A Visit to Old Los Angeles and Environs.

22. Long Beach (part 1).


Brent C. Dickerson

Copyright © Brent C. Dickerson

Index to Episodes (click here).

Arrival in Long Beach.

• While the rest of us were going up and down mountain slopes, Mother and Aunt Sigrid had spent the time packing our things for moving on the next day to Long Beach, about an hour or so out from downtown Los Angeles. I awoke that morning just at dawn, plenty saddle sore, first to the sweet scent of orange blossoms—as always—but then also to the muffled sound of Aunt Sigrid and Papa having a private talk together as they slowly walked round and round the backyard. A neighbor's rooster greeted the day; and I could hear the others as they awakened one by one. Charley, across the room from me, could sleep through anything, and did; young Frederick Johan slept deeply, but always awoke immediately when the sun's rays hit the window. It had been our expectation to take the trolley to Long Beach; but Chester's mother had arranged for her brother Arthur—who was rather well off, and reputedly interested in Aunt Sigrid— to drive us there in his new automobile. Minnie had declared during dinner one night that Arthur's ears did not match properly, a statement that was greeted with stony silence from the rest of us, aside from young Frederick Johan, who noted that human ears have a range of variability. Mother set down her fork, and informed Minnie that mouths perhaps needed watching more than ears; and so the subject dwindled. Whatever the case, Aunt Sigrid joined us in our jaunt to Long Beach. "A bit cozy!" said I, as we all packed in. "It will balance out nicely by the trip back," said Aunt Sigrid, always the optimist. "Still," said Papa, studiously looking into thin air, "I think it might be somewhat cozy on the way back." The way to Long Beach was mainly flat, the surroundings varying between pleasant little communities and grassy fields, with the road often bounded by old Eucalyptus trees, at which Mother wrinkled up her nose: "Smells like cough drops here!", quoth she.

• Coming into Long Beach, Arthur avoided the middle of town, and brought us in via the rather swampy western approaches. The ocean opened out before us; and just as downtown Long Beach came into sight, Papa cried, "And that, I believe, is our hotel—the Hotel Virginia," as Arthur pulled into a driveway.

• The sandy beach was just yards from the south side of the hotel, on the other side of some tennis courts. Minnie eyed some of the tennis players. "I wonder if someone will teach me how to play...?", she wondered, as Mother gave a heavy sigh.

• The leave-taking with Aunt Sigrid was not an anguished one, as our plan was to see her again before the end of our trip. We stepped into the hotel. Only the baby was not taken aback by the richness of the furnishings.

• Anna could see that Papa felt a bit small in such surroundings, and took his arm as they went up the grand stairway. Mother held the baby, who grabbed the rim of my hat and threw it to the floor. "Quite properly!", said Mother later; "even the baby knew that we were indoors." Meantime, Minnie contrived to be last, and posed on the first landing for the benefit I suppose of any tennis-players who happened to be in the lobby.

• Our suite of rooms all faced the town rather than the water; and we could see, first of all, the lush gardens around the hotel.

• "The gardens seem so quiet," said Anna; "I shall enjoy strolling there." Minnie frowned and said, "I shall be on the noisier side of the hotel." Quoth Charley, "You have always been on the noisy side, Minnie."

• "Oh, 'tis another elk gazing at us!" exclaimed mother. Another Elks Lodge stood nearly across the street, antlered head above the entrance. "I wonder," mused Charley, "if there are sculptors who specialize in elks...?" "Do not make chiseling a profession, brother mine," said Minnie.

• Across Ocean Avenue, more towards the east, we could see a city park, and then the downtown area beyond.

• Mother was pleased to see from her window a nice school building just a few blocks northwest—"surely the sign of a decent community!"

• Nearer to the west, on Ocean Avenue a little farther than its corner with Magnolia, we could see the Maryland Apartments. "Virginia, Maryland," exclaimed Charley, "—Long Beach obviously believes in States' Rights!" "I'd like to stay in a cozy place," sighed Anna; "Tell me if you see the Rhode Island Inn."

• And just around the corner from the Maryland Apartments were the Ward Apartments at 53 S. Magnolia, a mere stone's throw from Ocean Avenue. "I get it," said young Frederick Johan, "as in Watch and ward." "Watch?", said Papa, "No, don't give Ulf any ideas—he was watching into half the windows in Los Angeles!" "It was for purely educational purposes," I protested. Minnie rolled her eyes, Charley winked at me, and Papa said, "Ja, tell dat to the judge."

• While the others unpacked, young Frederick Johan and I took a notion to stretch our legs after that long time in the automobile, and so walked the block or so to the park, looking back at our hotel once we got there. In the distance was the Palos Verdes peninsula rising above Los Angeles' port San Pedro.

• The view from the park before the Hotel Virginia was built.

• A Carnegie Library had been built in the center of the park.

• Drawing—with some effort—young Frederick Johan away from ideas of spending the rest of the afternoon in the aisles of the library, I pointed to a building kitty-corner to the park, and wondered aloud what it might be. "From certain indications, I should say it's the city hall," responded FJ, quickly. "In your determination, are you addressing, perhaps, the importance in the looks of the people entering and exiting the building, or maybe a sort of aura of civic pride which is circumambient?", I asked. "Those factors, certainly," said FJ, "but more especially the words 'City Hall' carved over the entrance."

• A small open-air market was being held in the street behind the city park. "I must say, it all seems very quiet, after Los Angeles," said I. "There are always points of interest," countered young Frederick Johan, as he scrutinized buyers, sellers, and goods.

• The market extended along two sides of the park—the northern side (Broadway), and the western side (Cedar Avenue). We view the northwest corner of the park on market day.

• The Hotel Julian was on Cedar, near its corner with Ocean, facing the park.

• The Hotel Hoffman, at 137 Cedar Avenue, a lot or two north, also faced the park on the west. "Hoffman? Julian?" questioned young FJ; "Why not 'Arkansas' and 'North Dakota'?" You mean that you haven't heard of the state of Hoffman?," I asked; "It's between West Carolina and South Montana." "Oh, is that near the Pretty Good but Still Not Grand Canyon?" "Exactly. Just above. By the two-corners states."

• The hurly-burly at the market contrasted with the quietude of the other streets, as we noted first while looking north on Cedar Avenue...

• The First Church of Christ was at 3rd Street and Cedar Avenue. "Strictly speaking," observed young FJ, "I'd be inclined to say that it's not the first one."

• We went as far as Fourth Street on Cedar, and looked north from that corner. "Don't give up your horse for an auto just yet," said FJ; "I do see one hitching post." "—But no horse," I countered.

• We returned to the area of the park by young Frederick Johan's method: Going the wrong way. ("It's not the wrong way. It's the scenic route," exclaimed he when he read this.) That is, to get back to the park, which was south-east of us, we first went a block west, to Chestnut Avenue, where we passed the Geneva Apartments at 225 Chestnut.

• Once back at the park, we peered east towards Long Beach's downtown district.

• The familiar clang-clang of the trolleys only served to heighten the difference between frenetic Los Angeles and sleepy Long Beach—something to ponder as we walked back to the hotel to relax for the rest of the day.

• I was bushed!—and stayed in till bed-time (and after). But Anna and young Frederick Johan took a walk on the beach on towards sunset, when the ocean fogs were starting to roll in.

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