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.