By Stephen C. Propes
These days, the NuPike gets all the historical action, but right next door was a possibly even more exciting neighborhood – the Jungle – that was apparently at its dangerous peak in the 1940s through the 1970s.
Ever since the days of Navy ships docking in Long Beach, making this a classic Navy town, there have been concerns about the safety of certain areas frequented by sailors.
In 1938, a stretch of the 200 block of W. Ocean at “the old Davies cafeteria” or the Kent building at 215 E. First where sailors would rent cots on a second floor complex of rooms, were thought to be firetraps – probably because it was true.
Then there was the Jungle. With names like Venetian Pl., Neptune Pl., Mermaid Pl. Bonnie Brae Pl., Surfline Pl. and Seaside Blvd. as well as extensions of Daisy and Golden, it sounded like an idyllic vacation on the Riviera, but it was anything but. It was basically a warren of apartment buildings that dated back to the old days of Long Beach, when out of town visitors would use them as summer apartments.
Later, sailors and those who serviced sailors used them for – well, often not such nice things. When the Navy left in the 1970s, biker gangs took over. It was all-purpose.
Here are a few police reports from 1958, the year the city began seriously considering replacing the Jungle with a parking lot. For reasons otherwise unknown, out of a half dozen place names, Neptune and Mermaid seemed to attract the most action.
The victim, a transient, said he was struck from behind at he foot of a stairway between Seaside Blvd. and Ocean Blvd. When he regained consciousness, he was in a shack at the rear of 611 E. Seaside Blvd.
Barbara Anne Lynn, I5 of 541 W. Seaside Blvd. violated terms of. three-year probation
John Lemke Van Haren, 38, of 46 Mermaid PL, today was accused of breaking the amr of his 6-year-old stepson.
Barbara M. Watd, 48 Neptune .PI. was attacked.
Navy man Joseph A. Aubert, 34, of the USS Helena complained a man and a girl he met in a bar beat and robbed him of cash and traveler’s checks after luring him to an apartment at 48 Neptune Pl.
At Tops Neptune Lounge, 631 W. Seaside Blvd., a thief who apparently used a duplicate key took two money bags containing $472 from the safe.
Policemen arrested two sailors, one in civilian clothes, at Seaside B1vd. and Magnolia Ave.
Booked at city jail for intoxication, disorderly conduct and assault were Howard Chappell, 18 and Lynn F. De Vilbiss, 19, both of the USS Hamul. Two girls, Patricia Ann Faulconer, 16, of 35 Mermaid Pl, and Carolyn Sue Anderson, 17, of 25. Neptune PI., told officers the sailors and two others climbed into their car when it stopped at Daisy Ave. and Santa Cruz St.
Henry Roberts, 14, of 417 E. Seaside Blvd., Apt. 312, told officers he was robbed by three older boys while in the 300 block of West Pike.
At American Ave. and Seaside Bd., a victim told police he told a young gunman “Go to hell”, and clinched the deal, when threatened added, “Go ahead and shoot.”
Maybe not an ideal place to hang out, but if you were looking for excitement or a victim (or to get victimized), well then…
We all know that streets or neighborhoods don’t cause crime, but as with today’s practice of demolishing offending motels and such, the Jungle had to go. Thus the end of Mermaid, Neptune and Venetian, though a cleaned-up (we hope) Seaside persists, but not the Seaside Hospital where many of the victims and offenders were taken.
There was also talk of a Shoreline Drive to replace the congested Ocean Blvd.