Friday, July 9, 2010

An Afternoon in Seal Beach, California



In my last two posts I shared how we had spent Father’s Day in Long Beach: first by going to the farmers’ market (in A Visit to Long Beach) then by visiting the Japanese Garden (in A Tour of the Japanese Garden.) In the early afternoon we decided to drive to the closest beach with a pier, Seal Beach, located a couple of miles away.



We had visited this beach several times when we came to California to see our daughter and enjoyed returning to this little town. We did not have our swimsuits or other beach attire, but went mostly to watch the sea. Since I have been aware for a while of the bad effects of the sun on our skin (and even had a friend who died of skin cancer because of too much sun) I do not lie under the sun anymore. Actually I would like to find a swimsuit as pictured in the vintage postcard below.




Seal Beach is a quaint town about 5 miles from Long Beach and 8 miles from Huntington Beach. The population is approximately 26,000 but the town attracts more than 2,000,000 visitors each year. In the 1800’s, after the gold rush, German Burghers came to the coast with their families looking for a port to on-load their goods. They used Anaheim Landing near the site where the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station is now located. They found the pretty beach close by and called it Bay City. The Post Office asked that the name be changed and in 1915 the city was incorporated as Seal Beach, and the name stayed.



From then on and through the roaring 20’s it was known as a party town with bath palaces, gambling ships, a huge roller coaster, gambling rooms, alcohol, and other entertainment. There were even rum runners bringing liquor during Prohibition. Tourists crowded the little ocean-side village – as many as 30,000 each week renting hundreds of bathing suits a day. The famous Joy Zone was near the pier. The pier built in 1906 was the longest south of San Francisco. Below is a vintage postcard showing The Derby, a large wood rollercoaster (obtained from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.)


Vintage postcard, circa 1917

During the Great Depression people stopped coming to Seal Beach, the Derby burned down and the area became run-down. In the early days sea lions and seals were plentiful in the ocean and came to the beach. But they no longer are in the area. Now there is the Seal Beach Mascot, named “Slick,” a bronze statue at the entrance to the pier.




By the 1950s gambling was gone and now Seal Beach is a family friendly beach considered one the safest cities in Orange County. The shady, tree lined Main street has good shops and restaurants. We found a parking place right away in front of a beauty salon. I came up closer to read their poster – see it below.


Click on picture to enlarge it, then click to bigify


We walked toward the beach and did not even stop in front of an antique shop, which looked like it was French?



A panel on the right of the pier gave weather information.




There were not too many people walking on the pier.




Most of them were on the beach.




From the pier I looked at the water below – nice for surfing. Some kids were trying to surf but every time I tried to take a photo, they would fall off their boards. There is also a kite surfing launch nearby.




Walking a bit further I passed people sitting on benches, enjoying the scenery, then more welcoming empty benches, then a fisherman.




Trying to discreetly look at what the fisherman was catching I almost fell in his nearby bucket.




A seagull looking down was watching the fisherman as well as some pigeons – waiting for fish tidbits I assume.




It was such a lovely day, sunny and not too warm.




It was the type of afternoon you wish to remember for many years – a landscape of colors and limitless panorama.




But after a while we walked back up the pier. While we stopped to read the panel on the history of the pier, a gentleman came behind us and told us that he was there, with his father, the day of the big storm which had destroyed the pier in 1983. His father and he were going to fish but because of the wind they did not, they just watched the pier sink under the waves. Now retired, he had come from Arizona to see the rebuilt pier.




I tried to imagine how the pier and beach looked in the 1920s; it must have been a fun place. Now going down historical quaint Main Street, the atmosphere is laid back. My daughter told me that they have many events - an annual crab feed, The Seal Beach Classic Car Show, a Fish Fry, a Summer Concert, a Sand Castle Festival, a Kite Festival then they end the year with a Christmas Parade.




We drove off, the sun was still shining. Could I now imagine how the beach might look at night? Maybe like in the painting below?


Moonlight Seascape, Thomas Moran, American (1837-1926)

36 comments:

♠ ♠ ♠ Nancy ♠ ♠ ♠ said...

*** Bonjour Vagabonde :o) !!!!! MERCI de nous faire passer avec toi un bel après-midi en Clifornie ! :o) Tes photos sont fabuleuses ! :o)
Je te souhaite un agréable week-end ! GROSSES BISES ! :o) ***

Vicki Lane said...

Beautiful pictures! The deep green of the ocean is amazing!

Pondside said...

That's the sort of place one imagines when one thinks 'California'. What a perfect beach!
Were you tempted to get a hair cut?

dot said...

That was pretty scary to think of watching the pier sink.

Enjoyed the pictures and your information about Seal Beach. I wonder what happened to the seals and sea lions. A shame for sure that they are no longer there.

All things considered, if I think of going to the beach now days I'd prefer Jekyll Island or Cumberland but I'd definitely need the post card swim suit!

Darlene said...

I know what you mean about the sun damage to the skin because I have had a dozen malignancies removed from my skin over the years. I see my dermatologist oftener than my primary care physician.

There is a similar beech in Northern California (Can't remember the town) and they still have the roller coaster, lots of rides and concession stands. My daughter took me and the girls and their friends there one afternoon in the summer and I nearly froze.

Dedene said...

Even though I've lived in CA, I've never visited Seal Beach. Love the pictures.

Lonicera said...

I do enjoy your pictures, and how you display them. That old bathing suit is an absolute scream. I'd leave off the stockings though...
Caroline

RennyBA said...

Wow Seal beach looks amazing. I have never heard of it, I have heard of Long Beach but not Seal beach. It is a shame the seals don't come anymore but the view is still stunning indeed. It looks like you are having a marvellous time!! Looking forward to seeing you soon!

DianeCA said...

I would love to see you in that bathing suit!! Although I don't sunbathe much either. I would love to have a nice brown color but it isn't skin cancer that keeps me away, I get nauseous if I am out in too much sun. Which does tend to take the fun out of sun bathing. I do miss those gorgeous white sandy beaches though. the downside of fjords is that they are salt water but not open sea.

Elaine said...

Seal Beaach looks like a lovely place to while away an afternoon. I like the vintage postcards. Seal Beach must have been quite exciting in its heyday, and it's interesting to take a peek back at it.

lakeviewer said...

You captured Seal Beach! Lovely photos!

♠ ♠ ♠ Nancy ♠ ♠ ♠ said...

*** En ce lundi matin je passe chez toi Vagabonde pour te faire d'énormes bisous ! :o) meilleures pensées amicales ! ***

Alesa Warcan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Your posts are always so full of wonderful information to accompany your pictures. Thanks Vagabonde.

Alesa Warcan said...

Waouh, j'habitais juste à coté!

As a kid I sometimes biked up to seal beach... I lived just off of the coast in Huntington beach!
You almost make me nostalgic, but I miss Georgia more. ; j
Thanks for this carefully documented and illustrated trip down memory road!

Ginnie said...

Vagabonde! I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the way you write these posts. There's always a chuckle somewhere between the lines as well as a ton of information...to say northing of your incredible documentary photos. Coming to your site is such a joy for me! It also helps that I'm somewhat familiar with that neck of the woods in California. :)

Friko said...

You did all this on the afternoon of the same day as you went to the Farmers market and the Japanese Garden?

How do you accommodate so much new information and how do you walk so many miles all on the same day?
You are superwoman!

Another very interesting and informative post.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I love the kind of deatail you give us in Words & Pictures and the History you uncover, too. I've learned more about places that are near me, from you!
Wonderful Post, my dear.

♠ ♠ ♠ Nancy ♠ ♠ ♠ said...

*** En ce mardi matin je viens te souhaiter une belle journée ! GROS BISOUS à toi Vagabonde !!!! :o) ***

Shammickite said...

I hadn't heard of Seal Beach but it looks like a place I would like to visit one day. I stayed many miles to the south at Dana Point a few years ago, that was my only visit to California. I love being by the ocean. I lived my childhood years by the beach and spent many summers swimming and climbing on rocks. And I'll be seeing the ocean again next week, no doubt I'll have pictures on my blog.

Vagabonde said...

Merci beaucoup Nancy pour tous tes gentils messages – c’est comme un rayon de soleil de lire tes commentaires. Merci beaucoup chère amie.

Vagabonde said...

Vicki Lane, Pondside, Darlene, Dedene, Lonicera, RennyBa, DianeCA, Elaine, Lakeviewer and SAPhotographs – Thank you for your kinds words about my post. I am glad you enjoyed it. I’ll try to return the visit to your blogs as soon as I can.

Vagabonde said...

Dot – thank you for your comment. I understand loving Cumberland or Jekyll Islands – they are beautiful beaches. I think I saw a swimsuit that is almost like the postcard – I may get it.

Vagabonde said...

Alesa Warcan – what a coincidence that you lived in my town in Georgia and also near my daughter in California. I enjoyed your comment, thanks for posting it.

Vagabonde said...

Ginnie – you are so sweet - your compliments warm my heart and give me inspiration. Thank you.

Vagabonde said...

Friko – Oh Friko I wish I were a superwoman, then I could hike at least 5 miles a day on top of reading and writing posts. The farmers’ market, Japanese garden and Seal Beach were just a couple of miles from each other. Thanks for the comment.

Vagabonde said...

Lady of the Hills – I am pleasantly surprised that you can get information on my blog about California that you did not know. Thanks for the visit.

Vagabonde said...

Shammickite – If you spent your childhood by the beach I can understand how you would miss it. I spent my childhood and early youth in Paris and I always miss it too. It is so nice when we go back though. Thanks for stopping by.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

This is a great story about a beautiful place. Your photos are always wonderful
I have to laugh at the thought of rented bathing suits (yuck!) while at the Joy Zone. That brings a very odd picture to mind.

Thanks for sharing these stories.

Linda said...

The ocean is so alluring during the day, when the sound is calming and the sun warm. But at night, because it is so huge, I find it threatening. Maybe because I was raised inland.

The postcard, "I'm All Alone", will be a self fufilling prophecy if you ever find a suit like that!
Try 70SPF sunprotection. :>)

Jeanie said...

Sounds like a wonderful holiday and I love how you incorporate the old postcards and the new photos to help tell the story and history of it all!

Mélanie A. said...

Thank you for the tour , California is always so amazing

Putz said...

awe the muese>>>walked in verdun by the muese for my morning constitutuion>>>>as a young eighteen year to twenty year old boy, a young man in paris many times, and even had young love in fontenblue>>>if i had to pick a time of my life to be in france it would be when hearts could be turned at the age of eighteen or so>>granddad and geneology is also my passion>>>ernest left england in 1909 to work in the mines of utah>>>lost his wife when all the kids were young>>.lived in a one room house with four boys

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Seal beach looks very pretty and well maintained. California has such beautiful coastline. We've driven down about a third of it from San Francisco to Monterey, and enjoyed visiting so many locations along the way.

I am going to look up the organization where the hair shop you passed sends their hair clippings, and pass on that information to my hair salon. The Gulf Coast is certainly in need of help from many sources.

Like you, Vagabonde, my sun worshiping days are over. I try to be very careful as I have sensitive skin.

Elisa said...

J´adore les images de plages en été!
Merci pour ton petit mot sur mon blog
Amitiés
Elisa

Zhu said...

The first picture is exactly how I imagine California to be like!

For some reason, the pictures of the town remind me of Australia.

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