The Pike opens where Mr. B’s and Casa Castillo served it up

2014-Pike opening day - IMAG3326At 5pm today the Pike officially opened for business in Los Alamitos in the location where Mr. B’s and Casa Castillo have been feeding Los Alamitos and Rossmoor resi9dents for years.

The Pike is owned by Chris Reece, a former drummer of Social Distortion and founder of the original Pike – a retro bar at 4th and Bropadway.  The Los Alamitos restaurant/bar will feature the same menu and vibe of the Fourth Street location, said Reece.

2011-Kenny Brandyberry - Lucianne Maulhardt-07188913681_58ff1a046eMr. B’s has been an local institution since being opened by living legend Kenny Brandyberry (shown right with longtime Casa Youth Shelter Exec Director Lucianne Maulhardt) back in 1994. Prior to that it had been Casa Castillo (right), one of the area’s favorite Mexican restaurants. Casa originally occupied the current Mr. B’s space and expanded their bar (and live band area) next door to the area now occupied by So-Low Pharmacy.

PC Los Alamitos Casa Castillo Restaurant-2500PXWhen Kenny B. took over (after selling his stake in the Starting Gate — located right across from the entrance/exit to Los Alamitos Race Track)  he downsized back to the original dimensions, except for keeping the banquet room in back.  The joint did pretty well — certainly well enough to attract the attention of Rosie and Perry Apostle who bought it around 1997.  Perry’s dad had been a fixture in the Long Beach restaurant scene for more than 60 years, owning such places as the now-defunct King Arthur’s Steakhouse on Spring Street and Bellflower Boulevard, and the former Olive Tree bar, now the Gaslamp Restaurant & Bar, on Pacific Coast Highway and Loynes Drive.

Both Perry and Rosie had worked at the race track and were licensed ticket sellers, but after they bought the restaurant, he focused more on Mister B’s while she also worked the management at Santa Anita Race Track.  About six years ago health issues forced Perry to scale back on his workload although in the past year  or so he has been back to where he was.  But it was time to move on.

Reece says the biggest concept change will be in sounds.  “We’re going to have live music, and we’re wheeling in the same jukebox we have on Fourth Street,” he said. “Mr. B’s had a lot of karaoke, but that’s not going to happen here,” said Reece, who last week was busy cleaning and painting the longtime Los Al hangout to get it ready enough for its 5pmk soft opening on Monday.

The music change chould go over well if the first couple hours were an indicator — with the juke box blowing out an eclectic mix of East Coast blues rock and Tony Bennett classics.   Another difference that stands out is the more open feeling provided by the loss of a front wall and some large TVs (don’t worry, there are still plenty).  The walls are a little bare right now but Reece plans to decorate them with old photos and items showcasing Los Alamitos area history as well as some aviation items.

 

 

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1941 – Ten Arrested in big Seal Beach Gambling Raid behind Garden of Allah

054 - 1940c - Garden of AllahA big event which actually had quite an effect on Seal Beach was a September 18, 1941 gambling raid which resulted in the arrest of at least ten men and the detainment of over eighty customers.  Orange County sheriff’s deputies used a sledge hammer to break into a gambling den located off the alley behind the Garden of Allah nightclub at 8th and the Coast Highway.  (The Garden of Allah was one of the top glamour night club/roadhouses south of Hollywood.  It didn’t draw A-list Big Bands but over the years it had some very good and respected hot jazz and Big Bands.  But apparently, the bands weren’t enough entertainment for the club’s patrons.)

The “casino” just behind the club had over $10,000 worth of gambling equipment (or $15,000, depending on which newspaper article you believe) inside a building dressed up to look like a long garage that could house a dozen automobiles.  When deputies knocked on the “garage’s” doors and no one answered, they used a sledge hammer to break in, and proceeded to detain and take the names of the 80-plus customers, arrest the dealers, and confiscate  four roulette tables, two dice tables, two blackjack tables, and miscellaneous cards and chips.

The arrested men all gave their occupations as “clerks” and all immediately furnished the $75 bail and were released but ordered to appear at Seal Beach Justice Court the following Monday to face the charges of gambling.

Eleven days later the men pled “guilty,” and received 60-day jail terms from Seal Beach Judge Fred Smith, who also suspended the jail time for two years. [LB Independent, Sept. 29, 1941]

On October 3, 1941, Orange County sheriff Jesse Elliot said he was going to destroy the $15,000 worth gambling equipment seized in the raid.  We can find no more articles re: the raid or its equipment.

What may have been significant about this was this was one of the first time Seal Beach gambling figures could not count on being acquitted.  Before this, Judges like Fred Smith and local juries had invariably acquitted all local figures of gambling charges.

1950c - Ballard Barron - cut from group photo at Last FrontierBut in 1937 mob syndicate figures Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen began to take control of the Southern California gambling rackets — often using violence to share their feelings.  Not helping the gamblers’ cause was Attorney general Earl Warren’s 1939 crusade to shut down the gambling ships operating off Santa Monica and Long Beach/Seal Beach.  Independent gambling operators like Ballard Barron (left), who controlled most of the gambling in Seal Beach (and also some action on the gambling ships off Seal Beach and Long Beach)  saw many of their friends going to jail or even being pistol-whipped in public, and decided Las Vegas offered better opportunities.  Very soon after this Barron received an offer to manage the casino at the Last Frontier, which became the second hotel (and first big casino) to be built on what became the Las Vegas Strip.  Barron took over fifteen of his dealers with him when he left Seal Beach for Vegas in 1942.

Another factor that could have come into play was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.  This resulted into the entire coast strip being ordered into a “Black-Out”mode, which could have dramatically cut into any gambling revenues and given Barron another reason to vacate his previously comfortable operation in Seal Beach.

In any case, once Ballard Barron left, the field was open for other gamblers and the one who quickly became king of the hill in Seal Beach at least was former Los Angeles police detective William L. Robertson.

1941-Sep 18 - LAT - Ten Arrested in Gambling Raid at Seal Beach003

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New SB History Book is on its way to stores

HistPr - Seal Beach front coverI just got word from the History Pres that my new book on Seal Beach (cleverly titled “Seal Beach: A Brief History”) has actually been printed and my own stash of books is on its way.  If you want an autographed copy, order it now and you’ll have it within a week or so. (You can also order it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., and it seems cheaper, but by the time you pay the shipping fees, it’s not.  Plus, if order from me, I may even break even on all the parking fees, and library fines I incurred while writing the book).

While I think it’s the best and most accurate town history put out to date, by no means do I consider this the “ultimate Seal Beach history source” — this is just a starting point.  Going into the city’s 100th anniversary celebration, it provides a historical context for why and when certain things happened, but there is still so much to include.  Now it is up to everyone else to start filling in the gaps.

Those of you who grew up in the town — and there’s probably at least 40 or 50 who have been here since at least the 1950s and another 10-15 whose memories go back to the 1940s — don’t let that all that information disappear with you (OK, maybe some of it is good to take with you), but the rest of you… get your photos, stories, and other memories stories out there!

You can start by leaving a comment for this post — click the comment button below.  Or go to the many sites where others have posted Seal Beach memories in addition to the ones I’ve linked below, let me know and I’ll provide links to them.

 

 

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Los Alamitos-Rossmoor Museum looking for volunteers

The Los Alamitos Museum is looking for volunteers to help prepare and host events throughout the year.

The museum is open two days a week — from 2pm to 4pm on Sundays and Tuesdays.   Some of the Museum’s events include teas, Docent Appreciatioon Night, Honored Citizen Day, Paranormal Phenomema, Yard Sales, A Quilt Show, a party for local Public Utility workers, and more.

Anyone interested in becoming a docent or volunteering in other ways can contact Anita Schommer at  (562) 493-31-1 or call the museum at (562) 431-8836.

The Press-telegram’s Joe Segura ran a nice article on Museum Prez Marilynn Poe and awesome volunteer Anita Schommer.

 

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History of Seal Beach to hit bookstores and online sites at end of March

HistPr - Seal Beach cover - REV   After a year and a half of writing (and far longer than that for procrastination) yours truly has just turned in his final proof manuscript for our new book “Seal Beach: A Brief History” which will  unleashed on the unsuspecting public at the end of March.
It’s 224 pages covering Seal Beach’s early days as Orange County’s first port, first amusement park (with rides) not to mention it’s delightfully sketchy days as a rum-running haven and gambling center, and its central role in the growth of surfing.

Also included is new information on some of the characters who played a role in the town’s development — daredevil wing-walking aviators (including one who became head of the new Chinese Air Force) , stars from silent movie, a failed real estate salesmen who with the help of a Seal Beach fireman developed one of the world’s first turbines to produce energy from wind (using a leftover motor from the Joy Zone roller coaster), famous rum-runners,  and Main Street and Gambling Ship gamblers who would later build and run the first big casinos on the Las Vegas strip.
If you are one of those troubled souls who like local history or need something to help them go to sleep at night  and you want to reserve a copy, email me.  (larrystrawther@gmail.com)

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The strange case of Jimmy Slyter: Seal Beach’s romantic but unlucky swimmer.

One of the more curious stories I’ve come across in my research of Seal Beach is the tale of Jimmy Slyter and his nationally publicized, but somewhat sketchy, quest in 1946 to swim from Catalina and use the money raided to marry Anne Brennan, one of “Seal Beach’s beauties.”   From being on national headlines, we can find only one more reference to Slyter when he attempted to swim out to Tony Cornero’s Lux gambling ship but appears to have been lost at sea.  Does anyone know hat happened to Slyter?  Was his body found?  Did he ever show up elsewhere? It’s just strange that the papers make no more mention of this.  Below is what we do know?

 

On April 28, 1946, Navy veteran Jimmy Slyter, a 19-year old ” veteran of 10 Pacific engagements” jumped in the water off Catalina in a quest to become the third person to swim the 22 miles to the mainland.  The residents of Seal Beach had raised a $500 purse for Slyter if he finished, a sum he promised to use “for his wedding to Anne Brennan, one of Seal Beach’s beauties.”  Slyter had been making good time and was five miles off the mainland when a big wave knocked him against the boat and caused the doctor to advise against continuing.[1]  Undaunted, the citizens of Seal Beach raised additional monies and Slyter announced he would try it again.[2] A few months later newspapers around the nation were still playing up the story, and featuring another AP wirephoto of Jimmy, this time running through the surf with fiancé Rose Anne.” He repeated his vow to make it, she repeated her vow to marry him “IF”, and by now the purse was up to $5,000.  Although we don’t hear much more of the Catalina quest, the LA Times did note in early August that on a whim, Slyter decided he wanted to see Tony Cornero’s gambling boat, the Lux, which was then moored three miles off Seal Beach.  Three friends were supposed to stay with him in a dory but they apparently lost track of him and the following day the Coast Guard launched a search.[3]



[1] Spokane Spokesman-Review, April 29, 1946, p7.  AP story.

[2] Ogden, Utah Standard-Examiner, p12.  July AP story.

[3] LA Times, Aug 7, 1946, p1

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Jacob Stern, owner of City Garden Acres (Apartment Row)

Anyone who looks at Los Alamitos property maps around 1920 comes across the name “J. Stern and Sons” as owners of the land of what is now called Apartment Row. After emigrating from Germany, Stern partnered with a cousin, __ Goodman, to start a small store, Stern & Goodman, in Fullerton. From there the pair became one of the largest hay and grain brokerages in Orange County and then on his own Stern & Sons grew intro one of the largest land0wners in Orange County in the early 20th century. The company had small stores in many towns throughout the county, with one having over 20 employees. Here is Stern’s bio from John McGroarty’s “From the Mountains to the Sea”, p. 528-530.

J. Stern

Jacob Stern. Thirty years ago Jacob Stern was partner in a small general merchandise store at Fullerton, the store building having a twenty-five-foot frontage. The great extent of his present interests can not be confined to any one building or even a single county of California. It is said that Mr. Stern owns land in nearly every county of California.He is president of the Stern Realty Company, Incorporated, of Los Angeles, which handles a vast amount of his propert}^ interests. He is an executive and director in a number of other corporations, and is undoubtedly one of the wealthiest and has been one of the most successful business men of Southern California. He came here practically friendless and alone.

He was born in Saxony, Germany, September 20, 1859, a son of Marcus and Rosetta (Goodman) Stern. His parents spent all their lives in Germany, where his father was a dealer in hops and cattle. Jacob Stem grew up on his father’s farm and had a substantial education acquired in the common schools and also a business college. After leaving school, until his

twentieth year he assisted his parents on the homestead farm, marketing the hve stock and produce. He left the port of Hamburg in June, 1884, crossed the ocean to New York, thence went to Cleveland, was also at Bryan and Bucyrus, Ohio, and for about five years was employed in the wholesale clothing house of Lehman, Richman & Company at Cleveland. Mr. Stern came to Fullerton, California, in 1889, forming a partnership with Mr. Goodman. They had only a small stock of general merchandise, but their business grew and prospered until the merchandise was housed in a building 270 feet in front, covering seven-eighths of an entire block, and representing an investment of half a million dollars of capital. This was the Stern & Goodman Company, Mr. Goodman having entire charge of the store at Fullerton, while Mr. Stern looked after the hay, grain and real estate departments, with headquarters in Los Angeles. It is estimated that three-fourths of the hay and grain business of Orange County was handled by Mr. Stern.

The Stern & Goodman Merchandise Company sold their stock of goods at Fullerton in 1918, but still own the Stern & Goodman Block. In former years as merchants they dealt in every conceivable commodity likely to be required by their widely extended patronage. They were even interested in live stock, town lots and farms. In 1904 Mr. Stern opened his real estate office in the Pacific Electric Building at Los Angeles, and in 1915 moved to the Haas Building, Seventh and Broadway. For several years he specialized in oil lands and general lands, chiefly in Los Angeles and Orange County, and the Stern Realty Company, incorporated in 1911, now handles real estate and investments, including citrus and other groves, unimproved land, but still makes a specialty of Orange County property. Mr. Stern has been interested in developing some of the choice suburban sites around Los Angeles. Among them is Richfield Acres, Yorba Linda, Orange County, Leffimgwell Heights tract and East Whittier Acres, also Aubumdale Acres near Corona, and several other tracts in the southern part of Los Angeles County and Orange County. In the month of October, 1919, he sold to Pacific Colony part of Wrights tract, near Pomona, for $175,000. He is owner of ‘the Stern lease, from which, in October, 1919, the General Petroleum Company brought in a gushing oil well, with a flow estimated at five thousand barrels per day. Mr. Stern is also president of the Richfield Mutual Water Company, the Corona Pumping Company, the Coyote Hill Land Company, and is a director of the Central Pacific Improvement Company. He owns more than twenty thousand acres of land in California, besides several buildings in Los Angeles. He was formerly interested in the general merchandise firm of Stern Brothers at Anaheim, his partnership with his brother continuing until 1909, when he sold out his interests. He also owned a store at Placentia, and oil wells at Olinda, in Orange County, and likewise conducted a general store, also in Brea, and Yorba Linda.

In 1891, at Los Angeles, Mr. Stern married Miss Sarah Laventhal, daughter of E. Laventhal, a pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, now deceased. The wedding was one of the largest affairs in the city of Los Angeles. Mrs. Stern was born at Fullerton and was a teacher in Los Angeles before her marriage. For a number of years Mr. and Mrs. Stem lived in Fullerton, but in July, 1904, they bought the magnificent Colonel Northam home in Hollywood, at the comer of Vine Street and Hollywood Boulevard. This is one of the show places of the beautiful Hollywood District. The five acres of land surrounding the residence is adorned with every art of the landscape gardener. Mr. and Mrs. Stern are the parents of four children, two sons and two daughters. 530 LOS ANGELES The oldest child, Harold M., graduated from the Hollywood High School in 1910, from the University of California in 1913, and took his law degree at Harvard Law School in 1916, in which year he was admitted to the California bar. During the war he was in the navy with the rank of ensign, serving on the Eastern coast, and is now assisting his father in business. The daughter, Elza, is the widow of Melville Jacoby, who died of influenza in January, 1919. Helen, the second daughter, is in the Hollywood High School, and Eugene J. is also in high school. All the children were born in California. For six months Harold was also on duty with the Bureau of Imports in the War Trade Board at Washington. Mr. Stern joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows at Fullerton and is also affiliated with the Fraternal Aid and Knights of Pythias. He is a republican, a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Chamber of Commerce, Realty Board and Automobile Club of Southern California. He is a fine representative of the men who have accomplished big things in the advancement of all enterprises in California.

Mr. Stem’s assistance as one of the firm of Stern & Goodman, to the ranchers at Fullerton will long be remembered and their leniency and advice in enabling the ranchers to hold on to their holdings during the hard times from 1890 to 1900.

 

Source, FROM THE MOUNTAINS TO THE SEA 529

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Theaters in Rossmoor

1964-Fox Theater in Rossmoor-f996ed6840f2235786c0fe8dd44d5521_3596_0Although I have to imagine there was some kind of on-the-fly Nickelodeon operation going on in early Los Alamitos, the first documented theater I can document in the Los Alamitos-Rossmoor area was the Fox Theater which opened up in the Rossmoor Business center 1964.

It was in the building now occupied by the F&M Bank.

The Fox was the first of three different theater operations to call the Rossmoor Business Center home.

The original Fox was operated by 20th Century-Fox’s film distribution arm, National Cinema.  It opened the theater in  1964.  The first film showed there was (____ — I know I’ve seen this, now I have to find it again).

A few years later, the Mann Theater Corporation took over the operation.  At that time, Mann also operated the Plitt Theaters ion centurt City and the Mann’s Chinese Theater — formerly Graumann’s Chinese Theater.”

 

Some years after the theater closed, the Super Saver Cinema opened –a six plex featuring almost recently-released films and budget prices.

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Seal Beach’s celebrates REAL 100th birthday next month

Although Seal Beach residents will not officially celebrate their village’s 100th birthday until Oct 1915, Seal Beach technically will turn 100 years old on July 17 of this year.

1913-Sep 9-SB-deKruif Seals-Parade006 It was on that day in 1913 when Bayside Land Company President (and Seal Beach founder) Philip A. Stanton officially “christened” his unincorporated community of Bay City as as Seal Beach, marking the first time that the area would use the name it’s now so well known for.

The name change was just the latest in a long line of efforts by Stanton to make the big killing in real estate that just always seemed to elude him.

Not that Stanton didn’t do okay for himself real estate-wise.  After coming to California in 1888, he made a respectable living as a real estate agent — selling lands in downtown LA, then did very well selling Stearns Rancho Lands in West Anaheim.  Around 1895 he became I.W. Hellman’s agent for his Rancho Los Alamitos lands — which basically now includes Leisure World, the Navy Weapons Station, The Hill, Anaheim Landing  and a tiny strip of Long Beach that includes the power plant and Island Village.

Stanton watched other real estate developers make big killings and he tried his best to join that elite group.  He was among the earliest to try to bring a sugar beet factory to west Orange County but that didn’t work out.  Nor did a plan to evict the 200 settlers who were living in Anaheim Landing so he could develop that into a new town.

In 1901 Hellman, who was the West Coast’s top banker (think Wells Fargo),  partnered with Henry Huntington to form the Pacific Electric Railroad.  As Hellman’s agent, Stanton was privy to the still secret plan to run a line to Long Beach and then down the coast Newport.  So he organized a syndicate in 1901 to buy land about five miles south of Anaheim landing and form a town along the planned (but still-secret) PE route.  When the PE rolled into Long Beach in July 1902, Stanton was probably counting his fortune to be.   But when the Bolsa Chica Gun Club members wouldn’t give Huntington a right of way along the beach, the latter started planning a new route to Newport through Los Alamitos and Santa Ana.  Undaunted, Stanton quickly went to Plan B.  To secure Huntington’s interest in a coast route, Stanton and others sold him their new coastal townsite which was soon renamed Huntington Beach.  Then he convinced the Bolsa Chica Gun Club members to invite Huntington and some of his powerful friends to join their group (giving the club members access to power),  and Huntington also agreed to build a PE depot at the gun club.

Stanton took his money and soon after partnered with I.A. Lothian to form the Bayside Land Company and buy a small strip owned by Susan Bixby and her children Fred and Susannah.  (This is Old Town between 3rd and about 14th).   Stanton laid out a new town they tried to call Bayside (it was between Alamitos and Anaheim Bays) but the Post Office pointed out that there were already two Baysides — an incorporated one up by Eureka and an unincorporated one near present Corona Del Mar.  So they called it Bay City instead.

Although spending much of his time in Sacramento, Stanton – and his representative John C. Ord — did their best to promote the town.  A long pier and dance pavilion were built along with other amenities, and press releases were submitted almost daily which made it sound like the new development one was doing well.

Unfortunately, as a beach resort it was competing with Long Beach, Redondo, Santa Monica and especially, the very successful Venice and Ocean Park.  All were closer to the major population center, all had long piers, and all had better roads leading to it.  And then Naples, Belmont  Shores and Newport joined in as competition as well.

After losing his run for the governor’s seat, Stanton returned to Southern California and renewed his efforts to turn his town into a major destination.  He organized all the developers between Naples and Newport into the South Coast Improvement Association which advertised regularly and lobbied for better automobile roads.  To make his community sound new and rejuvenated and distinct – he renamed it Seal Beach and the Bayside Land Company and the South Coast Association hosted a celebration commemorating the name change on July 17, 1913 before a crowd of 2,000, according to the LA Times. At his own house near First Street Stanton threw  a barbecue and the “tables were piled high with heaps of barbecued beef, tubs filled with frijoles, buns, pickles and other toothables, besides barrels of coffee.”

1913-SB ad DeKruif-billiards017After a number of speeches, Stanton and other dignitaries led a grand march down Ocean to the dance pavilion  at the pier where an orchestra played for the rest of the day and into the night.  Those who did not care to dance went outside to take part in races and other amusements.

The dedication marked the beginning of a major advertising campaign by the South Coast Association and a separate one by Stanton and his new real estate agency, the Guy M. Rush Company.  The latter campaign used artwork by noted illustrator Henry DeKruif.

Unfortunately, the re-naming of Seal Beach and the advertising campaign, still didn’t improve the success of Stanton’s town.  The competition from the other resorts — especially the ones with amusement areas — Venice, Ocean Park, Redondo, and Long Beach — was just too tough.

Finally in 1915, Stanton, again using his Hellman connections, arranged to have the amusement area for San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific Exposition, moved and be rebuilt in Seal Beach.  Now his town would too have an amusement area to attract beach-goers.  But he wanted something more — legal drinking.  Most of the beach resorts were technically “dry towns.”  To accomplish this, Stanton needed an incorporated town with an elected city council which would approve the sale of alcohol.  And that is why the Bayside Land Company sponsored a petition and vote to incorporate and put a lot of money behind their hand-picked slate of candidates.  Both campaigns were successful and Seal Beach became a city of the sixth class in October 1915.  One of the first votes by the new city council was to approve the sale of alcohol.

So technically, this July marks Seal Beach’s 100th anniversary.  And October 2015 marks Seal Beach’s 100th anniversary of legalized drinking.

 

 

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Dec. 15, 1966 – Jet Crash in Rossmoor

Rossmoor resident recalls when Navy Jet landed in his backyard

Burton Schild, an orthodontist, was one of Rossmoor’s original residents, owning a home on Yellowtail Drive that backed up to Los Alamitos Blvd (later changed to Seal Beach Blvd.).  Now retired, last year Burton took a creative writing class at Long Beach State.  Instructed to write about what you know, Burton chose to write about something he knew intimately – the day a Navy fighter jet crashed into his backyard.  Fortunately none of his family was hurt and Burton tells the story with fear and humor.  He graciously has let us reprint it here.

 

PROVIDENCE ON YELLOWTAIL DRIVE

By Burton Schild

 

Long Beach Press-Telegram – December 16, 1966

“Jet Bomber Crashes in Rossmoor

Debris Sets Fire, rips into homes.  Navy pilot chutes to safety.  No one seriously injured.

 

My office

Anaheim California

December 15, 4:15 p.m.

 

“Dr Schild, your wife is calling.  She wants to speak with you and sounds very upset.”

As I walk briskly down the hallway, toward my private office, I wondered “What did those kids do now?”

Burt, you must come home.  There has been a terrible plane crash.  People have been killed.  It hit electric lines, which fell, sparking, into our backyard.  We have no electricity or phone.  I’m calling from Harriett Devers house.  It came through our backyard and barely missed our house.  Come home!”

“Are you and the kids OK?”

“Yes, we are.”  And I felt life for the first time.

“Well, if you and the kids are OK, I have a few patients to finish up, then I’ll come right home.”

“Come home now,” she insisted.  “Come home now!”

I immediately alerted my staff.  “Becky, please chip the cement on the bands I just inserted, and check the patients for loose or broken appliances.  Sara, help Becky, and when you are done, dismiss everyone.  Louella, please explain to the parents in the waiting room that I’ve had an emergency at home and re-appoint the patients.”

As I dashed down the hall, I removed my gown, grabbed my windbreaker and sped home in my new Buick Electra.

 

Los Alamitos Naval Air Station

Los Alamitos, CA

December 15,1966  3:15pm

 The young Marine captain taxied toward the end of the runway in preparation for a routine flight.  When air traffic control gave permission to take off, he gunned the engine of his Douglas Skyhawk, which accelerated instantly down the flight path, and as he pulled back on the stick, swiftly became airborne.  Then the unthinkable occurred; his magnificent bird suddenly lost power and he realized he would not clear the eucalyptus grove which was dead ahead.  As he activated his eject mechanism he must have thought, “I’m going to die.”

 

Our home on Yellowtail Drive in Rossmoor backed onto Los Alamitos Boulevard, with a beautiful eucalyptus grove located on the opposite side of the thoroughfare.  Beyond that lay the Los Alamitos Naval Air Station.  The date was December 15, 1966 at 3:30pm.

My pregnant wife, Florence, with 6-year old Steve at her side, stood at the kitchen sink,  gazing peacefully through the window at the gently rustling foliage of the tall trees.  Stevie’s four year brother,  Lindy, and his playmate, Mark Devers, busily shaped Play-Dough in one of the bedrooms.

Suddenly the trees tore asunder, as branches and leaves, exploded in all directions.  They heard an ear-splitting roar as a flaming metal monster hurtled toward them.  It broke through th3e high-tension lines, which fell sputtering into the backyard.  A sudden surge of adrenalin crossed the placenta, causing our unborn daughter to kick violently.  Flo thought, “Oh, God, we’re going to die.”

 

In the air above Rossmoor, 3:35 pm

 

The explosive energy of the ejection jettison the pilot straight up into the air, causing him to temporarily black out.  When he quickly regained consciousness, his apprehension was relieved upon perceiving the billowing canopy of his open chute above him.  He touched down with substantial force upon the roof of a camper parked on Rowena Drive, experienced a sharp pain in his leg, breathed a sigh of relief and may have thought, “Thank God I made it.”

 

Rossmoor, 4:45 pm

 When I attempted to enter Yellowtail Drive, a wooden barrier blocked my way and a burly Navy shore patrolman approached the car.

“I’m sorry, sir, this street is closed to all traffic,” he stated emphatically.

“I live at 3412,” I replied.

He asked to see my ID.  I acquiesced, and he permitted my entry.  The acrid stench of kerosene seared my nostrils as I pulled into the driveway and attempted to activate the automatic garage door opener.

To my surprise the door did not respond and remained firmly closed, so I walked to the front door.

Once inside the friendly confines of the walls of my home, my eyes were greeted with flickering light of Sabbath candles, which under different circumstances, would have created a very romantic atmosphere.  With a heart full of love, I fervently hugged and kissed Florence and the children and quietly thanked God for having spared their precious lives.

 

About an hour after I arrived home, someone knocked loudly on the front door.  When I opened it there stood a tall, pleasant-looking, uniformed young man, who also wore the familiar “S.P.” armband.  He firmly cautioned us against disturbing any of the wreckage in our backyard, since it was Navy property and would only be removed by Navy personnel.  I then thought, “Hell, that Navy property certainly disturbed my family and me that day.”

Soon after that young man made his departure, I quietly entered my backyard, flashlight in hand and pilfered two pieces of property belonging to the U.S. Navy, and furtively hid them under a blanket in the back of my car.

I recently asked my son, Steve, now in his fifties, what his impressions were of that day.  He responded, “It was over in a few seconds, so I had no time to be scared.  I saw pieces of trees flying in all directions.  When the plane appeared, the wings were bent back, but it was not on fire until it hit the electric lines and the sparks ignited the fuel spilling from the wing tanks.  Striking the wires seemed to cause a “trampoline effect”, bouncing it in an upward direction.  I ran to the front door and pieces of the trees were still falling.  I looked up the street and saw a great deal of damage, mostly to the garages.”

This was the first time I had made inquiries concerning his impression wand was absolutely amazed by the sharp detail of his memory.

Previous to the Rossmoor crash, right after Lindy was born, I had personally witnessed another accident.  A large Naval twin-engine radar plane caught my attention because of the crescendo of noise it created.  I looked up, and to my horror, saw that the left engine was aflame.  The pilot then banked sharply to the left, possibly to avoid a populated area, and the maneuver caused the fuselage to become engulfed in the flames.  I later learned that it had crashed on the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, just south of the airfield.  Nine young reservists lost their lives on that terribly sad day.

 

As a result of having experienced two airplane crashes in four years, we cancelled plans to construct a substantial addition  to our house and placed its sale in the hands of a local realtor.  Prospective buyers never failed to ask about the obvious void in the trees.  Finally, it was sold to a Vietnam veteran who enjoyed watching the military planes take off.  They represented safety for him and his embattled comrades.

About a year and a half later, we moved to a home beneath the landing pattern for the sleepy little Long Beach Municipal Airport, long before Jet Blue and the Boeing C-17 arrived on the scene.  However my grandchildren have always enjoyed observing the low-flying planes from the vantage point of our swimming pool.  Ironically, about two years after we moved, the military planes stopped flying regularly out of the Los Alamitos Naval Air Station.

 

Epilogue

 

On the Saturday following the crash, I transported the two pieces of purloined property belonging to the U.S. Navy to my office where I exhibited them for my pati4nts perusal.  On the journey home in my rear-view mirror, I spotted a black and white police car with its lights flashing.  My heart sank.

“Did I do something wrong, officer?”

“You were speeding.  Your license and registration, please.”

“Couldn’t you give me a warning, officer?”

“License and registration, please.”  He sounded annoyed.  Since I was somewhat intimidated, I quickly complied.

“Oh, you live on Yellowtail Drive.  Didn’t a plane crash there a few days ago?”

Yes, officer, It came through my back yard.  Look at the pieces of wreckage in the back of my car.”

“Well, sir, I think you’ve had enough problems during the past few days,” he remarked with a true sense of compassion.  He returned my license and registration with no accompanying citation.

Two miracles occurred related to Yellowtail Drive that week.  My family was spared when the ill-fated Skyhawk encroached on our property, and I was stopped for speeding but did not receive a traffic ticket.

I was blessed and still feel that way, to this day.

 

 

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