Alan Harbour: When Life Was A Beach

By Alan Harbour
I started working at the Stangeland’s Umbrella Stand in the summer of 1950. I was 11 years old, but would be 12 in July. I was probably one of the youngest kids on the beach concession circuit. This was due to the fact that Gary, the youngest of the five Stangeland boys, and I had been a  friend since 1941. I had been hanging out at their house for years. Gerhart Stangeland, known as “G”, was the owner of the concession and one of the scariest guys around…..He was very large, had a glass eye, and the gruffest voice you ever heard. All the kids were scared to death of him, but it was the only job in town. 

The “Stands”, as they were called, were small plywood structures. There were four stands located out on the sand. One at Dolphin St., one at 10th St. on the East side of the pier, 8th St., and 1st St., (called Siberia.) The smallest buildings were at Dolphin and one at 1st Street with the main stand at 10th St. being the largest. The umbrellas and surf mats were stored inside.

Each summer morning about 8:00 AM all the kids would show up at the Stangeland house to pick up their keys, change box and rental sheet. My regular stand was at Dolphin St. I would unlock the stand, set up an umbrella and put out a display of surf mats. When I rented umbrellas, I would set them up for people, hoping for tips. “G” would pay us $2.50 per day plus a bonus if anyone rented over $50 worth of equipment in a day. (Never happened!)  In those days we spent our earnings on comic books, cokes, bubble gum, and illegal fire works when 4th of July came around.

On our days off, (most of us worked 5 days a week), we would take advantage of the free use of the surf mats or catch the bus to the Pike in Long Beach to ride the roller coaster. Of course, there was the Saturday matinee at the Bay Theatre if you weren’t working. The price was 14 cents for admission and 25 cents for a coke and popcorn. Boy, that $10 or $12 a week went a long way.  No TV, no McDonalds, no computer games….Just the beach, a bike, the surf, and a pocket full of money.

What a life! What a town!!!  Seal Beach

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