A Visit to Old Los Angeles and Environs

24. Long Beach (Part 3): Pier and Pike.


Brent C. Dickerson

Copyright © Brent C. Dickerson

Index to Episodes (click here)

A Visit to Long Beach Pier and the Pike.

• The next morning began in a remarkable manner with Anna excusing herself from the breakfast table and hurrying out of the restaurant, allowing as she'd meet us at the "end of the pier" at 9 o'clock. Young Frederick Johan broke the silence following her departure by wondering whether the "end of the pier" meant the head or the foot. "This," declared Papa, "is a mystery which will solve itself, as we must pass the foot before we come to the head." Minnie let float a statement that there were further mysteries afoot, "or so it would seem to me, I must say." Charley—battling a grapefruit—theorized that perhaps Anna had taken up fishing as Minnie had taken up tennis; "the California atmosphere gives a person ambitions, you know." Mother sighed and said, "Ambitions are one thing, notions another." As for me, I stirred some brown sugar into my oatmeal and fed the baby a spoonful. After breakfast, we strolled east on Ocean towards the pier.

• We passed under the gateway. "No sign of Anna!", said FJ. "It's not a good idea to wait under a camel," declared Charley. "I don't see what you mean," Minnie said, innocently; "it's the mumps that are catching, not the humps." The baby and I lingered near the gateway, looking landwards back up Pine Street.

• "Folk," said Papa, "I see there's a complikeeshun"—as he would pronounce it—"there are two levels of the pier for Anna to be at the end at." Mother cocked her head, and said, "I do believe that you're having a fretful moment, Mr. S. As you reasoned about the ends of the pier not an hour ago, if she's not on one level, then we shall find her on the other." Papa pulled his hat down lower on his brow; but Mother, Minnie, the baby, and young Frederick Johan took the lower, shady, route ("the construction details should prove of interest," said young FJ), while Papa, Charley, and I strolled the upper level.

• The planks of the pier rattled as we walked along, quite a crowd of people about us. Sea-breezes began to snatch at our clothing the further out we got. I turned and looked back at the shoreline, our hotel looming largest, off to the left.

• The fishermen cast from the lower level.

• The pier terminated in what they called the Sun Pavilion. I could see Papa squinting into the shadows as we approached it, hastening his step the more the closer we came; Charley, however, lingered in the proximity of three rather giggly coeds walking—slowly—in the same direction. Later, at dinner, he explained, "I was hoping one or the other or all three would drop a handkerchief," to which Minnie responded, "If they were the three I saw, dear brother, I would imagine their handkerchieves to be pretty well-worn." Leaving Charley to his hobby, I caught up with Papa. As we passed from the sun into the shade of the pavilion, both of us heard Anna's light laugh to our left; I turned my head, and very much astonished indeed was I: "Good heavens!" I cried; "It's The Eater!". Yes, as it turned out, Morrie, the short fellow with the very bright hatband whom Anna, young Frederick Johan, and I had met in Ocean Park, had, as he put it, "hopped the trolley this fine morning" to join us. Papa winked at Anna, who blushed, at which point Mother, Minnie, and young FJ came up the stairs from the lower level. Seeing the others chatting up The Eater, and me hanging back, Minnie gestured towards him with her thumb, and said, "Who's this leprechaun?" to me.

• I stepped away into the Sun Pavilion while the rest of the family sat at the end of the pier and got to know The Eater. Inside, oddly, I was alone; my scraping footsteps echoed hollowly.

• Young Frederick Johan joined me a few minutes later, sighing about the end of his income as messenger-boy as we both stepped back outside into the brisk sea-air.

• Returning to land, we walked along the arcade of the auditorium next to the foot of the pier.

• Looking west from the Auditorium, we could see the fun zone—known as the Pike—on the far side of the foot of the pier. Young Frederick Johan, Anna, and The Eater plunged into the crowds ahead of us...

• . . . And were soon lost to sight.

• Minnie took my arm, and we too joined the crowds. Gaudy and seductive games, rides, sights, right and left! We stopped under the window of a dance-hall; tinny music floated in the air. "Oh, Ulf—how poorly they play!" quoth Minnie, continuing, "Let's listen for a while..."

• That evening, at dinner when we all re-grouped at the hotel, Papa said that from the pier he glimpsed young Frederick Johan spiralling in a little car down this framework. "It proved interesting and of consequence in the aspect of personal health," commented FJ, still a little green. "The same could be said for marriage," added Mother, placidly.

• Meantime, Minnie and I had climbed to a rooftop, and looked to the southeast.

• The view to the west over the Pike ended in the mass of our hotel.

• Amidst all the other sounds—laughter, shouting, the rattles and bangs of "tests of skill" in the booths and of rides, mechanical music, music from the dance halls, the waves crashing onshore—there was as well a band concert going on out in the open.

• The Bath House looked rather much like the White House!

• Suddenly Minnie peered into the crowd of those splashing around in the waves. "Looks like Charley's three damsels have traded their handkerchiefs for bathing suits," said she. "I wonder..." I began, but wondered no longer when I saw Charley splashing his way in their direction.

• When Minnie and I saw Anna, The Eater, and young Frederick Johan also in their bathing suits just a few feet away from Charley, this was too much to bear, so Minnie and I dashed off to the Bath House, changed, and joined the fun. Papa and Mother spotted us from the concourse, and had a strolling photographer take this shot of us all (and just a few others). But you'll be able to pick us out, dear; the camera had a good view of all of us except The Eater "who was hidden by a seashell," as Minnie put it.

• All sorts were in the surf, most of them acting silly.

• At about 2:30, the ocean breezes really started picking up, making it a bit too chilly for everyone. We had noticed that a concert was to take place that night at the Auditorium, and so spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the hotel—merry-making is really a bit exhausting! The sun set behind the hills behind San Pedro as we—including The Eater—left the hotel restaurant and began walking towards the Auditorium again.

• Night fell. The Auditorium looked pretty festive, I can tell you!

• As we went inside, Minnie asked Charley, "Dear brother, is your collar too tight this time?", smiling sweetly. Charley took her hand, and said—rather loudly—"Why, Minnie, not at all, thank you very much; it's as loose as your corset." Mother had The Eater sit between her and Anna, I noticed. Fortunately for him, people were dressed every which way!—though I must say he was a bit of an odd fish next to the rest of us in our evening-clothes. Papa had taken a liking to him, it seemed; and it appeared to me that Mother was not far behind. "Well, FJ," quoth I, "it would seem that Anna and Friend are becoming something of an item." "My readings and observations so long ago as Redondo Beach indicated a likelihood of this potentiality. I should set him down as being very much a go-getter," is how young Frederick Johan assessed the situation. The baby evinced an interest in music, as every time the conductor raised the baton, he started crying right on cue. Mother rose to take him out to the arcade walk; but Anna—followed by The Eater—took charge of him, and spent the rest of the concert outside in the moonlight. Papa and Mother exchanged a little smile now and then; and I would imagine that winks were not in short supply. The concert was mainly comprised of waltzes and marches, plus a very intense young gentleman singing something from Wagner.

• The concert ended with "The Star Spangled Banner" (or, as Minnie put it, "something much like it"). Full of patriotic fervor and pride at being part of this broad and prosperous nation, we marched out into the night air. "I'll go collect Anna and company," I volunteered; but Papa said, "No, I'd be delighted—delighted—to do so." And so we all waited at the trolley station, which was right on the way back to the hotel; and at length Papa strode up with the baby in his arms, leading Anna and Morrie, who had but a moment, as his trolley was leaving. "I'll be in touch," he cried out as the trolley wheeled away. We walked slowly back towards the hotel. "A dynamic young man!" mused Papa. "He'll go far in shoe-laces," he continued. Minnie stopped for a moment and queried, "I beg your pardon?". Anna said, "He's a shoe-lace salesman." "Very practical!", Mother declared, with a nod for emphasis. "Indeed, I'll go to him first if I ever need advice on how to tie the knot," said I. "You mean, 'tie a knot,'" said young FJ. The silence which followed was broken by Charley, who looked out into the harbor and said, "What a view!" Minnie peered into the darkness over the beach. "Haven't those three coeds gone home yet?", she asked.

Return to Long Beach part 2; or on to San Pedro . . .

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