front cover of Wild portraying Ike’s exit and JFK’s entry into the White House in early ’61 with threats of the day (just to fill in the blanks for anyone younger than 60 years).

A heavily satirical / political magazine, Wild, was published by Jim Dombrowski and friends at Long Beach State.  The address was shown as 58 Nieto.  Filled with articles about American adventures in Cuba, Laos and Korea, it was heavily critical of U.S. policy, but even-handed to the extent it also critiqued an advertiser, the Hat on Belmont Shore for presenting rote and boring jazz.

Good luck finding an original issue of Wild.

wonder if the Hat re-upped after the relaxed mauling its in-house jazz combo the Tophatters received (“producing a constant lull”) in the jazz review pages.

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Above scene:  Industrial arts students are required to build a patio shelter to earn a grade.  Free labor for grades?  It’s now called “internship.”  (photo from the totally obscure 1953 Prospector).

In April 1950, the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce began to campaign voters to sign off on city funds being used to purchase of a site for the four-year Long Beach State College because California Public Works Board decided to accept Long Beach’s offer of the 320-acre site located east of Long Beach Naval Hospital.  Only problem:  it wasn’t the city’s land to give away.  They had to buy it first and that took money…approximately $1 million in uplands oil money to purchase the site for the state on condition that this action is approved by the voters at the June 6 election.

“The selection of Long Beach as the site for the four year state college is a welcome and wise decision,” said the CofC leader. “This college will constitute a tremendous cultural asset to Long Beach and also will strengthen the city’s economy.  And further, blah, blah, blah”

He pointed out that $10 million already has been appropriated for buildings and said it is anticipated that the state will spend $10 million in establishing the college.

buildings under construction

"in the welter of building activity, students found the dust, muck and debris a formidable obstacle to education."

State educational leaders had predicted that the school would accommodate 5000 students by 1956. Inasmuch as enrollment at the temporary college established in Long Beach has passed the 670 mark, it is expected that this peak will be reached sooner.

The school eventually will have a staff of 350, representing a payroll of $2 million annually. Expenditures by students coming to Long Beach from other areas also is expected to bolster the local economy…not to mention the slave labor as pictured above.  Just kidding about the slave part…meant to call it intern-supplied labor…uh, class credits.

Take the Long Beach Quiz

Posted: February 1, 2011 in history

skyline c. 1953

1. Who was the first white man to see the site of Long Beach?

2. To whom were the site and surrounding country first granted?

3. Who owned Los Alamitos Rancho?

4. What is the meaning of its name?

5. What rancho did John Temple own?

6 What does its name mean?

7. Who planned s town here in 1882?

8. What building is named for him?

9 When was the name, “Long Beach,” adopted?

10. What important event occurred here in 1921?

Haps At Hody’s (1958)

Posted: January 31, 2011 in cruising

January 1958:

Two young carhops were arrested in a raid on the women’s apartment at 763 Belmont Ave.  Officers assert that Barbara W. Barber, 25, and Leslie Dee Kendall. 19, peddled marijuana at Hody’s at Pacific Const Hwy. and Anaheim St. They and a male visitor from 2200 block of Fanwood were booked in city jail for investigation of illegal possession of narcotics.   Importance of printing address was in case anyone was awaiting replenishment of his or her reefer supply.  In fact, I don’t recall reefer-dealing carhops at all.

November 1958:

Criminals known in the papers as yeggs (safecrackers) struck at Hody’s Drive-In, 5150 E. Pacific Coast Hwy (note: 5150 is police code for crazy).  Two porters told police three gunmen bound them and at’ tempted to crack two safes this morning.  Both employees, Leon Stave, L.A. and Willie James Kemp, 27 of 1027, Myrtle Ave., reported they were bound with wires and left behind the bar. After the gunmen left, the porters managed to free themselves and summoned police. The attempts to crack the safes were unsuccessful.  I had no idea Hody’s had a safe, but then again, would I have cared?  Apart from cash, wonder what was kept in there?

Hamburgers At Hody’s (1958)

Posted: January 29, 2011 in cruising

To find an example of how not only music, but how the entire culture has changed in the past half century, one only has to consider changes in Long Beach and the entire Southern California landscape a mere fifty years ago. That’s when cruising Hodys, or the Clock or Grisinger‘s Drive-In Restaurants was at its zenith.

Jim Lamirand, Poly student body president in the early 1950s, recalled more of the cruising scene. “There was a Clock Drive-In, all around town. Car clubs cruised the most, Carson & Atlantic, if you had a club, you could mount your plaque, the Cutouts and the Renegades went to the Clock, then to Grisingers at Atlantic and San Antonio.”

Grisingers #3 was at 2955 Bellflower Blvd., the current location of Burger King at Spring Street. But the most popular drive-in, Hodys, owned by the Hodemaker family had locations in Lakewood near Wallich’s Music City and at PCH and Anaheim.

“We would cruise down Atlantic, then at 1200 E. PCH, we’d go east past Ray Robinson’s Record Rack. He had a radio show and would talk about the cruisers as we drove by.”

According to Bill Soon, Wilson class of 1960, “the Clock was on PCH right across the street from the Circle Inn Motel at the Traffic Circle, south of what was The La Ronde Rue restaurant that became the Cinamon Cinder.” In the same area was an Oscar’s Drive-In as well as one at Carson and Woodruff. Popular spots during the day, almost totally forgotten these days.

But all the eating wasn’t all high class. “There was a greasy spoon on 7th St. just across from Wilson, Robbie’s Steak House. Notably, no steak was ever served at Robbie’s. But you could get a basket of fries for a dime, and his jukebox was constantly kicking out the round sounds. ‘High Blood Pressure’ by Huey Smith & the Clowns was a big favorite there. A regular crowd hung out there daily, after school.”

“My memories of cruising are passing the hat to get .75 cents worth of gas so that we could cruise around for the weekend (at 30 cents a gallon or so),” Soon recalled.

Soon who drove a ’56 VW, then a ’56 Chevy, after he wrecked the VW, clearly
recalled “sitting in Hodys, watching guys you knew cruise by in a beautiful pearlescent white ’49 Olds fastback, except for the purplish streak down the rear window caused by the guy who had consumed too much sloe gin, his head hanging over the bottom of the window as they cruised through repeatedly.”

But best of all, Soon recalled “were the blended sounds of many car radios and car record players at Hody’s and other drive-ins belting out the good sounds in the summer night.”

And no self-respecting lowered cruiser behind the wheel of a ’49 Mercury with blue tail lights – now also an infraction – or ’55 Chevy – not to mention driver – would be caught listening to top 40 radio. No, man. Art LaBoe, Huggy Boy, Hunter Hancock or Ray Robinson on a low power station like KGFJ or Wolfman Jack on a border radio station or better yet, out of a customized in-dash record player – a Norelco or an ARC (RCA spelled sideways) spinning 45s, sometimes custom made 45s, which they’d gladly put on metal acetates at Wenzel’s Music in Downey, for a fee of course.

Popular cruising sides were “Rumble” by Link Wray; most anything by Dick Dale & the Deltones in the early 1960s and rare 45s by Little Julian Herrera, just to name a few. Main local cruising routes were Atlantic, PCH, Anaheim St. and even Lakewood and Bellflower Blvd.

Car culture began early in post-World War II popular music. The King Cole Trio’s “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66” was a major hit in 1946. Felix Figueroa recorded the novelty, “Pico & Sepulveda,” not a hit at all in 1947, but huge when Dr.  Demento got a hold of it.

Then came records about popular locations, like jazz tenor sax player Jimmy Giuffre, who came up with “Big Boy” at the Lighthouse in honor of the new Bob’s Big Boy in 1952 and the Robins who sang about “Smokey Joe’s Café” in 1955, a song than became a popular stage play about the Coasters, but which ex-Robins member Grady Chapman complained he had to pay to get into.

In 1962, the Pastel Six sang about “Cinamon Cinder,” a teenage night club located at the Traffic Circle with another location in the Valley. The Starfires did the Long Beach-oriented “Jordan Stomp” in 1962.

The two cruising-est records of all time were “Whittier Blvd.” by Thee Midniters out of East L.A. in 1965 and the War’s #1 record of 1975, “Low Rider,” created by Long Beach musician and low rider Chuck Miller, whose ride was featured on the picture sleeve.

Such sums up the state of Long Beach and Southern California cruising culture between 1946 and 1975 – roughly.

By Steve Propes

Some of us who recall the hard-to-believe pre-MP3 age still exist, but in dwindling numbers. Before the Internet and digital media of any sort, vinyl – and to a smaller extent, magnetic tape – ruled all the land.

It was two decades after shellac product and highly breakable 78s vanished in slow death throes and two years before the widespread introduction of CDs and the even slower death of vinyl, which continues to this moment. It was a neither-nor time.

For me, the story really began in about 1960 when my high school chum Bill Soon and I used to cruise Anaheim Street and Hody’s Drive-In in his ’56 Chevy two door, his in-car record player blasting songs like “Work With Me Annie” and “Sixty Minute Man”…and don’t forget “Church Key,” a blasting surf-styled instrumental with the sound effects of a beer can popping open in the intro. Not that we ever partook of alcoholic beverages…we were underage, mind you.

The story of cruising began much earlier than that, like 1954 or so, according to my friend Jim Lamarind, who was a Poly High student, class of ’53. Jim’s recollections of cruising were so much cooler than mine, because his normal route took him up and down Atlantic and across PCH to Alamitos where he passed Ray Robinson’s Record Rack, the owner/DJ Robinson broadcasting live on KFOX radio spinning R&B sounds from the store window, where he’d describe the passing cruisers, who was driving them and sending out dedications between the records he was probably paid to play, such was the custom of the time. At least that’s Lamarind’s recollection. Then the store became Conley’s Record Rack and Johnny Otis took over the show for a very short period.

It was a galaxy of ’57 canary yellow Chevies, ’54 primer gray Ford sedans, ’49 Mercs with blue tail lights, all sorts of GM and Ford products, mostly lowered, controlled by 16 and 17-year old males. Few if any Studebakers, Metropolitans, Ramblers, or anything foreign like the Peugot, the Citroen or the Bug.

Of course, there were other cruising routes. Many of them were anchored by a Clock or a Grisinger’s Drive-In. Bellflower Blvd., Lakewood Blvd. and various other important routes attracted cruisers. Car clubs like the Huns and Vandals of Lakewood, Outcasts and Townsmen of Long Beach, African American clubs out of Poly like the Rod Twisters which became the Dual Headers and the legendary Pharaohs out of Wilmington, who were reputed to have control of the cannon on the park near the Banning House aimed at Pacific Coast Highway that could blast out any out of town club car that would be foolish enough to pass their way traveling from South Bay to Long Beach.

Lamarind became a big jazz fan and ran the jazz department at Wallich’s Music City in Lakewood, where one day he helped Ray Charles on a surprise visit. That story shall be saved for a later column.

For now, it’s 1960 and being basically lazy, I had no job; no wheels; so depending on the kindness of others, the cruising part was left up to Bill. And his in-dash vinyl system, records that were different from music in any other car, “American Graffiti” without Wolfman Jack or even rock and roll radio (in those days the Mighty 690 from Rosarita Beach, KFWB, KRLA and KGFJ – later KTYM with Huggy Boy and Godfrey), including one memorable visit to the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa to see and hear Dick Dale, whose reputation had grown by legend. It was well worth the gas money.

Onward down the inexorable path of insane and reckless buying of out-of-print 45 rpm records.