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Jun 15, 2008

Tribute to My Daddy

A younger photo of my Dad, Craig.(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Today, I am honoring my wonderful dad, Craig. I am also offering a glimpse of Dad's beloved Long Beach, California: the birthplace of all 5 members of my family. While growing up, my dad transferred his love for Long Beach by faithfully pointing out notable landmarks, the history behind them, and his personal experiences. I have never tired of it. With every shared memory, he has made his childhood much more tangible to me.

My daddy has always supported my endeavors. I have many memories of seeing his smiling, approving face in the audiences as I was performing. He watched my back. It felt good to know that I wasn't alone in my battles. In fact, there are still issues that can easily arouse him.

Dad was active with my Girl Scout camping trips and activities, girl's basketball, carnivals, school projects, and he regularly took us to the local beaches in his '56 Chevy—mostly to Seal Beach. He would frequently pack school lunches for me and write messages in black felt pen on my bananas. Very much a prankster, we still hide toothpicks in one another's sandwiches.

My dad is fun-loving and still retains much of his boyhood playfulness. He is known for his joke telling. Although he loves hearing jokes, I am convinced that he delights far more in the telling of jokes.

There's a soft side to my dad as well. Occasionally, when he knew he had blown it, there were always tender moments of apology that still make me puddle up. It was these times of sharing that created a deeper bond and understanding between the two of us.
Dad was born in Long Beach, California in 1932. On March 10th, just a few months after his birth, he survived the Great 1933 Long Beach Earthquake. This Magnitude 6.4 quake took 120 lives and caused considerable damage, largely due to unreinforced masonry structures. State Geologist, Dr. John Parrish recently wrote, "Experts concluded that if children and their teachers were in school at the time of the earthquake, casualties would have been in the thousands."
1933 Earthquake damage: Long Beach Upholstery, private apartments, and Lincoln Dry Cleaners on E. 4th Street.

For the most part, my Dad was raised in Long Beach, having lived briefly out of state. He graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School in 1950 and was married to my mother, Kathy, in 1957.
Growing up in Long Beach was anything but boring. Aside from having access to beaches, mountains, and desert, my Dad had a lavish playground called The Pike. This seaside amusement park was popular from 1902 to the 1960's. It was home to a wooden dual-track racing roller coaster called the Cyclone Racer; and it also had a carousel, a ferris wheel, an indoor salt water swimming pool called The Plunge, and a theater called the Strand.

The Strand, originally called Hoyt's Theater.

Recently, my dad wrote down some of his memories concerning another aspect of Long Beach life. As part of this tribute, allow me to share what he wrote.

"The University by the Sea," by Craig Matheny

During most of WWII, I lived within walking distance of Downtown Long Beach, The Pike, and The Strand (originally called Hoyt's Theater and made to look like a scaled down version of the Metropolitan.) Long Beach was famous for it's Rainbow Pier which surrounded the Municipal Auditorium.

A hand tinted vintage postcard of "The Pike" - 1913.
Operated by I. D. Looff, known for building the first Carousel on Coney Island in 1875.
Cardcow.com

A hand tinted vintage postcard showing an "everyday crowd" on the beach. "The Pike" is in the background. Cardcow.com

A vintage photo depicting the same scene as the above postcard.

A hand tinted vintage postcard of a "typical bathing scene" in Long Beach. "The Pike," is in the background. Cardcow.com

Inside the rainbow, the pier jutted out into the water allowing a fairly large area for community gatherings. One such venue was the Spit & Argue Club or as the Long Beach City Council later sanitized it, the University by the Sea. Some even categorized it as a poor man's Toastmaster.


Hand tinted vintage postcard of "The Spit & Argue Club" on Long Beach's Rainbow Pier. Cardcow.com


The Spit & Argue Club location consisted of a walk-up platform and a podium. There were no pre-scheduled speakers. There was simply a black chalkboard where one could write their name down in half hour intervals. If no one was scheduled for the following time slot, the individual could speak for as long as they wished or until they were booted off stage.

One could speak on any subject that was acceptable at that time. Mostly men participated. The audience was often quite vocal in their responses to the speaker—mostly in fun.


The "Long Beach Almanac," written by Tim Grobaty, quoted a traveling reporter from the Des Moines Register describing a typical day on a May morning in 1937:


"It's breakfast time, but the Spit & Argue Club is already in session, the University by the Sea. White shavings from the knives of the whittlers are littering the spacious rectangle off Rainbow Pier reserved for the open air debaters. Soon the whittling may be an inch deep.

"A terse sign says 'Minors Not allowed.' Not to protect the youngsters from candor beyond their years, from revelations about marriage and morals and sex. These topics are too trivial for the Spit & Argue Club.

"The philosophers on their benches deal with the eternal verities: religion and cattle and proper plowing; public affairs, the New Deal, the Supreme Court, liquor and the war in Europe; and they don't want to be disturbed by the presence and the half-baked, immature prattlings of fledglings."
Craig continues...
I was in my early teens when I decided to attend the Spit & Argue Club to watch the fun with some of my peers. To my horror and embarrassment I discovered that my Grandfather, Nels Jacobsen, was on the platform preaching! I was aware that Grandpa Nels would visit the Club; however, I did not know that he would make a spectacle of himself. Yet, to my surprise, no one heckled him. Instead they treated him with respect while he shared about his "Yee-sus," (Grandpa was Danish and this was how he pronounced the name of Jesus.)

That moment began to develop in me a great pride for my Grandfather. Nels had been born Denmark and when he first arrived in South Dakota, there were no churches. Having been a life-long Christian, he became a circuit rider, probably on horseback, visiting private homes on Sundays where local residents would gather to hear the Word of God. Nels would lead Worship while playing hymns on his autoharp. Later he relocated to Long Beach, California and then eventually moved to the desert.

The old Auditorium with trolley tracks, 1929. A founding member of the Long Beach Symphony Society said that the acoustics were wonderful and that you could hear the waves lapping the shore beneath the floor.

Hand tinted vintage postcard of the lagoon on the west side of the auditorium. Cardcow.com

Long Beach Auditorium and Rainbow Pier. Cardcow.com

A 1930's view of the Jergins Trust Building which housed the State theater at 104 E. Ocean. There was a popular arcade located beneath the building which could be accessed from the north side of Ocean Blvd via a tunnel. That tunnel still exists but is blocked off at both ends.

Another look at the State theater. A woman owned an "out of town" newspaper shop called "Universal News" at 34 South Pine. She moved from the Ocean Center Building in 1957 to the Jergins Trust Building. She can be seen standing in front of her shop, along side the State, in the movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," filmed in 1963.

Symphony Hall, 1932, the year my dad was born.

Long Beach Hippodrome convention area.

Newer Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, 1932.

Thank-you, Daddy, for being such a wonderful father and for making your memories, mine. I LOVE YOU!

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

11 comments:

Beverly said...

KJ, I am so glad you have your daddy still with you. Every word in this post demonstrates your love and respect for him. And, I love that picture of your father - with the twinkle in his eye.

We girls do have a "thing" for our daddies, don't we. I was definitely a daddy's girl, and I can't tell you how I wish I could have one of his hugs again. The love, faith and support they give us certainly has made us what we are today.

It is so interesting to read about Long Beach from your father's perspective. I love old postcards, and I have many of Florida through the years.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful father with us. He brightened my day.

BailiwickDesigns said...

What a lovely post! Long Beach wasn't so far from Manhattan Beach, where I grew up, but I mostly remember the harbor area because we sailed there a lot from Redondo Beach.

Lucky you to still have your dad around! ::Jill

Mary Isabella said...

A very beautiful tribute to your special Dad......Mary

Judy Hartman said...

What a sweet tribute to your Dad, KJ. Yes, you are fortunate to have him with you, and how happy he must be with this great post about him. He sounds like a wonderful Dad.
Hugs,
Judy

Judy Hartman said...

What a sweet tribute to your Dad, KJ. Yes, you are fortunate to have him with you, and how happy he must be with this great post about him. He sounds like a wonderful Dad.
Hugs,
Judy

Connie W said...

What a beautiful post and such enjoyable photos.

Tea Time and Roses said...

Hi Karen!

What a beautiful post for a special Dad. Thanks so much for sharing. Have a most lovely week!

Smiles...

Beverly

BittersweetPunkin said...

What a wonderful post and a very moving tribute to your father!
Blessings,
Robin

KJ said...

Thank-you, ladies, for your kind comments. This was a labor of love and I actually learned so many things during the research. It's nice to share my heart with a caring audience!

I will be making blog calls tomorrow. Finally.

I have had laryngitis and my energy has been low. I went to a nutritionist today who shed some light on my symptoms. It makes total sense. It will be nice to wind down tomorrow morning and see what all of you have been up to !

Hugs, KJ

Julie said...

What a wonderful tribute to your dad - and to Long Beach too!

ShabbyInTheCity said...

THIS is the best post! I loved every word of it!
How about that auditorium?!!! Wow! Is it still there?