Larry Howard

Larry Howard

interviewed by Libby Appelgate – July 2, 1996

Larry has lived in Seal Beach since 1928.  His father was the Chief of Police for 28 years and never took a day off. 

L.A.:  Please state your name and address.

L.H.:  Lawrence W. Howard, 241 7th Street, Seal Beach, California

L.A.:  Have you ever used a nickname?

L.H.:  Larry.  That’s all I’m known by is Larry.

L.A.:  When and where were you born?

L.H.:  I was born in Durant, Oklahoma in 1919.

L.A.:  Describe the area that you were born.

L.H.:  It’s a farm city and my dad was a farmer at that time.  This was the start of the depression and the farm system went kinda downhill so he moved to California looking for work. 

L.A.:  Do you want to give me more of a description of the town in which you were born?

L.H.:  It was just a small town.  I was born on a farm about four miles out of Durant.  A regular old farmer’s town.  People came in every Saturday and Sunday to auction off their vegetables or whatever they had.  I was a baby when we moved so I don’t remember much about the town.

L.A.:  You came here when you were three.  Is that correct?

L.H.: Yes.

L.A.:  Were you near your grandparents?

L.H.:  My grandfather lived in Huntington Beach.  That was my mother’s father.  But I didn’t know any of the rest.  My grandmother lived in Texas.  My other grandmother and grandfather lived in Oklahoma.  I’ve seen them very few times.  Just on a trip back there.

L.A.:   Do you know where they were born?

L.H.:  My grandfather Howard was born in Tennessee.  He came to Oklahoma in a wagon train with Ryder and Durant.  The three of them founded Durant, Oklahoma.  They were very well known back there.

L.A.:  What were your other grandparent’s names?

L.H:  I don’t really remember.  My mother’s father was a janitor-custodian at the Huntington Beach Grammar School for years and years.  He’s very well known in Huntington Beach Grammar School.

L.A.:  What years did he work there?

L.H.:   He worked in the ’30’s.

L.A.:  When and where were your parents born?

L.H.:  They were born in Waco, my mother, and my father in Grape Vine, Texas.  Then they moved to Oklahoma and that where I was born and my brother, Edward was born there, also. 

L.A.:  Do you know where your parents met and married?

L.H.:  No.

L.A.:  Did you attend church or Sunday school in your early years?

L.H.:  Yes, the Methodist Community Church down here on 10th Street.  In fact, that church was on 6th Street, then they moved it down to 10th.  I attended that church for years.  In fact, I went there for five and a half years without missing a Sunday.  Eileen and myself were married there and also my daughter was married there by the same minister. 

L.A.:  I think everybody in Seal Beach went to either one or the other of two churches.

L.H.:  Yes, they had the Methodist and the Catholic.

L.A.:  What year did you move to Seal Beach?

L.H.:  We came to Seal Beach in 1928.  I have lived here ever since.

L.A.:  What were your favorite foods when you were growing up in Seal Beach?

L.H.:  Hamburgers, Swiss steak, hot dogs and beans.  My mother was a good cook.  We had pot roasts and meat loaf.  Just a regular American diet.

L.A.:  Where did she do her shopping?

L.H.:  Right here in the city of Seal Beach.  There used to be an Irvine Market and also had Patterson’s Market.  Two of them.

L.A.:  Were they on Main Street?

L.H.:  Yes, Uh huh.  Irvine would deliver.  My brother was hurt in football and he had a brain operation.  After the operation, he was set back.  He was paralyzed and blind.  He stayed home for twenty years before he passed away.  So my mother was kept at home mostly all of the time.

L.A.:  How long have you lived in this house?

L.H.:  We built it in 1952.

L.A.:  I’m asking the questions chronologically so we don’t get mixed up in time.  Where did your father work?

L.H.:  When he first came out here to California, he worked for Associated Oil Co. in the oil fields.  Then they changed to Tidelander and then Phillips of Oklahoma bought them out.  He worked for them for….I don’t remember how long.  Then he was hired on as a police officer here in the city of Seal Beach.

L.A.:  What year was he hired?  Do you remember?

L.H.:  About 1930 or 31.  He was on [the force] for 28 years.

L.A.:  About three years after you moved here?

L.H.:  Yes.  Incidentally, being that my brother was confined to bed and just sitting up, my father never took a vacation.  When he retired, the [city] council gave him a sixteen-month paid vacation.  That came out in quite a few [news] papers.  Even the “Stars and Stripes” newspaper in Europe.  We started out with three police officers and ended up with twenty-two.

L.A.:  When did he become Chief of Police?

L.H.:  Just about six months after he was hired as an officer.  The communication between police officers then wasn’t as advanced.  The main office would stick a big pole up in the air with a light on it.  They would see that and they would call in.  They then started in with a radio that was a one way system.  Then they advance to a two-way system.  He helped organize that and also civil service for the city employees.  As the city grew, the police department grew too.

L.A.:  Do you remember the population at that time?

L.H.:  Oh, about 2000, I think.  A lot of vacant lots.  The rollie coaster, which was brought down from San Frisco, was condemned later.  It didn’t last long because of fires and it was old then, as were the two big restaurants there. 

L.A.:  I was wondering what it was like to grow up with your father as Chief of Police.  Did you have to be extra good?

L.H.:  I had to be a good boy.  The kids then were a lot different than they are now.  He didn’t have a problem with any of the kids.  It was a small town and everybody knew each other.  If anything went wrong, he would just say, “Hey, come really bad, he would have them sweep the sidewalks or something like that.

L.A.:  I guess there weren’t many things to be arrested for.

L.H.  Oh, no more than pranks that normal kids would do.  Just had to keep them in line.

L.A.:  Do you remember any big cases that he had?

L.H.:  No, ‘course the speed limit then was 25 miles down the highway.

L.A.:  Those were the main crimes in town?

L.H.  Oh, there was maybe a holdup but I don’t remember [the details].

L.A.:  What schools did you attend?

L.H.:  We left Oklahoma.  We stopped at Arizona, Scottsdale, Arizona.  They had a farm before they came out here.  I attended my first year in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Then my second grade at Seal Beach Elementary School.

L.A.:  Was the school ever named Bay City Elementary? 

L.H.:  No, but the city had that name until another city up North was being confused with ours in the post office.   So they changed the name to Seal Beach because there were so many seals down here on the beach.  They had a bulkhead from the pier all the way down the beach to stop the sand erosion.  The seals used to hang out near the bulkhead near First Street and over to the Alamitos Bay.

L.A.:  In what school activities were you involved?

L.H.:  I was in sports.  You name it and I was in it.  Baseball, track, anything but football because my brother was hurt in football and my folks didn’t want me to play football.  He played a game at Huntington Beach High School in 1935, I believe with Garden Grove High School and got kicked in the head.

L.A.:  How old was he then?

L.H.:  About 18.  He went to Fullerton Junior College for one year when he came down with a big tumor on the brain. 

L.A.:  Caused from the accident?

L.H.:  From the accident.  He had an operation over at Long Beach Community Hospital and he got sick there and it erupted and left him blind and paralyzed.

L.A.:  That was hard for everyone.

L.H.  Yes.  I was going to Seal Beach Elementary during the earthquake in 1933.  I missed a grade because of sickness so I was fourteen in the seventh grade.

L.A.:  I’d like to ask you about the 1933 earthquake and your experiences because that is a question I ask everyone I interview.  But before you do, will you describe the social life in Seal Beach during your high school days.

L.H.:  I went to Huntington Beach High School.  We had a school bus that would stop at different parts of the city.  I took up a vocational course which I liked very much and as far as sports, I had four years of baseball and three years of basketball and four years of track.  I loved sports. 

L.A.:  Now, you were 14 during 1933.  Describe that 1933 earthquake because that was a pretty big thing that happened. 

L.H.:  I forgot how much it was.  But it knocked down one building up here on Main Street, which consist of a restaurant and a barbershop and a little small apartment; a hotel they called it, above and it knocked it down flat.  No persons were hurt.  A man had a brick hit his leg and skinned but that was about all.  No person was killed.  The school, at the time was closed so nobody was hurt down there.  The school was closed because it was about 5:00 o’clock.  They built a couple of Quonset huts out on the tennis courts there what they had and that’s where my eighth grade was out there.  I went for a full year out there in that little old Quonset hut.  Some of the rooms was damaged but other rooms they used.  That what started the new school and I was one of the first ones to graduated out of that auditorium they had down there.

L.A.:  O.K.  Mary Zoeter Elementary School was built in 1935.  Was it built in 1935?

L.H.:  They started building it right after the earthquake.

L.A.:   But the first school was built before that.  1915?

L.H.:  Oh, yeah, way back.  I don’t know when.  It was there.. . .

L.A.:  I’ve seen dates of 1915 and then I know there’s a date on Mary Zoeter School that’s 1935.  It was rebuilt after the earthquake.

L.H.:  They started building it in ’34 because I graduated in ’35, and they had just completed the auditorium for us to graduate out of.  So, they finished it in ’35, put it that way. 

L.A.:  Have you ever heard of how they paid for that?   Did the State give them money to rebuild after the earthquake?

L.H.:  That I don’t know.  I have no idea.  It was built and I was glad of that.

L.A.:  Now, where were you during the earthquake?  Do you remember that?

L.H.:  I was right at home.  In fact, we was gettin’ ready to eat dinner and that’s when it happened.  It just scared all of us.  My brother was on the bus coming home from Huntington Beach High School and they had to stop.  They didn’t know what happened and so they finally made it on up here.

L.A.:  At five in the morning?

L.H.:  No, no, five at night.  This is all at nighttime, at dinnertime.  Of course, that’s when the National Guard come in and went up there were the fire stations if now.  They parked up there and they put out meals for everybody and that was a lot of fun going up there, eatin’ off the National Guard.  In fact, it was very scary there because we had no lights, no water.  They had to haul water in for a few days.  Over in Long Beach, the Pike over there, it was demolished.  The walls just fell and a lot of buildings over in Long Beach got it bad.  Course, construction then was not near as earthquake-proof as it is now, that’s the reason.

L.A.:  All the brick buildings fell.

L.H.:  Mostly brick.  That’s why you don’t see very many brick any more.  People just got away from it.  We lost our chimney, that’s about the only thing.  Course, almost everybody had a chimney then out of brick.  They fell.  But, ah, we got over it and I’ve been through a lot of ’em since then.  (chuckle)

L.A.:  Do you remember the people up on the hill.  They went up on the hill on the Hellman property during the earthquake?  Some people were saying they camped out up there.

L.H.:  Yes, they did.  Somebody put a rumor out that there was a tidal wave, that they were expecting a tidal wave.  And that was just more of a rumor, and so everybody evacuated the town.  They went up on the hill there and just camped out mostly just for one night or two nights, not very long, then they come back down.  My dad was on the police.  We had to patrol.  So all four of us, my family, my mother, my brother, we just rode around town in the car (chuckle) just lookin’ (chuckle).  But what we was lookin’ for was (chuckle) way out of our hands.

L.A.:  Well, in your adult years, what is the name of your wife?

L.H.:  My wife is Eileen, and after I joined the Navy in ’41, I was sent over to Pearl Harbor just about … I arrived there just about four or five days after the bombing.  It was a big mess, and I stayed there for three years.  I was in storekeeping and supply and I had a storeroom there with quite a few civilians and sailors.  And, I enjoyed the duty over there very much.

Then after three years, they sent me back home and I landed over here in Terminal Island and I took over a clothing and small stores, and my wife happened to be one of the salespersons.  We had a two-story building–I had, and she was down below and that’s where we met.  And, we just got through having our 50th anniversary just about a week ago.  So that’s why we’ve been gone for about three weeks, because my daughter… my son paid our way back… my daughter lives in Missouri now, in Springfield, and we’ve been back there and visited my grandkids.

L.A.:  I was going to ask you about that, too.  One of the questions is when and where did you meet and you already told me that.  And, then, when and where were you married?

L.H.:  We was married in the Methodist Church down here.  She is from Alton, Illinois, and at that time . . . she has three brothers and two sisters, there was six of them and there was five of them in the service at one time and the other girl stayed home with her mother.  Her father was killed in an automobile accident just before the war started, I think it was, or sometime in there.

L.A.:  Well, now, where have you lived since your marriage?

L.H.:  We lived behind my mother’s at 226.  She has a little small apartment back there and we moved in there and which we were lucky.  We got it free of charge (chuckle) and then we lived there for a few years and we purchased this three lots here and we built the house next door and this house here and the contractor took that over for the payment for building my house and we’ve been here ever since.

L.A.:  Now, did you say that you helped build the Girl Scout house?

L.H.:  Yes.  I was on the work crew as a volunteer and in fact later on I took care of the yard for about ten years as a volunteer with no pay or nothing.  I mowed the lawn.  I had to do that with a hand mower, too.

L.A.:  What year was the Girl Scout house built?

L.H.:  Oh, boy.  Do you know, Eileen?

E.H.:  In the early ’40’s.  They moved it out from Anaheim Bay area.

L.H.:  Well, see, I lived here when I mowed the lawn, so it was early 40’s when it was built but we took care . . . she was neighborhood chairman in charge of the scout house for, oh, ten years, and we run our daughter through from the beginning clear on up to the high school age.  In fact, we had the same troop.  We took those girls all over California plantin’ trees and everything, so.  We enjoyed it.

L.A.:  As part of the Girl Scout . . .

L.H.:  . . . doings, yes, uh-huh.

L.A.:  . . . and be the leader and everything.

L.H.:  Yeah, and, uh, we enjoyed it, but, uh, we had enough of it so we kind of bowed out after our daughter got out.  You know, it’s quite a bit different.  And that’s when they used to be Seal Beach Girl Scouts.  Then, they went into the Santiago, I think they called it, Girl Scouts, and things changed quite a bit then.

L.A.:  They ended up taking over the house.

L.H.:  Oh, they took over everything.  I think the city . . .

L.A.:  But they don’t own the land.

L.H.:  No, the city still owns it.  I think the city leases it out for like a dollar a year or somethin’ like that.

L.A.:  Now, how many children do you have?

L.H.:  We have two children, a girl and a boy.  The boy still lives here at home, and his name’s Gary.  My daughter’s named Marjorie and we have three grandchildren.

L.A.:  How old are your grandchildren?

L.H.:  Ah, 23, I think, and 21 and 15.

L.A.:  So, you don’t have any great-grandchildren yet.

L.H.:  No.  Uh-uh.

L.A.:  Describe the Jewel Cafe in the 20’s or the 30’s.

L.H.:  Well, it was closed down except for special occasions.

L.A.:  They closed it down . . .

L.H.:  I don’t know what year they closed it down.

L.A.:  I think during the early ’30’s when you first moved here.  Was it closed down when you first moved here in 1928?

L.H.:  Yes.  No, the rolly-coaster was closed then, too.  I mean, they closed it down.  But the Jewel City and the big building on the side, I forgot what they called it, but they were both closed and they just opened them for special occasions.  They had a little old wooden pier out there.  The storm blew it down, they rebuilt it.  But the Jewel City was strictly for dancing and we did see a few . . .

L.A.:  And they called it the Jewel City Cafe.

L.H.:  Yes, they did have a few movie stars used to come down.

L.A.:  Now, during the Depression, it was torn down.  What was it like before, I mean, building up to the . . .

L.H.:  Well, they had a tent city down here and they used to have a few little, like a small Pike or a fun zone, I guess you would call it, but, uh, it was all just vacant buildings mostly.  Tent City was just more for camping overnights and stuff like that, but they did away with that, too.

L.A.:  Did Jesse Reed own tent city?

L.H.:  Yes, Jesse Reed did.  Mr. Reed was the iceman here in town (chuckle).  He delivered ice.  In fact, he had control of the Anaheim bay down there, which I used to work for him as rentin’ out kayaks and stuff in my high school days.

L.A.:  So he had, they rented out boats, too.

L.H.:  Yeah, they called them little kayaks.

L.A.:  Have you heard anything, did you ever hear anything about the rum running or gambling, you know, down there at the pier?

L.H.:  Uh, that has been blown up so badly, it’s ridiculous.  I mean, at one time, probably way before I even knew, they may have had a ship or something out here and put some rum in there, but as far as gambling in Seal Beach, they had the Tangos, and that was bingo.  I think they had two or three of them up on Main Street and they was no harm done.  They was, they supported the city by taxing and donations and, uh course, there’s quite a few said it was, uh, created, uh, vice and criminal and everything else.  My father at that time was chief of police and he never had no problems and, uh, . . .

L.A.:  It was just tame, pretty tame.

L.H.:  Yes, it was run . .  Uh, in fact, you wouldn’t know it was there unless you went uptown and seen it.  And it was just same as the Airport Club out there.  You wouldn’t know it’s there unless you went out there.

L.A.:  Mm-hmm.  They played draw poker.

L.H.:  That’s just draw poker is what they had.  They had no money showin’ or anything like that.  It was mostly chips and they had a security guard out there and, uh, they had no problems out there.  I mean I’ve heard different stories about, and I never seen anything bad.  I mean they did a lot of donations around town to the recreation clubs and stuff like that.

L.A.:  And who ran the gambling?  Were they individuals that ran their own little places?

L.H.:  Well, I don’t know that.  I mean they had to take out a city license and everything and they employed quite a few people.

L.A.:  These are different games up and down Main Street.  This is before the Airport Club.

L.H.:  Yes.  I think they was more and about maybe three at the most.  And, uh, they were very well taken care of and, uh, they, uh, had not too many people workin’ but I think it was mostly outside of Seal Beach and went up there and played.

L.A.:  Now, what have you heard about the brothels on Main Street?

L.H.:  The what?

L.A.:  The brothels on Main Street in the ’20’s and the ’30’s.

L.H.:  What do you mean?

L.A.:  The prostitutes.

L.H.:  Oh.  That is another one.  I have, uh, I growed up here and I never seen any women or prostitutes like that as far as I know.  And if they were, they were taken care of because the city of Seal Beach was . . .

L.A.:  The chief of police would get them out of there.

L.H.:  Why, sure.  They never had any problems.  Once in awhile you may find somebody walkin’ down the street but that wasn’t no . . . you know, it’s like any other place.  You may find it once in awhile, very seldom, that something happened, you know, but, uh . . .

L.A.:  You never noticed it.  I know Virginia saying she never even noticed it.  They weren’t aware that anything like that was going on.

L.H.:  Why, no.  I mean, uh, I, I, uh, its always some people that, uh, exaggerate quite a bit.

L.A.:  Want to make it seem more exciting than, I guess.

L.H.:  Right, right.  And, uh, course, uh; see Seal Beach had always been a recreation town.  I think they was one of the first ones to start night ball.  And, instead of having lights on a pole like they do now, they had ’em strung across the field and when, like if you hit a ball, it went above and we had, oh, four or five teams here in Seal Beach.  They had the City of Seal Beach, the fire department had one . . .

L.A.:  Now, where did they play?

L.H.:  At the school grounds which is called now McGaugh School down there and they had the Junior Club and they had a group of young men that come down every summer on 13th Street.  They called them the 13th Street Gang or boys club and we had a good time down there.  Everybody in town would show up cause that’s about the only activity . . .

L.A.:  Was this like in the ’40’s?

L.H.:  Early ’40’s, late ’30’s.  Forties, that’s when they started playing county leagues with one time here and one team in Huntington Beach, which I played on.  I was manager of the Seal Beach Seals for, oh, three or four years and I was lucky enough to be appointed, uh, uh, Orange County Manager of the Year, so I was happy about that.

L.A.:  Now, the Seal Beach Seals.  What did they play?

L.H.:  They played in what they called the Huntington Beach League.  We played our games in Huntington Beach.

L.A.:  Was this, did you say, stickball?

L.H.:  No, regular night ball, they call it, indoor ball.

L.A.:  Oh.

L.H.:  It was night ball, is all.  They still play it.  They play it over here at Recreation Park.

L.A.:  Like baseball.

L.H.:  It’s softball, in other words.

L.A.:  So there was plenty of other things to do in the ’20’s and the ’30’s besides go to the little Pike.

L.H.:  Oh, yea.  We had a . . .Patterson had a movie up here, back of his store.  He had his store in front and the movie house in the back and we used to go up there.  Course it was all-silent pictures (chuckle).  That’s my early days.

L.A.:  Now, do you remember, let’s see, what was Main Street like when you were, I guess you would be in high school.

L.H.:  Well, they had the drug store, which was mostly run by Mr. Beno, and they had the hardware store where it’s located across the street.  The Masonic lodge is still in the same place.  In fact, the first police department was on Main Street, too, down at the far end where the railroad tracks used to come down and cut in and come down Main Street.  And they had a bank about where the pizza place is there on . . . Chicago Pizza, what’s is its name?

L.A.:  Mm-hmm.  B.J.’s Pizza.

L.H.:  The bank was there.  And they had Irvine Market there.  On up the road they had, uh . . .

L.A.:  What was on the corner of, uh, Central and Main, across from John’s Food King?

L.H.:  Yeah, Central and Main, where the seafood place is now, they . . .

L.A.:  Oh no, I mean on the other side, on the other corner . .

L.H.:  Where John’s Market is or the bank?

L.A.:   Where the parking lot is.

L.H.:  There was nothing there.

L.A.:  Uh-huh.

L.H.:  But where, uh, John’s Food King, there used to be a garage, automobile garage, and, uh, where the seafood place is now, they used to be, they change quite often.  They started out, they had a little restaurant in there and it went out, and they had a store in there for awhile and it didn’t last too long.

L.A.:  Did they have gambling in that building, downstairs?

L.H.:  I, I think so.  Yes, they had bingo.  I hate the word gambling (laugh).

L.A.:  Well, yeah, bingo, because gambling sounds like  . . .

L.H.:  Bingo or lotto they was.  Everybody played lotto before but, and they, uh, as I understand it, I was young then, . . .

L.A.:  Just games.

L.H.:   . . . but there was no money showin’ and you had to buy your chips and then you could cash ’em in at the end.

L.A.:  Did Beno also do any rum-running down at the end of the pier?

L.H.:  No, not that I know of.  Mr. Beno had a family, very good people.  He had about three boys and one girl, as far as I know.  They’re very nice people.  And I never heard, uh, rum-running. I’ve heard that but I’ve never seen it.  I have never seen it.

L.A.:  Now, um, how did people in Seal Beach feel about the Navy coming during World War II?

L.H.:  When the Navy came in, I was over in Pearl Harbor and when I came back they was in here and they took away, gee whiz, how many homes down there in Anaheim Landing.  But, that was the government and that was war so I guess that was a harbor that they needed and, so they just took it over.  I, personally, I don’t think, uh, they didn’t have much say in it, but I don’t think any of them hardly liked it very much.

L.A.:  Some Seal Beachers were saying that they kind of like the idea that they were there.  They thought it would pick up Seal Beach a little bit or at least they would feel protected.

L.H.:  Well, feel protected but yet you had bombs pretty close by.  But, of course, none of those bombs are active bombs.  They’re just material there.  They don’t have no active bombs out there.  I mean they have to put the heads on, that’s put on by the Navy out in the sea.  That’s only when they’re dangerous.

L.A.:  The people who lived on Anaheim Landing or Anaheim Bay had to have all their houses moved.

L.H.:  Yes.

L.A.:  A lot of the houses were moved over here.

L.H.:  That one right across the street over here was moved in, that big double house there.

L.A.:  The Scout house was moved over.

L.H.:  Well, part of the Scout house was moved.

L.A.:  Part of the Scout house was moved from Anaheim Landing?

L.H.:  Yes, part of it and they built onto it and that’s where they got their building.  But, uh, I, like I say, I mean, it provided a few jobs for people and, uh, but, uh, I don’t know what, it wouldn’t be no protection as far as that goes cause they don’t enter into the Seal Beach, the running of Seal Beach.  They run their own out there.  But, I don’t know it’s like I said, the Navy just went ahead and did it.  They didn’t ask to do it, they just did it (chuckle), but, uh, it was all completed by the time I got back here.

L.A.:  Now, what did you do in the Navy?

L.H.:  I was a storekeeper, a warehouse.  I had what they call, right in Pearl Harbor there, Port Island, I had, uh, receiving and outgoing material and, uh, we had, uh, oh about 25 Navy personnel and about that many civilians and, uh, I was the leading, uh, Navy man in there.  And, uh, I had a very good life in the Navy.

L.A.:  What did your wife do during the war?

L.H.:  She was over here in clothing and small stores, as I said where we met, and she . . . that’s when I came back and I was . . . they checked my record and seen that I had enough time overseas, and they put me as permanent duty until the duration of the war over here at Terminal Island and I took over clothing and small stores, that’s the clothing of the Navy personnel.

L.A.:  And where was that?

L.H.:  Terminal Island.  And that’s where she worked.  They had about, oh, eight or nine girls in there and a couple, few boys.  And, they sell to . . . Terminal Island was quite big . . . they had a lot of ships come in there and it was receiving and outgoing for personnel, re-assignment, you know . . . and, uh, so, uh, they had a lot a pretty good trade going there.  We had over a million dollars a year of selling clothing.  We also took care of some ships that come in.

L.A.:  What do you know about the Hellman Ranch? 

L.H.:  Hellman Ranch, they had little houses scattered out all over, mostly Japanese, which the Japanese then I went to school with.  They didn’t know anything about Japan.  They was born and raised and spoke English right here and some of them didn’t . . .

L.A:  Japanese-Americans

L.H.  Pardon?

L.A.:  Japanese-Americans

L.H.:  Yeah.  And they was very good.  I knew and graduated with quite a few.  We still have our class reunions and we still have a few Japanese come to the reunions.  Hellman Ranch, that’s where Hughes, Mr. Hughes which lived about two doors up there, he was the head foreman, and, uh, in fact he was mayor here for about fourteen years, too.

L.A.:  What’s his first name?

L.H.:  Elmer.  Elmer Hughes.  And, uh, he was interested in trains, miniature trains, and every time they’d have the Orange County Fair he had the little train track, if you ever see ’em in the county fairs, you know, him and his son.  But Helllman Ranch there, they grew beans one year and sugar beets the next year, just rotated back and forth, and they covered all the way from Bolsa Chica to the Garden Grove freeway, San Diego freeway and, ah, which they have now all the Naval base.  And, uh, that was, uh, Hellman Ranch.

L.A.:  That was all planted?

L.H.:  Yes.  And that’s, uh, like, uh, Bixby over in Long Beach.  In fact it was about three, ’bout four, Irvine, four of ’em of Mexican descent owned Southern California, you know, just, uh, Hellman was one of  ’em.  ‘Course the Navy took over every bit so they had to sell out.

L.A.:  I wonder if the Navy gave them money for that.  I imagine they did.

L.H.:  Oh, yes, they definitely would have to.  That’s a private enterprise and private property.  They had to buy it at cost.  That’s where Tyler, now Tyler, he was kind of a foreman out there, too.  Mary Tyler . . .

L.A.:  Hubert Tyler was Florence’s husband.

L.H.:  Florence, yes, uh-huh.

L.A.:  And Mary Tyler?

L.H.:  That’s the daughter, yes, and they had the son.  I forgot the son’s name.   They lived out there.  They had, three or four great big old barns and they had about, oh, maybe three or four houses right there on Hellman Ranch.  That’s where the naval place is now.

L.A.:  Do you ever remember, uh, there being a wetlands back there behind the hill?  Was it ever water back there?

L.H.:  Oh, definitely.  There still is.

L.A.:  Before they channeled the river?

L.H.:  Oh, uh, well, one year they had a bad flood somewhere, from, oh, gee whiz, way out there in Westminster clear to Seal Beach had a foot of water.

L.A.:  So there was water back then.

L.H.:  Oh, yes, definitely.  It was a . . . then they put in this here flood control which is the Los Angeles River and the flood control down there which stopped it all and they haven’t had any problems since then. 

L.A.:  Would you call that wetlands back there?

L.H.:  Uh, no.  It just, I don’t know what they called it really.  I don’t think they would call it wetlands.

L.A.:  Because it wasn’t wet all the time.  It was just during the floods.

L.H.:  No, no, no . . . just very, very seldom in case they had a big rain or something like that.

L.A.:  Like it was more a part of the flood plain.

L.H.:  Yeah, something like that.

L.A.:  Well, now, Florence was telling me that they would raise certain crops for the dairy cows.  Did you ever hear about that?

L.H.:  Well, the one it would be would be alfalfa, I guess.  They probably had a few acres of alfalfa’cause we had a lot of dairies around here.  I mean, uh, Santa Ana, Anaheim over there, I mean, north Long Beach, uh, gee whiz, they had a lot of dairy farms around here.

L.A.:  Well, my next question was, did you know any of the Japanese in Seal Beach who had to go to the camps?

L.H.:  Uh, yes, it’s like I say, almost all these Japanese here, they just went in there very, very, uh, you know, I, I, it was bad but they did it more for their own personal lives. I mean, cause, uh, here, uh, uh, uh, what would happen to ’em if they started to walk down the street or somethin’ like that.  It’d be some of these people d’ like to hang ’em, you know, or somethin’ like that.  But, still, again . . .

L.A.:  You think a lot of times it was for their own protection.

L.H.:  Protection, but still, again, you had the Germans and the Italians that, you know, went free and, uh, uh, the Japanese here, they, uh, uh, like I say, they, they didn’t know anything about Japan.  They was American born and, uh, they, uh, they didn’t know how to even speak it.  In fact I think later on they had a Japanese battalion, army or something like that, went over in Europe.  I’m not sure, and I think a few of them from here.  But, uh, they lost everything they had out here.  I mean, they just got, they just put ’em, first they put ’em up here, I think it was Santa Anita Race Track or something for, till they get things built.  Uh, they was treated good and bad, I mean, it’s hard to say, you know, for their own protection, too.  But, that’s just, uh, I don’t know, I guess that’s just the way they go.  There were a lot of mistakes made, but yet, a lot of good ones, too. (chuckle)

L.A.:  Did you know Bill Robertson?

L.H.:  Yes, I did.

L.A.:  And, why did the city let gambling into Seal Beach?

L.H.:  Well, there again, it was draw poker and that was all it was, which they have up here in Gardena, now.  It’s exactly the same thing.

L.A.:  That’s the Airport Club.

L.H.:  Yeah, the Airport Club, and like I say, uh, he donated a lot of money to the churches here and, uh, uh, he had a lot of jobs for the Seal Beach, but, what went on out there, you wouldn’t know it’s there unless you drove out there.

L.A.:  M-hmm.  Or went inside.

L.H.:  Yeah, or went inside.  And, it was very, very clean.  They had, uh, guards on duty, security, and Robertson, he owned the Seal Beach paper, what did they call it, Post and Wave, yeah.  And, uh, course, he was a guy like a lot of other people liked to talk a lot or brag, and some people likes him and some people don’t like him, you know, so.  But, as far as politics in town, uh, a lot of people would say he run the town.  He did not run the town.  He just, he was there, and he spoke his piece like a lot of other people did.  But, uh, I see no harm in him.  In fact, he donated a lot of money to the recreation here in town.  In fact the Seal Beach Seals that I managed, he, uh, donated money to us to have, uh, uniforms and baseballs, which we, uh, if we didn’t, we’d had to get donations from anywhere we could get it, you know. 

L.A.:  I know that it seems like the people who have been here the longest don’t feel as badly about him.  It’s the people who have come in later that have heard these stories.

L.H.:  Well, that’s what I mean.  They heard stories and they took the wrong side of it.  And, they weren’t here at the time and, like I say, I see no harm that he did.  In fact, I think he did the city good.  He, if it wasn’t Robertson, it may have been “Joe Smith” or somebody else, you know.

L.A.:  And he was bringing in revenue according to some people.

L.H.:  Oh, yeah, they had a big license there.  In fact, once in awhile he’d get out of line.  My father closed him down once or twice until he straightened up a little bit.  So, they had an eye on him.

L.A.:  What kinds of things did he do to get closed down?

L.H.:  Oh, I don’t know.  I mean, he just, he wouldn’t, um, like, uh, I don’t know what he did.  Maybe he stayed open an hour longer or something like that or something of that nature.  I have no idea, or maybe somethin’ like that, I have no idea.

L.A.:  I know a lot of people were trying to get him out of town just because they wanted to tear that building down.  They probably just didn’t like the building.

L.H.:  Well, they tore it down and what happened?  They put a big old dance hall out there first and that was the worst thing they ever did.  And that brought in . . .

L.A.:  And that was worse than the Airport Club?

L.H.:  Oh, as far as I know.  I mean I never did go out there, that’s what I hear, now, so I don’t know if it’s true or not.

L.A.:  Yes, don’t know if those were stories, either.

L.H.:  They finally closed it down and now you got a sore spot out there and that’s it. (chuckle)

L.A.:  Well, I was wondering if there’s anything that you would like to talk about that I didn’t cover.  You know, there are questions that I asked you and you probably felt kind of restricted, but I’d like for you to just talk about something that you think would be interesting.

L.H.:  Well, now, most people don’t understand what I mean by a bulkhead.  A bulkhead, they had it from Main Street clear down on this side, and the waves would come in and hit that, and it would kind of keep the sand in.  And there’d be a lot of times when there’d be a lot of water on this side of the bulkhead.  I went swimming down there many times.  We had the sand dunes down there.  That’s before they had houses.

L.A.:  This is on the south side of the pier?

L.H.:  No, on the north side, the west side, from Main Street down to First.  And, they had the Seal Beach plant down there which was very good, I mean, we went down there.  They had the Seal Beach, they had the bridge that crossed over down Ocean, right over to the Long Beach and that was a nice drive.  You used to roll right down Ocean Blvd. all the way, and, uh, and they, uh, took that out because it was, uh, some rich people wanted to put their sail boats through there and they couldn’t get underneath the bridge (chuckle) and, uh, so they tore that out.

L.A.:  There’s a controversy going on about the, whether they should take some of these breakwaters out so it would keep the sand in.  What do you think is making the sand disappear on the east side?

L.H.:  This breakwater they have under the pier, right underneath this pier here, they put all the sand on this side.  But, uh, uh, personally, I think they ought to do engineering from the jetty, make an L, make a shape on out this way or something so the water won’t go into a whirl and take the sand right out again.  I think that, I, personally, I think that could be corrected by, uh, the Army engineers or whatever.

L.A.:  Now, before the Navy came in, did they have trouble with the sand moving out?

L.H.:  Uh, not as, uh, uh . . . yes, they did have.  I mean, I’ve, I’ve seen water go . . .

L.A.:  But that’s just natural, isn’t it?

L.H.:  Oh yeah.  I’ve, I’ve seen water go right down the highway every time we have a high tide.  I’ve seen, uh, this lower part of the town down here, we call it the flats, I’ve seen that in a foot of water down there, even right across the street from us down there.  I’ve seen guys row boats down there.

L.A.:  It’s just part of the bay.

L.H.:  Yeah, until they put that drainage system down there.

L.A.:  The pump system, yeah.

L.H.:  Uh-huh.  Now, if that, in fact, when was it, not very long ago, oh a few years back, that pump went bad or something and here they had water start standing and they had to get that pump fixed in a hurry.  So, that’s the only thing they got to keep the water out or the high tide is going to come in.

L.A.:  You would say that that’s like the lowlands . . . part of Anaheim Bay.

L.H.:  Yeah, that is.  They used to call it the flats.  They called it the flats.  Now, the Glider Inn, it’s been here ever since I can remember.  Jim Arvanitis and, uh, I knew ’em all.

L.A.:  Now, how do you spell his name?  I’ll probably have to call you back.

L.H.:  Don’t ask me. (chuckle)  I couldn’t spell it.

L.H.:  Al Sylvia was the cook.  He was down there for years and years and years.

L.A.:  I remember him.

L.H.:  Yeah, Al Sylvia.  And they also had a boy, his name was Swigert, Paul Swigert, he was assistant cook down there, and Bob Swigert, they didn’t have no father and mother and they growed up, Paul was of age and he took charge of Bob which is a very close friend of mine.  We graduated together and everything.

L.A.:  Now, who opened the Airport Club when it was on the airport?  Do you know that?

L.H.:  The Airport Club?

L.A.: I’m sorry, not the Airport Club.  Who opened the Glider Inn?

L.H.:  Oh, Jim Arvanitis.  He was the owner.

L.H.:  Okay.  When he first built it . . .

L.H.:  As I understand it, he first builds over here across where the naval base is, or somewhere there, but he moved down to this station here.  He had to move.  I think that’s where the airport, the Navy took over and he had to move down where he’s at now.

L.A.:  He was on Crawford Field, probably.

L.H.:  Crawford Field, yeah.  That’s when they had gliders and parachutes.  I still remember those.

L.A.:  Oh, tell me about that.

L.H.:  Well, every Sunday, every Sunday they used to fly their little old plane up there and then guys would jump out in their parachutes, one or two persons.

L.A.:  Was that for entertainment for the people around here?

L.H.:  I just, uh, I guess, I don’t know, it just, it wasn’t paid for, I don’t guess.  I don’t know, but, uh, that was way before, when I was still in grammar school, and that’s when they started having a motor glider, a glider with a motor in it, you know, and they’d fly around.  But, they, uh, they was just a big old building down there and they called it Crawford Field.  But, uh, it was, uh, I don’t know, uh, Seal Beach was a good little city to be raised in, I think.

(wife mentions a name)

L.H.:  Oh, yeah, there’s another name right there.  Kathleen Kinney.  Kathleen Kinney.  Now, she’s a retired schoolteacher and she graduated in the same class I did out of grammar school and high school.  Uh, Kathleen Kinney, who else?  Oh, also the Lawheads.  Now, they own the service station down here at Main and Coast Highway for years.  That’s where Hussey used to have his garage where the Chevron gas station is. That’s where I worked for twenty-five cents an hour on my summer vacations.

L.A.:  What was the name of the station?

L.H.:  It was Lawhead’s Service Station.  Uh, they had, uh, what was the name of that gas they had.  Ah, I forgot.  Lawhead’s had the service station, Hussey had the garage, and, uh, in fact . . Oh, another person you don’t forget is Stegen down here that has his garage.  Now, old Red Stegen his father started out right down here where the Shell service station is.  Now, he had a little garage and that’s where he started, and he had his house right there behind it.  And, his house burned down, and that’s where the city of Seal Beach, their old fire wagon, all they had was a garden hose on it and they had to call Belmont Shore to put it out.

L.A.:  Is that where the Shell station is now?

L.H.:  Uh, it was right, just halfway in the block, from the alley to there.  He had his house there and he had a little old garage out there and that’s where he learned the business.  Then he moved down to where he’s at now.  Of course he’s passed away and he built that house there where Don’s living now and Stegen’s, they moved up on the hill, there, and they built there.  But, Don Stegen’s had that garage ever since his father built it and that’s been years back.

L.A.:  Don’t the Stegen’s still live in that . . .

L.H.:  Right beside it, the garage, brick.

L.A.:  It’s a brick building.

L.H.:  Mm-hmm.  Yeah, he has his garage and his house right beside.  Now, he’s been there . . . they call him Smiley (chuckle).  He’s always smiling.  But, Don Stegen, you can see him out there and tell him I sent you down there.  Yeah, yeah, I know him real well.

L.A.:  Well, thank you very much for . . . and I’m going to turn off the tape.

Interviewed and Transcribed by Libby Appelgate

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