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Food for Thought #4: Los Al restaurants on Katella

The fourth of our series showing us how we have eaten our way through the Los Al-Rossmoor area over the years.  This time we check out the kabobs and quiches, etc. of Katella Avenue, working our way from East to West, starting at Walker (kind  of)

Katella – (East Los Alamitos)

On the Greens catering center at the Navy Golf Course.  Also previously called the Eagles Nest and probably 50 other different names before that.  .   And yes, we know it’s not on Katella (and you have to go in the baack way off Orangewood to get to it), but we didn’t know where else to put it.  

Costco – 5401 Katella Ave. – OK, we’ll admit this one is a stretch, but technically, it’s on what was once part of the Rancho Los Alamitos, and who in Los Alamitos or Rossmoor hasn’t snuck over there for a quick dog, polish or pizza?

Ricabob – 5350 Katella Avenue.    (opened around October 1979 “under ownership of Richard Pesce and Bob Farah. The theme is horse racing with paintings and etchings of classic racehorses throughout.”   It operated until at least October 1983.

Lechuga’s – 5350 Katella Avenue – as one reader wrote “I have never forgotten the tamales and homemade flan from a restaurant at the corner of Katella and Winners Circle named Lechuga’s.” There was a Lechuga’s in Hawaiian Gardens, and then this one was in Los Alamitos for a few years

The Rib Restaurant – 5350 Katella Avenue (July 1989 – 2001) –   They hosted professional meetings during the day.  Karaoke takes place Saturday nights at 9pm.  The place was still going strong in 1995 when Dr. Toot played some Big band jazz there.  Chein Lo was the owner.

John’s Cafe – 5350 Katella Ave. (Jan 2002 – Jul 2003)

Gourmet Pie –  5350 Katella Avenue –  (Mar 2004 – current) This eatery owned by the Richards family, originally opened on Ball Avenue in Cypress, just east of Bloomfield, but moved to this location in 2004 and has been rocking it ever since.

Alejandro’s –  5340 Katella Avenue (the spot where they built the big building that became Tilo’s, and then a Grateful Hearts thrift store)  Alejandro’s opened as early as Dec 1979. In Jan 1980 Rossmoor Women’s Club held some luncheon meetings there.  It bwas still open in 1984 and 1985 when Jim Rice and the Stagefright band were the regular house entertainment.   



The Bottle Shop & Spirits / Finish Line Food Store – 5084 Katella Ave. (directly across from the Race track entrance in the Starting  Gate center) 

There was a meat market at 5078 Katella (in the Starting Gate center).  A 1965 want ad lists “MEAT MKT, OC shopping center, Los Alamitos.  the store for sale.  Must sell at once!”  Any ideas?

Los Alamitos Turf Club – 5052 Katella Ave. For those who enjoy such arcane stuff, the track was considered to be in Los Alamitos until 1960 when the politics, greed, and the tempting lure of deferred taxes reared their combined ugly heads.  So we included it in our list.   

The Paddock  5052 Katella (1965c-1980)  Multiple references indicate The Paddock opened for business in 1965.  At the time its decor was nice enough that the Cypress Womens’ Club held monthly meetings there.  Its owner, Elmos Scheele, was robbed of $225 in August 1965.  Around 1970 it was bought by Rex Hovanian, who had recently left the navy.  A late December 1969 article about New Years Eve restaurant possibilities, noted that The Paddock featured “roast prime rib fit for a king, including a succulent, juicy slice of beef with soup, top-notch salad, baked potato and garlic toast.  $2.95.  His noodle soup with chunks of beef is worth the $1 a bowl.” 
     Hovanian apparently had a troubled relationship with the Los Al Police department.  In 1976 he filed suit against the city, saying that since he bought the place in 1970 the police had systematically “willfully, knowingly harassed and humiliated him, his employees and customers, costing him an estimated $270,000 in revenue, which went from $275,000 revenue in 1970 to about $145,000 in 1975.  Calling the police goofy, he said the police “think I’m with the underworld, and that a lot of gamblers, bagmen and underworld characters come in here. ” He also said the Los Al police had it in for the racetrackers since it’s in Cypress and they don’t get any money from it.”  In January 1980, Hovanian sold the bar to Kenny Brandyberry who renamed it The Starting Gate

Starting Gate – 5052 Katella Avenue  Kenny Brandyberry bought the Paddock in January 1980 and renamed it to The Starting Gate.  Amidst the urban Cowboy craze, the live country music of the Starting Gate made the club a little too popular according to neighbors, with weekend nights attracting as many as 400-500 people for a room capacity of 225.  He utilized a banquet room to handle the overflow, and instituted a $2 cover charge to keep out the wrong elements.  Still, the city held hearings .

The Hungry Hound  – 5008 Katella Avenue – (opened in 1967 – was still there in March 1975 when it was robbed of $60).  Apparently did a great business as people left the nearby Paddock and needed a good and greasy burger or dog to neutralize the excess tequila sunrises waiting to clang around in the brain the next morning.  (Was it still around when the Paddock became The Starting Gate?) 

Monnie’s Fine Foods – 5008 Katella Ave. (listed in 1968 Chamber Directory) 

Katella Garden – 5008 Katella (Dec 1992-Nov 2008)

Paul’s Place II – 5008 Katella Avenue

Classic Burgers – 5008 Katella  (2008-2017)  – The menu was very similar to Paul’s Place, and it seemed to have a loyal following.  The Business license said Classic Burger #8

Potholder Cafe 4 – (Late 2017-    )   5008 Katella Avenue – the fourth of four Potholder cafes opened by Los Al grad Kevin Pittsey.  This one he co-owns with long-time employee Veronica Gutierrez, who is the site manager.

La Salsa  –   4959 Katella Ave. –  (around 2006 

Aroma Italiano   — 4959 Katella Ave  (2013-2018).   – Yes, we know this restaurant is also technically in Cypress, but it has a Los Alamitos mailing address (go figure, another one of those Los Al oddities) so we included it.   Umberto Ortoli opened it in 2013, and sold it to Ken Lee in 2016.  and in early 2019 Bernardo  of Cafe Del Sol leased the site when he was forced to move from his Oak & Katella location. 

Cafe del Sol –  (2019 – ) 4959 Katella Ave. 

Coldstone’s – 4957 Katella Ave. 

Don’s Turf Motel Coffee Shop – 

Los Alamitos Country Club — 4561 Katella Ave, — (Ditto on the ‘Yes, we know it’s in Cypress’ thing).   Not only that, but the old Golf Course snack shack should also be included in here.

The Pub at Fiddler’s Green (on the military base) 

Between Lexington & Noel

Arrowhead Cafe – 4411 Katella Ave – lunch stand inside the Arrowhead Products campus,.  Katella Caterig Cafe in 2018.

Katella Bakery & Deli [at its current site from May 1985 – to present] — 4470 Katella Ave.  This establishment first opened in the Rossmoor Village Center (current location of Polly’s Pies) in 1964.  Everyone calls it the Katela Deli but its official name was the Katella Bakery-Deli-Restaurant. 

Video Time Pizza 4390 Katella Avenue (1975 – 1998)

Ganso Island Grill – 4390 Katella (at least since July 1998 – ) owned by Goichi Kazuko Tsukahara.

Natura Juice Bar & Acai Bowls – 4390 Katella 

Xtreme Sushi – 4348 Katella  (they’ve had a business license since at least 1995 – )

EspressSub, etc. – 4340 Katella Avenue – Nov. 2001-July 2002)

Coffee & Yogurt – 4340 Katella Avenue (Dec 2007-Jul 2008)

Cafe 629 & Sweet 16 Yogurt – 43340 Katella Ave. (Feb 2009 – Jun 2013)

Perk Place – coffee shop May 1997-2001)

City Sandwich Co. – 4280 Katella

Bahay Kawayan 4280 Katella Ave. (Nov 2009 – Bov 2012)

India Kitchen – 4280 Kitchen Ave. (Dec 2012 – Jan 2013)

Coconut Rabbit (c.2012) – 4280 Katella  – changed ownership in 2017

Do-Nut Hut – 4272 Katella 

Der Weinerschnitzel – 4240 Katella  ( Sep 2003 – Sep 2012)

Adelberto’s – 4240 Katella  (2012 – 

Between Noel & Bloomfield

Red Robin – 4232 Katella (at the corner of Noel) was advertising for chefs and saying opening soon in September 1985.   This was the second in OC – the first being at South Coast Plaza.  Festive food and drinks in a fun atmosphere.  Must not have been that muh fun although they were still open as of September 1987. 

The Good Earth –  4232 Katella Avenue – “They were first offering “health foods” in our area.”

Denny’s – 4232 Katella Avenue  – It was a Denny’s by 1996, when a guy robbed the joint and led police on a long chase up the 605 and along the 91 freeways.   And it was still serving up the Grand Slam breakfast for many a year after that.  

Edible Arrangements – 4230 Katella  

Subway – 4216 Katella Avenue 

Mega Health Food 4141 Katella Ave (May 1996-April 2000)

Between Bloomfield & Los Alamito Blvd. 

Sheldon’s Corner cafe (Hospital Coffee Shop)  3771 Katella #115, also 3851 Katella  – (since 2005 – current)located in the back (new corner) of the newer front medical building at Cherry & Katella.  

Margaux’s – 3771 Katella #115. (Jan 2004-April 2005)

The Hospital Cafeteria – 3751 Katella – Sodexo (the cafeteria in the Los Al Hospital proper) 

The Pasty Kitchen 3641 Katella Ave, (1963) – Pronounced PASS-tee.  A hot beef pie, almost like a turnover.  Opened by Bob Arnold who reportedly baked over one million pies in his first dozen years in business.  In 1977, the small pies were 70 cents while the large pies were $1.40.  Pasties are considered the “national dish” of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Romeo is the one preparing and passing out the pasties for a passel of years now.  

Pittsburg Broasted Chicken – 3671 Katella Avenue (Sept 1992 – current) – Owner: Jeong Shin

Tony Roma’s –  – 3642 Katella Avenue –  (July 1987-July 2007) The Los Alamitos entry for this popular franchise operation, it was also a favorite stop for workers who just got off duty at the base.  

Madera’s Steakhouse – 3642 Katella Avenue – (2006c-current) Art Garcia bought the Tony Roma site around 2006.  He struggled for a couple years — a terrible economy certainly didn’t help — but now this place is regarded by most of the local restaurant owners as the best steakhouse in town.   Santa Fe nachos or prime rib tacos during Happy Hour are a true treat.  

Top It Pizza – 3638 Katella Avenue .  Opened in May 2016 by a Rossmoor family.  

A Mustard’s ad from 1988 in a Tustin newspaper. 

Mustard’s – 3630 Katella Avenue.  This has been here a while (since 1986.  Ads showed other Mustard’s in LB and Tustin) , but around 2004 the Los Alamitos location was purchased by the family who had been operating  Champ’s at the Rossmoor center.  Those owners recently sold it and it is now under new ownership.   

McDonald’s – 3652 Katella  (there as early as 1978  

El Burrito Loco – 3620 Katella Avenue – (Nov 1989 – Aug 2013)

Rustic Eats (2015 – 3620 Katella Avenue  – opened around 2015.

Starbucks – 3575 Katella Avenue yes, a stretch but they do serve some sandwiches with that coffee.  

West of Los Alamitos Blvd. 

Conners Cafe – maybe the last Los Al restaurant with a hitching rack.   

Senor Taco – 3381 Katella (1 blk west of katella)  – (1968) 19 cents tacos every day.  

The Daily Grind – 3381 Katella Ave. (Oct 2000- June 2008) They also sold pastries under The Flying Pig and Scone corprate name from 2004 to 2005.

Original Grind – 3381 Katella Avenue 

Deacon Jones Chicken – 3391 Katella (1 blk west of Katella)

MacLean’s Meats – 3259 Meats (Oak Center)  (Nov 1968- 

Dee’s Coffee Shop – 3251 Katella (1968+ – 1970  (Oak Center)

The Feedbag – 3251 Katella Avenue 

Cafe Del Sol 3251 Katella Avenue ( 1997 – Nov 2018) owned and managed by Bernardo Cobian, a popular long-time chef at Russell’s, known for their great hamburgers.

Lunch Stop – 3131 Katella Ave. (1999-August 2011)Yang Noh, owner.


Categories
Business Los Alamitos

Food For Thought #3: Los Al restaurants – On the Boulevard

After two posts on the restaurants of Rossmoor,  (Rossmoor Center food here, Rossmoor Village here) we now move “outside the walls” to take a look at the many restaurants of Los Alamitos proper over the years.   Again, we didn’t grow up here and know we are missing some eateries (especially the older ones).  Let us know what we’re missing. 
    This one looks at the fine (and even some not so fine) dining on the boulevard.  We’ll start up at the north end and make our south.   Don’t worry, we’ll get to the cafes of Katella in our next post.  

North of Cerritos 

Pup and Taco – (corner of Ball and Norwalk)  – 3398 Norwalk Blvd.  – (1974) Yes, we know this address is not really in Los Al, but it is just north of the high school.  This was a favorite of Los Al students at lunchtime and, presumably, the folks in the College Park North and Greenbrook areas.

Taco Bell 

Sizzler Family Steak House  (Sep 1977 – current)

North of Katella

Valentino’s Pizza – 10511 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (license pulled in Feb 1992 –  – Lee has been very involved with the Los Al community. His annual month-long campaign with Casa Youth Shelter has earned many $$ for that organization.  

Casitas de Amigos 10513 Los Alamitos Blvd – (opened as early as 1992

Yogurberry 10525 Los Alamitos Blvd. – (Aug 2007-Sep 2012)

Snow Station 

Simms Kansas City BBQ – 10525 Los Alamitos Blvd. (2018 – 

Los Alamitos Donuts – 10531 Los Alamitos Blvd. 

Subway – 10535 Los Alamitos Blvd – one of two owned by Rahul Patel in Los Alamitos (the other is on Katella). 

El Pollo Loco – (June 1995-current) – technically the address is 3502 Cerritos but its corner location and the fact that more people enter the property from the boulevard almost force us to include on the boulevard list.  

Louie’s Garden (10542 Los Alamitos Blvd.) –  An October 1970 LB paper noted that “Mr. and Mrs. Wing Louie had spent $50,000 to remodel a former Topper’s restaurant to open a luxurious  Cantonese Chinese luncheon and dinner house. “

The Happy Buddha – 10542 Los Alamitos Blvd.  By August 1984 (but could have been much earlier) – this place was now serving Szechuwan and (Peking) Mandarin style food.  

Taco Surf – 10542 Los Alamitos Blvd (March 2000 – current)

Los Alamitos Beverage – 10601 Los Alamitos Blvd.  – (open by 1950 – Dick Fulford and his wife __ opened this place up after he got out of the service after WWII.  He was very active for years in Los Alamitos Business community.  

Tubby’s Liquors – 10601 Los Alamitos Blvd.  – Per Jamie Lumm (who worked there while in school)  on Facebook:  The owner was Harold (Tubby) Jacobson. He and his wife Ina Lee were from Ida Grove Iowa and they lived in Rossmoor. He believed he was the owner thru the late 70’s…  Some readers report that Tubby also owned either the Rossmoor Gourmet Liquor Store or te Carriage Trade liquor store in the Rossmoor Center.  
“we could buy a shitload of penny candy at Tubby’s!”

South of Sausalito 

Jabberwocky Java – 10631 Los Alamitos Blvd – (Dec 1995-Jul 2002) Capitalizing on the popular 1990s coffee house trend (Starbuck’s, Perk Place in “Friends“, the coffee house in Frasier, etc.) Hap and Lance LeCompte opened up Jabberwocky Java around 1996.  It didn’t hurt that his parents owned the building — in the beautiful Arbor Village. (This row of homes used to be the model homes in a small 1950 tract called Los Alamitos Terrace.)  Java encountered difficulty with neighbors whose residences backed up to the alley over the live music after 8pm and high school kids being loud (who’d a thunk it?) while sipping an expresso after school.   incorporated as the DeVinci Company, with Steve Rashtabadi as the owner.

DeVinci Company – 10631 Los Alamitos Blvd (

Shenandoah at the Arbor – 10631 Los Alamitos Blvd — (August 2003 – present) This restaurant originally opened up in Naples, by where Russo’s is/now was), then spent a few years on 2nd Street, before settling in on its boulevard location in summer 2003.  Great southern cooking from Rick and Jill Wilson (love their chicken fried steak!)  the open-air garden setting in the back quickly became a favorite. especially for the ladies who lunch and bridal showers, etc.  

From Serpentine South – Center Plaza

This used to the location of the old Los Alamitos Sanitarium from 1938 to about 1968.  Before that the building served as the housing unit for single Sugar factory workers (1915-1926), and after the factory closed, it served as the meeting house of the local women’s clubs.  

Sno-Biggie – 10668 Los Alamitos Blvd. (2013-2016)

Subs and Grub – 10668 (Jan 2017 – current)

Quinn’s Ice Cream & Sweets 10670 Los Alamitos Blvd. An ice cream joint . Tina Crispin, owner.

Papa Joe’s Pizza 10678 Los Alamitos Blvd. (Feb 1998-March 2001) – Owner: In Sung Yoon.

Bonjour Bagel Cafe- 10696 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (Dec. 1994 – current

Sango Sushi – 10692 Los Alamitos Boulevard – owned by Akiro Izushima for many years, bought in 2018 by Ken Kim.

Gabrielle & Kristina’s Hot Dogs  – 10742 Los Alamitos Blvd. (Aug 1997-1998)

Brew Kitchen Ale House – 10708 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (March? 2005-current) Joe Maggiorre had restaurants in his genes.  His father opened and ran the popular Andiamo’s for years in the Marketplace. When the Marketplace raised their lease rates, Andiamo’s almost moved into the spot now occupied by Green Street interiors but Judy Klabough signed the lease first.  Andiamo then retired.  Although he and wife Lindsey lived in Long Beach, Joe worked at many restaurants from Santa Monica to Newport and wanted to do something closer to home.  Thus, Brew Kitchen Ale House was born in 2015.  

House of Rossmoor delicatessen – 10794 Los Alamitos Blvd. – (listed in 1968 Chamber directory.)  (This site is now occupied by McNally’s Electric)

Palm Tree Cafe – 10761 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (Open in 1950)  George and Florence Watte, operators.  George also ran the town garage and auto repair.  His family had been in Los Al going back to the early 1900s.  And if I’m not mistaken, his uncle or dad had a ranch house (about where Sprouts is now) that was the only residence on the Rossmoor area prior to the tract being built.  They moved out in And he 

The Sugar Shack –  10761 Los Alamitos Blvd.  – (1965- at least 1970) OK, I suppose it’s possible they had some kind of food in there.  But mainly, I put it in this list, because no matter what kind of list you put together about this town, a lot of people always say, “And don’t forget the Sugar Shack!”   For those who don’t get it, it was a topless bar — totally out of place, but it fell through some legal loopholes and the city couldn’t shut it down.   This is now the Farmers Insurance site. 

DeBruyns Cafe / Los Alamitos Inn – Dominic DeBruyn hauled the old Felt’s Co. General Store (previously the Scott General Store) from Reagan and Florista to a new site on the paved Los Alamitos Blvd and converted it to the Los Alamitos Inn.  During the years around World War II, new lumber was tough to obtain, so older buildings were often hauled or the lumber used for newer structures.  

Los Alamitos Inn (DeBruyn’s Cafe)  – 10791 Los Alamitos Blvd.   (1950s-1968) This cafe had a storied career in Los Alamitos — on multiple sites and multiple streets.  Originally it was the “famous” Felt’s General Store at the corner of Main and Florista (it’s in many of those old photos of Los Al from c1910.  By 1923 it had been hauled over to the only paved street in the area — Los Alamitos Blvd (recently renamed from Myrtle Street).  For the next 25-30 years, it was known as Watts General Store.  Sometime before 1950, restaurateur Dominic DeBruyn (he had been the longtime owner of the Airport Club which became the Boondocks) bought the building and moved it across the street and a little north to its location at 10791 Los Alamitos Blvd.  He renamed it The Los Alamitos Inn, but if you go by newspapers of the day, it was more often called DeBruyn’s Cafe.  (Maybe that was just the eatery within the Inn.) DeBruyn was very involved in the local Chamber of Commerce, often hosting their meetings.  A September 1959 ad read “Cocktails ·  Restaurant/  Los Alamitos Inn “serving lunches and dinners.” Banquet Room Available.  (now the site of Sam Varon’s Los Alamitos Optometry)

A & W Root Beer – 10821 Los Alamitos Blvd.  waitresses on roller skates, dispensing root beer floats and Mama, Papa & baby burgers.  

Supreme Burgers – 10821 Los Alamitos Blvd.  –  

1977 ad for Supreme Burger – from the Los Al HS student newspaper, the Crusader.

Paul’s Place – 10821 Los Alamitos Blvd.  – (license obtained 8/2/1988 by Paul & Joyce Nikolau).  Even in late 2018 I can honestly report they are still home to a great mushroom burger and french fries.   

Layton’s Blacksmith Shop – (where Bixby Plaza Carpet is now) (1940’s-50s) a strange place for a restaurant, but longtime local Rob Stephens says Layton rented out the end of his shop to a lady who had a little eatery with a counter that seated 4-5 persons.  Jim Bell, son of Los Alamitos’ first mayor, remembers this place as just selling sodas and other drinks.  

Hollywood Candy Girls – 10806 Los Alamitos Blvd. – opened in 2017 after a long delay.  Had been located as a wholesale headquarters operation across from McAuliffe School.  Founded by LAHS grad Jackie Sorkin and she made a name providing candy to weddings and big parties for celbrities.  Was featured on morning shows and Food Network etc. 

DeWitt’s Market – 10842 Los Alamitos Blvd.  In the 1950s Rob Stephens says “it was a great place for penny candy (you could actually get two pieces for a penny in those days)”

Lupe’s Market – (actually a block east of the boulevard at the corner of Pine & Reagan).  Also called by many old-timers, the Mexican market.   Lupe Torres ran this store out of her house.  “Lots of candies for the younger folks and Hispanic / Mexican foods.”

Ameci Pizza – 10847 Los Alamitos Blvd – started by DiBartola in the early 1990s.   Once her sons graduated from Los Alamitos HS, she sold out around 2000 and retired.  It’s been operated by Walid Assoum since then.

The Donut House – 10851 Los Alamitos Blvd. – (Nov 1994 – current) Negenh Sien Taing, owner.

Louise’s Cafe  (1940s-early 50s) – NE corner of Florista & Los Alamitos Blvd. (Now the Vet’s office)  Jim Bell said Louise Sleddy served some of the best food in town.  She was originally located at Los SAlamitos and Green, but sometime in the mod-to-late 1950s she sold her cafe and moved up the street to this location.  

Campbell’s Market –   opened soon after World War II.  It competed with Long’s Super and DeWitt’s but all were soon put out of business by the even more super (i.e., much larger) Thriftimart, Michael’s/Stater Brothers (where the Boot Barn is now) and the Food Giant down in Rossmoor Center.

Campbell’s Market at the SW corner of Los Alamitos Blvd and Florista Ave. opened at this location soon after World War II.  

Ruth’s Malt Shop — (1950s) “across the street from the school” Laurel School.  “buttermilk pancakes, short orders and home made fries.  The best hamburgers in town.”

5th Avenue Bagelry (2017-

Penguin’s Place Frozen Yogurt (1996-1999) – 10879 Los Alamitos Blvd.

Lucky Panda – 10883 Los Alamitos Blvd.  

Golden Panda Buffet – April 1992 – D`ec 2006)

Red Wok  – 10883 Los Alamitos Blvd.  replaced the Lucky Panda.  
redid the fish tank in the dining area that we all missed.

A la Waffle – 10893 Los Alamitos Blvd – 

Teriyaki Ichiban – 10893 Los Alamitos Blvd. (Oct 1997- current)

Siamese Express (Mar 1989 – Nov 2001) – Owner: Vira Wongsriphorn.

Maleyna’s 10895 Los Alamitos Blvd.

Chiang Mai Thai Cuisine – 10895 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (2011-current)

Padnoi Thai – 10894 Los Alamitos Blvd. (2018 –

Burger King – 10931 Los Alamitos Blvd –  (closed around 209)

Preveza – 10931 Los Alamitos Blvd – (closed in Jan 2016)  a co-venture between Paul Nikolau  and the Chamberlains.  Good food but it just never clicked for some reason.  

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos – 10931 Los Alamitos Blvd –  (opened in August 2018 – )

Long’s Market – A  Los Al hybrid.  The Long family bought the NW corner of Los Al Blvd and Katella where for years they had a trailer park.  In 1950 they built the area’s first “super market.”   They opened their doors in April 1950.  The Shell Station is located on much of this site now.  

Shell Station – after this was renovated around 2002 there was a mini-mart Taco Bell location in here.  Now it’s just the mini-0mart.

Los Alamitos Plaza (old Laurel School site)

Technically, the Plaza is just one of three different parcels of the old Laurel School site.  The Plaza technically excludes the other two parcels — the old Bob’s Big Boys (current Shoe City) building site and the Starbucks/Sherwin-Williams building.   All the stores in the Plaza have a 10900 address, but different suite numbers.  

Creative Cakery – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd.  #101 – Lynda Carraway opened this around 1998 and ran it or about five years.

Beth’s Cake Shoppe & Tea Room – (Mar 2008 – Feb 2009)

Baja Sonora #3   – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd.  #101 – (2014 – current)  Baja Sonora was started by Mike Mendelson and his wife at Clark and Spring in Long Beach in the 1990s.  The store was very successful, and a former worker arranged to start a second location on Atlantic in Bixby Knolls.  This was soon followed by this store in Los Alamitos.   This location has never quite caught on — parking was probably a huge issue.  In December 2018 it was sold to California Cocina and will be converted 

Abbate’s Italian Market &  Deli – (not sure of the exact suite in this center.  They were closed by Aug 16, 1980 when their equipment was put up for auction.  members of one of the local facebook sites, say the family was from College Park East, and the sandwiches were delicious.. 

Nick’s Burritos #2 – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd.  #109.  (2007 –   )  Nick’s Burritos in Seal Beach had one of the best reputations in the area.  Hard to believe, but this one has probably surpassed it.  It is easily one of the most popular breakfast burrito joints in the Los Alamitos area (and oh yeah, they have some decent sandwiches as well).  Lunch times are always crowded, but servbice is fast. 

Yogurt Twist   (Oct 2008 – Nov 2012)  Had a bunch of elementary school age children’s drawings on the wall.  Doug Habing, owner.

Papa’s Western BBQ & Saloon & Papa’s Kitchen (April 2000-2005)  – 10900  Los Alamitos Blvd. #115 –  Delicious Santa Maria style BBQ.  Louie Leppo had a thriving catering business in this area for years.  Back in the day he frequently did team dinners for the Rams when they trained at LB State.  He opened up where Kampai Sushi is now.  He soon was in poor health and his wife Lin and son ran it for a few years before giving up the lease.

A Jim Dandy BBQ – a son talked his dad into financing this, but it did not last long.   A lethal comination of not so tasty food and a fire put them out of business

Kampai Sushi – 10900  Los Alamitos Blvd. #115 (open since around 2009) – This place has been another popular  spot for locals who savor sushi.  

Siam Palace – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd. #131.  Kelly Lo, owner. (Sep 1997-2007)

Thailusion – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd, #131  (2013 – current) – Firefighter Brian Kite and his wife bought this place from her uncle, the previous owner of Siam Palace.  Brian did all the woodwork.  

Zip’s – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (next to Kaplans)  (there in 1976)   M-m-m- good sundaes and banana splits.  

Bagel & Beef – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd.(June 1975 – October 1975  ) Kosher style deli.  Owner Stanley Black spent over $200,000 converting a few stores into a restaurant.  The decor was California and Mediterranean, the walls adorned with colorful prints of Picasso, Miro, Dali, Shagall, etc.  Black was a former car salesman with no restaurant experience and the place, while ambitious, was seriously under-financed and quickly went under after three or four months.   

Kaplan’s Delicatessen – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd.   (Oct. 1975 – 1976)
Abraham Kaplan owned Kaplan’s House of Corned Beef in Long Beach and then opened up a series of restaurants in the area, including one in Cerritos and at the old bagel and Beef.  From an Oct. 1975 article in P-T:  “Owned by master baker Abraham Kaplan and his general manager is Irwin Smith.  I can assure you that Kaplan’s is 1,0000 times better than the bagel and beef  kosher-style restaurant which was at that location for a few weeks and then went kaput and broke.  Kaplan’s has all the great kosher-style items. including pastrami, chopped liver, breast of turkey, corned beef, whitefish, lox, cream cheese, chicken , roast beef sandwiches, cheeze blintzes, salads and just about everything else. ”  [note this site later became Claim Jumper and then Hof’s Hut.]

Claim Jumper 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd. (September 197-c1995)  – gold rush theme, started by Craig Nickeloff, Los Al class of 1970.  Last I heard it had done pretty well for itself.  It had moved from Los Alamitos to the Long Beach Marketplace by 1995.

Hof’s Hut – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd.  – In 1947 Harold Hoffman opened a hamburger stand in Belmont Shore. Four years later he opened his first Hof’s Hut. Soon there were huts in Los Altos, Marina Pacifica and other spots around the southland.  In the 1980s, Harold’s son, Craig Hofman, assumed control of the business continued to expand, and even introduce new concepts, like Lucille’s BBQ & Ribs and later Saints and Second, Spin! Pizza, and Mighty Kitchen.   

Lord Henry’s – (October 1972-1991) — 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, (714) 821-9170.  An  August 1972 LA Times article notes that construction had begun and a mid-October opening was expected for this “swank $275,000 restaurant and cocktail lounge. ” This was probably the only place in Los Alamitos where you’d get dressed up to go out and eat.  At the beginning, Henry Grum was the owner, and The Sensuous Sound was the frequent featured band.  By 1975 the general manager was Rusty Bennett,  A 1991 article notes that Lord Henry’s was later owned by Alfie Anaxgoras until he sold it in 1988.  It specialized in “quality prime ribs, steak, rack of lamb” 

Manana’s – 10900 Los Alamitos Blvd (1991 –   ) After Lord Henry’s closed, the site was occupied by Manana.  An article in the LA Times, Jan. 24, 1991 noted that “The owners were Larry Cano and Fred Le Franc of Vision Restaurants Inc. recently instituted what they term “Mexican food at old-time prices” at their Manana and Salud restaurants. They’ve cut entree prices as much as 50%. Combination plates now range from $2.95 (for a one-entree selection of taco, enchilada, chili relleno, burrito, tostado, taquitos or tamale) to $4.95 (three selections).   

Brewster’s – a sports bar opened as early s Jan 1995  by an ambitious, recent Los Al grad, Emil Jorge  (LAHS ’87).  Advertised as a Southwestern Grill and Sports Bar.    After it closed i 1997, Hof’s Hut moved their corporate headquarters into the building and stayed there a couple years before moving to a new headquarters in Signal Hill.  Then Keller-Williams Realty occupied the spot.   

Bob’s Big Boy – (1971 – building permits were approved in late August 1970.  They were operating by 1971.  In 1983, Orange County sheriffs made some arrests when bookmakers were observed making bets and echanging money at the Bob’s Big Boy at the corner.  A classified legal says the location was ordered close by developers and items would be auctioned off on April 1, 1990.  


“Great after dances at Pine Jr. High back in the day. – Cameron Meyers

South of Katella

Louise’s Cafe  (1940s-early 50s) – 11080 Los Alamitos Blvd. (Los Alamitos & Green)  Jim Bell said Louise Sleddy served some of the best food in town.  Sometime in the 1950s she sold her cafe and moved up the street to where the Vet’s office is now at Florista & Los Alamitos Blvd.  

B & G Cafe – 11080 Los Alamitos Blvd. (Los Alamitos & Green) (listed in 1968 Chamber Directory) — – Long-time Los Al resident Rob Stevens says Bee & Gee Cafe Shop was at the corner for many years during the 1950’s.  The unique history of this building is that it used to be the rental office for Rush Green, who developed City Garden Acres tract in the mid 1920s.  Green’s office occupied the bottom floor and the upstairs was a community room, used for dances and meetings.  

Ethel’s Coffee Shop – Los Alamitos & Green –  

Al Dente Fine Italian Groceries – 11092 Los Alamitos Blvd (corner of Los Alamitos & Green) (opened in 1982-closed c. 2002)  –  Opened by Sydney Silvi, a passionate cook of Italian foods, who quit her dress-buying job with Bullocks to open this popular store. (per the above article in a 1991 LA Times)  Silvi described her store as “somewhat of an ego trip.  I sell the ingredients I like to use for cooking.  If I don’t like it, I don’t sell it.”   “There was also an Italian deli where Enchanted Florist is currently. They had the most delicious fresh sliced meats and cheeses.”    








Shakey’s Pizza – 11122 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (there as early as 1969 when it advertised for part-time help over 21.)  Gil Coronado opened this store as early  as 1969, and continued to run it for almost 40 years.  It was a go-to spot for a couple of generations of youth sports after-practice/game parties, and for adults who needed to unwind over a couple cold beers after the stress and tension of rec league basketball or softball.  (Unfortunately, re: the latter, they probably put on more calories after the game than they expended during the game.) 

Train Wreck Pizza – 11122 Los Alamitos Blvd – when Gil Coronado, long-time owner of Shakey’s, retired to devote more time to rooting for his beloved USC Trojans , he passed on the restaurant to his son, who took a chance on a new concept that unfortunately far too closely resembled its new name.  

Los Alamitos Pizza & Brewery – 11122 Los Alamitos Blvd. – don;t know if this ever opened. (Mar 2011-Aug 2012)

Spin! Neapolitan Pizza – 11122 Los Alamitos Blvd – (Oct 2013- 2015) The Hofman Group (Hof’s Hut, Lucille’s BBQ) tried out a new concept that had become the hottest thing in the midwest.  It did not do that well here.  

Mighty Kitchen –  11122 Los Alamitos Blvd  (2013-2017)

Mama’s Comfort Kitchen – 11122 Los Alamitos Blvd  -(opened early 2018 – —  a second location for the popular Mama’s On 39 restaurant in Huntington Beach.  Owners __ Truxthall lived in Cypress, and Robert Corrigan lived in Rossmoor.  Despite the belief that it was a snakebit location, Mama’s was a big hit from the first day.  Very large portions at reasonable prices, and lots of Happy Hour offerings didn’t hurt.  

The Boondocks — 11142 Los Alamitos Blvd.  – primarily a bar but it has the Los Alamitos area’s oldest existing food preparation license.  It originally opened as The Airport Club in 1943, at a time when Los Al Air Station was being filled with more permanent cadre personnel.  Originally operated by Dominic DeBruyn but he sold it and opened up the Los Alamitos Inn/DeBruyn’s Cafe about a half mile north on the boulevard.  In April 1959, the newspapers reported that Harold Krell announced he had sold the Airport Cafe to Ernest Grosso of Los Angeles.  grosso was already making plans to move here from the big city.   By the 1970’s it was known as Johnny’s Boondocks,, but it was still a little green shack.  all the alleys were dirt

Cecil’s Meats – 11172 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (in business as of Dec. 1964 ad in Rossmoor News)   Also well known for their giant dill pickles!

West End Theater – 11172 Los Alamitos Blvd.  same address as Cecil’s but the site had served for many years as the home of Drug Fair (as early as 1991…. ) Around 2002, the site was leased to ___ who greatly remodeled and enlarged it to serve as a dinner theatre.  The West End Theater group tried musical comedy and Broadway plays) at first, but crowds were sparse, then they augented their weekend nights with imrov troupes (Fleabitten Varmints) and stand-up comics booked by Vic Dunlop.  By 2008 it had been taken over by Rite-Aid who used it as temporary site while their new building at The Shops at Rossmoor was being completed. 

Helen Grace Chocolates — 11184 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (1961-“Tutti-frutti sundaes — enough to feed your entire group…. had a Ronald Reagan sundae and a pat brown sundae when Reagan ran against him in 1966. a chalkboard on the wall by the door and you would put a mark under which sundae you had.a polka dot sundae cost 45 cent’s.mid 60’s  

The Sub  – 11182 Los Alamitos Blvd. -(around mid 2002-closed in 2007)  opened by Jason Chrupcaka and the ex daughter-in-law of Theo’s opened this place up. It is now the site of the Flame Broiler

DeLucci’s – 11182 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (Jul 2007 – Jul 2009) opened by John Salario, a retired aerospace engineer, he tried to make a go of it with his Italian deli style offering.  

Flame Broiler – 11182 Los Alamitos Blvd.  – has lasted where others didn’t.  

Nevin’s Donuts – 11192 Los Alamitos Blvd.   Started by Nelson Nevin 
in early 1960s?  Comments:  loved sitting in the little booths. … 
The best maple bars!!!   tigertail deliciousness…    It had a short downtime, when the owner of the Drug Fair, bought the old Bill’s Car Wash site (mid-1980s?)  and converted that property to the row of stores it is now.   Once completed, Drug Fair moved into the bigger building and Nevins moved back into its present location.  

Great Dane Baking Co. – 11196 Los Alamitos Blvd.  – started by Karl Pedersen around 2003

Scharlin’s Deli -11212 Los Alamitos Blvd.  — We’ve found no evidence of this joint, but Los Al native Steve Meisner (who worked for The Fish Company and had his own Charo Chicken for awhile) assures us that Scharlin’s Deli occupied this spot for a few years, breaking it in for what later became Casa Castillo (wh greatly expanded the joint), which later became Mr. B’s, the Pike and now Griffins Grill]

Casa Castillo – 11212 Los Alamitos Blvd.  – (Dec 1966 – 1994) A blurb in the Press-Telegram’s Steppin’ Out column describes Phil and Stella Castillo’s latest restaurant [They had the original in Long Beach and another — Casa Fiesta — in Garden Grove]. The Los Al version opened in December 1966.   It could seat 198, including 75 in the banquet room.  “The casa’s prices are moderate with dinners ranging from $1.40 to $2.  

Mr. B’s  – 11212 Los Alamitos Blvd (1994-2014)  Starting Gate owner Kenny Brandyberry bought Casa Castillo and re-branded it as Mr. B’s It was Mr. B’s as early as December 1994.  The joint was featuring karaoke on Thursday by early 1996, with hosts Peter Parker and Fran Emmons riding herd on crowds “frequently topping 300” or so we’re told.  Around 2000 (Y2K to many of us) Kenny B. decided to focus on his rapidly expanding ATM business and Casa Youth Shelter fundraising, and he sold Mr. B’s to Perry and Rosie Apostle.  Perry’s dad had run the Golden Sails Hotel and restaurant for a long time.  The Apostles ran it until they sold it around 2013.  Another generation of Apostles, their son, is now running the Flippin’ Pizza eatery on Spring and Palo verde.

The Pike – 11212 Los Alamitos Blvd (2014-2015)

Griffins Grill – 11212 Los Alamitos Blvd (2016-present)

The Subway – 11292 Los Alamitos Blvd.  “Home of the original Submarine Sandwich” – there in 1985




Hero’s  – Kevin Lamp says there was a Hero’s Sandwich Shop in this area and he is usually right on these things.   Anybody else have info to share?

Theo’s – owned by the Theodore family.  This place was well known for their sub sandiwches in the mid-to-late 1970s and early 1980s.  

Chicken Delight —  11292 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (Open as early as June 1963-still there in March 1965) Don’t cook tonight call Chicken Delight, we deliver!!  And check out the phone number — still using the GEneva prefix before they went over to all numbers.






  • Papa Murphy’s – 11296 Los Alamitos Blvd. (2013-2018) – a popular take-home cook it pizza shop, operated by Mark and Rosalyn Finegan.  They closed shop in 2018 when the landlord raised the rents dramatically.  Are still looking for a local operation.  
  • Wendy’s – 11222 Los Alamitos Blvd.
    License pulled Aug 2004 , remodeled in Fall 2018 
  • Jack-in-the Box – The place to go after Los Al HS football games.  Previously located in the Wendy’s location.  they took over where a Texaco station had been.  

Thriftimart

Von’s

Dick’s Poultry & Produce (1925-?? )  This roadside drive-up produce stand took advantage of the fact that recently paved Myrtle Street had become Los Alamitos Blvd and was a major part (State Highway 35) of the main road from the Pasadena area to Anaheim Landing and the beach areas.   While most of the local farmers grew sugar beets, alfalfa, barley, and lima beans, a few farmers (many of them the Japanese leasing farms on the Hellman and Fred Bixby Ranches. grew truck patches of vegetables and some fruits.  The poultry and rabbits were primarily from the City Garden Acres tract (now Apartment Row) where deep “farm lots” were sold — and advertising noted them as perfect for raising chickens and rabbits for market.  

Dick’s Poultry , Rabbit & Produce.  We’re assuming this was technically in present Rossmoor, but since there was no Rossmoor then, it was in Los Alamitos. 

Categories
Business Los Alamitos Rossmoor

Food for Thought #2: Rossmoor Village

For a tiny area, we have had a lot of restaurants over the years.  I started compiling a list on a whim and help from locals on the Facebook Rossmoor page.  The lists got too long so I broke them up into multiple posts.    The first was the restaurants of the Rossmoor Shopping Center.  The third segment will be Los Al restaurants On the Boulevard, and the fourth will be the restaurants on Katella, etc.  

Rossmoor Village 

Northern Rossmoor — the homes north of a line formed by Rossmoor Way and Silverwood — was the third part of Rossmoor to be built, with most construction happening in 1959 or later.  Never considered for housing was the entire block from Hedwig to Katella,  Los Al Blvd to Wallingsford.  On early drawings and plans this was clearly labeled as the Rossmoor Medical Park (although one plan just says commercial development).

Ross Cortese conceived the area as a place for medical offices, a hospital and some supporting businesses — pharmacy, restaurants, etc.   He said as much when the Anaheim School District wanted the site for a junior high school site.  Cortese offered them the site where St. Hedwig Church is now, but county planners wouldn’t approve a public school that close to the Navy Base airfield. Cortese and the Anaheim district quickly eventually settled on the present Oak School site. 
    So, clear of these issues, Cortese, his investing partners, (the Los Coyotes Land Co.) and some local doctors formed the Rossmoor Medical Park Corporation to develop the center.  The first building — where the Fish Company is now — went up in 1962.  It soon became apparent to some that 1) Cortese wanted too much money for his hospital plan; and the site may be too small for a hospital anyway.  Whatever the case, by 1963, the doctors were looking a few blocks down Katella to build a hospital.   
    Also, by this time, Cortese was far more involved with his expanding Leisure World empire, and other challenges for his Rossmoor vision.   So the Medical Park concept went away and Cortese began selling off all his undeveloped Rossmoor land.  Sometime in 1963, Cortese sold the chunk of land that is now Bethlehem Lutheran Church (it was open by March 1964).  I assume he sold the land for the Rossmoor Manor apartments soon after this.  The apartments had a sneak preview in August 1966, so I think a year and half to two years is a not unreasonable amount of time to figure hiring an architect, and engineer, make drawings, get approvals and then construct. By May 1965, newspapers report that Westport Oil had purchased all the land for what is now Rossmoor Village from Ross Cortese and his partners, the Lakewood Ranchos and Los Coyotes Land Co. and Westport had already begun construction on their own Firestone Tire store and repair shop.  Without Cortese’s vision, the Medical Park and the Rossmoor Center both were developed haphazardly by the new owners with little vision beyond making a buck.       

Eventually, the center would basically have five sections. The first two were developed under Cortese.  The first building (built 1962) is the building now occupied by the Fish Company and the second (1963) is the building now occupied by Polly’s, the Boot Barn, and the Family Medicine practice.  The rest were built after the change of ownership and over the 1965-1970 ime frame.     

    As I said in my article on the Rossmoor Center eateries, this is a work in progress.  I didn’t grow up here so I don’t have those early memories.  But I have tried to use newspaper articles or published company histories to verify time frames as accurately as possible. If you have information (or photos) to add, feel free to comment or contact me.   Anyway, here goes.   

Not sure exactly when this photo was taken but I would guess mid-to-late 1980s.  The Drug Fair sign is faintly visible undeneath the T-shirt Stop sign.  I believe the The E-Z Frame-It shop was soon replaced by the wig store.  

Park Pantry (1962-1980) 11061 Los Alamitos Blvd (present Fish Co. site) – was the first non-gas station business at this shopping area.  It was about the sixth of 8 or so Park Pantrys owned by Glenn O. Sadler. The first was in LB.  The pantry was a coffee shop which, according to marketing articles, would share space with a pharmacy, and a liquor-delicatessen.  A late night fire damaged the restaurant in late 1964, but it re-opened and was still at this location as of Sep. 20, 1974.  Now it’s all the Fish Co.

This ad ran in the News-Enterprise’s 1987 salute to the Rancho Los Alamitos 200th anniversary.  Note that it read the Los Alamitos Fish Company.  It changed its name to the Original Fish Company the following year.  

Original Fish Co. (1981-      11061 11061 – Los Alamitos Blvd.  This originally opened in February 1981 as the Los Alamitos Fish Company.  Harold Rothman, who had grown up in the restaurant business at his parents Katella Deli on the opposite side of the Rossmoor Village center, gutted a former coffee shop, (Park Pantry), redesigned it and reopened it as a combination restaurant and fish market.  Managed by Harold and his wife, Wendy Rothman, and after their divorce she took it over,. Her daughter Vanessa Travis has been managing it for a number of years.  Steve Meisner, Wendy’s brother, was the manager for many years in the 1980s.   They changed the name to Original Fish Company in 1988. Around 2005, the Rothmans had purchased most of the Rossmoor Village site from the D.D., Dunlap Co., and terminated the lease for Deux Amies and used that space for their restaurant offices.  A few years later, when the Fio Ritos lease expired, Fish Company used that space to expand their oyster bar which immediately became quite popular.   

Fio Ritos (c.1966-c2014) – 11101 Los Alamitos Boulevard – per Ted Thomey’s Table Talk column in LB Press-Telegram, Fio-Rito’s opened in late 1964, (another source says January 1965) as Fio-Rito’s Pizza Villa by Leonard and Margie Fio-Rito who already had a location at Del Amo and Paramount in North Long Beach.   The place quickly became a local favorite and Fio-Rito soon expanded, taking over an office (or was it the Post Office’s mail box annex) behind his streetfront location.  Locally, Fio Rito’s and Davio’s probably competed for the title of most authentic Italian food for many years.  In 1977 the Fio-Ritos retired and sold their three restaurants.  Pat and Phyllis Loughran bought the Rossmoor location and owned it for 35 years until his death in 2012.  In the mid-1980s Pat and Phyllis were joined by her son, Ken Skinner and his wife Cecily.  (They had previously run a restaurant called The Sly Fox in Northern California and then around 1982-82, opened another Sly Fox Restaurant in the Rossmoor Center.  That only lasted a few years and then they began helping out with the management of Fio-Ritos.)  The “front” of the restaurant was very narrow (about 20 feet)  but in the back, the expanded area was about  40 feet wide.  

Drug Fair (1964-c1990) – We would be remiss to leave Drug Fair out.  What self-respecting drug store wouldn’t have a decent selction of candy and other snacks.  But as Art Remnet points out Drug Fair also “held the post office for 90721.  When Drug Fair build the new building across the street where the car wash and Nevin’s were. Nevin’s moves back in along with the other shops there.  The postal service leased the old drug fair space and used it for the PO Box annex while the current post office was being built. When the new facility was complete, the post office moved the boxes and took the zip code with them.”  I get the post office part but the car wash part confused me.  

Charo Chicken (2000-c.2008) – 11105 Los Alamitos Blvd. owned by Steve Meisner, who had previously been a manager at the nearby Fish Company, not to mention a Los Al native and former member of the Los Alamitos Mounted Police. [Of course, the original Charo was on Main Street in Seal Beach, and this was one of its earliest attempts at franchising. It did OK, but Steve and Mo    

Blake’s Place (2010-2016) – 11105 Los Alamitos Blvd. This was a second location for Blake’s, a popular Anaheim BBQ joint.  This one was co-owned by Mike ___, wh also owned Domenico’s on 2nd Street in Long Beach.  

Off the Hook – 11105 Los Alamitos Blvd. 

Katella Deli & Bakery — 3464 Katella Avenue (1964 – 1985, moved 10 blocks east to Katella & Lexington]  Opened by Sam and ___ Ratman.  Also working there were their three sons, Harold, Alan and Larry.  Harold would later open the Original Fish Company in 1985 in the old Park Pantry location. 

Jongewaard’s Bake and Broil – 3464 Katella Avenue – (c1986-1988) an offshoot of the original Jongewaard’s in Bixby Knolls. [still there and still getting great reviews]  

Polly’s Pies – 3464 Katella Avenue –  (by Sep 1989 – present)  –   opened are in the old Katella Deli location as early as September 1989.  [They were not there as of July 7 of that year] The restaurant was started in Fullerton in 1970 by the Sheldrake Brothers.  The Katella location was their 12th. 

Michael’s Markets – 3462 Katella Avenue –  located on the site of the current Boot Barn.  This site was open as early as July 1965.  Michaels was a new Orange County chain.  Los Al was its second operation but by 1971 it had 12 in OC alone and many others outside the county.  They may have expanded too fast because the site was up for auction in September 1973.




Stater Bros. Markets – 3462 Katella Avenue – The Oct. 11, 1973 issue of the Press-Telegram ran a full page ad proudly announcing State Bros. newest location at this address.  Stater Bros stayed here for 11 years before ending the lease, and in May 1984 the site was taken over by another “supermarket” — The Thieves Market, the supermarket of boots.  This later became The Boot Barn.



 

The Sportsman – 11133 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (opened April 1, 1967)   hard to believe but this place started as a classy Vegas style (piano bar, trios) club in mid 1960s.  “Opened by attorney Jerry Stevenson, oil mogul Dan Dunlap, and Lever Bros. exec Norm Sorenson. “

Juice Stop (there in 1997

O.J.’s Drive In – 11151 Los Alamitos Blvd.    – per Jamie Lumm: “
OJ’s “was a hamburger place that was also the only place that had soft serve ice cream at the time. It opened about 1967 or so and only lasted a few years.

Taco Pronto – 11151 Los Alamitos Blvd.  (listed in 1968 Chamber Directory)

West’s Cafe (is this the samesite as OJ’s drive in?)

Tong’s Satay House – 11151 Los Alamitos Blvd.  An ad in the 35th anniversary Rossmoor special edition says theynhave been in Rossmoor for 22 years (since 1970).  An ad in am October 1973 Long Beach paper implies they recently opened.  Jimmy and   Tong, from Hong Kong, but had opened Chinese restauramts in London and elsewhere.  Satay was an indonesian sauce.  – 

Fortune Cookies – 11151 Orangewood  (opened around 2003 or 4 and hasn’t done too bad for itself.

Categories
Los Alamitos Real Estate Ross Cortese Rossmoor Seal Beach The Bixbys

Food for Thought, Part I: Rossmoor Center

This is the first in a series of posts about all the places to eat around here over the years.

    The development of the Rossmoor Shopping center is an interesting story, but too long to deal with here, so look here instead.  

     The original, very ambitious plans for the Rossmoor Center were announced in late 1958.  Multiple circumstances forced these to be downsized. 
   In July 1960, a revised plan called for the center’s development, one distinct section at a time.  This plan was designed by the respected firm of Burke, Kober & Nicolais – whose two senior partners (Eugene Burke, and Charles Kober) had literally written the industry’s “bible” for shopping center design.

  Over the next four years, the southern half of the Rossmoor Shopping Center was built piecemeal. The first section (opened in mid 1961) involved Food Giant, Thrifty’s, Kress and a mall between them.  A second phase in 1962 involved the Rossmoor Inn and Rossmoor Bowl.  The third phase in 1963 was the Boston store and the completion of a connecting mall.  And the fourth phase — opened in 1964 — were the individual buildings along St. Cloud –  the Fox Theater and the Ken’s Meats/Draper & Damons Building  (1964).  The area north of Rossmoor Way was mainly developed after 1966.

   During all this Ross Cortese, energized by the success of his Leisure World projects and discouraged by the challenges in his Rossmoor development, was systematically unloading all lands he would no longer use for Rossmoor.   East of the boulevard, he transferred the SE corner lots at Orangewood and Los Alamitos to St. Hedwig Church (1960).  This was followed by the lots which became Rossmoor Highlands (1961) and Good Shepherd Church (1962).  He released his options on the undeveloped Bixby Ranch Company land (now the Target homes, the Old Ranch Shopping Center and Golf Course, and the Bixby Office Park area by Spaghettini’s

    By 1964 the expanding war in Vietnam began limiting money available for the housing industry.  Home loans stalled, home sales dropped, and lenders started calling in building loans.  Cortese, overextended with his Leisure World developments, began to sell off more properties.  One of the first was the shopping center area which became the Rossmoor Townhomes.  By May 1965 Cortese had sold off all interest in the remaining undeveloped Rossmoor Center land. This would eventually lead to the new owners allowing all the Center land to be annexed by Seal Beach and some pretty haphazard development. of the still undeveloped property – the area north of Rossmoor Way.  Most of this became multi-unit dwellings and the remaining business area was occupied beginning in 1967.  It appears this occupation went from south to North, led by the Parasol (1968) and an Orange Julius.          
     Anyway, we’re fortunate that at least some of the Rossmoor Center was built in a thought-out planned way.  Over the years a very large number of restaurants and other food-related vendors have opened their doors to customers. 

     With the help of people on the Facebook Rossmoor group, we have assembled a pretty thorough list of those places.  I tried to organize them by address.  I didn’t grow up here so I have no really old memories of this place, so if you have information to add — or photos — please feel free to comment.  It’s a work in progress — as we find more information and photos, we’ll add them — and hopefully, we’ll also make it somewhat accurate.  

Rossmoor Center (from north to south)

Northern Section (1966 and after)

Carriage Trade Liquor – 12101 Seal Beach Blvd.  (as early as March 1973 – 2003)  –  Why are they on our list?  Hey,  they had candy, and some microwave burritos if I remember correctly.  And the sign on the door once said a “liquor-deli.”  

Chick Fil-A (2011-present) 12101 Seal Beach Blvd — where the old Carriage Trade Liquors used to be.  

Blue Mountain Bagels – 12115 Seal Beach Blvd.  — as early as 1995 – closed 2003?) a big favorite for moms who had just dropped the kids off at school, or just completed their work-out at the Rossmoor Athletic Club.  The When the Shops began their renovations the owners closed this location, but still maintained their Garden Grove store off Valley View & Lampson.

Taco Bell – 12147 Seal Beach Blvd-  Apparently the owners of the Rossmoor center were quite happy going after national chain franchise restaurants.  Orange Julius, Carl’s Jr., etc.  Ads tell us Taco Bell was in business as early as Spring 1973, but Janey Miller says she used to go to Taco Bell and she graduated from Los Al in 1971.  Serena Howard says she worked at the Happy Hamburger then and they used to borrow supplies from Taco Bell — assumed maybe they shared the same owner.) 



Yucatan Grill – 12147 Seal Beach Blvd – opened in mid 1990s by Rossmoor residents Felix & Georgie Tulay, and Charles and Denise Robinson.  They used to own a Green Burrito but a fire put them out of business.  Undaunted, they leased the old Taco Bell location and turned it into the Yucatan Grill, adding a side patio to their front outdoor dining.  It was very popular after a sports game.  When the shopping center closed for remodeling, they moved down to their current location at 5th and PCH in Seal Beach.  

Gina’s Italiano – 12149 Seal Beach Blvd. (Aug 1974) –  No. 1 chef Sylvia Gianfriddo Skinner…”well-liked Italian cookery and dining room.  Gina’s pizza is such that people cheerily drive up from Newport just for the pleasure of munching into it.  Spaghetti and meatballs for $2.50.”  By 1977 the name had been changed to Gina’s Italian Restaurant, and their ads said “we specialize in Chicago style pizza and fantastic lemon chicken (secret recipe).  


Davio’s – 12149 Seal Beach Blvd.  –  (   as early as 1986 – 2003c)  one of the area’s favorite Italian restaurants, featuring northern  Italian cuisine.  Other locations in Tustin.   When shopping center closed, they moved to a Beach Blvd. location.  

Winchell’s – 12151 Seal Beach Blvd.  – open as early as 1972

Kentucky Roast Beef – 12159 Seal Beach Blvd,   (1971-73) This store was part of the Kentucky Fried Chicken operation, take-out roast beef sandwiches without much of a sit-down option.  The Rossmoor Center store was open as early as March 1971.  When they closed down, the lease was taken over by Carl’s Jr. in November 1973


Carl’s Jr. – 12159 Seal Beach Blvd. (opened Jan 1974 – 2003.  Opened in the place formerly leased to Kentucky Roast Beef.  The Carl’s Jr. lease announced in Nov 1973.  “The dining area was remodeled and enlarged to include a dining room.”  

Baja Bill’s (there in 1992,  or so we’re told. I can’t fin any references to it in local newspapers.  

This ad was from a Sept. 1969 issue of the Los Al HS Crusader.

Orange Julius – 12161 Los Alamitos Blvd. (1966c-1973)  – The Orange Julius company was saying as early as 1966 and again a year later that they had a franchise available located in the Rossmoor Shopping Center.  
   By 1969 they had apparently found someone.  An ad in the LAHS student paper notes the franchise as Conley’s Orange Julius.  


The Hungry hamburger stickers were apparently a bain to all local parents, but kids placed them everywhere

Hungry Hamburger – 12161 Seal Beach Blvd.  (opened by Spring 1973 – lasted to around 1977) – known for their circular red-orange stickers and their burgers with a lot of pepper.  Owned by two doctors, Norman Pokras and Sanford Davis who sold a third of a pound burger for 80 cents.   It’s possible this joint was struggling by 1975 as want ads ran “seeking to sell a free-standing hamburger building in the Rossmoor Center.” Longtime Los Al resident Serena Howard\ says she used to work there in Spring of 1973 when she was still in high school. 

Londontown Fish & Chips – 12161 Seal Beach Blvd.  It was there in at least 1983 and 1984.  Local Glenn Urata recalls working there during this time.   

Champs – 12161 Seal Beach Blvd – Started in 1987 by Mark and Moe Griffin.  …   – They had sold the property by 1998.  when shopping center closed for renovation, Champ’s owners bought Mustard’s on Katella Ave.  They have recently sold their interest in that location. 

Bowlolgy Acaii Bowls – 12161 Seal Beach Blvd.   Although it has the same address as Champs and the Hungry Hamburger, Bowl-ology is in the building set back from the street.  

California Pizza Kitchen – 12171 Seal Beach Blvd. – (2006) – General Manager Marcie Book earned great loyalty by supporting Los Al groups.   The restaurant was an instant success and seems to be busy just about any day that it is open.  

Peet’s Coffee – 12203 Seal Beach Blvd –  

Wine Styles – 12205 Seal Beach Blvd. – (2007-2009) started by a Los Al grad, Todd Stahl.  It opened just went the economy totally went south and like other new Shops at Rossmoor stores, (can you say Circuit City?), it was forced to close.

Pop Shoppe –   12233 Los Alamitos Blvd.   (1973c – 1979c)  Kathy Ampudia – “There was a store called Pop Shop next to the Rossmoor Athletic Club. Lots of soda pop flavors sold in glass bottles.”  Janet Fritz Foster confirms this and directed us to a history of the Pop Shoppe on Wikipedia.  “The Pop Shoppe is a soft drink retailer originating in 1969 in Ontario.  The Pop Shoppe avoided traditional retail channels, selling its pop through franchised outlets and its own stores in refillable bottles in 24-cartons.  Within three years, the company grew to over 500 stores just within Ontario, then in 1972 began expanding into the United States.  Eventually, Pop Shoppe was selling 30 different flavours of pop throughout Canada and 12 American states.   In the early 1980s, sales slowed, largely blamed on competition from private label grocery store soft drink brands. The original company ceased operations in 1983

J. Higby’s Yogurt Shoppe – 12233 Seal Beach Blvd.  This Rancho Cordova-based chain opened for business in 1984 and someone opened a franchise at the Rossmoor Center sometime after that.   It was doing local fundraisers in Feb 1988., but in march 1989 , “after seeing its stock price tumble for nearly two years, announced a corporate restructuring to pave the way for a possible buyout” and closed a lot of its under-performing stores.  Was this in the same building occupied by Winston Tires and some art store for kids? 

Pei Wei – 12235 Seal Beach Blvd. (2008? – closed March 2018) – Pei Wei was the small fast food operation of P.F. Chang’s.  The Rossmoor location did okay but never did great business, perhaps because the local Chinese take-out market had strong competition from Fortune Cookies and Red Wok.  market.  

Rossmoor Athletic Club – 12239 Seal Beach Blvd.  – 1985 – 2004 – They had a juice bar inside and some healthy snacks if I recall, for after a tough workout. 

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The Parasol – 12241 Seal Beach Blvd – Opened in 1968.  It’s Googie architecture — large areas of glass,  cantilevered roofs and the bold artistic statement of the restaurant’s parasol shaped roof and hanging lamps shaped like parasols were a kitschy Mid-Century Modern match for the vinyl booths and counter stools.  One of their unique specials was a soup or chili with a half sandwich, called a bumbershoot (cost $5.35 in 1998), but also popular were the sheepherders pie, and the meatloaf. The restaurant became a cause celebre in 2003 when National General was going to raze it as part of their plan to modernize the Rossmoor center.  Roy Hall helped open the place as a chef in 1967, then bought it in 1982.   When the demolition was annunced in 2003, local resient patrons started a petition to save the Parasol.  National General agreed to do so, but then the previous owners couldn’t meet the rental increases. 

Mel’s Diner – 2007-October 2009 – When plans to reopen the Parasol fell through, the Shops made a well-publicized deal to bring the Mel’s Diner chain (of American Graffiti fame) to the Rossmoor center.  The grand opening was a big party of vintage cars and other 1950s related kitsch.  The novelty soon wore off and locals found the food so-so and over-priced, never a good combination, plus the economy went south big time during their first year.  Sales dropped by40% according to owner Steven Weiss.  Mel’s cruise on the Rossmoor strip barely made it past two years.  The probably lasted two years at the most.

Panera Bread – 12241 Seal Beach Blvd. (2010 – present) 

South of Rossmoor Way

Sprouts Farmers Market – 12301 Seal Beach Blvd -(Opened in September 2008[still going strong).   It always seems busy there.  

The Rossmoor Inn opened in September 1962 and stayed in business until 1980

Rossmoor Inn – 12311 Seal Beach Blvd.  – (May 1962-Sep. 1980) The Inn and bowling alley were announced in August 1961, but construction didn’t start until late that year.  The Inn was designed in an Olde English style (with a Tudor Revival influence) which was quite popular at the time (the Smokehouse, Dal Rae). The interior is large, with several dining areas and a cozy mid-century lounge. and alley opened around May with the Rossmoor Bowling alley and quickly became the go-to local place.    
“The Rossmoor Bowl was a haven for 70s Rossmoor children. Never-mind that it was filled with cigarette smoke, it had pinball machines and some of the world’s first video games. I played Pong there and then Asteroids while a line of kids behind me waited their turn, lining up quarters up to hold their spot.” (Don Lubach, Facebook post) 
The Inn’s banquet room hosted the monthly brunch and lunch meetings of the Rossmoor Women’s Club, the National Charity League, Navy Wives banquets, and the normal fashion shows, baby showers, rehearsal dinners, etc.  In the summer of 1963, KTLA broadcast bowling LIVE from the Rossmoor Bowl every Saturday at 4:30.  That last from June thru September.   A 1970 Christmas ad said “Host Norm Roberts and his staff will emphasize delicious roast turkey, sugar cured ham with brandy fruit sauce, New York steak, prime rib and lobster.  $3.95 to $6.50. Included will be mushroom soup or fresh green salad, potatoes or yams, garden peas, rolls, beverage and choice of plum pudding. mince pie or snowball delight.  Childrens dinners will be $1.75.” In addition to the traditional English menu, the Inn also had a strong lounge life — and for those who say Rossmoor closes at 10pm, the Inn’s lounge acts did three shows a night – at 9:30, 11 and 12:30.  Early favorites included “Beatrice Kay with Tepper & Friend.”  The 1977 schedule had numerous appearances by Tommy and Lussi, or the Wilder Brothers aka The Sounds of Sunshine, and many other lounge style acts.  A classified ad from Sept 1980 announces all the restaurant equipment up for public sale at auction. 

The subdued decor of the original Rossmoor Inn.

The Sly Fox – 12311 Seal Beach Blvd. – (opened around 1981-82 – c1985) – owned by Ken Skinner, the son of Fio Rito’s second owners, Pat and Phyllis Loughran.   Tom Germscheid, who had worked with Ken at a Sly Fox in Burlingame, came down to Southern California to bartend for him here.   The Sly Fox was only in business for a few years,, and Ken left to help out with the running of Fio Rito’s.  The Sly Fox became Chang’s.  

Chang’s  (c.1985-87) “The Sly Fox became Changs, where I also bartended which became Panda Panda. When at Changs I was the only caucasian working with Chinese waiters who didn’t know much about cocktails. I remember one coming up to the bar and ordering cherries jubilee. I had to tell him that’s a dessert from the kitchen, not a drink. Employee meals after closing were not what you would see on the menu. I’d just say, “Thanks, but I think I’ll just grab a burger on the way home”. The old man Chang had been the private chef for Admiral Nimitz.

Panda Panda – 12309 Seal Beach Blvd.  (1987c – 2003) took over from the Sly Fox in 1987 or 1988.  Offered mandarin and Szechuan cuisine.  Rossmoor Inn.   There were rumors that this was a money-laundering front for organized crime, but you know about these rumor things..

The opening weekend in late summer 1989

Super Saver Cinema – 12343 Seal Beach Blvd.  – (opened Aug. 25, 1989 – closed around 2002) Obviously a great place to get candy and popcorn.  Although this place was only at the center for about 13 years, it has provided many memories for locals.  The theater was built in the old furniture store at the rear of the Rossmoor center.  Touted by the owning Syufy Theater chain as “Southern California’s most luxurious theater with deluxe decor,” the LA Times writer noted that ” , it “looks and sounds more like a disco. Flashing lights and neon tubes programmed to pulse to pop music, throw colored beams across the 3,000 square foot lobby where they bounce off reflective walls.  Fog  periodically steams from the ceiling.” The building housed seven screens, with seating ranging from 175 seats to 325.  The largest screen was 31 feet wide by 14 high.  That’s a ration of just over 16:12.  Modern large screen high-def televisions are 16:9.  6,000 people attended during the theater’s first week.
     The theater opened to great acclaim but residents in the nearby condos frequently complained about the late night noise.  

Subway – 12353 Seal Beach Blvd. (2007- 

Yogurtland – 12357 Seal Beach Blvd.  (2007-

Chipotle – 12359 Seal Beach Blvd. (2007-


In and Out

Thrifty Drugs –  12419 Seal Beach Blvd. – (opened in September 1961 – )  This was the second store opened in the new center, across the “mall” walkway from the Food Giant.  Most locals remember the ice cream counter at the very front of the store, but one could also chose from a decent selection of candy.  The pharmacy was located in the back

S.H. Kress & Co. – 12421 Seal Beach Blvd.  (Opened in December 1961 – out of there by Feb 1975) this variety store was part of the first phase built for the new shopping center.  The Food Giant supermarket was on the south side of the “mall” and the Kress store anchored the North stores.  Kress was a traditional variety / five and dime store.  It had a counter for lunch and breakfast.  An ad for a Soroptimist Antiques & Art Show in Feb 1975 lists the location as “the former Kress building” in the Rossmoor Shopping center.  

Rossmoor Pastries – 12423 Seal Beach Blvd.  (1961-2001)  Phil LaCasto was a young kid in his 20’s visiting California and he somehow met Ross Cortese. (Family members say it was some kind of “Italian connection.”)   Cortese was showing him his new Rossmoor development and Lacasto mentioned that he’d love to set up a bakery in this area.  Cortese told he was getting ready to build a shopping center and took him back to his office and showed him the plans.  Was he interested?  Lacasto pointed to a corner spot and said that’s the spot he wanted, and Cortese put a reserved sign on it, so his salesman wouldn’t offer it to anyone else.  A year later, in 1961, he became the owner of the bakery in the new center that was in its earliest stages at the time.  Rossmoor Pastries became an immediate favorite, especially for kids who liked to watch the chefs decorate their creations in the front window.   
   The shop was very popular.  Unfortunately, by the mid 1980s, an outside investment put the family in a tough position which resulted in a bankruptcy.  
     In 1988, hearing that the bakery had closed and was for sale, Charlie Lederer and his longtime partner and companion purchased the business, thinking the location offered additional possibilities as a commercial bakery.  Lederer had long been involved in the restaurant business, as a store manager and later on the supply end, running companies that supplied burgers and other products to fast food restaurants.  In 2001, with the center landlords getting ready to renovate the shopping center, Lederer closed the Rossmoor location and moved to Signal Hill, but never missed a step.  He has since grown the company into a $7 million  business with 80 employees, and a fleet of natural gas vehicles.  

The Chocolate Tree — 12427 Los Alamitos/Seal Beach Blvd.  we’re not sure of the exact location, but probably in the mall near Rossmoor Pastrie.  It was open for business in 1967 and 1968, but not 1964. 

Rossmoor Pizza Palace –  We could find a listing for this place only in a 1964 display ad.  

Gennaro’s Pizza – 12433 Los Alamitos Blvd.    across from Holiday Hardware in the Rossmoor Center –  It was there in 1967 (see ad at bottom)  and still running ads in 1997).   

Food Giant / Smith’s Food King  / Lucky’s   / Albertson’s  (1961  –  12451 Seal Beach Blvd — Food Giant was the first store to open in the new Rossmoor Center.  In August 1971 the Smith’s company bought 26 former Food Giant/Food King markets in Socal and converted them to Smith’s Food King. 16 of those stores were called Food King (as opposed to Smith’s Food King–no confusion there!) and 10 were called Food Giant. In February, 1972, they acquired the remaining 23 Food Giant stores giving them 49 stores. In 1982 they picked up 6 former Market Basket locations. But by 1984 Smiths sold all of their California stores to Lucky, with only 17 in the LA/OC/IE area. As Lucky’s the Rossmoor store held a grand re-opening in March 1988.   A few years later Lucky’s sold out to Albertson’s which remained in the location until they closed down around March 2008. 

Marie Callender’s (April 1971-2000) / Callender’s Grill (2001 – 2015) – 12489 Seal Beach Blvd. – Opened by Don Proctor and Bob ___, wh were high school buddies of Don Callender and had worked with him on his first Marie Callender’s locations.  Callender and Proctor families lived in Rossmoor.   Don’s daughter Nancy ran the Callender’s Grill operation for many years before she retired and moved to Texas.  The footprint with its double size pie kitchen was problematic for many restaurants which desired this location.  Hof’s Hut is scheduled to move down the Boulevard and re-open up in this location in mid-2019.

Kentucky Fried Chicken 12491 Seal Beach Blvd.  (1967 – 

Baskin-Robbins (1967 –    )   

Ken’s Custom Meats & Frozen Food Lockers – (it was open for business as early as September 1967 – and was still in business in 1975 when the ad to the right ran in the Long Beach papers. 
   It was in the building just west of the new Fox Theaters, and these buildings were not built until around 1964.
   When this butcher shop closed, the site eventually became the Damon’s and Draper’s women’s clothing store.  
   The site is now a new office building operated by F&M Bank

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The Rossmoor Center annexation … Was it really “theft?”

Probably no incident irritates Rossmoor residents more than the annexation of the Rossmoor Shopping Center by the City of Seal Beach.   “If we only had those sales tax dollars… if we only had those property tax dollars…” are familiar refrains from Rossmoor old-timers and newcomers. alike.

Probably most irritating for the old-timers was the suddenness of the annexation.  In late September 1966,  after almost a year of debate, Rossmoor and Los Alamitos voted to decide if the two communities would merge.  The initiative passed among Los Alamitos voters but Rossmoor turned it down emphatically – by a 2-to-1 margin.  Annexation foes thought the issue was settled and then seven weeks later Rossmoor residents find out Seal Beach was annexing their shopping center.  

But first, a little backstory is necessary.  Rossmoor was developed , from three different parcels of property optioned by developer Ross Cortese from 1955 through early 1958.   The first section — the middle – ran from Kempton Avenue to Orangewood Avenue (if Orangewood ran straight to the county line.)  Cortese purchased this parcel from an Irvine Ranch-related consortium which had purchased it in 1947 from the heirs of Susannah Bixby Bryant.  This purchase also included the land now occupied by St. Hedwig Church and Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church and the Rossmoor Highlands. 

The second parcel was the land between Mainway and Garden Grove Boulevard.  This parcel was owned by the Fred H. Bixby Ranch Company (of the Rancho Los Alamitos).  This purchase could not be finalized until almost early 1958 while the freeway routes were being finalized and surveyed.   

The third parcel was the land north of Orangewood which had been owned by the Bixby Land Company, (the Rancho Los Cerritos Bixbys) but had undergone some property changes in the post-war years.  Cortese eventually secured not only the Rossmoor land, but also the property where Los Alamitos City Hall and Oak School are currently located.

Here is a drawing from the earliest sales brochures.  Note that the shopping center was originally conceived to run between Bradbury and Copa De Oro and from the Boulevard to Montecito.   The area where the condominiums are now was originally conceived as parking.  Also note that the area at the bottom right (present Rossmoor Village and apartments) was conceived as a hospital.  This all changed when the freeway routes were finalized.   

Cortese’s original vision for Rossmoor included a large medical center at the northeast corner of the tract, and a major shopping center, similar to the nearby nationally acclaimed Lakewood Mall.  It is on the earliest drawings – totally occupying the space between Bradbury and St. Cloud, Los Al Blvd to Montecito.   

That original vision also included the land east of Los Alamitos Blvd on which Cortese already had options.  The present Rossmoor Highlands, Target Center and Old Ranch Golf Course would be apartments — except for the southernmost area under the Navy Base take-off zone which would be part of the proposed Del Rey Country Club with two 18-hole golf courses.  

 The first Rossmoor homes went on the market in late 1956. The first homes to be occupied (on Kempton) happened in August 1957, but the middle section had already sold out. The main freeway issues of the Southern section were resolved in early 1957, and the Bixby Ranch Co. conveyed their land to Cortese and his investing partners, the Los Coyotes Land Company. 1)“365 Acres Area Is Sold For $613,000, LA Times, March 3, 1957; “LB Independent Press-Telegram, Jan. 24, 1957: “Real Estate Deals Total $1,867,701,” This latter deal also included an option for 229 acres east of Los Alamitos Blvd for a “swank golf course and country club.”  This was the proposed Del Rey Country Club (The Course of Kings) which failed to get enough interest to be built at the time.  Old Ranch Golf Club was later built on the same site.

The first version of the Rossmoor Center was announced in November 1958 and would comprise 500,000 square feet, two major department stores, a giant super food market, and other retail stores.  It would have space for 5,000 cars. which would mainly enter off Montecito, Bradbury and St. Cloud.  The current Rossmoor Center  Drive entrance would not go through to the main tract – it would only be a feeder to the front parking lot. The architects were Stiles & Robert Clements, a well-known father-son architectural team that designed many well-known stores, schools, and government buildings.

 With all the house construction and sales going great, Cortese moved onto developing the shopping center.  The first design, announced in November 1958, called for a huge octagon-shaped mall with 500,000 square feet of store space.  The focal  point would be a two-acre center courtyard with “display fountains, benches, and other shopping facilities.” It was designed by  Stiles & Robert Clements, an established father-son architectural team that designed many well-known stores, schools, and government buildings     The new Rossmoor Center would serve the area from Lakewood Boulevard to Beach Boulevard, from Carson-Lincoln on the north, south to the coast.  This took into account Long Beach’s desire to have Atherton Avenue connect with Rossmoor via Bostonian, providing a short and direct route to the college and to the Los Altos Shopping center.  But none of this came to fruition.

   Orange County planners strongly opposed this extension, as well as connecting Atherton south to Lampson.  Strongly encouraged by the Rossmoor Homeowners Association, the OC Planners held out for connections at Katella-Willow and Garden Grove Blvd-7th Street.  The final routes of the San Gabriel River Freeway also affected this decision making as well.   
   It’s also possible the shopping center developers encountered a lack of enthusiasm from big department stores –such as Sears.  All the surrounding open space (the bases, the freeways, El Dorado Park, and the Race Track) translated to a lack of potential customers to corporate execs.  [Even now, 60 years later, most big box retail execs are still wary of the Rossmoor market.]   
    It’s also possible Cortese was distracted by his Leisure World planning and that the economic climate of late 1959 and early 1960 caused him (and his investors) to rein in ambitions. They would not have access to the East Long Beach market as first thought, and then there was even closer competition.  Despite vigorous protests from Cortese, the new city of Los Alamitos approved the construction of the Thriftimart Shopping Center (now the Von’s Center).   

   The plans for the huge octagonal-shaped Rossmoor Shopping Center were scrapped and new plans were downsized.  In July 1960, a revised plan called for the development of one section at a time.  This one was designed by an even more respected firm of Burke, Kober & Nicolais – whose two senior partners (Eugene Burke, and Charles Kober) had literally written the industry’s “bible” for shopping center design.   

  In April 1961 Food Giant became the first store to open its doors to customers.  (It was located roughly where the Toys R Us building is now).  Close behind were Thrifty Drug Store (September 1961), S.H. Kress Variety Store (December). The Rossmoor Inn and Rossmoor Bowl opened in April 1962, and the circular savings Union Federal Savings & Loan opened in 1963.  The Boston store’s opening in October 1963 was the last major store opening, although the opening of the Fox Theater [at the current F&M site] in summer 1964 was a big deal.

Cortese’s encountered other challenges as well.  The medical center (present Rossmoor Village) was supposed to include medical offices and a hospital.  But local educators wanted the spot for a middle school site; Cortese offered the site where St. Hedwig is now — but OC planners said public schools could not be placed there.  The Anaheim District then requested a property north of Katella [the current Oak Middle School site].  That resolved, the Cortese group and some local doctors, formed the Rossmoor Medical Group,  agreed to make it a combination retail and medical area, with construction of the first unit — the present Fish Company Building — commencing in March 1962.((interview with Dr. Seymour Allan, 50th anniversary of Los Al Med Center, Event-News-Enterprise, Nov. 14, 2018, p.8; Independent Press-Telegram, March 4, 1962, page60, “Building of Medical Unit Is Underway”))  But eventually, the collective group of doctors and investors thought Cortese was asking too much money for a hospital site.  So the medical center element slowly faded away.  

But Cortese was still going strong with his Leisure World projects.  So, over the next four years, while the southern half of the Rossmoor Shopping Center was built piecemeal. Cortese was also systematically unloading his land east of the boulevard.  When planners wouldn’t let it be used as a public middle school site, he gave the SE corner lots at Orangewood and Los Alamitos to St. Hedwig Church (1960).  Then he turned over the lots for the Rossmoor Highlands (1961) and Good Shepherd Church (1962).  He released his options on the Bixby Ranch Company land (now the Target homes, the Old Ranch Shopping Center and Golf Course, and the area by Spaghettini’s.
     By 1964 the expanding war in Vietnam began affected the housing industry and Cortese, overextended after purchasing land for many future Leisure World developments, began to sell off properties.  One of the first was the shopping center area which became the Rossmoor Townhomes which were built in 1964.  By May 1965 Cortese had sold off all his interest in the remaining undeveloped Rossmoor Center land. This would eventually lead to the new owners allowing the land to be annexed by Seal Beach in return for getting the right to build apartments and condos on — along with some forward funded water and sewer lines.     

By this time  Cortese had completed construction in Rossmoor as well as Leisure World.  The success of the latter caused him to change his focus to the construction of retirement communities across the nation and he went on a spending spree — purchasing properties in Santa Barbara, Chicago, New Jersey, Maryland and a couple sites in Europe.  This was one reason he sold the land that became the Rossmoor Townhomes and the property that was now called Rossmoor Village where Bridgestone Tires, Katella Deli and Park Pantry established businesses.

By mid-1966 the shopping center partners were aware that there was not a great demand for more stores at their shopping center.  Part of this was due to a rapidly growing nationwide credit crunch.  The expenses of the federal government’s Great Society programs and the rapid build-up of the Vietnam War ended diverted capital from private industries to government programs. Banks found themselves in a cash flow problem and called in loans.  Suddenly, developers across the nation were scrambling to pay off loans.  Ross Cortese was no exception.  He defaulted on one loan to Metropolitan Life, and to avoid more he started selling off properties — Santa Barbara, Walnut Creek, Chicago, New Jersey and his share of the still undeveloped land of the Rossmoor Center. This latter he sold to his long-time partners, the Los Coyotes land Company.  But by this time, the controlling partner in this venture was Zygman (Zyg) Taube.

Taube didn’t want to wait until the retail market returned. He wanted to create income now — and at the time, with the current state of the economy, the best way for that seemed to be multi-family residential units — apartments.

    When the Los Alamitos-Rossmoor merge failed in September 1966, Taube approached Los Alamitos officials.  He wanted a return on his investments.  He wanted to build apartments.  Since Rossmoor was not incorporated and thus not empowered to make any decisions, and homeowners had made it clear they did not want apartments in the area,  it was useless to deal with them.  If Taube agreed to be annexed by Los Alamitos, would they forward fund investments in water and sewer lines?  
   The Los Alamitos officials, still smarting from the recent rejection by Rossmoor but still hopeful of a future relationship, declined.((1983 interview with former city council members Jim Bell and Chuck Long, Los Al TV series, “History of Los Alamitos.”)) 
   Undeterred, Taube turned to Seal Beach, whose young city manager, Lee Risner, was aggressively continuing the expansion of their city boundaries. 2)2012 interview with then assistant city manager Dennis Courtemarche, who handled much of the negotiations with Taube. 
   In 1961 the city annexed that part of the Hellman Ranch that became Leisure World.  A few years later they annexed the Navy Weapons Station.  In 1964 they jumped the freeway to annex the Bixby Ranch Company land that would become College Park East and West, the Old Ranch Golf Course, and the future Old Ranch Town Center, the Bixby Office Park and all of [then] Los Alamitos Boulevard south of Bradbury.

When Los Alamitos officials declined in October 1966 to deal with Taube and the Los Coyotes Land Company, he turned to Risner and Seal Beach to whom they had already been talking.  Within a few weeks, they had worked out a deal.  On November 14, 1966, Rossmoor residents were stunned to learn that the owners of the Rossmoor Shopping Center had agreed to be annexed by Seal Beach.  Since the affected area had no residents, it only needed the property owner’s consent. 

Rossmoor leaders immediately objected and started to file legal blocks. So did Los Alamitos.  But a community open house at Rossmoor School only drew 150 people out of  over 6,000 elgible voters residents at the time.  

A few weeks later, new OC Supervisor Dave Baker, a member of the LAFCO Committee which would rule on the annexation, told Rossmoor homeowners and Los Alamitos officials that the onus would be on them to prove that the annexation of uninhabited land will be “detrimental for them.” To answer Los Alamitos objections that the annexation would cause an overlap of water and sewer districts (as well the school district), Seal Beach’s Lee Risner noted that there is already an overlap with the College Park and Old Ranch Golf Course areas. Plus, Seal Beach already owns the boulevard land that fronts the shopping center.  

A week later the annexation was approved by the LAFCO Committee by a 3-2 vote and by then all had accepted it as a fait accompli.   Officially the annexation did not legally take effect until March 6, 1967, but it did so at a Seal Beach Council meeting that had no protestors.

To this day, Rossmoor residents occasional complain about the loss of sales tax and property tax to the community, but, in reality, 80% of the property tax goes to schools so that’s not lost. Nor are the property tax revenues that go to the Orange County Library, the Fire Authority, the flood control district and other agencies.  As for the sales tax, the majority of this money goes to the police and road maintenance.  Rossmoor definitely benefits from police at the two shopping centers because during a Part I call (high priority) Seal Beach officers are as likely as an OC Sheriff or Los Al policeman to be the first responder on the scene.  Plus, we all benefit from the road improvements to the roads north of the freeway.  

Yes, we lost the Center, and we lost some control and influence over how the annexed properties are developed. But in truth, we didn’t lose much.  Rossmoor revenues are very important to Seal Beach so their government is very responsive to Rossmoor concerns, and financially we didn’t lose that much.  Probably no more than we would have lost if revenues would have gone to Orange County  where we don’t get all the money we pay already. 


References   [ + ]

1. “365 Acres Area Is Sold For $613,000, LA Times, March 3, 1957; “LB Independent Press-Telegram, Jan. 24, 1957: “Real Estate Deals Total $1,867,701,” This latter deal also included an option for 229 acres east of Los Alamitos Blvd for a “swank golf course and country club.”  This was the proposed Del Rey Country Club (The Course of Kings) which failed to get enough interest to be built at the time.  Old Ranch Golf Club was later built on the same site.
2. 2012 interview with then assistant city manager Dennis Courtemarche, who handled much of the negotiations with Taube.
Categories
Seal Beach Sin City - Prohibition & Gambling 1920-55

The Marina Palace – A look back 50 years ago

This is an article  I originally wrote for the Seal Beach Sun in July 2014.

The 100th anniversary of Seal Beach comes up next year, but we are already in the middle of some other significant anniversaries.

Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the actual naming of Seal Beach (changed from Bay City in August 1913), and this year marks not only the 150th anniversary of the founding of Anaheim Landing, but also the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Marina Palace, the legendary rock and roll hotspot located in the two Quonset huts on PCH just across the Long Beach line.

Throughout the mid-to-late 1960s and early 1970s, the Marina Palace hosted such headliners as Ike and Tina Turner, Alice Cooper, the Seeds, Van Morrison and almost every local band trying to get a break.

The Marina Palace was surrounded by controversy from its beginnings, not surprising since its owner was William Robertson, the most controversial and divisive figure in Seal Beach history.

Robertson was a Los Angeles police detective, overseeing the force’s hotel division. He supplemented his income by “employment” (over $100,000 worth) at a number of Ballard Barron’s gambling operations in Seal Beach in the late 1930s.  While there is no proof, there is much speculation that the term “employment” more likely meant a shakedown. Barron was a successful but quite independent gambler.  About this same time, the New York-Chicago mob had sent Ben (Bugsy) Siegel to California to consolidate gambling operations under their  umbrella — which meant using whatever it took to bring the independent gambling operators under the protection and oversight of the “outfit.”  Soimetimes (as in the case of Redondo Beach gambling kingpin Les Brunneman, the “whatever else it took” ended up with two shooting attempts on his life, the second resulting in his death.  There are also rumors among local old timers that Robertson had earned Siegel’s favor after informing him of a potential hit by a rival mob.

But Los Angeles PD investigations motivated him to abruptly resign his job in 1940. Within a couple of years, after some fights, deaths and a mysterious fire which burnt down the Seal Hotel (the center of Barron’s gambling operations), Seal Beach gamblers shifted their operations to the developing Las Vegas Strip, he began operating gambling clubs in Seal Beach.

When post-World War II changes made things tough for local gambling, Robertson conceived a plan which would eliminate gambling on Main Street but establish a new gambling zone on a strip of state land just north of PCH at First Street. This parcel was reclaimed from Alamitos Bay when the San Gabriel River channel was created. The gambling was limited to one operator —a “non-profit” operated by Robertson who, with Glide ‘er Inn owner Jimmy Arnerich, had also obtained a lease on the land.

Through judicious donations and free meals in the months prior to elections — and the power of publishing the town’s newspaper (he purchased Seal Beach Post & Wave in 1943), Robertson eventually got the gambling zone and his Airport Club approved by the city council. But it led to a backlash and a four year campaign which in 1953 led to the banning of gambling in town.

Robertson tried multiple times to revive gambling, but to no avail. By 1961 he was using the Airport Club site as a boat sales operation.

Beginning in January 1962 he tried to turn his Quonset huts into a dance hall. Surf guitarist Dick Dale (probably acting as a front) applied for a permit to operate “the proposed Marina Palace” as a dance hall but was denied, in part because of protests from the town PTA and the Baptist Church whose spokesperson Mrs. Stanley Olson said the dance hall would be of no positive benefit economically and would attract an undesirable element. Finally Robertson leased the building to the American Legion who did obtain a dancing permit. When the Legion could not make a go of it, Robertson took over the grandfathered permit in early 1964, and began booking rock and roll acts in the building.

His son, Bob Robertson, stated that at one point there were plans for the Quonset huts to become the first of the Cinnamon Cinder clubs run by KRLA radio disc Jockey Bob Eubanks, who in his pre-Newlywed Game days was a top Los Angeles radio personality and the man who brought the Beatles concerts to Hollywood Bowl in LA.

To be continued in Part 2…

Categories
Uncategorized

1ST PERSON: Albert Cosyns, Belgian farmer of the Alamitos

courtesy of the Rancho Los Alamitos archives.

As I remember this area, in the 1930’s the only paved roads were Bixby Avenue (where Rossmoor Center meets Los Alamitos Blvd.), Bryant Avenue (now Orangewood — and Constitution on the base), and Katella… all oiled roads.  All the farm roads were dirt. Bixby and Bryant Avenue were from Los Alamitos Blvd east to Hansen, now Knott Avenue .  They were maintained by the county until the Los Alamitos Air Base was built, then both streets were closed through the base and owner maintained east of the base.

When Bryant Ranch started selling in the 1950s and the property line was the middle of Bixby Avenue, Mr. Bixby put a four-strand barb wire fence down the center of the road, leaving a narrow, not well maintained road.

In the mid to late 1930’s Lakewood Blvd and the traffic circle were built, also Somerset (now Bellflower Blvd.) was extended from Spring Street south to Hathaway (now Pacific Coast Highway).

All four large ranches, Bixby, Bryant, Bixby land Co., and Hellman all rented to share crop tenants.  Many were Belgian immigrants.  Crop rent was ¼ to the landlord (a quarter of the crop or a quarter of the cash from the sale of the crop) and ¾ to the farmer.  The farmer had all expenses except well repairs and building maintenance.  The vegetable farmers paid cash rent.

All share crop farmers grew similar crops — sugar beets, alfalfa, oats, barley, corn, lima beans and blackete beans.  I’ll ID Belgian farmers with Bel. and ID farmers with numbers on each ranch as I remember them.

FRED H. BIXBY RANCH

  1. Bel – George Goeman
  2. Japanese, and later Filipino vegetable farmers
  3. Pete Valenzuelo
  4. Alfred Stinson started in the 1940s.  Valenzuela here earlier.
  5. Ivo Cosyns, 1910 to 1927
  6. Bel – Otte family – Oscar Watte and his family farmed from the river east to Los Alamitos Blvd. until the Rossmoor subdivision was built (1957).
  7. Early 1900’s.  Mt. Bixby planted Eucalyptus trees to be cut and used for heating wood in all his homes (including his tenant homes).
  8. Petrus Vlasschaert, 1899-1904; Frank VClasschaert, 1904-1911; Leonard Vlasschaert, 1911-1916 or ’17; Jules DePauw and sons.  Albert & George Watte after DePauw.
  9. Rene Cannou, later Albert Cannou,Bel.
  10. Laurence Lerno, later Albert Lerno, Bel.
  11. Ivo Cosyns, later Chareles & Albert Cosyns. Bel.  Chas. Cosyns was the last tenant, all farming ended in 1962 or 1963.

BRYANT RANCH TENANTS

  1. Benoit Rottiersm Bel.
  2. Constant debbaut, later Victor Debbaut. Bel.
  3. Leon Vlasschaert. Bel.
  4. Joe Mello, dairy, later Charles Harris, farmer – about  1934
  5. Octave Otte, later Ommer Otte, Bel.
  6. Bryant Feed lot. (Also called the Steele Ranch for the employee who ran the lot.)
  7. Martin Goeman, later Frank Watte. Bel.
  8. C. C. DeConnick, later Scott  bros. Bel.
  9. Bryant dairy.  Pete DeGroot.
  10. Bryant Orange grove.
  11. Kelly, later  Albert Watte.  Note:  This was the Bryany strip south of Seventh S, as I remember.

BIXBY LAND CO. TENANTS

  1. Aba Aguilar
  2. Ivo Cosyns, 1927-1941, Bel.
  3. Alphonse Verhaegen, Bel.
  4. Bootsma and Azevedo dairies
  5. F. Herreweghe daity. Bel.
  6. Camile Cauwell and Rene Baeyens, later DeCraemer., Bel.
  7. Louis Goeman
  8. B. Roa – A. Troch and Camil Wuytens. Bel.
  9. C. Manchaert, Bel. and G. Roa
  10. B. Sutton and Bakeman, Bel.
  11. Bixby Land Co. daity and farm office (McOmie’s office)

HELLMAN RANCH TENANTS

  1. Hellman Ranch Headquarters
  2. Gustaaf Vandevelde, Bel.
  3. Japanese vegetable farmers
  4. C. Mancahert. Bel.
  5. Rene Quattacker. Bel.
  6. Frank LaCerno. Mex.
  7. Cornelius Coopman. Bel.
  8. August Cairneau. Bel.
  9. EmilGoossens. Bel.
  10. Germain Quatacker. Bel.
  11. Rene Baeyens, later Gaubert and Sons. Bel.
  12. Gustaaf DePetter and J. DeSadeleer.

 

Categories
Los Alamitos NAS Los Al

August 21 marks 75th anniversary for Los Al base groundbreaking

[I know — this article is way too long.  But a real and accurate history covering the beginnings of the Los Alamitos Naval Air Station — now the Joint Forces Training base — has never been printed before.  I wanted to not only finally get a more accurate one published, but to also point out — hopefully without appearing too snotty or know-it-all-ish —  what was inaccurate about the previous versions.  But as always, I’m sure there is someone out there who can add even more accurate information to this version.  If so, please contact me.  Anyway, here goes.]

A somewhat important footnote in local history almost snuck by us last month.  August 21 marked the 75th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the Los Alamitos Naval Air Station.  The base, Orange County’s first major military installation, was actually a relocation and an expansion of the Naval Reserve Air Base at Long Beach airport.  The Navy unit needed to move as the Long Beach site needed more room for the new Douglas Aircraft manufacturing plant at the north end of the airport and the rapid expansion of the Army Ferry Command which transported new aircraft built at the major Southern California aircraft manufacturers (Douglas, North American, Vultee in Downey, Northrop in Hawthorne, and Vega and Lockheed in Burbank.  (From 1942-46 all the increasing military aircraft production and ferrying activity made Long Beach Airport the busiest airport in the world.)  The base was also a relatively small part of the expansion of the entire Navy presence in the Long Beach-San Pedro area.

1941-0721- SA Register_Works Starts on NAS Los Al - Thu__Aug_21__1941_So why did the Navy decide to move to Los Alamitos?

There are conflicting histories for the Long Beach and  Los Al Naval Air Base.   The “official” Navy  history was written immediately after World War II and footnotes indicate that most of the older information was based on two interviews.  One was with Major  William J. Fox, the commander of Marine Reserve aviation unit at Long Beach and during its transition to Los Alamitos, and later a commander at El Toro Marine Air Station.  Fox was also a major player with the Los Angeles County Planning department.  The second source was the Los Alamitos Assembly & Repair officer in February 1944, whose name was redacted from the official file.  It was in Fox’s role as a county planner that he was assigned the task of surveying all possible Southern California airfields.  He would later do the same for El Toro and become that base’s first commander.  In Fox’s version, the Navy was basically kicked out of Long Beach Airport by the LB City Manager J.W. Charleville, who also reportedly told Commander Thomas Gray at an informal city council meeting “the sooner the Navy gets off Long Beach Airport, the better we will like it.”  [Gray served as commander of the San Pedro-Long Beach Naval operation from June 1939 to April 1941 and Charleville was City Manager from August 1939 to Jan. 3, 1941.]  This seems to make no logical sense — why would Long Beach, which had a long history of working with the Navy at the port —  (they leased the land where the Roosevelt Navy Base and Dry Dock was built for $1 a year]1)December 18, 1940, Los Angeles Times, page 15, “Long Beach Sells  105 Acres for Naval base fr Only $1” suddenly  be antagonistic towards one of its biggest employers and sources of revenue?  Yet, this story has been passed down uncontested.  This version was soon augmented with the “fact” that the Los Al property was patriotically granted to the Navy by owner Susannah Bixby Bryant at a discounted price.  Later histories from the California  Center for Military History  includes information about connections to a Naval Reserve Unit on Allen Field on Terminal island.  Thorough research seems to indicate both of these points are definitely questionable, and possibly untrue.  So many things about the official history of the Los Alamitos base just don’t seem to make sense … UNLESS one looks at the creation of the airbase in context of major events at that time — especially World War II, and the growth of Southern California aviation.

So here is our version of events, greatly helped by a recent find of many documents from the U.S. Navy Heritage and History Command,

The Naval aviation history in Southern California for the most part begins in the mid 1920s when an aviation presence was established in San Pedro in August 1924 for planes of the Navy’s battle fleet. 2)Aug. 27, LA Times, p14, “San Pedro to have Naval Plane Base”  A number of unofficial but military generated histories report that a Naval air reserve unit was established at San Pedro in 1927. 3)California Center for Military History, NAS Terminal Island, http://www.militarymuseum.org/NASTeminalIsland.html  We cannot find any verification of this in any of the area newspapers or official records.  However , that same year of 1927 the City of Long Beach offered both the Navy and the Army space to establish air reserve units at the new Long Beach Airport (Daugherty Field) located near Spring Street and Cherry Avenue.4)Oct. 25, 1927, Los Angeles Times, page A14, “Long Beach Air Field Enlarged”  The Airport was enlarged through a land trade with the Montana Land Co.  The airport got 152 acres east of its Cherry Street location, and Montana received 113 acres of water lands — present Heartwell Park”   The Navy officially established their unit on May 10, 1928 when Lt. Esten Kroger assumed command of Squadron VN 13 RD 11, composed of naval reservists in the 11th Naval District. 5)History of  The Naval Reserve Aviation Base at Long Beach. The Naval Air Station at Los Alamitos, and the Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Los Alamitos From 10 May 1928 to 1 March 1945, hereafter official history, page 2  The Army took another year to transfer their reserve operations from Clover Field in Santa Monica.  It should also be noted that the land for the airport was provided by the Montana Land Company, which owned the 8,000 acres north of Spring Street that is now the airport, Long Beach City College and most of the City of Lakewood.  The Montana Land Company also owned the Los Alamitos Sugar Factory, and used most of its 8,000 acres north of Long Beach to grow beets for the factory.  But the Los Alamitos Sugar Factory stopped processing sugar beets after the 1926 season, and with beets no longer a profitable enough option, new company President Clark Bonner announced plans to develop an aviation industrial center around the new Long Beach airport.  Having military aviation units there, along with Daugherty’s and other private flying operations, gave the project more credibility.  6)Sep. 28, 1928, LA Times  Over the next year a number of large companies, including Ford Motor Co., Consolidated Airways, the Detroit Aircraft Company (which had just purchased Lockheed)  announced plans to build at the airport, but the 1929 stock market crash put an end to many of the private air operations at the airport so the military had plenty room for its training.

1929 - LB Navy Reserve HQ - LB Airport
1929 – Naval Aviation Reserve HQs – LB Airport

Long Beach supplied both a 70′ x 140′ hangar and administrative building to the Navy’s Reserve Training Center, which had two aircraft assigned to it. Over the next few years it was expanded to include sleeping quarters for ten enlisted men and officers and the hangar was now capable of housing 12 observation planes, UO1’s.  “There are [also] two lean-to’s.  One 20′ x 60′ is used for a storeroom.  the other, 20′ x 140′  is used for classrooms, sick bay, sngie and plane overhaul shops, an armory, etc…” with an extension built to accommodate  a metal shop, woodworking sopwig and engine storage, and  garage for six cars and two trucks.   Under the command of Lieutenant Kroger, in 1929 the Navy established its two week reserve training program. That same year the Army started to expand its reserve operations at the airfield. 7)official history, page 6

The original allotment of land was proving too small, so Kogen’s successor negotiated a larger plot and the entire Navy hangar, admin building and extensions were “moved to the opposite side of the field. ” , The first Marine contingent was established on the Base on May 4, 1932, and four months later Lt. William J. Fox was appointed commanding officer of Fighting Squadron 4.8)official history, page 8

 

Meanwhile, five miles southwest, on June 23, 1931 the Coast Guard announced plans to build its own hangar at the City of Los Angeles’s Allen Airfield on Terminal Island for its aerial scouting observations (which included checking for possible rum-runners).  Allen Field had both  a concrete runway, and a large seaplane area.  By July 1932, five Fokkers were in operation at the Coast Guard new Pacific Coast Air Base.  9)Los Angeles Times, July 1932. Allen Field’s possibilities did not escape the Navy.   Even though 11th District headquarters were in San Diego,  that area was becoming very crowded and the Navy’s Pacific fleet was stationed in San Pedro.  Japanese military expansion into Manchuria part of China and other areas prompted the Navy to expand its West Coast operations, including aviation.

In summer 1933 initial recommendations were for the fleet’s aviation observation arm to set up shop at Long Beach Municipal Airport, initially with forty Vought Corsairs, with plans to expand to 116.  In fact some fleet planes had used the airport field on occasion, but apparently unofficially.  In October of the year, Vice Admiral Joseph Reeves, a Naval aviation pioneer, passed along recommendations against the municipal airport in favor of a Navy base at Allen Field.  This would avoid having planes loaded with bombers taking off over populated areas.10)Oct. 13, 1933, LA Times, page 17; “Navy Air Base Site Opposed”

It took another year and a half of negotiations with the City of Los Angeles (which at one time planned to make Allen Field into an international seaplane port), but in August 1935, the Navy leased 350 acres at Terminal Island site.11)August 1, 1935, LA Times, page A1, “Navy Lease Flying Field”  Due to bureaucratic regulations — too many machine jobs, not enough manual labor — government funding could not be authorized until after July 1, 1936.12)Feb. 6, 1936, LA Times,page 31, “Allen Field Drive Pends”   But finally in late 1936 a new ramp for amphibious planes was dedicated at the newly renamed Reeves Field.  In addition to the Coast Guard, the existing facilities now housed the service base for the fleet’s 120-odd plane observation wing and soon other support units joined them, including the aerological group which had been at the Long Beach airport.  13)Mar. 27, 1936, LA Times, page 3, “Honor Paid to Reeves; Accepts Field for Navy”

In 1938, concerned with the growing militarization by the Germans, Italians and Japanese, the U.S. Congress had authorized the construction of new naval aviation training facilities across the country.  Because of congestion at San Diego,   “emergency” facilities were created at Reeves to “park  and service” a 75-plane group from of the four carriers home-ported in Southern California.  From 1935 to early 1930 over $2,500,000 was spent on “temporary” facilities at Reeves.  To handle the expansion authorized by Congress — an estimated growth from 600 planes to 1200 over the ext four years  — Reeves needed to expand more, but New Deal bureaucracy raised its head again.   Federal law prohibited funds being spent on “permanent” structures on property the government did not own.  Reeves was being leased, so the Navy told Los Angeles it wanted to purchase the field. 14)April 3, 1939, LB Independent, page 18, “Reeves Field  Title Held Up By Port Rivalry”

Los Angeles was reluctant.   They still had plans to use part of Reeves as a major amphibious seaplane port.  More importantly Reeves sat directly over the recently discovered Wilmington Oil Field and Los Angeles did not want to give up that land.

Navy aviation at the Long Beach airport also wanted to expand.  Already short of space, the Reserves moved their flight operations to a new building at the intersection of Redondo and Spring.  They now had two hangars, a maintenance building, admin building, and two tennis courts for some recreation.  The city had submitted a plan to the federal Civil Air Authority (CAA) improve the Long Beach airport.  This would expand runways from the current 1900 feet to the mile required by the new four-engine planes being built by the Douglas Aircraft Company  of Santa Monica.  It also would make the Long Beach facility a more viable candidate to become the new Los Angeles International Airport.  This soon became moot when Los Angeles, not unexpectedly, chose its own Mines Field in Inglewood for this facility, and the Long Beach request languished in CAA files.

In May 1939, the reserve training facility there announced it would now be training 55 new pilots a year, all during the warmer summer months.  Each month nine new cadets (culled from a pool of 25-30 applicants) reported for a 30-day course, receiving $110 per month as a seaman 2nd class.   Those who graduated would move on advanced training at Pensacola, and after that could return to SoCal to join one of the three reserve squadrons stationed at the airport — two Navy (VS-13-R or VS-14-R) and one Marine (V-MS-7R).  Each squadron was approved for 25 pilots each.  A cadre of six fully commissioned pilots performed the instruction.  The Long Beach facility also handle the training for enlisted men in the aircraft maintenance and service areas.  The $850,000 plant (two buildings and adjacent land) along Spring Street housed 19 aircraft, and some machine shops, but little housing.  Cadets boarded at homes in the nearby area.

In September, just after the Nazis invaded Poland to commence World War II, the Navy expanded training operations around the country.  Long Beach would now train 12 cadets per class.  Urgency was made stronger in early April 1940 when the Nazis conquered Denmark and Norway in April, Belgium and the Netherlands in May and especially after the Nazis entered Paris, France on June 14, 1940.

FDR had already committed the United States to providing thousands of planes to the allies, most of these to be built in Southern California.  In June 1940, Lockheed, which was already employing 9000 men to build its bombers and pursuit planes, was hiring 40 new workers daily.  In Downey, Vultee Aircraft — armed with a $3 million contract to build training planes for the Army and a $9 million contract to build pursuit planes for Sweden — was hiring fifty new workers a day.  North American’s huge plant in Inglewood, was working three shifts daily turning out Texas trainers, early versions of its B-25 Mitchell bombers, and its brand new P-51 Mustang pursuit plane which would become one of the most famous planes of World War II.   And biggest of all was Douglas Aircraft — which already had a backlog  of over $140 million dollars in orders for its B-18 Bombers, A-20 attack planes, Devastator and Dauntless Dive Bombers and military versions of its huge DC-3 and DC4 transport planes.  Douglas’ two plants in Santa Monica and El Segundo couldn’t handle and by late 1939 the Army was in serious discussions with Douglas to build a large plant in Long Beach (Reportedly, General Hap Arnold of the Army Air Corps and Clark Bonner, whose Montana Land Co owned all the land around the airport, had become good friends) .  This coincided with Army desires to use the Long Beach Airport as the center for its ferrying operations.   While most aircraft were now manufactured in Southern California the majority of them still needed to go elsewhere — Kansas City, Dallas, Detroit, New York, etc — for specific modifications (cold weather, tropical humidity, additional fuel tanks for long range bombing, and specific armaments for intended use — combat, transport, etc.)

The Navy was getting some big contracts as well.  In May 1940 the government announced plans to spend $100 million dollars in the area to expand the Naval presence on Terminal Island.  This would include a new Navy dry dock terminal — funding for improvements and expansion of the surrounding shipyards which were just beginning to turn out new ships en masse, and upgrades for the railway lines servicing the port.  In addition were funds for a new Naval Operating Base headquarters and improvements for aviation programs, including those to make Reeves Field a major Navy aviation center.  The latter improvements were still on hold, as a final deal to purchase the Terminal island property had not been struck with Los Angeles and the Navy was growing frustrated in their plans to acquire Reeves Field.  On July 21, 1940, the Navy filed a condemnation suit against Los Angeles and Long Beach for the land around Reeves Field.

How does this affect the Los Alamitos air base?   There were many factors at play, but the key one was with war on the horizon, with the expansion of the area’s US fleet operations, with the huge civilian defense manufacturing presence in Southern California, the U.S. Navy needed a major air base in the region.

Long Beach Airport could have been that except for four minor details:

  1. Navy aviation brass had already expressed reluctance to fly loaded bombers over populated areas;
  2. expanding the Navy presence at Long Beach would be in conflict with Army plans to bring the Douglas plant to the north side of the airport
  3. Long Beach city leaders heavily encouraged the Army plan as the Douglas plant would bring a lot of jobs and tax revenue to the city
  4. The Army had big plans to make the the airport into a major Army ferrying site (which would not involve bomb-laden planes flying over populated areas.)
  5. Long Beach Naval Reserve Training would be severely impacted by the Army expansion.

Reeves Field in 1944. the enclosed area in the center is its seaplane launch, and the area on the right is the just-built Roosevelt Navy Base and Dry Dock and mole (a wide breakwater which could be drive on)
Reeves Field in 1944. the enclosed area in the center is its seaplane launch, and the area on the right is the just-built Roosevelt Navy Base and Dry Dock and mole (a wide breakwater which could be drive on)

Reeves Field had some drawbacks of its own — mainly that it was still not owned by the Navy.  Los Angeles was still demanding oil rights and over Navy protests, was also already leasing adjoining 60-acre area to an oil drilling companies.  The Navy felt the height of the derricks would impede the take-off and landing paths at Reeves.   15)May 28, 1940, LA Times. p18, May 29, pA1, June 5, pA13.  Frustrated in their dealing with Los Angeles, which was still holding out for rights to “sub-surface materials,” the Navy began hinting at condemnation proceedings in June and even more in July.  Long Beach was happy to accommodate the Navy but also tried to be a supportive partner to Los Angeles, at least as far as establishing rights to the oil revenue.

A common player in all these scenarios was the Montana Land Company — which not only owned the land north of the Long Beach Airport, but also owned a thousand acres east of the nearby town of Los Alamitos.  It’s logical to assume all these events are related, and were collectively negotiated and decided in late July and early August 1940, and the Navy admitted as such in one of its histories.  16)Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II; History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946; Chapter 10 — The Air Stations; https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/Building_Bases/bases-10.html

  1. August 10, 1940 — the Navy files its condemnation against Los Angeles and Long Beach, claiming all of Terminal Island.
  2. August 14, 1940 — the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Government would spend $20 million dollars to purchase around 200 acres from the Montana Land Company on the north side of Long Beach Airport and build an aircraft manufacturing plant to be operated by Douglas Aircraft.
  3. August 20, 1940 – it was announced the Long Beach Naval Reserve Base in Long Beach would lease 400 acres from the Los Alamitos Sugar Company (also owned by the Montana Land Co.) to operate an auxiliary air field “to be used for training pilots.”  This land was part of the Montana’s “East Ranch” their original 1,000 acre ranch which was part of their payment for building the sugar factory. 17)August 20, 1940, LB Press-Telegram, Page 1, Section B.  It’s also conceivable the Navy already had in mind a permanent purchase of the adjacent Bryant or nearby Bixby parcel.

While the auxiliary field at Los Alamitos this solved the reserve base’s immediate problem, it also gave the Navy time to consider other challenges.  Despite the condemnation, the Reeves Field issue wasn’t going to be resolved soon. Local Congressmen were now involved, accusing the Navy of wanting the oil rights and drastically paying less than reasonable value.  But the condemnation suit acknowledged that the oil lands belonged to the cities, and with that issue resolved in December 1940 Long Beach leased their share of Terminal Island (105 acres) to the Navy for $1 per year.

Also, the Japanese Navy’s aviation successes in their war with China had shown the increasing importance of aircraft-carrier based aviation.  The U.S. Navy brass realized it would need to expand its carrier training and Reeves Field couldn’t supply it.  With Long Beach out of the picture, Navy leaders knew they had to look around for a new flat spot for a new air reserve base.

A popular story has it that Under Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal approached his former college roommate at Princeton, of Pardee Erdman, now a professor at Occidental College. Erdman knew many large Southern California landowners, and was asked by Forrestal to see who might be interested in selling land to the Navy.   Erdman approached two San Marino, neighbors.  One was Katharine Hotchkis, daughter of Fred H. Bixby, owner of a 7,000 acre section of the former Rancho Los Alamitos now called the Bixby Ranch.  The other was Susannah Bixby Bryant, Fred’s sister and owner of an equal sized parcel called  the Bryant Ranch.  The parcels werre adjacent, each about seven miles wide, a mile and a quarter wide.  Fred’s was primarily between Bixby Road (an extension of present Main Way/ Rossmoor Center drive) and Garden Grove Boulevard, and Susannah’s  was north of that and bounded on the north by Bryant Road (present Orangewood/Stearns).  Because of his oil income, Fred Bixby had neither the need nor inclination to sell off any of his beloved ranch.  Susannah Bixby Bryant, was not so reluctant and agreed to sell . Her land did not have the same oil income and she had shifted her focus to her lands in Yorba Linda where she had developed a renowned botanical garden as a tribute to her father.  Later base histories say the Navy offered Mrs. Bixby $350 an acre for the property, but that in the best patriotic spirit she sold it for only $300.

The official history quotes Fox, as commander of the Marine aviation unit at Long Beach, as saying he was assigned to survey various sites in the vicinity to present a recommendation to the Navy Department.   There being no suitable places  in LA County, he selected three sites in Orange County.  Two of them on the estate of Fred Bixby and one on the Bryant estate, which was favored by Commander Gray.  Fox says he and [name is redacted but it can only be NRAB exec officer J.W. Williams] flew to Washington and made a recommendation to Admiral John W. Towers, Chief of the Aeronatucs Bureau.  In the meantime, Congressman Melvin Maas [from Minnesota, also a retired Marine Corps major general) and Navy UnderSecretary John Forrestal, also made a personal inspection of the sites.   Commander Gray soon received approval to begin negotiations for the Bryant site.  Fox was dispatched to Bryant’s home in Pasadena to offer $350 an acre, but she would only accept $300.

Santa_Ana_Register_Thu__Sep_11__1941_Unfortunately, this story overlooks the Navy’s existing 160-acre auxiliary airfield just east of Los Alamitos — land that had already been thoroughly surveyed by Navy scouting teams, including one under the aforementioned Marine Col. William J. Fox, also of the Los Angeles Planning Department.  In fact, on August 7, 1940, Fox had presented to the LA County Board of Supervisors an ambitious “Master Plan of Airports.”   18)August  7, 1940, LA Times, Giant  Airport Project Seen.”  The article noted Fox head been doing airport-related surveys for 12 years and had taken 10 months to prepare the report. A map in the condemnation proceedings show the property as immediately north of the base land east of Lexington (current Carrier Row and Cottonwood Church).  Also of interest, one official Naval history notes  that “In the fall of 1941, extensions to the air facilities of the San Pedro area [Reeves Field] were provided by an agreement under which a new reserve air base was built at Los Alamitos.”  So it would seem the Los Alamitos location was a natural outgrowth of the Montana Land Company connection and the stalemate and negotiations over Reeves Field.  [Forrestal’s involvement is interesting.  He didn’t become UnderSecretary  until August 1940, but prior to that he had a close working relationship with Franklin Roosevelt — working in the Navy department in WWI and as FDR’s neighbor in upstate New York.]

References to a new naval air base in Southern California made their way into the newspapers as early as January 1, 1941 when a Press-Telegram feature article about the Long Beach area mentioned the expansion that would take place in Los Alamitos just south and east of the City Garden Acres tract (now Apartment Row) where students were already training.

Santa_Ana_Register_Wed__Feb_26__1941_A two-paragraph item in the Feb. 25, 1941 LA Times reported that the Naval Reserve Air Base in Long Beach would move to a new 400 acre field in the vicinity of Los Alamitos. This was located south of Farquhar and north of Bryant (Orangewood), and was a mile and a half wide. A follow-up article noted it was “leased from the Los Alamitos Sugar Company” and was 480.6 acres.   The Feb. 26 article in the Santa Ana Register noted the price at $1,125,000.

March 29, 1941, was a big day for news — even if some of it conflicted — about the new air station.  The Santa Ana Register article cited a $3 million construction  figure, while a Times article of the same date says initial construction would costs $900,000 and the second phase, housing and utilities buildings, would cost $1,500,000.  The new base would be the largest Naval Reserve base in the country, and the runways  would be a 5,000 foot main east-west runway, and a 3500-foot paved north south runway.  A large turf area could be used for practice landings.  The housing facilities would support more than 400 officers, cadets and enlisted men.  At present 25 officers, 150 enlisted men and 100 cadets are stationed at the Long Beach station, with 23 training planes and three service craft.[By late 1941 the figure was $5,000,000.]

That same day the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported the Navy had bought from Mrs. Susannah Bixby Bryant 1,300 acres of open farmland for “a huge new huge reserve base for navy aviation.” This was immediately south of the previously purchased land.  Newspapers at the time say only that the price was undisclosed, and that the purchase was made following condemnation proceedings by the Navy, leaving unsaid whether Mrs. Bryant was a willing partner or not.  Some months later, when base plans were expanded and other landowners had land condemned, federal records would show she she received the same appraised rate per acre as her neighboring landowners.

An April 3 article promised that with the first WPA appropriation approved, work on the base would commence in 30 days.  Construction of barracks “to house the 100 or more students now housed in private facilities” would be the first structures built.  After that construction would continue on an attractive administration building, a series of hangars, barracks for 300 people, and shops and other structures.   The two runways would be 200 feet in width.

But before construction could commence the county had to perform some work protecting the new base from the frequently flooding waters of Carbon Creek [which had been particularly damaging during the rains of 1938].  This was soon done thanks largely to federal money.  So at the end of April, it was again announced construction on the $2,500,000 base would begin “about the middle of May.”   The new base’s mission seems to have expanded, as it was announced it would  have a crew of 50 officers, 200 cadets and 300 enlisted men.

In early May the county said it would offer no opposition to the federal condemnation or its plans to close Bryant Avenue (present Orangewood Avenue).  It also posted that Mrs. Bryantn had been offered $108,000 for the 475 acres.  This breaks down to  approximately $227 per acre.  Since she eventually was paid about $300 per acre, this refutes the story that she patriotically reduced her price.  This article also confirms that the new base was “across Bryant Avenue  from… 480 acres leased by the government from the Los Alamitos Sugar Company.”

The funding and design was done in tandem with the construction of the new Roosevelt Navy base at the the Port of Long Beach, adjacent to Reeves Field.   Los Alamitos and Roosevelt were designed by Allied Engineers, Inc., an architectural consortium specifically put together for military projects.  The main partners were Adrian Wilson and engineer Donald R. Warren, working with Paul R. Williams, the nation’s pre-eminent black architect.   Other notable architects working on the project were A. Quincy Jones, Frederick E. Emmons and Edward H. Fickett.  The Roosevelt base’s budget was $18,000,000, dwarfing Los Al.  By some reports Jones did most of the layout work on Los Alamitos.   The art deco modern style, especially at the Roosevelt Base, is considered some of the finest examples of public art deco work.

On June 7, it was reported that a call for construction bids would be made within 30 days.  The first unit would include barracks and other improvements, costing $120,000 which had already been appropriated.  The article also noted that  when completed the base would contain hangars to accommodate 40 or 50 planes.

On August 21,  the winning construction firm of Means and Honer of Santa Ana, broke ground on construction for the first set of barracks and a mess hall.  That barrack would be a two-story structure of 27,000 feet, which would house 180 men and 20 officers.  Part of the structure would be two stories, with the first floor being of concrete walls, and the second of frame and stucco.   the second of wood. 19)SA Register, August 21, 1941, p1; “Start Work on Naval Reserve Aviation base.”    A related article in the LA Times  added, “First of its type, the building may become a model for similar structures at other bases over the country.”

The following week an article noted that the barracks construction and the first ten buildings was well underway. “In addition to sleeping and messing facilities, the dormitory will include spacious lounges for officers and men, reading room, and a reception room where men could entertain guests, and quarters for visiting officers.” 20)SA Register, August 26, 1941, p9. “Rush Work for Aviation base.”   That same issue carried a short article noting that the Navy had exerted influence to deny liquor licenses to Ethel’s Inn at Cerritos and Stanton (now Beach) and at Henry Carmichael’s Los Alamitos Pool Hall, 306 Los Alamitos Boulevard, because of their close proximity to the new Navy base.  The next day’s Long Beach Independent optimistically noted that building was underway and would be ready by November 1 according to William F. Fox, the base’s public works officer.  21)Long Beach Independent, August 27, 1941, page 11

However, things were obviously moving along too well.  The next day, on August 28, work on the barracks building was stopped when it was discovered a ditch digging machine operator was not a union member.  After a four day shutdown, the subcontractor submitted to union demands and work was again underway on September 2.

On October 23, Orange County applied for State Highway funds for the “widening  and surfacing of Bryant Avenue, principal approach of the field.”   This means the original main entrance off Los Alamitos Blvd was intended to be present Orangewood Avenue.  However in february the county said it was unable to shoulder one fourth of the $135,000 needed to widen and pave the old 18-foot oiled strip. 22)Feb. 26,1942, Santa Ana Register

jftb_1942b
The Los Alamitos Naval Air Station – early 1942. Not that the roof is not even on the main hangar

The new base of 475 acres was replacing the old auxiliary field of 480 acres.  But the realities of war forced the Navy to expand its vision.  In December 1941, Commander E.R. DeLong, commandant of the entire San Pedro-Long Beach Naval presence,  announced that an additional $2,000,000 had been allocated for the expansion of  the Los Alamitos base. The government instituted condemnation procedings for 11 separate surrounding parcels of land surrounding the base, all one quarter mile in width.  Where the original base site had been a mile wide and three quarters of a mile north-to south, the new base would be one and a half miles wide and one and a quarter miles north to south.  The condemnation involved five property owners, leasing property to six farmers, individuals, all Belgian. The expansion more than doubled the base site, making a total of 965 acres and extending the base boundary to present Lampson.  The southernmost parcels were three quarter-mile wide strips just south of the Bryant property and belonging to Fred Bixby.

Whether Bixby was an enthusiastic partner is unknown. but he was definitely not a willing partner on a simultaneous military landgrab — when the Navy condemned 88 acres of Fred’s prime Long Beach mesa farmland for a new hospital (the one currently located at 7th and Bellflower, next to Cal State Long Beach.). The LA Times quoted Bixby as announcing “he will make every effort to halt the threatened condemnation of the area.” Bixby tried to enlist friends on the Chamber of Commerce to help him fight this takeover of some of his best bean fields, and they said he would get so frustrated when talking about he was almost in tears, Not surprisingly, the Navy got its way.  Just as they got their way on the Los Alamitos expansion with final documents being recorded on May 6, 1942.

While construction continued on the revised Los Alamitos plant, training crews were already using the new runways as early as Fall 1941.  Some even had accidents as newspapers reported of fire department crews showing up.  Old histories have former cadets saying they were  staying in Los Alamitos houses as early as Fall 1941.

Major Fox in his interview noted that “immediately after the declaration of war, the Army Ferrying Command took over the Army reserve operations at Long Beach airport.   The Transport operations interfered with the Navy training flights and the Ferry Command was anxious to obtain additional facilities at the airport.  So even before the new facilities at Los Alamitos were ready, the Naval reserve unit at LB Airport moved to Los Alamitos and turned over over to the Ferry Command all its facilities at Long Beach Airport.” 23)Fox, interview in Dec. 1944, official history, footnote 34  This becomes even more definitive when records show the ferry command were already flying thousands of planes out of Long Beach as early as August 1941 24)August 3, 1941, LA Times, “Long Beach Airport becomes Ferry dept:  Field leased to Army as Starting Point for Deliveries” — and began to repave the runways and improve the airport in October 1941 — two months BEFORE the Declaration of War.   The Ferry Command was already shipping thousands of planes to the allies.  So there was great incentive for both parties to transfer operations to Los Alamitos as soon as possible. 25)October 10, 1941, Long Beach Independent,  page 7, “Ten Bids Received by Army for Work at Air Corps Ferry Command Here”; Nov. 26, 1941, Los Angeles Times, page 1A, “Plane Ferry Terminal Bustles With Activity”

In late December, Commander DeLong presented Orange County with a Christmas present when he announced he had been informed the Navy would expend an additional $2,000,000 in expanding and developing the  air base.26)Santa Ana Register, Dec. 24, 1941, page 1 “”Navy to Add $2,000,000 to Air Base at Los Alamitos”

In January, negotiations began on the acquisition of “four or five outlying landing fields”… while U.S. Naval reserve flyers from Los Alamitos would use in their training.  A map would soon show all fields that  were used for practice landings — Horse Farm [Stanton], Haster [Garden Grove],  Mile Square [Fountain Valley], East Long Breach [Meadowlark], Anaheim, and Seal Beach.  These were all available because emergency restrictions shut down all airports within fifty miles of the coast except those used by the military.

On February 10, 1942, the Navy announced the construction of eight more buildings — including  three barracks, a recreation building, a dispensary, a school building, a supply storehouse and bachelor officers quarters.  The base would become of the three largest in the nation — which would now require 1500 enlisted men to operate.  And under new navy regulations,  instead of thirty days, students would now get three months of training at the base.  And oh yeah, the Navy increased it overall goal to training 30,000 new pilots a year.  27)LB Independent, Feb 6, 1942, page 19, “30,000 Fighting Pilots  a Year is Goal,of Local Naval Reserve Aviation Base”

On February 5, 1942, Gerald Thomas noted in his diary that he had completed the Navy pilot enlistment process at Los Alamitos.  He had been sworn in by Wayne Morris, the former actor, and then told to go home and wait for his call.  It came in April and on April 9 he began training at Los Alamitos.  28)Gerald W. Thomas, Torpedo Squadron Four; A Cockpit View of World War II, p92

On March 7, 1942, with the new barracks proving to be inadequate, the Navy put out a call to the public to provide rooms for cadet pilots.

An April 7, 142 article noted that while the officially commissioning would take place in late May or early June, a complement of ground personnel  is already at the base. 29)SA Register, Apr. 20, 1942, p10; “Plan ceremony for Opening of Base.”  Like the last five or six articles, it mentioned the expanded the Navy goal of 30,0000 new fighting pilots a year.

An article of April 29 mentioned a campaign by Anaheim Red Cross workers to procure musical instruments to be used by cadets at the Los Alamitos air field during recreation periods. 30)Santa Ana Register, April 29, 1942, page 13

On June 1, 1942 2,000 cadets and ground crew members marched in formation and saluted the workers who had been toiling at the  base, and were  far ahead of schedule.  Basecommandant, Commander E. R. DeLong, who was also commmandant of the entire San Pedro-Long Beach  Naval Presence,  noted that already a force of mover 2,000 men were at the field, with training under the direction of Ensign C.B. Adelmann. 31)June 2, 1942, Los Angeles Times, page 7; “”2000 Cadets at $3,000,000 Naval Reserve  Base at Los Alamitos Parade for Civilian Workmen”

Cadet Gerald F. Thomas, noted in his diary that on June 21, 19452″all the cadets are moving ito barracks at the new base… from now on we will be confined to base, except Saturday night to Sunday.” 32)Thomas, Gerald F., Torpedo Squadron Four; A Cockpit View of World War II. a post-war memoir

Major Fox says that the final week  of May 1942 was one of great activity re: the actual moving of headquarters and other administrative units from Long Beach to Los Alamitos.  “A steady stream of vehicles augmmented by the timely arrival of two Pontiac station wagons loaded with personne;l and mayteriel moved eastward every day under a miniumum of confusion to their new grounds.  The administrative offices were the last to be installed in the spacious new buildings which housed departmental heads, sick bay, synthetic training, cetral files and several classrooms.  Assembly & repair (A&R) was the only department still located at the base.  All planes were flown to the old base for checks.”

On July 1, 1942, official Navy records show that NRAB Long Beach reported that it is now NRAB Los Alamitos.    Much work was still to be built and completed at Los Alamitos, and while this was done over the next year, the base would change names, change status, change commands and change missions.  But all this is something to be covered at another time.

 

 

References   [ + ]

1. December 18, 1940, Los Angeles Times, page 15, “Long Beach Sells  105 Acres for Naval base fr Only $1”
2. Aug. 27, LA Times, p14, “San Pedro to have Naval Plane Base”
3. California Center for Military History, NAS Terminal Island, http://www.militarymuseum.org/NASTeminalIsland.html
4. Oct. 25, 1927, Los Angeles Times, page A14, “Long Beach Air Field Enlarged”  The Airport was enlarged through a land trade with the Montana Land Co.  The airport got 152 acres east of its Cherry Street location, and Montana received 113 acres of water lands — present Heartwell Park”
5. History of  The Naval Reserve Aviation Base at Long Beach. The Naval Air Station at Los Alamitos, and the Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Los Alamitos From 10 May 1928 to 1 March 1945, hereafter official history, page 2
6. Sep. 28, 1928, LA Times
7. official history, page 6
8. official history, page 8
9. Los Angeles Times, July 1932.
10. Oct. 13, 1933, LA Times, page 17; “Navy Air Base Site Opposed”
11. August 1, 1935, LA Times, page A1, “Navy Lease Flying Field”
12. Feb. 6, 1936, LA Times,page 31, “Allen Field Drive Pends”
13. Mar. 27, 1936, LA Times, page 3, “Honor Paid to Reeves; Accepts Field for Navy”
14. April 3, 1939, LB Independent, page 18, “Reeves Field  Title Held Up By Port Rivalry”
15. May 28, 1940, LA Times. p18, May 29, pA1, June 5, pA13.
16. Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II; History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946; Chapter 10 — The Air Stations; https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/Building_Bases/bases-10.html
17. August 20, 1940, LB Press-Telegram, Page 1, Section B
18. August  7, 1940, LA Times, Giant  Airport Project Seen.”  The article noted Fox head been doing airport-related surveys for 12 years and had taken 10 months to prepare the report.
19. SA Register, August 21, 1941, p1; “Start Work on Naval Reserve Aviation base.”
20. SA Register, August 26, 1941, p9. “Rush Work for Aviation base.”
21. Long Beach Independent, August 27, 1941, page 11
22. Feb. 26,1942, Santa Ana Register
23. Fox, interview in Dec. 1944, official history, footnote 34
24. August 3, 1941, LA Times, “Long Beach Airport becomes Ferry dept:  Field leased to Army as Starting Point for Deliveries”
25. October 10, 1941, Long Beach Independent,  page 7, “Ten Bids Received by Army for Work at Air Corps Ferry Command Here”; Nov. 26, 1941, Los Angeles Times, page 1A, “Plane Ferry Terminal Bustles With Activity”
26. Santa Ana Register, Dec. 24, 1941, page 1 “”Navy to Add $2,000,000 to Air Base at Los Alamitos”
27. LB Independent, Feb 6, 1942, page 19, “30,000 Fighting Pilots  a Year is Goal,of Local Naval Reserve Aviation Base”
28. Gerald W. Thomas, Torpedo Squadron Four; A Cockpit View of World War II, p92
29. SA Register, Apr. 20, 1942, p10; “Plan ceremony for Opening of Base.”
30. Santa Ana Register, April 29, 1942, page 13
31. June 2, 1942, Los Angeles Times, page 7; “”2000 Cadets at $3,000,000 Naval Reserve  Base at Los Alamitos Parade for Civilian Workmen”
32. Thomas, Gerald F., Torpedo Squadron Four; A Cockpit View of World War II. a post-war memoir
Categories
Los Alamitos

The Register looks at Los Alamitos in 1930

1930 - SA Reg - St Isadore, Womens Club, Millar-Green Bldg, Watt Store The Feb. 19, 1930 issue of the Santa Ana Register, celebrating the paper’s 25 anniversary, featured pages dedicated to each Orange County community.  Los Alamitos had a full page of stories focused on the town’s growth.

In one story we learn that City Garden Acres (now Apartment Row) began as a subdivision developed by J.D. Millar Realty in 1922, with Rush Green handling all the sales.  [J.D. Millar was a big concern — with projects in Los Angeles/Silver Lake (1918),  Del Mar Terrace in San Diego (1920), Inglewood (c. 1922),  Home Gardens (now part of South Gate) (1922), Redondo Villa in Torrance (1923),  Fairfax Park (1924), Lankershim City Park (one of 15 subdivisions in the North Hollywood area) (1925-28), Eagle Rock, Burbank (1928),  and Laguna (1930).]  Like many of the other J.D. Millar projects City Garden Acres sold farm lots — long narrow lots targeting working class folk, short on cash but long on energy — many recent migrants from the midwest who came west to find work in the oil fields at Huntington Beach, Signal Hill, or Santa fe Sorings.  Owners were allowed to build temporary homes, even tent shelters, and enter the ranks of home owners by saving up money to buy lumber, nails, pipes, etc., until they had enough to build a house — often 600 to 800 square feet — and supplement their income by raising vegetables, poultry, rabbits, even goats.   The individual timelines were evidenced by the erratic sizes and placement of homes on the lots — some in front, some near the back.  In Home Gardens (South Gate), a tract built simultaneously as City Garden Acres, the Millar Company required homes less than $1500 in value to be placed near the back of the lot.

Another Register story tells of the growth of the dairy industry in the Los Alamitos area, with the two largest dairies being the Thompson-Main Dairy with over 250 cows, and the Bixby Dairy (located on the current site of Los Al High School with some additional surrounding area) with around 150 cows. The Thompson-Main operation was one of three owned by that concern, and supplied much of the milk used at their Golden Creamery operation.  The Bixbys had a creamery of their own, one in Long Beach and another in Buena Park.

Of most interest are the five photos at the top of the page.   At the top left is the Womens’ Clubhouse which had once been the factory’s clubhouse for single men — and would later become a sanitarium that many remember to this day.   But in the 1920s and 1930s it was rented out by the sugar company as a clubhouse, which became one of the more active in Orange County.

The top middle photo is one of the original St. Isadore Church — which was indeed originally spelled with an “a.”  The original structure, finished around 1926, was made of bricks.  It was after the 1933 Earthquake that the current lath and plaster  model was constructed.  Until St. Hedwig Church was built in the early 1960’s, St. Isadore served the entire Catholic community in the Los Alamitos area — English language services for the many farmers and merchants of Belgian (Watte, Otte, deBruyn, Cosyns, etc.) , French (Labourdette et al) and Irish (O’Connor, Reagan, etc.) descent and a Spanish language service afterwards for the large Mexican community (many from Jalisco, with some of those actually of recent Italian decent).

The top right photo is of the old Watts General store.  This had originally been the Harmona Hotel on Main Street, but when Los Alamitos Blvd became the real main street in town, the hotel was sold to J.D. Watts who had it lifted and hauled two blocks to its new location just south of the current McNally’s Electric location. Just south of this building was Sjostrom’s Flying A gas station at Florista (where the vet’s clinic is now).

On the bottom row are the old Congregational Church, built in 1897 and the second version of Laurel School (which occupied the entire block where the Hof’s Hut center is now located.).

The entire page can be viewed here.

Categories
Los Alamitos Seal Beach

Which Heads of State have visited the West OC?

What royalty or heads of state have graced the West OC/East LB area with their presence?  It seems to not be a very long list.

1915 - 09 18 - Stanton, WmHTaft et al - 1500pxIn 1915 former US President William Howard Taft repaid a political favor to Phillip A. Stanton (who as speaker of the California Assembly in 1909 derailed some anti-Japanese legislation that then President Taft felt would have bad results) by visiting Stanton’s Seal Beach development during the campaign to incorporate the town.

A few years after that future President Richard Nixon and his family came down from Whittier (or Yorba Linda) to visit the city for a day of bathing, recounting in one book of memories of how silly a cousin from the midwest looked in one of the rented bathing suits.

1938 - 07 16 - Jul 16 - Roosevelt in SB - Santa_Ana_Register_Sat__Jul_16__1938_(1)In July 1926 Crown Prince Gustavus Adolphus and Crown Princess Louis enjoyed a lunch at the Bolsa Chica Gun Club, followed that up witha  short visit to the local oil fields and then headed up to Los Angeles via Westminster, Los Alamitos and Norwalk.

In July 1938, FDR became the first (and only?)  sitting President to visit Seal Beach during a motorcade that took him from downtown LA to downtown Long Beach and then down the Coast Highway across the San Gabriel River into Seal Beach and then down to San Diego where he would board his yacht for a Presidential vacation.

The next year, Presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie hit the campaign trail in the OC.  After delivering a whistlestop speech in Santa Ana, a motorcade carried him west over 17th Ave/Westminster Blvd then through Seal Beach where he shook the hand of four-year Dave Privett in front of their home around 17th and the Coast Highway.

Nixon p2 - 1000pxIn 1962 former Veep (and then California Gubernatorial candidate) Richard Nixon visited the new Leisure World community (shown left with Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Brockman, owner of Brock’s Drugs).  The Leisure World visit was duplicated in 1968 by Democratic Presidential candidate (and sitting Vice-President) Hubert Humphrey.

During his Presidency Bill Clinton arrived as a passenger aboard Air Force One many times at the Los Alamitos Air base, and in November 1994 even stayed there awhile delivering a speech.

Future astronaut/Ohio Senator/and Presidential candidate John Glenn flew out of the Los Alamitos Air Base — even setting a world’s record in a transcontinental flight in 1957.

Another person of royal stature who spent some time in Los Alamitos was Baseball’s King of Clout — Babe Ruth himself — who in January 1927, took a day off from his vaudeville appearances in Long Beach to enjoy a day of duck hunting at the Farmer’s Gun Club just east of Sugar Factor in the swamp by Moody, just south of Ball (current Cypress now, but historically since it was on Rancho Los Alamitos lands, it was considered Los Alamitos then.).   This trip was not to be confused with one a year later when Ruth and teammate Lou Gehrig, who were heading up a barnstorming tour of teams, took a day off to shoot at the Bolsa Chica Gun Club.