The Long Beach Free Press

Posted: September 17, 2012 in history, publications

The Long Beach Free Press…published at the same time as the L.A. Free Press.

Said Wikipedia, “The Long Beach Free Press was a radical underground newspaper published in Long Beach, California bi-weekly from vol. 1, no. 1 (March 28-April 11, 1969) to vol. 2, no. 11 (Dec. 1970), in a tabloid format. It was an offshoot of the San Diego Free Press and shared writers and staff with the San Diego paper. Jan Diepersloot was the Editorial Coordinator for both papers. Like its sister paper the San Diego Free Press it had a Marcusean/Frankfurt School orientation toward youth liberation, cultural transformation and revolution. It folded around the same time that the San Diego paper, which had by that time been renamed Street Journal, ended its run.”

Which explains the adverts for San Diego-area businesses, but does not explain why the mailing label was to “Dispensary, Long Beach Naval Station.”

Don’t know why or how I ended up with the copy, as I’d never been to the dispensary, never been confused with the dispensary and I never purloined anything from there, at least which I can recall.

Country Club at Pacific

When Long Beach was just a downtown and outlying areas north of Anaheim Street and east of Alamitos were just that – outlying – a Greene & Greene house was built at Cedar and Third in 1904 by famed Pasadena architects Charles and Henry Greene, who were noted for elevating the Craftsman style into a highly refined aesthetic.

In a sense, their earliest homes and their fate paralleled the development of the City Of Long Beach. Henry Mather Greene supervised the construction for progressive movement patron, Jennie Reeve.

Her friend and associate, early Long Beach educator, Adelaide Tichenor, after whom an existing Long Beach public school is named and founder of the Ebell Club, also owned a Greene & Greene, which was built at about the same time at 852 E. Ocean Blvd at First Place and which was involved in a serious fire on December 12, 2011.

A third Greene & Greene is now at Loma Vista near Anaheim and Magnolia. All were among the first houses that became known as Greene & Greene.

In 1917 Dr. V. Ray Townsend found the house on blocks ready to be carted away from its original site had it moved to 1004 Pine Ave. In 1927, Dr. V. Ray Townsend had it moved to the new Virginia Country Club at 4260 Country Club Drive, where Greene designed an extension to the home.

In 2003, the Reeve home was sold to Ted Wells, the president of a Greene & Green trust, as at the time, a developer wanted to tear down the house and build two houses there.

The Reeve-owned Greene & Greene had furniture, lighting, leaded glass, curtains, gates, fences and gardens made by Greene & Greene as well as built-ins, which still function. Of the original 139 decorative items, only a front porch light, a dining room display cabinet, a bedroom door mirror and a pair of andirons in the Inglenook fireplace remained. Some items were replaced from auction houses. What happened to the 135 items remains a mystery. Currently, new furniture of the period is being crafted for the home. The windows of 100-year-old glass are still in place. Because the house had no insulation, 30 tubes have been inserted into the ground under the house as a cooling system. The restoration is being done by ImageHeritage Construction, whose John Jensen, himself an artist, supplied information about many of the details.

As part of getting ready for the rehab, Jensen studied up on Greene & Greene and a large workforce is at hand daily in the restoration. Pieces from this house have been displayed at the Long Beach Museum of Art in October 2005 and at the Huntington Library.

Once the home is complete, Wells plans to offer occasional home tours, but rumors of a museum or regular openings are apparently not true.

horse corral

In March 1933, a 6.4 earthquake that struck Long Beach destroyed many buildings and caused the deaths of 120 people from being hit by falling objects.  In the area of the Rancho Los Alamitos about 10 miles to the east of downtown Long Beach, many farm worker families who lived on what is now Palo Verde Avenue at the current site of Cal State Long Beach sought refuge at the Rancho home of Fred Bixby.

It was that kind of universe at the time.  However, in the span of twenty years, with the university in the development stage, the ranch home that dominated the landscape since the 1840s remained firmly in place and has since become among the most historic set of buildings in the greater Long Beach area.

According to rancho historian Claudia Jurmain, the original land grant of 300,000 acres was given by the governor of Alta California to Manuel Nieto in 1790 for his service in the Portola expedition.

In 1833, his children received permission to subdivide it into the five great ranchos, two of which, Rancho Los Cerritos near Virginia Country Club and Rancho Los Alamitos are now historic sites owned by the City Of Long Beach.

The rancho was acquired in the late 1800s by John Bixby, who turned its 85,000 acres into a working farm and was owned by the Bixby family until it became part of an historic acquisition by the City Of Long Beach in 1968.

Since then, volunteers, now over 150 strong maintain the property, involve the community in events and education and constantly seek out funding sources of improvements.

In late March, Jurmain gave a presentation about the project that re-aligned major outbuildings to better match the original layout than the tighter grouping of buildings that had prevailed since 1968.  The new look is more spread out in a way that is faithful to the original look, which Jurmain noted allowed “the site to maintain its integrity” and “lets the site speak for itself.”

Frequent past visitors might very well recognize this expansion, changes and significant alterations, beginning with the 10,455 square feet Rancho education center which doubles as a welcoming space wall peppered with photos, documents and first-person vignettes drawn from 130 oral histories ranging from 1890 to 1930 and as administrative offices.  An adjacent 980 square feet building will house the bookstore, project room and gift shop, the latter relocated from the education center.

Though the livestock has yet to report for duty – they’ll be on site by early April – the land definitely takes a visitor back to a different time and slower lifestyle.  Though the big red barn was destroyed by fire in 1947, a large feed shed dominates.  The plan is for it to house two large horses, four or five sheep, the same number of goats as well as a volunteer blacksmith on duty.

Located in the heart of Bixby Village’s 360 houses and 110 condos, the main house, which began as four rooms in about 1840 is available for tours.  When the Bixby family donated the site to the city, they took many of their possessions with them, but over the years, persuaded by how the site has been maintained, have returned many of these household and artistic objects to complete the interior.  Some of these items carry compelling stories such as the billiard table that was donated to the YMCA, only to have it refused and placed inside a parlor, the furniture of which had to be moved to adjacent room.

In keeping with the times, the interior lighting is dim in the various rooms.  Books and original paintings of a variety of schools are on display.  A handful of these paintings are carefully crafted reproductions and some are original.

It’s clear the volunteers are involved in very personal ways and have a depth of stories about the rancho before and after the current alterations.  One story has to do with seismic reinforcement.  Seems the city inspector insisted on a rigid wall, about which the staff had doubts.  When that inspector retired, plans for a more forgiving system, similar to what’s used in the new 911 center was proposed and quickly accepted by the city.

Located at 6400 Bixby Hill Road, the Rancho Los Alamitos is open to the public free of charge, Wednesday through Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. with school tours and cultural workshops scheduled for weekday mornings.

 

Cecil “Big Jay” McNeely was one of the Big 3 honking tenor sax players out of L.A. – the others were later Long Beach resident Joe Houston (“All Nite Long”) and Chuck Higgins (“Pachuco Hop”).  But Big Jay got a head start, first recording with Johnny Otis in 1949 and having a huge national hit, “Deacon’s Hop.”  The stage was now set for his historic Municipal Auditorium appearance.

On Oct. 18, 1951, McNeely made his first known Long Beach appearance at Wilson High School and at the Dream Bowl at 2259 Orange Ave., all of which signaled an early R&B act had come to town.

According to accounts at the time, “in May 1952, there was quite a surprise. An unknown, billed as Big Jay McNeely and his band booked the downstairs Exhibit Hall, more or less sponsored by Ray Robinson, local disc jockey. Four thousand teenagers stormed the place. That dance is considered the first rhythm blues dance in Long Beach. McNeely now is one of the big rock-and-rollers in the east.”

After the Muni Aud gig, McNeely played at the Lakewood Theater on Carson near Lakewood.

That same year, 1952, Lawrence Welk turned off the bubble machine at his Aragon Ballroom home in Santa Monica and started on his first road tour drawing 3,500 (less than Big Jay the same year) at the Muni.

Twenty five years later, in 1975, the city fathers tore down the Muni, just like Big Jay had torn up the place in ’52.

The biggest dance crowd in the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium’s history  — 11,072 strong — gathered there to hear Harry James and his hand. Second biggest dance crowd — more than 10,000 — assembled to hear the Glenn Miller band.

Both of those dances were in 1942, the first full year of World War II.

Harry James’ big number in those days was “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You, Baby,” and Miller went strong for “One o’clock Jump,” “Tuxedo Junction” and “String of Pearls.”

Judy Garland sang her “comeback, on to Broadway” concert in Municipal Auditorium in July 1955.

The place was packed. Judy sang to what she said was the most appreciative audience of her life. She sung six extra numbers, running the concert 45 minutes overtime,

Frank Sinatra chartered a bus and brought to Judy’s concert Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Dean Martin, Van Johnson, Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Betty Hutton, Leslie Caron, Danny Davis Jr., Dick Powell, June Allyson, David Wayne, Edgar Bergen, Prince Mike Romanoff and composer Johnny Green — to name a few.  Then Sinatra took the stage in impromptu fashion and sang a duet with Judy.

Next:  rhythm and blues at the Muni

The fill for the auditorium and the Rainbow Pier was begun October 1928 and completed in December 1930.  Only then, could the $2.8 million Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, which was financed through a bond issue, be built.

It was completed in late 1931 and officially opened on March 6, 1932.  It was mainly a convention center for tournaments, dog shows, tennis matches, fashion shows, auto shows, rabbit shows and American Legion conventions.  The biggest crowds have been credited to Jehovah Witness meetings, which now are held in the newer convention center which replaced it.

In March 1947, famed show pianist Liberace supposedly made his stage debut a the Municipal Auditorium as a benefit for the White Shrine as is known as the “Liberace world tour inaugural” complete with 500 custom pressings of “Warsaw Concerto” and “The Fire Dance,” which were autographed and sold as souvenirs.

More on the Muni Auditorium.

Answers to Tuesday’s quiz, which nobody entered, thus there are no winners.  Am I quizzing into the wind here?  Anybody with ideas how to generate more traffic to this site would get my appreciation and endless thank yous.

1—Cabrillo

2—Manuel Nieto

3—Abel Stearns

4—”Little Cottonwoods”

5 — Los Cerrltos

6—”Little Hills”

7—Willmore

8—Willmore Hotel

9—1888

10—Discovery of oil