New books on Los Al-Rossmoor and Seal Beach History

Here are two books that cover the local history of two communities.

by Larry Strawther — History Press $17.99

The wooden pier, tree-lined Main Street and ocean views, coupled with a prosperous and happy community, led Forbes magazine to name Seal Beach one of the five friendliest towns in America.  getting there, however, was a bumpy adventure.  Starting in the 1860s as the port of Anaheim Landing, the finest seaport in what would become Orange County, it soon became a summer retreat for squatters anhd illegal saloons.  Despite the efforts of real estate developers to turn the town into an amusement resort and an early center for aviation and motion pictures, Seal Beach became neighboring Long Beach’s tavern, brothel and gambling destination.  But order and prosperity eventually prevailed to create today’s quiet residential city.  Join author Larry Strawther as he tracks Seal Beach’s evolution from raucous port to cherished community.

See a preview here.




by Larry Strawther — History Press $17.99

The City of Los Alamitos and the Contiguous, unincorporated community of Rossmoor exemplify small-town America amid the populous western Orange County sprawl.  Their tree-lined streets, well-kept homes and first rate schools are reflected in Rossmoor’s selection as the No., 1 suburb in California (and No. 9 nationwide) in a 2012 study by Coldwell Banker Realty.  The evolution of Los Alamitos from cattle ranches and rough sugar beet factory town to World War II military town and ultimately into residential neighborhoods took a century.  meanwhile the planned “walled city” of Rossmoor was created between 1955 and 1961.  Despite annexation talk, Rossmoor and “Los Al” coexist apart together, so to speak, on Long Beach’s outskirts.  Author Larry Strawther traces the histories of these interdependent sister communities, which epitomize the reality in the legend of the Orange County lifestyle.

Take a look at a preview of the  book.

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The official act creating Anaheim Landing

1875 - Santa Monica Ind RR map - Anaheim Landing-2500pxBecause we’ve been doing some research for its 150th anniversary, we’ve been on a bit of an Anaheim Landing kick lately.  Orange County’s first port was officially founded in 1864 although fishermen and even the US Army had used the area before that, but not apparently on a permanent, lasting basis.

As one might guess from its name, the Landing had its roots in the young town of Anaheim, which was started in 1857-59 by 50 Germans who migrated south from San Francisco, and by 1862 had become the wine capital of California. That year, it was already producing 162,000 gallons of fermented fruit — not only your expected red and white wines, but Angelica, Sherry, Muscatel, Champagne, Grape Brandy, and port.

Mos1866_AUG-4-ad-Anaheim Landing SS Commodore - Alta Californiat was consumed locally, but a great deal was good enough to be shipped to San Francisco and New York. But first the Anaheim growers had to find a port for their port (and other wines and beverages).  At the time their only option was Wilmington — which meant hauling their heavy wagons across three sometimes quite wide streams and rivers — Coyote Creek, Los Cerritos Creek and the San Gabriel River which at that time merged with the Los Angeles River and emptied its water on the west side of modern Long Beach.

Obviously the solution was to find a port before you have to cross a stream, so the wine-men built a wharf on Alamitos Bay near the present site of Island Village, just southwest of Leisure World. As the Anaheim Lighter Company, it was doing good business but the rains and floods of 1867 not only changed the course of the San Gabriel River and sent a ton of silt into the bay, making new mudflats which blocked ocean access for the ships at the wharf. So the Lighter Company moved a mile and half south and built a new wharf on Anaheim Bay — right where Electric Avenue runs into Seal Beach Boulevard.

1874 - Dec 31 - Anaheim Landing annual report - LAH18750112.1.3-377w-call-2709-578-754-989For the next seven to eight years Anaheim Landing did a thriving business. It was a regular stop for the 5-6 coastal steamers (like the Senator, Commodore, Pacific and Orizaba, to name a few) that plied the coastal ports from San Francisco to San Diego as well as schooners importing tons of lumber on the schooners from the Eureka area, and exporting over twenty area products, especially corn, rye, barley and wool from the San Joaquin and Cerritos ranchos run by the Bixby families. (The San Joaquin is now known as the Irvine Ranch.)

Anyway, the second Landing received official certification from this act passed by the California legislature:


An Act authorizing Frederick W. Knelp, Hugo Schenck, John Foster, William Workman, Theodore Riser, A. Langenberger, their associates and assigns, to construct and maintain a wharf in Los Angeles County.

[Approved March 24, 1868.]

The People of the State of California, represented in Senate and Assembly, (10 enact as follows:

SECTION 1. Frederick W. Kuelp, Hugo Schenk, John Foster, William Workman, Theodore Riser, A. Langenberger, their associates and assigns, shall have the right to construct and maintain a wharf in the County of Los Angeles on the Bay of Bolso Chiquita, on the tide and overflowed lands of the State, thirteen and one half miles from the Town of Anaheim, and one mile and a half from the former landing of the Anaheim Lighter Company.

Sec. 2. For the purpose of said wharf there is hereby granted to the parties named in section one, their associates and assigns, “to use and occupy a strip of land five hundred feet in Width, commencing at high water mark and extending into said bay four hundred feet, or until a sufficient depth of water shall be obtained for the accommodation of commerce; provided, the free navigation of the bay shall not be obstructed; and the franchise herein granted shall continue for the term of twenty years.

Sec 3. The said Frederick W. Kuelp, Hugo Schenk, John Foster, William Workman, Theodore Riser, A. Langenberger, their associates and assigns, shall build and erect said wharf Within two years from the passage of this Act, and shall thereafter keep the same in good repair, and enlarge it as the business and commerce of the county may require; and they shall hallowed to collect such dockage and wharfage thereon as the Board of Supervisors of said county may allow.

8:0. . his Act shall take effect from and after its passage.

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1878 – Early Anaheim Landing – as seen by a Future Nobel Prize-winning author

As we have pointed out in other barely read missives, Anaheim Landing is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year — making it (and thus Seal Beach) Orange County’s second oldest community — behind only the Mother Colony herself, Anaheim.

There are actually plenty of descriptions about the Landing’s early days — most are newspaper articles, but there is also an essay about the Landing by future Nobel winning author Henryk Synkiewicz.  (He would win for authoring Quo Vadis.)

In the early spring of 1876 Synkiewicz and another Polish intellectual were sent to California by a group of Polish artists and writers seeking not only to flee Russian tyranny but to locate a new commune based on Thoreau-eque (i.e., Walden Pond-ish) principles.    The other gentleman returned to Poland with glowing accounts from California; Sienkiewicz, who had set himself up in a shack at Anaheim Landing, wrote equally enticing reports of the weather, the land, and most of all, the possibilities.  The reports motivated a commune of Polish artists, including Madame Helena Modjeska, to come to the Orange County area and establish residence in a two bedroom farmhouse.  After six months, the practicality of the artists commune did not live up to its hoped for ideal, and the artists separated.  Modjeska returned to the stage in America and earned great acclaim.  Sienkewicz returned home where his best days were still ahead of him.

While at the Landing, Sienkewicz wrote rough drafts of short stories that became parts of his later more extensive efforts.   His essay “The Cranes” tells how Anaheim Landing was the inspiration for one of his well-known works.

The Cranes
by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Translator: Jeremiah Curtin

Homesickness (nostalgia) tortures mainly people who for various reasons are utterly unable to return to their own country, but even those for whom return is merely a question of will power feel its attacks sometimes. The cause may be anything: a sunrise or a sunset which calls to mind a dawn or an evening at home, some note of a foreign song in which the rhythm of one’s own country is heard, some group of trees which call to mind remotely the native village–anything suffices!

At such moments an immense, irresistible sadness seizes hold on the heart, and immediately a feeling comes to a man that he is, as it were, a leaf torn away from a distant but beloved tree. And in such moments the man is forced to return, or, if he has imagination, he is driven to create.

Once–a good many years back–I was sojourning on the shore of the Pacific Ocean in a place called Anaheim Landing. My society was made up of some sailor fishermen, Norwegians for the greater part, and a German, who gave food to those fishermen and lodged them. Their days were passed on the water; every evening they amused themselves with poker, a game at cards which years ago was common in all the dramshops of America, long before fashionable ladies in Europe began to play it. I was quite alone, and my time passed in wandering with a gun over the open plain or along the shore of the Pacific. I visited the sandbanks which a small river made as with a broad mouth it entered the ocean; I waded in the shallow waters of this river, noted its unknown fishes, its shells, and looked at the great sea-lions which sunned themselves on a number of rocks at the river mouth. Opposite was a small sandy island swarming with mews, pelicans, and albatrosses; a real and populous bird commonwealth, filled with cries and uproar.

At times, when the day was calm, and when amid silence the surface of the water took on a tinge almost violet, changing into gold, I sat in a boat and rowed toward the little island, on which pelicans, unused to the sight of man, looked at me less with fear than astonishment, as if wishing to ask, “What sort of seal is this that we have not seen till to-day?” Frequently I looked from that bank at sunsets which were simply marvellous; they changed the whole horizon into one sea, gleaming with gold, fire, and opal, which, passing into a brilliant purple, faded gradually until the moon shone on the amethyst background of the heavens, and the wonderful semi-tropical night had embraced the earth and the sky. The empty land, the endlessness of the ocean, and the excess of light disposed me somewhat toward mysticism. I became pantheistic, and had the feeling that everything surrounding me formed a certain single great soul which appears as the ocean, the sky, the plain, or diminishes into such small living existences as birds, fish, shells, or broom on the ocean shore. At times I thought also that those sand-hills and empty banks might be inhabited by invisible beings like the ancient Greek fauns, nymphs, or naiads. A man does not believe in such things when he turns to his own reason; but involuntarily he admits that they are possible when he lives only with Nature and in perfect seclusion. Life changes then, as it were, into a drowsiness in which visions are more powerful than thought. As for me, I was conscious only of that boundless calm which surrounded me, and I felt that it was pleasant to be in it. At times I thought of future “letters about my journey”; at times, too, I, as a young man, thought also of “her,” the unknown whom I should meet and love some time. In that relaxation of thought, and on that empty, clear ocean shore, amid those uncompleted ideas, undescribed desires, in that half dream, in semi-consciousness, I was happier than ever in life before. But on a certain evening I sat long on the little island and returned to the shore after nightfall. The flowing tide brought me in–I scarcely had need to lift an oar then. In other regions the flow of the tide is tempestuous, but in that land of eternal good weather waves touch the sand shore with gentleness; the ocean does not strike land with an outburst. Such silence surrounded me that a quarter of a mile from the shore line I could have heard the conversation of men. But that shore was unoccupied. I heard only the squeak of the oars on my boat and the low plash of water moved by them.

Just then, from above, certain piercing cries reached me. I raised my head, but on the dark background of the sky I could discern nothing. When the cries were heard a second time, directly above, I recognized in them the voices of cranes.

Evidently a whole flock of cranes was flying somewhere above my head toward the island of Santa Catalina. But I remembered that I had heard cries like those more than once, when as a boy I journeyed from school for vacation–and straightway a mighty homesickness seized hold of me. I returned to the little room which I had hired in the cabin of the German, but could not sleep. Pictures of my country passed then before my mind: now a pine forest, now broad fields with pear trees on the boundaries, now pleasant cottages, now village churches, now white mansions surrounded by dense orchards. I yearned for such scenes all that night.

I went out next morning, as usual, to the sand-banks. I felt that the ocean and the sky, and the sand mounds on the shore, and the plains, and the cliffs on which seals were basking in the sunlight, were things to me absolutely foreign, things with which I had nothing in common, as they had nothing in common with me.

Only yesterday I had wandered about in that neighborhood and had judged that my pulse was beating in answer to the pulse of that immense universe; to-day I put to myself this question: What have I to do here; why do I not go back to my birthplace? The feeling of harmony and sweetness in life had vanished, leaving nothing behind it. Time, which before had seemed so quiet and soothing, which was measured by the ebb and flow of the ocean, now seemed unendurably tedious. I began to think of my own land, of that which had remained in it, and that which had changed with time’s passage.

America and my journey ceased altogether to interest me, and immediately there swarmed in my head a throng of visions ever denser and denser, composed wholly of memories. I could not tear myself free from them, though they brought no delight to me. On the contrary, there was in those memories much sadness, and even suffering, which rose from comparing our sleepy and helpless country life with the bustling activity of America. But the more our life seemed to me helpless and sleepy, the more it mastered my soul, the dearer it grew to me, and the more I longed for it. During succeeding days the visions grew still more definite, and at last imagination began to develop, to arrange, to bring clearness and order into one artistic plan. I began to create my own world.

A week later, on a certain night when the Norwegians went out on the ocean, I sat down in my little room and from under my pen flowed the following words: “In Barania Glova, in the chancellery of the village mayor, it was as calm as in time of sowing poppy seed.”

And thus, because cranes flew over the shore of the Pacific, I composed “Charcoal Sketches.”

[The end]

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1873 – Dec. 27 – LA Herald – Anaheim Landing freightage to New York

Anaheim Landing, the first settlement of Seal Beach, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Funded by Anaheim wine-growers seeking an easier way to ship than by going through Wilmington, the Anaheim Lighter Company established its first wharvf in 1864 on Alamitos Bay (near Island Village).  After floods in 1866 and 1867 blocked ocean access, the company built a new wharf on a new site a mile and a half over Landing Hill on Anaheim Bay where it remained for 76 years until the Navy took it over in 1944.

For its first seven-to eight years Anaheim Landing was very busy, and there was talk of expanding the wharf, even adding a second one and even another one with a 1700 foot pier extending out from “Bolso Chico,” a nile and a half south of the Landing.  (This would be at present Sunset Beach.)  But as Phineas Banning completed the dredging of the sloughs at his New San Pedro (later Wilmington) port — allowing ocean-going ships to come all the way to his docks — Anaheim Landing’s decline began, further cemented by the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Amaheim in 1875.

This article in a December 1873 issue of the LA Herald, shows how busy the Landing was.

Shipments to New York.

The shipments from San Pedro to New York for the year 1873, foot up as follows:

95,717 gallons wine; 140 tons wool; i2 tons bullion, Ac.; 4,357 dry hides; in all about 68o tons weight, exclusive of the hides. This freight was ail sent by the coast steamers to San Diego, and there transferred to the New York steamer. If our harbor was made accessible to these vessels, the New York steamers would stop at San Pedro, and our freights would need but one handling. As it is they go to swell the exports of San Diego.

There was shipped from Anaheim Landing to New York during I873, 52,442 gallons of wine and two tons of wool, or 414 tons in weight, making from the two points over 1,000 tons of freight.

This amount would be largely and steadily increased if the facilities for handling were better, but as long as freight for New York must be first sent by rail to Wilmington, then transferred by lighter to a coast steamer, taken to San Diego, and again transferred to the New York boat, it can be readily understood that we are laboring under disadvantages, that must be removed before we can hope to enjoy an independent trade. Given a railroad to deep water, and the New York steamers instead of passing by, would gladly call for our freight, and we would save a large sum annually In lighterage and freights.

1873 - Dec 27 - Anaheim Landing Shipping - New York - LA Herald

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The Pike opens where Mr. B’s and Casa Castillo served it up

2014-Pike opening day - IMAG3326At 5pm today the Pike officially opened for business in Los Alamitos in the location where Mr. B’s and Casa Castillo have been feeding Los Alamitos and Rossmoor residents for years.

The Pike is owned by Chris Reece, a former drummer of Social Distortion and founder of the original Pike – a retro bar at 4th and Bropadway.  The Los Alamitos restaurant/bar will feature the same menu, color (Pike Blue) and vibe of the Fourth Street location, said Reece — but he will localize it with antiques, old photos and collectible knick-knacks.

2011-Kenny Brandyberry - Lucianne Maulhardt-07188913681_58ff1a046eMr. B’s has been an local institution since being opened by living legend Kenny Brandyberry (shown right with longtime Casa Youth Shelter Exec Director Lucianne Maulhardt) back in 1994. Prior to that the building had housed Casa Castillo (photos below left), one of the area’s favorite Mexican restaurants. Casa originally occupied the current Mr. B’s space and expanded their bar (and live band area) next door to the area now occupied by So-Low Pharmacy. And even before that, it was the site of Scharlin’s Deli — an eatery that offered similar fare to the Katella Bakery (then in the current Polly’s Pies spot) and not surprisingly, Scharlin’s didn’t last tool long.  Although Bill Scharlin came back a few years later and opened Bagels and Beer, a concept which soon was taken over by Kaplan’s Deli, which only last a few years before the spot was taken over by The Claim Jumper (which eventually moved to Marina Pacifica and the spot was taken over by Hof’s Hut.

PC Los Alamitos Casa Castillo Restaurant-2500PXWhen Kenny B. took over (after selling his stake in the Starting Gate — located right across from the entrance/exit to Los Alamitos Race Track)  he downsized back to the original dimensions, except for keeping the banquet room in back.  The joint did pretty well — certainly well enough to attract the attention of Rosie and Perry Apostle who bought it around 1997.  Perry’s dad had been a fixture in the Long Beach restaurant scene for more than 60 years, owning such places as the now-defunct King Arthur’s Steakhouse on Spring Street and Bellflower Boulevard, and the former Olive Tree bar, now the Gaslamp Restaurant & Bar, on Pacific Coast Highway and Loynes Drive.

Both Perry and Rosie had worked at the race track and were licensed ticket sellers, but after they bought the restaurant, he focused more on Mister B’s while she also worked the management at Santa Anita Race Track.  About six years ago health issues forced Perry to scale back on his workload although in the past year  or so he has been back to where he was.  But it was time to move on.

Reece says the biggest concept change will be in sounds.  “We’re going to have live music, and we’re wheeling in the same jukebox we have on Fourth Street,” he said. “Mr. B’s had a lot of karaoke, but that’s not going to happen here,” said Reece.  “It’s a subtle thing, but music — your audio senses — makes the mood of a place, and some knucklehead chooses a terrible karaoke song and customers start finding a reason to leave.”

The music change should go over well if the first couple hours were an indicator — with the juke box blowing out an eclectic mix of East Coast blues rock and Tony Bennett classics.   Another difference that stands out is the more open feeling provided by the loss of a front wall and some large TVs (don’t worry, there are still plenty).  The walls are a little bare right now but Reece plans to decorate them with old photos and items showcasing Los Alamitos area history as well as some aviation items.

Another change that should go over well is the menu offerings — more salads, more fish,  and only fresh vegetables.  The waitresses who worked for Mister B’s and now, say the customers so far seem to really like it.

That seemed to be evident on Friday night, when they were slammed .

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1941 – Ten Arrested in big Seal Beach Gambling Raid behind Garden of Allah

054 - 1940c - Garden of AllahA big event which actually had quite an effect on Seal Beach was a September 18, 1941 gambling raid which resulted in the arrest of at least ten men and the detainment of over eighty customers.  Orange County sheriff’s deputies used a sledge hammer to break into a gambling den located off the alley behind the Garden of Allah nightclub at 8th and the Coast Highway.  (The Garden of Allah was one of the top glamour night club/roadhouses south of Hollywood.  It didn’t draw A-list Big Bands but over the years it had some very good and respected hot jazz and Big Bands.  But apparently, the bands weren’t enough entertainment for the club’s patrons.)

The Allah was opened by Vivian Laird in 1938, when she moved it a mile or so down the road from Naples where it had been a popular eatery for a few years.  The Allah did good business for diners who would then seek additional entertainment at one of the town’s many gambling operations.  At the time Seal Beach was often in the headlines for its fairly open gambling — there were at least six known gambling operations on Main Street.  The most luxurious of all was operated by Ballard Barron, who had installed a full gambling room hidden behind a door in the top floor of the old Seal Hotel at the southwest corner of Main and Central (where Hennessey’s is currently located).  Barron had his had in most of the town’s gambling and he also operated the tables on a couple of the gambling ships as well.   But 1939 and 1940 were tough on him.  The state came down hard on the gambling ships and succeeded in shutting them down.  Then in late 1940 the Seal Hotel, Barron’s headquarters (although by now he lived in Naples),  burnt down in a mysterious early morning fire.  The gambling business slowed down in town and this could have been a motivating factor when Laird decided to sell some of the lots behind her restaurant to Barron in January 1941.   On these lots were the garages/casinos that were busted by police on that September night.

The “casino” just behind the club had over $10,000 worth of gambling equipment (or $15,000, depending on which newspaper article you believe) inside a building dressed up to look like a long garage that could house a dozen automobiles.  When deputies knocked on the “garage’s” doors and no one answered, they used a sledge hammer to break in, and proceeded to detain and take the names of the 80-plus customers, arrest the dealers, and confiscate  four roulette tables, two dice tables, two blackjack tables, and miscellaneous cards and chips.

The arrested men all gave their occupations as “clerks” and all immediately furnished the $75 bail and were released but ordered to appear at Seal Beach Justice Court the following Monday to face the charges of gambling.

Eleven days later the men pled “guilty,” and received 60-day jail terms from Seal Beach Judge Fred Smith, who also suspended the jail time for two years. [LB Independent, Sept. 29, 1941]

On October 3, 1941, Orange County sheriff Jesse Elliot said he was going to destroy the $15,000 worth gambling equipment seized in the raid.  We can find no more articles re: the raid or its equipment.

What may have been significant about this was this was one of the first time Seal Beach gambling figures could not count on being acquitted.  Before this, Judges like Fred Smith and local juries had invariably acquitted all local figures of gambling charges.

1950c - Ballard Barron - cut from group photo at Last FrontierBut in 1937 mob syndicate figures Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen began to take control of the Southern California gambling rackets — often using violence to share their feelings.  Not helping the gamblers’ cause was Attorney general Earl Warren’s 1939 crusade to shut down the gambling ships operating off Santa Monica and Long Beach/Seal Beach.  Independent gambling operators like Ballard Barron (left), who controlled most of the gambling in Seal Beach (and also some action on the gambling ships off Seal Beach and Long Beach)  saw many of their friends going to jail or even being pistol-whipped in public, and decided Las Vegas offered better opportunities.  Very soon after this Barron received an offer to manage the casino at the Last Frontier, which became the second hotel (and first big casino) to be built on what became the Las Vegas Strip.  Barron took over fifteen of his dealers with him when he left Seal Beach for Vegas in 1942.

Another factor that could have come into play was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.  This resulted into the entire coast strip being ordered into a “Black-Out”mode, which could have dramatically cut into any gambling revenues and given Barron another reason to vacate his previously comfortable operation in Seal Beach.

In any case, once Ballard Barron left, the field was open for other gamblers and the one who quickly became king of the hill in Seal Beach at least was former Los Angeles police detective William L. Robertson.

1941-Sep 18 - LAT - Ten Arrested in Gambling Raid at Seal Beach003

Posted in Obituaries, Seal Beach, Sin City - Prohibition & Gambling 1920-55 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

New SB History Book is on its way to stores

HistPr - Seal Beach front coverI just got word from the History Pres that my new book on Seal Beach (cleverly titled “Seal Beach: A Brief History”) has actually been printed and my own stash of books is on its way.  If you want an autographed copy, order it now and you’ll have it within a week or so. (You can also order it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., and it seems cheaper, but by the time you pay the shipping fees, it’s not.  Plus, if order from me, I may even break even on all the parking fees, and library fines I incurred while writing the book).

While I think it’s the best and most accurate town history put out to date, by no means do I consider this the “ultimate Seal Beach history source” — this is just a starting point.  Going into the city’s 100th anniversary celebration, it provides a historical context for why and when certain things happened, but there is still so much to include.  Now it is up to everyone else to start filling in the gaps.

Those of you who grew up in the town — and there’s probably at least 40 or 50 who have been here since at least the 1950s and another 10-15 whose memories go back to the 1940s — don’t let that all that information disappear with you (OK, maybe some of it is good to take with you), but the rest of you… get your photos, stories, and other memories stories out there!

You can start by leaving a comment for this post — click the comment button below.  Or go to the many sites where others have posted Seal Beach memories in addition to the ones I’ve linked below, let me know and I’ll provide links to them.



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Los Alamitos-Rossmoor Museum looking for volunteers

The Los Alamitos Museum is looking for volunteers to help prepare and host events throughout the year.

The museum is open two days a week — from 2pm to 4pm on Sundays and Tuesdays.   Some of the Museum’s events include teas, Docent Appreciatioon Night, Honored Citizen Day, Paranormal Phenomema, Yard Sales, A Quilt Show, a party for local Public Utility workers, and more.

Anyone interested in becoming a docent or volunteering in other ways can contact Anita Schommer at  (562) 493-31-1 or call the museum at (562) 431-8836.

The Press-telegram’s Joe Segura ran a nice article on Museum Prez Marilynn Poe and awesome volunteer Anita Schommer.


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History of Seal Beach to hit bookstores and online sites at end of March

HistPr - Seal Beach cover - REV   After a year and a half of writing (and far longer than that for procrastination) yours truly has just turned in his final proof manuscript for our new book “Seal Beach: A Brief History” which will  unleashed on the unsuspecting public at the end of March.
It’s 224 pages covering Seal Beach’s early days as Orange County’s first port, first amusement park (with rides) not to mention it’s delightfully sketchy days as a rum-running haven and gambling center, and its central role in the growth of surfing.

Also included is new information on some of the characters who played a role in the town’s development — daredevil wing-walking aviators (including one who became head of the new Chinese Air Force) , stars from silent movie, a failed real estate salesmen who with the help of a Seal Beach fireman developed one of the world’s first turbines to produce energy from wind (using a leftover motor from the Joy Zone roller coaster), famous rum-runners,  and Main Street and Gambling Ship gamblers who would later build and run the first big casinos on the Las Vegas strip.
If you are one of those troubled souls who like local history or need something to help them go to sleep at night  and you want to reserve a copy, email me.  (

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The strange case of Jimmy Slyter: Seal Beach’s romantic but unlucky swimmer.

One of the more curious stories I’ve come across in my research of Seal Beach is the tale of Jimmy Slyter and his nationally publicized, but somewhat sketchy, quest in 1946 to swim from Catalina and use the money raided to marry Anne Brennan, one of “Seal Beach’s beauties.”   From being on national headlines, we can find only one more reference to Slyter when he attempted to swim out to Tony Cornero’s Lux gambling ship but appears to have been lost at sea.  Does anyone know hat happened to Slyter?  Was his body found?  Did he ever show up elsewhere? It’s just strange that the papers make no more mention of this.  Below is what we do know?


On April 28, 1946, Navy veteran Jimmy Slyter, a 19-year old ” veteran of 10 Pacific engagements” jumped in the water off Catalina in a quest to become the third person to swim the 22 miles to the mainland.  The residents of Seal Beach had raised a $500 purse for Slyter if he finished, a sum he promised to use “for his wedding to Anne Brennan, one of Seal Beach’s beauties.”  Slyter had been making good time and was five miles off the mainland when a big wave knocked him against the boat and caused the doctor to advise against continuing.[1]  Undaunted, the citizens of Seal Beach raised additional monies and Slyter announced he would try it again.[2] A few months later newspapers around the nation were still playing up the story, and featuring another AP wirephoto of Jimmy, this time running through the surf with fiancé Rose Anne.” He repeated his vow to make it, she repeated her vow to marry him “IF”, and by now the purse was up to $5,000.  Although we don’t hear much more of the Catalina quest, the LA Times did note in early August that on a whim, Slyter decided he wanted to see Tony Cornero’s gambling boat, the Lux, which was then moored three miles off Seal Beach.  Three friends were supposed to stay with him in a dory but they apparently lost track of him and the following day the Coast Guard launched a search.[3]

[1] Spokane Spokesman-Review, April 29, 1946, p7.  AP story.

[2] Ogden, Utah Standard-Examiner, p12.  July AP story.

[3] LA Times, Aug 7, 1946, p1

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