Thursday, October 20, 2011

Memories from Miss Port of Long Beach

Debra Haines during her time as Miss Port of Long Beach.

For a good chunk of the Port's history, from the mid-'50s through the late 1980s, a young woman was chosen to be Miss Port of Long Beach for a year.

Not simply a beauty contest title, Miss Port of Long Beach would be called upon to represent the port at functions throughout the harbor and the wider community.

Our records and photographs of Miss Port of Long Beach are unfortunately a bit scanty. Among the names and photographs we do have are Diane Olson, who was Miss Port when the current administration building was dedicated in 1959; 1975 titleholder Theresa Marino, who was recently interviewed for our documentary "Faces of the Port" and who just retired from the Long Beach Health Department, Mary Ann McHenry, who was Miss Port in 1955 (and who may have been the first), and a few others.

So we were especially glad to hear from Debbie Haines Seccombe, who now lives in Washington state but who, as Debra Haines, was Miss Port of Long Beach from 1976 to 1978. She sent us some photos, clippings and reminiscences to share:

"I had the honor and privilege to serve as Miss Port of Long Beach from 1976 through 1978. I can remember attending many functions along side the then Mayor Tom Clark, including the arrival of the Tall Ships sponsored by Cutty Sark celebrating our country's bicentennial. (Ironically, the one thing I can remember the most is the Tall Ships event because it was where I first tasted scotch!)

With Mr. and Mrs. Lorne Greene.
"I also have a photo with actor Lorne Greene and his wife at a dinner onboard the Queen Mary and attended several functions inside the Spruce Goose hangar. My most memorable experience, however, was flying in a helicopter over the Port of Long Beach. That was a very fun time!

"Because they liked me, I was asked to serve as Miss POLB for two years instead of the traditional one. The basis for my selection was strictly an interview. I often attended events with Miss POLA and Miss International Business.

"My roots were in the port since my dad was a chief in the merchant marines during WWII and took me to Pierpoint Landing and the shipyard to see his 'big boats' as a little girl … the seals at PPL were well worth the trip.

"Although I was raised in Long Beach and attended school there K-12, I moved from there after I left for college and never returned but for a couple of Wilson High School reunions and to visit with my parents.

"My oldest son is also connected to the industry indirectly. He graduated from the USNA in Annapolis, MD and is currently serving as a Naval aviator in the squadron assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (very well-known due to recent events)."

Thanks for sharing your memories Debbie! We'd love to hear some more stories from or about Miss Port of Long Beach -- you can reach us using our Share Your Memories form.

You can see more photos here.

The Bicentennial Tall Ships

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Pegasus

One of the more interesting "not here anymore" places at the Port -- the Pegasus Restaurant -- opened in 1962 on El Embarcardero, just down the street from the former location of the Port's administration building.

The restaurant was located in a $215,000 structure that also housed the wharfinger's office, the security office and space for the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs, and unlike those offices, the Pegasus featured lingerie-clad waitresses serving beer at 5 in the morning.

We only could find one real reference to the Pegasus online, which was a post by Nancy Ellison on a blog called "One for the Table" that offers a taste of the Pegasus' atmosphere in later years:
"The smell of cigarettes and beer was the first aroma that greeted me as I entered the plate glass windowed 1950’s style roadside cafĂ© in the heart of the docks.  The neon lights and lit beer signs offered an odd, alien contrast against the warm glow of the rising sun which rose behind the oil pumps on the road coming in. "

You can read the rest of that article -- which features a great interior photo of the restaurant -- here.

Photos of the Pegasus in the Port archives are pretty scarce; we'd love to see more of the interior and hear some stories, so if you have any memories or photos please share them with us.

The restaurant closed sometime around 1993, and the building is gone now; the property is part of the ongoing Middle Harbor development.

Click here for more photos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bridges to Terminal Island, Part 2

The Badger Avenue Bridge (later the Henry Ford Bridge) looks mighty lonesome back in the 1920s.

In addition to the Gerald Desmond Bridge on the east side of Terminal Island, and the Vincent Thomas Bridge, which has connected the west side of the island to San Pedro since 1963, two spans connect the north side of the island to the mainland. The Henry Ford Bridge and the Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge run parallel to each other, the first carrying rail traffic and the second trucks and autos along the Terminal Island Freeway.

Both are drawbridges that open to allow shipping traffic to pass along the Cerritos Channel, the waterway that connects the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Controls for raising and lowering the Ford Bridge.
The Henry Ford Bridge came first, in 1924, when it was known as the Badger Avenue Bridge (the Ford plant was built next to it in 1930). Photos at the time show the elegant structure rising incongruously out of the mudflats surrounding it. The bridge's designer, Joseph Strauss, was a few years later the chief engineer and one of the designers of the Golden Gate Bridge -- he also wrote poems about the Golden Gate Bridge and the Sequoia redwoods. After the jackknife bridge was removed from the eastern end of Terminal Island in the mid-'30s, the Ford Bridge became the only rail link to the mainland. The original bridge was replaced in 1996 and now serves as a gateway to the Alameda Corridor, the 20-mile rail cargo expressway linking the ports to rail yards east of downtown Los Angeles.

Next to the Ford Bridge is the Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge, named for the commander of the Terminal Island Navy base during World War II. The bridge was built shortly after World War II (and paid for by the Navy). The Heim is part of the 47/103 Freeway and the heavy truck traffic has taken its toll on the bridge; a project is being planned by the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority and Caltrans to replace the drawbridge with a fixed bridge -- you can read about the project here.

Perhaps more interesting than the Heim's planned replacement is its appearance in movies and television shows over the years, the Terminal Island Freeway being (like Shoreline Drive) one of those thoroughfares that's fairly easy to close off for filming with a relative minimum of traffic disruption. Recently, the Heim had a prominent role in Inception -- the heroes' van falls off the bridge to provide them with their "kick" (if you don't know what we're talking about you'll have to see the movie), but here's the scene in question.

And a classic: Mike Connors runs across the Heim at the beginning of every episode of Mannix, to the accompaniment of one of Lalo Schifrin's best themes -- you can check that out here.

We know lots of other films and TV shows have filmed on and around the Heim and Ford bridges and the Terminal Island Freeway (Terminator 2, a couple of the Lethal Weapon movies, for instance), so if you know of any or have any stories about filming, post a comment here and share.

Photo gallery of the Ford and Heim bridges

Pictorial history of the Vincent Thomas Bridge at the Port of L.A. site

The Schuyler F. Heim Bridge today with the replaced Henry Ford Bridge behind it, looking west.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bridges to Terminal Island, Part 1

The bascule or "jackknife" bridge, probably in the 1910s.

Since its earliest days in the 1910s, the Port of Long Beach has needed reliable access to Terminal Island. The first bridge from Long Beach to the island was a single railroad track built on a wooden trestle by the Salt Lake Railway. By 1908, though, it was clear something better (and something that didn't block access to Craig Shipyard) was needed. So in that year the trestle was replaced with a 187-foot bascule drawbridge, commonly referred to as the "jackknife" bridge, because it opened and closed just like a pocket knife.

The jackknife bridge was in place for years, but at some point during the mid-1930s it was removed when the Union Pacific stopped using it. Incredibly, there was no bridge there for several years, leaving the Badger Avenue Bridge (now known as the Henry Ford Bridge) over the Cerritos Channel as the only rail link to Terminal Island. (We'll have more on this bridge in Part 2 of this post.)

Driving over the pontoon bridge had its ups and downs.
When World War II came along, the Navy needed better access to and from its station and shipyard on Terminal Island. So a pontoon bridge was constructed that could be opened and closed to allow ship traffic to pass into and out of the harbor. The pontoon bridge was intended to be a temporary structure in place for six months, but it was used for decades. Many longtime Long Beach residents can tell stories about crossing the peculiar span, which literally floated on the mouth of the L.A. River. Drivers, especially when alcohol was involved, would occasionally go over the side into the water, and traffic would often back up along Ocean Boulevard when ships passed through. In 1946, the Spruce Goose was transported over the pontoon bridge -- you can read more and see pictures here.

In the 1960s, the pontoon bridge was replaced by the Gerald Desmond Bridge, which eliminated the need for a movable bridge and could handle much larger traffic volumes. These days, time and traffic have taken their toll on the Desmond (nets called "diapers" are placed underneath it to catch chunks of concrete), and the bridge is slated for replacement beginning next year. The new bridge will allow the largest post-Panamax ships to enter the Port, as well as accommodate more traffic. For more information on the replacement project, go to

Read a Steve Harvey L.A. Times column about the pontoon bridge.

See a photo gallery of the Terminal Island bridges.

Traffic congestion could be a problem sometimes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Goose picture

Reader John Fry wrote in with this great picture (taken June 15 or 16, 1946) and note (you can click on the picture to blow it up):
"I've been going through some family negatives.  We lived in Navy Housing at West Willard and Santa Fe in the late 1940s.  I believe this is me pointing to the Spruce Goose heading down Santa Fe.  I turned 3 on October 4, 1946."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Koppel Grain Terminal

A Greek freighter picks up a load of wheat at the Koppel Grain Terminal on Pier F soon after its opening in 1961.

For 50 years, one of the more distinctive buildings dotting the Port of Long Beach's skyline has been a set of silos on Pier F.

A worker takes a sample of grain from a conveyor belt inside the silos.
These silos were dedicated in October 1961 as the Koppel Grain Terminal (on Pier A, as it was called then). Built at a cost of $2.5 million (about $19 million in today's dollars), the facility when it opened could load ships at the rate of 1,300 tons per hour and unload them at 150 tons per hour, and also had a mechanism for quickly unloading rail cars by tipping them on their sides.

In 1979, the grain terminal was taken over by Agrex, Inc., a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, and in 1987 the grain facility was converted to handle petroleum coke for Koch Carbon, and it is still in operation today.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the terminal then and now.

The terminal today is a facility for petroleum coke.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A trip down Memory Lane

Tom Jacobsen of Jacobsen Pilot Services watches an artist add his entry to the Memory Lane wall at the Port's 100th Birthday Party.
At the Port's 100th Birthday Party last month on Pier E, one of the most interesting exhibits was our Memory Lane area, which was sponsored by Gensler. There, people with memories of the Port to share could leave a note on the wall or draw something themselves; they also could share their memories and stories with artists who turned those stories into a series of text and drawings.

If you missed the birthday party or just didn't get a chance to take a look at Memory Lane during the festivities, you can get an up close look here at some of the art. Just click here to see a photo gallery; we recommend you click the "full-screen" button in the lower-right corner of the gallery so you can see the art up close.

Adding a note to the Memory Lane wall.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Port's highest honor

President Dwight Eisenhower receives one of the inaugural Honorary Port Pilot Awards in 1954.

Since 1954, the Port of Long Beach has recognized extraordinary contributions to the world of international trade with the Honorary Port Pilot Award. The port's highest honor is named for the harbor port pilots who are entrusted to safely guide cargo ships in and out of the port.

The first group of awardees in '54 included President Dwight Eisenhower, Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie, California Gov. Goodwin Knight and the secretaries of the Navy and Interior.

Awards over the years have gone to notables like the Prime Minister of Japan, President Ronald Reagan, and many other elected and appointed officials. Closer to home, three executive directors of the Port have been honored, and also Capt. J.A. Jacobsen and Richard Jacobsen of Jacobsen Pilot Service, the only father and son to receive the awards.

This year, the award is going to Jon F. Hemingway, CEO of SSA Marine. You can read more about his award here, and you'll find a complete list of recipients at our Port Pilot page.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Miss Universe Pageant

Harbor Commissioner John P. Davis with Miss Universe Hillevi Rombin of Sweden at Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Revue, Nov. 8, 1955.
The Miss Universe Pageant? What does the Port of Long Beach have to do with a beauty pageant? Well, the Port for many years has been heavily involved in sponsoring major civic institutions and events -- today the Port sponsors the July 4 fireworks, the Long Beach Sea Festival, the Grand Prix, and literally dozens of other festivities and programs, large and small, throughout Long Beach.

In 1952, one of the newest and biggest civic events was the Miss Universe Pageant, which was first held here at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium (Armi Kuusela of Finland won the title, and the Miss USA Pageant was held at the same time). Miss Universe held eight pageants in Long Beach before moving to Miami for a long stint; now the ceremony moves among the participating countries.

The Port of Long Beach Miss Universe float, 1955.
Naturally as a civic supporter the Port did its utmost to boost the contest; it ran a float in the annual Miss Universe parade along Ocean Boulevard and hosted the contestants on harbor cruises, at Disneyland and at various events around town. In fact, after Miss Universe left the Port continued to host contestants in the International Beauty Congress competition -- you can see a photo of some of them feeding the sea lions at Pierpoint Landing here.

The Port archives don't have any photos of the ceremonies (although there's a lot of film on YouTube of crownings), but the other events offer great snapshots of Ocean Boulevard, early days at Disneyland and of course some glimpses of 1950s fashion. Enjoy!

You can read more about Miss Universe here.

See a photo gallery of Miss Universe and the Port here.

The 1955 parade rides past "The Seven Year Itch" playing at the Fox West Coast on Ocean.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Soap, shortening and more

The Procter & Gamble plant on what's now Pier C.

A mainstay of manufacturing at the Port of Long Beach for over 55 years was the Procter & Gamble plant, which opened in 1931 on the Seventh Street Peninsula. A couple of years earlier, the same piece of land was the site of the Pacific Southwest Exposition.

A mound of copra is stored at the P&G facility.
From 1931 until the plant closed in 1988, workers there produced familiar products like Ivory soap, Tide and Cascade detergents, Crisco shortening and many more. Raw materials like copra, the dried meat of coconuts used to produce coconut oil, came in ships to docks adjacent to the plant and were stored for use in manufacturing.

In 1987, Procter & Gamble decided to close the plant as a cost-saving measure, but the area is still a source of jobs: the Port purchased the land and turned it into a container terminal. Now Matson/SSA operates on what is now called Pier C.

If you worked at the Procter & Gamble plant we'd love to hear from you -- you can use our Share Your Memories page to contact us.

Click here for a photo gallery with more images from the Procter and Gamble plant.

Read a 1987 Los Angeles Times article about the plant's closure.

Rose Hart inspects bottles of Crisco oil at the plant, probably in 1981.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Matson memories

A sign advertising Matson's terminal at the Port of Los Angeles (Photo courtesy of Matson)

Reader Tom Kennedy wrote us to share some reminiscences of working at Matson back in the 1950s and 1960s when they were at the Port of Los Angeles. His duties, as he explains, took him to the Port of Long Beach often, and he tells the story of what it was like dealing with bulk cargo in the days before containerization:

During the 1950s and ’60s Matson Navigation Co. was located at Berths 195-200A in Wilmington L.A. Harbor. Matson’s main business was to serve the Hawaiian Islands. The main eastbound — Hawaii to mainland — was agricultural in the form of pineapples and sugar. Hawaii was not yet a state in the earlier period of this span. A big requirement for Hawaii was large quantities of fertilizer: potash, urea, etc. This product was shipped into the bulk terminal at Long Beach in rail cars – gondolas/hopper cars etc. mainly from Trona, Calif., and other points – trains sometimes from a quarter- to a half-mile long.

Dealing with sand or a similar bulk cargo at the Port of
Long Beach, 1955 (Port of Long Beach photo)
My position with Matson at that time was to arrange for our vessels to load this cargo at the Long Beach bulk loading terminal. My contact at the time was Mr. Chuck Murray of Metropolitan Stevedoring. He was a great guy to work with. We had excellent rapport and enjoyed our association.

The vessels we used at that time were C3s and possibly an odd Victory or Liberty. Matson subsidiary Oceanic SS Co., with trade routes in the Southern Pacific, also used the Long Beach loading facility. They carried large cargoes of sand – yes, sand from Australia. It was a special kind of sand – zircon and rutile and was used in the production of titanium metal. When the bulk sand was unloaded from the vessel it was transferred to rail cars and dispatched to the Titanium Metal Corp. in Henderson, Nev.

Matson also handled a large volume of military cargo for M.S.T.S. (Military Sea Transport Service), whose distribution center was in Long Beach Harbor. I dealt with a Mr. A.D. Cole, manager, there (now deceased). It required routing the vessel to the Long Beach facility for loading, mostly foodstuffs and autos, to and from Pearl Harbor plus a myriad of other commodities.

Matson's Port of LA terminal during the early days of
containerization (Photo courtesy of Matson)
Time marches on and with the advent of containerization in the mid- to late ’60s American Potash and Chemical Co. etc. were forced to pack the fertilizer in 100-pound paper sacks and ship in rail cars to the LB/LA area to be transferred to ocean containers for shipment to Hawaii. They may now load containers at origin and ship direct to the line, of that I’m not sure, but it would seem to be logical.

I don’t know what happened to the sand. The Oceanic SS Co. ceased to do business.

Matson is now a tenant of the Port of Long Beach, using SSA for their stevedoring. 

Matson at Pier C in the Port of Long Beach in 2007. (Port of Long Beach photo)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Making 100 years of history

At our 100th Birthday Party on June 25, our Centennial documentary, Faces of the Port: Remembering 100 Years, will premiere in two screenings, at 3 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.

The documentary, which took about a year to assemble, features interviews with two dozen people about the history of the Port, as well as historic photographs and rare film footage unearthed by the team at Media 360, who made the film. The story is narrated by actor Robert Wagner.

You can read all about the making of Faces of the Port here.

To find out more about the Port's 100th Birthday Party, visit, and to reserve seats at one of the screenings, visit

Watch the trailer:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Angels at the Port

Many films, television series and commercials use the Port of Long Beach as a location -- we'll be featuring some of them in upcoming blog posts.

Reader Robert Aguilar, Jr. worked on one of those productions and wrote in with this memory:

"My first visit to the Port of Long Beach was during the filming of Charlie's Angels - Full Throttle in 2002, where I worked on the production staff. In this photo you will see the Angels in the coal fields riding motorcycles. It was a great scene and the people at the Port were fun to work with. In this picture: Drew Barrymore, Long Beach local Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu."

Those "coal fields" are just a memory now, too. Not too long after this photo was taken, all the petroleum coke stored at and shipped through the Port of Long Beach was covered up or enclosed to drastically reduce the release of polluting dust into the air. The coke facilities are still in operation on Piers F and G.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Passengers got a musical welcome

P&O Orient Lines' SS Iberia

Reader Margo Mills Fallis writes in with a memory of the Port:

"In 1962 our ship, SS Iberia, docked in Long Beach. My parents and four of their five children, including me, had left Sydney, Australia to sail to America and start a new Life. I was nearly ten years old at the time.

"As the ship docked, I remember there was a band playing 'California Here We Come.' That stuck in my mind to this day (now age 57).

"We were taken to huge building and our luggage was there, stacked higher than I was. We were there for a very long time and I was so tired."

That band playing for the incoming passengers was none other than the Long Beach Municipal Band, which will hold its season-opening concert this year at the Port's 100th Birthday Party on Saturday, June 25.

The Municipal Band often played for passengers of incoming passenger liners, which in those days were mostly from the P&O Orient Line, in the 1950s and '60s as part of a program to welcome visitors to Long Beach. The program, which was started by the Downtown Kiwanis Club, provided telephone facilities and personal help for incoming passengers who might need to see a doctor or dentist, for instance, or just find out how to get to Disneyland.

One notable occasion for a Municipal Band performance, pictured below, came in December 1962, after another P&O liner, the Oriana, collided with the Navy carrier Kearsarge in dense fog off the coast of Long Beach. While the Oriana underwent repairs, the Port, city and Chamber of Commerce, along with private individuals and other civic groups, donated funds for the stranded passengers to be entertained at local homes and attractions, including the music of the renowned Long Beach band.

For more about the Municipal Band, go to

For more about the Port's 100th Birthday Party, go to

Click here for photos and more information about the SS Iberia

The Long Beach Municipal Band gives a concert to the stranded passengers of the liner Oriana in December 1962.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our 100th Birthday movie

Check out the trailer for our 100th Birthday movie -- Faces of the Port: Remembering 100 Years, which will have its premiere screenings at our 100th Birthday Party event on Saturday, June 25. The movie, narrated by Robert Wagner, features stories about the port from some famous and not-so-famous Long Beachers, as well as rare photos and film footage from our history.

The event and the screenings are free, but we ask that you sign up for a seat at one of the screenings at

You can find out more about our party at

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A world-class Exposition

An aerial shot of the Pacific Southwest Exposition taken Aug. 11, 1928. The picture is taken looking southwest toward Terminal Island; the bascule or "jack-knife" bridge can be seen in the background. In the foreground, beyond the parking lot (accessed from Seventh Street) is the main entrance, with the Avenue of Nations at top left, the Pool of Reflections at center, and the mammoth Palace of Industry, complete with its Muezzin Tower, at rear center. Beyond that is the Exposition's amusement zone.
Civic leaders meet on the Seventh Street Peninsula to
plan the Pacific Southwest Exposition. This sandy spot
was the location of the fair and is now Pier C -- a bustling
container cargo terminal.

Sometime in 1926, a group of civic leaders gathered on the Seventh Street Peninsula, a sandy spot just north of the oldest parts of the Port of Long Beach. In later years the peninsula would be the site of a Procter & Gamble factory and today it's the SSA/Matson container terminal on Pier C. But these civic leaders weren't planning a new pier or cargo processing facility, they were planning a festival.

As we plan our 100th Birthday Party on June 25 (be sure to come! -- click here for more information), we're looking back at one of the biggest events ever put on at the Port of Long Beach -- the Pacific Southwest Exposition of 1928.

In addition to well-known Long Beach names like Charles A. Buffum and William F. Prisk, the exposition's board included four current or soon-to-become Harbor Commissioners: Harvey C. Fremming, Nelson McCook, Irwin M. Stevens and John F. Craig, who owned Craig Shipyard, the first business at the Port of Long Beach.

One of the Moorish covered walkways lining the Garden Court, just
inside the Exposition entrance.
The Exposition opened July 27, 1928.  As it was described in the book Long Beach Art Deco by John. W. Thomas, Suzanne Tarbell Cooper and J. Christopher Launi, "There were exhibits devoted to the control of the prairie dog, a miniature German cathedral, methods for growing hair and methods to keep it from growing, motor cars, machinery, and Krishnamurti's method of happiness. There were races and water sports and opera singers and, of course, sandwiches, sodas, and various treats available to revive flagging energies."

As described on KenBlog, a website dedicated to World's Fairs and other expositions, the Pacific Southwest Exposition was designed to resemble a Tunisian city, with two courtyards overlooked by the Palace of Industry's Muezzin Tower, from which an Arab issued calls to prayer each day.

Other buildings included the Palace of Fine Arts, the Palace of Education and Liberal Arts, the Palace of Textiles and Modes, the Palace of Transportation and the California Building. On the south side of the Exposition was the "Avenue of Nations" (on the left side of the picture at top), which featured exhibits from all over the world in appropriately styled buildings.

Like many World's Fair-type structures, the buildings weren't intended to be permanent; the palaces were constructed mostly of wood, covered with plaster and stucco, and many of the roofs were made of tightly stretched white canvas.  By the time the event closed in September it had, by most estimates, drawn just over a million people to the Long Beach waterfront.

For a wealth of information on the Pacific Southwest Exposition, including pictures and detailed descriptions of many of the individual buildings, we encourage you to visit KenBlog.

The Los Angeles Public Library also has an extensive collection of photographs of the exposition in its online archives. You can view them by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Memorable evening on the Missouri

The USS Missouri undergoing refitting at the Long Beach
Naval Shipyard in 1985. (U.S. Navy photo)

Reader Mary Barton of Long Beach wrote to share the following memory with us:

One of the most memorable evenings of my life occurred on the deck of a Navy ship at the Port of Long Beach.

Both my parents were in the South Pacific during World War II -- my mother, Hazel Barton, as an Army nurse stationed at various island field hospitals, and my father, Patrick Barton, as a member of the Signal Corps. Thus, as a small child born just after the War, my earliest memories are of my parents' war stories -- some grisly but all quite compelling.  No doubt those vivid stories prompted my lifelong interest in Japan and her people.

So, when the U.S.S. Missouri was docked at the L.B. Naval Station in the early 1990's on one of her last voyages, I was thrilled to be part of a private group who toured her decks.  I was mesmerized at the spot where Gen. MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender -- only a few feet from the turret of a large anti-aircraft gun. I recalled the newsreels of that signing, with the Japanese in coats and tails and MacArthur in his fatigues. A fitting ending to a horrific war.

But the incredible irony of the event was this: My companions that evening were mostly Japanese!  As a member of a unique study group of some locals and some Japanese expatriate executives, we met monthly for dinner at interesting places. Together some 40+ years after the surrender, we wandered the very site of that surrender, which ultimately made our friendship possible.  I'll never forget them nor that evening on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Moving the Spruce Goose, Part 2

The hull of the Spruce Goose on the Pontoon Bridge
heading to Terminal Island, June 1946.

In 1946, despite the end of World War II, Howard Hughes was continuing development of a massive flying boat, designated the H-4 Hercules and popularly known as the Spruce Goose.

The massive plane was constructed at Hughes Airport, just southwest of Culver City. But now it was time for final assembly of the plane, followed by testing, and the Port of Long Beach was chosen for this stage of the project, specifically Berth 120 on Pier E, at the southeast end of Terminal Island. (This is part of Pier T today.)

On June 11, 1946, Star House Movers began driving the 160-foot-long wing sections on a 28-mile route to Terminal Island. From the 15th to the 16th, the hull of the plane was moved. Utility companies had to raise or cut 2,300 power and phone lines along the route, which took the hull down Santa Fe Avenue and eventually over the Pontoon Bridge onto Terminal Island.

The assembled plane at Pier E, Berth 120.
Once in place, the pieces of the flying boat were assembled over the next year, until it was time for taxi tests on November 2, 1947. During the tests, Hughes opened up the throttles and the plane lifted off the water briefly for the plane's only flight.

The Spruce Goose (a name disliked by Hughes, plus the plane was made mostly of birch) then was returned to its hangar where it remained under wraps until 1980, when it was moved out in preparation for its move to the dome next to the Queen Mary.

Read about the later moves of the Spruce Goose

Photo gallery of the Spruce Goose's 1946 move and 1947 flight

The wings are moved down Seaside Boulevard. The Cyclone Racer
and other Long Beach landmarks can be seen in the background.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

We're looking for Navy stories

The Long Beach Naval Shipyard and Naval Station were a hugely important part of the Port of Long Beach for over 50 years, and the Navy has been in Long Beach for much longer. If you have stories or photos of Navy days here in Long Beach, we'd love to hear from you.

We've been looking through our archive and, although we have quite a few pictures of the base, the shipyards and ships, we don't have too many pictures of the people who kept the Shipyard and Naval Station going, so we're especially looking for anecdotes and pictures that would share the story of those people.

You can use our Share Your Memories form to send us a story or picture.

Herman the German

Herman the German lifts the Spruce Goose in 1980.

An icon on the Port of Long Beach's skyline for nearly 50 years was the floating crane YD-171, located at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. The crane was, of course, much better known by its unofficial nickname, "Herman the German" and it made its home at the Port from 1948 until 1996.

The nearly 375-foot-tall crane came by its "German" moniker honestly; it was one of three giant floating cranes seized by the Allies from the Nazis at the end of World War II. The Russians and British each had sister cranes but were unable to transport them successfully to their home countries.

The Navy carefully dismantled Herman and shipped it to Long Beach via the Panama Canal, reconstructing it in Long Beach at a cost of $350,000 (about $3.2 million today). The crane was erected here in January 1948 and after extensive testing put into operation on New Year's Eve, 1948.

Some interesting facts about YD-171: its hoisting capacity was 386 tons (but tests took that up to 425 tons), it used 11,681 feet of wire rope and its three 900-horsepower diesel engines at full load used 144 gallons of fuel per hour at 100% load.

Herman lifted ships, parts of ships, and even other cranes, but one of its most notable lifting jobs was in the early 1980s, when the crane was used to lift the Spruce Goose in preparation for its move to the dome next to the Queen Mary.

After the closure of the Naval Shipyard in the early 1990s, it was decided that Herman was no longer needed at the Port of Long Beach (its diesel emissions were a concern as well) and the crane was shipped in 1996 to Panama, where it is still in operation at the Canal. No longer "Herman the German," now the crane is "la Titan."

Read an article on Herman's move from Long Beach to Panama

Herman the German photo gallery

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wedding bells at Harbor Plaza

The wedding of Jo and David Murray, November 19, 1983.

The Port of Long Beach Administration Building has been the backdrop for a variety of unique events, from international trade festivals to beauty contests and more. One of the most memorable was the wedding of David and Jo Murray back in 1983. Jo Murray sent us some photos and her memories of this unique occasion:

"My husband, David, and I were married in front of 925 Harbor Plaza Drive on November 19, 1983.

"We tied the knot at the Port (in the same spot where the international beauties brought water to the reflection pool [at the dedication of the building in 1959 - Ed.])  and held our reception in the grassy area by the huge anchor - complete with a mariachi band that could play "Hava Nagila"!

"Afterwards, we made our escape via a yacht that was docked by the Reef Restaurant.

"Today we have been married 27 years and live in Long Beach, volunteering for sailing regattas, like Congressional Cup, sponsored by the Port of Long Beach."

The Murrays' honeymoon getaway yacht,
docked near The Reef restaurant.
We asked Jo why she and her husband picked the Port for their wedding:

"We love the ocean, cruise ships, and sailing. I worked my way through college as a tour guide at the Queen Mary - and I loved the rooftop view at the Port Building - so that was my wish - but the Port felt it was too risky to have a wedding on the roof - so they offered the front area. It turned out wonderful- with the band playing by the huge anchor and all.

"While I was a guide, I started collecting house flags from various shipping companies. Many times the captains and officers from cargo ships that were in the Port would visit the Queen Mary tour and invite tour guides to visit their ships and join them for a meal aboard. As a memento of our tour and dinner on these cargo ships, often the captain would present us with a house flag.  I grew to feel a special bond with the Port and the ships that visited.

"Being married there was special - we didn't want to leave the ceremony in a limo - we wanted to leave by sailing into the sunset - and a Port wedding made that possible. The Port is more to us than commerce for our community - it has a special romantic, adventuresome place in our hearts."

To see more photos from the Murrays' wedding, click here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Setting the pace at the Grand Prix

The Port's pace car at the 2010 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is this weekend and the Port of Long Beach is once again helping sponsor the event. The Port provides part of the race's visual backdrop as cars hurtle along Shoreline Drive at high speed, which they've been doing since 1975.

An old Port of Long Beach sponsor logo can be seen
in this shot from a 1980s Grand Prix.
One highly visible aspect of the Port's involvement with the race started in 2008, when the Port became an Official Pace Car Sponsor. That year, our hybrid Toyota Prius helped set the pace in five races. The Port has also participated in the Grand Prix's popular Lifestyle Expo, which highlights electric, bio-diesel and hydrogen cars, along with other aspects of green technology.

When it's not race time, the Port's green (in both senses) pace car can be seen around town at many community events, showcasing the Port's Green Port Policy and our commitment to environmental initiatives.

The Belmont Shore Christmas Parade is just one event where you'll
find the Port of Long Beach's iconic green pace car.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pierpoint Landing's animal attraction

Contestants in the International Beauty Congress stop by the sea lion pool at Pierpoint Landing, 1960.
We came across some more photos of Pierpoint Landing in our archives last week, and coincidentally a reader wrote in, almost at the same time we were uploading the photos, to share her memories of the sportfishing mecca's famous animal attraction:

"I am a 52-year-old mother who has the fondest memories of Pierpoint Landing, especially the seal tank. My father would take our whole family for crab and smoked fish, while I could not wait to get there to feed MY seals!

"My father would give me change so I could buy a bag of anchovies to feed MY seals. This would go on all day until it started getting dark. To this day when I see a seal it reminds me of one of the best times of my life.

"Now that I am a parent to a 25-year-old and at 26-year-old I share this story with them. They now go to [the new] Pierpoint Landing often for the sport fishing!

"Thank you for having this forum to express my happy memories. I thought I was the only person that knew about the seals...OH YEH "MY SEALS".....THANK YOU!"

-- Elizabeth Gomez

More pics of Pierpoint Landing

Our original post on Pierpoint Landing

Pierpoint Landing circa 1964.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fond memories of The Reef's early days

View from The Reef's patio, 1964, includes the Cyclone Racer and Municipal Auditorium.
Those drinks don't look bad either.
A reader sent in these reminiscences about the Reef Restaurant, which opened on what was then Pier A in August 1958. The Polynesian-themed restaurant was the brainchild of LA-area restaurateur David Tallichet and George Millay, who went on to create Sea World. The restaurant burned in the mid-'70s but was then rebuilt and is still in operation today.

Here's what one of our readers had to say about his time working at The Reef:

"My first job in California was at the wonderful 'Reef Restaurant' -- one of the first destination restaurants in those days. The place was so busy that on Friday and Saturday nights there was always a two-hour wait to get in. The decor was island and we looked more like an island than if you were there.

"I worked there as a waiter, head waiter and asst. manager. The manager in those days was Ralph Fulton and I will say he was the best. He knew everybody in town and then some.

"People drove a hundred miles to have dinner and see the view of Long Beach all the way down the coast to Newport. I moved on but will never forget my time in the Port of Long Beach."
-- Philip Compton

Photos of the original Reef are practically non-existent in the Port's archives and online as well; you can see some more pictures in our photo gallery, but we'd love to see and share some more images, particularly of the building's interior -- please pass them along if you have any.

You can find some more information and menus from the Reef's early days at the Tiki Central site.

Or find out more about the Reef Restaurant today.