YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Monthlong Festival : L.B. Celebrates Heritage on Way to 100th Birthday

May 05, 1985|DAVID HALDANE | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Duane Hill took a Minnesota license plate to the Queen Mary Wednesday night. He also took a letter from his mother.

"I wanted something that showed my ancestry," said Hill, 34, who hails from East Grand Fork, Minn., where the letter was postmarked. A Long Beach resident since 1969, he said the Navy brought him here and he decided to stay. And though he dearly loves his adopted home, he said, "I'm proud of being Norwegian and from Minnesota."

LaVon Rose brought a picture of herself taken several years ago when she still sported an Afro hairdo. "It depicts my Afro-American heritage," said Rose, 34, a former Cal State Long Beach student and the mother of two.

Both are likely to be survived by their mementos, which will become part of a mural that will commemorate the city's 100th birthday in 1988.

Hill and Rose joined an estimated 600 people who attended the gala kickoff of the first Long Beach International City Celebration. The price of admission was a contribution to posterity.

Civic Boosters

The idea for the celebration, which leads up to the centennial in three years, began with civic boosterism.

"Long Beach has a fairly tarnished image," said Brian Gormley, director of International City Celebration '85, the nonprofit corporation coordinating the event. "You drive down the 405 Freeway and what do you see--a 10-mile billboard."

Planned as the first of three annual festivals culminating in a massive observance of the city's 100th birthday, the monthlong celebration is made up of 112 cultural, artistic, athletic and business events put on citywide by 62 organizations that will highlight the ethnic and cultural diversity and richness of Long Beach.

"We want people to know that this is an exciting, vibrant place to live and work," said Gormley. "Long Beach is embarking on an incredible period of development. One cannot just build new buildings--what this is all about is adding spirit to the brick and the mortar."

Part of that spirit, he hopes, will be expressed in a giant mural to be composed of photographs and other objects depicting the personal or family heritage of city residents. "It will be a permanent record of what and who we are," said Gormley of the mural, which is to be permanently installed in a public place in time for the 1988 centennial celebration.

Admission to Wednesday's gathering was either $3 or a two-dimensional contribution to the mural.

Old, New Heritage

Through this and other heritage projects, he said, festival organizers hope to introduce the city's "old heritage"--European, African and Hispanic--to its "new heritage," primarily Asian. "There's a rich tapestry of culture here," he said.

Some of that tapestry was evident at the Queen Mary as celebrants were entertained by an array of performing groups including the International Children's Choir, Cambodian and classical Indian dance troupes and a theatrical ensemble consisting of local black children who, among other things, performed a break-dancing routine and a medley of soul music.

But much of the interest was centered on three large boards near the entrance on which were displayed the day's contributions to the heritage mural.

Offerings ranged from the historic to the mundane and personal.

Leamel Comparette, a Long Beach resident since 1923, brought a receipt for gas purchased from a Mobil station in 1958. "I thought it was interesting that 10.7 gallons cost $4.15," she said.

Max Bramble, who served as a Long Beach air raid warden during World War II, proudly displayed a 1940 photo of a sign saying, "Dim out lights."

And Amy Hackett, 11, brought a picture taken last summer of herself and two cousins enjoying the family's backyard swimming pool.

Just what did that say about her heritage and its contribution to the tapestry of life in Long Beach?

"That I like to swim," explained the Longfellow Elementary School student.

Los Angeles Times Articles