Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ocean Center Building


        A new 14-story, 197-foot-tall downtown high-rise, the Ocean Center Building, opened in the closing days of 1929, built on the site of the old Pacific Electric depot station.  Designed by Raymond M. Kennedy who worked for  architects Meyer and Holler, the unusually shaped Spanish Renaissance style building was formed by an octagonal tower, surmounted by a pyramidal roofed penthouse which contained the elevator and ventilation equipment.  Originally there were 190 offices in the structure and garage space for 160 cars.  Located at the northwest corner of Ocean and Pine (110 West Ocean Boulevard), two sides of the building fronted on major streets, the third overlooked the ocean, and the fourth was bounded by the fifteen-foot-wide Ocean Way, leading to the Pike amusement zone.
        For fifteen years Walter Lowrie Porterfield (known as W. L.) had been battling to get his high-rise built.  He had crossed swords many of the powered elite in the city.  A moneyed man himself, Porterfield sold his interests in the Home Telephone Company in 1906 for a reported million dollars, which he vowed to spend  to develop Long Beach.  He was involved in the building of the Hotel Virginia, bid against Henry Huntington and the Pacific Electric for the electric rail line franchise for Long Beach,  he was a partner in the First National Bank, and as a member of  the school board was involved in a scandal related to a contract for school desks.  In 1910 he began to push for a new horseshoe shaped pier in Long Beach, on property he owned.  He also owned extremely desirable property adjacent to the Pine Avenue Pier and the Pike.  It was here he wanted to build his Porterfield (later called Ocean Center) building.  Finally, in 1928, everything seemed to be in place.
Built on the site of the Pacific Electric Depot
Groundbreaking of the $1,100,000 structure, took place on January 25, 1929.  Part of the city’s historic Pine Avenue Pier had to be demolished to make way for the new skyscraper. W.L. Porterfield, told the Sun newspaper (January 26, 1929) that the pier had to be removed because the abutments and part of the railings extended more than a foot over the city property line onto Porterfield’s property. Porterfield’s plans placed the building exactly to the property line so that “every inch of the valuable ground will be used.” The forepart of the pier also had to be torn down to move in building equipment. Porterfield added that the pier was already scheduled for removal to make room for a new breakwater and new Rainbow Pier, a pier Porterfield had been pushing since 1910.
In June 1930, the Ocean View miniature golf course opened in the Ocean Center Building. Occupying approximately 12,000 square feet, the course was ingeniously laid out to accommodate eighteen holes. There were real sand hazards, water holes and unusual curves and angles.  Fairways were covered with a type of woolen felt fabric, a precursor to today’s astro turf. Located on the Pine Avenue side of the building, the course had windows extending from floor to ceiling offering a three-sided view of the Pacific.
      Today the Ocean Center Building arcade on the lower level is the only original structure left of the Pike Amusement Zone which flourished on the beach in Long Beach  from 1902-1979.

     Porterfield, who died in 1948 at the age of 83, is buried at the Forest Lawn/Sunnyside Mausoleum.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Miss Universe and International Beauty Walk of Fame

A Forgotten History Now Being Discovered

First Miss Universe, Armi Kuusela, crowned by actress Piper Laurie, June 1952

Years before the Hollywood Walk of Fame Long Beach had its own Walk of Fame – a line of concrete sidewalk slabs dedicated with great fanfare to the beauty queens once crowned in the city.  They remained the city’s primary reminder that Long Beach was the birthplace and host of the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants from 1952-1959 and of the Miss International Beauty contest from 1960-1967, with an unsuccessful revival in 1971.

My August 2015 blog on the Miss Universe and International Beauty contests (which you can look up here) led to reader Cindy Cuevas contacting me. Cindy’s folks used to live across the street from the Lafayette Hotel where the contestants stayed.  She remembered the concrete slabs, but couldn’t recall where they were on Pine Avenue.  She wondered what had happened to them.

I was able to tell her that the Walk of Fame graced the front of the JC Penney store at 600 Pine Avenue for more than 20 years.  It was Long Beach’s Penney’s store owner Vernon Fay who arranged to have the Walk of Fame installed in front of the store when it opened at Fifth Street and Pine Avenue in 1956.  I believe the earlier slabs (1952-1955) were mounted in front of the Lafayette Hotel, and were moved in 1956 when Conrad Hilton, who owned the Lafayette at the time, decided to add a new addition to the original 1929 hotel.   The earliest plaque is that of Miss Finland, Armi Kuusela who in June 1952 became Miss Universe of 1953.  The last is New Zealand’s Jane Hansen, chosen Miss International Beauty for 1971.

The slabs, which include Miss USA winners, remained in front of the JC Penney’s until 1979 when they were removed to make way for the Long Beach Mall.  Their fate remained uncertain, but city officials did preserve the Walk of Fame at the request of the city’s Cultural Heritage Committee, and the slabs were stored in the Public Service warehouse at 1601 San Francisco Avenue.   

What happened to the 2-foot-square chunks of concrete containing the name and year of reign (and sometimes handprint) of a pageant winner?  Detective Cindy found out!  Through a Facebook post Cindy Cuevas discovered they were at the J. King Neptune’s Restaurant at 17115 Pacific Coast Highway in Sunset Beach.  How did they get there?  Cindy asked the current owner of the restaurant and he didn’t know. 
Miss Universe, Miss USA & International Beauty Contest Walk of Fame

Jill Thrasher, librarian at the Sherman Library in Newport Beach, checked city directories for me. She found that King Neptune Sea FDS opened at 17115 Pacific Coast Highway in 1983 (before that it was Barney’s Bar-B-Q), so it appears the beauty contest slabs may have been installed around 1983.  Marshall Pumphrey, of the Long Beach Heritage Museum, remembered the old owner of King Neptune’s was a collector of odd and unusual items. 

Those are the clues.  Can anyone help fill in the blanks?  How did a memento so treasured by Long Beach end up in Sunset Beach?  Why weren’t the slabs preserved in the city that created the beauty pageants still being held today?

17115 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach
The plaques that proudly honored the beginning of the two beauty pageants can be visited at J. King Neptune’s restaurant in Sunset Beach.  Many who dine there probably have no idea of the proud relics of Long Beach history that somehow ended up somewhere else.  They are in sad shape, fading away like the memory they once sought to preserve.

Please leave a comment below if you have anything else to add to the story. 

Finally, a thank you to Cindy Cuevas, for her questions and help in solving the Mystery of the Beauty Contest Concrete Plaques.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Slave to Soldier to Long Beach

Since February is African American History Month,  I thought I’d share the story of a forgotten former slave, Harry Stubblefield,  who fought in the Civil War and ended up in Long Beach. 

            In researching my next book, Died in Long Beach: Cemetery Tales, I came across a nondescript grave in Long Beach’s Sunnyside Cemetery that contains the remains of a fascinating person.   

                When African American Harry Stubblefield (1843?-1/23/1913) passed away in 1913, the Long Beach Press noted that he was born the property of a wealthy Kentucky tobacco planter, who had one son. When this son, a prominent physician, married, his father gave him Harry as a wedding gift.  In 1890 this physician died and his widow Sina came to Long Beach and, according to the obituary, brought Harry with her. Former slaves often took the surname of their one-time owner, which was the case with Harry.  The obituary also pointed out that Harry was 102 years old, something that could not be substantiated.
            Further research added more to an interesting story.  Clues led me to the physician’s name---Peter--- and that Sina’s given name was Catherine.  Census records from 1850 showed that Peter’s father, G. W. Stubblefield, owned 14 slaves in Rockingham, North Carolina, varying in age from 1-60. There were 11 males (7 listed as black, 4 as mulatto) and 3 females (2 black, 1 mulatto).  The four mulatto males ranged in age from 5-10 years of age. One of these mulattos could have been Harry.  Was Harry related to the Stubblefield family in more ways than name only?
            The 1850 census also showed that Peter was not an only son as Harry’s obituary stated.  Peter had three brothers, and three sisters.   It also seems that Peter’s father was active in Kentucky during the Civil War providing provisions (and perhaps slaves) for the Southern cause.
             When he was barely twenty Peter left North Carolina to serve as a private with the North Carolina volunteers in the Mexican-American War (which lasted from the spring of 1846 to the fall of 1847).  Sina later claimed his pension as a war widow.  Perhaps the carnage he saw inspired Peter to become a physician. The next record I found was in the 1860 census when Doctor Peter Stubblefield was in Weakley, Tennessee, married to Tennessee native Sina Boyd. 
             Early African Americans came to Tennessee from the colonies of Virginia and North Carolina, including Harry when he came to Tennessee from North Carolina with Peter and Sina Stubblefield.  An 1826 law prohibited them bringing Harry into the state for anything besides the direct use of his labor.  Fortunately for Harry, slaves could not be sold in Tennessee.
             Could Peter have taken a different side during the Civil War than his father and brothers? Tennessee was the last state to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.  Some living in the state were strongly pro-Confederacy, while others were Unionist.  The 26 eastern counties tried to secede from Tennessee, but Confederate troops were sent to prevent it.  However, portions of Tennessee provided many troops for the Union as well as waging guerrilla warfare against Confederate interests in the state.  Which side did Peter really favor? I took this question to the Tennessee Library and Archives.  The Archives' staff said that when captured by Union forces, Confederate soldiers were given the option of being sent to a prisoner of war camp, or they could swear allegiance to the United States and fight on the Union side.  The Tennessee Archives researchers said there were quite a number of soldiers who served on both the Confederate and Union side.  This seems to be the case with Peter.
            According to the United States Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War, 1890, Peter served as a Lieutenant from 1862-1865.  There is also a listing (in Tennessee, Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865) for P. B. Stubblefield serving in the Confederacy as a Second Lieutenant, 9th Regiment Tennessee Infantry, Company G. The names of two of his brothers are also listed next to his. 
            What of Harry?  Before July 17, 1862, it was illegal for African Americans to serve in the army.  On this date the Confiscation Act allowed African Americans to be employed by the (Union) military and another law specifically allowed free blacks to be recruited. The first African American unit was the First South Carolina (Union) Volunteers – mustered in on August 25, 1862. 
            Records show Harry enlisted in the Union Army as part of the 4th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery unit from Tennessee. Harry’s unit was organized from the 2nd Tennessee Heavy Artillery (African Descent). It was designated 3rd Heavy Artillery on March 11, 1864 and 4th Heavy Artillery on April 26, 1864.  United States Colored Troops fought in all theaters of the war, but mainly served as garrison troops in rear areas. Harry’s unit saw garrison duty at Union City, Tennessee, until September 2, 1864, and then moved to Fort Donelson, Tennessee, until October 11, 1864.  Their next post was Fort Halleck, Columbus, Kentucky, until June, 1865.  The unit moved to Arkansas in June, 1865, and saw duty at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, until February, 1866. The unit was mustered out February 25, 1866.
                By the end of the war, there were almost 179,000 African Americans serving in 166 regiments – about 10 percent of the Union army. Unfortunately, not much else is known about Harry and his term of service in the 4th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery unit.
             Much information can be gained from pension records, but I have yet to find a pension record for Harry.   African Americans faced many obstacles in applying for a pension. It was difficult and expensive, and African American applicants were often poor and illiterate. Furthermore, the Pension Bureau often appointed special investigators to verify claims. According to researchers, African Americans were investigated about twice as often as whites and these investigations were more thorough and took longer. Furthermore, claim agents (who often assisted in the application process) often took advantage of African American soldiers by submitting fraudulent claims. Finally, the difficulty African Americans had in providing essential dates, including dates of birth, marriage, military service, wounds, and illnesses, led to frustration and suspicion on the part of pension bureaucrats.
            After the war, the 1870 U. S. Census has 43-year-old Dr. Peter Stubblefield living with his 34-year-old wife Sina, in Weakley, Tennessee, along with 27-year-old Harry (mistakenly transcribed as Harvey) and 7-year-old Sallie Stubblefield. Both Harry and Sallie are noted as being “black.” Harry’s profession was given as “domestic servant.”  Could Sallie have been Harry’s daughter, or just another of the former Stubblefield slaves?
            In looking at the 1880 U. S. Census Peter and Sina Stubblefield were still living in Weakley, Tennessee. Harry was working for and living with them. Sina’s 37-year-old brother John Boyd, and her 30-year-old brother William Boyd were also residing with them.  Sallie seems to have left the family.
            Unfortunately a fire destroyed most of the 1890 U. S. Census, but I did find Sina in the 1900 Census living with her brother John Boyd, a real estate agent, and his family in Long Beach, California.   Harry, however, wasn’t mentioned as being with her, nor was he listed in any other census records from 1900. 
            From Long Beach City Directories it appears Sina’s brother John convinced her to invest in real estate, and in 1905 she was managing the Roselle Apartments at East Seaside Boulevard at the foot of Linden Avenue.  The apartments had been named for her niece Roselle Boyd, John’s daughter. 
            In the 1910 U. S. Census 75-year-old Sina was still living at the Roselle Apartments.  Harry Stubblefield (age 66) was listed as one of her tenants.  Interestingly, Harry’s race is given as “white.”
            Harry isn’t listed in any of the Long Beach City Directories so I can’t say for sure when he joined Sina in Long Beach.  Sina (1/31/1834-12/13/1911) died in 1911.  Her body was taken to Weakley, Tennessee, to be buried next to her husband, Peter (3/20/1827-2/28/1890) at the Obion Chapel Cemetery.  What of Harry?  Most likely he continued to reside at the Roselle until his death in 1913.  It seems he had those who cared enough about him to give him a decent burial and a simple headstone.
            Wouldn’t it have been interesting to ask Harry about his life as a slave? Was he the child of one of the white plantation owners?  How did he come to fight for the Union during the Civil War and why did he come back to live with the Stubblefields once the war ended?  And was Sallie Stubblefield his daughter, and if so what happened to her?       
            Mysteries remain.  Hopefully I’ll uncover more about Harry before I finish writing Died in Long Beach: Cemetery Tales.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Miss Universe & International Beauty Contests

Miss Universe - Beginnings
            Early in 1951 Long Beach was elated.  The city had been selected over Catalina Island and Hollywood to host the 1952 Miss Universe pageant --- the world's first international beauty contest.  Excitement increased when Universal-International Pictures announced they were co-sponsoring the pageant and would offer the winner a seven-year film contract.  In addition Miss United States and four runner-ups would also be given film contracts
            June 1952 was an exciting time in Long Beach --- world attention was focused on the city and the lovely women arriving for the pageant.  On June 28 tension mounted as the judges couldn't seem to make up their minds as to who was the most beautiful woman in the world.  Finalists were called back twice because of a tie vote, but finally the 10 judges agreed on 18-year-old Armi Kuusela of Finland.
            Actress Piper Laurie crowned Miss Kuusela with a $500,000 coronet
Piper Laurie crowns Armi Kuusela
once worn by the czarinas of Russia and handed her a scepter and robe.  Runner-up was Elsa Edsman, a brunette from Honolulu, Hawaii.  Daisy Mavraki, Miss Greece, was third; Judy Dan, Miss Hong Kong, fourth; Renate Hoy, Miss Germany, fifth.
            The contest was a sell out, standing room only.  3700 people packed the auditorium including press representatives from all over the world.  All in all there were 30 contestants representing every continent and all major nations except Russia and her satellites.  The women were judged on the basis of their appearance in evening gowns and bathing suits.  Ironically, there was a sign posted in the auditorium which read "people in bathing suits not allowed."
            All was not smooth sailing.  Charges were made that "Miss Finland" had been selected as a publicity ploy to promote the Olympic Games to be held in Helsinki the following month.  Contest organizers denied the charges.   Miss Universe wouldn't remain a Miss long.  While on a tour of the Philippines in March 1953, Armi Kuusela met a millionaire Filipino whom she secretly married in May 1953.  Her mother was appalled, saying her daughter was too young.

2nd Miss Universe Pageant
            By the time the 2nd Miss Universe Pageant rolled around it had become far more than just a beauty contest --- it was now big time show business.  The main purpose of the event was to choose the most beautiful girl in the world, but during each of the four 3 ½ hour shows in which the contestants were viewed by judges and audience, stage, screen, radio and television performers were there to entertain.
            The four day event held July 14-17 1953, was an extravaganza.  The
first two nights, while judges were debating their choice for Miss U.S.A., the international contestants appeared on stage in their native costumes.  Each Miss U.S.A. contestant donned a bathing suit and evening gown, stepping forth from a 30-foot high sea shell called the “Kingdom of Pearls.”  The first evening hosted a tribute to President Eisenhower, with a chorus singing a special melody “The Whole World Likes Our Ike.”  Behind the singers a 30-foot high portrait of the president, painted in fluorescent paint, was displayed.
            The second night featured the crowing of Myrna Hansen of Chicago as Miss U.S.A. and the final evening saw Miss France, Christiane Martel, declared the most beautiful woman in the world.  The 5 foot 3 inch, 125 pound, Miss Universe received a motion picture contract, car, $2500 wrist watch and a Miss Universe trophy.  Like her predecessor, who married a wealthy Filipino, she didn’t remain single for long.
            In January 1954, Christiane Martel filled out a marriage license application to wed Ronnie Marengo, son of a well-to-do Stockton department store owner.  On the form, however, she listed her age as 17.  If this was the case, she had misrepresented her age when she entered the Miss Universe Pageant.  The rules were explicit: all contestants had to be at least 18-years-old.  Would she be forced to relinquish her title and would Myrna Hansen, the 1st runner-up become Miss Universe?  Miss Universe officials declared Martel would remain Miss Universe unless an official protest was registered.  When asked if she would challenge the legality of the crown held by the French beauty, Myrna Hansen said she would not.  The contest had been based on points and if Christiane looked old enough to get most of the points she deserved the title, Miss Hansen replied (Press Telegram 1/9/1954 )
            After two months Ronal Marengo filed for annulment and Christiane Martel filed for divorce. Marengo accused her of leaving him because she missed the bright lights and headlines of Hollywood.  Christiane denied the charges stating her husband was too immature --- next time she would marry an older man.  Her sister, Georgette, later joined her in America meeting and marrying Hollywood director Vincent Minelli, Judy Garland’s former husband.  Christiane headed for Mexico and in 1956 became a major star in Mexican movies for Azteca Films.

Miss Universe Troubles - 1957
            You couldn’t be a Mrs. and still compete as a Miss.  That’s what Miss Universe officials told Maryland’s entry in the Miss U.S.A. portion of the Miss Universe pageant, Leona Gage. Trouble was the wedding ring on her finger wasn’t discovered until after she was declared Miss U.S.A. and it was just her luck that this was the first year in the six-year history of the pageant that contestants were required to be single.   
            Rumors that the new Miss U.S.A. was married began spreading after an anonymous tip to a Baltimore newspaper. Denying, almost hysterically, that she had not been married, Leona Gage was forced to confess when her own mother admitted that Leona was married at 14.  Not only was she married but she had two children ages 2 and 3.
            Unfortunately Leona’s confession came too late to help runner-up and the new Miss U.S.A., Charlotte Sheffield of Utah, in the contest.  Sheffield had missed the preliminary elimination contests in the Miss Universe Pageant (held July 11-21, 1957) and couldn’t compete.  It was the first time since the pageant began that a Miss U.S.A. was not among the 15 finalists in the international competition.
            Though she had to give up her crown and prizes, Leona Gage came out a winner after all.  She accepted a contract with the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas to become a member of the chorus line for $200 a week. She was also offered a role in an American International movie and was paid $1000 to appear on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town television program.  Her own story was enough to make a movie out of.
            The 18-year-old Mrs. Mary Leona Gage Ennis confessed she had been married twice. The first time was when she was 14 when she met an airman named Edward Thacker at a town in Oklahoma in November 1953. She couldn’t recall the town and couldn’t say where Thacker lived.  The marriage lasted only one day and was annulled, she said.  A girl friend had talked her into it.  Three months later she married 28-year-old airman Gene Norris Ennis.
           Follow up stories on Leona were also fodder for the tabloids.  In February 1958, she divorced Gene Ennis because his idea of a good time was to go out for a beer with the boys.  She would marry her third husband, Nick Covaevich, a fellow Las Vegas dancer, in November 1958.  But trouble was brewing for Leona.  Mary Callie Hill, the blonde beauty she had defeated for the right to represent Maryland in the Miss Universe contest, sued her and the sponsors of the Miss Maryland pageant for $30,000.  In 1960 Leona was jailed for child neglect.  She remarried a fourth time, and in 1963 took an overdose of barbiturates.  One of her children was placed in a foster home after she left the child with a baby sitter, and didn't come back.  In 1964, she was booked into the prison ward of County General hospital after her second suicide attempt. She had also been found in possession of marijuana.  After psychiatric treatment, she was placed on five years probation and next turned up in a skid row burlesque.  She again sought psychiatric treatment and a short time later reappeared in the news one more time --- for her fifth divorce. (Press Telegram 3/10/1968 )

            But the Leona controversy wasn't the only story about the 1957 contest that  had tongues wagging.   When a dark-haired, 18-year-old Peruvian beauty named Gladys Zender was crowned Miss Universe 1958 everything seemed fine.  Later it was discovered the newly crowned world queen was under the age limit.  Not only did pageant rules require contestants to be single, but they had to be between the ages of 18 and 28 at the time of the contest.  Gladys Zender was only 17 years, 9 months old.  But she would retain her title, thanks to “age” custom in Peru.  In that country it was the custom for anyone reaching the age of 17 years, 6 months to be considered 18.  After much debate, pageant officials declared Zender’s application had been made in good faith.  The title would remain in Miss Peru’s possession.  A Brazilian attorney, however, wasn’t happy with their decision.  He asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the selection, because if she was disqualified the title would pass to Miss Brazil, Terresinha Morango, the beauty pageant’s first runner-up.  The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.  Gladys kept the crown.
            Gladys, who spoke only a smattering of English, became a busy girl.  She toured South American, Canada, Europe and the United States for Max Factor cosmetics.  When her contract with Max Factor ended in February 1953 she began a six-month tour of the United States for Catalina swimwear.  Each tour brought her $5,000 in cash.  She didn’t get too homesick, however, because her father refused to let his daughter participate in the tours unless her mother went along as a chaperon.  Her dad  almost brought her home to Peru when he learned she had to appear publicly in a swimsuit.  Though he didn’t feel it was “proper,” the $5,000 helped convince him.
            Pageant rules were tightened so future years wouldn’t be like 1957.  It became the responsibility of the state and foreign sponsors to verify candidates were single and definitely aged 18 to 28.  But, all in all, the publicity had been good for the pageant.  For 48 hours Long Beach had been on the front pages of the world press.

Church or Beauty Contest?
            What did you do if you were Catholic and the church said you couldn’t compete in the Miss Universe pageant?  That was the dilemma Sue Simone
Were bathing suits immoral?
Ingersoll, Miss New Mexico, had to face in the summer of 1959.  The archbishop of New Mexico believed that parading the female body was immoral and told the statuesque redhead she had to choose between her religion and the beauty contest.  He didn’t care that Miss Ohio, Miss Louisiana, Miss Hawaii, Miss Belgium, Miss Italy and most of the South American contestants were also Catholics.  New Mexico was his jurisdiction and he issued the law.

            The archbishop did give in a little.  He conceded that if the bathing suit review was held in private, allowing only the families of the contestants and the judges to be present he would be satisfied.  If she defied him, she and her family would be deprived of the sacraments of the church.  Would Long Beach officials change the way the bathing suit portion of the contest was held?  No.  On July 19, 1959, Sue Ingersoll openly defied the Archbishop of New Mexico by appearing in the pageant bathing suit parade, but the attention surrounding her decision was too much for her.  On July 20th she decided to quit the pageant and head for home.  She had had enough of the media exploitation of her situation.
            Miss Japan, Akiko Kojima, a 22-year-old Tokyo fashion model won the 1960 Miss Universe crown in 1959.  But cries of “discrimination” were hurled at officials from the fathers of Latin American beauties Miss Bolivia and Miss Cuba.  They felt the judges were selecting winners on American standards instead of international ones.  They called for an equal number of judges from the United States, Latin America and Europe.  In August 1959, two semi-nude photographs of Miss Universe contestants appeared in a national “off-color” magazine.  Miss England was seen bobbing to the surface of a hotel pool with her untanned bosom bared.  The editors alluded to “uninhibited water frolicking” at the world’s largest international beauty contest.  Further back in the magazine were color photos of Mariana Gaba, 1957 Miss Illinois, posed artfully in a back yard setting, nude from the waist down.

New Pageant
            All of this was too much for Long Beach officials. Oscar Meinhardt, executive producer of the worldwide spectacle, announced that in the future play clothes would take the place of swimsuits in a new competition.  In addition, contestants would be presented in evening gowns and colorful native costumes.
Long Beach port mural dedication 1960
            Catalina Swimsuits, who owned the Miss Universe and Miss U.S.A. titles, were willing to allow their play suits to replace their swimsuits in a new competition and to renew the contract with Long Beach; however, they wanted $150,000 for use of the title and all television rights.  This was too much for Long Beach officials who pointed out the city had spent more than $500,000 and considerable time in establishing the name throughout the world.  They refused to pay.  Instead Long Beach decided to start a pageant of her own --- Miss International Beauty.  Catalina Swimsuits, meanwhile, found a new home for Miss U.S.A. and Miss Universe in Miami Beach.
            In October 1959, Long Beach announced that 46 foreign countries --- 12 more than had been represented at any previous pageant – would be represented in the 1960 International Beauty event.  Contest officials credited the increase in participants to the decision to eliminate the bathing suit competition.

International Beauty Pageant
            In August of 1960, the largest group of foreign lovelies ever to appear in any worldwide beauty contest made their way to Long Beach.  Fifty foreign nations had sent their prettiest girls to compete in the new pageant --- Miss International Beauty.  Play suits had been substituted for bathing suits as an inducement to attract more beauties.  Some nations had previously barred girls from competing in skimpy, tight-fitting bathing suits.  So now the girls would wear skimpy, tight-fitting play suits instead.  Gone, however, were the 50 candidates for the Miss U.S.A. contest that had always preceded the Miss Universe pageant.  It had moved to Miami Beach along with the Miss Universe pageant.
Long Beach Mayor Wade greets contestants
Aug. 1960
          Twenty-one-year-old Miss Colombia, Stella Marquez, had the honor of becoming the first Miss international Beauty. A financial award of $10,000, a $3500 ring, a $300 diamond wristwatch and a trophy added to the tribute.  Stella claimed she was stunned by her victory because a month earlier at Miami Beach's Miss Universe Pageant she had finished in 6th place. She was also sure she had flubbed her chances in Long Beach because earlier in the competition she had forgotten which city she was in telling the audience that she was "so happy to be in this beautiful, tropical paradise of Miami."  However, Long Beach judges chose to overlook this "sin" of mentioning Miami and awarded her the title anyway.
             Deluged with requests from Hollywood agents for screen tests, Miss Marquez wasn't sure which way to turn.  She said she had never considered being an actress; working in Colombia's diplomatic service had always been her dream.  She also wasn't sure if the strict nuns at Marymount College in New York, where she had majored in language and psychology prior to entering the Miss Colombia contest, would let her back in.

Thanks to Dr. Yoshio T. Nakamura (and Junji Nakamura) we have a You Tube video of the 1960 pageant

Long Beach - The International City
          Though Long Beach had decided not to renew its contract with the Miss Universe Pageant, it had replaced it with its own worldwide beauty contest --- Miss International Beauty.  Picking up on this "international" theme, the City Council decided to promote itself as the "International City."
            Douglas Aircraft loved the idea.  The aircraft company saw its DC-8 as a powerful magnet in drawing influential world leaders to Long Beach.  In 1959 alone hundreds of distinguished foreign visitors including a prime minister, several cabinet members, three crown princes, and high legislative officials had visited the plant spreading the fame of Long Beach throughout the world.   In April 1961, City officials approved a design for new signs --- 8 feet 9 inches wide and 6 feet high --- to be erected on poles leading into the city.  Instead of neon lighted signs simply spelling out the name of the city, the new markers had an outline of a DC-8 and an ocean liner encased in plastic.  Above and below these new city symbols were the words: Long Beach - The International City

Beauty Pageant Hoax
            The International Beauty Congress (IBC) was rocked by scandal in 1961 when a 15-year-old Long Beach girl (who couldn’t speak a word of Spanish) succeeded in passing herself off as Miss Costa Rica.  For 20 hours, the Millikan High School junior, Reona Herz, bamboozled pageant officials, an airline, police, a hotel and television personalities into believing she was Miss Costa Rica.  The plucky teenager, whose mother, Ella, worked for the Board of Education and whose father, Morton, was a teacher at the Burnett Elementary School, was so convincing that she was admitted to the pageant without a passport, birth certificate, credentials or luggage.  Carrying on her hoax so magnificently, she was chased by police when she tried to leave the La Fayette Hotel.  Thinking she was the real Miss Costa Rica, too nervous to remain for the competition, police officers told her to think of the honor of her country.  Finally Reona broke down and cried “I want to go home.”  Hostesses and police finally released her when her parents arrived and established her true identity.
Gemma Teresa Cruz,
Miss International 
            Miss Herz, who never had been to Central America, picked Costa Rica as her country because the real Costa Rican entry canceled out at the last moment.  Reona and her friends, bored during the summer, decided it would be fun to see if some Long Beach girl could get into the contest posing as a foreign delegate.  Reona told officials and other contestants that she didn’t speak Spanish because she had spent most of her life in New York and only won the contest when she visited her father in Costa Rica.  Surprisingly, people she knew did not recognize her in her Costa Rican costume.
            Costa Rica’s newspapers prominently displayed a photo of “the beautiful imposter,” saying they owed her a debt of gratitude for publicizing their country throughout the world.  What she had given them in publicity would have cost them thousands of dollars to buy.  Still embarrassed by her charade, Reona declined Costa Rica’s offer to bring her to their country and become a real Miss Costa Rica presiding over the International Soccer Games in San Jose.  She also repaid the IBC for her lodging and food at the Lafayette and returned all her IBC gifts.
            (Stam Van Baer of Holland would win the IBC crown and reign as Miss International Beauty for 1962).

Paying for the IBC  

            Was the International Beauty Congress a big joke, worthless to the city and the harbor?  According to Long Beach Harbor Commissioner William A. Harrington, it was.  Harrington also challenged the legality of using harbor money to subsidize the summertime show.  Harrington said he was not satisfied with the city attorney’s ruling that it was legal for the city to give funds to the Beauty Congress and had consulted a private attorney who said that there was a big question as to the legality of using Tideland Trust funds for the project.   Since 1955 the Harbor Department had spent $128,400 on the pageant and its predecessor, the Miss Universe contest.  Harrington said the port got no benefit whatsoever from the event.  
            Despite Harrington's comments in 1962, the pageant continued, but in May 1966 it was decided not to hold a contest in the summer of that year, but to wait until the spring of 1967.  It seemed the IBC followed too closely to the Miss Universe pageant in Miami, which was a tough act to follow.  This was especially hard for Long Beach officials to swallow, since Long Beach had been the original location for the Miss Universe pageants.  Now many contestants would jump from the Miss Universe show to the IBC event, but television audiences were bored seeing the same girls twice.  Advertising revenues to pay for the IBC decreased. By holding it in the spring it would be the FIRST beauty pageant of the year.

Good Bye Long Beach
            On February 23, 1968, Robert Pierce, International Beauty Congress president, announced the International Beauty Congress for 1968 had been canceled; expected television revenues had failed to materialize.  The pageant relied heavily on TV revenues for funding and the networks were unable to program the pageant on dates available in the Long Beach Arena or Auditorium. 
             In 1967 the 15-year-old beauty pageant had been held April 18-30, the first time it had been staged in spring instead of summer. IBC promoters said the prime reason they switched the dates was to get increased TV coverage.  There were too many other beauty contests competing for television time in the summer, they said.  This year, 1968,  the contest was scheduled April 24 through May 4, but there was just too much competition for TV time from the national political conventions and Olympic Games.

            Vice Mayor Robert Crow said the IBC had “run its course,” and no more city money should be spent on it.  Crow got his wish.  On March 5, 1968, the city’s contract to give the IBC $54,000 for the 1968 contest was declared “null and void.”  The council also instructed IBC officials to dissolve their corporation, though these actions did not necessarily mean the end of the International Beauty Pageant, since the city had title to the name and could stage it through some other organization.  This did not appear too likely, however, since others besides Crow felt the pageant had reached an end.
            In February 1969, Japan asked if they could hold the pageant.  Long Beach agreed.  The IBC survived in Japan.  In 2000 a Japanese film crew returned to Long Beach with Japanese IBC officials to learn the history of their organization.  They knew it was 40 years old, but were amazed that it had started in Long Beach.
            What of the women who had been chosen "queen" in Long Beach?  A Press-Telegram article in March 1968 gave fans an update ( PT 3/10/1968 A15-1):
  • Armi Kuusela, Miss Universe 1952 from Finland was now one of three former IBC and Miss Universe queens living in the Philippines. She was now Mrs. Virgilio Hilario and the mother of four children.
  • Christine Martel, Miss Universe 1953, from France had married the son of a former president of Mexico and was reported doing occasional movies in Mexico.
  • The USA's Miriam Stevenson, Miss Universe 1954, had married Don Upton, a composer who worked in television on Columbia, South Carolina.  They had two children.
  • Hillevi Rombin, Miss Universe 1955, from Sweden had married hotel magnate David Schine. They had five children, including a set of twins.
  • Iowa's Carol Morris, Miss Universe 1956, was reported married to a Texas oilman and living in Texas.
  • Peru's Gladys Zender, Miss Universe 1957, was till single and living in Peru.
  • Luz Marina Zuluaga, Miss Universe 1958, from Colombia had had 460 babies christened after her and 260 poems written in her honor. She lived in a 10 bedroom castle in Colombia with her physician husband.
  • Japan's Akiko Kojima, Miss Universe 1959, had recently married a famous Japanese movie star.
  • Stella Marquez, the first Miss International, 1960, from Colombia was married to Jorge Araneta and lived in Manila.
  • Stam Van Baer, Miss International 1961, from Holland had married Dr. Gene Myer of Long Beach.  They had one child.
  • Tania Verstak, Miss International 1962, from Australia had married Peter Young. They had one child and lived in Western Australia.
  • Gudrun Bjarnadottir, Miss International 1963, from Iceland was still single, working as a fashion model in Paris.
  • Gemma Teresa Cruz, Miss International 1964, from the Philippines had married Antonia Aranieta Jr.  The two had started a magazine concerned with social reform and had a daughter, Fatima, almost 2 years old.
  • Ingrid Finger, Miss International 1965, from Germany was a fashion model and had recorded a number of songs in West Germany. She was still single.
  • Mirta Massa, Miss International 1967 (there was no pageant in 1966 )  was from Argentina. She was still single and living in Buenos Aires.

Both Miss Universe and Miss International Beauty contests are still being held. They both owe their roots to the City of Long Beach, California.

For a COMPLETE LIST OF CONTESTANTS in each contest held in Long Beach go to Long Beach Public Library's website click the Long Beach History bar on the left to get to the Long Beach History Index.

Photos from Long Beach Public Library, most taken by Rudolph Spika donated by his daughter Stephanie Spika.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Long Beach's First Baseball Star

Here's the low down on George Stovall, the first 
major league baseball player to call Long Beach 

       On July 4, 1904,  Long Beach’s own George Thomas Stovall, played his first major league baseball game for the Cleveland Blues.  It was a double header and George scored two hits in four times at bat in the morning game, and three hits in four times up in the afternoon contest.  The first baseman was off to an auspicious start, definitely earning his $150 a month salary.

  In 1899, 21-year-old George Stovall decided his future lay in California.  He went to work on the Wilhoit ranch, on Perris Road near Anaheim Road, but baseball was his true love.   Before coming to Long Beach in 1899, George ( born in Leeds, Missouri on November 23, 1877)  played on the J.J. Foster’s, a semi-pro team in Kansas City. The Foster’s however, got bad press when one of their players, Jesse James Jr., was arrested for having participated in a train robbery. Though James was acquitted, George along with brothers Sam and Jesse formed a new baseball club, without James. However the club was christened the Leeds Train Robbers and played under that name for some time. Upon arriving in Long Beach George Stovall was a member of “town teams” which played on “the flats” in the vicinity of Third Street and Pico Avenue; on a diamond in the neighborhood of Fifth Street and Maine Avenue, and later in “Athletic Park,” which was just east of California Avenue between Seventh and Tenth Streets. George organized a Sunday ball club which played a series of games against San Pedro, Wilmington and other cities on diamonds in the west part of town. Their club was called the Long Beach Brownies. 

      The first local team, the Long Beach Nine, had begun playing back in 1893, and the team often recruited anyone willing to pick up a bat just so they would have a full contingent of players. Such was the case with the 1899 Long Beach High School baseball team. The high school had just opened the previous year graduating a mere 15 students in 1899, the year George joined the team. It was hard to get enough players together to form a team, since many of the students lived in outlying areas and had to travel a great distance to get to the new school.  According to Long
Long Beach High School
Beach historian Walter Case, George was allowed to play on the local high school baseball team, even though he wasn't a student.  His days on the team were numbered, however, when the older and worldlier George purchased a bucket of beer for his team mates after a game with Whittier. Such an action in alcohol free Long Beach was not to be tolerated. George was quickly dismissed from the team by Long Beach school authorities.

          In the spring of 1901, the 23-year-old got a break in professional baseball, joining the Seattle team of the Northwestern League as a pitcher, but George hurt his arm in spring training and was released to Pendleton, Oregon, in the Inland Empire League where he played first base. In 1902 he started with the Walla Walla, Washington team in the Inland Empire League, but a month later the league expired.  In Salt Lake he and other Inland Empire players organized a team they called the “Mormons” and started east on a barnstorming tour.  While in Lincoln, Nebraska, the team attracted the notice of a fan from Atlantic, Iowa, who wrote home that Atlantic, then in last place in the Iowa Southwestern League, would do well to release its own players and sign the “Mormons” for the rest of the season.  His advice was taken; Stovall and his team won seven of the eight games they played for Atlantic.  Then that league, too, collapsed but George found a home with Cleveland. He remained with the club for nine years, and in 1911 was made manager. From 1912 to 1922 he managed teams in Kansas, Ohio, Florida and California and became President of the Association of Professional Baseball Players of America.

     He never forgot his friends and family in Long Beach.  In 1909, while wintering at home before the professional baseball season started, he gladly agreed to give the local high school baseball
1909 Poly High baseball team
team some pointers.  A new high school had opened that year, Polytechnic, replacing the older Long Beach High School.  His coaching tips were certainly appreciated, as members of the team stated in the 1909 Poly High School  Yearbook: 

     "It was perhaps a question in the minds of some Long Beach baseball fans as to the reasons for the team's unusual good batting average this season.  The coach is to blame for this...Mr. Stovall, who now plays first base for the Cleveland Indians handed out large packets of advice every night for three long weeks and what the team doesn't now know about the game of baseball, Spaulding doesn't publish in his rule book."

     The Poly team that year - Douglas Coughran, Pat Fulton, Husky Young, Scandinavian Pete, Whittier Fleckinger, Harry Galbraith, Tommy Boland, Sam Wotten, Spitty Frazer and Paul Enlow - lived on success. In the yearbook they added: "There is one very good satisfaction obtained through this year's ball team; we have got the townspeople standing behind the high school and ready to help with finances and lusty yells, All through the assistance of Mr. Daily who was able to secure the coaching of George Stovall."  (By the way, there were 102 high school graduates that year, a big increase from the 15 who graduated in 1899!)

One of George’s greatest claims to fame occurred in 1913 and earned him the nickname “Firebrand.”  Umpire Charles Ferguson called Stovall out on a third strike in the sixth inning of a Browns-Indians game. Stovall snatched Ferguson's hat off his head and threw it on the ground, then spit on the umpire's coat, according to the May 6, 1913 New York Times.  American League president Ben Johnson was outraged.  “There isn't room in the American League for players who commit offenses against public decency," Johnson said of Stovall's action. "I am astounded that any manager should create such a scene by losing his self-control in the presence of a large assemblage of patrons of the game. The American League will not countenance such conduct for a minute." Player-manager Stovall was fined $100 and suspended for three weeks. He was later fired by the team in October of that year and replaced by Branch Rickey.
For many years, George and his wife Emma, whom he married in 1904,  lived at 915 Cherry Avenue in Long Beach, making frequent visits to their ranch in Casa Grande Valley, Arizona. Upon retiring from the world of baseball George worked in the oil fields, in his spare time he coached the Loyola baseball team and managed the Houghton Park Baseball Club of Long Beach. He died November 5, 1951, in Burlington, Iowa.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Cinderella Ballroom

How many people are still around that remember Long Beach’s landmark dance hall the Cinderella Ballroom? It was located on the Northwest corner of Hart Place and East Seaside Way. From 1923 to 1966 the building known for its laminated stressed wood arches and romance graced the Pike. It was here that many couples met for the first time, dancing the night away to the music from the big bands. Others simply enjoyed the music by tuning in on their radios Tuesday evenings from 9-10 p.m. on KFWB---live from the popular Cinderella Ballroom in Long Beach. 

Everyone going to the Cinderella had to be aware of the rules. If they weren’t they could end up with a six month jail sentence, a fine of $500 or both.  “Hanky panky” of any sort was not allowed in any dance hall in Long Beach. In the early 1920s certain dances, such as the shimmy and the bunny hug, and any cheek to cheek dancing was blacklisted. Men could not dance with their right hand upon any portion of their female dancing partner except her back between her shoulder line and waist, or with their left hand in any position except extended from the body and holding the right hand of their partner.  Females could not dance with their left hand upon any portion of the male partner except his right arm, or with their right hand in any position except extended from the body and holding the left hand of her dancing partner.  Minors under 18 had to be accompanied to public dances by chaperones, specifically parents or guardians, not one of their older siblings. Also forbidden was “spooners' corner,” darkened areas of the dance hall.  To alleviate this, a Long Beach ordinance required a 16 candlepower light for each 36 square feet of floor. This left no twilight zone for couples who “sat out” dances.  All dances ended at midnight, except for New Year’s Eve.                      

Originally called the Arcadia Dance Hall, then the Rosegarden Dance Pavilion, the name Cinderella Ballroom was the name that stuck, perhaps because many a “Cinderella” somehow managed to meet her “Prince Charming” on the dance floor, despite all the city regulations.  
     In the 1920s and 30s ballroom dancing competitions were the rage and people flocked to the Cinderella Ballroom for the chance to win not only money, but a coveted trophy. The evening of April
15, 1928, was one to make ballroom history---not for a dance competition but for an attempted robbery of $12,000 in cash. 
     Police had received a tip that an attempt was to be made to blow open the safe of the ballroom.  With revolvers ready, and their pockets filled with extra bullets, the officers waited, expecting that the robbers might resort to gun play. Shortly before dawn, long after the ballroom had closed, officers saw a trio of men rip the screen from a window. When told to halt, the intruders whipped out their revolvers and opened fire. For ten minutes the shots were exchanged, one robber fleeing leaving behind his two wounded companions, one of which, Earl C. Davis, died shortly after with eleven bullet holes in his body.

     Sadly the music stopped in April 1966 when the city purchased the landmark at 311 E. Seaside for $135,375.  It was to be torn down to give better access to the Long Beach Arena and the Municipal Auditorium.  Though that spelled progress for many,
loyal followers of the Cinderella were heartbroken and petitioned the city for a new Cinderella in the area.  In late July 1966, a new ballroom opened in the Veteran’s Memorial Clubhouse.  But things were never the same---people got older, ballroom dancing became passé and finally the Veteran’s building itself fell in the way of progress. 
     Today only memories remain. Ironically, ballroom dancing has once again become trendy.  Ah, if only the Cinderella was still with us.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Some Early Long Beach Churches


In 1887 a Congregational church was organized with sixteen members, including Margaret & Jotham Bixby.  Margaret Hathaway Bixby, the daughter of a Congregational minister, persuaded her husband to erect a building which could seat 150 on what is now the corner of Third and Cedar.  Called "Cerritos Hall," its first activity was on April 17, 1887.  Presbyterian minister Wardell of Wilmington conducted the service, assisted by Baptist minister L.W. Hayhurst and Methodist minister S.J. Fleming. In a letter to the Times dated April 21, 1887, the writer stressed the new hall was not a Presbyterian Church. Margaret Bixby didn’t want it to be looked upon as a church dedicated to any particular religious faith or form of worship.  Instead she wanted it to be used by any religious denomination and for secular purposes as well. The first pastor was Rev. A.J. Wells, who served for one year, followed by Rev. R.M. Webster of Wisconsin who remained for six years.  Rev. Jenkins took the helm for a few months until Rev. Sydney Kendall came from Canada.  He remained until 1899 when Rev. Charles Pease of Massachusetts was called to serve.
  In 1897, the hall no longer needed for secular purposes, the Bixbys formally gave the property to the Congregationalists and a new building was planned. On October 12, 1902, the new $7000 edifice opened for business.  It had been an interesting lesson in design for the old Cerritos Hall had to be incorporated into the new, while at the same time staying open for services.  Designed by architect Henry Starbuck in what was called the “mission style,” the porches were broad and the entrance wide.  The base of the church walls was an arroyo of cobblestones rising to almost five feet.  The rest of the exterior was done in cement, while the roofs were covered with tile shaped shingles.  The new portion of the building consisted of a 48x48 foot auditorium, with a gallery overhead. This formed a nucleus around which smaller rooms, such as classrooms and a 12x24 foot library, were gathered.  The south wall of the auditorium was attached to the old hall which served as a Sunday school; together they could seat nearly 1000 people.  The parsonage had been moved to the west side of the church and remodeled and connected with the church by lattice work.
  On opening day the ladies of the church were out in force decorating with flowers and palms getting ready for the 4 p.m. formal dedication. An elaborate program was in the offing with Rev. Horace A. Day conveying the dedicatory prayer and Dr. George A. Gates, president of Pomona College, delivering the sermon.  In addition a chorus of twelve “of the best singers in the city” accompanied the musical portion of the program.  The audience then joined in singing an original hymn, written for the occasion by Rev. H.A. Reid of Pasadena. Rev. Charles Pease, pastor of the church then spoke briefly of the church and its growth, while Rev. Sydney Kendall, a former pastor, gave a scripture lesson.
     In 1914 the current  Italian Romanesque style church,  was completed at a cost of $210,000.


The Quaker Friends Church was among the earliest churches established in Long Beach.  A Friends’ Bible class was organized in February 1888 and the little congregation met in Cerritos Hall until the Quakers built their own church at the southeast corner of First and American in 1889.  Their first house of worship was a small frame building enlarged a few years later to house the growing number of parishioners; but the continued growth of the congregation soon outpaced the structure.  A new lot for a new church was purchased at 6th and American and the new edifice dedicated with a simple but impressive service conducted by Rev. Thomas Armstrong on Sunday, August 3, 1902.  The new church was described by the press as “a commodious structure, well arranged to meet the needs of the congregation.”  It contained a basement to be used for social purposes, a kitchen and dining room.  The ground floor housed a Sunday school room, as well as an “audience” room, separated by a sliding door which could be opened to provide additional space.  The new structure had cost over $6000, and on opening day the debt still owed was over $1200, but $750 donated during the celebratory ceremonies lowered the debt considerably.
  Not long after its completion the Pacific Electric Company located its car barns in the neighborhood, so the Quakers decided in 1904 to move to 4th Street and Elm Avenue.  In 1923 an even larger house of worship was erected at 9th and Atlantic.

First Christian

     On December 1, 1894, Long Beach pioneers met at the home of Elmer and Fannie Bacon on East First Street and organized the First Christian Church.  They did not obtain a regular pastor, however, until October, 1895 when the Rev. L.O.  Ferguson was appointed and guaranteed a salary of $25 per month.  The congregation worshiped in Pickle’s Hall on East First street until two lots were leased at the southeast corner of Third and Elm where a building was erected in the spring of 1897. In 1903 the church purchased the property at the southwest corner of Fourth and American and the building at Third and Elm moved to that site. 
     In 1936, Rev. Francis A. Wight recalled the early days of the church and how William Erwin Willmore, the founder of Long Beach, was converted in a tent revival meeting.  Later that same night, with the flickering light of lanterns held high by devout churchman, Willmore was baptized in the ocean.
      In 1989 the church bought the Christian Science building at 4th & Elm and moved to that location.


     A group of newcomers from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, led to the founding of Long Beach’s first Baptist Church.  The Shoenberger’s, Alairs and Albrickson families had all been members of the same Baptist Church in Detroit Lakes before moving to Long Beach.  In Long Beach the families found five other Baptists and started a church. The group met in the living quarters back of Mr. Alair’s hardware store on Pine Avenue.  Eventually a Sunday school was organized in Pickle’s Hall at the southeast corner of First and Locust.  A little later, $150 was appropriated from the church board and the services of Rev. C.W. Gregory were procured.  Gregory preached his first sermon in Long Beach on April 23, 1894, and on May 20, 1894, the church was officially organized. Its history records that members at that time were Mr. and Mrs. Alair, Mr. and Mrs. Shoenberger, Miss Lizzie Albrickson, Elder S.C. Blitch, who preached occasionally; four others of the Blitch household; Mrs. Laura Owens, A. Phelps, Mrs. Hattie Spradlin, J.T. Talbert, W.J. Morrison and A.H. Owens. 
     On July 14, 1895, a little frame structure was erected and dedicated as the First Baptist Church; on March 14, 1899, the church, which then had 100 members, was incorporated. Near the end of 1899 the Baptists bought the Chautauqua Hall property at 4th and Pine for $3000; $750 was spent on improving the building already on the site.  This church was dedicated as the First Baptist edifice May 8, 1900.  In 1905 the property was sold for $20,000.  The southwest corner at 4th and Locust was then purchased, for $11,900 and construction of a new church was started there in 1906. This was the home for the church for the next 44 years until a new structure on the corner of 10th and Pine was purchased on May 13, 1948, for $137,000.

Christian Science

     In 1896 small groups began gathering in various homes to study Christian Science philosophy. As the movement grew the need for a larger meeting place became apparent. In 1902 a small cottage called “The Barnacle” was rented and used as a place of worship and as a reading room. In 1904 the First Church of Christ Scientist was incorporated and organized with 17 members. Various meeting places were rented and outgrown until in 1912 two lots on Elm north of Fourth street were purchased and construction began on a modern $90,000 edifice designed by Los Angeles architect Elmer Grey.
      In 1989 the First Christian Church of Long Beach purchased the building for their services. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, now holds services at 3629 Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach.

Church of the Golden Rule

      In January 1895 a group of Long Beach residents decided they needed an “independent” church.  They proposed founding a church with a platform so broad and liberal that anyone, pagan, Christian or Turk, could accept it.  The only qualification needed was brotherly love and a willingness to “Do unto others even as you would have others do unto you.”  They didn’t want to interfere with any of the other churches in the community, but they had found like-minded folk who did not agree or affiliate with any of the different sects.
      Sunday, April 8, 1895, the new church held its first services at the Congregational church to hear Rev. R.M. Webster install pastor W.P. Haworth as minister to the only church of its kind in the world.  Officers were also installed: President, John Roberts; usher, Winfield Smith; recording secretary, O.H. Harlan; treasurer, Mrs. E.H. McCracken; musical director, Miss Bertha Truax; corresponding secretary, Miss Mignonette Bellew; vice president, Mrs. Mollie Richmond.   In July they introduced a new feature into their social gatherings---dancing!  On January 5, 1896, they celebrated their first anniversary at Forester hall, but nothing further is heard about the organization.  They failed to appear in the city’s first City Directory in 1899. 

Methodist Church

July 22, 1900, was a great day for Long Beach Methodists, no longer would they have to have services in the Tabernacle, which stood at the northeast corner of Third and Locust, they had a new house of worship on the northeast corner of Pine and Fifth.  The new Methodist church which had its first services that day, could seat nearly 1000 people, and the lot, costing $1050, was entirely paid for.  The cost of the building, according to the July 23, 1900 Los Angeles Times was $5487, with furnishings costing $2342. Ceremonies were held during the annual Chautauqua.  The church had a debt of $28,000 hanging over it which was reduced to less than half by the contributions of the congregation and Chautauquans at the dedication services.
The cornerstone of the church had been laid September 26, 1899; in it was a time capsule which included a Bible, copies of numerous denominational publications, lists of names of officers of the official bodies in connection with the church, names of subscribers to the church fund and copies of Long Beach papers.

Services on the morning of the dedication started with an organ recital by Ada Kinman.  Mozart’s “Gloria” was presented by the choir and scriptures read by Rev. Spring of Garden Grove, and Rev. F.V. Fisher of Ventura, a former pastor of the Long Beach Church.  The offertory was sung by Miss Chingren, Mrs. Enderly and Mrs. Neece.  The sermon was preached by Rev. Dr. R.S. Cantine, pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles.  He spoke of the account of the loves and the fishes, and the miraculous feeding of the multitude.           His address was brief, and after its completion, a half-hour was spent in receiving subscriptions for the lifting of the church debt.
The church would remain in this location until August 1909 when a new structure was dedicated at Fifth and Pacific.  At a cost of $150,000 it was hailed as the most beautiful and costly church in the city.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

  On August 22, 1900, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at Fifth and Locust was dedicated.  The Rev. W.E. Jacob had taken charge of the Episcopal mission in Long Beach in 1897, riding on horseback between San Pedro, Wilmington and the village here. He had been keep busy conducting mission meetings in all three places.  He was still in charge of Episcopalian activities in Long Beach when the new church opened, but resigned in December 1910, when he was succeeded by Rev. Charles T. Murphy.  Fifteen clergymen from various parts of Southern California attended the Wednesday morning dedication, according to the August 25, 1900 Los Angeles Times. Rev. Archdeacon True of Los Angeles led the dedication ceremonies which were followed by a luncheon.
E.T. Harnett was senior warden of the mission from its inception in 1897, a position he held for more than 50 years.  The $5,000 church, designed by Henry F. Starbuck, a Long Beach resident, was later taken over by the First Christian Church when a new Episcopal Church was built at Seventh and Locust in 1918.

A welcome gift came from the estate of railroad magnate Charles Crocker in 1906. Crocker, who had a major interest in the Long Beach Land and Development Company, also purchased property in Long Beach in the late 1880s.  In 1901, Alice King’s mother contacted Crocker’s heirs and reminded them of the undeveloped Long Beach property and mentioned that the church would like to take over one of the lots.  It seemed the property was to be sold for delinquent taxes. Unaware they even owned the land, the heirs quickly paid the taxes but told the church the property couldn’t be divided because the heirs were under age. Five years later Alice King took up her dead mothers cause and contacted them again.  Though both lots had been sold a $2000 donation was given by thankful Crocker’s heirs to the church. (LAT 2/27/06)


Up until 1900 there were fewer than 200 Catholics in Long Beach and most attended services in Wilmington.  In the fall of 1902, however, it looked like Long Beach Catholics would have their own church.   On October 19, 1902, a crowd estimated to be around 2000, gathered to witness the laying of the corner stone of St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church at 6th and Olive.  It was Bishop George Montgomery who led the ceremony, blessing the cornerstone and filling a time capsule with copies of local newspapers, a synopsis of church history and some coins and badges.

  The project was launched by a group of Roman Catholics including Mrs. J.M. Morris, Judge H.C. Dillon and Mrs. John Ena who convinced the local Catholic bishop to build a church in Long Beach.  Mrs. Morris sought the assistance of real estate agent Frank Shaw who donated two acres on Quality Hill.  Since this location was too far from the city, it was sold and a 100x100 foot lot on Sixth and Olive was purchased.  Next to this Thomas Wall owned a 50x150 foot lot which he donated for the resident priest’s home.  Mrs. Morris herself owned 56x200 feet next to Wall’s property which she also donated to the church.  On June 21, 1902, it was decided that a church would be built, and at this first meeting $750 was raised. In the next few weeks $1500 more was added to the coffers and on August 23rd the plans of Los Angeles architect Munsell were accepted and L.J. Kelly appointed superintendent of construction. Like the Congregational Church, it too was in the mission style and was expected to cost around $3,500.  It was dedicated on July 19, 1903.
It was built to hold about 300 parishioners with the choir loft, at the rear of the building, seating about 150. In the south end a stained glass oval window costing $200 had been donated by H.C. Dillon.  At the other end of the church was a similar window, paid for by the people of the parish. By the time of dedication the church had almost been paid for.  The money raised mainly by church fairs.  However, everyone was so tired of church fairs that the church board had voted to do away with them. The rest of the money would be raised by individual subscriptions, alone.
The dedication service began at 10:30 a.m. on July 19, 1903. A crowd of devout worshipers had filled the structure to its limit, and from outside men climbed on carriages and peered into the windows.  The high altar, with its burning candles and incense was beautiful and impressive.  A solemn high mass was celebrated by Bishop Conaty from Los Angeles.  Rev. Ramon Ferrer of Wilmington was assigned acting priest.
Additional property was acquired and a new building started in 1913. A parish school was later built.

Information from the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Herald. Photos courtesy Long Beach Public Library