Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Burnett District and the Terminal Railroad

A little known, but very historic area of Long Beach has recently come under discussion.  The Burnett school which believed itself to be named for Peter Hardeman Burnett, the first governor of California, was renamed the Bobbie Smith Elementary School in September 2014, after charges that Peter Burnett was an alleged racist.  But somewhere along the line it was forgotten that the area of the city once known as Burnett was actually named after Thomas Burr Burnett, the general manager of the Terminal Railroad, whose rail line opened the future metropolis of Long Beach to the world.


            Since 1888 there had been talk of a third transcontinental railroad line from Los Angeles, by way of the rich mineral fields of Southern Nevada and Utah, to Salt Lake City.  The franchise to build the line was finally awarded to the Los Angeles Utah and Atlantic Railway. For two years the railway did nothing, and in 1890 the Los Angeles Terminal Railway Company asked for the lapsed franchise and land grants of the do-nothing railway.  The city of Los Angeles granted the new franchise with one stipulation: a levee had to be built by the railroad on the east bank of the Los Angeles River.

Terminal railroad accident at the Municipal cemetery 1929
            The Los Angeles Terminal Railroad Company was formed in September 1890 out of the Long Beach and San Pedro Railroad Company and the Los Angeles Pasadena and Glendale Railroad.  Thomas B. Burnett was general manager, W.H. Workman, W. Winthup and D. McFarland directors.  In 1890, the Terminal Railway acquired Rattlesnake Island at San Pedro from the Dominguez family as a terminus for their rail line (eventually changing the name of the island to Terminal Island).  Despite the protests of some that a rail line along Ocean Avenue would destroy the beauty of the town on April 5, 1891, the Long Beach Board of Trustees granted the Terminal Railway a franchise to build a line along the beach front, bringing the cars directly to the hotels.  The citizens of Long Beach celebrated the momentous event by having a banquet and torchlight procession. 

Driving of the Golden Spike - The Road is Dedicated

            On November 7, 1891, twelve carloads of people flocked to the Long Beach seashore to witness the opening of the new railroad.  Flags were flown from housetops and a large crowd of people awaited the visitors.  A stop made at Pacific Park allowed many more to board the train before it reached the terminus on Rattlesnake Island.

            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, daughter of the general manger of the rail line.  The spike was a facsimile of the regulation railroad spike, but made of gold; it was engraved with the inscription: “Last spike driven by the Terminal Railroad at Long Beach, Cal.” (Los Angeles Times 11/9/1891) 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. 

(What happened to the spike?  Around 1911 two boys pried it 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.  What happened after that remains a mystery.)  

            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 brought home the bones from the barbecue as souvenirs.

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.

             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 (Alamitos Beach), the second on the northeast corner of Ocean and Pacific.  Two miles out of town there was the Burnett Station. 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.

Burnett Railway Station

     Two miles out of downtown Long Beach, farmers south of Signal Hill decided they needed their own rail depot. The area was known for its beautiful flower fields, and taking their daily pickings into Long Beach meant that many of the  fragile blooms would be damaged before making it to the Los Angeles market. They petitioned the Terminal Railroad for their own station. Thomas Burnett, general manager of the Terminal Railroad,  complied and a depot was built (northwest corner of California and Burnett).  Originally called the Signal Hill Station, it took on a new name in February 1897 (Los Angeles Herald 2/28/1897). It seemed the post office didn't like compound or hyphenated names for their post office stations. Many remembered Thomas Burnett, who had suffered a stroke the previous year, and wanted the new station named for him, to honor his achievements.  Signal Hill station became Burnett. Within a few months the area around the depot began to be referred to as Burnett.  Burnett, was on high ground overlooking the entire city of Long Beach, the harbor and Catalina Island, lay just south of what is now the intersection of Willow and California.  A school, the third in the Long Beach district was established in 1888. Known as the Signal Hill School, the name was changed to Burnett Elementary in the late 1890s.  

Burnett Station

     The fact the area had its own rail station proved a boon to the area.  What was home to truck gardeners gradually gave way to housing. 
 In July 1903, the Evening Tribune reported a building boom in Burnett with land selling for $1000 an acre.  A number of families had recently arrived from “Indian Territory” (as Oklahoma was known then).  This influx of new immigrants meant that two new rooms had to be added to the school house.
            Burnett was a prominent farming community.  At one time three miles of farm land separated it from Long Beach, but with the all the real estate activity houses were quickly replacing agriculture.
            Burnett was the first station out of Long Beach to the north on the  railroad line.  Its fertile soil and climate meant that flowers and fruits could be raised year round.  It was not unusual for the railroad to pick up 400 pounds of flowers and berries each day to take to market.  A large cannery operated on the forty acre Densmore Ranch in Burnett.  4000 gallon cans of blackberries and 600 cases of jams and preserves of figs and other kinds of fruit were put up during the season.  
     In August 1913, Los Angeles businessman C. Dean Mc-Phail, bought a large section of what became known as the Burnett Villa Tract for development.  Gradually the area known as Burnett would be absorbed into Long Beach, with only the name Burnett Street, Burnett school, and Burnett library remaining to mark the history of the district.
     On March 22, 1920 (Long Beach Press 2/23/1920), residents of the Burnett district decided they were satisfied with "Burnett" as the name of their school.  While other schools in the district were changing their names from the area of the city where they were located to names of historical personages, Burnett decided to remain Burnett. 
     Over the years Thomas B. Burnett was forgotten. He had only been involved with the Terminal railway for 6 years when in 1896 he suffered a stroke and remained bedridden until his death on August 15, 1901.  If he had lived his name may have been as well known as Henry Huntington.  It was his ambition to see the Terminal railway become a link in a transcontinental system, which it did become when it was absorbed the the Salt Lake railway which later became the Union Pacific.  He was a mover and shaker who died at the too young age of 57.
     History can become confused, which is the case of Burnett school and library.  The Long Beach School District in looking for a famous Burnett to keep the name of the school the same, found Peter Burnett, California's first governor. Thomas Burnett's short history with the railroad and Long Beach was forgotten.  It's too late to change the name of Burnett school back to the "real" Burnett behind the name, but fortunately the City of Long Beach is keeping its Burnett Branch Library name, despite an article which appeared in the Press-Telegram in October 1957 saying the library was also named for Peter Burnett.  History can also become embellished, such as the story told by a Burnett resident to reporter Walter Case in the 1930s. Case was told that the Burnett station had always been named Burnett and that the only reason it was constructed was because area farmers said if built they would name the station after the Terminal Railroad's general manger.  Let's remedy the errors today, remembering the real history of the Burnett area and railroad man Thomas Burr Burnett.

In case you're wondering...I'm not related to either Peter or Thomas Burnett...nor is my husband. And if you're curious about the Get-Out-And-Push railroad, the first into Long Beach---that's another blog!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Alamitos Beach Library

When you travel down Third Street, few realize that the Spanish looking building located between residences is actually a library, and the most important legacy of a town that once was---Alamitos Beach.  It was on July 6, 1895, that residents of the community which would eventually join Long Beach in 1909, held a hay ride and dime social to raise money for a library.  Nearly 40 people turned out with wagons, carts, carriages and bicycles and rode to the Thornberg’s residence where Humphrey Taylor played piano, Miss Willard recited poetry, and general conversation ensued.  Later that year a masquerade ball was held, with $16 raised for the building fund.  The new structure was to be more than just a library; it was to become the community center for the entire town in which plays, meetings, lectures and any and all gatherings could be held.  It wouldn’t be restricted to any sect or clique, according to the February 28, 1897 Los Angeles Herald, it would be perfectly free and open to all.  That historic site still houses a library today--the Alamitos branch library at 1836 East Third Street (called Bishop Street in earlier days). 
The original library
On April 9, 1897, the library was formally dedicated. Every cent of the cost of the building was raised by the efforts of the people themselves, the land donated by the Alamitos Land Company, headed by Jotham Bixby. The building cost about $500, with most of the construction done by civic minded citizens. That Friday evening, the April l1, 1897 Los Angeles Herald reported, the Library association turned the building over to E.S. Fortune, chairman of the building committee, clear of all debt.  The community turned out in force for the dedication, paying 25 cents admission, which also entitled them to a chicken supper and entertainment which consisted of: a piano solo, by Prof. Humphrey Taylor; address of welcome, ex-President Mrs. D.S. Shaw; vocal solo, “Twas April,” (encore, “In the Lovely Month of May”) by Miss Ada Dillon; report of the chairman of the building committee, E.S. Fortune; remarks by Mrs. A.M. Dunn, president of the Library association; report of the secretary of the Library association, A.M. Dunn; a wand drill by 14 young girls, pupils of Miss Ella Nevell’s school, led by Miss Ada Wingard; violin solo, A. Clever; intermission of half an hour, during which refreshments of ice cream, cake and lemonade were served; piano solo, Prof. H. Taylor; vocal solo, O.S. Taylor; mandolin solo, A. Cleaver; vocal solo, “Holy City,” Clifford Smith; “Advertising for a Wife,” Pantomime company. 
Library association members had met at the homes of its members until the library was built.  They had collected a number of books before the building was erected and took later took turns acting as librarian.  When the library was given to the City of Long Beach on February 3, 1910, it housed 500 volumes and Mrs. Violet Gresham was hired as librarian.  It was turned over to the City of Long Beach with the stipulation that the ladies of the Alamitos Library Association would always have use of rooms for social and literary meetings.

The one-story frame structure stood on the site until 1928, when a beautiful Spanish style building

with painted ceiling beams, tiled staircases and iconic, iron-decorated front windows replaced the one-story frame structure in January 1929---a glowing tribute to the town that once was---Alamitos Beach.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Early Long Beach Subdivisions - Carroll Park

     Long Beach is full of historic areas, including one of the most picturesque---Carroll Park.
     Carroll Park, like most of the other real estate developments in early Alamitos Townsite, got its start in 1902.  The announcement of the coming of the Pacific Electric railway into Long Beach set off a tremendous real estate boom along the proposed rail lines. Along these routes various housing tracts sprang up on former farm land.  Wherever the PE cars led, subdividers, development, and growth soon followed.  Just as the railroads had brought excursion trains into Southern California during the earlier boom years of the 1880s, so now the Pacific Electric ran special excursions to beach towns along its route, including Long Beach.  A beach boom of real estate speculation resulted. Contracts flew from hand to hand so fast that no one knew where the chain of title ran.  Many of Long Beach’s early residents made money in subdividing their original land purchases, tract names such as Johnson, Kenyon, and Tutts reflect names of those who were wise enough to have bought early and sold later at a substantial profit. Not so lucky, however, was John Carroll.

Carroll Park layout
     Upon returning from India in 1902, John Carroll decided to cash in on the real estate frenzy and subdivide his 30 acres of property at the corner of 4th and Junipero.  There has been much discussion as to why he laid out the subdivision with a circular pattern of streets.   Roberta Nichols in Los Fierros magazine (September 1976) said it was to discourage farmers who ruined streets with heavy wagons.  A more romantic version of the story is that Madam Tingley, the controversial head of the Point Loma metaphysical colony, a friend of John and Jane Carroll, told the couple she saw “favorable” signs in laying out streets in unbroken circles.  In any case the winding streets gave the tract a park like setting.
     First, Carroll hired Hervey Shaw, who later became City Engineer, to lay out the subdivision.  Shaw, who had farmed the Carroll Park area since 1897, laid out the center of the tract in an ellipse entirely surrounded by a driveway.  These driveways swung out to surrounding streets in such a way as to preserve the curves and at the same time divide the outside sections.       
     On Monday, January 19, 1903, the Carroll Park tract was placed on the market.  There were fifteen lots, each 50 x 200 feet, with cement curbs and sidewalks, and graded streets.  Lots were priced between $300- $1100.  In order to protect the property from cheap buildings, Carroll placed a $1500 (about $41,000 in today's money) building restriction on each lot.  Carroll Park was advertised as having every convenience: pure water under pressure, electric lights, gas, telephones, and a streetcar line within one block.
Carroll home
   Carroll reserved the corner of 4th & Junipero for his own home, an imposing three-story New England style structure built under the direction of H.W. Green.  Verandas extended around three sides of the first two floors and a widow's walk around the smaller third story that held the ballroom.  From the walk the Carroll family could see the ocean and a few houses set among farms, orchards, and eucalyptus groves. Today, a church and parking lot occupy the site.  Still intact, however, is the maze of streets, but the names have changed.  Gone is Huerta, Spanish for orchard, named because there was an olive orchard on his house site; Hechezur has also been replaced, it means enchanted or bewitched, an apt description of his tract. Carrollton was named for the developer himself and swung up to the wide veranda of his home. Another wasTingling, named for Madame Katherine Tingley, leader and head of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society at Point Loma.  
    Pehaps the most notable resident of Carroll Park was Lily Fremont, daughter of General John C. Fremont and Jessie Benton Fremont, who purchased lot 12 at 338 Junipero in 1905. There she built her house, which still stands, before moving in 1908.  Her ties to Long Beach went back to 1851 when her father offered Abel Sterns $300,000 for the Rancho Los Alamitos.  The deal didn’t go through; if it had she would have been a wealthy woman owning half of Long Beach instead of a 50 x 200 foot section.
  Carroll was 48-years-old when he moved to Long Beach for his daughter's health.  A native of Ireland, he entered the United States in 1894 and soon left for Singapore where he managed one of the largest tin smelting plants in the world.  In Long Beach he became vice president of the First National Bank and served on several boards.  In 1907, whether for business reasons or his daughter's health, the Carrolls were living in Victorville.  Bad luck and debts followed.  He was forced to deed certain properties to the First National Bank; his house was sold, and on July 6, 1909, he deeded the small planted section of the Park to the city for $130 in back taxes.  During the Depression of the 1930s he died at the Riverside County Hospital at the age of 83.  According to Nichols, his wife, Elizabeth Jane, died six months later; she had been reduced to receiving welfare and the State asked permission to sell her personal effects to defray funeral expenses.  Regardless of whatever happened to the Carrolls in later years, Carroll Park still stands as a tribute to their vision.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The First Late Night TV Host - Don "Creesh" Hornsby

     Did you ever hear of Don "Creesh" Hornsby?  His name would most likely have been as well known as Steve Allen, Jack Parr, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno if death hadn't overtaken the 26-year-old Long Beach comedian in May 1950.  Hornsby who lived in Long Beach with wife Dorothy, daughters Dawn and Dare, and son, Dave, started his showbiz career in 1948 at the Jack Lasley Cafe (Second Street at Santa Ana Avenue)  in Belmont Shore. Hornsby was a tremendously gifted concert pianist and composer and at the Belmont Shore cafe he combined his piano artistry with song parodies, magic tricks, unusual facial expressions and hilarious ad lib comic patter.  Sometimes he climbed into a rubber life raft suspended above his piano and tossed dry ice at the audience.  His performance was talked about throughout Southern California and people drove from all over the Southland to Long Beach to catch his act.  The screwball comic did a five-hour nonstop show without a break, eating his meals on stage while he reeled off a seemingly inexhaustible supply of gags.  Every 30 seconds he bellowed out "creesh" and if a lady customer appeared jittery as he swung over her head on a high trapeze, he would boom out "Don't get nervous. I know what I'm doing." Two minutes later he would have her on stage for a magic act where he would tie two scarves together and tuck them down her neckline.  He would then mutter "creesh...creesh" and pull the scarves and there, where the knot used to be was a brassier.  Hornsby said the theme of his comedy structure was "constructive escapism" which he called "creeshism." which meant that anything can be funny in the proper situation.

      His success in Long Beach brought another comedian to his door, Bob Hope, who loved Hornsby's act and placed him on Hope's weekly radio show. Always on the lookout for new material, Hornsby made a tour of Europe in the summer of 1949, watching shows in Paris, Bern, Naples and other cities, and when he returned to Long Beach he revealed he was developing a new type of act that he hoped would carry him to New York. He had his chance to preview his new act in February 1950 when Hornsby appeared with Bob Hope, Doris Day, Les Brown, and several other well known stars at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium in a live radio performance which was broadcast coast-to-coast. His radio and stage success caught the attention of NBC television executives in New York. Two weeks before his death NBC announced it had signed Hornsby to a five-year television contract to present a late-night show out of New York. Broadway Open House was network television's first late night comedy variety show.  It was televised live on NBC from May 29, 1950 to August 24, 1951, airing weeknights from 11 pm to midnight.  It went on to become the Tonight Show. Unfortunately Hornsby did not even get to perform one show...he died May 22, 1950.

     Infantile paralysis didn’t just strike the young, it could strike quickly AND it could be deadly, as Don Hornsby discovered.  Hornsby had worked long and hard to make a name for himself both on radio, stage and television, but as his star was rising he was stricken by polio and placed in an iron lung. Within a week after he was diagnosed with the disease he was dead.

     The Tonight Show would become the longest running program on television creating stars overnight and making its hosts icons of the American television viewing audience. However, the fame and glory that should have been Don Hornsby’s was cut short by infantile paralysis.  Let us remember him here.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Do you remember the story of Huguette Clark, heiress to a massive fortune, who chose to spend her remaining years in a hospital rather than in her $100 million home in Santa Barbara, or her New York mansion?  She was the daughter of William A. Clark, known as the “Montana Copper King,” and she passed away in 2011 at the age of 104.  You may be surprised to learn that though she never lived in or spent much time in Los Angeles or Orange Counties, much of her wealth came from here.  

Huguette in the 1920s

William Andrews Clark, born in a log cabin on a farm in Pennsylvania in 1839, embodied the American dream rising from humble roots to great wealth, eventually becoming a U.S. senator from Montana.  While serving in the Senate in 1904, the widower with grown children, shocked the political world by revealing a secret marriage to a woman 39 years his junior, though no record of that marriage was ever found.  When the announcement was made the 62-year-old senator and 23-year-old Anna LaChapelle Clark already had a two-year-old daughter, Andree.  Their second child, Huguette, was born in Paris in 1906.  When Clark died in 1925, he left an estate estimated at $100 million to $250 million, worth up to $3.4 billion today.  One-fifth of the estate went to 18-year-old Huguette who chose to 

Andree, Wm. Clark, Huguette
spend the last twenty years of her life in self-imposed E
xile in hospital rooms in Manhattan, even though it was said she was in good health.  According to author Bill Dedman, she was so reclusive that one of her attorneys, who had dealt with her business affairs for many years, never spoke face-to-face with her, talking to her only on the phone and through closed doors.  Much of Huguette’s interesting life, which Dedman and others see as similar to Howard Hughes in his later years, can be found in Dedman’s book Empty Mansions.

I was disappointed in reading Dedman's book that little information was given about the fortune the Clark brothers made in Southern California.  Let me correct that oversight.
William Clark and his brother Ross had a dramatic effect on growth in Southern California, but little has been written about them.   Montana Senator William A. Clark, was said to be the largest individual owner of copper mines and smelters in the world, he was also considered one of the richest.  Beginning with $1500, earned by working the gold mines of Colorado and Montana, he became a Montana businessman and parlayed his money into a fortune.

Hauling sugar beets
            His younger brother, James Ross Clark, known as Ross, was also involved in various Clark enterprises.  In 1892, Ross moved from Montana to Los Angeles with his wife Miriam, daughter Ella and son Walter, and saw a future in sugar beets.  Sugar beets had been around since the days of ancient Egypt, but it wasn't until the middle of the 18th century that the beet was thought to have a commercial potential. About that time, the German chemist Andreas Margraff came to believe that sugar cane was not the only sugar producer. He began a series of experiments with different varieties of vegetables, including the beet.  In 1759, he published a report on the commercial potential of the beet in making sugar, but no one picked up on his ideas for about fifty years. It was Llewellyn Bixby and his Flint cousins who saw the potential of sugar beet production in California.  In 1872, they built the first successful sugar beet factory in America in Alvarado (now Union City) California  which eventually proved profitable after much trial and error.
           In July 1895, the Bixby Investment Company (which included Jotham Bixby, Thomas Flint, and Llewellyn Bixby), turned their eyes south to Southern California to open another factory.  But money was tight; though the Bixby Investment Company owned much land they didn’t have the necessary capital to build a factory.  Through wheeling and dealing they convinced the Clark brothers to construct a sugar beet factory in the Long Beach-Orange County area, on land owned by the Bixbys and Flints.  This was a great coup for the State of California, because California would now have 5 of the 8 sugar beet factories in the United States.

Los Alamitos Sugar beet factory
The factory opened at 6 a.m. Monday morning, July 21, 1897, in the area that would become the town of Los Alamitos.  For 100 days a continuous stream of beets, twelve tons per hour, entered the factory to have sugar extracted. On July 23rd the factory produced its first batch of white granulated sugar.  Earlier, a large tract of land, which many in the Long Beach-Orange County area live on today,  was subdivided into ten and twenty acre ranches and rented to farmers with the stipulation that they plant certain crops.  By December 1896, all 8600 acres of land on the Alamitos Rancho was rented.  Beets which had been planted on 3600 of those acres were ready to be harvested that next July.
Within two years of building the Los Alamitos sugar factory, the Clarks had purchased an additional 8000 acres of the neighboring Cerritos ranch for $405,000, which they leased to farmers. The land extended from Signal Hill to the City of Bellflower, and east of Cherry to the San Gabriel River.  This acquisition brought their investments in Southern California to about $1,500,000.

Santa Ana-Newport railroad
In February 1899, the brothers bought the twenty-two mile Santa Ana and Newport Railway which had two lines: one running from Newport to Santa Ana, and the other from Newport to Westminster.  Eventually it was expanded to pass through Los Alamitos, the Cerritos ranch, and connect to San Pedro and Los Angeles.  This rail line enabled the Clarks to receive cane sugar from Hawaii at either Newport or San Pedro, refine it and send it out through Los Angeles to anyplace in the United States. 
            Through this rail line the Clarks would be instrumental in forming the third transcontinental railroad link across the United States, the Los Angeles & Salt Lake railroad.  Jointly, with the Union Pacific railroad they constructed a line 1,000 miles long, from San Pedro harbor and Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.  An area in southern Nevada appeared to be a good midpoint for the railroad, supplying water and crews, so in 1905 the town of Las Vegas was born. 
In 1904, the brothers formed the Montana Land Company, the area around the current Long Beach airport.  This ranch continued its operations until 1934, when they bowed to the inevitable and started subdividing, creating the city of Lakewood. 
What of sugar beets? The Los Alamitos sugar beet factory was followed by four others in Orange County -- in 1908 one was built on Main Street, just outside of Santa Ana; in 1911 another in Huntington Beach; and in 1912 two were built, one in Anaheim and the other on Dyer Road, south of Santa Ana.
            The growth of the sugar beet industry had a profound effect on American life in the 20th century. The beet sugar provided an inexpensive alternative to cane sugar.  New industries developed around this economical sugar product: cake mixes, jellies, preserves and other processed foods owe their existence to the development of beet sugar in America.  By 1925, however, the soil of Los Alamitos and Cerritos ranchos was depleted and beet production fell.  Failure of many farmers to follow sound crop-rotation programs started the decline.  Added to this was the trouble with pests and diseases which raged unchecked in the period immediately following World War I.  And in the course of years, not just sugar beets, but all crops gradually had to make way for people.  The Los Alamitos factory closed down and was eventually sold to Dr. Ross, a dog food maker, now is now the site of the Los Alamitos race track.  However, sugar beet growing remained in the area well into the 1950’s; the last factory was the Holly plant on Dyer road in Irvine before it too gave way to housing.

Now hotly contested,  Huguette’s will may very well be in the news for some time to come.  Nineteen of her Clark relatives went to court in 2012 to throw out her last will and testament accusing her attorney, accountant and nurse of fraud, and describing Beth Israel Medical Center, where she spent her final years, as a jailer.  If they succeed they would inherit her entire fortune, more than $300 million, much of that money made as a result of that first Southern California sugar beet factory in Los Alamitos.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Long Ago Long Beach Christmases

            In the December 19, 1948, Southland Magazine, Katherine Bushong reminisced about the first Christmas program held in Long Beach in 1885.  The Methodist Sunday School, housed in the chapel of the newly built Tabernacle, invited the entire village to the event.
            Mrs. Bushong, who was Katy Robinson then, remembered that it was chilly outside, but when people entered the building they were greeted by lights, warmth, friendliness and the wonderful smell of a fresh tall fir tree.  Real candles glowed on the tree, which was also strung with fluffy popcorn and bright red cranberries.  As the children sang Christmas songs, there was the sound of sleigh bells.  The jingling became louder and louder until suddenly Santa Claus came through the doorway.  Once the children told Santa (W.W. Lowe) that they had been good all year, he gave every youngster a bag of candy and nuts.
            That same year, a Monterey cypress tree was planted in the southwest corner of Lincoln Park (then known as Pacific Park).  In 1914 it was decorated with tinsel and colored lights. It became known as Long Beach's living Christmas tree.  There, under that tree, an annual Christmas program was presented until the tree died in the late 1920's.

            In December 1889 Southern California experienced  torrential rains and the flat area between Long Beach and Wilmington was under six feet of water.  The water rushing in the rivers was so swift that every bridge except the old Macy Street covered bridge in Los Angeles was swept away.  The 2600 acre Nadeau vineyard, east of Florence was devastated by the overflow of the Los Angeles, San Gabriel and Rio
Honda rivers.  Nearly everything on the Nadeau property was swept away in the flood including kegs of wine.  Some of the ranchers living on the flood plain partially recouped some of their losses by this windfall of wine, which they viewed as an unexpected Christmas gift.  Twenty years later folks still claimed to have some of that wine on tap in their homes. The Nadeau’s never fully recovered from their losses, and switched from raising grapes to sugar beets.
            That same flood put the Southern Pacific railroad out of commission and quite a few Long Beach citizens were stranded in Los Angeles. Many had been out Christmas shopping and couldn’t get home.  What would Christmas be without family and presents?  A boat was sent for the stranded citizens of Long Beach, and they were transported to the high land of the mesa on which downtown Long Beach was situated.  The city was shut off from all outside communication for three weeks until the flood waters receded and things finally got back to normal.  

       On Christmas morning, 1899, Southern California was rudely awakened at 4:25 A.M. not by Santa, but by a severe earthquake.  In Long Beach, the vibrations lasted about fifteen seconds; the shock was heavy enough to shake down pans and other loose articles in stores and houses and stop the clock at the Julian Hotel.
       The quake was centered in Riverside County near Hemet. On the Saboda Indian reservation near San

Jacinto, six Indians were killed and four fatally injured when an adobe building, in which they were holding Christmas celebrations, collapsed.  Almost every house in Hemet had their chimneys shaken down and china broken.  Beds and bureaus were moved by the tremor and stoves overturned.  Small fissures were visible in the streets and water pipes were snapped.  The County hospital which had just been built was a total wreck, though patients escaped injury.
       Several aftershocks followed, with people afraid to return to their beds.  Coming during the final days of the nineteenth century, many could not help but wonder if this tragedy was a portent of the century to come.



Saturday, November 2, 2013

Long Beach Museum of Art


            On June 14, 1950, the Long Beach City Council authorized $100,000 to buy the O’Donnell property at 2260 and 2300 E. Ocean Boulevard and funded an additional $25,000 to decorate and refit it as an art center.  The three-story, 10-room house overlooked a large beach area which the city wished to acquire for public recreation.  There were additional incentives for buying the property:  the city could now straighten Ocean Boulevard and use the residence as an art museum.
            The property had had many owners since it was built in 1907.  Originally the residence of Elizabeth Milbank Anderson, a wealthy philanthropist from New York City, in 1926 it became the home of the short-lived Club California Casa Real, a private club which claimed to be Long Beach's first social, athletic and beach club for "educated and refined" people. Memberships were graduated in price from $100 to $1000,
Aerial view of the future art museum 1921
depending upon classification and time membership was acquired.  The first five hundred members paying $100, with the price rising until the complete membership quota was filled.  The Club soon faced stiff competition from the Pacific Coast Club opened near the heart of downtown Long Beach.  Failing to meet financial obligations, the Club California properties were auctioned off in 1929 and bought by Thomas A. O'Donnell.  During World War II the property was used as an officer’s club but in 1950 it was for sale at a reasonable price.
            The Municipal Art Center (as it was first called) opened on Saturday night June 23, 1951, amid controversy.  A chair with a nude sketch had art patrons buzzing.  Was it modern art --- whimsy and full of wit?  Or was it sidewalk art --- vulgar and out of place?  Everyone had their own opinion about the nude chair designed by cartoon artist Saul Steinberg.  City librarian, Edwin Castagna, in charge of the Art Center until an art director could be selected, had his hands full.
            Castagna had been City Librarian less than a year, replacing Mrs. Theodora R. Brewitt who had served in that position for 29 years.  An avid fighter against censorship, he wasn’t about to change the “interesting” display.  When Mrs. Dean Godwin, chairman of the Municipal Arts Committee, saw the chair, she asked Castagna to remove it.  He declined.  Someone took the matter into their own hands, turning the chair around with its back to the audience.  Castagna and his staff kept turning it around again with its nude front showing.  Mrs. Godwin said she would take the matter up with “proper authorities", who the press took to mean the City Manager.  When City Manager Samuel Vickers was contacted for his opinion on the matter, he issued a brief “no comment.”  Would the chair stay?  It would.  If it was removed, Fran Soldini, a famous Long Beach artist, claimed Long Beach would become the laughing stock of the United States.
         This wasn't the first time that "art" in Long Beach had come under criticism.  Back in 1914 the public library, which also served as the city's first art museum,  removed a painting because Mayor Louis N. Whealton thought it a disgrace.  The picture in question was "The Portrait of a Young Man" which the mayor labeled "as a bad example to be set before the youth of the city" because the young man held a lighted cigarette in his hand.  The mayor said:

I have no objection to a man smoking a cigarette when he is old enough to have completely formed his character, but to have such a picture before the youth of the nation is a disgrace."

City librarian Victoria Ellis resigned over this and other "systematic, harassing and petty annoyances" from Mayor Whealton.  Ironically, one of the city's newspapers, the Daily Telegram was preparing for a new advertiser---Camel Cigarettes.  For several weeks a camel appeared in advertisements with a single word: "coming." Back in the early 1900’s, most cigarette smokers rolled their own cigarettes. There were many brands of tobacco from which smokers could choose, and most thought there would be no national market for pre-rolled and packaged cigarettes. This was the case until 1913, when R.J. Reynolds released Camel cigarettes.  Prior to releasing the now-famous brand, R.J. Reynolds developed a massive advertising campaign for the cigarettes. The months-long “The Camels are Coming” campaign raised public interest and built anticipation for Camels. Eventually the entire Camel Cigarette ad appeared (the first cigarette advertisement in not only Long Beach newspapers but all newspapers) but the mayor had no control over the newspaper and the ad remained!

Omar Hubbard Building 1920's

A sad postscript - On April 3, 1976, the 11-story Omar Hubbard building at the SW corner of Broadway and Cedar (310 W. Broadway) was ripped down to make way for a new museum that was never built---an art museum, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei.