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 1917By 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.
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.
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?