a year ago she had married another man, thinking Leslie dead. But her first love won out. She would notify husband number two that their marriage was illegal. In the meantime she and Leslie Newlin set sail together on a lumber vessel for Puget Sound. 

An Elopement 

   It was almost like Romeo and Juliet, fifteen-year-old Jennie Thomson of Duarte thought as she eloped with twenty-four year-old Homer Norman. Her father thought her too young for romance and did not mince words when telling her so, but she was in love and wanted to spend her life with Homer. The elopement had been well planned. Homer had taken off with Jenny in one carriage and, accompanied by four young friends in another, headed to Long Beach. Long Beach, they thought, would be the perfect seaside town to take a ship out to sea and get married. Besides, the town’s telephone system shut down at 9 p.m. every evening and Jennie’s father couldn’t trace them there.
    The Thomsons discovered their daughter missing around 8:30 p.m., Sunday, August 2, 1897. They found a note explaining that she had lived at home as long as she cared to and that she had decided to spend the remainder of her life with Homer. The police were immediately notified and several search parties started toward the beach, but it was too late. Jenny, Homer and their escorts had already boarded Captain Pearson’s ship the J. Willey and were heading out to sea and the nine-mile limit where Pearson could legally marry the young lovers.
   Jenny’s father was livid, her mother prostrated with grief. Their daughter was not of legal age to marry without her parent’s consent and Alexander C. Thomson was definitely not going to give it. The determined father found his daughter in Long Beach and hurried to the seaside town demanding that Jenny come home with him. Homer Norman told his now father-in-law he no longer had a say so in the matter. Thomson disagreed.
    The tangled court case that resulted would come to define the legality of marriages at sea. If Pearson’s marriage of the couple was legal it meant that any man could take any underage child to sea, defy the wishes of her parents and have his way with her.
    On August 15, 1897, Judge M.T. Allen rendered his decision: marriages on the high seas were legal only when neither of the contracting parties was violating the laws of the State or country in which they lived when contracting such marriage. Since Jennie was underage she was still under her father’s custody. The marriage was not legal and a hysterical Jennie was returned to her family home.
    Jennie claimed she still loved Norman and vowed she would run away with him again, at the first opportunity. Alexander Thomson told the press he would rather have a dog for a son-in-law than Norman and that he would have the young man arrested on a charge of rape unless Norman stopped harassing his daughter. The threat must have done the trick. Though no further stories appear, a look at the 1900 U.S. Census finds Homer Norman living with his parents along with his British born wife, Beatrice, and their 3-month-old daughter. Jennie, eighteen-years-old in that same census, is still at home with her parents; finally of legal age to marry---but her Romeo had deserted her for another.

A Love Rekindled
    On November 20, 1907, two thousand people crowded the shore of Long Beach to bid goodbye to the cruisers Colorado, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia who were leaving Long Beach after a ten day stay. The four ships of the first division of the Pacific fleet had cordially greeted visitors and performed shore drills. The major purpose of the visit, however, was to meet family and friends who had traveled from throughout the country to meet their sailor kin. Twenty five men had enlisted during the squadron’s stay, five from Long Beach. Two Long Beach lads, Robert Mead and Arthur Letts had signed up so they wouldn’t need to testify against Alice Shorers and her alleged house of prostitution. Thirty others had deserted, often with some ingenuity. Fred Smith of Los Angeles told how he met a sailor at the West Virginia ball who persuaded him to change clothing to see how he looked in sailor’s attire. Smith then said the sailor excused himself for a moment and never came back.

   There was one remarkable story involving the fleet visit. Cora Haskell had traveled to Long Beach to visit her brother on board the South Dakota. To her astonishment she ran into an old schoolmate and beau from Dubuque, Iowa. Seventeen years earlier Patrick Burns had enlisted in the Navy. The couple vowed to write regularly but the pair eventually lost track of each other and Burns thought Cora had died. Both were overjoyed; romance again developed quickly and Patrick proposed. On June 9, 1908, Patrick’s enlistment over, he lost no time in marrying his long lost love. The newlyweds decided to make Long Beach, where their lives had again intertwined, their home.

A Father Changes His Mind
    When Y. Igloppi of Long Beach married a lovely Japanese girl in Los Angeles in January 1919, he thought their lives together would be filled with happiness. But troubles not their own were brewing and in a few short days complications arose which ended up sending them to court.
    Before the marriage festivities were over the father of the bride told the couple that an ill friend, who could not attend the wedding, wished them to visit. When the newlyweds arrived at the home of the ailing man, the father asked the bride to follow him into an adjoining room. Leaving her new husband behind, the girl followed. The father closed and locked the door, fled through another passage, taking his daughter with him. Igloppi could not find his bride and was forced to return to Long Beach without her. He told his story to Attorney Newton M. Todd who served a warrant on the girl's family. According to reports the father, upon thinking about it, decided he could negotiate a better marriage to a more prosperous man for his daughter. But it was too late. Threatened with a law suit for having decoyed the bride away, the father returned the girl to her legal husband. It was a happy ending for the couple loved each other. Now all Igloppi had to do was prove himself a worthy husband to the father. 

Looking for a Wife
    In November 1913 Mayor Kiel of St. Louis received an interesting letter from L.B. Johnson of Long Beach:

    Dear Mayor – I am writing you a letter asking you to help me find a companion. Am 23 years old, 5 feet 11 ¾ inches in height, with light complexion and blue eyes; weigh between 185 and 192. I want a good girl, not over 20 years old. She must be good looking, a fair cook and willing to start life with a young man who will treat her right and offer her a good home. I do not want any red haired woman. She may be fair or dark, but not too dark. If you will find me this kind of a girl I will be ever thankful. Kindly answer right away. L.B. Johnson.

    Johnson, living at 65 Alamitos Avenue, got the idea from a friend, Leo Anderson, who wrote a letter to the chief of police of St. Louis asking him to help him find a wife. Anderson received many replies, one of them from Miss Ella Alvin. The letter was nice, and a picture was enclosed convincing him she was the girl he was looking for.
    Anderson joked to Johnson that he should think about getting married. Johnson thought about it for a few years, and then decided to do what his friend suggested. Anderson helped Johnson draft the letter but put in the piece about the red-hair as a joke. Johnson, a fireman by trade expected to get as lucky as his friend Leo, because as he told the Daily Telegram “their experience has shown that a correspondence courtship may result in a happy marriage.”
   Unfortunately, there were no follow up stories to tell of Johnson’s success or failure, he moved away from Long Beach the following year. Did he travel to St. Louis to meet the woman of his dreams? Sadly, we will never know.

An Advertising Success
Unlike Mr. Johnson, Orion Watson did succeed in finding a wife, his second, through advertising. In January 1911, Orion and Mrs. Jennie Keener saw each other for the first time at the Southern Pacific depot on Second Street, and married that same afternoon. The widowed Watson, about 50, had come all the way from Hatchie, Mississippi, to meet and wed 40-year-old Jennie. It had been a short courtship. In November 1910, Orin inserted an advertisement in a matrimonial newspaper (yes, there were such things back then). Jennie answered it. Orion wasted no time, proposing they get married on Christmas day.  here was one delay. Jennie, who lived in Illinois, had been sent a railroad ticket by her Long Beach relatives, the Dunstons. She had always wanted to see California, and told Orion he would have to wait. An anxious Orion replied that he too wanted to see California. He arrived in Long Beach on January 11th. The couple married and honeymooned in Long Beach for the winter.

No Kissing
  No one knows exactly how Valentine’s Day began, but what would it be without a kiss between lovers? Well, folks in Long Beach were faced with that possibility when in 1918 Long Beach became a kiss-less beach. To keep Long Beach a nice moral town city officials passed an ordinance prohibiting caressing, hugging, fondling, embracing, kissing or wrestling on the beach and at the Pike. The law also prohibited a person from resting his or her head on another person’s lap. If you broke the law you would be fined, imprisoned or both.
    A. T. Sackett became the first man arrested under section two of Ordinance B - 456. Sackett was given an option---a fine of $l5 or spending 15 days in jail. He told the judge the young woman in whose company he was when arrested was the girl to whom he was engaged to marry. Sackett pleaded guilty to violating the ordinance, but declined to pay the fine levied by the court and appealed on constitutional grounds. “Under the Long Beach law a man can be arrested for kissing his mother or his sister,” he said. “My arrest and fining was unjust.”
    Sackett won on his appeal. Superior Judge Willis declared the local imitation of Connecticut's blue laws unconstitutional and "an unwarranted interference with the inalienable right of liberty and pursuit of happiness." His decision was also based on the fact that none of the acts listed in the ordinance could be declared wrong in themselves, but depended upon two things: First, whether the act, otherwise harmless, was performed in a public place. Second, whether the participants of the act were of the opposite sex. In other words, a young man could kiss, hug and embrace his girlfriend in the privacy of her own home, but should they do it outside, they would both be guilty of a misdemeanor. Also, a male child could place its head upon the lap of his father and a female child on the lap of her mother on the beach, but if their respective positions were reversed they too would be guilty of breaking the law. The remaining portion of the ordinance, governing public morals, was unaffected by Judge Willis' decision. Thanks to Judge Willis, a public kiss was now legal in Long Beach.

    I hope you take advantage of Judge Willis’ decision and share a kiss with one you love this Valentine’s Day.