From Issue: Volume XX - Number 23
I remember my first visit to Southern California on a balmy summer night in 1965 at LAX via PSA airline from San Francisco and the ride to Long Beach in my brother’s two-seater MGB. Neither the airline nor that car is around today.
Our first stop was a Belmont Shore party house, on the beach, with college students looking for a good time with little concern over who was going to drive them home. Those beach houses are gone and the designated driver is “in.”
The weekly Friday or Saturday night party was why you went to the Anchorage Bar on 62nd Place on Thursday night. The place was so packed that you left feeling violated by complete strangers. Bars like the Barbary Coast and Acapulco Inn were alternate places to go if – in rare situations – there was no Friday or Saturday night function to attend. Legends did not exist in 1965. Things change.
One of the favorite places to party was a Tudor Manor at 3065 Ocean Blvd. that was rented by some naval officers. It was a memorable landmark because that’s where I met my future wife. And she was smitten by the young man who carried her roommate with a leg cast up the stairs at one of those Ocean Blvd. party locations.
Places to go for breakfast back then were a cafe on the Peninsula or the Shore House Café on 2nd Street. Hamburger Henry’s was opened about then and my favorite thing to do was order the “Belmont Special” a la carte, because it would cost about $1 less if you ordered each item separately. Henry was a clever devil.
I enjoy seeing Henry every Wednesday at Rotary, though he does walk a tad slower these days. I love to remind him that I was the one who suggested the “T-Shirt Burger” to him, which sold enough T-shirts and hamburgers to allow him to retire many years ago and become a land baron.
The campuses at Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach have doubled in their ability to accommodate students since I obtained my diplomas. Back then a college education was cheap or next to nothing if you had the GI Bill paying expenses after serving in the U.S. Air Force.
In the late 60s you could go downtown to ride the Cyclone Racer or merry-go-round, play carnival games or get a tattoo. Numerous bars and peek shows lined Ocean Blvd. to the delight of sailors on shore leave. The U.S. Navy had a big presence back then. Things change.
I remember the park benches in the civic center at Ocean and Pacific, home of the “Spit and Argue Club.” These days they argue inside City Hall, with a microphone and cameras recording the action. Spitting is not permitted.
In 1965 my first “apartment” near 4th & Obispo was a converted laundry room in about 150 square feet. The rent was $40. When Anita and I married in December 1968 our two-bedroom apartment cost $150 per month but soon cost nothing when I took over the duties of managing the 18-unit complex in addition to full-time PR jobs at Douglas Aircraft, Transamerica in L.A., a Marina del Rey PR agency, then Hyatt in Encino.
Back then you could drive to L.A. in slightly more than a half hour and to Encino in about 45 minutes. Today we avoid freeways altogether since those travel times have doubled during “rush hour.”
When we were ready to purchase a home in 1974 Los Altos houses were selling for $32,000 and more than double that amount where we settled in Park Estates, thanks to being DINKs (double income, no kids). The ratio is still about the same, but you need to multiply everything by 15 or 20. Things change.
“Iowa by the Sea” seemed to be an appropriate name for Long Beach in the 1960s, but billions in development dollars and a population growth spurt of more than 120,000 have elevated us to an ethnically diverse, modern city with many more choices when it comes to work, play, dine, entertain, socialize, learn or shop.
Over the years we’ve traveled the globe to experience the lights of Paris, the bustle of Toyko and the wacky streets of London. Then we come home and appreciate what we have right here. The place we liked so much in the 1960s has changed … but we love it even more today.
And that’s what we are thankful for this Thanksgiving.