What would Valentine’s Day be like without stories of love? Tales of romance abound in Long Beach. Let me share a few tales from the past with you.
Lost Love Found
It was a story that brought many a tear to the eyes of many Los Angeles Herald readers the morning of August 28, 1898. It appeared that Leslie Newlin, one of the crew of the on the yacht Dawn, had found a long lost wife and she a long lost husband.
Five years earlier Leslie was first officer of an English vessel engaged in trade in the tropics. He fell in love with the captain’s daughter, also traveling on the ship, and married her. Three weeks after marriage the vessel sank in the English channel, Leslie witnessed what he thought was the death of his wife —a huge wave washing her overboard—but unknown to him she was taken aboard one of the ship's life boats, he himself being in another of the life boats. The tempestuous sea drove the boats widely apart, after several hours Leslie’s boat was picked up by a passing vessel. The other boat which held his wife was also rescued after a long ordeal. Diligent inquiries on the part of both husband and wife failed to reveal any trace of either, both finally giving up all hope of ever seeing each other.
While visiting Long Beach Mrs. Newlin, went for a sail on the Dawn. The couple met, looked at each other, and couldn’t believe their eyes. It couldn’t be; each thought the other dead. They chanced to meet again the next day on the wharf and he went to her and asked her who she was, and she told him. About a year ago she had married another man, thinking Leslie dead. But her first love won out. She would notify husband number two that their marriage was illegal. In the meantime she and Leslie Newlin set sail together on a lumber vessel for Puget Sound.
It was almost like Romeo and Juliet, fifteen-year-old Jennie Thomson of Duarte thought as she eloped with twenty-four year-old Homer Norman. Her father thought her too young for romance and did not mince words when telling her so, but she was in love and wanted to spend her life with Homer. The elopement had been well planned. Homer had taken off with Jenny in one carriage and, accompanied by four young friends in another, headed to Long Beach. Long Beach, they thought, would be the perfect seaside town to take a ship out to sea and get married. Besides, the town’s telephone system shut down at 9 p.m. every evening and Jennie’s father couldn’t trace them there.
The Thomsons discovered their daughter missing around 8:30 p.m., Sunday, August 2, 1897. They found a note explaining that she had lived at home as long as she cared to and that she had decided to spend the remainder of her life with Homer. The police were immediately notified and several search parties started toward the beach, but it was too late. Jenny, Homer and their escorts had already boarded Captain Pearson’s ship the J. Willey and were heading out to sea and the nine-mile limit where Pearson could legally marry the young lovers.
Jenny’s father was livid, her mother prostrated with grief. Their daughter was not of legal age to marry without her parent’s consent and Alexander C. Thomson was definitely not going to give it. The determined father found his daughter in Long Beach and hurried to the seaside town demanding that Jenny come home with him. Homer Norman told his now father-in-law he no longer had a say so in the matter. Thomson disagreed.
The tangled court case that resulted would come to define the legality of marriages at sea. If Pearson’s marriage of the couple was legal it meant that any man could take any underage child to sea, defy the wishes of her parents and have his way with her.
On August 15, 1897, Judge M.T. Allen rendered his decision: marriages on the high seas were legal only when neither of the contracting parties was violating the laws of the State or country in which they lived when contracting such marriage. Since Jennie was underage she was still under her father’s custody. The marriage was not legal and a hysterical Jennie was returned to her family home.
Jennie claimed she still loved Norman and vowed she would run away with him again, at the first opportunity. Alexander Thomson told the press he would rather have a dog for a son-in-law than Norman and that he would have the young man arrested on a charge of rape unless Norman stopped harassing his daughter. The threat must have done the trick. Though no further stories appear, a look at the 1900 U.S. Census finds Homer Norman living with his parents along with his British born wife, Beatrice, and their 3-month-old daughter. Jennie, eighteen-years-old in that same census, is still at home with her parents; finally of legal age to marry---but her Romeo had deserted her for another.
A Love Rekindled
On November 20, 1907, two thousand people crowded the shore of Long Beach to bid goodbye to the cruisers Colorado, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia who were leaving Long Beach after a ten day stay. The four ships of the first division of the Pacific fleet had cordially greeted visitors and performed shore drills. The major purpose of the visit, however, was to meet family and friends who had traveled from throughout the country to meet their sailor kin. Twenty five men had enlisted during the squadron’s stay, five from Long Beach. Two Long Beach lads, Robert Mead and Arthur Letts had signed up so they wouldn’t need to testify against Alice Shorers and her alleged house of prostitution. Thirty others had deserted, often with some ingenuity. Fred Smith of Los Angeles told how he met a sailor at the West Virginia ball who persuaded him to change clothing to see how he looked in sailor’s attire. Smith then said the sailor excused himself for a moment and never came back.
There was one remarkable story involving the fleet visit. Cora Haskell had traveled to Long Beach to visit her brother on board the South Dakota. To her astonishment she ran into an old schoolmate and beau from Dubuque, Iowa. Seventeen years earlier Patrick Burns had enlisted in the Navy. The couple vowed to write regularly but the pair eventually lost track of each other and Burns thought Cora had died. Both were overjoyed; romance again developed quickly and Patrick proposed. On June 9, 1908, Patrick’s enlistment over, he lost no time in marrying his long lost love. The newlyweds decided to make Long Beach, where their lives had again intertwined, their home.
A Father Changes His Mind
When Y. Igloppi of Long Beach married a lovely Japanese girl in Los Angeles in January 1919, he thought their lives together would be filled with happiness. But troubles not their own were brewing and in a few short days complications arose which ended up sending them to court.
Before the marriage festivities were over the father of the bride told the couple that an ill friend, who could not attend the wedding, wished them to visit. When the newlyweds arrived at the home of the ailing man, the father asked the bride to follow him into an adjoining room. Leaving her new husband behind, the girl followed. The father closed and locked the door, fled through another passage, taking his daughter with him. Igloppi could not find his bride and was forced to return to Long Beach without her. He told his story to Attorney Newton M. Todd who served a warrant on the girl's family. According to reports the father, upon thinking about it, decided he could negotiate a better marriage to a more prosperous man for his daughter. But it was too late. Threatened with a law suit for having decoyed the bride away, the father returned the girl to her legal husband. It was a happy ending for the couple loved each other. Now all Igloppi had to do was prove himself a worthy husband to the father.
Looking for a Wife
In November 1913 Mayor Kiel of St. Louis received an interesting letter from L.B. Johnson of Long Beach:
Dear Mayor – I am writing you a letter asking you to help me find a companion. Am 23 years old, 5 feet 11 ¾ inches in height, with light complexion and blue eyes; weigh between 185 and 192. I want a good girl, not over 20 years old. She must be good looking, a fair cook and willing to start life with a young man who will treat her right and offer her a good home. I do not want any red haired woman. She may be fair or dark, but not too dark. If you will find me this kind of a girl I will be ever thankful. Kindly answer right away. L.B. Johnson.
Johnson, living at 65 Alamitos Avenue, got the idea from a friend, Leo Anderson, who wrote a letter to the chief of police of St. Louis asking him to help him find a wife. Anderson received many replies, one of them from Miss Ella Alvin. The letter was nice, and a picture was enclosed convincing him she was the girl he was looking for.
Anderson joked to Johnson that he should think about getting married. Johnson thought about it for a few years, and then decided to do what his friend suggested. Anderson helped Johnson draft the letter but put in the piece about the red-hair as a joke. Johnson, a fireman by trade expected to get as lucky as his friend Leo, because as he told the Daily Telegram “their experience has shown that a correspondence courtship may result in a happy marriage.”
Unfortunately, there were no follow up stories to tell of Johnson’s success or failure, he moved away from Long Beach the following year. Did he travel to St. Louis to meet the woman of his dreams? Sadly, we will never know.
An Advertising Success
Unlike Mr. Johnson, Orion Watson did succeed in finding a wife, his second, through advertising. In January 1911, Orion and Mrs. Jennie Keener saw each other for the first time at the Southern Pacific depot on Second Street, and married that same afternoon. The widowed Watson, about 50, had come all the way from Hatchie, Mississippi, to meet and wed 40-year-old Jennie. It had been a short courtship. In November 1910, Orin inserted an advertisement in a matrimonial newspaper (yes, there were such things back then). Jennie answered it. Orion wasted no time, proposing they get married on Christmas day. here was one delay. Jennie, who lived in Illinois, had been sent a railroad ticket by her Long Beach relatives, the Dunstons. She had always wanted to see California, and told Orion he would have to wait. An anxious Orion replied that he too wanted to see California. He arrived in Long Beach on January 11th. The couple married and honeymooned in Long Beach for the winter.
No one knows exactly how Valentine’s Day began, but what would it be without a kiss between lovers? Well, folks in Long Beach were faced with that possibility when in 1918 Long Beach became a kiss-less beach. To keep Long Beach a nice moral town city officials passed an ordinance prohibiting caressing, hugging, fondling, embracing, kissing or wrestling on the beach and at the Pike. The law also prohibited a person from resting his or her head on another person’s lap. If you broke the law you would be fined, imprisoned or both.
A. T. Sackett became the first man arrested under section two of Ordinance B - 456. Sackett was given an option---a fine of $l5 or spending 15 days in jail. He told the judge the young woman in whose company he was when arrested was the girl to whom he was engaged to marry. Sackett pleaded guilty to violating the ordinance, but declined to pay the fine levied by the court and appealed on constitutional grounds. “Under the Long Beach law a man can be arrested for kissing his mother or his sister,” he said. “My arrest and fining was unjust.”
Sackett won on his appeal. Superior Judge Willis declared the local imitation of Connecticut's blue laws unconstitutional and "an unwarranted interference with the inalienable right of liberty and pursuit of happiness." His decision was also based on the fact that none of the acts listed in the ordinance could be declared wrong in themselves, but depended upon two things: First, whether the act, otherwise harmless, was performed in a public place. Second, whether the participants of the act were of the opposite sex. In other words, a young man could kiss, hug and embrace his girlfriend in the privacy of her own home, but should they do it outside, they would both be guilty of a misdemeanor. Also, a male child could place its head upon the lap of his father and a female child on the lap of her mother on the beach, but if their respective positions were reversed they too would be guilty of breaking the law. The remaining portion of the ordinance, governing public morals, was unaffected by Judge Willis' decision. Thanks to Judge Willis, a public kiss was now legal in Long Beach.